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The government has decided to implement an “anti-war action plan”, the head of the Prime Minister’s Office, Gergely Gulyás, told a government press briefing. As part of measures will be introduced against “pro-war propaganda”, parties and media outlets will be obliged “to make their resources transparent,” he said. As Hungarian law forbids political parties from accepting financing from abroad the measure will apply only to media outlets, Gulyás said, adding that those outlets would be required “to make their funding resources public”. “Hungary reserves the right to send funding arriving from abroad for war propaganda purposes back to the sender,” he said, adding that the task to draft the regulatory framework had been assigned to the justice minister. Regarding the EU regulations, Gulyás said such “a rough, radical regulation violating the freedom of opinion and speech” could not be introduced in Hungary within its constitutional framework.
Meanwhile, under a new government decision, banks, multinational companies and energy companies that have generated “wartime enhanced profits” will have to pay a “defence contribution” to the National Defence Fund, Gulyás said. A freeze of retail bank account fees and bank card fees will be introduced this year to prevent lenders from passing on the “defence contribution” to families, he said, adding that the windfall profit tax payable by multinational companies and the energy sector, and the retail tax will not be lowered in 2024. Revenues from the measure are expected to come close to 400 billion forints (EUR 1bn), he said. The relevant regulations will be published this week, to come into force from Aug 1, he added. On the matter of changes to bank transaction fees, Gulyás said the fee would be increased from 0.3% to 0.45%, with the ceiling raised from 10,000 forints to 20,000 forints. Fees on cash withdrawals will be raised to 0.95 percent from 0.6%, but withdrawals up to 150,000 forints will remain free, he added. Conversions would carry a 0.45% fee with a 20,000 forint ceiling, he said. The national economy ministry and others have coordinated with all involved parties, and “the decision did not come as a surprise”, he said. Utility price caps will not be phased out, Gulyás said in response to a question on the possible effects of extra taxes on the energy sector being channelled into the defence fund.
Regarding the “peace mission” Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has promoted at the start of Hungary’s rotating EU presidency, Gulyás said peace could not be reached “without a direct dialogue with the warring sides”. “Big countries in Europe are now dominated by war propaganda, but somebody must speak for the victims and families torn apart as well,” Gulyás said. Achieving peace, he said, required the inclusion of leading powers, which was why after his talks with the leaders of the warring sides the prime minister had travelled to Beijing to hold consultations with the Chinese president. “Hungary wants to be in touch with every country that can contribute to achieving peace, and wants to talk to every political leader who can take steps to end the war as soon as possible and achieve a ceasefire and start peace talks,” said Gulyás. “Hungary knows where its place is as the current holder of the EU’s rotating presidency; it does not have a concrete peace plan, because this can only be worked out together with the [warring] sides,” he said. Hungary’s peace mission, he noted, was seen by many “with suspicion”, insisting that the country was facing “political, legal and financial blackmail to join the pro-war camp”. “It’s hard not to regard the European Court’s recent ruling in connection with migration [against Hungary] as just such blackmail,” he added, insisting however that Hungary would not change its position that “every political step must serve the goal to end the war”.
Responding to questions, Gulyás said that Orbán’s visits to Ukraine, Russia and China “were made public [at the location of the meeting]”, a practice that “would be worth continuing”. Immediately after the talks, Orbán “briefed EU officials accurately and thoroughly on the trip, as well as on his views on how the EU could promote peace talks,” he said. Whereas Orbán travelled to Moscow in his capacity as the Hungarian prime minister and the holder of the rotating presidency of the council of the EU, “he did not conduct talks in the name of the EU”, he said. Reviewing ties of the bloc and a third country during the visit of a member state leader was common practice, he added. Orbán told Xi during his Beijing visit that the timing of peace depended on the “big players in world politics”, and this would be greatly aided by China “joining the cause”. Should the United States also join, “we’ll have peace very soon indeed,” he added. Regarding Orbán’s upcoming visit to Washington, DC, Gulyás said: “During a peace mission, meetings with people who can promote and help peace are advisable.” Asked whether Orbán was scheduled to meet former US president Donald Trump, Gulyás said: “Trump is more of a member of that circle than the current administration.”
