Loans up to HUF 10 million provided under preferential interest conditions will also be extended to families with two children, while in the case of families with three children the limit will be raised to HUF 15 million, Gergely Gulyás, the Minister heading the Prime Minister’s Office announced outlining the government decision on the family housing allowance programme (csok).

This is the first step towards the extension of the family and housing support system, he stressed.

He said they will use the funds released in consequence of the transformation of the housing fund system for the extension of ‘csok’.

The government is delivering on its promise, and is extending the system of ‘csok’, Mr Gulyás pointed out. He said they would like the changes made to the ‘csok’ system to take effect as soon as possible, preferably before the end of this year. In answer to a question regarding the raising of the allowance, he said this amount is not yet substantial enough to greatly boost property prices. At the time of the introduction of ‘csok’, there was a short-term effect which significantly increased property prices, and if this is what happens, the help provided will become more relative, he explained.

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He also indicated that at the end of the week the government will make an announcement regarding the details of the national consultation on families, and following its results – and partly dependent on its results – further family and housing support decisions will be adopted.

He also observed that the government will deal with the issue of the extension of the five per cent housing construction VAT which will remain in place until the end of 2019.

Four priority hospitals to be established in Budapest

The government further decided that there will be four priority hospitals in Budapest instead of three as the Szent János Hospital, too, will become a priority institution, the Minister said.

He highlighted that the government is allocating HUF 495 million for the planning of the Szent János Hospital, and in consequence a hospital with more than 500 beds will be built and renovated. The other three previously identified priority hospitals will be Honvédkórház, the institution coming into being through the merger of the Szent László and Szent István Hospitals, and the South Buda Central Hospital. The planning tenders for these have already been published, and the results will be available by 9 December, he informed the press.

The head of the Prime Minister’s Office also rendered an account of other government decisions. Regarding the problems related to waste management, he pointed out that they will not give in to blackmail based on business interests, and will therefore not yield an inch on the reduction of household utility bills. If necessary, the disaster management authority is also able to take over the services, but this is not the goal. The government will allocate funds for the required consolidation of these services, and a committee that is now being set up – with Fidesz Member of Parliament György Balla and representatives of the Ministry for Innovation and Technology, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Human Capacities and the Prime Minister’s Office among its members – will present a report on the state of waste management within a week, he said. He observed that significant debts have been accumulated which have partly arisen from poor management. These are currently being assessed, but they are in the magnitude of tens of billions of forints.

He also said that there had been major irregularities in the field of the corporation tax grants for culture as, in his words, the criterion attached to the proceeds of ticket sales “did not always serve transparency”, and they are therefore introducing a new grant system. The expenditures available for the purpose will not decrease, they will be available also next year, but not in the current system, he said, adding that, according to plans, the next government meeting will decide on the transformation of the system.

In answer to a question, he said that HUF 35 billion is available for culture from the present corporation tax grants, but the distribution of the grants was uneven, and there were irregularities as well. They do not wish to reduce the available funds, he confirmed, but it would be best if decisions on the utilisation of funds were made by the government and the cultural cabinet in a tender system or on the basis of clear and pre-defined criteria.

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In answer to another question, he said this “cannot be part of the cultural struggle because we are not interested in a cultural struggle of any kind, we do not support a cultural struggle of any nature”. The Minister laid down that cultural grants are not distributed on political grounds, though doubtless they will be the subject-matter of political debates. He said many of the government’s supporters are also beneficiaries of the corporation tax grants.

Mr Gulyás said in response to a question concerning the organisational details of the 23 October commemoration at the House of Terror Museum, where Prime Minister Viktor Orbán delivered a speech, that there was no organised transportation of people to the commemoration. In his view, the fake news reports fabricated in connection with the event are possibly due to the fact that opposition events were attended by approximately a tenth of the number of people who took part in the government commemoration.

Government spokesperson Zoltán Kovács added that at all events around the world attended by persons eligible for high-level security protection other persons can only enter the area around the stage after a security inspection and amidst stringent security conditions.

In answer to a question concerning the Jobbik demonstration held on 23 October outside the MTVA (Hungarian public service television) headquarters, Mr Gulyás said peaceful demonstrations have their limits, and the throwing of eggs does not necessarily fall within those limits. “Jobbik has always been an extremist party, and after the party split, they appear to want to demonstrate their extremism even more explicitly. However, while in the past it was a mass party, it has now demonstrated that it has no supporters any more, only a few paid employees at most who are prepared to go out to protest with them”, he said.

