“In the assessment of the Hungarian Government, the European Parliament (EP) did not adopt the Sargentini Report with the required two-thirds majority”, Minister heading the Prime Minister’s Office Gergely Gulyás said at this week’s “Government Info” press conference.

Mr. Gulyás explained that according to the Treaty of Lisbon a majority of two-thirds of the votes cast would have been required for the adoption of the Report, meaning that the abstentions should also have been considered, and had they also been taken into consideration the required two-thirds majority would not have been reached.

Until the legal dispute is resolved, the Report can have no further legal consequences; a Cabinet meeting on EU affairs will be held on Monday, at which a decision will be made on further action, he added.

According to the Minister, the EP also misinterpreted its own internal regulations by ignoring the votes in abstention when tallying the results; it is as if the parliamentary rules of a country were to overwrite its Constitution, he explained.

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Mr. Gulyás said that in his opinion the EP’s rules of procedure do not include any stipulations on the fact that votes of abstention do not need to be considered in special cases.

The Minister confirmed the Government standpoint according to which the Report was not in fact about the rule of law, but its adoption was in fact determined by positions relating to immigration.

The Government has substantively refuted every single point of the Report, he stressed.

Mr. Gulyás said he regards it as unacceptable that the document also mentioned issues with relation to which Hungary has already come to an agreement with the European Commission, and in consideration of which it has already amended legislation and even the Constitution.

If cases that have already been closed through negotiations with the EC can later appear as a charge in another EU document, then the Commission’s role as ‘”protector of the treaties” becomes meaningless.

The Minister told the press that pro-immigration politicians are currently in a significant majority within the EP, and this places even greater emphasis on the May 2019 EP elections, where European voters will have the opportunity to voice their opinions on migration.

“We hope that in the European Parliament to be elected in 2019 the anti-immigration forces become strong enough to oppose the pro-immigration forces, or even achieve a majority, but that at least there will be a major shift in favour of the anti-immigration camp”, he said.

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In reply to a question, the Minister spoke about the fact that the vote on the Sargentini Report went according to regulations, but the determination of the result was unlawful. With relation to possible action on the part of the Government, he told reporters that they could ask the Court to determine that the vote was invalid, and this is one of the possible alternatives, and the most likely.

In reply to a question concerning the fact that left-wing parties will be organising a protest on Sunday because of the adoption of the Report, Mr. Gulyás said that the right of assembly is guaranteed for everyone, in contrast to the years in which these parties were in power.

In reply to a question on whether Fidesz will continue to support the EB President ambitions of People’s Party group leader Manfred Weber, the Minister said that no official decision on support had been made as yet, but of course it will be impossible to pretend that Manfred Weber did not vote in favour of a report that he himself knew was false in the interests of his own personal ambitions and in opposition to his own party.

In reply to another question, the Minister said he doubted the Sargentini Report would have any effect outside Europe. With relation to the private meeting of the People’s Party EP group, he stated: Not even our greatest critic disputed the fact that the Report is weak and full of lies.

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Mr. Gulyás was also asked with relation to the fact that according to German Chancellor Angela Merkel the protection of the EU’s external borders must be reinforced in the spirit of the fight against illegal immigration, and that to this end countries that lie along the external border must transfer some of their national competencies to the European Union’s border and coast guard agency Frontex. The Minister said the Government does not agree with the proposal in its current form and believes that the Schengen regulations should be fully adhered to instead.

If a country is incapable of protecting the Schengen Area and the EU’s external border, then either the countries that are a party to the treaty must rush to its aid and help protect its border, or if it refuses to allow them to do so then the country’s membership should be suspended, he said.

With relation to the UN report criticising 38 countries, including Hungary, for their treatment of NGOs, Mr. Gulyás said he is often asked to condemn listings, and this is what he will do now. In his opinion the UN found this method of getting revenge on Hungary. There are over 70 thousand NGOs operating in Hungary, and with relation to both everyday practice and legislation there is absolutely nothing that restricts their operations. What we are seeing with relation to the Sargentini Report and this UN report is that false and unfounded human rights accusations are being used for political purposes.

Village road fund to be established

The Cabinet has voted to establish a village road fun aimed at improving the condition of minor roads in future, Mr. Gulyás said.

150 billion forints (EUR 460 million) from the general budget reserve will be earmarked for the Hungarian Village Programme, of which 50 billion (EUR 154 million) will be spent on minor roads. In addition, the Government is expecting to receive 35-36 billion forints in additional revenues from motorway stickers and the increase in motorway prices, meaning that a total of 80-90 billion forints will be available for this purpose.

In reply to a question, Mr. Gulyás said the goal of the Hungarian Village Programme was to increase the population retention capacity of settlements with under five thousand inhabitants, in the interests of which the Government is planning to improve living conditions and introduce a “village home creation” scheme, amongst others.

Mr. Gulyás also told reporters that the Cabinet had reviewed the economic growth figures, and that it is already clear that economic growth for this year will exceed 3.5 percent, meaning pensioners will also be receiving a pension premium in 2018.

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Government to initiate National Consultation on the demographics situation

The Minister indicated that today’s Cabinet meeting had also discussed the demographics situation. Hungary spends the highest ratio of its GDP, 5 percent, on family support schemes in the whole of Europe, thanks to which the fertility rate has increased from 1.23 to 1.5, meaning that on average 200 Hungarians are having 150 children, he explained. This is still a long way below the natural reproduction rate, which is the Government’s goal, and accordingly the introduction of further measures can be expected during the upcoming months, which will be helping to promote childbearing from January and throughout the Government’s whole term in office, the Minister indicated.

The Government is also initiating a National Consultation on the demographics situation, because it would like the country’s citizens to also voice their opinions on possible courses of action, he told the press, adding that in his view the National Consultation should begin in October.

Corvinus scholarship programme to be launched

The Minister also announced that from 1 July next year a foundation established by the state will be maintaining the Corvinus University of Budapest, which will continue to operate as a public higher education institution.

The Innovation Ministry will be responsible for drawing up the change in maintainer model, and accordingly maintainer rights will also be transferred to the Ministry for this period, he told reporters. He indicated that the Government will be placing major assets at the foundation’s disposal, which can only be spent on the maintenance, operation and development of the institution. The aim of the decision is for the university to be among the world’s top 200 universities by enabling it to enjoying greater freedom and applying significant financial resources. A further goal is for the training provided by the University, which is already of extremely high quality, to be performed at an even higher level in the long term so the institution can offer diplomas that are competitive in Europe.

A Corvinus scholarship programme will be launched that will provide funding to talented and/or disadvantaged students under the same conditions as state-financed university places, the Minister highlighted.

In reply to a question, Mr. Gulyás said the university will be given two significant stock portfolios, but did not disclose their value, explaining only that the yield from the stocks will be enough to cover the institution’s maintenance. With relation to the Corvinus scholarship, he said it would guarantee that the current ratio of paying to non-paying students would not shift in an unfavourable manner.

In reply to a question concerning the fact that the Civil Solidarity Forum (CÖF) used some of the funding it received from the state-owned Hungarian Electric Company (MVM) to organise a pro-government rally in Brussels, Mr. Gulyás said the MVM sponsors many NGOs, and these organisations must use these monies lawfully. I personally would not spend such funding for political purposes, he added.