Hungary’s PM Orban rules out compromise in EU budget standoff

Viktor Orban Prime Minister of Hungary attends a news conference following talks with his counterparts from central Europe's Visegrad Group in Lublin, Poland, on Friday, Sept. 11, 2020. In preparation for European Union summit this month, the prime ministers of Poland, The Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary discussed situation in Belarus, ties with Russia and fighting COVID-19.

Hungary’s position on a veto of the European Union’s budget and recovery fund is “rock-solid”, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Friday, adding he did not want to seek a compromise on the rule of law issue.

Orban spoke on state radio a day after Hungary and Poland said the EU could not attach rule-of-law conditions to funds unless the bloc changed its founding treaty, digging in their heels after vetoing the EU budget and a coronavirus recovery fund earlier this month.

The EU is investigating the nationalist governments of the two Central European countries for undermining the independence of their judiciaries and media and had sought to attach conditions to the disbursement of EU cash.

Poland and Hungary responded by blocking 1.8 trillion euros worth of EU funds, including hundreds of billions due to be disbursed soon to help pull the bloc out of a double-dip recession caused by a second wave of COVID-19.

Orban said on Friday the votes of Hungary and Poland were essential for the EU’s recovery fund and the budget. He said linking political debates to economic questions was not a legal issue, but a political decision of a few EU members and the European Parliament.

“Our position is rock-solid, theirs is only a political will,” Orban said. “Theirs can be changed, ours cannot. I do not want a compromise.”

A senior EU diplomat said on Thursday that EU member states and European lawmakers had no appetite to re-negotiate the condition linking money to respect for democratic principles.

“With their statement, Poland and Hungary are moving deeper and deeper into isolation,” the diplomat said.

Poland and Hungary would receive some of the highest amounts per capita from the EU.

In a decade in power, Orban has used public spending to build a loyal business elite which includes some members of his family and closest friends, partly using billions of euros worth of state and EU funds.

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