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GULYÁS: TALKS UNDER WAY ON EU-HUNGARY AGREEMENT

 

The prime minister’s chief of staff said that talks are under way on a daily basis about an agreement with the European Union. Gergely Gulyás said there were no significant professional disputes between the two sides and the European Commission was trying to achieve an agreement that it could politically represent in other European forums. The sides will be able to reach an agreement on certain matters very soon but there are some details that still need to be clarified, he added.
It has been agreed that teachers’ wages will be increased to 80% of the average wage for degree holders by the end of the current EU financial framework, he said, urging left-wing MPs and MEPs not to make efforts to prevent the increase in teachers’ wages.
Gulyás welcomed a recent report by the OSCE which he said essentially established that the parliamentary elections in Hungary had been held at a high standard, in a free, democratic and fair manner.
The prime minister’s chief of staff also said that there were some 2,000 human smugglers in prison in Hungary, 88% of whom are foreigners and 97% male. Hungary’s prison capacities are sufficient but such inmates pose a great burden on the country therefore their expulsion is a preferred choice, he added.
Government spokeswoman Alexandra Szentkirályi said that 860,000 refugees had arrived in Hungary so far fleeing from the war in Ukraine, some 27,000 applied for and 23,000 were granted refugee status.
In response to a question, Gulyás said a visit by Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó to Ukraine was not on the agenda.
Commenting on a speech by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán at the Băile Tușnad Summer University a week ago, he said the position of the prime minister and his government concerning migration had been well-known for years and the speech addressed cultural differences.
Concerning the recruitment of “border rangers” to protect the Schengen borders, Gulyás said over 6,000 people have expressed interest so far. The interior ministry has envisaged to set up a 2,200-strong force by September which will later be expanded to 4,000, he said.
Gulyás said that at recent talks between Orbán and the Austrian chancellor, the protection of the EU’s external borders was a highlighted topic. Austria has offered help for the protection of southern borders, he added. It was agreed that the two countries’ prime ministers would meet the Serbian president in the coming weeks, he said. It is a problem, however, that Slovenia’s new left-wing government had immediately started dismantling the fence along the Croatian border, Gulyás said.
Asked if the government plans to grant families further assistance in terms of utility prices, Gulyás noted that families with three children were eligible for an additional 600 cubic metres of gas at preferential prices and 300 cubic metres after each further child. Gulyás said Hungary’s gas storage facilities were filled up with 3 billion cubic metres, corresponding to half of their capacities. If they are totally filled up, the total amount will cover residential consumption up until next April, he said.
In reply to a question, Gulyás said that the price of gas is 2.68 eurocents in Hungary, as against 23.78 eurocents in Sweden and 23.19 eurocents in the Netherlands. While an average German family pays 1.4 million forints (EUR 3,460) a year for gas, the corresponding figure is 200,000 forints in Hungary, the prime minister’s chief of staff said. Asked about what has changed in the gas market, Gulyás said that inexpensive Russian gas is no longer available. Although the new agreement concluded with Russia is more favourable than the previous one, the Hungarian government, as it did in the past, will not disclose further details, he said. Asked about taxi drivers, Gulyás said that if they were obliged to pay the market price for petrol or diesel, their fares would go up by 60% immediately.