The Government will provide all assistance with the commencement of the refurbishment of metro line 3, and supports Mayor of Budapest István Tarlós’s plan of implementation, János Lázár, the Minister heading the Prime Minister’s Office said at the press conference Governmentinfo 91 which he held jointly with Government Spokesperson Zoltán Kovács.

The Minister confirmed: István Tarlós and the Government agreed on Wednesday to send a joint negotiating delegation to Brussels in order to obtain the European Commission’s approval for expenditures beyond the originally planned project sum of HUF 137.5 billion.

Mr Lázár stressed: Brussels has not even granted its written approval in respect of the original budget of the project yet. He further remarked that the Government conducted a discussion with István Tarlós “in a normal tone of voice”, where the parties also reviewed a number of other metropolitan issues.

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Government to expect dispute on Member State and EU powers

The Government is expecting the dispute on Member State and EU powers on the issue of illegal immigration to intensify in the next six months, Mr Lázár said.

American businessman of Hungarian origin György Soros suggested that the European Union should decide on this matter. In other words, rather than the Member States deciding who should live in their territories, a central office in Brussels should make that decision, Mr Lázár said. He highlighted that György Soros’s proposal lies in that Europe should take in one million immigrants annually and should take out loans, migrants should be distributed among the Member States and the above-mentioned Member State power should be taken away.

The Minister stressed: this is unacceptable for the some 1.7 million people who responded to the national consultation, and this position is also shared by the Government. Hungary takes the view that migration should be stopped, rather than organised, he stated.

Mr Lázár said that “voices will get louder and political programmes will emerge which will demand that Budapest must resign powers to Brussels. These are not the powers that we are already well acquainted with, but in fact, Brussels would seek to withdraw further and further powers, he added.

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Mr Lázár told the press that at the meeting of European heads of state and government to be held in June, immigration will once again be the main item on the agenda. There is a major diplomatic offensive under way in order for Europe to open its gates to immigration. There are two distinctly different policies in Europe today: one of them seeks to organise immigration, while the other one wishes to stop it. According to the Hungarian Government, immigration is not a solution to Europe’s problems, and immigration and immigrants pose a security risk, in addition to a number of other risks.

At the same time, he said, they agree that every European nation has a humanitarian obligation towards those who are persecuted, and the Hungarian Government therefore provides financial assistance for the countries where people are persecuted.

Mr Lázár said that Prime Minister Viktor Orbán outlined the agenda of the June meeting of the European Council, and according to this, the distribution of immigrants will be one of the items on the agenda. They are expecting a major debate, and serious confrontation, he remarked, adding that “threats are being levelled practically continuously”.

Mr Lázár stated: Hungary has no such duty that if Germany invites immigrants to Europe, Hungary should take part in providing care for these people. Hungary will not take part in the distribution mechanism, and Hungary is not the only Member State which refuses to participate, he added.

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The head of the Prime Minister’s Office said that at the Wednesday meeting of the Cabinet, Interior Minister Sándor Pintér rendered an account of the London terrorist attack, which confirmed the Government’s belief that terrorism and immigration are effectively inseparable, and therefore immigration poses a security risk to the whole of Europe and every European citizen. Mr Lázár said that the Ministry of Interior has been given a further allocation to draw on, after the Government had already spent more than HUF 200 billion on the southern border fence.

Government accepts Venice Commission’s concerns

The Government accepts the Venice Commission’s legal concerns regarding the proposed bill on the transparency of organisations funded from abroad, Mr Lázár said.

The Minister stressed that the Government heard Justice Minister László Trócsányi on the issue at its meeting on Wednesday. On his recommendation, the Government accepted the organisation’s recommendations of a legal nature, but refused their objections raised on political grounds.

Mr Lázár highlighted: the Venice Commission does not call the legitimacy of the amendment of the NGO law into question. In other words, it is a legitimate objective of Parliament to create order on this issue, and it is correct that information should be available on the funding received by different organisations from abroad.

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Parliament to pass next year’s budget next week

According to the Minister heading the Prime Minister’s Office, there is a good chance that Parliament will pass the bill on the 2018 budget next week.

Mr Lázár said that, compared with the period between 1990 and 2014, it is not fiscal issues that dominate public discourse today: the performance of the economy does not constitute the subject-matter of political and parliamentary debates any more. This is fundamentally not an achievement of the Government, but of the united efforts and cooperation of employers and workers, he added.

He stressed that they set three prime goals in next year’s budget: promotion of employment, promotion of families and the guaranteeing of security.

Mr Lázár said that one of the goals is to achieve full employment in 2018. They would like to provide jobs for everyone who wants to work, whether in the market segment, or in the state sector, he said.

According to his information, more than half a million jobs have been created on the market in the past few years, and the Government will additionally guarantee the availability of public works schemes also next year. “Those who want to work in Hungary 2018 (…) will have the possibility to do so”, Mr Lázár said, who also pointed out that in contrast to 2010 when there were 3.7 million workers in the country, there are now 4.4 million, describing this as the most important economic achievement of the past thirty years.

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In the context of the promotion of families, he said that they would like to turn Hungary into a family-friendly country, and to provide all necessary assistance and support for families and young people intending to raise children. To this end, they are reducing taxes and increasing the magnitude of the allocation intended for housing purposes, he added.

As the Minister said, those raising two children will be eligible for a tax benefit of HUF 35 thousand monthly in 2018, and before the end of this year they will review the family housing programme in order to permit the launch of new programmes based on locality types.

Mr Lázár said: they are expecting the finances of the State to be in order in 2018. Every indicator appears to prove that there is fiscal order and discipline in Hungary, he added, stating that “this is a characteristic attribute, a concomitant of Fidesz’s governance”.

