The criticisms levelled at the national consultation are views that do not concern the essence of democracy as democracy fulfils itself in the consultation, János Lázár, the Minister heading the Prime Minister’s Office said at the press conference Governmentinfo 87 which he held jointly with Government Spokesperson Zoltán Kovács in the Parliament Building.

It is a correct method of governance if the people are consulted with respect to one important issue or another also between two general elections. This many people have never before responded in earlier national consultations, 1.276 million people have stated their opinions to date which is “an unprecedented response rate”, he stated.

He said: the Government wishes to thank those participating in the national consultation for their help because the Government is unable to stop Brussels on its own. It is only able to take effective action if it is continuously assisted by citizens.

He highlighted that the European Commission makes claims in connection with the national consultation which he finds misleading. The question is whether it is the EU body or the Hungarian Government that misleads the people, he said. He added: in his view, it would be too much to presume that the Government should be able to mislead 1.3 million people.

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According to Mr Lázár, the Commission is attempting “to dull Hungarian electors” by claiming that the liberalisation of energy prices will be good for Hungary. He added: the experiences of Hungarian consumers are contrary to this as prices only crept up on the liberalised market for twenty years. It is correct if the Hungarian Government struggles to retain its right to have a say in the prices of gas and electricity, he said.

Regarding the question of the consultation related to the relocation quotas, he said that the mandatory quotas are an invitation for immigrants. In his view, this will be the biggest dispute between the Hungarian Government and the Commission in the next few years which will be the hardest to resolve.

Hungarian statehood and sovereignty are at stake in quota lawsuit

According to Mr Lázár, if the right is taken away from the Hungarian Parliament, the Hungarian Government and the Hungarian people to decide who may live and reside in the country’s territory, the foundations of Hungary’s statehood and sovereignty may come under threat. In other words, these are at stake in the quota lawsuit.

The Minister heading the Prime Minister’s Office said on Thursday in Budapest: Hungary takes the view that the quotas are wrong and an unsuccessful affair. The correct answer to the resolution of the problems is not the introduction of quotas, and therefore “we do not accept quotas of any kind”. Hungary does not wish to spend the taxpayers’ money on the subsidisation of migrants, but on the promotion of Hungarian families and young people, he said.

He stressed: Hungary disputes the procedure that the European Commission overwrites the European Council’s decision, based on which the resettlement of migrants can only be voluntary. In other words, Member States which do not want to take in migrants should not be forced to do so. At the same time, there is “a fight between David and Goliath” here, and in this struggle we can only rely on the Visegrád and Central-European countries, he said.

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Mr Lázár highlighted: it is an important milestone that the second 155-kilometre-long fence has been completed on the southern border. It cost HUF 4.8 billion. As a result, the protection of the border is now complete. The legal border closure combined with the fence provides full protection for the country, we can now guarantee that migrants cannot freely move around in the territory of Hungary and that no one can enter the territory of the country illegally, he pointed out. He said: Hungary is unable to enforce the regime of systematic border checks because they may lead to waits of up to several hours.

He said: the number of illegal border-crossings has been 185 this year, up to 9 May, while 1,578 persons have submitted asylum requests in 2017. He said in summary: both people smugglers and immigrants are avoiding Hungary, we qualify as Europe’s safest country today.

The Government believes, however, that we must prepare for a migration crisis and the intensification of illegal immigration. There is a broad consensus within society that Hungary should not take in or invite migrants, but should support young Hungarians, he stated.

The Minister highlighted: the other day, Brussels even incorporated into the text of an EU development document that the future of the EU depends on how many migrants come here, but Hungary believes that the fewer, the better. Hungary therefore vetoed the document. Also in the future, whenever the EU seeks to legitimise immigration in various documents, Hungary will stand up against it, he said.

He also told the press that the United States requests European NATO Member States to spend more on defence and to implement developments. Hungary is able to meet its NATO obligations if it increases its defence expenditures and embarks on developments, he stated. He took the view that we need primarily transport aircraft.

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The Minister was also asked about the Norway Grants. All non-governmental organisations should have access to grants, and the Swiss agreement should serve as the model, the Government so defined its position with respect to the next cycle of grants. He indicated that there have been no talks since last November. However, the Norwegian negotiating partner will pay a visit to Budapest in two weeks’ time. According to Mr Lázár, the dispute is not about whether Norway should provide funds, but about how.

“If the Norwegian Government wants to flex its muscles in connection with HUF 65 billion, it has the possibility to do so: the Hungarian GDP amounts to HUF 40 thousand billion”, he said, indicating: there are limits to how far Hungary is willing to go as far as compromises are concerned. He added: they will not change the amendment of the NGO legislation, which was not submitted by the Government, but by Members of Parliament, even at the request of the Norwegian Government. It is a matter of principle that issues coming under the effect of the freedom of association fall within Member State competence, he said.

The Minister confirmed that organisations funded from abroad must become transparent, and that the correct procedure is if the Hungarian Parliament determines how much should be paid in taxes and how much money is available for job creation grants in Hungary.

