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By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife reporting from Budapest, Hungary
BUDAPEST, HUNGARY (BosNewsLife)-- Hungary believes it will soon sign an International Monetary Fund-led deal on billions of dollars in financial assistance to help the nation overcome its deepest economic crisis in years, the country's deputy prime minister told BosNewsLife.
Tibor Navracsics said he expects an accord on an IMF and European Union loan of nearly 20 billion dollars within months, despite mounting tensions with the organizations. "We want to have an agreement with the IMF. So probably it will be at the end of this year or . . . early next year," he told BosNewsLife in Budapest. "But I hope there will be an agreement."
His comments are remarkable as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán recently said that Hungary could not accept alleged conditions for the loan, including pension cuts and the elimination of a bank tax and other taxes targeting mainly foreign companies.
Navracsics acknowledged however that Hungary's center-right government is looking into creative alternatives to shore up its budget, just in case there's still no deal with the IMF and the EU.
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The latest proposals include one to borrow at least $272 million from Hungarian citizens by selling them euro-denominated bonds.
Another would grant residency, or even Hungarian passports, to foreigners willing to buy 250,000 euros ($300,000) of Hungarian government bonds, confirmed Navrascisc.
"We have to finance our budget, so we are looking to these financial incentives as well," he added as the IMF has so far not set a known date for a resumption of talks, after previous negotiations effectively broke down. .
The top government official laughed when asked whether this would lead to an influx of non-European Union citizens from for instance former Soviet nations and economically booming China into strategically located Hungary. "No I don't think so."
Navracsics spoke on the sidelines of what was dubbed "Europe's largest American election night", with some 1,500 guests attending the event in a luxurious Budapest hotel.
He hopes re-elected U.S. President Barack Obama will focus more on Central and Eastern Europe than during his previous term.
"Economic relations and upgrading the strategic positions of Central Europe," are important at a time of growing Russian influence, Navracsics argued.
"I think the Central European nations now somehow vanished in the eyes of the American foreign policy." he complained.
"The American foreign policy think tanks and analysts think that Central Europe is in a safe and dry place and it's not in danger of a possible Russian influence. We sometimes think differently."
Navracsics concern seems understandable: Hungary and other ex-Soviet-satellite states were occupied for decades by Russian forces till the collapse of Communism and the Soviet Union over 20 years ago.