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The strong mandate that the allied ruling Fidesz-Christian Democrat (KDNP) parties received from the voters at last Sunday’s European parliamentary election will be of great help in policy debates in the European Union, the Prime Minister’s Office chief said. At his regular press briefing, Gergely Gulyás said the government continued to promote a Europe of nation states and its anti-migration stance, and would only support European leaders on a similar footing, he said. Another priority will be the protection of Christian culture, he said.
Fidesz-KDNP will back neither Manfred Weber, the European People’s Party lead candidate, nor Frans Timmermans, the European Socialist’s spitzenkandidat for president of the European Commission, Gulyás said. Weber “has offended Hungarian voters”, he said. As regards Timmermans, he said the Hungarian government would not want American financier George Soros “to form a government in Europe”. He said the EU heads of state and government had the right to nominate the European Commission’s president and this right should not be curtailed.
Meanwhile, he said the government was moving to postpone the introduction of the administrative court system. Whereas the government considers that the system accorded with European norms and the rule of law, the issue was the focus of an international debate over the independence of the judiciary. Until these debates are concluded, enactment of the new system should be put on hold, he added. The relevant motion will be tabled on Thursday in parliament, he said, adding that in the meantime President János Áder had been asked not to name a head for the court. Gulyás said the government’s decision to put the new court system on hold would improve the country’s position in the EU. He added that the country must be careful not to allow fears concerning the independence of the courts to be raised. The PM’s office chief also said the move would not affect Fidesz’s membership of the European People’s Party, though it would not be to Fidesz’s disadvantage if it chose to remain part of the EPP family. Gulyás added that by withdrawing the law on the administrative courts, the government would be holding off from taking a step towards the liberal rule of law. Asked whether the withdrawal of the law was a quid pro quo for naming current justice minister László Trócsányi as Hungary’s next European commissioner, he replied “no”. Asked about Trócsányi’s possible successor, he said Prime Minister Viktor Orbán had talked privately to the minister this week, and they agreed he would leave his post on June 23. No decision has yet been made concerning the justice ministry’s new head, he added. Asked about the government’s preferred choice of commission head, Gulyás said that Hungary knew its place in the EU and was not keen on either of the two lead candidates. It would consider any other candidate, he said, adding that whereas it would be preferable for the candidate to be an EPP member, the most important consideration would be the new leader’s aptitude for the job. He cited the closing statement of the EU summit that the candidate should garner the support of a qualified majority of member states, adding that this applied to neither of the two lead candidates. Gulyás said that Michel Barnier, the commission’s chief Brexit negotiator, would be acceptable to the Hungarian government. Extrapolating from the EP election result, he said Fidesz was on course for big win in the municipal elections in Budapest.
On the subject of Wednesday’s deadly collision of two river ships on the Danube, Gulyás said the government had ordered an exhaustive investigation that would probe into every detail of the disaster. Gulyás expressed Hungary’s condolences to the relatives of the victims and to the people of South Korea. He said the disaster management authority, the police, rescue services and the Counter-Terrorism Centre had coordinated their actions and responded as quickly as possible. If it were determined that regulations needed updating due to the events of Wednesday evening, the necessary steps would be made, he added in response to a question.