Hungary’s interest is to close talks fast with the International Monetary Fund, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Friday, while the IMF said the opening of formal negotiations still hinged on assurances of the Hungarian central bank’s continued independence.
Orban told public radio mr-1 Kossuth that the government still believed the country could finance itself and did not need to draw on a loan from the IMF.
“The cabinet only wants a ‘declaration’ from the IMF that says Hungary can count on a safety net if there are problems on the European bonds market,” he said. He added however that the IMF may be under the impression that Hungary has in fact requested a loan.
Orban rejected the suggestion that the IMF only wanted to lend to Hungary to influence its economic policy.
“This is malignant speculation. The IMF is our friend,” he said.
Orban said he had driven the government’s goals home successfully during talks in Brussels and that there would be no need to change these goals only discuss the means to reach them.
He said Hungary’s position conveyed to Brussels was that it is open to discussing other means of achieving these goals.
“Hungary is not withdrawing, suspending or changing anything,” he said.
The government will stick to implementing an across-the board retirement age and believes that the issue of judges’ retirement is not a judicial issue.
Orban said the government had not yielded regarding the salary and oath of the central bank leaders either and as the European Commission had acknowledged this, these are no longer contentious issues. The requested changes to the Central Bank Act will soon be tabled for debate in parliament, he added.
Fund links talks to steps on Central Bank
The International Monetary Fund welcomes progress Hungary has made in talks with the European Commission and is ready to start negotiations on precautionary financial assistance the country is seeking as soon as steps to ensure the independence of the National Bank of Hungary are taken, the IMF’s resident representative in Hungary Iryna Ivaschenko said on Thursday responding to a query.
“The Fund welcomes recent progress in Hungary’s discussions with the European Commission. The Fund is ready to start negotiations as soon as adequate steps are taken to ensure central bank independence as has been discussed with the Hungarian government,” Ivaschenko said.
The European Commission said on Wednesday Hungary had taken “sufficient action and commitments” with regard to an infringement procedure on the independence of the country’s central bank to start talks on the precautionary financial assistance.