According to Gergely Gulyás, the campaign of the EP elections due to be held next May has begun, and the European Commission, too, is taking part in it, despite the fact that this does not fall within its duties. On Thursday the Minister heading the Prime Minister’s Office confirmed that they regard the Sargentini report condemning Hungary as part of the campaign.

At his Budapest press conference, the Minister criticised the speech delivered by Dimitris Avramopoulos, European commissioner for migration and home affairs in the UN General Assembly. According to him, legal migration must be assisted and organised resettlement schemes must be carried out.

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Mr Gulyás stressed that the European commissioner surely did not speak for the whole of the EU; he merely outlined a political opinion. He pointed out that in the EU there is a keen debate on immigration: Hungary, the Visegrád countries, Austria and Italy share views on the matter that substantially differ from that of the EU commissioner.

He said according to the Treaty of Lisbon, the Commission is the Guardian of the Treaties. Despite this, in the past four years one may have observed time and time again that the Commission frequently takes on a political role, thereby overstepping the bounds of the Treaties.

The Minister confirmed that within a month the government will submit to the European Court a statement of claim due to the Sargentini report, and will request the annulment of the decision on the adoption of the document.

He stressed that the report is a political indictment, a part of a revenge campaign due to Hungary’s consistent immigration policy.

He added that the Sargentini report was adopted in an unlawful procedure because they did not take the abstention votes into consideration. The vote took place in a regular manner, but its final result was not determined in accordance with the applicable rules as there was no two-thirds majority, he argued.

He was asked about the fact that MEP Judith Sargentini rejected Hungarian accusations claiming that she merely seeks to discredit the Hungarian government. Stating his personal view Mr Gulyás said if at some point in the future anyone undertakes to write an objective book about the grave diggers of institutionalised European cooperation during these years, Sargentini will surely deserve a footnote.

Regarding the organisation Migration Aid, he also mentioned that, due to the legal rules in force, the transformation of an organisation into a political party rules out the possibility of accepting any donations from foreigners or legal entities. Everyone is free to establish political parties in Hungary, he observed at the same time.

In answer to questions, he informed the press that they are not planning to amend the agreement related to the enlargement of the Paks nuclear power station because it serves Hungary’s best interests as it is. He took the view that the deadline for the completion of the project can be observed.

There was also a question about whether, in his opinion, there may be a conflict of interest regarding the fact that the Prime Minister travelled to the UEFA Champions League match of the football club Videoton on a private plane as the guest of István Garancsi, owner of the football club, whose businesses have been awarded a number of public procurements. Mr Gulyás said this particular report, too, can be associated with the start of the EP campaign, and so they are expecting personal smear campaigns and accusations to play a central role in it.

According to the Minister, the Prime Minister did not receive the above benefit in the capacity of Member of Parliament, and its amount did not reach the limit determined in the Act on Parliament; it is a fraction of the monthly remuneration of Members of Parliament.

In answer to a question, he said it is legal nonsense that it was unlawful in any way for the Prime Minister to travel to Videoton’s match on board the owner’s private plane. At the same time, he said in response to another question that he does not know whether the plane is István Garancsi’s property, and he likewise does not know whether the Prime Minister travelled to the World Cup final on the same plane.

He said in answer to a question relating to the yachting holiday of the railway company MÁV’s Chief Executive that, according to his information, the trip in question took place on 16 August, and Róbert Homolya was appointed subsequent to that date. He agreed that the executive of a state-owned company should act much more prudently in this respect.

Regarding a question querying the grounds for a HUF 3 billion grant provided by the Hungarian State for a football academy in Topolya, Vojvodina, inaugurated earlier during the day, the Minister said the government always bears in mind the best interests of 15 million Hungarians, and did so also in this instance.

He was asked regarding news reports released in the newspaper Világgazdaság that there are negotiations under way to increase this year’s wage minimum of HUF 180,500 to HUF 202,000 next year, while the current minimum wage of HUF 138,000 will increase to HUF 150,000 from January. Mr Gulyás confirmed the fact of the negotiations, and said in recent years the government has been pleased whenever it was only required to approve the agreements of employers and workers.

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He denied reports that a document has been drafted in the ministry claiming that, in a worst-case scenario, Hungary could forfeit as much as HUF 500 billion due to shortcomings and irregularities uncovered earlier in the local public procurement and EU fund distribution systems.

In his view, there is no threat of funds being withdrawn. Additionally, the Hungarian government over-plans EU tenders to 110 to 115 per cent, and so if the Commission approves every penny in the final accounts, the additional 10 to 15 per cent is supplemented from local budgetary funds, he explained.

He also said that to date invoices worth some one thousand billion forints have been submitted to Brussels for settlement.

Regarding the video footage recorded at the oath-taking ceremony of new Hungarian citizens at the Beregszász Consulate, he said it is the exclusive right of every state to decide whom to confer citizenship upon, meaning that nothing illegal happened. The building of the consulate forms part of the territory of the Hungarian State, he laid down.

