Hungary is staying in the UN migration talks and is engaging in battle in order to influence the relevant plans on their merits, János Lázár, the Minister heading the Prime Minister’s Office said at the press conference Governmentinfo 109 which he held jointly with Government Spokesperson Zoltán Kovács.

Mr Lázár said Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó has received authorisation to make textual proposals regarding the 5 disputed points and to enforce the Hungarian viewpoint.

The Minister rejected UN claims that migration has a positive impact on the economy, and is a useful, favourable and unstoppable process. He argued for increased support for European families, indicating that there is a 20 to 30 per cent unemployment rate in some western and southern states. He added that the Hungarian example shows that migration can be stopped at the external borders.

Mr Lázár also criticised the proposal on the score that it would make no distinction between political and economic migrants, legal and illegal migrants, and disputed the idea that a safe and regulated route should be created for economic migrants.

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The Minister found it objectionable that according to the UN settlement rights and jobs should be provided for all immigrants. He mentioned as an example that if this policy had been in force before, the 500,000 illegal immigrants who arrived at the Hungarian border earlier should also have been given a chance to settle down here and should have been given jobs. The Minister said it is unacceptable that, according to UN plans, the existing legal and physical obstacles should be removed and borders should be made freely penetrable.

In his view it is likewise contrary to the country’s best interests that migration would be made an organised, continuous and legal process. This would extend an invitation to some 60 million people in Africa, he pointed out, indicating that these people would be eligible for social benefits and should be given jobs.

In addition to the above, Mr Lázár further highlighted the point of the proposal which argues that everyone – no matter where they were born – would be entitled, as a fundamental human right, to the better life that we fought and worked hard for in the EU. This would effectively change the map of the world as we know it today, he said.

In the Minister’s view, a number of allies could be assembled both from within and outside the EU to back the Hungarian position; there are some dozen EU Member States which do not agree with the UN’s draft.

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Stop Soros legislative package has been debated

The Minister informed the press that members of the government debated the Stop Soros legislative package at this week’s cabinet meeting. He indicated that some 900 people stated their views as part of the relevant social consultation, and all of them argued in favour of the further tightening of regulations and encouraged the government to ban George Soros from Hungary. The latter is not possible under the existing constitutional system in the case of Hungarian citizens, and at the same time this is not the government’s goal, he added.

He said the reason for the legislative amendment submitted to Parliament was to eliminate loopholes both in a physical and legal sense, and to stop all organisations which support or organise illegal migration contrary to the best interests of the Hungarian State.

Outlining the details of the legislative package, he said they would tie the operation of organisations which sponsor, organise or support the entry into Hungary of third-country nationals to a permit issued by the Ministry of Interior and a national security screening process. Anyone engaged in such activities without a permit would first be served with a warning from the prosecution service. Following this, based on the principle of graduality, their tax number would be deleted from the relevant register and a fine would be imposed. The organisations concerned would be required to file regular reports with the National Tax and Customs Administration with respect to any funding received from abroad.

The same organisations will also be required to pay a 25 per cent duty which will be paid into the border protection budget, Mr Lázár said, adding that the Interior Minister will receive authorisation to serve immigration restraining orders on anyone who violates the country’s national security interests.

The Minister indicated that the package also has provisions which require a two-thirds majority. They hope to obtain the support of other parties in Parliament, and if the package cannot be passed now, this will be possible after 8 April, he observed.

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In answer to a question he also said that “it is almost certain” that the EU will institute an infringement procedure after the passage of the Stop Soros legislative package. “We are unstoppable on this issue”, he said.

Mr Lázár responded to a statement by Nils Muiznieks, Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, who expressed concern in connection with the planned introduction of the Stop Soros legislative package, by saying that it clearly transpires from the text of the proposed bill that it would not apply to organisations providing assistance for political refugees, but only to those who seek to help illegal immigrants or economic migrants, thereby intending to abuse international law.

He also told the press that the reform of the Dublin system will be an important topic of the European Council meeting to be held on 23 February. On 19 February the Prime Minister will pay a visit to Bulgaria in order to meet with the Prime Minister of Bulgaria currently holding the EU Presidency and to outline the Hungarian proposal, he added.

2017 was a record year

The increase of the gross domestic product (GDP) had not been as high in the last 15 years – 4.2 per cent – as it was last year, the Minister heading the Prime Minister’s Office stressed. Mr Lázár described 2017 as a record year of the past eight years. The Minister concluded that in 2017 “we closed a good year”, the Hungarian economy performed well. In the last quarter of 2017 the GDP increased by 4.8 per cent, he remarked.

