Photo: Wikipedia

Orbán: Ukraine EU integration ‘untimely’

Ukraine's integration into the European Union "is extremely untimely", Prime Minister Viktor Orbán told the French weekly Le Point in an interview published on Friday. Orbán said accession was not being prepared adequately, and its structure did not ensure "it will bring in more than it costs", Orbán said in a wide-ranging interview covering migration, NATO's role, a joint European defence system and the EP elections.

Ukraine “is one of the most corrupt countries in the world and it is not ready for EU accession,” he said.

Hungary, as Ukraine’s neighbour, “knows exactly what’s going on there, no matter what they think in Paris, Brussels or the Hague,” Orbán said.

He rejected the charge that Hungary was vetoing EU initiatives. “Let’s just say we don’t consent to them.”

Ukraine’s EU membership would burden the other member states, which would have to pay more contributions, he said. France, he added, would have to contribute 3.5 billion euros more every year than they had done so far.

Folding in Ukrainian agriculture into the EU system would “ruin” the sector in other countries, he warned.

Orbán proposed establishing a strategic partnership with Ukraine, saying this would open possibilities to signing agreements on agriculture, tariffs and security.

“I agree with elevating cooperation, but not with membership,” he said.

Regarding the Hungarian minority in Europe, Orbán said minority rights were not up for negotiation. Ukraine must respect those rights, regardless of their accession plans, he said.

Also, the matter did not depend on whether the EU would pay the 10 billion euros it has been withholding from Hungary, Orbán said. “Technical issues such as finances must not be mixed up with historic challenges.”

He said more than two-thirds of Hungarians were opposed to starting accession talks with Ukraine – as was the country’s parliament.

Orbán noted he had never supported sanctions against Russia, “as it would be hard to find an example in European history when sanctions worked.”

He insisted Europeans had been “betrayed” on the issue of badly phrased, badly implemented” sanctions.

“How do you explain that although Russia is under sanctions, the US has doubled its purchases of nuclear fuels? When we talk about sanctions, others – especially the US – circumvent them and conclude successful business deals.”

Asked about his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Orbán said: “Russia is a different country in terms of its history, politics and geography . It can’t be compared with Europe . where freedom is one of the fundamental values.”

He said preserving unity, rather than freedom, was the key issue. “We can’t expect Russia to be like Europe,” he said.

“The question is whether our differences stop us from cooperating,” he said, adding that such logic would make cooperation impossible “with two-thirds of the planet”. “Russia is here and it’s strong,” he said.

Orbán said that as he grew up in a communist country he had experienced a “dichotomy” that put the West on the one side and the Soviet Union on the other. He said he wanted to avoid a resurgence of an approach of “us against the world”.

Concerning migration, the prime minister said: “Hungarians may not necessarily follow the examples of other countries such as France. We cannot be fully assured that mixing cultures will be any better than our traditional society,” he said.

Put to him that he could help the Italian government handle illegal migration, Orbán said he was “trying to be as helpful as possible” but the European Union’s new migration pact “simply went in the wrong direction”.

He said he was experienced on the issue of migration and was “proud” that “no migrants are in Hungary”. “Every now and then some will manage to get into the country, but sooner or later they are pushed back,” he said.

He said the Hungarian government was working to ensure that nobody could enter without a Hungarian permit, and this practice “should be copied by every European state”.

Asylum seekers are required to stay outside Hungary and wait for the Hungarian authorities to assess their request, he noted. “This is the only good formula for handling illegal migration.” He warned that if illegal migrants entered Europe before being granted legal entry, “they may never be sent back”.

Asked what he would do if Giorgia Meloni, the Italian prime minister, asked Hungary for a plane to take illegal migrants back to Africa, Orbán said: “I have made that proposition at least a hundred times.”

Concerning the EU’s migration policy, Orbán said if the European Commission declared a migration emergency, Hungary would be required to accommodate migrants or pay a fine. “I am willing to pay if the EU takes over at least 30 percent of our border control costs . we have spent over 2 billion euros,” he said.

Meanwhile, Orbán said several countries in Europe had a “democracy deficit”, with “people considering politics as something for the elite and . turning to movements outside the elite”. He said Europe was dominated by “two kinds of dynamics: one is centrist and the other focused on national sovereignty . when they are balanced the EU works well.” He added, however, that the equilibrium had been upended by Brexit and “London’s secession has weakened central Europe”, resulting in “a strengthening of sometimes extremist elements advocating national sovereignty”.

Concerning the rule of law, Orbán said the EU Treaties did not include a definition. “Rather than the states jointly coming up with a definition, the rule of law has become a weapon in the hands of those working to build a more centralised EU,” he said.

He noted that the EU had launched a rule-of-law mechanism against Hungary when ruling Fidesz quit the European People’s Party. “We are innocent but also vulnerable,” Orbán said, adding that the rule of law “should be taken more seriously and not used as a political weapon”.

