Prime Minister Viktor Orbán (l) - Photo: PMO

Orbán: ‘Brussels proposing we ruin families, pensioners’

Brussels is calling for austerity and proposing that Hungary "ruin its economy, people, families and pensioners", Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said on Friday. He said Brussels did not want Hungary to take banks' and corporations' extra profits away, and wanted pensioners and families to have to pay full energy prices.

“They’re asking for something that we’ve been fighting against for over 13 years,” the prime minister said, underlining that the government was “fighting this fight with the support of an overwhelming majority of Hungarians”. Support for the government on this issue “greatly transcends political affiliations”, he said.

Even a left-wing pensioner agrees that they do not want to pay 180,000 forints (EUR 485) more a month, but that is what would happen if Hungary did what Brussels wanted, Orbán said.

Hungary must stand up for its own interests, the prime minister said. The country should accept the proposals that are good but reject everything that points towards austerity and make it clear that the drafting of the budget is a national competency, he added.

When it comes to the budget, Hungary’s only two obligations to the EU concern the budget deficit and the public debt, the prime minister said. The 2024 budget targets a public debt below 70 percent of GDP and a falling deficit, he said, adding that fiscal discipline was vital in times of war.

“If there were no war, next year’s budget would be a much happier one,” Orbán said, adding, however, that “we will protect all that is important for us in 2024 even despite the war”.

He said it was “the energy of war” that had caused inflation to rise, arguing that the war had driven up energy prices worldwide.

He noted the government’s commitment to push inflation into the single digits by the end of the year “no matter what”, adding that it expected an average inflation rate of 6 percent next year.

The prime minister said the government would not be able to promote economic growth unless inflation was reduced, expressing hope that inflation was currently below 22 percent.

If there were no war and if the European Union and the West saw reason and admitted “that we’re on the wrong path”, and if there were a ceasefire and peace talks, the economic situation would suddenly improve and inflation would fall to between 1-3 percent at a much faster pace, Orbán said.

He praised Finance Minister Mihaly Varga, saying he had “got everything possible out of the budget”.

Meanwhile, Orbán said that Hungary could “sit back” if it had completed the expansion of the Paks nuclear power plant. But because of the way Brussels has been holding things up at the initiative of the left, the project is behind schedule, he added.

Orbán said the war had entered a “very brutal phase”, adding that “when leftist politicians at home say that we’re at war with Russia, they don’t know what they’re talking about, they’ve lost their minds.”

“The statement ‘we are at war with Russia’ is one that no sane person would make since the second world war,” Orbán said, referring to a recent comment by Budapest’s mayor.

He said the only morally acceptable position was to be pro-peace. “Hungary is not and will not be at war with Russia, certainly not as long as this government is in power, so it’s observing the war more calmly and has a more realistic view of it,” he added.

Orbán said everything possible needed to be done before the start of Ukraine’s counteroffensive to convince the warring sides of the need for a ceasefire and peace talks, because “otherwise we will lose a lot of lives”.

The prime minister also said that the time was close when “Europe accepts Hungary’s pro-peace position”.

He said Western leaders had “led themselves to believe that the war in Ukraine could be won through the Ukrainians fighting and the West supplying money and weapons to such an extent that it will be very difficult to come off that war path”.

“But this is not our business; we are on the correct path morally and politically,” Orbán said, adding that “in many Western states people will sooner or later enforce peace through elections and replace governments promoting war”.

The majority of Europeans do not support war, Orbán insisted, adding that “they may support Ukraine morally, since Ukraine has been attacked and Russia is the aggressor, and they want justice … but they are divided over the question of what should be done and what can be undertaken”.

“With a few exceptions everybody is against us in the European Union … they have flown at our throat,” Orbán said, adding that “it is difficult to maintain a pro-peace stance in such a circle”.

He said it was obvious that “no better results could be achieved on the frontline than what Ukraine could have achieved before the war, through negotiations”. Decision makers “are now approaching the question what purpose the war has had at all”, he added.

Answering a question on endeavours to isolate Hungary, Orbán said “if you are Hungarian you must stand your ground” because “whenever we did not fight for our position we always lost, losing our self-esteem, our confidence and feeling ashamed”. “But now we have a national government and it will not happen … there will always be left-wing hassle, such as the dispute around Hungary’s EU presidency … but Hungary, wherever it can, must have a loyal cooperation with the other European countries, finding a balance between cooperation and national interests,” he said.

On another subject, Orbán said he had received the reelection of Recep Tayyip Erdogan as Turkiye’s president with “great relief”. He said he had “not only kept fingers crossed but prayed a lot” for his election victory. “It would have been tragedy had he not won,” he said, insisting that if Erdogan’s opponent had won, “one, two, or three million refugees … would have appeared at the Hungarian border before the end of this summer.”

Orbán also said Hungary received its Russian gas supplies through Turkiye, and that country having a “pro-American leader or one supported by George Soros” would make it “strongly doubtful if the gas could reach Hungary or Serbia”.

Erdogan’s losing the election would have “given Turkiye a pro-war president”, the prime minister said, adding that “the ramifications would be unforeseeable”. Erdogan has a chance to mediate between Ukraine and Russia, as he earlier mediated over Ukraine’s grain exports, Orbán said.

According to the prime minister, Hungary “must always watch Berlin, Moscow, and Ankara … Hungary is in that triangle and it is in that triangle where the life of Hungarians must be managed.” He said “constellations are not equally good in those three relations but all three are stable, balanced, and could bring benefits to Hungary”. He added, however, that currently relations with Germany were “the most critical”.

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