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Hungary lawmakers back Orban's position on EU recovery plan

Hungary lawmakers back Orban's position on EU recovery plan

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Hungarian lawmakers passed a resolution Tuesday calling on Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s populist government to ensure that the European Union’s economic stimulus plan meets certain conditions, including the fair distribution of funds among richer and poorer countries and not tying funds to rule-of-law provisions.

The resolution, while not legally binding, was seen by analysts as a political resource that Orban can tap during an EU leaders' summit in Brussels this week on the proposed recovery package and the EU's long-term budget. The resolution was approved by 128 votes in favor to 16 against, with one abstention.

Orban said last week that Hungary would veto a deal “only as a last resort.”

The resolution also listed other “principles” that lawmakers want the Hungarian government to pursue during the two-day summit starting Friday. They include excluding from EU funding parties and “organizations which carry out political activities under a civic disguise” and ending the sanctioning procedures the EU initiated against Hungary and Poland because of concerns about the rule of law in those countries.

At the same time, the resolution expresses support overall for the proposed 750 billion-euro ($855 billion) stimulus package, which includes 500 billion euros in grants and 250 billion euros in loans for EU countries. The grants would be backed by common debt among EU countries.

“The situation is grave, so we are forced to accept that the member states of the European Union take on common debt," the resolution states, calling for the funds “to be distributed in a fair and balanced way and the money's use must be made independent from political considerations.”

The resolution was introduced by National Assembly Speaker Laszlo Kover and the parliamentary leaders of Hungary’s two governing parties, Orban’s Fidesz and junior partner the Christian Democrats. Analysts said the it had both foreign and domestic political objectives.

To a certain degree, Orban could use the resolution as a shield against pressure from the EU and fellow member nations and to justify any objections to an agreement on the recovery fund, said Peter Kreko, director of the Budapest-based Political Capital Institute policy research and consulting firm.

“But everyone in the West knows that the Hungarian parliament is not independent from the government,” so such a ploy would be unlikely to convince politicians from Western Europe, Kreko said.

Orban could also expose himself to criticism from the political opposition in Hungary if he isn't able to stick to the conditions outlined in the resolution and ends up voting for the EU deal, Kreko added.

He noted that while Orban has often threatened to veto EU decisions requiring unanimity - and has even followed through several times - the prime minister has refrained from using such authority on highly important matters, such as sanctions against Russia for its 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea and support for a separatist insurgency in eastern Ukraine.