Pay of health visitors to be increased

As of November, health visitors will receive a supplement of HUF 33 thousand, the Minister heading the Prime Minister’s Office announced. Mr Lázár said: health visitors will also receive the supplement in 2018.

He added: parallel with this, they will begin the preparations for the establishment of a national network of health visitors because they would like the health visitor service to operate under standard conditions as of 2018. He said: out of the five thousand, some one thousand health visitors contacted members of the Government in the interest of the settlement of their pay.

In answer to a question, he said: in his view, the health visitor network should be within the state health care system, and it would be worth turning it into a nation-wide network. The health visitor network should operate in closer cooperation with the care system of general practitioners, as a pillar of the health care system. At present, health visitors come under the supervision of local municipalities, he remarked. He added: there is no decision yet, they have not yet consulted either health visitors, or municipalities.

The Minister confirmed that the pay of the workers of the ambulance service will increase by 10 per cent as of 2018 within the framework of the new career model. He added: while in 2010 HUF 22.5 billion was allocated to the ambulance service, this sum will amount to HUF 39.7 billion next year.

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2018 budget is budget of people living off work

He further reported that the Government will debate the 2018 budget repeatedly on 24 May, and Parliament may pass the bill by 15 June. He said that next year’s budget will be the budget of people living off work. Upon disclosing the main figures of the budget, he said: the deficit may be 2.4 per cent which means that “Hungarian public finances are in order, which in itself serves to refute allegations of corruption, given that if the money was being stolen, the coffers would be empty”.

In the context of the dynamic growth of the construction industry, he said that while in the first quarter of 2016, planning permission was issued for the construction of five thousand homes, this number was 10 thousand this year, and 42 thousand families availed themselves of the family housing benefit (csok) to the value of HUF 102 billion.

Regarding the Göd Topház Special Home, he said that the Government must help parents. A parent is not interested in a State Secretary’s opinion, or in “continual references to György Soros”. A parent is interested in the circumstances in which his or her child is looked after, he said.

Mr Lázár said: he filed a report against unknown perpetrators with the chief prosecutor’s service due to the activities of Welt Kft. between 2003 and 2009. It was to this company that the State outsourced the operation of an IT system which processed EU calls for proposals and the distribution of EU funds, he reiterated. As he said, according to the European Commission, the State organised this privatisation unlawfully. Those who are involved in this case were given senior positions in the Gyurcsány family business, Altus, he added.

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As he said, Kristóf Altusz, Deputy State Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade is engaged in negotiations with respect to the case of foreign universities operating in Hungary. He has already consulted with Thailand, Malaysia and China: these countries treat the situation as a technicality and reassured the Government of their cooperation. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, too, will sign an agreement related to this during the course of his visit to China, he said.

He remarked: they will open the possibility of the registration of births, marriages and deaths abroad. It will be the duty of consuls at the embassies to keep the relevant registers.

In answer to a question relating to pension increases, he said: this issue may be on the agenda in the autumn, at the earliest. Upon the adoption of the relevant decision, the figures as at the time will have to be taken into consideration.

Mr Lázár said in reply to a question: they are not planning to buy an aeroplane for the Prime Minister, and the idea has not emerged that they would buy aircraft from Hungarian banks. The aeroplanes which the Government also used earlier had to be removed from combat service, and if the defence forces receive new transport aircraft, the Government, too, will be able to use them, he explained.

In the context of an article by Zsolt Bayer related to non-governmental organisations, Mr Lázár said: also today, he would give the journalist a state decoration, but not for this particular writing as he does not agree with it.

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Regarding reports spread by MSZP, the Minister said: the Prime Minister’s Office is not planning to nationalise public meals. They would like to improve quality, potentially in the capacity of customer.

Concerning the Miklós Horthy statue planned to be erected in Perkáta, he said: the Hungarian Government does not intend to erect a statue in honour of the governor due to his role after 19 March 1944, but they cannot take the right away from a community to do so.

Hungary to keep Russian credit facility for Paks project

In the context of the Paks atomic power station project, he said that Hungary will keep the thirty-year Russian credit facility. However, the Government Debt Management Agency will look into the optimal financing arrangement in the case of every drawdown. This may be the budget, the Government Debt Management Agency, or the Russian facility, he detailed. We must at all times consider what the best solution is upon the payment of the given bill, he stressed.

He said: they also explored whether this facility can be replaced with a facility from an international financial consortium. He pointed out that while the financing of the Hungarian State has improved a great deal, it is hard to compete with a term of 30 years and EUR 10 billion.

The Minister said: work worth EUR 100 million has been completed this year in connection with the project, and they can reckon with expenditures in the magnitude of EUR 800-900 million in the next one year.

In answer to a question, he said that the tram-train connecting Hódmezővásárhely together with Szeged can be implemented under certain conditions. The project is most optimal if it is funded by the EU. If it is funded by the budget, it is too expensive, he said.

Mr Lázár said in answer to a question related to the possible lifting of Flórián Farkas’s (Fidesz) immunity: he has yet to see a party that would run a candidate in the elections who is subject to criminal proceedings.

(Prime Minister’s Office, MTI)