János Lázár takes the view that the European Commission instituted a procedure on account of the Hungarian asylum regulations because Hungary contested the EU decision on the mandatory quotas before the European Court.

The Minister heading the Prime Minister’s Office described the infringement procedure instituted by Brussels against Hungary as revenge at the press conference Governmentinfo held for the 34th time this year, together with Government Spokesperson Zoltán Kovács.

Mr Lázár pointed out at the press conference: the infringement procedure is the revenge of the political groups which condemn Hungary’s firm policy of protecting its borders.

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The Government is of the opinion that the Hungarian asylum regulations conform to all constitutional and human rights requirements. During the course of the infringement procedure which it disputes, the Cabinet will avail itself of the possibility of responding to the accusations, and is ready to have talks with the European Commission in Brussels, or to go to court, he indicated.

The Minister remarked: the asylum claims of some 300,000 asylum seekers in Germany have been unassessed for three years, and the German authorities have not even started processing the cases of another 800,000 asylum seekers. The European Commission should institute infringement proceedings against them, the head of the Prime Minister’s Office said.

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Mr Lázár sees the idea of a “mini Schengen”, too, as “part of the revenge” against Hungary and the Central-European States. In his view, “they are trying to exclude us from Schengen in a stealthy manner”. He added: “they continuously level threats, and try to force us to take in migrants”.

In answer to a question, the Minister said that other countries are trying to repatriate some forty thousand people to Hungary. Most of them would be repatriated from Germany and Austria, but only in cooperation with Hungary; however, Hungary does not cooperate on this issue, he indicated.

In answer to another enquiry, Mr Lázár said that the European Commission sent a series of questions to be answered within two weeks in connection with the infringement procedure. The Government has already replied. Justice Minister László Trócsányi will have talks in Brussels, with some probability, before Christmas, in order to clarify the situation, he said, remarking that this is not a legal, but a political dispute.

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EU funds worth more than HUF 9,000 billion have been disbursed

The European Union funds disbursed have exceeded HUF 9 thousand billion, the Minister heading the Prime Minister’s Office informed the press regarding the EU fiscal cycle between 2007-2013. The politician added that calls worth some HUF 3 thousand billion have already been released for the period between 2014-2020.

At the same time, Mr Lázár added that the Government has several disputes regarding calls for proposals with the European Commission, the total value of which amounts to HUF 600 billion. These include the so-called asphalt mixing case – in which Hungary is ready to go to court, and should a judgement be passed against Hungary, the Government will recover the funds from the road construction companies – and the suspended construction of the M4 motorway. Regarding the latter, the Hungarian Competition Authority will have to clarify the suspicion of cartel, he remarked.

The Minister further spoke about the case of the Norway NGO Grants, on which, as he confirmed, an agreement has been reached. As a result, despite earlier disputes, the programme will be resumed, and grants worth HUF 37-40 billion will be made available. Additionally, the fiscal period will be extended. Regarding the period between 2014-2020, however, the debate is still ongoing as to who should distribute the funds. The Hungarian Government insists that it should be in charge of the distribution of the grants, he said.

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At the same time, he pointed out that there is no reason to apologise in the case of the Norway Grants because, in his view, the Ökotárs Foundation was not suitable for the management of funds, and abused the Norwegians’ trust. He added: we insist that the Foundation will not take part in the distribution of funds in the future.

Mr Lázár also told the press that the company of Ferenc Gyurcsány, President of the party DK, Altus Zrt., has been awarded another EU engagement. The Minister said in this context: “the European Commission contributes to the budget of DK with another 120 million” because, according to his assumption, the former Prime Minister is “a great advocate of the settling of migrants and immigration”. Hungary will also consult with the Polish Government on this issue, he said with reference to the fact that Altus Zrt. was on this occasion engaged to investigate Poland’s development policy.

Mr Lázár was asked about the comment made by US Ambassador to Budapest Colleen Bell, based on which “American companies do not want to compete against firms led by the relatives of Hungarian political decision-makers”. The Minister said in reply: the new Hungarian public procurement legislation contains the most stringent European conflict of interest regulations. In his view, the Ambassador’s criticism is unjust and unfair. „We shall not discriminate against US companies, whether positively or negatively”, he said. „We do not provide advantages for anyone. In Hungary, no one will be appointed ambassador just because they sponsor a political party”, he said.

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Mr Lázár also spoke about the payment of the salaries of the employees of the Klebelsberg Institution Maintenance Centre. He said that the Hungarian State Treasury is in charge of the payroll of some 900,000 people every month; there were approximately 65,000 erroneous items last year. He added: upon the introduction of the new IT system, there were 2,190 erroneous items. He told the press that the payment of salaries is ongoing, the pay deadline is 10 December. The Government will honour this deadline. The Minister apologised to those who received salaries belatedly.

