June 19, 2020 / 6:54 AM / 18 days ago

UPDATE 1-Hungary likely to support EU's economic rescue plan, PM Orban says

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BUDAPEST, June 19 (Reuters) - Hungary is likely to support a European Union plan to inject billions of euros into the bloc’s coronavirus-ravaged economies, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Friday ahead of a conference of EU leaders.

Orban had said at the end of May that he was sceptical about the plan.

“Several EU member states are in such a dire situation now that we can hardly avoid approving that Hungary would also support a joint borrowing plan,” he told state radio on Friday, adding that the scheme presented a chance for Hungary’s economy as well.

The 27 leaders will discuss the recovery plans for the bloc on Friday morning by videolink, with the aim of uniting behind an unprecedented 750-billion-euro stimulus programme financed via borrowing by the executive European Commission.

The aid would be disbursed mainly among the nations worst-hit by the coronavirus epidemic, such as Italy and Spain.

Central Europe’s four-nation Visegrad Group of Hungary, Slovakia, Poland and the Czech Republic last week edged towards backing the EU plan but said it should not favour larger, richer states or hurt smaller ones that had managed the outbreak well.

These four countries have overall reported far fewer cases of the COVID-19 than their larger, wealthier western neighbours, but they also face recessions this year because of economic shutdowns.

Hungary, which has a population of around 10 million, had recorded 4,079 cases of COVID-19 as of Thursday, including 568 deaths. It lifted most of its lockdown curbs last month.

On Friday, Orban also said his government would take necessary legal and economic measures to protect lives should a second wave of the epidemic break out.

Reporting by Krisztina Than; editing by John Stonestreet

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