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12th Aug 2022

Hungarian minister says No to EU 'empire-building'

  • Budapest: the commission unblocked a big chunk of cohesion aid one day before the verbal attack (Photo: Axel Buhrmann)

A Hungarian minister has accused the EU of trying to over-extend its power amid the financial crisis.

Gyorgy Matolcsy, the 56-year-old economy minister from the nationalist Fidesz party, said in an op-ed in the business weekly Heti Valasz on Thursday (31 May) he wants a "Europe of nations," not a "European empire" and that Hungary should stay out of the euro.

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"The effort to centralise the European Union since 2008 has not been successful," he said, referring to the start of the crisis.

"The centralisation of a European empire, that is to say the further strengthening of Brussels, is contrary to our interests, because it erodes the independence of the Hungarian state, necessary for the country's economic development."

Matolcsy's remarks tap into popular feeling: a poll by the Pew Research Centre earlier this week said people in seven out of eight EU countries in its survey did not want Brussels to get more budgetary powers.

In Hungary itself, Fidesz's popularity is on the wane and Brussels-bashing is popular after the country quietly imposed one of the toughest sets of austerity measures in the EU in recent years.

The minister's attack comes despite the fact the European Commission on Wednesday unblocked €450 million of aid for Hungary and praised its budgetary restraint.

Meanwhile, the head of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, and economic affairs commissioner Olli Rehn, kept up calls for further integration at two seperate events in Brussels on Thursday.

Draghi told the European Parliament: "That configuration that we had with us by and large for 10 years which was basically considered sustainable, I should say, I should add in a perhaps biotic way, is being shown now to be unsustainable unless further steps are being undertaken."

He endorsed the idea of creating an EU banking union - as also promoted by European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso on Wednesday - including a "European guaranteed deposit fund."

For his part, Rehn at the opening session of the Brussels Forum, a business congress in the EU capital said euro zone states should jointly underwrite debt because it will be difficult "to anchor a stability culture in the euro zone without significantly pooling the burden of adjustment."

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