Meanwhile, Gulyás called the first week of the Hungarian EU presidency “successful”, adding that Orbán would “continue his peace mission”. “Attacks in Brussels on the peace mission” may ease up, he said, adding that this would largely depend on the outcome of the US election. “Should the current situation remain and the Republicans prevail, many European leaders will declare themselves pro-peace,” he added. Commenting on Robert Fico, Gulyás praised the Slovak prime minister’s “courage”, and he quoted Fico as saying that had his health allowed, he would have joined Orbán on his visit to Moscow.
Regarding Orbán’s talks in Kyiv, Gulyás said “promises” were made on improving the situation of Transcarpathia Hungarians “from a higher level than before”. If the rights they have secured by 2005 may be guaranteed, that would greatly improve ties between the two countries, he said. Should that not happen, that would hinder Ukraine’s EU accession “and even the accession negotiations after a certain point”.
Regarding the new EP family, Patriots for Europe, Gulyás said Alternativ fur Deutschland (ADF) would not be joining the group. While Patriots for Europe “will not change majority relations within the EP”, he said it would nonetheless create a forum that provided visibility for “European forces that remain truly conservative, stand against the war and want peace, but also reject all right-wing extremism while also being aware that Europe is currently threatened by liberal and left-wing extremism.” Patriots for Europe, he added, would start out with 80-90 MEPs, and the founding meeting will be held on later on Monday. Commenting on the outcome of the general election in France, Gulyás said the will of French voters must be respected, and “the winner must be congratulated, even if there is no clear winner”. The result “is a three-party government where a governing majority will not be easy to bring about”, he added.
On the topic of fuel prices, Gulyás said the government called on energy companies to continue to stick to an agreement reached with the government, under which fuel prices are kept below the average price in neighbouring countries. Fuel prices “have been driven down” compared with those in April and May, he said, but the price of petrol was 4 forints higher last week than the average in neighbouring countries, according to data from the Central Statistical Office, while diesel was 10 forints dearer, he said. The government is expecting fuel retailers to take steps to remedy the “unfair situation”, Gulyás said.
Meanwhile, Gulyás said the government expected all players in air travel to prepare action plans to tackle delays, including air control company HungaroControl. He called on the sector to ensure that passengers are adequately informed and that ground crews “radically speed up processes”. The consumer protection authority has been instructed to impose hefty fines in cases of significant delays, he added. Currently 12 such procedures are under way, he added. Gulyás said in 60% of the cases the airline companies were to blame for delays, adding that in such cases it was “crucial that the consumer protection authority imposes painful fines that cause serious damage to the company”. In the summer season there might be delays, but flights should not be delayed for several hours, he said. “There is especially no reason to prevent passengers from receiving all information to enable them to decide what they should do before their flight,” he said. Passengers waiting at the airport should receive maximum services and should be provided with all their basic needs, he added.
Commenting on a recent ruling by the Kúria, Hungary’s supreme court, to recount all votes cast in the Budapest mayoral election, Gulyás said: “Everything is in place to do that in transparently to retain and reinforce public trust.” With over 800,000 votes cast, and with a difference of just 41 votes between the two candidates, “it’s likely there’d be a recount anywhere in the democratic world…” A lesson from the recent election, he added, was that there should be a uniform protocol for erasing from the voting sheets candidates who withdraw. Also, the difference in the number of votes between two candidates automatically requiring a recount should be defined, he said.
Answering a question about whether Hungary was considering quitting the International Criminal Court, Gulyás said Hungary should have “followed the wisdom of the US” and not joined the court in the first place. “[But] there’s little point in quitting; Hungary has never ratified the treaty so it has no legal effect,” he said. “The international community does not need a court that makes its decisions based on political considerations,” he added.