Prime Minister Viktor Orbán - Photo: PMO

Orbán: Putting Hungary economy back on growth path in 2024 ‘realistic’ goal

Putting the Hungarian economy back on a growth path is a "realistic goal", Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said in an interview to commercial television TV2 on Wednesday. In his interview, Orbán also said European aid for Ukraine should come from outside the common budget or else members, including Hungary, would "suffer drawbacks".

The prime minister said he “could not exclude” inflation falling to around 7 percent by the end of December. While the government planned next year’s budget with inflation at 6 percent, “it now seems more likely that inflation will be lower, even as low as 5 percent,” he added. “My feeling is that we are on a good path,” Orbán said.

“In 2023 we were fighting that the situation should not be worse, next year we will work to make it better,” he said.

“From this aspect 2024 looks like a much more hopeful year than 2023 was,” he added.

Speaking about Ukraine, Orbán said he did not support that country’s EU accession. He said it was unprecedented for the EU to start integration talks with a country at war, adding that questions about the size of the country would be raised and “if those parts of Ukraine should also be integrated that Russia has occupied”. As Ukraine is a large country, the ramifications of its integration should be assessed “with the precision of an engineer”.

Orbán said farmers in central Europe were already in trouble and “agriculture could be destroyed through Ukraine’s integration”. Hungarian, Polish, and Slovak hauliers also have a problem because “Ukraine has been granted permission to enter the EU market”.

The EU has not provided an “objective analysis” of the possible impacts of Ukraine’s accession, Orbán said, adding that some estimates put “the extra amount the EU should somehow raise” between 150-190 billion euros “if it really wanted to integrate Ukraine”. All countries that have received assistance from the EU would “no longer be in the circle of assisted countries and all the money that has so far come to central Europe would go on to Ukraine, including agricultural subsidies,” he said.

Providing EU financial support to Ukraine is a “complicated and difficult question because we don’t know yet where 50 billion euros for the purpose will come from,” Orbán said. “Should it come from the common budget, as currently planned, the budgets for other countries will miss that sum,” he said, adding that it meant that “we would also give Hungarians’ money to Ukraine”.

Hungary will not consent to those plans, Orbán said, and called for further talks on “how much, for how long, from what sources and through what methodology should be given to Ukraine.” Financial aid to Ukraine “must be ensured outside the EU budget or else members, including Hungary, will suffer a drawback,” he said.

Answering a question about next February’s EU summit, Orbán said he expected “thunder and lightning”. The Hungarian government aims to “ease a great part of the tension” at preparatory talks to create a situation in Brussels in which “decision should be made about a solution acceptable for everybody”.

Concerning Hungary’s staying away from a European Council vote on starting accession talks with Ukraine, Orbán said it had had to be avoided that the 26 other members “should force their will upon Hungary”. “It was difficult to stay out of all this and to stay alive at the same time,” he said. He said the vote should have been preceded by “more deliberation, calculations, and talks between ourselves before embarking on this adventure”.

“It is important to know what Europeans and Hungarians think about Ukraine’s EU accession,” the prime minister said.

“People in Europe live in democracies after all, that is why the Hungarian government has put Ukraine’s accession in the focus of the National Consultation public survey,” he said, adding that “apart from Hungary no other country wants to, is able to, or dares to ask the opinion of their citizens”.

Concerning the war in Ukraine, he said it was “not a war of the whole world, it is an internal issue between Slavs, which they have to settle between themselves.” He said the conflict must be prevented from “escalating into a war engulfing the whole world,” and urged a ceasefire and peace talks.

Asked about the “behaviour” of left wing Hungarian politicians in Brussels, Orbán said that even on national matters such as teachers’ wages or student grants they “always speak against the Hungarian government”.

Answering a question about the recently adopted sovereignty protection act, Orbán said it had been prompted by the transfer of foreign funds to the Hungarian opposition before the 2022 general elections.

“The law has been designed to make sure that Hungarians can decide for themselves what should happen in their country” and to prevent foreign influence.

Asked what Hungary can be most proud of in 2023, the prime minister noted the Nobel Prizes received by Hungarian scientists Katalin Kariko and Ferenc Krausz.

In a year-end message “to every Hungarian”, Orbán called for endurance and commitment for a good cause which he said “things will turn out well in the end”.

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