Gergely Karácsony
Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony – Photo: MTI / Zsolt Szigetváry

Administration in 'sham' talks over recovery funds, mayor says

Karacsony: Budapest pays more tax than government support received

Budapest pays more tax than the government support it receives, Budapest Mayor Gergely Karacsony said on Facebook in response to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán's remarks in parliament concerning the city's finances.

The new city leaders elected in October 2019 must pay nearly four times as much municipal tax during the coronavirus epidemic than the previous city leaders did, Karacsony said.

“The recovery of the country, including Budapest, must not be an issue focusing on a war of numbers,” he added.

Orban said in parliament concerning accusations that the government is “bleeding local governments dry” that Budapest’s account showed 122 billion forints at the end of December last year. Orban insisted that 44 percent of all government support or 3,000 billion forints went to Budapest last year as against 6-12 percent to some regions in the Hungarian provinces.

Karacsony said that despite the crisis, it was not the government supporting the metropolitan council but the other way round.

“We are fulfilling numerous public tasks without any state support and we are paying extra to the government,” he said, and insisted that Budapest was a net contributor to the central budget.

Government engaged in “sham talks”

The government has engaged in “sham talks” with “partners selected by itself” concerning utilisation of the European Union’s coronavirus recovery funds, Karacsony said, adding that the 7 billion euro European programme was aimed at helping member states “not only to recover from the deep economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, but also to invest in progressive and crucially necessary projects fostering sustainability, social justice and digitalisation”.

To that end, governments should cooperate with municipalities focusing on local aspects, Karacsony said, adding that the relevant EU decree clearly stipulated that national governments should have talks with their local counterparts.

Karacsony insisted that “the Hungarian government disregards cities with an opposition leadership, such as Budapest, as partners in distributing the European funds”. He said he was concerned that “the future of Hungary, the fate of millions of Hungarian citizens could be sacrificed in [PM] Viktor Orb’n’s political game”.

Karacsony published a statement signed jointly with the mayors of Bratislava, Prague, and Warsaw, in which they voiced concern that “the national governments in several member states stay away from meaningful consultations with local governments”. “Negotiations in several countries are merely symbolic, concerning a fragment of the funds, or there are no such talks whatsoever,” the statement said.

The mayors called on the governments of member states to observe the rules governing the bloc’s recovery mechanism, and also called on the European Commission to ensure that those regulations are met.

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