On May 21, the Prime Ministry instructed the Government Control Office (Kormányzati Ellenőrzési Hivatal, or KEHI) to launch an investigation of the use of EEA Grant funding for non-government organizations in Hungary.
KEHI is state organization that conducts oversight of the use of public money in Hungary. The EEA Grants are endowments that non-European Union countries Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein provide to lesser developed EU states, including Hungary, in order to maintain access the union’s internal market as members of the European Economic Area (EEA). Norway provides funding for 96 percent of the EEA Grants, while Iceland and Liechtenstein contribute the remaining 4 percent (see EEA Grants website in English).
The EEA Grants allocated 13.5 million euros in funding to around 150 NGOs in Hungary for the 2013-2017 funding period through the Hungarian Environmental Partnership Foundation (Ökotárs Alapítvány).
The Prime Minister’s Office asked KEHI to audit the Hungarian Environmental Partnership Foundation and the non-government organizations that received EEA Grants during the current funding period after János Lázár, the Orbán government minister who runs the office, accused Norway in early April of indirectly supporting the liberal-green Hungarian opposition party Politics Can Be Different (LMP) through support to pro-LMP NGOs (source in Hungarian).
On May 30, the Orbán government published a list of 13 of these NGOs that it considered to be closely connected to Politics Can Be Different (source in Hungarian): these most prominently included organizations that monitor the corrupt use of state funding (the Transparency International Hungarian Foundation, K Monitor and the Asimov Foundation, which runs the website Átlátszó.hu); civil-rights organizations (the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union); and gay-rights organizations (the Labrisz Lesbian Association and Rainbow Mission Hungary, organizer of the annual Budapest Pride LGBT festival and parade). These organizations have been very critical of the Orbán administration for its opaque use of public money in order to build a pro-Fidesz oligarchy (see Lajos Simicska/Közgép), disregard for civil liberties and indifference toward gay rights (see The Cardboard Men).
The government of Norway strenuously protested KEHI’s audit of the EEA Grants, asserting in a communiqué that it violated agreements the country had signed regarding management of this funding (source in English). The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, furthermore,summoned Hungary’s ambassador to Norway, Antal government foreign minister Géza Jeszenszky, on June 5 to formally protest the audit.
On June 10, Minister of External Economy and Foreign Affairs Tibor Navracsics summoned the ambassador of Norway to Hungary to discuss the growing dispute between the two countries.
On June 13 KEHI published the following item on the organization’s website (see Orange Files translation of bottom post):
In characteristically deceptive Orbánian fashion, KEHI referred to the program Célpont [Target] broadcast on the pro-government television station Hír TV as the source of these claims at the end of the short piece linked to this heading.