The departing European Commission is seeking to solidify its policies; this is why it has attacked Hungary’s laws which aim to combat migration, the Minister heading the Prime Minister’s Office said at a press conference held on Wednesday.

Gergely Gulyás took the view at the same time that Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission’s new president could alleviate divisions within the European Union. He said the elected president is capable of leading the commission well, of creating a consensus among Member States in order to define the EU’s common interests well, and of alleviating divisions within the community.

Mr Gulyás spoke about this in the context that on Thursday Prime Minister Viktor Orbán will have a one-on-one meeting with Ursula von der Leyen. He confirmed that the Hungarian government continues to have faith in the elected commission president, and the first impressions regarding the new president who will enter into office on 1 November are positive.

He also stated that the departing commission will evidently seek to solidify its current policies during the remaining few months; this is confirmed by the fact that they have attacked the Hungarian laws which seek to combat migration.

Mr Gulyás further spoke about the decision adopted by the European Court this week: it has given the court a possibility which is not available under Hungarian law, namely the possibility of changing a decision of the asylum authority on its merits.

He said this means that today, with reference to the legal acts of the European Union, but without any direct normative content, they are further extending the possibilities which enable individuals to obtain refugee status by abusing the law.

The Minister mentioned a specific case when the court of the European Union ruled in favour of a Russian national with a criminal record against the Hungarian State.

He said we must draw the necessary conclusions from the decision as it could also involve legislative responsibilities, in connection with which the Justice Minister must proceed.

Chancellor’s visit

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is coming to Hungary on 19 August to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Pan-European Picnic, he said in answer to a question. He stressed that the picnic was a symbolic event of the change of regime which has only gained in significance over time. At the event – which the German Chancellor confirmed to attend some time ago – an ecumenical service will be held where both Angela Merkel and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán will deliver speeches.

Mr Gulyás informed the press that on Tuesday the government held its last meeting this summer; the next one is scheduled for 21 August.

It seems that opposition politics is being confined increasingly to slander and libel, the Minister said in answer to a question suggesting that Lőrinc Mészáros “is repaying” Prime Minister Viktor Orbán by renting a golf course from his father. Mr Gulyás added that the government does not concern itself with business issues. At the same time, he does not understand why accusations are levelled in connection with a purely market-based rental transaction.

“I could not do my own job from Tenerife,” Mr Gulyás said in answer to a question regarding the resettlement of former MSZP President József Tóbiás. He added that it is primarily MSZP’s parliamentary group that should decide what qualifies as justified absence in their circles; “in my group it is inconceivable that anyone should be allowed to justify absence for a month”.

In answer to a question concerning the poor conditions that prevail at the airport, he repeated that the airport provides services to the poorest possible standards with the highest possible profits; “it would be best if they left,” he said talking about the operators of Budapest Airport.

Mr Gulyás said he believes it is an axiom that a country that is as export-driven as Hungary is needs a sea port, he said in answer to a question enquiring as to whether an impact study was completed in connection with the Trieste port purchase.

The Minister was asked as to whether, in the wake of the Danube boat Hableány’s disaster, the amendment of navigation regulations is on the agenda. He said this is an issue that they must return to once the authorities have conducted their investigations and the relevant criminal proceedings have been completed.

He said regarding the air-conditioning of hospitals that the country’s economy allows operating theatres to be air-conditioned in every hospital. If this is not the case, the managers of the given hospitals are also responsible. They must seek help from the relevant health care operators, the ministry and the government, he said.

In Hungary significant progress has been made in the area of employment; compared with 2010, some 850,000 more people are in employment, Mr Gulyás highlighted.

The Minister said at the government meeting held the day before they reviewed the latest economic data, and based on the figures released by the Central Statistical Office, the employment rate of people aged between 20 and 64 years has increased to 75.2 per cent, while the corresponding data in the age group between 15 and 64 years is 70 per cent.

After Budapest, the situation is the best in the Western Transdanubia region, Mr Gulyás pointed out. He added that while there are territorial differences, these indicate the reserves that there are within the system.

More funding for research purposes

The Minister informed the press that the government resolution which allocates an extra HUF 32 billion for innovation and research purposes, in conjunction with the transformation of the Academy’s research network, has been released.

They decided that in the future the extension of disability cards could be requested not 30, but 90 days before their expiry, he reported.

In answer to a question, he said even today they could not make a better decision than nominating László Trócsányi to the European Commission. Regarding the Prime Minister’s meeting with new Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Thursday, he said anything could be on the agenda as it will be a one-on-one meeting, but they respect the fact that determining the composition of the European Commission – the EU’s government – falls within the president’s competence.

László Trócsányi was the leader of the Fidesz-KDNP list in the EP elections; this list achieved the second best result, after the Maltese, in the EU, meaning that there is genuine social support behind the commissioner candidate, he stated.

Regarding the procedure under Article Seven, he said the government is happy to answer any question, but “this is a political witch-hunt which has no grounds whatsoever”. In answer to the question as to whether Frans Timmermans could be responsible for the rule of law as Vice President of the Commission, or the Hungarian government would be happier to see a candidate from the region, he said the cabinet respects the decisions of the Commission President; the goal is for Europe to have a government which leads the Commission with a view to Europe’s best interests. In the past five years, in a number of positions leaders have acted contrary to those interests, and in his view, “Timmermans falls into the latter category in every respect”.

In response to an earlier letter from the Commission, they will reassure them, he said in answer to another question, that no one is being starved in the transit zone; everyone receives impeccable care during the relevant proceedings. The zone is not closed, anyone is free to leave it at any time, except not in the direction of Hungary. He added at the same time that they resent the fact – and hope to see changes upon the establishment of the new Commission – that when they protect the external borders of Hungary and Europe, rather than being given financial and political support, they receive criticisms that are lacking in factual foundations and judgements disguised in political opinions. He confirmed that they would like the budget of the next seven years to feature the term ‘border controls’, and the EU to reimburse the relevant expenses at least partially.

Regarding the transit of a Russian arms shipment via Hungary, which Romania earlier denied, he said entering Hungary’s airspace involves an obligation of reporting, and as the aircraft was not military, there was no need for any other authorisation. Based on this, Hungary would not have had a legal possibility to stop the shipment, the Minister added.

He believes there is a 50 per cent chance that Fidesz will continue to remain a member of the European People’s Party. In the long run, the People’s Party will have to choose a future which will also be a decision about Fidesz’s membership. While the People’s Party is Europe’s strongest party family, it has achieved the poorest results in the latest EP elections since 1979, he observed.

In answer to the question as to whether he will run for the position of vice-president at the Fidesz congress to be held at the end of September, or based on the cases of Mihály Varga and János Lázár, he himself will not remain vice-president, he said it follows from earlier examples that in the autumn either he will no longer be minister or will no longer be vice-president of Fidesz. At the same time, today there are no signs indicating that the Prime Minister is planning any changes in the government, he added. In answer to the question as to whether he would regard Lajos Kósa as an ideal candidate, he said he considers him an excellent person who was vice-president before, and has proved his aptitude several times over. He observed that today Fidesz is in by far the best position when it comes to finding suitable candidates.

Regarding Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s recent travels on budget airlines, he said the Prime Minister follows the same practice that he has followed in the past few years, and does not understand the confusion and incomprehension which he has observed in the press in this regard. If the prime minister is a tourist, it is for him to decide how to travel, he pointed out.

He said in answer to a question concerning the possible investigation of a Microsoft procurement that the Hungarian authorities are not aware of any investigation.