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Budapest's mayor snubs Orban by lobbying EU for direct access to climate change cash

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Budapest's mayor snubs Orban by lobbying EU for direct access to climate change cash
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Budapest's liberal mayor has put himself on a climate change collision course with Hungary's right-wing prime minister Viktor Orban.

Gergely Karácsony has suggested Brussels gives cities direct access to funding aimed at making the EU carbon-neutral by 2050.

Brussels wants to gather €1 trillion of investment over the next ten years as parts of its European Green Deal to battle climate change.

But Karácsony, speaking to Euronews, appeared sceptical over whether the Hungarian government would help Budapest get such funding.

"We are not calling on the EU to take a position in our national political debates," he said. "But we have to deal with the situation, that there are governments that are blocking EU decision making, they are conducting destructive debates instead of constructive debates.

"And there are cities with pro-European policy, and they share the most important aims of the EU. The current decision making in the EU supports its own opponents, instead of supporting its potential allies.

"We have to give an answer to this and the direct support and funding for cities could be a possible answer.”

Karácsony travelled to Brussels with other EU-friendly mayors from so-called illiberal countries to lobby to bypass their national governments.

In December, Karácsony and mayors from Bratislava, Prague and Warsaw clubbed together to form a "free cities pact".

They pledged to keep their cities open, tolerant and progressive in what was seen as a direct snub to their governments.

All four countries — collectively known as the Visegrad Four — have clashed with Brussels in recent months. The EU condemned the alleged erosion of rule of law and human rights violations in all of them over either reform of the judiciary (Poland), the treatment of minorities and asylum seekers (Hungary and Slovakia) or conflict of interest at the highest level of government (Czech Republic).

Karácsony, pushed by Euronews on what evidence he had that Hungary's government would stop Budapest getting any of the funding, said: "We have fears related to this. There are press reports and government documents which suggest that the government wants to centralise the distribution of the funds and they would appoint target areas inside the country which would bring funds from the opposition-led local governments (like Budapest) to other regions."