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Hungary reiterates it cannot back EU budget in its present form

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Hungary cannot accept the European Union’s budget and post-COVID recovery package in its present form as it amounts to “blackmail”, Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s chief of staff reiterated on Thursday.

“There is zero chance for the EU budget or the rescue package to take effect in its present form,” Gergely Gulyas told a briefing, saying Hungary’s veto was “in past tense”.

Hungary and Poland on Monday blocked the EU’s 2021-2027 budget and recovery plan, worth a combined 1.85 trillion euros ($2.2 trillion), because access to the funds would be conditional upon respecting the rule of law.

Orban, whose nationalist government is under investigation for undermining the independence of Hungary’s media and non-governmental organisations, has linked his veto to his continued opposition to mass immigration into the EU.

Gulyas said that “in theory” the EU budget and the so-called Next Generation recovery fund could be treated separately.

However, he said in practice it would be difficult because leaders considered them together in July, and there could be several member states which would find it unacceptable that the recovery fund takes effect, while the future of the budget is uncertain

In another development, billionaire financier George Soros said the European Union must stand up to Hungary and Poland and cannot afford to compromise on the rule-of-law provisions it applies to the funds it allocates to member states.

In a Project Syndicate article published on Thursday, Soros said Hungary and Poland’s veto of the EU budget and coronavirus recovery plan could be circumvented.

If there is no agreement on a new EU budget, the old budget could be extended on a yearly basis. If this is the case, Poland and Hungary would risk not receiving any payments under new rule of law conditions, the financier and philanthropist argued.

“The EU can’t afford to compromise on the rule-of-law provisions,” Soros wrote. He added that in the case of Hungary, EU funds should be directed to local authorities.

Meanwhile, the German EU presidency is still seeking a solution to the row in the European Union over a budget and recovery fund that aim to unlock billions of euros to help economies hit by the pandemic, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Thursday.

“Many countries in Europe are waiting for the money to be released,” Maas said on Thursday ahead of a meeting with his EU counterparts. “There’s a lot of pressure on all sides to find a solution quickly.”

Caption (FILE) – George Soros, founder and chairman of the Open Society Foundations . EPA-EFE/OLIVIER HOSLET / POOL

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