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The Prime Minister’s Office head, Gergely Gulyás, said that whereas the government had managed to compromise with the EC on a number of issues and occasions, it would not budge on the issue of migration. “The protection of the external border is not up for debate,” Gulyás insisted. Meanwhile, the PM’s office chief said Fidesz will back the new EC when the European Parliament votes on Ursula von der Leyen’s team next week.
Concerning the European People’s Party, Gulyás said the centre-right grouping needed to regain its strength and return to its fundamental values. Referring to the EPP’s election of Donald Tusk as its new leader in Zagreb on Wednesday, Gulyás said Tusk’s speech had contained “nothing objectionable except his criticism concerning the protection of the [EU’s] external borders and border fences”. Gulyás argued that Europe could not be defended from illegal migration without effective border protections. Tusk, he said, “needs to decide which direction to choose”. From the EPP’s point of view, the key question is whether it retains the values it was founded on. Hungary’s ruling Fidesz, he added, “needs a conservative, centre-right democratic alliance to be part of”. “Fidesz, as the grouping’s most successful member, will be at its service” if the EPP chose such a direction, he added. He said Fidesz was open to talks with the EPP, adding that Tusk was welcome to sit down with PM and Fidesz leader Viktor Orbán.
On the topic of EU enlargement, Gulyás said the question concerning North Macedonia’s potential accession to the bloc was whether the EU considered its current borders to be firm or if it really believed in the need for a unified Europe. If the latter case, all European countries should be offered a realistic chance of joining the EU, Gulyás argued. He called the EU’s recent decision to postpone talks on North Macedonia’s accession “shameful”, arguing that the Balkan country had done everything required of it, including changing its name. “What the EU did goes against the interests of Europe and is unacceptable,” Gulyás added.
Meanwhile, he said that whereas Hungary’s economy is expected to grow by five percent this year, it is strongly linked to economies of other European Union member states, many of which are experiencing a slowdown. So the government is planning a second economic protection action plan to be implemented early next year, he said. The plan aims to minimise the impact of negative external economic developments on Hungary, he said at a regular press briefing, without going into the details of specific measures.
On the topic of Budapest, Gulyás said the government does not back a congestion charge in the capital city, adding that the current plans were half-baked. On the possible ban on diesel cars from the capital, he suggested the Mayor of Budapest and his team should resist making conflicting statements on the matter. On the topic of a proposal to build an athletics stadium to cater for the World Athletic Championships in 2023, he said unless a decision is made by December at the latest, the event cannot be held in Budapest. The government, he added, supports the event which would involve creating the largest green investment in Budapest. This would be in the interest of both the country and the capital, he said.
Asked about reports of a dearth of teachers in Hungary, Gulyás said that on the basis on OECD data, there was no such shortage. He said it was in the government’s interest for the education system to work properly and it was prepared to cooperate with “anyone” to ensure this. Meanwhile, he said there was a shortage of staff in government offices in Budapest and Pest County, and the government was working strenuously to address the problem.