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Gulyas: Government does not support EU budget amendment proposal

Hungary continues to condemn the attack on Israel in the strongest possible terms, the head of the Prime Minister's Office told a press conference on Wednesday. Gergely Gulyas also noted that Hungary's government does not support an amendment proposal to the European Union's budget, and finds it "unacceptable that Brussels is asking for more money".

Hungary’s government recognises Israel’s independence, Gulyas said.

The international community must do everything possible to avoid escalation and prevent an interstate war, he said.

Europe has a vested interest in the region’s countries preserving their freedom and security, he said. Unless Egypt and other countries are helped, “hundreds of thousands or even millions can make their way to Europe”, Gulyas said.

“We expect and request that everyone take the victims into consideration in this situation,” Gulyas said.

Hungary draws a clear line between exercising the freedom of assembly as enshrined in the constitution, and demonstrations in support of terrorism, he said. Hungary has banned all sympathy protests for terrorism, he said.

Illegal migration is behind the “alarming phenomenon of thousands or tens of thousands hailing terrorists.”, Gulyas said.

Altogether 445 Hungarian citizens have been rescued from Israel and brought home so far, he said.

Everything must be done to free the hostages held in the region, he added.

Hungary has done a lot to evacuate Hungarians who were in danger, he said, noting however that 15 Hungarian citizens, four families with ten children, were still stranded in the Gaza Strip. The youngest among the children is only four months old, he said.

All of the Hungarians are fine, Gulyas said, adding that Hungarian diplomats stayed in constant contact with them.

The government will do everything in its power to bring those families home as soon as possible, Gulyas said.

The conflict in Israel and the situation in the Middle East will be on the agenda of the upcoming EU summit, he said.

Hungary’s government does not support an amendment proposal to the European Union’s budget, and finds it “unacceptable that Brussels is asking for more money”, he said.

The implementation of the “migrant pact” is irreconcilable with Hungary’s interests as well as those of the EU, Gulyas said. “We can’t support wage hikes for Brussels bureaucrats either: these bureaucrats have failed to fulfil their most basic obligations towards Hungary,” he said.

The European Commission is trying to finance rising interest rates from resources it currently does not have, Gulyas added.

Meanwhile, the proposal would ensure support to Ukraine over four years, he said. That proposal is “unacceptable” as it would prolong the war rather than support a ceasefire, he said. “We do not think it is good that support for Ukraine should be integrated into the EU budget,” he said.

The government does not expect a consensus on these matters at an upcoming EU summit, he said.

Answering questions, Gulyas said Israel could fully count on the Hungarian state’s support in humanitarian support. He added that Hungary had often prevented the condemnation of Israel at international forums, at times as the only EU member state to veto foreign policy declarations.

Asked about the possible consequences of the conflict in the Middle East Gulyas said that some 2 million people lived in Gaza, half of whom might flee from the region.

In connection with the adoption in parliament earlier in the day of a declaration that condemns the terrorist attack by Hamas on Israel, Gulyas said it was “telling” about opposition Momentum that its lawmakers stayed away from the vote. Those lawmakers have failed to fulfil their duties, he added.

Responding to a question, Gulyas said attempts aimed at paralysing Hungary’s EU presidency in the second half of 2024 had “recently waned”. The EU will benefit a lot from Hungary’s presidency under the incumbent government, Gulyas said and cited the experience of the previous Hungarian presidency under the same government in the first half of 2011. He said that presidency was beyond doubt successful in so that several issues under debate had been closed.

A package of laws on the protection of Hungary’s sovereignty will be discussed by the board of ruling Fidesz on the week starting on November 5, said Gulyas.

In connection with the recent parliamentary election in Poland, Gulyas said the Hungarian government respected its outcome and congratulated in advance to the parties in the country’s next government.

Next month, the government will make a decision on extending the interest rate stop beyond December 31, Gulyas said. Asked about inflation and wage increases, Gulyas said that after a nine-month negative period a turnaround had taken place in September. He flagged “substantial wage increases in the first months of 2024”, adding that the government would also approve to raise the minimum wages if the organisations of employers reach a relevant agreement with the unions.

