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One can ask the question: was it worth it to travel all the way from Brussels for this? - EU financial inspectors find everything in order with train in Orbán’s village

Despite three days of government-propagated hysteria and accusations surrounding the visit of nine inspectors from the European Parliament to examine how EU funds have been spent in Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán can rest easy. The inspectors confirmed that from the perspective of how EU funds were spent on a vintage train, a project that has been the target of much derision, there was at first glance nothing glaringly out of order. Ingeborg Grässle, a Christian Democratic MEP from Germany and the EP's co-rapporteur for financial regulation, confirmed on Wednesday that they did not detect anything inappropriate with the vintage train development, but added: "One can ask the question: should a train have been built from EU taxpayer funds in Felcsút?"

The liberal news site quipped sarcastically: "One can ask the question: was it worth it to travel all the way from Brussels for this?"
A total of 2 million euros in EU funds were used to build the 5.7 km railway line. The vintage train runs from the small town of Felcsút (population: 1,700) to the village of Alcsútdoboz (population: 1,500), connecting the gigantic, but consistently empty and unwarranted soccer stadium that was erected directly next to the soccer fan prime minister's private residence to the arboretum in the neighbouring village. (The stadium's capacity is over 3,800–more than double the size of the village's entire population.) The justification for the European funding of the light railway was that it would transport an average of 2,500 passengers per day and would be beneficial for tourism. In reality, only 113 passengers use the railway on average each day, according to statistics from April 2016 to January 2017. In this time period, there were 53 days when not a single passenger purchased a ticket for this train–yet the train continued to operate according to a regular schedule on many of these days, running empty cars. Between January and June 2017, there were again 50 days when not a single ticket was sold.
Ms. Grässle, who sits in the same European People's Party of which Hungary ruling Fidesz party is a member, had to provide a carefully crafted statement that was acceptable to all members of her delegation, including Fidesz politician and MEP Tamás Deutsch.
Mr. Deutsch and others in Fidesz were at first absolutely livid that Ms. Grässle and her delegation planned to visit the prime minister's home town and intended to inspect the train. Mr. Deutsch, himself a member of the delegation, caused scandal by accusing the group of trying to interfere in Hungary's upcoming national elections, to be held in April 2018. Even Hungary's ambassador to the European Union tried to convince Ms. Grässle not to visit the prime minister's home town until after the 2018 elections. Ms. Grässle, however, responded firmly: "We will not let the Hungarian government dictate what we can or can't see."
In the end, the Nervous Nellies in Fidesz had nothing to worry about. They were terribly intent on ensuring that Ms. Grässle and her inspectors stay far away from Viktor Orbán's village, but in the end, they gave a collective sigh of relief, after it was declared that apparently nothing was considered amiss–at least at first glance.
In contrast, Ms. Grässle did find numerous problems with the development of the M4 metro line in Budapest–a project that began not under Fidesz, but rather the previous Socialist government. As such, Fidesz will not bear full political responsibility if, in the worst case scenario, Hungary must return these funds to the EU. That said, it will not be Ms. Grässle's delegation that makes a decision on this.
But back in Mr. Orbán's village, Ms. Grässle listened to a closed door presentation by Mr. Deutsch, where the Fidesz politician painted the light rail project as a grand success. Outside, the small, liberal Együtt party was on hand with signs accusing Mr. Orbán of becoming wealthy by pocketing EU funds and subsidies. Ms. Grässle used her cell phone to take a photo of the anti-Orbán placards, creating the impression that the delegation was being thorough and was hearing all voices.
If nothing else, EP politicians had the chance to see first hand the megalomaniac projects that have transformed a dusty, tired village in Eastern Europe–a village whose only claim to fame is that it is the home of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

Last Updated on Thursday, 21 September 2017 16:06

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