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GOVT READY TO STEP IN TO KEEP BASIC SERVICES GOING

 

The government is discussing energy costs with local councils, the prime minister’s chief of staff, Gergely Gulyás, said. Local councils have a responsibility to try to save energy on their own and save enough money to be able to pay the increased prices, Gulyás said, adding that the government was prepared to talk to everyone and help those it can. The government aims to keep crèches, kindergartens and schools open, he said. Basic services must be guaranteed everywhere, but if necessary the government is prepared to intervene to ensure that they are provided, Gulyás said. The government will also take steps to get state-owned energy provider MVM to offer discounted prices to local councils, he said. Meanwhile, Gulyás said the cabinet will discuss price caps on basic foodstuffs next week or the week after.
Gulyás said the government had yet to understand the EU’s proposal to impose a price cap on Russian gas and was awaiting the details. He added that because Europe was importing its gas, there was no point in discussing a price cap for now. If the sanctions on Russian energy were to be lifted tomorrow “everything would be halved, including prices and inflation”, Gulyás said, adding that the European Commission had chosen to go “in the opposite direction”. This is not hurting Russia, but rather “handing it huge profits”, he insisted. Gulyás said it was hard to see how Ukraine could “get back on its feet”, so the country needed to be helped. “But because of the damage caused by the sanctions, eventually there will hardly be any European countries that will be able to help, which could lead to a tragic situation,” he added. Asked about calls to ban EU visas to Russians, Gulyás said he agreed with the view that there was no point in imposing such a restriction.
Asked about reports that the opposition had received funding from abroad for its election campaign, Gulyás said this was illegal and needed to be investigated. “If someone receives money from abroad, it can’t be ruled out that they’ll eventually start representing foreign interests,” he said.
“The accusation in question is serious, and there’s already a confession,” Gulyás said, referring to comments from Péter Márki-Zay that his campaign had received financial support from the United States.
Concerning EU enlargement, Gulyás criticised the bloc for “discouraging” Serbia from wanting to join, adding that Serbia’s EU membership would be in the interest of both parties.
Asked about the Polish prime minister’s remarks on the Visegrad Group, Gulyás called Polish-Hungarian cooperation the “engine” of the alliance, with all member states benefitting from it. The two countries had fallen out over their approach to the Russia-Ukraine war, he said, adding: “If we can agree to disagree and focus on things we do agree on, there is no reason why we shouldn’t be able to strengthen V4 cooperation. That is in the interest of all countries involved,” he said.
Responding to question on the crisis in the production of artificial fertilizers, Gulyás said 70% of the product comprised natural gas. Until the European Union finds a way to break skyrocketing prices, “we will have to find alternative solutions”, which is under the agriculture ministry’s purview, he said.
Regarding next year’s budget, Gulyás said the government currently had no plans to amend the law. Amendments are still possible after the economic November-December indicators have been reviewed, he said. The details will be decided on later, as the economic prospects for next year are extremely uncertain, he added.
In response to a question on whether the government successfully bought another 700 million cubic meters of gas, Gulyás said Hungarian gas reserves were currently 65.4 % full. That is enough to provide for 81 days of industrial and household consumption, or 175 days of household heating, he said.
Gulyás said the government was setting up the Integrity Authority, a body to review and, if necessary, suspend EU tenders. The body was set up at the request of the European Commission, which the government “has not objected to”, Gulyás said.
In response to a question concerning the Mátrai power plant, Gulyás said the coal-fuelled plant would “definitely” operate at least until 2029. Meanwhile, green investments will be ongoing, he said.
On the topic of the upgrade of the Paks nuclear power plant, the minister said the head of the company will handle works related to the investment and that it was “realistic” that major construction could begin next autumn.
The government is planning to set up a cement plant to avoid supply chain disruptions as other plants sputter, he said.
Asked about the state’s involvement in the purchase of Vodafone, he said an assessment of the company’s value was under way, and the state would await its outcome.
Meanwhile, Gulyás said the government may decide on any additional pension hike in September. He said it could not be excluded that large employers may be provided with central support for overheads.