Ball is in Brussels' court, Orbán says on EDP

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Hungary has done all it can to meet the requirements necessary for the European Commission to lift the Excessive Deficit Procedure (EDP) against it; now, everything is up to Brussels, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said in an pre-recorded interview broadcast on public radio early Friday. Hungary has successfully managed to reduce its general government deficit below the European Union's 3% of GDP threshold, and if the Commission sticks to its principles, especially the principle of equal treatment, it must lift the EDP, Orbán said. Hungary has been under the EDP since 2004, the year it joined the EU. However, data published in April show the deficit reached 2.0% of GDP last year. "If we can confirm that Hungary was below 3% last year and will remain below [the threshold] in our projection for 2013 and 2014, these will be ...very important elements in reassessing the need to keep, or not, Hungary under the excessive deficit procedure," an EC spokesman said after the data was submitted to Brussels. Orbán declined to comment on an EC forecast due out early Friday, but said the EU was often unfair. It wants to place the burdens of the crisis on the poor, often uses double standards, refuses to respect nation states and passes judgment without discussion, he said. The Council of Europe monitoring committee's proposal to launch a procedure against Hungary shows that due respect of the citizens of nation states is not forthcoming in Europe, Orbán said. They passed judgment before discussing the report and the members of the committee did not know Hungarian regulations, he added. He said business matters were behind the procedure against Hungary. "They cannot identify any fault with us when it comes to meeting democratic standards. What hurts them is that multinational companies cannot take hundreds of millions of forints out of the country like they did without hesitation during the Socialist government, even with encouragement from the government. This is now over and hundreds and sometimes thousands of billions of forints are here to stay, therefore Hungary is subjected to a campaign of revenge," Orbán said. He said the EC and the spirits industry lobby were against the separate excise taxes levied on ordinary spirits and Hungarian fruit brandy, or "pálinka", adding that Hungary was prepared to defend its position before the European Court. Orbán said the government's introduction of a state monopoly on retail tobacco sales would bring Hungarian SMEs in the industry twice as much profit as before. The move is in line with the national policy of promoting local businesses instead of multinationals, he added.

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