Hungary’s child protection law “must be enforced and protected amidst international debates”, the head of the Prime Minister’s Office said on Thursday. Addressing a regular government press briefing, Gergely Gulyás regretted that “an increasing number of child abuse cases have come to light in recent weeks”, which he said called for a review of child protection regulations. He noted that the justice minister had submitted a counter-appeal to the Court of Justice of the European Union within the infringement procedure against Hungary over the child protection law. The government maintains its position that education is a national competency and parents have the right to make decisions concerning the upbringing of their children, he said.
Asked about wage hikes for teachers, Gulyás said the government wanted to “take a big step” in the matter, for which it wanted to rely on EU funding. He noted that teachers received a 10% pay rise as of Jan. 1, and the goal was for teachers’ wages to reach 80% of the average wage of degree holders by the end of next year.
Meanwhile, Gulyas said lawmakers of the ruling parties will hear the parliamentary delegation that recently visited Finland and Sweden next week, after which they will make a final decision regarding the matter of the two countries’ NATO accession bids. He said though Sweden and Finland were Hungary’s allies, “at times in recent years they have behaved as if they were our enemies”. Gulyás added, at the same time, that the prime minister has asked the ruling parties to support Sweden’s and Finland’s bids.
Concerning the financing of university cooperation programmes, Gulyás called the matter a “pseudo-problem invented by the European Commission thanks to the activities of the Hungarian opposition”. He said the shift by universities to the foundational model gave them the broadest possible freedoms. The transfer of state-run universities to foundations does not require a conditionality procedure, Gulyás said, arguing that it violated neither the rule of law nor the EU’s financial interests. The rectors of universities managed by asset management foundations have expressed unanimous support for the change and “want no part in this attempted interference”, he said. Gulyás called the suspension of funding from EU programmes in the case of universities run by foundations “an act of revenge against Hungary”. If the matter is not resolved, the missing funds will be covered by the state budget, he added. In response to another question, Gulyás said the EU’s decision to suspend the funding was aimed against “the Hungarian people, or the Hungarian race, if you will”, calling it “an anti-Hungarian act of revenge”.
Asked about National Bank of Hungary Governor György Matolcsy’s recent remarks on Hungarian economic policy, Gulyás said the government did not want to comment on “why the central bank governor says what he says”. The government strives for fair and good cooperation with the central bank, he said, adding he did not want to assume that there were any “personal reasons” behind any of the governor’s remarks. Monetary and fiscal policy should be consistent with one another, Gulyás said, adding that the central bank should concentrate on lowering inflation, in line with its responsibilities. The central bank must act and its measures must be supported by the government, Gulyás said. “If we can’t count on each other as partners in this, it is the Hungarian economy as a whole which will lose out,” he said.
Meanwhile, Gulyás said taxes on excessive profits will be phased out “wherever possible” next year. The tax will be lowered in other areas, “but some form of contribution remains necessary”. He noted that the taxes on excessive profits are used to finance the utility protection fund meant to cover the costs of keeping household utility prices low. On another subject, Gulyás said there was a problem with the drawdown of EU recovery monies and only 17% of the funds had been transferred. He said the reason why Hungary had yet to receive the funding was not because the EU was concerned over their possible misuse but rather because the country’s position on the issues of the war, migration and child protection is different from that of Brussels.