Photo: MTI

Budapest Mayor: Access to EU funds ‘matter of life or death’ for Budapest

Access to European Union funding and "a quick end to rule-of-law issues" is "a matter of life or death" for Budapest, Mayor Gergely Karacsony said on Tuesday, after meeting a delegation of the European Parliament Committee on Budgetary Control.

The city has the potential to develop without using EU resources, but the majority of its revenues have gone to state coffers in recent years, and Budapest has needed EU funding to progress for years, he told a press conference.

“So it is a matter of life or death that … the issues on the rule of law are solved as quickly as possible and Budapest can access the funds it is entitled to,” he said.

He said he hoped that the delegation’s visit would speed up the process, and “Hungary will be able to adapt its own approach to the rule of law” so it can access EU funds as soon as possible.

That process must come with the EU “handling the situation… rather than turning a blind eye to rule-of-law issues,” he added.

At the same time, the mayor noted that EU resources for the city had shrunk from some 340 billion forints (EUR 919.5m) between 2014 and 2020 to around 200 billion in the 2021-2027 financial cycle, according to the municipality’s calculations.

He briefed the delegation on “discriminatory decisions, extremely detrimental for the municipality”, insisting that the government used national resources and EU funds to discriminate against opposition municipalities. Karacsony proposed that the delegation look into measures to counter such government plans.

The EU’s principle of partnership is gravely harmed in Hungary when it comes to planning and withdrawing EU funding, Karacsony said. “One startling example is that of the post-pandemic recovery plan in Hungary,” he said. In addition, the use of EU funds has been connected with “growing centralisation”, he said.

Karacsony proposed that the delegation should work to find a solution on an interim agreement on the withheld EU funding, and on bolstering direct funding for the city.

Further, he proposed that the EC should require more rigorous adherence to the principle of partnership, and that rule-of-law reports should be expanded to include the issues related to local authorities.

Karacsony said the delegation probed the Budapest municipality’s own methods to strengthen transparency and the rule of law within its own institutions, as well as its plans on using the recovery funds.

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