According to the Minister heading the Prime Minister’s Office, the Seventh Amendment to the Fundamental Law and the Stop Soros legislative package adopted by Parliament on Wednesday serve to guarantee Hungary’s sovereignty and security.

Gergely Gulyás said at the press conference held on Thursday in Budapest that the practical application of the legal rules now adopted will allow Hungary to say no to becoming an immigrant country.

He added that the amendment of the constitution lays down the prohibition of the resettlement of foreign populations into Hungary and the principle of first safe country.

Collective deportation is also prohibited, he continued, and based on this analogy it is justified that the Constitution should also lay down the prohibition of collective resettlement.

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Regarding the principle of first safe country, he said that if all EU Member States had observed this principle which follows from the Geneva Conventions, it would have been possible to avoid the European disputes on this issue.

The principle of first safe country means that if someone is a refugee – is persecuted in his or her own country – he or she must be given asylum by the country where he or she is first safe, he explained, stressing that a refugee cannot choose the country he or she wishes to live in.

According to Mr Gulyás, the Stop Soros legislative package will allow Hungary to prevent the organisation of illegal immigration even more effectively than before. With the passage of the two laws Fidesz-KDNP have delivered on their election promise, he said.

He highlighted that in the election campaign they made it clear in the spirit of transparency what their intentions were regarding the restriction of immigration, and this is why they submitted the bills to Parliament already in February.

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He observed that while changes have been made to the proposed bills, they have been adopted fundamentally without any change in the original intentions.

He said he is pleased that Parliament adopted the bills with a majority far in excess of the votes of the government parties. At the same time, this does not mean, he said, that the new legal rules were supported by the majority of the opposition. “The majority of the opposition continued to take a pro-immigration stance”, he said.

He expressed hope that in the international debate related to immigration they may rely on the opposition and that the smear campaign will not continue at European forums.

In answer to a question, he said they are not expecting sanctions due to the passage of the laws, but they are expecting debates and disputes because the Brussels Commission is pro-immigration.

In answer to another question Mr Gulyás declined to comment on news reports that Prime Minister Viktor Orbán will meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the beginning of July. He pointed out that according to the rules of diplomacy the inviting party is required to disclose details regarding the visit.

The politician likewise did not wish to comment on internal political events in Germany. He said, however, that if the EU’s external borders are to be protected in accordance with the Hungarian position, the problem that gives rise to disputes between the union parties (CDU and CSU) will become non-existent.

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In answer to a question regarding suggestions that a bill would make ministerial salaries of five million forints possible, Mr Gulyás said that the proposed legislation lays down the framework, and the Prime Minister is free to determine his ministers’ salaries. The bill allows ministers to earn at least as much as the heads of the companies which they supervise, he explained.

He laid down that the Prime Minister’s salary will not change, but there may be instances when a minister’s remuneration is higher than that of the head of government.

A journalist mentioned that the United States quit the UN Human Rights Council, and asked whether Hungary was making similar plans. The minister said they respect the decision of a sovereign state. He added that Hungary is likewise not happy about the fact that a number of human rights agencies and representatives of the UN see not only the protection of human dignity and the guaranteeing of fundamental human rights as their goal, but they also pursue active political activities. The Hungarian government has not made a similar decision so far, he observed.

The minister confirmed press reports that from 1 August Vince Szalay-Bobrovniczky – Hungarian Ambassador to Finland at present – will serve as deputy state secretary for non-governmental organisations at the Prime Minister’s Office. Mr Gulyás said in explanation of the appointment that the National Cooperation Fund worth almost seven billion forints has been transferred to the supervision of the Ministry, and this fund has been overseen by a deputy state secretary also to date.

In answer to a question regarding the victims wronged in the Czeglédy case, he said that those concerned may submit their claims for damages until 30 June. The government will totalise the claims thereafter and will make the necessary funds available.

Regarding a question on the dispute that emerged due to the financing of the research institutes of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, he said that at present Hungary spends some HUF 70 billion on research, development and innovation annually. The goal is to reach an agreement between the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and the government, and this is why Innovation Minister László Palkovics is holding talks with the Academy’s management, he said.

