BELGRADE (Reuters) – Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Friday the European Parliament’s call earlier this week to cut funds to Hungary over democratic backsliding was a “boring joke.”
A large majority of European Union lawmakers voted on Thursday to condemn damage to democracy in Hungary under Orban, in power since 2010, stepping up pressure on the bloc to cut funding for the ex-communist country.
“As far as the EU parliament decision is concerned, we think it is in the domain of joke. We are not laughing because it is a boring joke,” Orban said through a translator after meeting Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic.
“They (the EU lawmakers) are doing this to amuse themselves. We do not pay attention to it.”
Citing corruption risks, the European Commission is expected to recommend later this week suspending billions earmarked for Budapest from the bloc’s 1.1 trillion euro ($1.1 trillion) shared budget for 2021-27.
That would be the first such EU move under its new financial sanction dubbed “cash for democracy” and agreed two years ago precisely in response to Orban, as well as his allies in Poland, rowing back on liberal democratic tenets inside the bloc.
Budapest has come under pressure in recent weeks to strike a deal with Brussels and unlock funding for Hungary’s economy.
(Reporting by Ivana Sekularac; Editing by Kim Coghill)