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Poland plans to set up Central Europe development bank - Polish PM

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01/03/2018 | 09:05pm CEST
Polish PM Morawiecki and Hungarian PM Orban shake hands during a joint news conference in Budapest

WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland is in talks with Hungary to create a development bank aimed at investments in infrastructure in the region and plans to involve Slovakia and the Czech Republic in the project, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Wednesday.

Morawiecki met his Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban in Budapest to discuss economic and political co-operation, including European Union migration quotas which they oppose, as well as issues regarding energy and the next EU budget.

"We talked about a Visegrad development bank. We can afford a bank that would support infrastructure development in the region," Morawiecki told reporters after his Budapest trip, referring to a group of central European countries comprising Hungary, Slovakia, Poland and the Czech Republic.

"We strongly confirmed (with PM Orban) that we're interested. If Czechs and Slovaks respond positively we could quickly set up this bank," he said without providing more details.

Morawiecki also said his cabinet had not changed its sceptical view about adopting the euro in the near future despite recent calls from local economists trying to convince the Polish government to join the euro zone soon and keep Poland close to the core of the EU.

"We have not changed our rhetoric with regard to this. This is not an issue today," Morawiecki said.

Morawiecki and Orban appeared to have struck up a good personal relationship, reinforcing their countries' diplomatic rapprochement within the EU.

When the EU's executive body launched an unprecedented legal action against Warsaw in December in an attempt to force it to reverse judicial reforms that Brussels says undermine democracy, Orban signalled he would use Hungary's right of veto to block any punitive sanctions against Poland.

"We are like-minded countries," Morawiecki said when asked if Poland offered anything to Hungary in exchange for Orban's gesture and added that Budapest could rely on Poland in the future.

Both Orban's Fidesz and the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) in Poland are riding high in national opinion polls, thanks to their strong economic record, tough anti-migrant policies and their defiance of EU institutions.

Critics say reforms introduced by Fidesz in Hungary and by PiS in Poland are eroding democracy and the rule of law, charges rejected by Budapest and Warsaw.

(Reporting by Marcin Goclowski and Krisztina Than; Editing by Lidia Kelly and Richard Balmforth)

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