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Referring to a decision issued by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) earlier this week under which judges can grant international protection to refugees if an administrative body has overruled their decision without establishing new elements in the given case, Gergely Gulyás, the PM’s Office chief, said the ruling had granted the courts powers that were not guaranteed by Hungarian law. He said the ruling meant that the EU was opening up the asylum system to possible abuse. Gulyás cited as an example the case of a Russian national with a criminal background whose asylum application had been rejected by the Hungarian state, while the EU court had ruled that he qualified for asylum. He said the justice minister would have to look into whether the ECJ’s ruling required the enactment of new legislation.

Regarding the distribution of top jobs within the EU, Gulyás said that László Trócsányi’s nomination for European commissioner was the best decision the cabinet could make. He noted that the former justice minister had topped the Fidesz-Christian Democrat (KDNP) list in the European parliamentary election, adding that the support of voters for that list was the second highest in the EU.

Regarding the Article 7 procedure launched against Hungary last July, Gulyás said the government was ready to answer all questions “but this is a political witch hunt that lacks any foundation”.

Regarding an infringement procedure the EC has launched against Hungary regarding the circumstances in Hungary’s transit zones for asylum seekers on the Serbian-Hungarian border, Gulyás said the government’s response was that “nobody is being starved in the transit zone.” All those within the asylum procedure “are provided for impeccably”, he said. The transit zone is open towards Serbia, and those housed there are free to leave, he said. The government finds it “offensive”, however, that Hungary’s defence of the EU’s external borders is met with “baseless criticism and opinions disguised as political discourse” instead of financial and political support.

On another subject, the PM’s Office chief said the cabinet had held its last meeting before its summer break on Tuesday and will next meet on Aug. 21.

In response to a question about whether Lőrinc Mészáros, a businessman linked to the Hungarian prime minister, was “paying the prime minister back” by renting a golf course from his father, Gulyás said it appeared that “opposition politics is more and more about defamation and libel”. The government does not concern itself with business matters, he said, expressing incomprehension as to why the opposition was making accusations concerning a market-based leasing deal.

Meanwhile, asked if there were any plans to change boating regulations after the May 29 Danube ship collision, Gulyás said discussions on the matter would have to wait until the end of the criminal proceedings in the case.

He said major progress has been made in employment in Hungary, with 850,000 more jobholders today than in 2010. The cabinet reviewed the latest economic indicators on Tuesday, Gergely Gulyás said. Citing data from the Central Statistical Office, he said that the employment rate of 20-64 year-olds has risen to 75.2%, while it is 70% in the 15-64 age group. The highest rate was measured in Budapest, followed by western Hungary. Regional differences only indicate there are reserves to be tapped, he said. Gulyás also announced that the government decided to earmark 32 billion forints (EUR 98m) extra spending for innovation and research as part of the transformation of the academic research network.

On the subject of a Russian aircraft carrying weapons which entered Hungarian airspace, Gulyás said the aircraft was not a military plane and therefore had the right to enter Hungarian airspace after notifying the authorities without waiting for specific permission. Hungary could not have legally refused airspace use, he said.