© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban addresses a business conference in Budapest, Hungary, June 9, 2021. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo/File Photo
BUDAPEST (Reuters) – Hungary must remain a member of the European Union to ensure continued access to its single market, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Friday, adding the country would be among the last to leave the bloc if it were ever to disintegrate.
Hungary and Poland have both been at loggerheads with Brussels over issues ranging from LGBT rights to press freedoms. In July, the European Commission launched legal action against the two over measures it says discriminate against the gay community.
Hungary’s government debt agency (AKK) raised the equivalent of 4.4 billion euros ($5.2 billion) in global markets this week, far more than expected to help cover a likely delay in EU COVID recovery fund money.
Conservative nationalist Orban said for Hungary, a net beneficiary of EU funds, the main reason for staying in the EU was not money coming from Brussels. He also said this week’s debt sale showed Hungary stood on solid ground financially.
“If you look at the full year, we get more money from Brussels than what we pay. But if you subtract the amount of money western (companies) repatriate from the country each year, the balance is negative,” Orban told public radio.
“The EU is important for us because it provides Hungary with a market,” he said. “We need to stand up for the EU and remain in it. That is why I say no matter how it creaks and crackles, we will be the among the few still in the union should it ever end.”
Orban, who faces a closely-fought election next year, has used a 9% corporate tax rate to attract major investments in its car and manufacturing sectors that have lifted economic growth and employment, helping Orban hone an image of strong economic management.
Orban said this year’s economic growth would likely exceed 5.5%, paving the way for a raft of measures to support key voting groups ahead of the parliamentary election due next spring.
Orban will address lawmakers about the government’s plans at the inaugural autumn session of parliament on Monday.
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