Gergely Gulyas – Photo: MTI

Gulyas: Interference in education, family life attack on national sovereignty

The European Union is withholding payments to Hungary because of cultural and social issues, the head of the Prime Minister's Office told the Preussische Allgemeine Zeitung, adding that "interference with the lives of families and the education system is an attack on out national sovereignty."

In an interview published on Thursday in the German daily, Gergely Gulyas said while the EU cited concerns on corruption in withholding the funding, “in reality, the issue is… what should be taught in schools regarding families and gender. [But] education and the curriculum are in the hands of member states,” he said.

While Hungary is urging the payments, EU resources only amounts 1.4 percent of the country’s GDP, he said. “The EU is important for us … because on our own, all of us are too small in the global economic competition.”

“There’s a debate on the kind of Europe we would like, be it on migration, the EU’s seven-year budget, the European Commission’s thirst for power and a drive to curb member states’ rights. Attempts to centralise the bloc have led to the voice of smaller member states being heard even less than earlier,” he said.

Meanwhile, dialogue with the EU is improving, he said. Last December saw a “compromise” on rule-of-law issues brought up against Hungary, which resulted in the partial release of the monies Hungary is entitled to, he said. The German government played an important role in that process, he added.

Speaking about the war in Ukraine and Hungary’s ties to Russia, Gulyas noted that the country bought 85 percent of its natural gas and 65 percent of crude oil from Russia. As a landlocked country, it has no maritime way to import resources, he said.

At the same time, accusations that Hungary was “on [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s side are patently untrue”, he said. Hungary bought back Russia’s share in oil and gas company Mol in 2010 to curb Russian influence in the country, he said.

Regarding the ties between Hungary and Germany, Gulyas said that cooperation was key for both countries as well as for Europe. “I hope we will be able to conduct constructive dialogue and good cooperation with the majority of the members of the German government,” he said.

On improving Hungary’s international image, Gulyas said “we know how little influence we have in Europe, especially in the media where our country is seldom reported on objectively.” At the same time, “Hungarians’ performance is appreciated in tourism, music, sports, in culture and gastronomy,” he added.

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