The hiring freeze ordered by the government only relates to public administration. This measure does not apply to hospitals and social institutions, the Minister heading the Prime Minister’s Office stated at a press conference held on Thursday in Budapest.

Gergely Gulyás said the government’s intention was to instate a temporary hiring freeze in the area of public administration, but not anywhere else. In response to an observation that in health care there never was a hiring freeze, he added that there is no hiring freeze of any kind in effect, anyone can be hired with immediate effect.

He remarked that the public administration hiring freeze will no longer be in effect on 1 December.

He mentioned that due to lay-offs last year and this year, ministries have accumulated significant savings, and according to the government’s decision this amount will be paid to ministry workers in the form of bonuses.

He said the amounts vary from ministry to ministry, and could amount to a few months’ bonus for workers.

There is an “exceptionally strong” consensus in industry circles that the present divided arrangement in the issuance of planning permission by the construction authorities, which was introduced in 2015, is not beneficial, he stated regarding the relevant bill currently before Parliament which was debated by the government’s strategic cabinet on Monday.

Mr Gulyás stressed that regulatory powers would continue to remain with municipalities; however, the tasks of the construction authority can be fulfilled more effectively in territorial public administration.

The Minister further informed the press that the government does not wish to change the current rules regarding the distribution of funds unless requested by municipalities.

He added that also at present the municipal law lays down the responsibilities of local governments, and one of the most important responsibilities is the operation of public transport. The only change is that this task is now mentioned as a primary responsibility.

This is the case everywhere, not only in Budapest. In the capital the main difference is that here public transport is also subsidised by the government, he said.

He highlighted that in Budapest the government is providing, and will continue to provide also in the future HUF 15 billion for supplementing student and pensioner passes, and an additional HUF 12 billion normative grant for public transport. He confirmed that all funds that the government pledged to former Mayor of Budapest István Tarlós and were included in the budget will be available to the metropolitan municipality for the funding of public transport. The capital will be able to expect the same amount of funding as during Mr Tarlós’s mayorship, he added.

According to his information, municipalities have a local trade tax revenue of HUF 800 billion, of which the capital’s share is HUF 150 billion.

He observed that the proposals related to territorial administrative powers and the transformation of administrative jurisdiction were ready already before the municipal elections, they were not affected by the outcome of the elections.

In answer to a question regarding the planned athletics stadium, he said they are awaiting the opinions of the districts concerned. This is the government’s “greenest investment” at present, but if the capital does not want it they will not implement it, he stated. He took the view that the site in question is an unusable area at present; this would be turned into a 44-hectare public park close to the centre of Budapest. “If someone regards themselves as green” it is not quite understandable why they do not support the project, he said.

He highlighted in answer to a question that almost all permits are available for the plan concerning the refurbishment and extension of the cog railway line, and they are awaiting the opinions of the district concerned and the capital. There are multiple plans regarding a fast railway link to the airport. It is to be hoped that it will be possible to finance the development from thenext seven-year EU budget, he said.

He also informed the press that they intend to tax real estate speculation. He pointed out that between 2002 and 2019 the size of residential areas had increased by 3,169 hectares. This means a half a per cent increase in total residential areas.

In his view, there is a fifty-fold price difference between the sales prices of arable land and construction plots. The government wishes to put an end to this with the introduction of the new tax, he stressed.

The Minister was asked why they are making it an obligation of parents to keep their children in school until the age of 18 years, instead of raising the age of compulsory school attendance. Government Spokesperson István Hollik, who submitted the proposed legislation as an independent motion, drew attention to the fact that there is an important provision in the proposal: children must continue their studies until the age of 18 years or until the acquisition of a partial vocational qualification. It is possible to acquire a partial vocational qualification before the age of 18 as well, he pointed out.

In his view, committing parental responsibility to a law is an extra incentive which helps to put an end to school-leaving without qualifications. He also highlighted that in most EU countries the age limit for compulsory full-time education is 16 years.

In answer to a question concerning compulsory education, Mr Gulyás said exemption can be requested from the Education Office. So far exemption has been granted by schools. This change was necessary because it has become standard practice that many children start school at the age of seven or seven and a half, and it would be desirable to return to the practice that they start school at the age of six years, he said.

He informed the press in answer to a question that the presidential board of Fidesz discussed whom they wish to nominate in the interim mayoral elections in Győr, but no decision has been reached. The Győr group of Fidesz has the right to nominate a candidate. He did not wish to comment on press reports that cardiologist Csaba András Dézsi, who is a municipal councillor at present, could be the candidate.

The Minister indicated that they respect the decision of the Hungarian Olympic Committee. On Wednesday the Board of the Hungarian Olympic Committee rejected the proposal submitted by Ádám Steinmetz, Jobbik, regarding the revocation of Zsolt Borkai’s annuities as a former Olympic champion because, in its view, the proposal is not adequately elaborated, and its reasoning is not in harmony with the spirit of the Olympic Games and fundamental constitutional principles.

Not a single penny of EU grants will be lost, transfers are ongoing, the Minister heading the Prime Minister’s Office stated.

Mr Gulyás highlighted that EU grants amount to HUF 7,500 billion, and as exchange rates have changed positively, this amount is in actual fact between HUF 7,5000 and 8,000 billion. However, HUF 9,100 billion will be available in total for operational programmes as the Hungarian State provides more funding than the EU, he said.

He stressed that the settlement disputes account for just a few per cent of the programmes, and there is a good chance that they will be able to bring them to a conclusion soon. Not a single penny of grants will be lost, and no one will have to wait for payments.

The Minister said so far they have drawn on 41 per cent of EU funds; this is a very good percentage, and transfers are ongoing. Hungary is ninth in the drawdown rankings, and number one among the Visegrád countries, he added.

In answer to a question concerning migration, he said there are some 100,000 migrants on the Balkans route at present. Hungary continues to remain committed to the protection of the external borders, and it is to be hoped that Hungary’s border defence efforts are known widely enough to minimise the number of those attempting to cross the border here, he said. He added that, at the same time, the threat is real, and will increase further if relations between Turkey and the EU are not stable.

Regarding the hearing of candidate for EU commissioner Olivér Várhelyi, Mr Gulyás said it is to be hoped that the European Parliament will be able to fulfil its task of determining the professional suitability of the candidates. At the same time, “there is no doubt whatsoever regarding Olivér Várhelyi’s professional aptitude”.

In response to suggestions that at his hearing candidate for EU commissioner Olivér Várhelyi said he will pursue his activities fully independently of the Hungarian government, the Minister said this is only natural. Should he act otherwise, he would breach the regulations relating to commissioners.

In answer to a question related to an interview in which George Soros said he does not feel safe to come to Hungary, the Minister said George Soros is also a Hungarian citizen, and if he believes that he would have a good time here, “we are happy to have him”. His statement fits into the concept which characterised his other statements made so far with a view to discrediting Hungary, he added.

Mr Gulyás said concerning the fact that the Turkic Council has opened an office in Budapest that they are happy if any international organisation opens an office in Budapest. It is to be hoped that this will have a positive business effect for Hungary, and will also enhance the capital’s political weight.

In answer to a question related to the municipal engagements of Csaba Czeglédy, he said some new district leaders “have decided to not even keep up appearances”. Engaging a person who was previously convicted of tax fraud on a final basis to conduct due diligence is cynical, it amounts to openly supporting corruption, he said in evaluation.