Why is there a football stadium in Orban’s vacation home, Brussels asks?

Inside the Felcsut football stadium in Viktor Orban’s holiday village. /CGTN

Inside the Felcsut football stadium in Viktor Orban’s holiday village. /CGTN

The Pancha Arena football stadium is a beautifully designed thing. Perhaps over-designed, given that it has a capacity of almost 4,000 but is in Felcsut, a small village 50 kilometers from Budapest, with a population of 1,700.

It also happens to be right across from Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s weekend house and was built by a company owned by one of his friends.

It is perhaps understandable that some people in Hungary have condemned the project – and they may soon be joined by authorities from afar. The EU has started talks over the alleged embezzlement of taxpayers’ money and democratic backsliding in Hungary, which could lead it to withhold funding to the country.

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EU ministers met in Luxembourg on Tuesday after the European Commission last week announced plans to take action against the Orban government for its use of public EU funds.

The European Commission accuses the Hungarian government of misusing EU funds – funneling money to construction projects that benefit its closest allies.

This is something analysts like Patrik Szicherle of Political Capital Hungary have been tracking for some time. He thinks the message coming from the EU is clear.

“The European Commission has started to take the protection of European taxpayers’ money seriously,” says Szicherle. “It shows that there is now a political will to do something, not only to secure European taxpayers’ funds, but also to guarantee European values ​​in EU member states.”

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There are other projects in Felcsut that have led to some head-scratching in Brussels, such as the train station which received almost $2 million in EU funding, but which only connects the football stadium to a nearby village about six kilometers away.

In the capital Budapest, people are divided over the impact of a possible loss of European funds.

“It is obvious that it could harm the economy of the country”, launches a man, sympathizer of the opposition. “Otherwise it would be nice if something happened to the rule of law in Hungary – because it is in a very bad state, I think.”

Another man, who voted for Orban in last week’s election, said: “In reality, it’s a witch hunt.”

Throughout, the Orban government has denied any wrongdoing. At the meeting in Luxembourg on Tuesday, Hungarian Justice Minister Judit Varga came to the defense of the government.

“We can take the criticism, we’re all lawyers,” Varga said. “Hungary was once the nation of lawyers, so we are very happy to address all these concerns. But we would like to refuse all kinds of double standards and stigma.”

But back in Felcsut, the football pitches at the training academy are empty. And if Orban’s allies continue to score projects like these, it could well put Hungary outside EU rules.

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