Hungary’s Orban Hints at Passing EU Penalties on to Financiers

(Bloomberg) -- Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has said that he plans to make institutions he considers financiers of the war in Ukraine cover the costs of a fine the European Union has imposed on Hungary for failing to comply with its asylum policies.

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The statement, which Orban made during a visit to Berlin on Friday, could translate into a new levy on the financial industry. It also adds to the turbulence as the controversial leader prepares to take the EU’s rotating presidency.

The European Court of Justice has slapped a €200 million ($214 million) fine plus an extra €1 million daily penalty on the Orban government for deliberately ignoring EU rules around the treatment of third-country nationals seeking refuge in the country. The Luxembourg-based court said Hungary had been unlawfully detaining asylum seekers and deporting people without following the correct procedure.

Speaking from Berlin during a trip to meet German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Orban said his officials were working on legislation that would pass the fine on to “speculators” who “profit from” or make loans to finance the war in Ukraine, or who gain from migration.

While he didn’t provide further details in an interview with Hungarian state radio on which institutions or individuals would pay the levy, Orban does have a history of imposing special taxes on banks and other industries to plug holes in the budget. Hungary was one of seven countries reprimanded by the EU this week for running excessive deficits.

Ahead of his talks with Scholz, Orban touted Hungary’s economic ties with Germany. New investments by Mercedes-Benz Group AG in Hungary will create as many as 4,200 jobs, Orban said.

At the same time, the Hungarian leader sharply reiterated views that have isolated him among EU and NATO leaders. He accused the EU and Germany of sowing disorder and helping diminish the number of “white people” on the continent by letting in migrants.

--With assistance from Marton Kasnyik.

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