Hungary's Orban threatens EU budget veto

Budapest (AFP) –


Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban warned Friday that Budapest could veto the European Union's first post-Brexit multi-year budget plan which proposes linking funds to democratic standards like the rule of law.

The one-trillion-euro-plus ($1.2 trillion) budget proposal covering 2021 to 2027 was unveiled Wednesday by the European Commission after months of difficult consultations with the 27 countries that will remain in the EU after Britain leaves.

"There has to be unanimity, so Hungarians don't have to be worried," the fiercely anti-immigration Orban said during a radio interview in Budapest.

"As long as Hungarians don't give the go-ahead then there will be no budget," he added.

"I don?t support a European budget that takes from farmers, or research and development, or regional development, and gives it to countries which let in migrants," said Orban.

Wednesday's proposal is seen as a way to rein in EU members like Hungary, which Brussels has repeatedly criticised over democratic standards, and Poland which faces unprecedented sanctions over its judicial reforms.

The mechanism would allow the EU to "suspend, reduce or restrict access" to EU funding if "rule of law deficiencies" were found.

In an angry response Thursday Budapest said it would oppose any attempt to impose conditions on the billions in funds it gets from the bloc.

The proposed link meant EU funding could be used to "blackmail" member states using "subjective" criteria, said Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto.

Orban insisted Friday that Hungary's judicial system and rule of law standards were given a clean bill of health following an investigation by Brussels in 2013.

The 54-year-old was reelected last month for a third consecutive term as premier with a landslide two-thirds parliamentary majority that gives him legislative free rein for the next four years.

Pledging to build an "old-fashioned" type of "Christian democracy rooted in European tradition", Orban said tough anti-migration bills would be the first to pass through the new parliament which convenes May 8.

A so-called "Stop Soros" legislative package will be aimed at non-governmental organisations (NGOs) backed by Hungarian-born US billionaire George Soros, whom Orban has long accused of facilitating immigration into Europe.

The bills would "bring (Soros') shadow army into the light," Orban said.

The package apes similar laws in Russia and would slap taxes on foreign-funded NGOs that "support" illegal immigration.

Under the proposals, foreigners deemed to support asylum seekers could be stopped from entering Hungary, NGO staff face being barred from approaching border areas and organisations will undergo "security tests".

An amendment to the constitution to prevent migration that was thwarted by the opposition in 2016 will also be re-submitted to parliament.