| 21 June 2021, Monday | النسخة العربية

Hungary signs up to huge EU COVID recovery fund, moving deal a step closer

Hungary adopted a bill fundamental to the European Union’s large recovery fund on Wednesday, moving the bloc one step closer to implementing the pact and, perhaps, ending Europe’s coronavirus-induced depression.

Last year, the EU’s 27 member states reached an unprecedented agreement to jointly borrow 750 billion euros ($918 billion) for the fund. However, for the proposal to move forward, all 27 countries must accept a resolution to raise the top ceiling on national contributions.

Until Wednesday, Hungary was one of a handful yet to do so.

The legislation was passed in parliament with 170 votes in favor and 29 lawmakers not taking part.

Nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has been in power for over a decade, has often been at loggerheads with Brussels over curbs on independent media, academics, courts and NGOs, as well as his restrictive approach to migration.

However, tens of billions of euros worth of funds flowing from the EU into 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, according to current opinion polls, faces a difficult election in early 2022, has also utilized public expenditures to establish a loyal business elite, partially using EU grants worth billions of euros.

The government expects 4.3 percent growth this year, with the central bank speculating that it could even reach 6%, thanks to an expansionary state budget this year and next.

Hungary, the only EU country to approve and deploy Russian and Chinese vaccinations before the European Medicines Agency, has immunized more than half of its 10 million residents and reopened the majority of its economy.

Romania, Austria and Poland are the only EU countries that have yet to sign off on the EU recovery fund agreement.