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The Prime Minister’s chief of staff, Gergely Gulyás, said Hungarian opposition MEPs were working against the interests of the country in the European Parliament, “as they have been over the past several months in connection with the response to the epidemic”. Now, Gulyás said, opposition MEPs were also undermining national interests in connection with the next EU budget. He added, however, that the crucial parts of the budget had to be approved by the European Council rather than the EP.
Concerning a draft of country-specific recommendations for Hungary released by the European Commission on Wednesday, the PM’s chief of staff said the report was an assessment of the country’s economic policy, adding that statements in the report pertaining to any other area were “irrelevant”. The report acknowledges a number of positive developments, Gulyás said, noting the finding that Hungary’s jobless rate has remained below the EU average during the coronavirus crisis. Gulyás added, at the same time, that the report failed to mention how much money businesses and families had been able to save thanks to the suspension of loan repayments. Some 60% of private individuals have taken advantage of the option, leaving 1,800 billion forints (EUR 5.2bn) in the pockets of households, he said.
Meanwhile, concerning the issue of single-use plastics, Gulyás said Hungary will comply with its EU obligation to ban their use, but added that guarantees were needed that this would not result in job losses.
Asked about a bill submitted to lawmakers that would establish “special economic zones”, he said the proposal made it clear that county assemblies could only exercise control over areas that fall within their jurisdiction. This means, he explained, that the bill would not apply to cities of county-seat status. The aim of the bill is to ensure a more fair distribution of corporate tax revenues among localities, Gulyás added.
Concerning the submission of next year’s draft budget to parliament, he said the proposal would be delayed by one week so that the April economic data can be taken into consideration. The draft budget will be submitted to parliament next Tuesday after it is approved by the government the day before, he said. Gulyás expressed hope that lawmakers would pass the budget in late June or early July. The finance ministry stands by its forecast for an economic contraction of 3 percent this year, he said.
Asked about the issue of Roma segregation, PM’s chief of staff said that while it was an important topic, in certain municipalities non-Roma parents were removing their children from the schools despite the upgrades made to the institutions and the improvements in the quality of education. Places where this is an issue require more discipline and greater order, he said, adding that this was why the government was focused on strengthening school police units.