Hungary’s PM fumes with Brexit envy after UK approves Covid jab in ‘slap in face for EU’

Hungary’s PM fumes with Brexit envy after UK approves Covid jab in ‘slap in face for EU’

Viktor Orban’s praise for Brexit Britain comes after he joined Poland’s prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki in vetoing the bloc’s €1.8trillion budget and pandemic recovery package. Mr Orban weighed into the debate surrounding the UK’s approval of a COVID-19 vaccine made by Pfizer and BioNTech, in a world first in the race for a jab.

He said it was thanks to Britain’s decision to leave the EU that it had achieved such a massive feat, ahead of the 27-member bloc.

Mr Orban said: “Those who have left [the EU] go their own way, look for their own solutions, and can improve their health and protect the lives of its citizens faster than we who stayed [in the EU].”

Earlier this week the drug regulatory authority MHRA became the first agency in the world to grant emergency approval to the vaccine for coronavirus, which has infected more than 1.6 million Britons.

Mr Orban called this a “slap in the face” for the EU.

For months he has been at loggerheads with top EU figures over Brussels’ handling of the coronavirus crisis.

Last month Hungary and Poland joined forces to block approval of the bloc’s budget in protest over a clause that ties funding with adherence to the rule of law.

Mr Orban slapped down the financial package which includes €750billion (£673bn) for a coronavirus recovery fund.

He has argued the rule of law mechanism is “defined vaguely” and therefore open to political manipulation.

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On Thursday Poland’s deputy prime minister, Jarosław Gowin, said Warsaw and Budapest could potentially accept a “binding” declaration to bring clarity to the rule of law mechanism.

He said both countries could back a declaration that would offer assurances that the mechanism would only be used to safeguard EU funds and not to exert pressure in other areas of policy.

Mr Gowin admitted the veto would also damage his country.

He said his government would be willing to accept such a declaration, following his meeting with representatives of the EU Commission.

But on Friday both Hungary and Poland rejected the idea.

Mr Orban said: “For us, this solution – attaching some statement like a reminder on a sticky note attached on a piece of paper – won’t work.

“Hungary insists that these two things should be separated.”

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki backed him, saying: “We say clearly that we are not able to accept the budget for the next seven years if at the same time that regulation is adopted.

“Our partners see that our position does not change.”

Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg.

Published at Fri, 04 Dec 2020 19:44:00 +0000