Hungary’s constitution honours the separation of the branches of government as well as religious freedoms, Orbán noted.

On another subject, Orbán said his Fidesz party was in consultations with Meloni’s European Conservatives and Reformers group, and “Budapest would be glad to join either before or after next summer’s EP elections.”

He said the Identity and Democracy group of parties was also “close to Fidesz” and regretted that the two groups had not yet negotiated a cooperation deal. “Unless the non-traditional right-wing parties are willing to cooperate, we will never have a majority,” Orbán said.

He said the EP elections could bring about a turnaround because “the liberal elite, the Brussels bureaucrats, no longer represent the EU’s fundamental goals”. While the EU had been “a pledge of peace and welfare”, currently “there is no peace and life has not improved”. “The time has come for parties outside mainstream politics, the non-traditional right-wing parties, to take the reins and restore peace and security.” the prime minister said.

Finance Minister Mihaly Varga – Photo: MTI

Finance Minister: Ecofin approves release of EU funds to Hungary

European Union finance ministers have approved Hungary's amended Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) plan, clearing another obstacle to the release of funds Hungary is entitled to, the finance minister said in Brussels on Friday.

Mihaly Varga told Hungarian journalists after an Ecofin meeting that this meant Hungary will get 3.9 billion euros of RRF loans and 0.7 billion euros of REPowerEU grants on top of a 5.8 billion euro grant.

Ecofin’s approval means that Hungary could receive an advance of 920 million euros in funding as early as January, Varga said.

He noted that the government had decided to allocate the RRF loans towards green transition investments, which 67.1 percent of the programme would be geared towards.

The minister expressed hope that Hungary will soon also gain access to the cohesion and recovery funds, saying the country had met every condition.

Meanwhile, Varga said the Spanish presidency of the Council of the EU could not reach a compromise on the reform of the bloc’s economic governance. Hungary has always held the stance that it is national governments, and not the European Commission, who should be given more authority when it comes to fiscal policy.

He noted that Hungary had earlier proposed that a special set of regulations should be established for defence spending according to which extra spending on defence would not count towards the Maastricht deficit criteria. This, he added, had been incorporated into the planned economic governance reform package, demonstrating the government’s strong ability to enforce its interests.

Photo: MTI

Karacsony: City leadership insists on 2019 investment plan for Budapest area

Budapest's leadership insists on the 2019 concept for the planned 5 billion euro investment in the Rakosrendezo area of the capital, and a social consultation on the matter will be held next year, Gergely Karacsony, the city's mayor, said on Friday.

Karacsony slammed the government for choosing an investor in an interstate agreement before negotiating on what to implement, and he insisted that the issue enjoyed a broad professional and political consensus.

He said the state was involved in the investment as a financier and owner, but it should also involve the city’s leadership.

The mayor said the zone in question should be compact and green, with 8-10 thousand apartments and 30-40 hectares of public park.

The minister of construction and transport announced on Monday that Hungary’s government was in talks with the world’s top property developers on a 5 billion euro project that would transform the 130 hectare area into a “millennium city centre”. The would elevate Budapest to the ranks of modern global cities, Janos Lazar told a press conference. The initial assessment and depollution work would cost around 20 billion forints (EUR 52.8m), Lazar said, noting that the government had committed to carrying out around 1 billion euros worth of infrastructure investments.

Foreign minister Peter Szijjarto – Photo: Facebook

Szijjarto: Hungary completes its ‘largest ever’ economic development scheme in Africa

The Hungarian government has completed its "largest economic development programme in Africa ever" in Uganda, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said in Kampala on Friday.
8. December 2023 17:18

As part of the programme, Hungary has helped reinforce Uganda’s financial sector against cyberattacks, Szijjarto said.

Speaking at the inauguration of a cybersecurity project, financed from 1.5 billion forints (EUR 3.9m) of tied aid and implemented by a Hungarian company, the minister said it was designed to increase cyber security capacities and reinforce the system of mobile payments there.

He said the programme served to increase Africa’s security, adding that “Europe’s security largely depends on that of Africa”. He added that cyber security was a crucial component of physical security.

“Uganda’s security and stability are in the interest of Europe and Hungary, with special regard to the fact that Uganda accommodates the largest number of refugees in Africa … that country is an important pillar of regional security and stability,” he said, warning that compromising that stability could trigger further waves of migration impacting Europe.

To reduce the pressure of illegal migration “we need to create a situation in which locals are helped to stay in their homeland and aid is delivered at the source of the problem,” he said.

“Uganda can continue to rely on Hungary in terms of preserving its stability and security,” the minister said.

Szijjarto said the increasing significance of the digital space went hand in hand with an increase in the number and size of cyberattacks “not only targeting the devices of private individuals but jobs, power grids, transport, hospitals, and government agencies … with a special focus on the financial and banking sector.”

