Hungary raids aid groups in row with Norway

Hungarian government inspectors on Monday raided several non-governmental organizations it calls politically-biased in an escalation of a row between Hungary and Norway over development aid.

Hungary raids aid groups in row with Norway
Hungary's prime minister, Viktor Orban, pictured during a visit to the official residence of Norway's former PM Jens Stoltenberg in 2011. Photo: Lise ├ůserud/Scanpix

The Budapest-based Okotars Foundation and two related NGOs that together administrate aid from Norway to local civil organizations were forced to hand over documents to auditors from the Government Control Office (KEHI).

Last week Hungary's right-wing government led by Prime Minister Viktor Orban said it would audit the Norway funds to clarify "whether or not there were any grounds for government suspicion" Norway was supporting organizations, including Okotars, with links to political parties.

Last week the government published a list of 13 groups supported by the Norway grants – including minority rights groups, corruption watchdogs and an investigative journalism website – which it said are "tied to the political
left wing".

A statement from the Norwegian embassy in Budapest last week however said it was not the responsibility of Hungary to audit the funding as it does not include any monies from the Hungarian state budget.

"We reject all allegations of supporting, financially or otherwise, any party political activity in Hungary," the letter added.

"This is all about (governing party) Fidesz wanting exclusive authority to decide who gets how much," Okotars CEO Veronika Mona told Hungarian media last week.

Since a 1994 agreement with the EU, the three non-EU states of Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein have donated aid funding to poorer EU members to reduce social and economic inequalities in return for access to EU markets.

During the 2009-2014 period, Norway has allocated €153.3 million($208.5 million) to Hungary, of which around €12 million has been spent to date on over 100 groups and projects.

In April, the executive European Commission separately threatened to suspend funding payments over its concerns about how Hungary distributes EU aid.

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Norway cuts Afghan aid in protest at graft

Norway will cut its aid to Afghanistan in 2014 due to a lack of progress on women's rights and efforts to combat corruption, a senior Norwegian official said on Friday.

Norway cuts Afghan aid in protest at graft
Aghan President Hamid Karzai - NATO
Norway's aid will be slashed from an annual 750 million kroner (92.3 million euros, $126 million) to 700 million kroner, a reduction of about seven
"We warned Afghan authorities in July that the consequences (of the reform delays) could be a reduction (in aid), and now this is coming," Deputy Foreign
Minister Torgeir Larsen told daily Aftenposten.
A member of Norway's outgoing government that lost September 9 general elections, Larsen said the exact details of the aid cut would be outlined in
the 2014 budget his government is scheduled to present on October 14 — its last task before leaving office a few days later. The decision is not expected to be contested by the incoming government. 
A new report from the Norwegian embassy in Kabul quoted by Aftenposten said 87 percent of Afghan girls and women have been subjected to some form of violence and 70 percent of policewomen have been harassed or sexually assaulted by their superiors.
According to a recent ranking by the non-governmental organisation Transparency International, Afghanistan is one of the most corrupt countries
in the world.