Gergely Gulyas – Photo: MTI

Registry of paedophile offenders expected to be ready within a few weeks

Gulyas: Hungary committed to child protection

Hungary is committed to child protection and will resist the push by Brussels to get the country to allow LGBTQ activists into Hungarian kindergartens and schools, the prime minister's chief of staff told a regular press briefing on Wednesday.

Commenting on Wednesday’s European Parliament plenary debate on Hungary’s new child protection law, Gergely Gulyas said Hungary remained committed to European Union law, the Hungarian constitution and child protection.

The government is open to an objective debate in the matter but rejects the EP’s decision to put a politician “who has been sentenced in a binding ruling for gay revenge porn offences” in charge of the case, he said, referring to reports that Maltese MEP Cyrus Engerer, who has been tasked with drafting a resolution on the law, was found guilty in 2014 of circulating pornographic recordings of his former partner online without his consent.

Putting the MEP in question in charge of the resolution on the law “highlights the civilisational gap between the EP’s left-wing majority and the Hungarian government”, Gulyas said.

He called child protection “the most important cause”, adding that besides the Hungarian constitution, the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights also declares that raising children is the duty of the parents.

“Brussels can’t tell people how they should raise their children,” Gulyas said.

The Hungarian government’s arguments concerning the law are “obvious and clear” and in line with EU law and the Hungarian constitution, “but they’re not in line with the appalling, baseless and deceitful attacks” launched by the EP, Gulyas said.

“Hate speech is forbidden even against Hungary, and it’s all the more damaging that certain Hungarian MEPs are engaging in it too,” he said. Having certain “European bureaucrats” use EU law for “everyday political battles” is also harmful to the future of the bloc, he added.

Gulyas said a government decree on child protection issued on Tuesday had already reflected on Wednesday’s EP debate.

On another subject, Gulyas said the government has been in talks with Brussels on the EU’s post-pandemic recovery fund for months, dismissing reports that said otherwise as “fake news”. He added, however, that the European Commission had recently formulated “absurd demands” concerning matters that were already settled. “But reports that Brussels has rejected Hungary’s plan or that talks have been halted are fake news,” he added. The talks are going well, he said, and expressed hope that Hungary’s recovery plan will be approved.

Meanwhile, Gulyas said that under a new government programme, general practitioners will visit Hungarians over 60 years of age in their homes to convince them to accept the coronavirus vaccine. Those registering for the vaccine now can receive the first jab within two days, he said.

The pandemic is not over yet, Gulyas warned. Experts expect a fourth wave, dangerous mostly to those who have not received the vaccine, he said.

The six vaccines in use today in Hungary all provide protection against all known mutations of the virus, he said.

Gulyas noted that the Delta variant of the virus could spread six or seven times as fast as the original virus.

He said Hungary was one of Europe’s safest countries in terms of the status of the epidemic. So far, more than half a million people have applied for the EU’s Digital Green Certificate, he said, urging travellers to look up their destination country’s Covid regulations.

Gulyas said most countries accepted the vaccines approved by the World Health Organization, including China’s Sinopharm jab.

As regards Hungary’s coronavirus stats, he said those who have died from the infection in recent days had not been inoculated.

On another subject, he said the government is tying the exports of certain construction materials to registration to curb rising prices. Making such exports conditional on government permission is tied to EU procedures and so can only come into force on October 1, Gulyas said. Introducing a registry of exports, however, is under the government’s purview and can be implemented immediately, he said.

The measure will concern the exports of steel and iron products, insulation materials, sand, stone, pebbles and gravel, he said.

Hungary is also imposing an excess profits tax on mining, to be paid in case certain materials such as stone, plaster, chalk, pebbles, sand and clay are sold above a government-specified price. The same will apply to the production of cement, lime and plaster, Gergely Gulyas said. The tax will only be imposed on companies whose annual revenue exceeds 3 billion forints (EUR 8.5m), and will come to 90 percent of the difference between the government-specified price and the asking price, he said.

The government is also expanding the competencies of the competition authority, to examine the possibility of replacing materials hit by rising prices, he said.

Turning to recent employment data, Gulyas said there were 4,607,000 people employed in Hungary today, 55,000 more than at this point last year. Employment is also up 47,000 from April, he added. The government expects the situation to continue to improve during the summer and that the economy will add even more jobs than what was destroyed by the virus, he said.

