Sargentini: “Hungary spends 18 million euros on campaign against me”. This is what the Dutch radio news show Met het Oog op Morgen (‘In View of Tomorrow’) reported on 5 February 2019 on its website. The claim is mostly true.
The claim stems from an interview with Judith Sargentini, Member of European Parliament for the Dutch Green Left party. In the interview, she states: ,,The (Hungarian) government has earmarked 18 million euros for a smear campaign against me personally and against the European Parliament.’’
Sargentini’s report on the declining rule of law in Hungary was approved by the European Parliament in September 2018. This allows for an Article 7 procedure under the Lisbon Treaty, which may lead to EU sanctions for Hungary.
In the interview, Sargentini does not mention the source of her claim. The campaign involves films, billboards and tweets. It also targets investor-philantropist George Soros and liberal MEP Guy Verhofstadt. Recently, EU Commission leaders Jean-Claude Juncker and Frans Timmermans have been added as targets.
Asked about her source, Sargentini points to an article from Atlatszo – a Hungarian watchdog NGO. Its headline reads: ‘Hungarian government allocated €18.2 million of taxpayers money on advertising campaign against Sargentini, Soros, and Verhofstadt’. From an article in Hungary Today it becomes clear that the number of 18.2 million euro is based on the data found on the site of the state institution Public Procurement Authority, a central budgetary organ subordinated to Hungarian Parliament. Its logo is also visible in the campaign films.
When asked, attorney Balázs Toth of Atlatszo refers to a specific document on the PPA-site where the figure is given. The estimated value of the campaign is 5.905.511.811 Hungarian forint, which equals approximately 18.6 million euros. This means that the amount mentioned by Sargentini is more or less correct.
Conclusion: The claim “Hungary spends 18 million on campaign against me (Sargentini)” is mostly true. The correct amount is about 18.6 million euro. The campaign targets not only Sargentini but other EU politicians and Soros as well.