Orban asks for EU funds to help Hungary amid refugee crisis

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Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban arrives to attend an informal summit of EU leaders at the Chateau de Versailles (Versailles Palace) in Versailles, near Paris, France March 11, 2022. REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier/File Photo

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BUDAPEST, March 22 (Reuters) - Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has asked the European Commission to disburse all EU funds allocated to the country including a loan under the Recovery and Resilience Facility to help handle the Ukrainian refugee crisis, his press chief said.

According to a copy of aMarch 18 letter, addressed to Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen and sent to Reuters in an emailed reply, Orban said Hungary wanted to use the loan facility for defence, border control and humanitarian and other acute crisis management tasks.

The European Commission has been withholding its approval to pay out pandemic recovery money to Poland and Hungary because the two countries have yet to address EU recommendations on the rule of law.

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The European Union executive is at loggerheads with the two nationalist governments over a range of issues, including press freedoms and LGBT rights. Von der Leyen said last year that Hungary needed to do more to fight corruption.

Orban, who faces a close race for re-election in April 3 parliamentary elections, said Hungary had received over 450,000 refugees from Ukraine so far and he cited "shared responsibility" among member states as vital amid the crisis.

"To this end, Hungary only asks for immediate and effective access to EU funds allocated to it, and to be able to use them in a flexible way for the purposes best suited to dealing with the crisis," Orban wrote in the letter.

Last year Hungary said it declined to tap around 3.3 trillion forints ($9.82 billion) worth of loans under the EU's Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) but according to Orban's letter, the government has now changed its stance.

He said Hungary "requests the immediate provision of the allocated loan facility" under the RRF.

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Reporting by Krisztina Than; Editing by Alex Richardson and Nick Macfie

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