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Speaker: Education long-term strategic issue

Teachers need a wage hike, but the situation of teachers and public education must be treated as long-term strategic issues, Speaker of Parliament Laszlo Kover has said, adding that strike action was not the solution. Commenting on protests in secondary schools nationwide, Kover told commercial HirTv late on Monday that teachers could not "put the law aside and launch a movement of civil disobedience -- a concept which does not exist in Hungarian law -- to the detriment of our children."

Teachers’ wages must be raised as they are not proportionate to the work and responsibility they shoulder, Kover said in the interview.

The state of public education, including the wages, is key to the future of children, and requires strategic decisions for the long term, he said. At the same time, “wages are not connected to the quality of education in the short term, as decent-minded teachers do not make their performance dependent on their wages,” he added.

The situation of teachers was among the Fidesz-led government’s first concerns after coming to power in 2010, Kover said. The private and public sectors have since engaged in a spiral of “wage competition” and teachers were left behind, he said. “No one disputes that disparity,” he said, adding that the question now concerned how the government can achieve change “that satisfies everyone” according to which timeframe, he said.

Short-term solutions cannot be expected, and the “government is trying to remedy the anomalies resulting from this degree of wage disparity with stopgap solutions insofar as its means allow,” Kover said.

On another topic, Kover said the shadow cabinet set up by Democratic Coalition MEP Klara Dobrev was a “message to other opposition parties that cooperation was over”. At the same time, “the wife of [DK leader] Ferenc Gyurcsany can’t say anything new to ruling parties”. Gyurcsany will not get another stab at government “in view of the sins he has committed in the past”, Kover said.

Regarding European sanctions policy, Kover said that the EU’s leading elites should “become pro-Europe again”. “We are not pro-Russia or Russia-friendly; we are Hungarians and pro-Hungary, and focus on the interests of our own nation,” he said.

“The European elite’s disregard for Europe’s most fundamental needs — as it is ruining Europe — poses worrying and serious questions. Until we have an answer to that, we can’t expect changes to the EU’s view of us,” he said.

Kover said that currently Hungary represented the interests of Europe as well as Hungary.

Kover said political leadership of the EU had failed to consider the “potential of the opponent or enemy that they are facing”, adding that they were therefore unfit for the job.

Kover said the real war in Ukraine was not between Russia and Ukraine but between Russia and the US, and “the introduction to a conflict that could be waged between China and the US-led West if we are not very careful.” Their aim, he said, was to “erect a political and economic Iron Curtain between Russia and Europe so that no one can dream of creating a peaceful, balanced economic area based on mutual respect.”

Regarding changes to the special legal order — emergency powers — in Hungary, Kover said that a proposal by Fidesz group leader Mate Kocsis aimed to add a deadline to the government’s mandate to govern by decree. Under current legislation, parliament must withdraw the special mandate it had granted. The new regulation would have the special mandate expire automatically after 180 days, he said. “This does not restrict the rights of the opposition or parliament, which would continue to exercise its rights of control,” he said.

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