Prime minister Viktor Orbán – Photo: PMO

Fourth wave inevitable, PM says

Orbán: Hungary must maintain utility price cuts

Hungary must defend the achievements of its public utility cost reduction scheme, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said on Friday. In a regular interview with public broadcaster Kossuth Radio, the prime minister said Brussels wanted to raise electricity and fuel prices on the grounds of fighting climate change.

Brussels wants to introduce “a complex system” to tax families with cars and homes but the Visegrad Group countries are resisting such a step and will not approve at next week’s European Union summit any decision that would raise electricity and gas prices, he said.

Orbán said that though it was important to fight climate change, its costs should be borne by the world’s top emitting companies rather than households.

This, he said, required an energy price regulatory framework and the elimination of speculative elements, and warned that “when we allow money into areas where it has no place . there will always be a problem.”

Orbán said households in Vienna and Berlin today were paying two to three times more for electricity and gas than in Budapest, adding that gas prices were eight times as high in Sweden as in Hungary.

The prime minister noted that the “years-long fight” to cut utility prices was one of his government’s first battles with Brussels. If utility prices in Hungary were set by the market, an average Hungarian family would be paying 380,000-400,000 forints (EUR 1,060-1,110) more in utility costs annually, he added.

Orbán said the previous Socialist-liberal governments had given multinational energy companies permission to raise prices about 15 times, adding that the leftist opposition in parliament “is again demanding that the government introduce market prices for gas and electricity”.

On another subject, Orbán said a fourth wave of the coronavirus pandemic in Hungary was inevitable and urged the public to get vaccinated.

“The booster shot is akin to a life insurance policy,” the prime minister said, adding that he will receive his third dose over the weekend.

“The fourth wave of the pandemic will soon have Hungary surrounded, certainly from the east,” Orbán said, noting that while 59 percent of Hungarians were vaccinated against Covid, Romania’s vaccination rate was just 29 percent and the situation there was “alarming”. He added that Hungary has decided to take 50 coronavirus patients from Romania into its two hospitals near the border.

He urged the public to consider wearing face masks again, adding, however that it alone did not guarantee protection against infection. Orbán said the vaccines worked, as less than one percent of those inoculated were falling ill with Covid. He urged people to get vaccinated, warning that the Delta variant of the virus was far more aggressive than the previous variants.

Over the summer Hungary made the necessary preparations to manage a serious wave of the pandemic in the autumn without bringing back lockdowns, the prime minister said, adding that the country had enough vaccines, hospital beds, ventilators, medicine, nurses and doctors to tackle the coming wave. He noted, however, that the fourth wave was not yet as strong in Hungary as in many other countries.

Hungary has a good chance to develop its own coronavirus vaccine in its own vaccine plant, Orbán said. But because this is not yet certain, Hungary must make sure that it orders enough vaccines developed elsewhere while making the necessary preparations to produce its own jabs, he said in connection with the recent announcement that Hungary’s national vaccine plant could receive the technology from Russia to produce the Sputnik coronavirus vaccine as early as this year.

Concerning the issue of migration, Orbán said western European countries had “given up hope that their own women and men” could solve their countries’ demographic woes. “They’ve said that if they aren’t bearing enough German, Belgian or French children, they need to be substituted,” Orbán explained. “They say a German child can be substituted with an African or an Asian one.” Orbán said this kind of attitude was “shocking” to Hungarians. Hungary, on the other hand, is fighting to clear the obstacles that have led to the decline in the birth rate, he said.

Orbán said the West’s intention of “forcing their migration policies onto Hungary” could be chalked up to “Western arrogance”.

“The West isn’t happy just being successful, they also insist that they are correct,” the prime minister said. “It’s not enough for them that they’re free and get to live how they want and enact decisions their peoples want; they also want everyone else to acknowledge that their decision is the only right one and to adopt it. So they want to tell us how to live.”

Orbán said that though Germany was a friend of Hungary, when it came to the issue of migration it wanted to put in place a “German Europe where they get to say what Europe should be like”.

But Hungary is resisting this, the prime minister said, noting that 12 countries had written a joint letter on steps Europe should take to protect its external borders instead of introducing mandatory migrant resettlement quotas, he said.

“The borders can’t be protected with flower bouquets, teddy bears and welcoming committees,” Orbán said. “Migrants who storm the border and try to breach the border fence must be stopped.”

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