Brussels hinders nations tackling crisis: Hungary PM
BUDAPEST (Reuters) - EU officials are wasting time on toys for pigs and the mood of geese when hundreds of thousands are losing their jobs and the single currency is collapsing, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Saturday in a scathing attack on EU institutions.
Orban, who has often been at loggerheads with Brussels over issues like the independence of the National Bank of Hungary and the judiciary, said the 27-member bloc's institutions were hindering crisis-hit nations' ability to solve their problems.
Speaking in the Romanian town of Baile Tusnad at an annual students' gathering, Orban said western Europe, where the 17-member euro zone is mired in a debt crisis, was trapped in a vicious circle by the lack of accountability and failing institutions.
"Brussels spends precious days and weeks setting the size of hen cages. They prescribe that pigs should be given toys to play with, and the mood of geese is an important European issue," Orban said in a nearly hour-long speech carried by Hungarian private broadcaster HirTV.
"Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands are losing their jobs, our currency is collapsing and every day we find it harder and harder to make ends meet," he said, calling for an overhaul of the European institutional framework.
Hungary, central Europe's most indebted nation, is not a member of the euro zone. Orban, a conservative, heads a coalition that is seeking an international loan to cut the country's high borrowing costs.
Orban has worried investors and the European Union with a two-year string of unorthodox policies, most recently a levy on central bank operations, which the European Central Bank has criticized for impairing the National Bank of Hungary's independence.
Orban, who said there was no "one-size-fits-all" solution for western and central European countries in tackling their economic troubles, also took a stab at banks and the ECB and said the EU was addressing new problems with old medicine.
"With wrong reflexes they are still defending the very institutions and principles that led us here," Orban said.
"They are concerned about the independence of central banks, when it is absolutely evident that the ECB is under the growing sway of political, national political decisions."
He did not elaborate.
After an eight-month row with the International Monetary Fund and the EU over the independence of Hungary's central bank, Orban's government wrapped up the first round of talks with lenders on a financing backstop earlier this week.
Analysts expect the loan talks, which will probably resume in September, to be difficult because of the government's reluctance to give up its free hand in economic policy making.
"It makes no sense to copy western Europe but, in the spirit of freedom, we must establish our own economic systems and in doing so, we will have made an enormous step towards success," Orban said. "However, we must not disown western Europe. We are paddling in the same boat."
Support for Orban's ruling Fidesz and Christian Democrat parties remained just above a 12-year low in July just before the launch of the loan talks, a recent survey showed.
(Reporting by Gergely Szakacs, editing by Tim Pearce)
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