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The European Union “must not be divided politically, ideologically, or in a regional sense”, Regional Development Minister Tibor Navracsics said in State Secretary Zoltán Kovács’s new podcast The Bold Truth About Hungary on Wednesday. Navracsics said he hoped his previous experience in previous positions such as European commissioner between 2014-19 and justice minister before could be used to contribute to the success of Hungary’s efforts to access EU funds.
Kovács, the state secretary for international communications and relations, said annual community funding to Hungary, an equivalent of 4-5% of the country’s GDP, was “no gift” but “among others compensation for market drawbacks”. According to Navracsics, Hungary is “one of the most reliable end-users” of EU funds, with an ability to absorb over 80% of the available funds. “Hungary is good investment for the EU budget, as all data reflect its good results in closing the gap between well- and under-developed regions and in increasing social mobility through using EU funds,” the minister said. Kovacs cited data from the European Statistical Office and added that the number of poor and “socially challenged” people had been reduced by 50% in recent years. On another subject, Navracsics said issues around Hungary’s judicial reform had been settled with the European Commission and the European Council, but “serious attempts are being made to reopen the case and question the independence of Hungary’s judiciary”. He added that some other member states had “much worse” record as regards the independence and efficiency of their judiciary. Navracsics said “the problem lies in a lack of mutual trust”, adding that “a confidence-building exercise” is under way. Kovacs added that the government had so far tabled five proposals in parliament aimed at passing legislation necessary for an agreement between the government and the European Commission.