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Lithuanian Finance Minister: EU should shun double standards after punishing Hungary

Ingrida Šimonytė
Šarūno Mažeikos/BFL nuotr. / Ingrida Šimonytė
Šaltinis: BNS
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After the European Union (EU) decided to freeze 0.5 billion euros worth of payments to Hungary over its excessive budget deficit, Lithuania's Finance Minister Ingrida Šimonytė said double standards should not be allowed for even larger countries of the euro zone.

She spoke in comment of the Tuesday's decision to suspend payments to Hungary from the Cohesion Fund, if it fails to take additional measures – this is the first time the EU decided to apply sanctions against a member-state over sizeable budget deficit, i.e., the gap between public spending and revenues.

"With this decision, we are setting a precedent that the first member-state facing the sanctions is outside the euro zone and is a small member-state, therefore, it is very important to assure that future divergences and slides from objectives that may occur with members of the euro zone, large countries, will lead to application of the same principles in absolutely all cases," Šimonytė told BNS.

Amid discussion of the sanctions for Hungary, EU came under criticism for dual standards after concessions were made for Spain the day before. Foreign media has cited diplomats as saying that Austria and Lithuania had proposed postponement of the decision for Hungary for two months.

"I personally raised the issue actively with the (European) Commission and the colleagues around the table. I think everyone understands well that there can be no double standards here," the minister told BNS after the meeting in Brussels.

In her words, Spain and Hungary cannot be compared, as the situations they are in are different. The Spanish government has been given a deadline of 2013 for correcting the situation, while Hungary was to settle the excess deficit situation back in 2011.

The finance minister said the decision for Hungary could be expected, as it was the only country of the five states warned by the EC last year that didn't take any additional instruments to curb the deficit.

Nevertheless, in Šimonytė's words, Hungary can still rectify the situation, and the decision to suspend payment of 495 million euros next year would be revoked.

"After lengthy discussions, a decision was made that the council would return to the matter on 22 June, as the Hungarian government started to strongly inform fellow ministers, heads of states and governments and EU institutions about its intentions to make a series of decisions shortly to fully implement the Commission's recommendations," said the Lithuanian minister.

"Should the Hungarian government and parliament pass the decisions within a few months, as planned, the decision would be recalled when the council reopens the matter on 22 June," she said.

Over the past few months, Hungary has been locked in a legal dispute with the European Commission over other matters as well – Brussels took legal measures in connection to new laws which, the EU said, jeopardized independence of the central bank and courts.

Shaken by the Greek debt crisis, last year the EU decided to tighten public finances regulations. Earlier in 2012, EU leaders signed a new agreement stipulating sanctions for insufficient discipline.

BNS
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