He added that they are close to reaching an agreement because everyone accepts that if the government and the Academy cooperate in the interest of common goals, this amount of funding provided by the state can be utilised better. This does not in any way jeopardise the constitutional independence of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences as all expenditures relating to the maintenance of the Academy form part of the Academy’s budget, and they only set out to tighten cooperation between the government and the Academy in connection with research projects, he argued.

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Tax reductions to continue

In the context of the proposed changes in tax law submitted to Parliament this week, Mr Gulyás said that the rate of the social contribution tax – which was 27 per cent five years ago – will decrease by another two per cent to 17.5 per cent next year. Subject to the growth of the economy, further tax reductions could be implemented in coming years, and the government hopes that the rate of the social contribution tax could decrease to 11.5 per cent within four years, he added.

He also spoke about the further increase in family tax allowances which will reach HUF 40,000 monthly in the case of two children, and the fact that only the personal income tax will be payable in the event of the employment of pensioners.

The VAT on UHT and ESL milk will also decrease to 5 per cent, and as a result families could save HUF 20 billion next year, he highlighted.

The public health tax on foodstuffs and beverages which pose health risks will increase by 20 per cent on average. We regard this as a national health measure, the Minister said.

He also told the press that the amount available for cafeteria benefits will not decrease. When cafeteria benefits were introduced, the goal was to enable employees to receive a part of their incomes under more favourable conditions. Now, however, the conditions of taxation are substantially more favourable than they were earlier, and this is why they suggest that employers offer the funds released as a result of tax reductions and economic growth in the form of pay rises. The so-called SZÉP card will remain in place for the purposes of cafeteria benefits in the interest of enhancing domestic consumption and promoting tourism, he indicated.

According to his summary, next year’s tax laws serve the goals of tax reduction and the simplification of taxation, and they also take account of social policy considerations such as national and public health. They will bring to a conclusion important debates which have been ongoing for a long time, and they will leave open the option of further tax reductions in light of the economy’s performance in the future.

Mr Gulyás also informed the press that Budapest will host a V4 summit to be also attended by the Austrian Chancellor, and that the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk will pay a visit to the Hungarian capital on Friday. He highlighted that the main topics of the meetings will be migration and the next seven-year budget. These two issues will be discussed together because the Commission’s proposed budget also ties them together. The Hungarian position remains that it is a pro-migration and pro-immigration budget which allocates significant amounts of funds for the purpose. Additionally, instead of border protection the budget makes reference to border management, and the Hungarian government still sees no guarantee for the reimbursement of the almost one billion euros Hungary has spent on border protection. They likewise see no guarantee for the EU’s next budget to allocate funds for border protection expenditures.

The Hungarian party would like a common V4 position, he indicated, adding that the immigration crisis can only be managed and the situation which gravely affected the whole of Europe in 2015 can only be prevented if there are effective controls on the external borders.

He also pointed out that they continue to maintain the Schengen 2.0 plan presented by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán two years ago which lays down that the protection of the borders cannot be an empty legal declaration, and if someone is unable to honour their border protection obligations stipulated in the Schengen Agreement, there must be legal consequences.

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In answer to the question as to why they did not take into consideration the Venice Commission’s opinion upon the adoption of the Stop Soros legislative package and why they did not wait for the relevant vote, he said that the Commission will adopt its report on Friday, but the government has been familiar with draft of the report since the end of last week. Based on the practice to date the draft effectively coincides with the adopted report, meaningful alterations are very rare, meaning that the government had the Commission’s opinion at its disposal.

He observed that the Venice Commission is an advisory body of the Council of Europe, and they are always happy when they visit Hungary and acknowledge their opinion before the adoption of laws. The Commission recognises the justification for the legislation and merely raised objections on grounds of proportionality which they disagree with as custodial arrest for just a few days also forms part of the sanctions that may be imposed in the event of the emergence of the relevant statutory scenario which can hardly be described as disproportionate.

In answer to a question concerning the CEU, he said that the Education Office as competent agency will have to determine whether the given institution satisfies the conditions laid down by law.