04 Jan

Rethinking the economy after Covid: How can Hungary be more competitive?

Investing in people, public services and the business environment (including, crucially digital infrastructure) are appealing ways to achieve longer-term growth through making Hungarians and the Hungarian economy more productive. These types of policies respond to the challenges that were highlighted by the pandemic and can be helpful during the recovery but have the potential to spur further economic growth, writes Daniel Prinz. 

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Informal meeting of the heads of the V4, June 2018 (TASR/MTI/Prime Minister’s Press Office)

The most profound crisis facing the European Union today is the crisis of democracy in Central and Eastern Europe. Other EU crises such as the refugee crisis or the Eurozone crisis have – at least for the time being – abated, and Brexit has turned out to be more of a costly annoyance for the EU than the existential crisis many had feared. But the crisis of backsliding on the rule of law and democracy itself in some EU member states – particularly in Central and Eastern Europe – shows no signs of abating. Indeed, the situation is getting worse.

European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) (EC/AV)

While the V4 are the main beneficiaries of EU subsidies, and the insufficient use of EU funds remains one of the most burning systemic issues the region is facing, the Visegrád Group is nowhere near unified on the issue.  The EU’s anti-fraud agency has limited leverage, as it is up to local law enforcement authorities to investigate cases where EU funds were defrauded.

Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban, left, arrives to deliver his speech at the European Parliament in 2012. (TASR/AP Photo/ Cedric Joubert)

The political atmosphere for the protection of rule of law and other fundamental values of the European Union appears to be in a cautious but positive change. Instead of rallying around the flag, European political groups started putting greater leverage on national member parties that are not complying with European values.

A view of the Myslowice Wesola coal mine in Poland. EPA/ANDRZEJ GRYGIEL

Coal phase-out is inevitable if the world wants to limit global warming to 1.5°C. The question therefore arises not whether to shift to the low-emission economy but when. And how to do that without leaving the people from coal-abundant regions behind. Visegrad Group countries still struggle with the when-question, while Poland is still on the whether-stage. Simultaneously, several regions in the V4 states pursue promising just transition projects.

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