Hungary could reassess EU membership by end of decade

Mihály Varga is one of the more moderate members of Viktor Orban's cabinet - Getty
Mihály Varga is one of the more moderate members of Viktor Orban's cabinet - Getty

Hungary could reassess its membership of the European Union by the end of the decade, according to the country’s finance minister.

Mihály Varga warned Hungary may rethink its position once it becomes a net contributor to the EU's budget, reigniting the debate ahead of the country's elections next year.

“When we calculate that we will already be net contributors to the EU, the issue could get a new perspective,” said Mr Varga, one of the more moderate members of Viktor Orban's cabinet, in an interview with Hungarian media. “Especially if the attacks in Brussels are continuous because of the choice of values.”

Mr Varga did say that if a hypothetical vote were to take place this year for Hungary to join the EU now, he would “be among those who voted yes.”

Hungary joined the EU in 2004 and has always taken more out of the budget than it has paid in.

In the EU’s 2018 budget cycle for example, Hungary received around £4.25 billion from the EU’s budget – money mainly aimed at trying to even out inequalities across the bloc. While still not out of the EU that year, the UK paid £8.35 billion into the pot.

However, Hungary is expected to become a net contributor by 2030, meaning it will pay in rather than taking out.

Simultaneously, Hungary is locked in a battle with Brussels and the other EU member states over access to its slice of the £640 billion pot of cash being created for the economic recovery from the pandemic.

The European Commission has delayed approving the start of pay-outs of the £6.15 billion tranche Budapest is expecting.

Brussels has refused to give reasoning for this but it is clearly related to the mechanism which was written into the agreements for the 2021-2027 budget which tie cash to respecting fundamental rights and fighting corruption.

Hungary and Poland campaigned hard against that mechanism being written in last year but succumbed, expecting it to be toothless.

Both Warsaw and Budapest had already been slapped with infringement procedures by Brussels for breaches of Rule of Law, such as cracking down on free media, tinkering with the judiciary and closing down civil society and non-governmental organisations and working in their countries.

“The country doesn’t have time for this back-and-forth. That’s why we’re going to launch the national plan from our own resources,” Mr Varga said.

When the Telegraph reached out to the European Commission for response, the spokespeople repeated their standard mantra that they “never comment on comments”.

Hungary’s place in the EU was directly questioned in June when Mark Rutte, the Dutch prime minister, said the country had “no business being in the European Union any more”.