Hungary has a vested interest in the election of the heads of EU institutions within the shortest possible time, but the suitability of candidates is more important than haste, the Minister heading the Prime Minister’s Office said at his press conference held on Thursday in Budapest.

Gergely Gulyás stressed that Hungary supports leaders who are not fuelled by individual power ambitions, but leaders who are capable of consulting with all Member States and of reaching a consensus; leaders who have not attacked a single Member State, and maintain a fair relationship with all of them. The lead candidates do not meet these criteria, we do not support the system of lead candidates, and at the same time, we do not find the candidates suitable either, he stated.

Regarding Manfred Weber, the Minister said the European People’s Party’s (EPP) lead candidate voted for the Sargentini Report and made insulting comments about Hungary. Therefore, he evidently does not meet the requirement of respecting all governments.

He believes it would be possible and preferable if the Member States did not decide on the leader of a single EU institution, but rather on the leaders of all EU institutions. This is why they will meet on Sunday, before the initial meeting of the new European Parliament. If they want a decision which extends to the leaders of all institutions, this will be possible on Sunday, at the latest, he added.

He observed that there is no obstacle to the adoption of meaningful decisions on Sunday, and had the lead candidate system not made decision-making difficult earlier, a decision could have already been reached.

The Minister said the Visegrád countries have a common position on the possible institutional leaders, there are individuals whom they would be able to support – including EU chief negotiator for Brexit Michel Barnier – but there are other acceptable persons as well. It is equally important to create a political balance; therefore, if the President of the European Commission comes from the People’s Party, the President of the European Council is likely to come from a group other than the EPP, he explained.

He said one may hear in Hungary both from the opposition and a younger member of the Soros family that they would even involve the EU in the fight against the Hungarian government. George Soros’s son slanders the country, it seems he “wants to follow in his father’s footsteps,” the things he says stand as proof of the fact that the goal continues to remain the fight against the Hungarian government, and they use the case of the CEU for that, the Minister said in reference to statements made by Alex Soros at the CEU’s graduation ceremony.

In answer to the question as to why the government has not disclosed to the public the report of the Council of Europe’s anti-corruption body (GRECO) about Hungary, Mr Gulyás said they will publish the document within weeks, together with the government’s reply and comments.

Regarding the fact that the court rejected the extradition of former Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, the Minister said they respect the court’s decision. The relevant legal rules clearly lay down what refugees are eligible for, and Nikola Gruevski himself does not enjoy a special status, he said.

The Minister also highlighted that with respect to climate protection, everyone senses that there is an emergency, everyone would like a cleaner environment and a more liveable climate, this is why they laid down targets regarding the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions by 2030. It makes sense to continue the reduction of emissions, but this is impossible without nuclear energy; in the EU budget appropriate incentives must be given to Member States, it is likewise necessary to take global responsibility into consideration, and they will have to come to a joint agreement with the other major players, he listed.

In answer to a question relating to the settlement of the situation in Syria, Mr Gulyás said Hungary is happy to provide all support for the stability of the region and the curtailment of migration; this is why they support both Christian and non-Christian communities in the region.

The debate on next year’s budget has proved that the opposition cannot be taken seriously, they are not up to the job, the Minister heading the Prime Minister’s Office stated.

There was one opposition lead speaker who repeated his 2017 budget speech in the parliamentary debate almost verbatim, while Jobbik submitted several “pathetic and ridiculous” motions of amendment in conjunction with the proposal, Mr Gulyás highlighted.

He repeated that the government regards the 2020 budget as a budget of families because it contains family support measures on a previously unprecedented scale.

The economy protection action plan also forms part of the budget, he added, indicating in this regard that while economic growth in Western Europe is extremely low, the Central European region is the continent’s engine of growth.

He also spoke about the measures of the family protection action plan taking effect on 1 July, including the baby expecting support, regarding which he confirmed that those will be eligible for the support whose children will be born after 1 July. Additionally, the extension of the family housing allowance ‘csok’ and of the cancellation of mortgage debts, as well as the car purchase support for large families will also enter into force on 1 July, while the creche development programme is under way, Mr Gulyás listed.

