Commenting on a ruling party proposal to hold the next local elections simultaneously with the European parliamentary elections, Gergely Gulyás, the prime minister’s chief of staff, told a regular press briefing on Friday that a single campaign was easier for everyone than two separate ones and higher voter turnout would also be preferable to all. Considering that both events will take place in two years’ time, there is plenty of time for everyone to prepare, he added. Commenting on the increase in Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s salary, Gulyás said it had been him who proposed this in order to ensure that Orbán’s salary is not less than any of his ministers’. He also said that a government decision is expected to be published on Friday about the conditions applying to small and medium-sized businesses to benefit from utility fee caps. It will apply to small businesses and will include a consumption threshold, he added. Gulyás said talks were under way with local councils about the compensation they are to receive for losing eligibility for the utility fee caps. Depending on size and revenues, some local councils will get a state contribution to help pay their increased utility fees, he added.
In response to a question on monkeypox, he said the public health centre was in charge of assessing risks which he said were moderate. The government has not been contacted yet by any European Union bodies about vaccine procurement against monkeypox, he added.
Commenting on planned changes in the preferential small business tax kata, he said no decision had been made but the goal is to ensure that only the “traditionally small-income” businesses should benefit from it. Meanwhile, Gulyás said Hungary was participating in joint military exercises with NATO and non-Hungarian NATO soldiers were also protecting Hungary’s eastern borders. However, no decision has been made about units of the military alliance to be stationed in Hungary, he added.
Commenting on the exchange rate of the forint against the euro, he said that since 2010, the forint had been weakening to the euro by less than 1% annually and the current weakening is a consequence of the war. The Hungarian currency is weakening almost the same way as other currencies in this region, he added. In response to a question about a ruling party proposal to withdraw resources from parliamentary groups, he said the government had not discussed the motion but a vote would be held on it in parliament. The proposal aims to ensure that having seven opposition groups out of nine party groups in parliament does not cost an extra 4 billion forints, he added. Support for party groups will still remain generous, with more money available after opposition lawmakers than ruling party lawmakers. Gulyás also said the Budapest-Belgrade rail development project was under way, the government would not stop it and it was expected to be completed by 2025. The planned repurchase of Liszt Ferenc International Airport will be kept on the agenda but “in the current war situation, it will be much more difficult to make the required funding available”.