Minister calls for cooperation to support stability in Africa

The support of European countries is greatly needed to ensure Africa’s stability, Szijjarto said after talks with Ugandan counterpart Jeje Odongo Abubakar in Kampala on Friday. At a joint press conference, Szijjarto said the security of Europe and Africa was interdependent, adding that Hungary was active in participating in such efforts.

Szijjarto said some of Europe’s security challenges “cannot be resolved without Africa”. Countries such as Uganda could “slow down migration and ensure stability in the region”, he said, but those countries needed support.

Uganda has accommodated some 1.5 million refugees, while the Hungarian government has built three schools for the largest refugee camp in the country, helped with modernising Uganda’s public administration system, set up a mobile health centre and refurbished a cardiology hospital, as well as creating a cybersecurity centre to protect Uganda’s financial sector, Szijjarto said. The Hungarian government is also ready to help with services to refugees, improve drinking water supply, and develop Uganda’s agriculture, he added.

Referring to the global impact of the war in Ukraine, Szijjarto said: “It is clear that soaring inflation and worsening food security is having an impact on those who are in no way responsible for the conflict, whether Hungary or Africa”. He said: “The global majority strives for peace … we may be a minority in Europe and in the Transatlantic region, but we belong to that global majority.”

Later on Friday, Szijjarto inaugurated a cardiology hospital’s intensive care unit upgraded with the help of the experts of Hungary’s medical Semmelweis University. The 3 million dollar upgrade has outfitted the hospital with modern equipment that will contribute significantly to saving lives, Szijjarto said.


Finance ministry: Government to curb deficit, debt despite higher expenses

The government is working to ensure budget resources to preserve the value of pensions, maintain family subsidies and the utility price cut scheme, despite the significant pressure due to the war in Ukraine, the energy crisis resulting from sanctions and the high-risk global economic environment, the finance ministry said on Friday.

Hungary’s cash flow-based budget deficit was 4,074.3 billion forints (EUR 10.7bn) at the end of November, the finance ministry said in a first reading of data.

The central budget deficit reached 3,824.9 billion forints at the end of the month and the social security funds were 421.3 billion in the red. Separate state funds had a 171.9 billion surplus.

The general government deficit widened from 3,487.6 billion forints at the end of October.

The full-year deficit target is 3,400.2 billion. The deficit reached 4,753.4 billion forints in 2022.

Between January-November, the costs of the utility price cap scheme came to 1,333.8 billion forints, up from 394.2 billion forints in the same period last year, the statement said.

The budget has also pre-financed European Union schemes, totalling 2,402 billion forints between January and November. Meanwhile, incoming EU funding came only to 1,265.4 billion forints, it said.

In November, the government increased pensions by 3.5 percent to preserve their value. The raise cost the annual budget 188.2 billion forints, raising the total of pensions-related costs in the first 11 months of the year to 5,313.4 billion.

Health-care costs came to 2,189.1 billion in the same period.

Revenues from taxes and contributions have grown by an annual 15.9 percent in the same period.

Total revenues of the central budget were 18 percent higher than in the same period last year, the statement said.

Illustration - Photo: Flickr

Nezopont: Vast majority against Ukrainian GMO imports

Fully 87 percent of respondents to a Nezopont survey say Hungary should not allow genetically modified produce to be imported from Ukraine, the Nezopont Institute said on Friday.

According to the phone survey of 1,000 adults conducted between December 4 and 6, only 5 percent said such Ukrainian imports should be permitted.

Referring to earlier surveys, Nezopont said 62 percent of the Hungarian population opposed Kyiv’s endeavours to join the European Union, adding that their reservations may be rooted in their rejection of agricultural imports from Ukraine.

Nezopont added that respondents who were against Ukrainian imports were “in the majority irrespective of political affiliation”.

Illustration - Photo:

Bradley-Farrell’s book on Hungarian politics presented in New York

A book analysing Hungarian politics by Shea Bradley-Farrell, the head of the Counterpoint Institute, was presented in New York on Thursday.
8. December 2023 8:48

Last Warning to the West is the result of the author’s months-long research in Hungary as a leading researcher of the Centre for Fundamental Rights (Alapjogokert Kozpont).

At the event, the author recommended the Hungarian government’s policies as an antidote to progressive aspirations. She said leftist ideology in the US threatened to undermine people’s freedom. Hungarian history set an example of standing up against conquering forces, she said.

Alapjogokert’s head, Miklos Szantho, said Hungary had been resisting foreign powers wanting to assimilate the country since the times of its first king, St Stephen. While Hungary had always been a conflict zone during clashes between powers, it could become a meeting point of East and West in times of peace, he said. “That is why we reject the logic of the new Cold War and woke brainwashing…” he said.

