French-German euro pact "will change everything", says Orban

Brussels, February 9 (MTI) – Plans by France and Germany to deepen economic cooperation within the euro zone “will change everything,” said Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said in Brussels late on Tuesday.

Orban said that efforts to save the single currency were in everyone’s interest but Hungary, as EU president, would continue to shepherd through EU economic objectives at the level of all the 27 members states.

    Addressing an event hosted by the European Peoples’ Party’s group of the European Parliament, Viktor Orban commented on the joint “competitiveness pact” Germany and France proposed at a Brussels summit last week, which aims to strengthen economic policy coordination and the competitiveness of 17 euro-zone member states.

    ”The aim must remain not to give up on the common goals 27 members set together just because the German-French initiative, which points in the direction of an ever stronger cooperation of 17 euro-zone members,” Orban said.

    Janusz Lewandowski, the bloc’s budget chief, said in an newspaper interview on Wednesday that the French-German plans risked creating a “two-speed Europe,” closing the door to non-euro countries.

    ”Developments are being watched with some nervousness in

Warsaw and other capitals,” he told Britain’s The Times. “We need a discussion on how to avoid a two-speed Europe,” said Lewandowski.

    Orban said the French-German initiative would have deep repercussions.

    ”The competitiveness pact […] will change everything. There will be new forms of coordination for which 17 rather than 27 member states will be present,” Orban said.

    ”Saving the euro is in our interest, because it will make Europe stronger too,” he added.

    Orban said the ten EU member states that are not yet part of the single currency should be aware that the criteria for membership would be made stricter, making it harder to join the single currency.

    Economic governance under the new rules would include areas not considered before, “pointing in a direction of a common fiscal policy,” he said. He called it a “luxury” to have a common currency without having a common fiscal policy at the same time.

    He said, however, Hungary, as EU president, would continue carrying through objectives set earlier that allow common economic governance at the level of all 27 member states.