Hungary has upgraded protection of southern border

Hungary has upgraded the protection of the southern border after it offered its assistance to all countries on the Balkans migration route, in addition to Croatia, the Minister heading the Prime Minister’s Office stressed at his press conference held on Thursday in Budapest.

According to Mr Gulyás’s information, at the cabinet meeting the Interior Minister informed them that, based on the reports of the Hungarian and European intelligence services, some seventy thousand migrants are heading north; at present, they are at the Bosnian border, seventy kilometres from the Hungarian border.

He added that the Interior Minister has taken action for the reinforcement of the Hungarian-Croatian border and has directed border guard companies to the area. In his view, the Hungarian border guards will be capable of protecting the Hungarian-Croatian border should the need arise.

He observed that the pressure of migration will intensify with the approach of winter.

He also said that, pursuant to the government’s decision, an alien police authority will replace the office for immigration. Explaining the change of names, he said it expresses the will of the Hungarian electorate that Hungary should not become an immigrant country.

In answer to a question, he said that it is not the structure of the agency that will change primarily. The new name conveys the clear message that they regard migration as an alien police issue.

The politician said in answer to a question related to the membership of LMP Member of Parliament Márta Demeter in Parliament’s Defence and Police Committee that, in his personal opinion, in light of the fact that Márta Demeter herself did not resign her office of vice president on the committee, her party should have recalled her with immediate effect. He added that this amply demonstrates the current state of the opposition and LMP: after it turns out that someone slandered two families at once without grounds, instead of revoking their claims and apologising, “they have been talking utter nonsense” ever since.

The Minister heading the Prime Minister’s Office said in answer to a question related to Hungarian-Ukrainian relations that Hungary seeks to maintain good neighbourly relations with Ukraine, but this is not possible if the general prospects of the Hungarian national minority living there and their possibilities regarding education and the use of the mother tongue are not extended, but are in actual fact being “brutally curtailed”. There is a treaty between Hungary and Ukraine, there are also various bilateral agreements and the Hungarian party would like to conclude a minority protection agreement as well, but regrettably in the Ukrainian election campaign “the Hungarian card” is an important political factor, he explained, stressing that they will speak up for the Hungarian community in Transcarpathia at every forum.

In answer to the question as to why the government does not accept the EU initiative relating to a European prosecution service, Mr Gulyás said the initiative restricts the country’s sovereignty. In Hungary the Hungarian prosecution service represents the prosecution.

Mr Gulyás said in response to a question concerning the CEU that “we regard the various threats and offers coming from the CEU as George Soros’s political bluffs”.

He stressed that in Hungary the legal situation is clear, Közép-európai Egyetem operates here also today. He highlighted that months ago the university purchased a plot in Vienna. Should they decide to open a degree issuing branch there as well, the government has nothing to do with that, he said. The government did not discuss the matter, he underlined, adding that the present higher education law, too, offers a possibility (joint degree) which does not require any state consent and permits the issuance of a joint US and Hungarian degree.

In answer to a question, the Minister told the press that the government had not discussed the European Commission’s seasonal clock change proposal, but according to his personal opinion the present arrangement is fine as it is, and common sense dictates that it should not be changed.

He laid down in response to a question relating to the separation of state and private health care that health care is not a business arrangement, the state must provide care for every citizen paying their contributions as well as for pensioners. He added that once the system is in place, meaning that everyone pays their health care contributions, they will not intend to stop anyone from taking out supplementary health insurance or using private health care services.

Mr Gulyás was asked about the fact that the French cafeteria company Cheque Déjeneur won a lawsuit against the Hungarian state. Mr Gulyás said they are looking into the available appeal options. The original mistake was made by the socialist government when it gave a French company the opportunity to make a profit from the people’s leisure time and summer holidays, he stressed. He added that Hungary has every reason to be proud that – putting an end to this opportunity – it is able to organise similar services on its own.

Regarding a question about redundancies in the public sector, he said on Friday he had a most constructive meeting with trade union leaders, and informed them about a 17 to 18 per cent staff reduction. He observed that almost 10 per cent of the jobs in question are presently not filled, and therefore the number of those facing redundancy will be below 10 per cent.

This is in line with the government’s intention that there should not be across-the-board cuts anywhere, he explained. He added that those who are staying will receive a 30 per cent pay rise on average from 1 January.