Corruption claims could finish European Parliament says critic

Polish MP criticises Ursula von der Leyen’s ‘fairness’

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Corruption allegations which have rocked the European Parliament have the potential to destroy the assembly completely, a eurosceptic leader claimed, declaring: “Drain the swamp”. Brussels is reeling after the arrest of four officials – including Greek MEP Eva Kaili, who denies all wrong-doing – in relation to claims they accepted bribes from a Middle Eastern country, widely believed to be World Cup hosts Qatar.

Viktor Orban, Hungary’s prime minister and the leader of the right-wing Fidesz party, used his annual international news conference in Budapest to question the credibility of the institution – and call for its abolition.

The highly controversial leader said: “The Hungarians would like for the European Parliament to be dissolved in its current form.

“The degree to which the reputation of the European Parliament in Hungary has been damaged by the scandal is easy to answer: not at all, because it couldn’t have been any lower.”

The three-hour gathering is almost the only occasion of the year when Mr Orban fields questions from the international media or critical Hungarian outlets.

The populist leader, who won a fourth straight term in office in April, has engaged in multiple battles with the EU, which accuses him of violating democratic norms and overseeing large-scale official corruption.

But today he hit back, savaging the European Parliament for recent revelations of a cash-for-favours corruption scandal, and borrowing a phrase from former American President Donald Trump and ally, saying it was time to “drain the swamp” in Brussels.

The news conference came after the EU has frozen more than 12 billion euros in funding to Hungary over concerns that Mr Orban’s government has cracked down on judicial independence, overseen official corruption and abridged minority rights.

In September the European Parliament said Hungary could no longer be considered a democracy, and would become “a hybrid regime of electoral autocracy” under Orban’s leadership – a charge his government vehemently rejects.

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Adding to the tensions between Budapest and Brussels is the Hungarian government’s lobbying against sanctions on Moscow for its war in Ukraine.

Mr Orban regarded as one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s closest allies within the EU27 – claims sanctions have been ineffective in pressuring Russia to end the war, and have inflicted more damage on European economies than on Russia.

Insisting he would not support any additional sanctions, he added: “If it were up to us, there would not be a sanctions policy.

“It is not in our interest to permanently divide the European and Russian economies into two, so we are trying to save what can be saved from our economic cooperation with the Russians.”

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Orban has made a number of concessions in order to secure delivery of badly needed EU funds, but the European Commission – the bloc’s executive arm, led by President Ursula von der Leyen, has insisted on further reforms if Budapest is to gain access to the money.

Hungary is struggling with among the highest inflation rates in Europe and a floundering currency which has caused skyrocketing prices.

In November, the inflation rate was over 22 percent and the forint currency was down nearly 10 percent against the euro since the beginning of the year.

Mr Orban said the government had plans to reduce inflation to single digits by next December, and would soon unveil a program which would eliminate income taxes until the age of 30 for women who have children.

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