If Ukraine takes any diplomatic step in the matter, Hungary will respond in kind, he indicated.

Administrative courts may start operations as of 1 January 2020

According to current plans, administrative courts may begin their operations in Hungary within the new organisational boundaries as of 1 January 2020, Gergely Gulyás, the Minister heading the Prime Minister’s Office informed the press at his Thursday press conference.

Mr Gulyás highlighted that the government has approved the concept of the relevant legislation. The Ministry of Justice will present the bill to Parliament for debate by the end of October, and as expected Parliament will pass the law during its autumn session.

According to the Minister’s information, the status of judges will remain standard also in the future; only certain specificities will apply. All judges who are currently working in the administrative sections of courts will – on request – be automatically transferred to the new organisation. The law will stipulate specific guarantees to that effect, he indicated.

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The Administrative High Court will be seated in the town of Esztergom, and administrative tribunals with regional competence and jurisdiction will be set up in eight cities, Mr Gulyás said. He added that the external administration of administrative courts will come under the justice minister’s supervision.

The Minister highlighted that they are restoring a historical tradition: there were independent and organisationally separate administrative courts in Hungary until 1949 when the communists did away with them. In the government’s view, this will allow for the more effective and faster administration and assessment of cases, he pointed out.

He observed that this model functions in a number of places in Europe today.

Mr Gulyás also highlighted that, parallel with this, they are implementing a reform in public administration. They would like to simplify certain procedures in regional public administration, as well as to normalise powers. Today regional public administration is even in charge of the evaluation of trophies as an authority.

Based on the rule of thumb, it will be possible to contest regional public administration decisions before a court where dual-instance remedy will be available.

The Minister informed the press that the government had decided on a reserve fund with an allocation of HUF 300 million for the purposes of assisting care for the homeless. According to Mr Gulyás’s information, these additional funds will be placed at the disposal of the Ministry of Interior, and will be available for creating facilities for public hygiene purposes before transportation to night shelters. He said they would like to put an end to the undignified situations which can be observed today on public premises and in a great many underpasses throughout Budapest. These situations also gravely infringe the dignity of homeless people.

He reiterated that the provisions declaring illegal the act of residing on public premises for habitation will enter into force on 15 October.

He observed that at present there are more places available in homeless care facilities than there are homeless persons. The government spends HUF 700,000 per person on the care of homeless people annually.

He also highlighted that the need will only arise for the application of the relevant factual scenario constituting an offence if a homeless person fails to respond to police caution and continues to reside on public premises for habitation.

In answer to a question related to articles published on the news portal átlátszó.hu, he said he is not surprised that George Soros’s money or money from donors including George Soros is behind a considerable part of organisations and press outlets attacking the government.

“I know Tamás Bodoky, he is an eternal opposition figure. It is to his credit that he was an opposition figure also before 2010 when we were in opposition”, Mr Gulyás said. He added this does not change the fact that there is an obvious connection behind the circumstance that today mostly organisations living off George Soros’s money partially or entirely launch political campaigns against the government.

Regarding the funds pledged by the EU for border protection, he said they are still waiting for the money to arrive; the transfer has not been made yet.

The Minister said concerning the proposal of the National Federation of Hungarian Building Contractors which is aimed, inter alia, at the refunding of VAT, that when the government decided on the reduction of VAT to 5 per cent, they made it clear that these measures are designed to boost the housing market and will only extend to a period of three years up to 31 December 2019. The measures in question have not only come up to expectations, but have far exceeded them, and it is evident that there is a significant gap between the capacity of the construction industry and the order portfolio. However, this does not justify the extension of these measures, said Mr Gulyás who observed that in many cases those who already have homes are building second properties, and this was not the aim of the measures.

In answer to a question, the Minister said regarding the construction of the South Buda hospital that the tender for the plans was released on 1 August, and it is to be hoped that bids will be assessed in January and the foundation stone could be laid down some time around the middle of next year.

He said in response to a question on the rate of the social contribution tax that a decision has been made that it will decrease by another two per cent as of 1 July.

Mr Gulyás pointed out regarding pensions that there is disagreement between the government and the central bank on the anticipated rate of inflation. If the government proves to be right, the planned pension increase can go ahead. If, however, the central bank proves to be right, the possible difference will have to be paid in one sum, he observed.

Concerning István Tarlós’s possible run for another term for the office of Mayor of Budapest, he said all he can say at this point in time is that a decision will have to made within a short time, and it will also have to be made public.

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In answer to a further question, he said that the Israeli government has not officially contacted the Hungarian government regarding the issue of the House of Fates. The goal of the Hungarian government is clear: if it is possible and plans are not frustrated, they would like to pay befitting tribute to Hungarian victims on the 75th anniversary of the Holocaust. At the same time, powerful forces have been mobilised to foil this plan, he observed.