Asked about the option of reintroducing coronavirus pandemic related restrictions in response to an increase in cases, Gulyas said no heating restrictions were planned in public buildings in the winter season.

Asked about the reason of Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s recent meeting with the Russian president, Gulyas said “Hungary has a clear position on the Russian-Ukrainian war which calls for a ceasefire and peace talks as soon as possible”. Hungary deems Russia’s war in Ukraine unacceptable and sharply condemns it, and sees the territorial integrity of countries of paramount importance, as enshrined in international law, he said. At the same time, Hungary’s energy supplies cannot be ensured without Russia, Gulyas said, noting that the incumbent government had done the most to diversify the country’s energy resources. “We have created energy links with six neighbouring countries, but 90 percent of our gas supply and more than two-thirds of our oil supply still depend on Russia.”

He said there was nothing extraordinary about Viktor Orban’s meeting the Russian president, as the Austrian chancellor, among others, also met Putin. He said EU leaders and Putin were in regular contact since the start of the war in Ukraine.

Commenting on Bulgaria’s decision to significantly raise the transit fee on gas deliveries, Gulyas said the measure went against EU law and violated Hungary’s right to safe energy supplies. “We call on Bulgaria to withdraw the measure as soon as possible. We are looking to find legal solutions.”

Asked about gas prices in Hungary, Gulyas said they would not change until December 31, adding that the government would deal with the issue of reviewing them before that date.

Regarding the ratification of Sweden’s NATO membership, Gulyas said Sweden would need to give an answer to the following: “If we are wrong in saying that Sweden has levelled hurtful accusations at us for years, why did we have to listen to them? But if they think those accusations are true, why would they want to be then in a club with us?”

The situation around the issue has recently deteriorated, Gulyas said. “We want a good relationship with Sweden. If we can achieve that, there will be no obstacles to the accession.”

Regarding his talks with the Chinese head of state, Gulyas said they had concluded “countless” agreements with Chinese banks and companies. “China is of critical importance for Hungary and Europe. Hopefully, some European countries will come to the same realisation, and act upon it. Severing ties with China would be a serious blow to the European economy,” he said.

Commenting on a 50 billion forint loan taken out by the Budapest municipality, Gulyas said the move was “forced and mistaken”. Budapest’s tax revenues had grown substantially in the past years, he insisted. “The incumbent leadership started with a 200 billion forint budget surplus and has managed to bankrupt the city by now. I hope they will continue to fulfil their obligations and [public transport company] BKV will continue to operate,” he said.

He slammed Mayor Gergely Karacsony’s decision to pay some 300 million forints in bonuses to the heads of municipality-owned companies as “a peculiar practice”.

Regarding the possibility of EU membership of Ukraine and Moldova, Gulyas said the EU had no such thing as “an observer status”, and those countries would have to fulfil “clear criteria” of integration. The accession of new states also requires a unanimous vote, and “Hungary is the guarantee that better-prepared states won’t be shunned while others are allowed in,” he said.

In response to question on Hungary’s stance on Romania’s Schengen integration after disagreements on events in a Hungarian military cemetery in Valea Uzului (Uzvolgye) in central Romania, Gulyas said the conflict did not show “neighbourly relations”. At the same time, it had to be taken into account that more than one million Hungarians were currently living outside the Schengen area in Romania, he added.

Regarding Ukraine, Gulyas reiterated the government’s stance that unless the country restored the rights of the Hungarians living there, “we won’t support its integration into any international community.”

On the deployment of Hungarian troops in Chad, Gulyas said Hungary had been called upon to participate in the mission. From spring 2024, a maximum of 200 Hungarian troops will be deployed to serve there, he said.

“We aim to contribute to curbing migration, support the fight against terrorism, and ensure the background for the support brought in by the Hungary Helps programme,” Gulyas said.

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