He said in explanation that the six-year tax and wage agreement concluded in 2016 was responsible for the increase. In his view, the increase of the GDP at this rate also yielded tangible results for Hungarian households as wages increased by 12.8 per cent. In 2017 4.5 million workers received HUF 1,100 billion more in wages and salaries than in 2016, he said. According to his information, the number of people in employment increased by 70,000 last year, the number of available jobs is continuously rising and unemployment is decreasing.

Mr Lázár said the average increase in the European Union was 2.6 per cent, and the 4.2 per cent growth of the Hungarian economy was the second highest in the EU on a year-to-year basis. He added that the Visegrád countries produced a minimum 3.6 per cent growth; this is an enormous reserve for the EU. He told the press that as “a bold undertaking” the Minister for National Economy is expecting a 4.3 per cent GDP increase in 2018.

In Mr Lázár’s words, there are four areas which may serve as a reserve for the 2018 economic growth figure: agriculture, the arms industry, the automotive industry and the chemical industry.

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Government seeks to increase number of micro-power plants

Mr Lázár informed the press that with an extraordinary amendment of the electricity law the government would require distributors to accept the electricity generated by low-capacity solar parks. He said in explanation that in the next few years they would like to increase the number of small power plants, thereby reducing the country’s dependence on imports. They would also offer improved legal accessibility and bank loans to farmers who install solar power plants, he confirmed.

He highlighted that it is important to reduce dependence on Russian gas. He designated three possible directions to achieve this: the Hungarian-Slovak gas pipeline, the LNG terminal in Croatia and Romanian resources. He believed the latter is the most significant, and stated that Exxon and OMV had pledged to extract 4 billion cubic metres of gas in the Black Sea. As far as the Hungarian party is concerned, the pipeline is ready, and the country has a vested interest in ensuring that the Romanian party also consent to its commissioning, he said.

The Minister also informed the press that, similar to the cases of Hajdú-Bét, Mal and Pápai Hús, they will offer the possibility of the settlement of damages to some 100 contractors and hundreds of subcontractors wronged in the Szeviép case, and the related proposal will be presented to the government on 28 February. This may amount to a financial commitment in the magnitude of some HUF 3 billion, he said.

Regarding the cabinet meeting, he announced that the government will contribute to the development and professional programmes of Hungarian nursery schools in the Carpathian Basin with HUF 15 billion this year.

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Mr Lázár also rendered an account of the Fidesz-KDNP parliamentary group meeting held in Visegrád. He said it was a meeting conducted “in high spirits” where he observed a group of MPs who intend to continue the constructive development of the country.

He was asked about a statement made by one of the candidates of the upcoming mayoral elections to be held in Hódmezővásárhely. Mr Lázár said he heard that one of the candidates “envisaged hanging and a revolution” in the city, but before referring him to a psychiatrist, he would like to acquaint himself with the original statement. “I cannot believe that there is anyone in Hódmezővásárhely who would talk such utter gibberish”, he said.

In answer to a question, he said there is no date yet for the Orbán-Putin meeting, but it is expected to take place after April. There have been Hungarian-Russian government meetings every year, and there will be one also this year, he observed.

In Mr Lázár’s opinion, there is no need to caution Defence Minister István Simicskó who delivered a political speech in a nursery school. He does not recommend that fellow-politicians involve children in the election campaign, he added at the same time.

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He was asked several questions regarding the report of the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) on the projects of Elios Zrt. In the context of the Hódmezővásárhely project he said their goal was to reduce the annual public lighting cost of some HUF 100 million and to have well-lit streets. He also spoke to István Tiborcz in connection with the project, he confirmed, adding that the Prime Minister’s son-in-law never had any influence over the company’s ultimate decisions.

He stressed regarding the OLAF report related to Minister of State Róbert Homolya that he need not resign, there was no conflict of interest, as the Minister of State acting as Vice-President of the National Development Agency did not decide on cases which he prepared in the capacity of applicant. In answer to a question concerning the government’s position on the Elios case, Mr Lázár said they will await the opinion of the European Commission before they adopt a final position.

He stressed in connection with both OLAF reports that these are just opinions, no one has delivered a final verdict yet, and the relevant documents will be delivered to both the Hungarian government and the European Commission. The European Commission will adopt its position in light of the OLAF opinion and the Hungarian opinion, he pointed out.

Mr Lázár also stated his view that these reports cannot be detached from the Hungarian election campaign as the case of the Minister of State has been under investigation – in the wake of a report filed by Hungarians – for eight years, and the Hódmezővásárhely project, too, has been on the agenda for almost ten years. He further mentioned that the investigation was conducted by Hungarian nationals. The OLAF report will be published, once the European Commission has sent its findings regarding the required adjustments, he said.

Mr Lázár responded to a suggestion with a question: if that is what the people of Budapest want and that is what his supporters desire, why would it not be possible to name a metro station after former President of the Republic Árpád Göncz?