The government hoarding campaign regarding the Brussels plans is tenable in every one of its elements, it contains true and accurate claims, Gergely Gulyás, the Minister heading the Prime Minister’s Office said at his press conference held on Thursday in Budapest.

The Minister said European public life, the European Commission and the European People’s Party, too, must be able to exercise some degree of self-criticism.

In his view, the current term of the EP which is coming to an end shortly can be summed up in that they have failed to keep migrants out, and have failed to keep the United Kingdom in. The Brussels body cannot shift the responsibility for what has happened in Europe onto anyone else, he said.

Mr Gulyás also observed that President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker has done everything in its power to have Fidesz expelled from the People’s Party, and now in the campaign he has disclosed his endeavours to the public. The Minister highlighted that Fidesz has always been loyal to the European People’s Party.

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In answer to a question concerning the hoarding campaign, he further pointed out that the government will contact all the electors in a letter and will inform them about the details of the hoarding campaign.

The head of the Prime Minister’s Office also informed the press about the construction of a new handball complex. He said that a multifunctional complex capable of accommodating more than 22,000 supporters will be built in Budapest for the 2022 European Men’s Handball Championship to be jointly hosted by Hungary and Slovakia.

At the same time, he stressed that the construction of the complex – which must be completed by autumn 2021 – is warranted not only by the European championship, but equally by Budapest’s cultural and sports life. In answer to a question he said that a decision regarding the project’s main contractor will have to be adopted by the autumn, at the latest, and the construction works will have to start at the beginning of next year.

The Minister also said that the government had decided on the construction of the Hungarian pavilion at next year’s World Expo to be hosted by Dubai which would require, he said, accelerated planning procedures.

Mr Gulyás added that legislation would be drawn up in connection with both projects as expected.

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Answering questions

Mr Gulyás said in answer to a question concerning the government funding awarded to a foundation set up by head of state János Áder that the President of the Republic has established a foundation for the protection of the environment, and this objective transcends party politics.

Regarding news reports alleging that Hungary will take in Venezuelans, the head of the Prime Minister’s Office pointed out that the individuals in question are Hungarians, and “Hungary does not regard Hungarians as migrants”. He further observed that the government informed the public already last April that Hungarian families will be arriving from Venezuela. There is a significant Hungarian community living in the South American country, he added, and also informed the press that they would like to bring approximately another 30 families from Venezuela to Hungary.

In the context of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s visit to Israel at the beginning of the week, the Minister highlighted that the Hungarian foreign trade representation to be opened in Jerusalem will have diplomatic status.

In answer to another question, he said Hungary will propose that NGOs should not receive central grants from Brussels during the next fiscal cycle of the European Union. In his view, one of the consequences of the allocation of grants to NGOs is that typically those organisations are awarded significant funding in the process which are critical of countries that reject migration.

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In answer to the question as to whether Hungary has received any money yet from the European Commission – as announced earlier – for border protection, he said they had received promises, but not any money as yet.

Regarding the criticisms levelled at the Hungarian government’s policies, such as the family protection action plan, from Sweden, Mr Gulyás pointed out that the government is making every effort to maintain fair relations with every EU Member State, but will never leave without a response exclusionist opinions which crudely attempt to interfere in a country’s internal politics. Sweden is demonstrating a degree of intolerance towards Hungary which can hardly be accepted within democratic boundaries, he stated.

In the context of the institutional network of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, the Minister confirmed that the government’s goal is to spend all R+D funds on the basis of uniform principles.

Village family housing benefit ‘csok’ on its way

The government decided on the introduction of the village family housing benefit (csok) within the framework of the Hungarian Village Programme, the Minister heading the Prime Minister’s Office announced at his press conference held on Thursday in Budapest.

Mr Gulyás said the village ‘csok’ concerns settlements with a population of less than 5,000 whose population has decreased more than the national average since the data recorded on 1 January 2003. He added that 2,031 of the 2,887 settlements with a population of less than 5,000 are eligible.

He highlighted that the general ‘csok’ rules apply to the village ‘csok’: upon the construction or purchase of a new home, the available state grant is HUF 600,000 for one child, HUF 2.6 million in the case of two children, and HUF 10 million for three children. In the case of the village ‘csok’, the allowance can be equally used for the purchase, extension and refurbishment of used homes.

He said that Parliament could adopt the relevant legislative proposals in the spring, and the new arrangement could therefore enter into force from 1 July or 1 September, at the latest.

The Minister took the view that in the settlements concerned these grants could cover the entire purchase or refurbishment costs.

He also indicated that at the next cabinet meeting due to be held in two weeks’ time the government may adopt further decisions in the interest of helping disadvantaged settlements.

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In answer to a question, Mr Gulyás said that the government had set aside HUF 150 billion for the Hungarian Village Programme. In the first year HUF 50 billion will be available from this sum for the renovation of inferior roads, and another HUF 75 billion will be available for the same purpose for the coming years, he said. He added that the remaining HUF 75 billion will be used for other programmes, including HUF 25 billion set aside for the village ‘csok’. In his view, however, this will not be enough.

Mr Gulyás said in answer to the questions as to how many families will be able to avail themselves of the interest-free loans of HUF 10 million and how much funding is available for the purpose that, according to estimates, the funding of these loans could amount to HUF 70 to 80 billion annually, but the final sum may well exceed HUF 100 billion. It is to be hoped that Parliament will adopt the legislative proposals related to the family policy measures announced by the Prime Minister by 2 April, he added.

It is for electors to decide whether self-serving scandal politics is a desirable phenomenon

In response to several questions relating to Jobbik and its cooperation with the Left, the politician highlighted that the Hungarian Left had so far identified themselves – due to their post-communist past – as the heroes of the fight against Fascism. Now, however, they are combining forces with those whom they themselves dismissed only a few years ago as Nazis, he stressed. He also mentioned that Frans Timmermans, the socialist First Vice-President of the European Commission and the lead candidate of the Party of European Socialists seems to have no problem with the President of MSZP suggesting a joint EP list with Jobbik. This clearly shows the current state of the Party of European Socialists.

Regarding the opposition’s behaviour in Parliament, Mr Gulyás said it is for electors to decide whether self-serving scandal politics is a desirable phenomenon. It falls within the competence of Parliament, not the government, to decide whether the current house rules are adequate, he observed.

The Minister said in answer to a question concerning the Elios case that they over-plan the funding of every EU call for proposals, they invite bids for 110 per cent of the allocation. Following this, the competent ministry – in this case the Ministry for Innovation – determines whether the allocation has been exceeded. He added that if that is the case, it is perfectly irrelevant whether the remaining claims are disputed or not, the EU will not reimburse them. Consequently, in these instances there is no point in engaging in a dispute, and this is what happened in the present case as well, he said. He also pointed out that in 2017 the ministry decided not to send the relevant invoices to Brussels because we have already exhausted the allocation.

In answer to a question concerning the elections in Ukraine, he said he sincerely hopes that they will be able to get through to the new administration because they have been unable to communicate with the present one. Ukraine currently has a government that tramples on minority rights, one that has had “a semi-Fascist” education law adopted, he added, indicating that they continue to expect Ukraine to change the legislation.

According to the Minister, the partly Russian-owned International Investment Bank will be given the same rights in Hungary as any other international financial institution would receive in Member States of the EU.

Mr Gulyás said in response to questions concerning health care and the vascular surgeons who have recently given notice in some hospitals that there are shortage occupations in health care resulting in vacancies which are difficult to fill at this point in time, but the security of care is guaranteed in every field. Today there are 39,000 physicians working in Hungary, in contrast to 33,000 at the time of the change of government, he added.