ALCSUTDOBOZ, Hungary – European Parliament members who oversee the EU's budget on Tuesday visited a three-station railroad that links three Hungarian villages and has close ties to the country's prime minister.
Committee members led by chairwoman Inge Grassle are reviewing EU-funded projects in Hungary. Critics of Prime Minister Viktor Orban's critics say the railroad is a vanity project with no practical use, which has so far failed to reach the ridership figures cited for justifying the EU funds.
Grassle and other lawmakers, including three from Hungary, rode the railroad's full route of 5.7 kilometers (3.5 miles) between Alcsutdoboz, Orban's birthplace, and neighboring Felcsut, where Orban grew up and has a house.
The project received 600 million forints ($2.3 million) from the EU. The soccer academy founded by Orban — located at Felcsut — financed the rest of the cost, about 857 million forints ($3.33 million).
Janos Lazar, Orban's chief of staff, said the EU committee was committing "political discrimination" for specifically visiting the rail line linked to Orban.
Viktor Szigetvari of the opposition Egyutt (Together) party said Orban was using EU money to build a "Disneyland" in his hometown, 48 kilometers (30 miles) west of Budapest, the capital.
"This is an unnecessary investment," Szigertvari said. "The only reason this was built here is the prime minister's arrogance."
Responding to similar criticism in 2015, Orban vowed to extend the railway to other nearby towns like Bicske and Lovasbereny. In July, the government revealed plans to spend a further 8.53 billion forints ($33.1 million) on developing similar rail lines.
During the visit, the EU committee also reviewed several other projects done with EU funding, including Budapest's fourth subway line and a countryside winery.