MPs in Hungary to next week vote on laws to help country unlock EU cash

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Hungary’s government said Saturday that MPs would vote next week on a series of laws aimed at helping end a standoff with Brussels, which is withholding EU funds over corruption concerns.

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The announcement comes on the eve of a key decision from the European Commission on the issue of billions of euros of frozen EU funds allocated to Budapest from the bloc's 2021-2027 budget.

Gergely Gulyas, chief of staff of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s office, told reporters on Saturday that MPs would vote within days on measures designed to allay concerns about graft and a lack of transparency in public procurement.

“The related bills will be submitted to parliament next week, we expect on Monday and Friday, and these laws will enter into force in November,” Gulyas said, adding this that this should clear the way for the tussle with the Commission to be closed.

The measures are expected to include setting up independent anti-corruption watchdogs to monitor the use of EU funds as well as steps to make the legislative process more transparent.

The government led by the staunchly nationalist Orban is suspected by the Commission of undercutting the rule of law and using EU money to enrich its cronies.

The EU has also earmarked €5.8 billion ($5.8 billion) for Hungary from its Covid recovery fund but Budapest’s spending plan for the money has not been signed off by Brussels for similar reasons.

The latest conciliatory moves from Budapest come as the Hungarian economy faces increasing pressure from a weakening local currency and fast-rising inflation. Both have hit new records this year.

Also on Saturday, the government announced that price caps on fuel and food introduced in the spring would be extended until the end of the year.

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