After the Metropolitan General Assembly’s Wednesday meeting, members of the public were informed that the majority now in power in the assembly does not support the South Buda hospital centre project, and does not wish to contribute to the funding of health care developments, the Minister heading the Prime Minister’s Office said at a press conference held on Thursday in Budapest.

Gergely Gulyás said it is good news that it was finally decided on Wednesday that Budapest could host the 2023 world athletics championships. To earn this privilege, we had to win twice because it was not enough to be awarded the right of hosting the event; the government also had to convince Budapest’s newly elected leadership that hosting the event is in Budapest’s best interests, and in conjunction with the event Budapest could see the realisation of the largest green project in its history, he said.

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At the same time, the Minister said it is bad news that the metropolitan majority rejected the Fidesz-KDNP alliance’s two proposals for amendments about the construction of a superhospital in Buda according to the original plans and about a contribution worth HUF 10 billion from the capital to the modernisation of health care institutions.

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Mr Gulyás said at the request of the Mayor of Budapest next week they will convene the Metropolitan Council for Public Developments where the parties concerned will be able to discuss the conditions the Metropolitan General Assembly set. The Minister said at this meeting they will seek to convince Gergely Karácsony to stop the General Assembly from vetoing the construction of the superhospital and to make some contribution to Budapest’s health care expenditures if they indeed regard health care as a priority. It compromises the city leadership’s position somewhat if, from their budget of HUF 300 billion, they are not prepared to spend a penny on health care, he added.

The Minister said migrants are attempting to enter the territory of the country with new techniques: The police found tunnels under the state border at two points. The police sealed them, and ensured that no one could enter Hungary’s territory underground.

Mr Gulyás added that they had also evaluated the European situation. In this context, they concluded that after the vote held the day before the European Commission enjoys far more support than the president of the commission received in the summer. He also highlighted that the Hungarian commissioner had been given the most important portfolio to date, and they are certain that Olivér Várhelyi will serve Europe’s and Hungary’s best interests with his activities.

He also said the majority of the capital’s conditions are among the government’s plans, but there are others which are even provided for in next year’s budget, meaning that there is a law about them. He recalled that on Wednesday the cabinet adopted a decision in response to the decisions of the two districts concerned, Csepel and the opposition-majority councillor board of Ferencváros.

He highlighted that the government is clearly committed to the development of health care; proof of this is the fact that HUF 42 billion is available for next year’s health care developments in the Healthy Budapest Programme. In response to Mayor of Budapest Gergely Karácsony’s statements, he said already today there are more CT machines in Budapest than there are districts, but the government is open to consultations regarding an increase in their number.

In the context of the investigation related to the contract for metro line four which was concluded by the Gyurcsány Government, the Minister said the European Union is planning to impose a fine in the magnitude of some HUF 50 to 60 billion. They are currently negotiating in order to minimise Hungary’s loss and to minimise the fine as far as possible.

Regarding the introduction of the congestion charge, he repeated that the government does not support this measure. He recalled that an obligation to introduce the congestion charge in Budapest was undertaken during the term of former Mayor of Budapest Gábor Demszky. He added that according to the metropolitan municipality’s statement they wish to introduce it; the government is now awaiting the relevant concepts. He observed that should the capital request the government to assist with talks with the European Union regarding the removal of this obligation they are ready to step in. At the same time, the capital has not made such a request; in actual fact, they indicated that they would like to introduce the congestion charge.

Mr Gulyás said in central public administration they had terminated the possibility of providing financial compensation for untaken leave, and the government is prepared to introduce standard severance pay rules which would also be applicable to mayors if requested by local governments.

In answer to a question concerning the scandal of former Mayor of Győr Zsolt Borkai, he said evidence appears to strongly suggest that the former mayor was blackmailed. This is unprecedented in Hungarian politics which has recently been characterised by harsh debates. Regarding press reports suggesting that DK’s Csaba Czeglédy could be behind the blackmail, the Minister said so far he himself, too, has only heard about this from the press.

Mr Gulyás said the disaster management authority is conducting daily tests and measurements at the Mátra Power Plant, but so far they have not detected the presence of chemicals above the relevant limits.

The Minister pointed out in answer to a question that it is a grave mistake to even compare the gravity of the acts carried out during communism by the fathers of Justice Minister Judit Varga and Member of the European Parliament Klára Dobrev. At the same time, it is true in every instance, including these two, that no one can be held responsible for the actions of their parents and grandparents.

The Minister said the Hungary Helps Programme is beginning to attract a great deal of attention in many places, but in particular in the United States. This programme is more successful than other international aid projects because it provides help directly for the needy concerned, for instance, for church communities in war zones and hospital operators. He underlined that there are 245 million persecuted Christians around the world, and those who are sensitive to genuine human rights issues cannot be indifferent to their situation.

