The protection of the borders is a national and EU obligation. It is an obligation not only under national laws, but also under the Schengen Agreement. This, however, does not change the fact that this duty must be performed by Hungary and the other countries, not by some EU authority, Gergely Gulyás, the Minister heading the Prime Minister’s Office said.

The Minister highlighted that border protection is an issue of sovereignty, and Hungary insists on fulfilling this duty. Even if they increased the staff of Frontex, it would still be unable to fulfil this task, he stated.

He said if a Member State fails to meet its obligation to defend its borders, it must have consequences, but at the same time a country that is unable to protect its borders must be given help.

DownloadPhoto: Károly Árvai/kormany.huRegarding the Sargentini report, he argued that it was evidently a witch-hunt “disguised in a political gown” due to our different view on migration. Hungary believes that the way in which the report was adopted is unacceptable and will therefore turn to the court of the European Union, he pointed out. He added that the government is always open to dialogue, and is happy to provide information.

He said the government continues to take the view that as the legal accusations levelled in the report do not exist and the document cites closed cases, there is only a difference on the issue of immigration and those in favour of immigration are attacking Hungary within the EU. As regards the latest proposal on border protection and the role of Frontex, it is yet another attempt to create a United States of Europe, he added.

According to the Minister, Hungary is being attacked due to the issue of immigration, but the government will also deploy campaign tools in order to make clear its position on the matter.

Mr Gulyás highlighted that Hungary has a vested interest in the conclusion of a fair agreement on Brexit, and it is important that relations between the EU and Britain should remain as close as possible. The British Home Secretary guaranteed that the Hungarians working in Britain need not be concerned even if no agreement is reached, he said.

Regarding Ukraine, the Minister said the situation in Transcarpathia is grave. Hungary helped Ukraine to achieve visa-free travel, following which Kiev amended Ukraine’s education and language laws, thereby seriously violating the rights of minorities. Ukraine is on the verge of an election campaign, and many are hoping that with these anti-Hungarian and anti-minority measures it will be possible to gain votes. This gives rise to pessimism regarding the future, he said. He added at the same time that the Hungarian community in Transcarpathia may rely on the support of the Hungarian government.

He observed that the hate campaign launched against Hungarians gives rise to major concerns, and every Hungarian can rest assured that if under the present circumstances they want to come here, the “motherland awaits every Hungarian with open arms”.

In answer to a question, he pointed out that in the 2019 EP elections Fidesz will run as a member of the European People’s Party (EU).

He also said that this time, in the upcoming EP elections a major pan-European issue – migration – will also come to the fore. Therefore every party family is preparing to speak up on this matter also at a European level, and in this Hungary can play a prominent role.

Mr Gulyás highlighted that the most serious dispute with Guy Verhofstadt, the head of the liberal group of the European Parliament is not about what his opinion is about migration, but about the fact that his opinion cannot be taken into consideration in a Member State’s decision. Hungary does not wish to tell another Member State what decision they should adopt on the issue of migration, and it expects the same from others as well, he pointed out.

Regarding the arms development of the Hungarian defence forces, the Minister said “we have enormous shortcomings”, and in this situation there is a need primarily for the replacement of military equipment.

In answer to a question Mr Gulyás also said that the government had not adopted any decision on the CEU case.

The Minister said in response to a question concerning the House of Fates that while they have involved the Unified Hungarian Israelite Faith Community (EMIH) in the process, this does not change the fact that the Hungarian State bears ultimate responsibility for the content of the exhibition. He pointed out that they would like to commemorate the national tragedy of the Holocaust in a dignified manner, acknowledge the responsibility of the Hungarian State, and bow their heads before the victims who became victims of the Holocaust also on account of the fact that the Hungarian State was unable to protect them and took part in their transportation from Hungary to concentration camps.

He also said at the same time that, despite all inhumane laws, until 1944 Hungary was much more a scene of refuge than a scene of persecution.

Government has decided on concept of Hungarian Villages Programme

The government has decided on the concept of the Hungarian Villages Programme relating to settlements with a population of less than five thousand, the Minister heading the Prime Minister’s Office announced at his press conference held on Wednesday in Budapest.

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Mr Gulyás said the goal is to strengthen the ability of the settlements concerned – where some one third of Hungarians live – to retain and if possible to increase their populations.

From among elements of the programme, he underlined the issue of housing for the purposes of which they are planning to allocate some HUF 30 billion, and so the plan is to create a “village csok”, the village equivalent of the housing benefit scheme ‘csok’. They are additionally preparing to provide grants for the preservation of regional heritage, while in the case of public services which are unavailable in small settlements on a long-term basis they wish to help with the housing of general practitioners, paediatricians, dentists and health visitors.