The current state of Hungary’s economic growth raises hopes of growth unseen since the fall of communism in 1990, Gulyas said. If GDP growth reaches 5.5 percent this year, families raising children will have their personal income tax refunded, he noted.

However, such a growth is still facing hurdles such as the rise of construction material prices or a fourth wave of the pandemic, he said.

Commenting on opposition politicians’ call on the European Parliament to withhold Hungary’s EU funding until its controversial law against paedophilia, which the EU says is discriminating against LGBTQ people, is amended, Gulyas said such a step was “impossible if the rule of law still has any weight in the EU”.

EU funding can be withheld only if their usage  proves irregular, he said. Last year, the Hungarian government had successfully achieved an agreement precisely to avoid such a step based on politically motivated accusations which are not connected to the EU budget, he said.

“Blackmail is not a tool the European Commission would stoop to use,” Gulyas said, referring to proposals to tie Hungary’s recovery funding to an amendment of the contested law. Differences can be resolved “by the usual legal route”, and Hungary has always complied with EU rulings, he said.

Regarding the statements of Vera Jourova, the European Commission’s vice-president in charge of transparency and values, who had said the Hungarian law discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation and went against the EU’s fundamental values, Gulyas said the Hungarian government considered the commissioner “persona non grata”, and “not the person the issue should be discussed with”.

Gulyas noted that Prime Minister Viktor Orbán had not taken part in the EP debate because “this was an inconsequential debate was about a law where the EP resolution has no weight whatsoever. The [Hungarian] government meeting was more meaningful and more important.”

“Orbán was the politician to do most against homophobia in Europe when he closed Hungary’s southern border against migrants,” he said.

Hungary rejects the whole debate which is trying to address the law as one harming basic human rights rather than as a child protection measure, Gulyas said.

“We are not advising anyone above 18 on how to live their lives. The Hungarian Constitution ensures human dignity to everyone … regardless of how they live. Child protection is a wholly unconnected issue, where the Constitution imposes a duty on the state to protect its institutions, and clearly states that raising their children is primarily a right of the parents,” he said.

A registry of paedophile offenders is expected to be ready within a few weeks, Gulyas said.

While children’s sex education is the duty of the parents, teenagers will not be hindered in exercising their right to free speech and ask questions about homosexuality of their teachers, he said.

Gulyas insisted “there was no need” for transgender people to talk in kindergartens and schools about changing their gender.

Regarding the coronavirus epidemic and the Budapest municipality’s purchase of 19,000 rapid antigen tests, Gulyas said the tests were not reliable enough to verify full immunity.

All vaccines authorised in Hungary are safe, he added. Most Hungarians have been inoculated with the WHO-approved Sinopharm vaccine, Gulyas said.

Asked to advise Hungarians who have not developed a sufficient level of antibodies, Gulyas said they should “not consider left-wing journalists virology experts”. “Anyone who has received two jabs can be sure they are safe,” he said.

All vaccines are monitored constantly, he said. Whether recipients will need a booster shot will be decided by experts and manufacturers, and the government will comply with their opinion, he said.

As regards available stocks of vaccines, Gulyas said Hungary had stocked most of the Pfizer vaccine, followed by Sinopharm, both with long expiry dates.

In addition, Hungary has 50,000 doses of Sputnik V jabs, and several hundred thousand doses of the Moderna and Janssen vaccines, he said.

Asked about a potential Hungarian-Ukrainian summit, Gulyas said Hungary was ready for talks. “Hungary has been one of the staunchest supporters of Ukraine’s NATO integration,” Gulyas said. However, Ukraine adopted a language law that disregards the rights of European minorities, Gulyas said. “This law is unacceptable, and the Hungarian government will uphold its veto against Ukraine’s integration it is amended,” Gulyas said.

On another topic, Gulyas called it a “sign of double standards” that “there were no articles” in Hungarian media on Budapest Mayor Gergely Karacsony’s decision to postpone the next meeting of the city’s General Assembly until September. Karacsony had also “decided on all matters that were before the assembly on the last day of his full authority,” he said, referring to the mayor’s power to make decisions without the assembly during the special legal order imposed due to the pandemic. “It would be a very different situation if this had been [previous mayor] Istvan Tarlos,” he insisted.

Gulyas said the recent laws abolishing gratuity payments in Hungarian health care had yielded “good results”. Five police reports have been filed, and “another few investigations are under way”, he said.

The new system ensures higher wages for doctors while the health-care system becomes “truly free of charge for patients, which was not the case when gratuity payments were pervasive in the case of major operations”, he said.

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