He added that they will introduce the personal income tax exemption of mothers with four or more children and the child care allowance for grandparents from 1 January 2020.

State administration is ready to make its own contribution to the family protection programme, he said in answer to a question. He added that while there are indeed staff problems in government offices in Budapest and Pest County, they are seeking to solve these problems by asking staff members in government offices in the countryside to transfer to Budapest, provided that they are willing to do so. This is important because, due to the family protection programme, public administration will have important tasks, he indicated.

He further informed the press that, in addition to the some HUF 1.5 billion available for mosquito control within the budget of the Ministry of Interior, they have been given another HUF 825 million, and a further 307 settlements have been selected for participation in the mosquito control programme. Aerial chemical treatment has been carried out in an area of 151,000 hectares,  land chemical treatment has been performed on 129,000 hectares, while biological treatment has been administered on some 12,000 hectares so far, the Minister reported.

In answer to a question regarding the nomination of Minister of State Judit Varga for the position of justice minister, Mr Gulyás confirmed that the governmental structure will also change; European Union affairs will be transferred from the Prime Minister’s Office to the Ministry of Justice. He believes that Judit Varga is perfectly suitable for holding the office of minister because during her activities as Minister of State, she represented Hungary’s interests in Brussels to the highest standards, and stood up for a Europe of nations.

He added that departing Minister of Justice László Trócsányi is the government’s candidate for Hungary’s commissioner in the European Commission, but it at this point in time it is premature to talk about portfolios.

Concerning the election of Mayor of Budapest, he said all opposition candidates for Mayor of Budapest have proved themselves to be utterly unsuitable for leading the capital. He observed that he himself rooted for Gergely Karácsony (MSZP-Párbeszéd) because, from among the candidates, his activities as Mayor of Zugló make it abundantly clear that he is not suitable for the position of leader of Budapest.

In answer to a question, he also spoke about a case connected to MEP Klára Dobrev for DK dating from the period when she was Vice President of the National Development Agency. According to the Minister’s information, she caused the Hungarian State a loss of HUF 18 billion by virtue of the fact that they concluded contracts without a public tender in connection with the monitoring and IT system created for the management of EU calls for proposals; the funds disbursed in this arrangement had to be repaid, he highlighted.

Responding to a question about Wizz Air’s recent incidents, he informed the press about the penalties imposed on the airline. According to his information, Wizz Air has already been handed down a penalty of HUF 20 million and a penalty of HUF 3 million due to lost baggage and denied boarding, and there is another fine of HUF 5 million which is not yet final and absolute. In addition to these, there are several ongoing procedures: due to flights to and from Frankfurt and London, and also on account of the fact that they stated the prices of tickets for the flight for supporters for the Azerbaijan-Hungary football match in a misleading manner, he said.

He pointed out that low ticket prices cannot be cited as the reason for the low quality of services, and instead of fines of millions of forints, it would be simpler and cheaper if the company sought to appropriately manage situations – with prompt on-site communication and arrangements for the accommodation and transfer of passengers – when, for one reason or another, they are only able to send a smaller plane or overbook a flight. The government is unable to help, but is able to incentivise Wizz Air, the Minister added.

He stated repeatedly that he is convinced that it would be good if there was a state-owned Budapest airport, but at this point in time, they do not see scope for the state to make a takeover bid. In his view, the current owner of the airport provides poor services.

Regarding the debt portfolio of hospitals, he said the government is seeking to transform the system of funding in order to prevent the recurrence of this problem year after year. There will be debt consolidation also this year, but the goal for next year is to fix an allocation for every hospital which is sufficient for their operations, he added.

He said concerning the extension of the deadline for the confirmation of the data of bank customers that the Fidesz Group initiated the October deadline. In his view, banks are responsible for the fact that this situation has emerged; they have been aware for two years of the requirement regarding the reconciliation of data. They have helped with the extension of the deadline in order that Hungarian citizens should not find themselves at a disadvantage due to flawed procedures on the part of the banking system, he said.