In answer to a comment stating that teachers protest against the Institution Maintenance Centre, the Minister pointed out: teachers must accept that the Hungarian State maintains the institutions of public education through this centre. “I see no reason why the teachers working under the auspices of the Institution Maintenance Centre should take the initiative and decide who is in charge of the maintenance and operation of their institutions”, he said, remarking at the same time that he himself appreciates that the Centre is far from flawless.

The Minister heading the Prime Minister’s Office was asked several questions about the Bálint Hóman statue planned to be erected in Székesfehérvár. He said in his answer that, in his view, there is democracy and there is freedom of opinion in Hungary. The decision of the local municipal board on the erection of a statue is a manifestation of these. He said that the Prime Minister has received local as well as foreign enquiries on the case, and has been contacted by a number of social organisations and private individuals. The Cabinet will consider these, and will answer the questions. He further reported that, as far as he knows, the statue has been completed.

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In answer to a question, he said: if he were a Budapest resident, he would support a referendum on the Olympic Games. He added at the same time: the Government does not wish to hold a referendum on this because its cause is unclear. In his view, the Budapest municipality is a legitimate organisation, and has the authorisation to take a stance on this issue.

Mr Lázár said in answer to a question relating to the recently released video footage featuring Árpád Habony: he does not concern himself with others’ private lives and habits. “Everyone themselves must bear the consequences of their conduct.” He further said: he sees no reason for subjecting Árpád Habony to national security screening.

Mr Lázár further informed the press that the sale by the Ministry of Defence of the arms “about to be discarded” to Pilisi Vadászbolt Kft. complied with all statutory requirements.

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Government guarantee for Mezőhegyes workers

The Government will guarantee the continued employment of those who work at the state stud farm in Mezőhegyes and at the company Mezőhegyesi Ménesbirtok Zrt., the Minister heading the Prime Minister’s Office said at the press conference, after he met with the mayor of the Békés County locality in the morning.

Mr Lázár said that Prime Minister Viktor Orbán decided on Wednesday to send him to Mezőhegyes in order to undertake this guarantee. The Minister also pointed out that the Government does not wish to destroy Mezőhegyesi Ménesbirtok Zrt., and is therefore ready to talk about the takeover of the dairy farm into state ownership. They would also like to compensate for the locality’s lost tax revenues, he said. The Minister pointed out: companies pay the municipality of Mezőhegyes some HUF 80 million in taxes, and the Government will provide for the availability of these funds.

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By the Minister’s account, Mayor Zoltán Mitykó (independent) informed him that Mezőhegyesi Ménesbirtok Zrt., which was privatised in 2004 and maintains its operation on an area of nine thousand hectares, is a dominant player in the life of the town.

Mr Lázár said that the Government Decree organising the three state-owned stud farms into a model farm – which will also establish the new Mezőhegyes state stud farm – will be released during the course of the day. Mr Orbán will appoint a ministerial commissioner to head the model farm, the Minister indicated, pointing out that he will consult with several people on the issue.

He reiterated that the stud, which is in state ownership also at present, constitutes the core of the stud farm which is not the same as the company Mezőhegyesi Ménesbirtok Zrt. The current one thousand hectares of the stud farm will be integrated into this model farm, in combination with the minimum three thousand hectares which have not been given on a lease and have not been offered for sale by auction, he detailed. Mr Lázár confirmed: they will appeal against the court judgement passed in the case of the Mezőhegyes land, and they would like to continue the “Land for farmers!” programme. He said that the company called the legitimacy of the lease agreement into question in the case.

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The Metropolitan Tribunal suspended the auctions concerning the Mezőhegyes landed areas effective as of 10 December in order to guarantee legal protection. Mezőhegyesi Ménesbirtok Zrt. previously instituted a lawsuit against the Hungarian State and the National Land Management Organisation in which they requested the court to declare invalid the calls for bids and the contracts relating to the right of use and ownership. Mr Lázár told the press that 75,000 hectares of land had been sold in total in the auctions by Wednesday to the value of HUF 100 billion. He pointed out that there are counties in which they sold 80 to 90 per cent of the state-owned landed areas; the auctions are fair and are taking place in a calm atmosphere. The credit requests of farmers are well in excess of HUF 200 billion, he stated.

He added: the open auctions will continue until 31 December. They will evaluate the land sales at the government meeting to be held at the beginning of January which will, as expected, continue at the end of January or in February. The Minister said that in the case of the unsold larger tracts of land, they will allow farmers to buy them in smaller tracts.

(Cabinet Office of the Prime Minister)