Illustration - Photo: wikipedia

Consumer price increase continues to slow in November

Consumer prices were 7.9% higher on average in November 2023 than a year earlier. Compared to October, the prices were unchanged on average, however, motor fuels became 3.6% cheaper.

In 12 months, compared to November 2022 a price rise of 7.1% was recorded for food, within which the highest ones for the following: 49.7% for sugar, 19.1% for chocolate and cocoa, 17.9% for non-alcoholic beverages and 17.0% for buffet products. Within the product group, egg prices decreased by 24.4%, the price of flour by 15.8%, that of cheese by 10.4%, butter prices by 9.9% and the price of pasta products by 7.4%.

Electricity, gas and other fuels became 18.1% cheaper, within which 36.2% less had to be paid for natural and manufactured gas and 3.5% less for electricity and 0.8% more for firewood and 1.9% more for butane and propane gas. Motor fuel prices went up by 25.4%.

Services became 12.6% more expensive, within which motorway use, renting a car and parking cost 20.7%, recreational services 15.8%, other public entertainment tickets 14.1% and the repair and maintenance of vehicles 13.8% more and travel to work or school 21.7% less for consumers.

Alcoholic beverages and tobacco prices were up by 10.6%, within which the price of alcoholic beverages by 12.1%. Pet food prices became 24.3%, the price of detergents 15.2%, that of toilet articles 7.7% and dwelling repair and maintenance goods prices 3.3% higher.

Consumers paid 0.4% less for consumer durables, within which the price of second-hand passenger cars was cut by 9.5% and kitchen and other furniture prices increased by 9.4%, the price of heating and cooking appliances by 4.3%, that of living and dining room furniture by 3.7% and new passenger car prices by 3.3%.

In one month, compared to October 2023 consumer prices were unchanged on average. Food became 0.5% more expensive on average, dominantly owing to a 6.6% rise in the price of seasonal food items (potatoes, fresh vegetables and fresh domestic and tropical fruits).

Food prices excluding this group were unchanged on average. Poultry meat cost 2.0%, edible oil 1.9%, butter 1.6% and sugar 0.8% less for consumers.

Motor fuel prices were reduced by 3.6%. Clothing and footwear became 1.2% more expensive. Consumers paid 1.2% less for electricity, gas and other fuels, within which 2.5% less for natural and manufactured gas and 0.6% less for firewood.

Commenting on the data, Marton Nagy, the economic development minister, said the government had fulfilled its commitment to push inflation into single digits by October, two months ahead of year-end as originally expected. Inflation, he said, fell below 8 percent in November, helping families and the economy.

The minister said in a statement that the disinflationary trend indicated the efficacy of the government’s targeted measures.

To further curb price increases, the government is extending mandatory price caps on basic foods until July 1, he said. The price of basic foodstuffs will be further monitored, with the number of monitored goods expected to grow from 62 to 80 to include lactose and gluten free goods, beef and duck, he said.

Meanwhile, other indicators, he said, showed that Hungary’s economy may return to its earlier growth path next year. Economic growth in the third quarter was one of the fastest in Europe, and the purchase value of real wages has also started to grow, he said.

Photo: wikipedia

External trade surplus EUR 1 billion in October

The value of export increased by 1.2%, while that of import was 13% lower in EUR terms in October 2023 than in the same period of the previous year. The balance of the external trade in goods improved by EUR 2.0 billion. Compared to the previous month, the level of export in goods decreased by 0.6%, their import was 1.9% higher.

In October 2023 the value of exports amounted to EUR 12.8 billion (HUF 4,930 billion), that of imports to EUR 11.7 billion (HUF 4,530 billion).

The surplus of the external trade in goods was EUR 1.0 billion (HUF 400 billion).

The share of the EU Member States (EU27_2020) was 77% in exports and 70% in imports.

In October 2023 compared to a year earlier the value of export increased by 1.2%, that of import lessened by 13% in EUR terms.

Photo: wikipedia

Lang: Deputy mayor ‘admits’ city leadership ‘brought Budapest to bankruptcy’

Ruling Fidesz's Budapest leader Zsolt Lang said on Thursday that the deputy mayor of Budapest had admitted that the city's leadership had brought Budapest to bankruptcy.

Lang said on Facebook that in 2019 when Budapest Mayor Gergely Karacsony took over the city from his predecessor Istvan Tarlos, reserves totalled 214 billion forints (EUR 560m).

“By now, the balance of payments shows minus 5.4 billion forints, in other words bankruptcy,” he added. He accused the city leaders of irresponsible management and “squandering the money under their responsibility”.

Earlier on Thursday, Deputy Mayor Ambrus Kiss described the 2024 budget of Budapest as the “budget of restructuring”, and said “finally we are hopefully over with the series of crises”.

Kiss said that the series started with the coronavirus pandemic, then came the energy crisis, followed by the crisis caused by inflation.