Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony on Saturday called on the government to conduct “substantial” consultations with local authorities on the use of the European Union’s coronavirus recovery fund, and accused the government of “violating European law and ignoring Budapest citizens”.
Hungary is slated to receive 5,472 billion euros of the EU’s Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF), set up to offset the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. Hungary is expected to submit its plans on using the fund to the EU by the end of April.
Karácsony said on Facebook on Saturday that the Budapest municipality had been “fighting for months” to engage in “meaningful dialogue” with the government on the recovery fund. Such cooperation is also requested under relevant EU regulation, he said.
The government has so far only published a “superficial, empty document a mere 13 pages long … that does not reveal how it plans to spend the funds that make up a quarter of Hungary’s annual budget”, Karácsony said.
The Budapest council has already submitted its comments on the document, stating that they did not see it as fulfilling the participation requirement of the EU, Karácsony said.
The municipality is also sending another document to the government, detailing the areas and projects it would support to boost Budapest’s sustainable development, its “green relaunch” and to rehabilitate its social care services which had been “frayed” by the pandemic, Karácsony said.
Balázs Fürjes, the state secretary responsible for the development of Budapest and its suburbs, responded in a Facebook post of his own that the government was “flummoxed” by Karácsony’s “unexpected attack”.
Talks on the recovery fund are ongoing, in the spirit of an agreement between Karácsony and the prime minister’s chief of staff, Gergely Gulyás, and continued this past week with Deputy Mayor Ambrus Kiss while the mayor was in quarantine, Fürjes said.
Fürjes insisted that the Association of Budapest District Authorities, headed by Karácsony, had received the government’s plans on the use of the recovery fund months ago.
The government proposed to channel over 3,000 billion forints (EUR 8.2bn) to Budapest, with 500 billion forints for development, innovation and higher education, he said. A further 1,500 billion would go towards developing transport in Budapest and its suburbs, and 500 billion to health-care development, he said.
The development of green areas would get 180 billion, he added.
Fürjes called on Karácsony to “set aside political differences and work together for the city”.
Featured photo by Szilárd Koszticsák/MTI