Prime Minister Viktor Orbán (r) - Photo: PMO

Orbán demands answers on responsibility for EU’s ‘slide to brink of bankruptcy’

The European Council summit this week should find out who was responsible for the European Union having been "pushed to the brink of bankruptcy", and clarify where "the money has gone from the EU budget", Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said on Friday. In an interview to public radio from Brussels, Orbán said that halfway through the 2021-2027 financial cycle, the European Commission "announced that the money was gone and is requesting hundreds of billions more in contributions from member states".

Detailing the EC’s amendment proposal, Orbán noted the body was planning to donate another 50 billion euros to Ukraine, “even though we still don’t know where the first 70 billion went to or why it wasn’t enough.”

Further, the EC is requesting another 18-19 billion to fund growing interest on the reconstruction fund, he said. “These are the loans from which Poland and Hungary have yet to receive a single cent.”

The EC is also working to earmark “a larger sum to facilitate the arrival of migrants to Europe,” Orbán said.

The body is also requesting “a few billion euros to raise their own salaries while asking Hungary to scrap its utility price protection scheme,” he added.

“So Hungarians at home should pay more and we should send more money here, so they can have a larger salary. The whole thing is so absurd that almost all member state leaders should be outraged by it,” he said.

The chance of leaders of EU member states accepting the European Commission’s budget amendment proposals is close to zero, Orbán said, adding that leaders had not turned up to the meeting “to give more money to pay European Union bureaucrats instead of their families and citizens facing a difficult situation at home”.

Without an agreement, he added, “a long battle will begin” and the Commission would come up with yet another proposal. “They’ll try to buy off member states one by one.”

“We Hungarians won’t accept scrapping utility cuts in Hungary, we won’t hand money over to hike the pay of bureaucrats here, and we won’t give more money to Ukraine until the 70 billion we gave last time is accounted for; and acceding to the request to give more money for an interest rate increase on a loan from which we never received the principle amount in the first place would be utterly ridiculous, absurd, and impossible,” the prime minister said.

Regarding the war in Ukraine, Orbán said a ceasefire and peace talks were needed to end the war.

Orbán said there were two schools of thought for assessing the war in Ukraine, with “the big ones” stating that they should continue their current action because their plan would bring success and Russians could be defeated by Ukrainian soldiers, western money and equipment.

Orbán added that he was alone with his contrary opinion. A year and a half has passed and it brought “zero results, or even negative results, because we have not defeated Russia; the Russian leaders are still in their positions and the Russian economy is doing well, thank you”, Orbán said.

At the same time, “we have suffered from high inflation, we have run out of money to support Ukraine and it is obvious that the counterattacks launched by Ukrainians are difficult, and it is questionable whether there is any hope of success,” he said.

“A huge number of people have died and even more will die. The resulting destruction, human suffering and pain is immeasurable, so every means must be used to bring about a ceasefire and peace talks,” Orbán added.

Any financial or political tools should be used to being peace closer, he said. “The EU is yet to do that,” he said.

Orbán said he was afraid that “the EU gave its money to Ukraine for a war that should have never happened.”

European citizens have a good reason to rebel against “the uncontrolled flow of EU monies from the bloc” in times of economic hardship, Orbán said. Meanwhile, the EU is planning to “take out loans and use it for again for the wrong reasons … to drag member states into a long-term debt trap with high interest rates.”

The European Union wants to oblige Hungary to set up “migrant ghettos” and take in up to 10,000 migrants each year, Orbán said.

He added that the government would fight such plans and refuse to carry them out. Hungary and Poland have voted against the proposal while the other countries abstained, which he described as a “soft no”.

He called it “outrageous” that a decision on the migration quota system had been “forced through” the council of EU interior ministers “like a coup”. He noted that in line with an earlier decision, all EU decisions on migration must unanimous.

The prime minister said the Soros network likely stood in the background of the decision. Referring to US financier George Soros having transferred control of his network of NGOs to his son, he said that after the “change of guard” a new generation was now politically more active.

Orbán presented the proposal by Hungary and Poland which involves strict border protection. However, he said the EU did not show any willingness to implement this. Orbán said the reason was that some countries mixed regulations on guest workers with migration, hoping to gain skilled workers. “I always tell them that I have seen those hordes cross through Hungary. Germany’s industry will not receive tireless working hands from among them,” he added.

In other places, there are ideological arguments against the need for country borders. “I tell them: man, your citizens will be blown up. There are terrorist acts,” he added.

A total of 45 migration requests were submitted in Hungary last year, he said. Hungary has made many sacrifices for border protection, having spent some 2 billion euros or around 800 billion forints, he added.

A system proposed by Hungary based on external hotspots could be implemented on a European scale, he said. Accoringly, requests must be submitted from outside the EU and only those can enter whose request has been approved.

Hungary is also helping regions and countries where migrants come from because “instead of bringing trouble to Europe, help should be taken to where the trouble is”, he said, citing support provided to the Sahel region of Africa.

Meanwhile, Orbán said energy prices had increased because of the war and the associated ill-fated sanctions, adding that Hungary had been hit hard because a large part of its energy must be imported.

The government has been working to combat price increases ever since inflation first took hold, he said.

“We must be proactive and help people, making decisions that bring down inflation,” he added.

Measures to bring inflation down to single digits by year-end were now showing results, he said, adding that when he had announced the plans “economists and left-wing politicians laughed about it and said it was impossible”.

The government has not given up on the plan and has been making a series of decisions to push down inflation, he said.

It is now noticeable that measures made push inflation down are paying off and chances are good that wage growth could outstrip inflation by July or August, he said. “By the end of the year, we’ll see … whether this succeeds. This would be a great achievement which no other European country has managed,” he added.

Orbán said that next year he would like to see measures that get the economy growing again and families in an easier situation than they are now.

The government’s economic protection action plan is designed to protect jobs, pensions and the value of family support, he said.

Hungary, he added, was building a labour-based economy and now it was practically impossible to find workers. The protection of jobs is key “because if people work, then there will be a solution to every problem,” he said.

Orbán also said that the value of pensions must be preserved and pensions must be increased in line with inflation. Efforts are being made to preserve the 13th month pension and continually increase it in line with the rate of inflation, he added.

The value of family support must also be preserved, he said, adding that certain adjustments were necessary because “it has turned out that some things worked and some didn’t”.

“Of course this year is tormenting us, but eventually we’ll come out of it stronger than when we got into it,” he added.

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