Hungary reiterates it cannot back EU budget in its present form

FILE PHOTO: Gergely Gulyas, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s chief of staff speaks during an interview in his office in Budapest, Hungary on September 16, 2019. REUTERS/Gergely Szakacs

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - 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.

Reporting by Krisztina Than; Editing by Giles Elgood