Brussels endorses Hungary's deficit cut plans
By Honor Mahony
The European Commission on Tuesday (26 September) backed Hungary's programme of austerity measures to try and get its economy back on track, but said that it wants "rigorous implementation" of the plans.
"After repeatedly warning about large budgetary slippages, the commission takes note of the commitment by the Hungarian government to bring its public finances back on a sound footing," EU monetary affairs commissioner Joaquin Almunia said.
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"We will continue to closely monitor the situation to verify that the announced measures are fully implemented and that the government decisively carries out its agenda for structural reform and expenditure control," he added.
But despite the tough words, Brussels extended a deadline by one year for Budapest to bring its finances in order.
Hungary now has until 2009 to bring its budget deficit down from 10.1 per cent of GDP to the three percent threshold allowed under EU rules.
The Brussels endorsement comes as prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsany struggles to keep his government afloat, after provoking riots earlier this month when he admitted that he had lied about the state of the country's finances in order to get re-elected.
Polish media report just 2,000 people came out on the streets of Budapest on Tuesday night to call for his resignation, compared to the 20,000 protestors at the height of the demonstrations a few days ago.
But opposition activists continue to hand out white ribbons in an attempt to keep the so-called "white revolution" going, with local elections this weekend set to test the country's confidence in the ruling elite.