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CORRECTED-EU wants Hungary to change procurement, cites "systemic irregularities"

·1 min read

(Corrects to say European Commission "wants" rather than "hastold" Hungary to change procurement rules)

BRUSSELS, Feb 12 (Reuters) - The European Union's executivewants Hungary to reform its public procurement laws to curb whatit calls "systemic irregularities" before billions of euros fromthe EU pandemic recovery fund become available, according to aninternal document seen by Reuters.

The European Commission is mandated with managing the750-billion-euro scheme and has already told several EU statestheir proposals for spending their part of the funds must beimproved.

There was no immediate response from the Hungariangovernment to an emailed request for comment on the document.

The bloc wants outright changes to Hungary's publicprocurement laws, according to the Jan. 26 Commission documentlaying out specific legal changes required of Prime MinisterViktor Orban's government.

"Competition in public procurement is insufficient inpractice," said the document, adding that that was linked to"systemic irregularities" that "led to the highest financialcorrection in the history of (EU) structural funds in 2019".

The document called specifically for improved datatransparency and accessibility, arguing that that would lead toa fairer and more open procurement process.

Budapest, which has had a series of battles with EUauthorities over rule of law issues, is due to get nearly 6.3billion euros in free grants from the recovery scheme if itsspending plan is proposed by an end-of-April deadline, and thenaccepted by Brussels and other EU countries.(Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska; editing by Mark John and JonBoyle)