They are planning a GDP increase in excess of 4 per cent in 2018. This means that the funds necessary for the planned pay rises are available, he said, also remarking that the number of those participating in public works schemes is continuously decreasing.

Mr Lázár told the press that, compared with 2017, HUF 116.5 billion more will be available for education, HUF 221 billion more will be allocated to health care, there will be excess spending worth HUF 288 billion in the fields of pensions, family support and social services, an extra HUF 85 billion will be available for law enforcement, and HUF 257 billion more will be spent on the development of the economy next year.

Upon speaking about changes in taxation, Mr Lázár highlighted, inter alia, that the social contribution tax will decrease by 2 percentage points to 20 per cent next year, the tax of small businesses will fall by 1 percentage point to 13 per cent, the health care contribution will be reduced by 2 percentage points to 20 per cent, while the VAT on restaurant and Internet services will decrease from 18 to 5 per cent.

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The Minister told the press in the context of the extra expenditures approved by the Government that an extra HUF 6 billion will be available for the extension of the programme of the Metropolitan Zoo and Botanical Garden, and for the first time after 27 years, the cause of folk culture will be promoted with an allocation of HUF 5 billion.

A fund will be set up for calls for proposals specifically targeting folk culture associations and folk choirs. The fund will bear the name of the poet Sándor Csoóri, he said. Mr Lázár further informed the press that they will additionally launch a programme for the replacement of musical instruments in music schools from an allocation of HUF 3 billion.

Summing up these allocations, Mr Lázár said that the proposed bill on next year’s budget will be characterised by stability and predictability.

Digital administration to be simplified

The Government also approved the proposal which seeks to permit fully electronic administration in the case of the administrative services most used, Mr Lázár said. He told the press that a development worth some HUF 100 billion is currently under way to this end. He mentioned as examples that within the next two years, it will also be possible to carry out the necessary administration also on the Internet, among others, in the case of the replacement of driving licences, the initial issuance and replacement of identity cards, the change of title to automobiles, sickness benefit administration and the registration of title to real estate.

Based on Mr Lázár’s information, the Government has approved HUF 1.1 billion for the construction of a social and child welfare institution in Érd, another HUF 1.1 billion for the rehabilitation of residential areas in Füzesabony, and HUF 1.7 billion for the environmental rehabilitation of an industrial area in Pápa. The Cabinet additionally decided on the construction of a new M3 junction to improve the accessibility of Mogyoród and Fót as well as on the extension of the section of the M70 express road between Letenye and Tornyiszentmiklós to two lanes in each direction.

The head of the Prime Minister’s Office further reported that it is the goal of the Government to increase the country’s waste incineration capacity, and to this end, they are planning the construction of minimum two large power stations and some dozen smaller ones so that 2 million tonnes, out of the 4 million tonnes of household waste generated in the country annually, can be incinerated, more than 1 million tonnes can be recycled, and only some 800 thousand tonnes should be otherwise disposed of by 2022.

The Minister pointed out: the objective of the Government is to attempt to improve the quality of the lives of the some 1.1 million people who live in 549 thousand breezeblock apartments throughout the country. He said that so far 72 thousand flats have been refurbished, which means that 80-90 per cent of these apartments are in need of modernisation. In the interest of accelerating this process, the Government will initiate consultations with the organisations representing the residents and owners concerned as well as with architects, he said, stressing at the same time that the Cabinet will only provide grants for the refurbishment of breezeblock housing in agreement with the owners.

Mr Lázár told the press that the rehabilitation of breezeblock housing may begin after the assessment of the technical condition of the buildings, based on the German model, with the aid of three to four tested methods. According to the Government’s plans, the first model programme may begin in Hódmezővásárhely under his supervision.

In answer to a question, he said he finds it hard to imagine the future of Europe in such a way that a particular day is a day of mourning for the Hungarians, and a day of celebration for other countries. “If János Áder had the decency to apologise for the atrocities committed by Hungarians in Újvidék, Hungary has every reason to expect the beneficiaries, and not just the perpetrators, to apologise on account of Trianon", he said.

In answer to a question concerning the final and absolute judgement adopted in the Sukoró case, Mr Lázár pointed out: "When the socialists govern the country, this is how they treat the assets of the public, and this is now documented, committed to a court judgement". Ferenc Gyurcsány and the Minister responsible for state assets at the time "owe minimum political responsibility, if not legal” as in 2011 the court annulled and invalidated the exchange agreement, he said.

Regarding the amendment of the law on hoardings, he said: it is the parties that fundamentally have to come to an agreement, the Government is not dealing with the relevant proposal for the time being. He pointed out that if the parties agree to abstain from the posting of hoardings outside the election campaign period, the Government itself is ready to adhere to this.

The Minister said in answer to a question that the Government is ready to have talks directly with the office of the Governor of the State of New York via Kristóf Altusz, the Government’s representative appointed by the Prime Minister, at the end of June.

In answer to another question, he remarked that, similar to recent years, the Hungarian railway company MÁV will operate far more services with carriages to higher standards on both sides of Lake Balaton during the summer season. The Government is committed to the development of fixed-track transport, and for instance, the idea of the construction of circular lines around Budapest and Lake Balaton has also emerged, he added.

Mr Lázár further mentioned in answer to a question that the Government will make every effort to minimise losses, but there is very little chance that the EU will reduce the fine of HUF 60 billion which it is planning to impose on Hungary on account of the abuses uncovered in connection with the construction of metro line 4.

The Minister further stated that if he were in charge of the State Treasury, he would tell the trade union operating there to consider the organisation of a strike very carefully, and to initiate negotiations regarding their wage demands instead.

The head of the Prime Minister’s Office said in response to a question that the Government has closed the reduction of VAT after having improved access to basic foodstuffs.

(Prime Minister’s Office)