Frans Timmermans, addressing a Hungarian Socialist Party congress in Budapest on Saturday, called for fair wages in the European Union and closing the wage gap between women and men. The First Vice-President of the European Commission, who is the European Socialist Party’s Spitzenkandidat, told the congress held to vote on the Hungarian Socialist Party’s European Parliament list that he would not enter into deals with the far right should he become commission president. He said the Socialists should turn their attention to young people and stand by them, creating conditions in Hungary so they do not leave for abroad. Referring to a student who recently addressed anti-government demonstrations, Timmermans said: “You must stand by young people, as the Hungarian Socialists did in the case of Blanka Nagy”.
He said the so-called “slave law” was not the right response to Hungary’s labour shortage. Instead, the government should ensure decent working conditions, appropriate wages and a good education, he added. If elected as EC president, he would close the 40% gap between the wages of men and women, he said, adding that this would also be true in the case of pensions.
Timmermans insisted that stimulating the birth rate did not hinge on tax relief but on providing a good education and child care. He vowed to fight against corruption and questioned why the Hungarian government refused to sign up to the European Public Prosecutor’s Office. Doing so would ensure that EU money is spent properly, he added.
Timmermans said patriotism was preferable to nationalism, which he argued was fuelled by a fear of other peoples. No one, he said, was born to hate and no one was born to anti-Semitism. The response to hatred by the Socialists should not be more hatred, he added.
He said the upcoming EP election was all about “Europe’s beating heart” and at stake was whether a Europe of solidarity would emerge.
“We demand academic freedom, press freedom and freedom of civil organisations,” he said. No compromises should be made when it comes to the independence of the judiciary, the equality of citizens and the rule of law, he said.
A top ruling Fidesz party official has called on European Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans to make clear to Hungarian Socialists at their congress on Saturday “whether it is acceptable for the Socialists to be cooperating with Nazi parties”. Fidesz communications director Balázs Hidvéghi told a press conference on Saturday that Socialist leader Bertalan Tóth had “personally initiated joining forces with the Jew-hating, anti-Semitic [conservative opposition] Jobbik”.
On behalf of the European Greens, Philippe Lamberts, who leads the Greens–European Free Alliance, has already announced that Hungary’s green opposition LMP would be excluded if it were to join forces with Jobbik, he said. Fidesz now expects the same “straight talk” from Timmermans, he added. Hidvéghi also said that Timmermans was under the thumb of US financier George Soros, “who wants to turn Hungary into an immigrant country”. The Socialists and other opposition parties “are his allies”. Timmermans holds regular consultations with Soros and he is the EU commissioner who has met Soros most frequently in recent years, he added.