Outlining the programme, the Minister also rendered an account of plans for the development of nursery schools and crèche facilities, pavement refurbishment projects, the construction of sports parks and the renovation of cemeteries. For most of these they will launch calls for proposals. They wish to promote village caretaker services through the procurement of nine-passenger vans. On the whole, next year they are planning to allocate HUF 58 billion to the development of public services, he informed the press.

Among the areas to be developed he mentioned commuting and inferior roads, for the purposes of which they have set up a village road fund.

They intend to allocate HUF 12 billion to the development of communal spaces, such as culture centres and libraries, in the interest of identity preservation, Mr Gulyás said.

The head of the Prime Minister’s Office also said that the government will decide on the extension of the housing benefit of families – csok – before the end of this year. He added in answer to a question that this extension will almost certainly also relate to home refurbishment projects.

He pointed out that on Tuesday Parliament had decided on the amendment of the legislation on housing savings funds. Pursuant to the amendment, they will do away with state grants provided for housing savings funds. The Minister stressed that these funds will be used for the purposes of housing grants also in the future, but from now on within the framework of ‘csok’.

In his justification of the amendment, he highlighted that with ‘csok’ in just three years more homes have been built than with the housing savings funds over a period of ten years. The latter were “much more savings funds than housing”, Mr Gulyás said, observing that financial institutions made an extra profit of HUF 80 to 90 billion on this programme.

He also said that the left liberal segment of the Hungarian opposition immediately cries foul when banks sustain any injury.

Regarding the proposals made by the Banking Association after the termination of the state grants provided for housing savings funds, the Minister said they will consider those proposals, but they do not wish to make changes on the issue of cafeteria benefits.

Metropolitan development council is an opportunity for enforcing a standard development concept

The Minister heading the Prime Minister’s Office also said at the press conference that the establishment of the metropolitan development council is an opportunity for enforcing a standard development concept.

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He stressed that it was an expectation on the part of Mayor of Budapest István Tarlós in connection with running for office again that a forum should be created where the Metropolitan Municipality has the possibility to obtain a thorough understanding regarding the developments which the State is planning to implement in Budapest.

He said the council will have ten members: five will be delegated by the Metropolitan Municipality and five by the government. It will be chaired by the Prime Minister and co-chaired by the Mayor of Budapest. The council will meet once every two months.

The Minister also told the press that in the less central districts of the capital roads are not yet paved with asphalt everywhere. They are allocating HUF 10 billion for this purpose already this year.

He said municipalities may decide in the coming weeks which areas should be asphalted before the end of this year. In total a sum of one hundred billion forints would be necessary for surfacing all roads with asphalt, he explained.

Regarding the issue of homelessness, he said the government reviewed the situation that emerged after the amendment of the Fundamental Law, and came to the conclusion that the available daytime and night shelters are sufficient to provide care and there are free places available. The goal of the government is to have order and cleanliness on public premises, and from the respect of human dignity no one can have an interest in residing on public premises for habitation purposes, he said.

In answer to a question, Mr Gulyás informed the press that there will be an approximately 18 per cent lay-off in central government offices which means some 2,500 persons.

There will be a similar, but slightly smaller staff reduction at central state institutions, he added.

As expected the individuals concerned will be informed next month, and already as of 1 January these agencies are intending to work with the new staff figures. He indicated that they would like to help those who are compelled to leave central public administration in every possible way. He mentioned as an example that in the case of workers nearing the pensionable age they are proposing the full abolition of the social contribution tax.

At the same time, the Minister also indicated that Parliament will adopt a law on increasing the salaries of civil servants before the end of this year.

In answer to another question from a journalist, he said that Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his staff will move to the Buda Castle from 1 January.

The Minister said in answer to the question as to whether the State is preparing to enter the market of voluntary pension funds that they are not planning to change the regulations concerning the system of private pension funds.

Regarding news reports that MSZP is initiating a referendum on the termination of priority health care services provided for ministers and state secretaries, he said that this is a populist initiative as there was a similar agreement also during socialist governments, and at the time they paid more for these services. The referendum would cost more than the amount in question, he pointed out.

In response to a question related to the case of heart surgeon László Székely, he said the relevant medical protocols would have to be followed in the matter. As to who should undergo an operation is not a political issue. If someone needs medical treatment, they must be given the treatment they need, he stated.

In the context of the new National Curriculum, he said he has serious doubts about whether it can be introduced from September 2019. Its introduction may well be postponed to 2020.