Mr Gulyás recalled in the context of the construction of the Budapest-Belgrade railway line that they have already signed the relevant contracts with the contractors, and the construction works will last for approximately 3 years.

The number of illegal border-crossing attempts has increased significantly and dramatically on the Serbian-Hungarian border, Mr Gulyás said.

At its meeting held the day before, the government reviewed the migration situation. Mr Gulyás pointed out that in 2019, there had been 11,808 illegal border-crossing attempts so far; 2,418 this month alone, and every 11th of these attempts was made last week.

The Minister said migrants are attempting to enter the territory of the country with new techniques: The police found tunnels under the state border at two points. One of them was a 34-metre-long tunnel at Ásotthalom, in Csongrád County, with a six-metre difference in level, while the other one was a 27.1-metre-long tunnel in the vicinity of Csikéria, in Bács-Kiskun County.

The police sealed them, and ensured that no one could enter Hungary’s territory underground, he said.

He observed that several members of the Hungarian community in Vojvodina as well as political leaders have reported that the number of immigrants in the region is increasing at an alarming rate. This is why they keep stressing that immigrants should not set out on the Balkans route as in this case they must be detained at the Hungarian-Serbian border or at another external border of the EU.

In answer to a question, he stated that Hungary continues to reject any proposal that suggests the introduction of mandatory resettlement quotas. “If the arrangement is voluntary, we have nothing further to say about it,” he added.

Mr Gulyás informed the press that at the cabinet meeting they had also evaluated the European situation. In this context, they concluded that after the vote held the day before the European Commission received substantially wider support than the president of the commission did in the summer, and far more than the support the Juncker Commission received earlier.

He also highlighted that the Hungarian commissioner had received one of the most important portfolios, and they are certain that Olivér Várhelyi will serve the best interests of Europe and Hungary with his activities. The Minister described the Hungarian commissioner as the most skilled candidate, observing that the documents of the European Union clearly lay down the obligations of commissioners. This is an achievement of the whole country, though there were many Hungarian MEPs who did everything they could to prevent the appointment of a Hungarian commissioner, he said.

In answer to a question, he stressed that the statements made by DK MEP Klára Dobrev – claiming that she will initiate the removal of freshly appointed EU commissioner Olivér Várhelyi should he implement instructions received from the government – are simply not valid. There is no scope either for instruction or for removal, Mr Gulyás stated. In his view, it is evident that Mr Várhelyi is much better acquainted with the EU’s functioning than Klára Dobrev. He observed that Klára Dobrev has invested all her work completed in Brussels so far in trying to prevent the election of the candidate for commissioner nominated by the Hungarian government.

In response to another comment, he said Klára Dobrev’s rhetoric in the European Parliament regarding churches calls to mind the worst period of communism.

The Minister also stated that, pursuant to the government’s decision, before the end of this year they will provide excess funding worth more than HUF 34 billion for the health insurance fund. The relevant resolution has been published in Magyar Közlöny.

Mr Gulyás said they have set aside the excess funding for medicine subsidisation, the state subsidisation of medical aids, and the provision of an increased level of health care for those suffering from rare diseases.

He recalled that recently several parents have appealed to members of the public in the interest of the medical treatment of children suffering from rare diseases.

In answer to a question, the Minister said in the case of high-cost medicines to be administered to patients suffering from rare diseases, as in the past, also in the future individual applications will have to be submitted to the National Health Insurance Fund.

The Minister was also asked about the debts of hospitals. Mr Gulyás said the funding of health care will be in a satisfactory state when institutions stop accumulating debts and there is enough money for the necessary treatments. He recalled that in 2010 hospital debts amounted to HUF 120 billion, and this has been reduced significantly since. He stressed that the government investigates in every instance whether hospital directors could be personally responsible for the accumulation of debts. At the same time, they are also aware that there are forms of care which are at present under-financed, while there are others which are over-financed. As a result, the accumulation of debts on a smaller or larger scale is possible even against the background of regular operations.

Regarding the upgrading of the road connecting Budapest Airport to the city, Mr Gulyás said planning is in progress. Balázs Fürjes’s state secretariat is responsible for this project. They would like to start the building of a road with two lanes in each direction within the shortest possible time, he said.

In response to a statement recently made by the Romanian ambassador, claiming that in the absence of a bilateral agreement, in the future there will be no scope for providing grants for farmers in Transylvania, the Minister said we are members of a single economic region. We would like to hear what objections Romania might have to Hungary contributing to the development of the Romanian economy through providing grants to the Transylvanian region, the Minister added.

Regarding the expected development of the deficit of the budget, he took the view that it will not be any worse than indicated before, but it could be better.