Hungary wants a ceasefire and peace talks to get under way as quickly as possible, especially in light of the recent missile strike in Poland, Gergely Gulyás, the prime minister’s chief of staff, said on Wednesday. Gulyás noted that the prime minister convened Hungary’s Defence Council in line with the usual protocol in such situations, and the defence minister contacted his NATO counterparts and the alliance’s secretary-general. Also, the foreign and defence ministers spoke with their Polish counterparts, and Hungary assured Poland of its support, he added.
A Ukrainian anti-aircraft missile is thought to have landed in Poland, Gulyás told a government press briefing, adding the outcome of a full investigation is pending. But for a short period of time it was assumed that Russia had attacked Poland, he said, adding that the events showed just how important an immediate ceasefire and peace talks were. A long-term solution is required that takes into account the interests of Ukraine and guarantees its territorial sovereignty, Gulyás said.
The Hungarian government, he emphasised, regards the NATO basic agreement and Article 5 to be binding on all the alliance’s member states, including Hungary. Proof of good relations between NATO allies was no better demonstrated than by the speed with which NATO assured Poland of its solidarity, he added.
Gulyás warned against exploiting the missile incident in Poland for political purposes “in a fragile, difficult, and dangerous global situation … If something is unclear, an investigation must be called for, and the political consequences drawn afterwards.” He welcomed the sober-minded reaction to the incident on the part of Hungary’s allies. He added, however, that Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelensky had not “acted responsibly” by accusing Russia after the incident. “If the missile that hit Polish territory came from Ukraine, the Ukrainians should provide answers, Gulyás said. On the subject of Finland and Sweden’s NATO accession, Gulyás said: “We will not be the last country to decide”, adding that Hungary planned to ratify the document “before Turkey does”.
Meanwhile, Gulyás noted that at 2am on Wednesday, crude oil deliveries to Hungary through the Druzhba pipeline restarted, albeit at low pressure, after being interrupted on Tuesday due to missile attacks on Ukraine’s energy network. Pressure will be upped to normal within a few hours or days, he said. Hungary’s crude supply would have been safe even had the pipeline not been restarted, he said, noting that Hungarian oil and gas company MOL has reserves at its refinery in Százhalombatta in addition to the country’s strategic reserves, guaranteeing supplies for several months for households and businesses alike.
Meanwhile, Gulyás said the government has adopted an action plan to support the tourism sector with the aim of ensuring that hotels and restaurants can stay open in the winter season despite high energy prices. Businesses in the sector will be exempted from paying a tourism development contribution of 4% of their net takings between Oct. 1, 2022 and March 31 next year, Gulyás said.
The government has also decided to abolish restrictions within the Széchenyi Card scheme, so that in future employees can use their cards in restaurants, hotels, or pay for recreational activities freely, Gulyás said. Data reporting requirements for tourism businesses will be relaxed for six months, and the deadline for rating hotels will also be delayed by a year, Gulyás said. He noted that tourism is an important source of income for the country, adding that after difficult years on the back of the pandemic, the sector is ending a good year this year despite the energy crisis. In the first ten months, 13 million guests spent 33 million nights in domestic accommodation, 34% more than last year and only 8% behind the record year of 2019, he noted.
Referring to existing exemptions on personal income tax and funding for family support measures, Gulyás said the cost to the budget will be established by early December based on the forecast of next year’s energy prices; decisions will then be made accordingly.
He said the government wants to keep spending on family support in 2023 level with this year’s allocation.
Asked about whether a cabinet or Fidesz representative planned to travel to Ukraine, Gulyás said a visit was on the cards, but like “every other state” which communicated only after such an event took place, he would not divulge details for security reasons.
Concerning the resignation of László Palkovics as minister of technology and industry, Gulyás referred to structural changes within the ministry which reflected the importance of energy in the current environment, adding that Palkovics had stepped down because he had refused to accept the ministry’s diminished powers.
Concerning the resignation of Dávid Vitézy as the state secretary of transport, he said Vitézy had made the decision to step down and this must be respected, but his policies would be pursued by his successor.
Gulyás said the government planned to award a big pensions increase in January to protect retirees from high inflation. Referring to pensions, he said: “We’re not in a bad position compared with other European countries.”
Meanwhile, he said inflation was tightly linked to energy prices, which the state absorbs, so higher VAT revenue far from covered the state’s increased spending on energy.
On the topic of the media, Gulyás said journalists in western Europe covering Hungary had to “write bad things” about the government if they wanted to keep their jobs in the long run. The government, he added, had no means to influence media content, and Hungary enjoyed press freedom.
Responding to a question about solidarity with Ukraine, he said Ukraine was under attack, but Ukraine had mistreated its national minorities in recent years, grossly violating human rights and international conventions.