Hungary signs huge EU COVID stimulus fund, one step closer to deal
This content was published on May 26, 2021 – 11:21 AM
BUDAPEST (Reuters) – Hungary on Wednesday approved a bill essential to the European Union’s massive stimulus fund, bringing the bloc closer to implementing the deal and hopefully ending the induced crisis by the coronavirus in Europe.
The 27 EU countries struck an unprecedented deal last year to jointly borrow 750 billion euros ($ 918 billion) for the fund. But the 27 must ratify the decision to raise the ceiling on national contributions for the plan to materialize.
Until Wednesday, Hungary was one of the few to do so.
The legislation was passed in parliament with 170 votes in favor and 29 legislators not participating.
Nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban, in power for more than a decade, has often disagreed with Brussels over the brakes on independent media, academics, courts and NGOs, as well as its restrictive approach to migration.
However, tens of billions of euros of funds flowing from the EU to Hungary have helped his government boost GDP growth and will continue to be crucial as the economy rebounds from last year’s recession. .
Orban, who faces tough elections in early 2022 based on current opinion polls, has also used public spending to bolster a loyal business elite, partly using billions of euros in EU funds.
The government is forecasting 4.3% economic growth this year, while the central bank has said it could even be close to 6%, helped by an expansionary state budget this year and next.
Hungary, the only EU country to have approved and rolled out Russian and Chinese vaccines before the European Medicines Agency approved them, has vaccinated more than half of its 10 million citizens and reopened the essential to the economy.
Other EU states that have yet to sign the EU stimulus fund agreement are Romania, Austria and Poland.
(1 USD = 0.8170 euros)
(Reporting by Krisztina Than; Editing by Nick Macfie)