By Jan Strupczewski
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Hungary is open to compromise with the European Commission to unblock its access to 7.2 billion euros ($7.57 billion) of EU recovery fund grants, a senior aide to Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Thursday.
Balazs Orban, political director for the Hungarian prime minister, told Reuters in an interview his country would welcome detailed recommendations from the EU executive on exactly what Budapest must change in its laws to get the EU funds flowing.
“We are open to a compromise,” Orban said on the sidelines of the European Union summit.
Like most EU countries, Hungary submitted in May 2021 its blueprint on how it would use EU grants to make its economy more environmentally friendly and high-tech after the COVID-19 pandemic.
But unlike the blueprints of most other countries, Hungary’s has yet to receive approval by the Commission because of EU concerns over corruption and judicial independence.
Orban said the vague phrasing of the Commission’s objections was a hindrance and that problems could be solved faster if the EU executive made clear what exactly it wanted changed, and how.
“The problem is we have too many and too general recommendations. Some say there is a problem with the constitutional legal system or the justice system,” he said. “What are we to do with that? We need more concrete recommendations.”
He said that in a similar situation a decade earlier, the Commission pointed out certain paragraphs in a controversial Hungarian media law and spelled out how they needed revisions.
“And the Hungarian government was always open to do so,” he said.
As an example of corruption, the Commission has mentioned in its reports that in some tenders for EU-financed contracts only one bidder took part, usually affiliated with the ruling Fidesz party.
Balazs Orban said the problem was with disparate EU and Hungarian methodology.
“How they count it is different from how we count it. If that is the problem, then we will definitely reach an agreement,” Orban said, adding Hungary was keen for a deal as soon as possible.
“We are prepared for all scenarios – we can move fast if necessary, but we are also prepared that we will have to survive without the funds,” he said. “It is not a good scenario for us but we are financially prepared.”
($1 = 0.9507 euro)
(Reporting by Jan Strupczewski in Brussels; Additional reporting by Krisztina Than in Budapest; Editing by Matthew Lewis)