The Hungarian government would be “rejecting a helping hand” in the middle of the coronavirus crisis if it vetoed the European Union’s next multi-year budget and post-pandemic recovery package, Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony said. Addressing an online press conference after a board meeting of the alliance of local governments MÖSZ, Karácsony, a co-chair of the alliance, said Hungary’s local governments backed and were ready to implement the new round of virus-related restrictions announced by the government on Monday. He added, at the same time, that the measures came at a cost to budgets and society that “needs to be paid together”.
“The more restrictions that are implemented, the more we have to be prepared for an economic slowdown that will threaten jobs,” Karácsony said. “That’s why the government would be rejecting a helping hand in this crisis by … vetoing the European Union budget with reference to the plan to tie the distribution of funds to rule of law criteria,” he said. Karácsony said this was “irresponsible” on the part of the government and called on Hungary’s leaders to do everything they can to ensure that the country and its localities have access to EU monies as quickly as possible. “This is practically Hungary’s only option for staying afloat,” Karácsony said, adding that it was the Hungarian people, and not the government, that was in need of the 2,500 billion forints’ (EUR 6.96bn) worth of funding the country is entitled to. And since local governments are the ones closest to the people, he said, the direct funding of localities should be strengthened.
Concerning the initiative to ensure direct EU funding to localities, the mayor noted that the European Parliament’s relevant committees on Monday passed resolutions that would ensure the involvement of localities in the decision-making process on the distribution of funds.
Benedek Jávor, representative of the Budapest Municipal Council in Brussels, said it was a testament to the lobbying efforts of the municipal council over the past several months that the involvement of local councils when it comes to deciding on the use of EU funds, in particular of the recovery fund, was set to be strengthened.