Migration Pressure on Hungary is Increasing
“The migration pressure on Hungary with relation to illegal immigration will increase this year”, Minster of the Prime Minister’s Office János Lázár indicated at a press conference entitled “Government Info 39 – Government actions explained”, which he held jointly with Government Spokesperson Zoltán Kovács.
Mr. Lázár stressed that we must stand up against Brussels with regard to the “forced settlement quota”, and we must also be prepared for the fact that the continent’s security situation is unlikely to improve within the upcoming decades because of illegal immigration.
Migration pressure on the country could begin increasing again in the spring, and accordingly we must prepare for the construction of another border security fence along the Romanian border, the Minister said.
Hungary is in continuous consultation with allied neighbouring countries, including Romania, just as the EU needs to maintain constant dialogue with Turkey, he stressed. The situation would also be debated by the leadership of Fidesz on Friday, he indicated.
Mr. Lázár drew attention to the statement of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, according to whom Turkey could open its borders to immigrants wishing to travel to Europe. The Turkish president also indicated that a further 600 thousand Syrian refugees could soon be arriving in Turkey, he added.
Negotiations between the Government of Germany and Turkey concern how immigrants should gain access to Europe, and the EU wants to force member states to cooperate by distributing them. Accordingly, the Government expects that we will have to stand up in opposition of Brussels, he stressed.
There will also be increased pressure on Hungary’s borders, and so the constructed border security fence must also be defended from a legal perspective, he continued. There is no chance that the immigration crisis faced by Europe will decrease in 2016, he declared, adding that we should expect “scenes” similar to those experienced last year at the border again this year.
Solidarity is required on the part of parliamentary parties to adopt the necessary legislation because only combined efforts of the National Defence Force and the Police are capable of protecting national security, he said.
Fidesz will assess whether to hold a national consultation on the terrorist situation at its board meeting on Friday, Mr. Lázár said in reply to a question. It is important to also encourage opposition parties to help adopt the constitutional amendment by allowing society to voice its opinion on the matter, he added.
The opposition must accept that there are not only short-term party political interests and they are only causing damage to the country by working against Fidesz, he stressed. He himself would definitely support some kind of consultation or referendum on the issue, the Minister said.
In reply to a question, Mr. Lázár also voiced his opinion with regard to the fact that allowing 170 thousand people to enter Europe without any registration or vetting in response to German pressure was the greatest mistake Germany had made over the past ten years. This was the greatest security error made in Central Europe during the last ten years, he declared.
The Minister also stated that Prime Minister Viktor Orbán would be making a pre-agenda speech in Parliament on Monday, following which he will travel to the meeting of the Visegrád Group in Prague.
The Government asks teachers to sit down to the negotiating table
The Government is asking teachers, and especially the Hungarian Union of Teachers (PSZ), to sit down to negotiations with the administration in the interests of solving problems related to education, the Minister of the Prime Minister’s Office said.
It has been unprecedented during the past 25 years that an important trade union like the PSZ rejected the Government’s intention to negotiate the issue, he said, adding that of course teachers’ wishes to hold demonstrations will be respected. But problems cannot be solved through strikes and demonstrations, he added.
According to the Minister, if the PSZ has a responsible approach to education, it can achieve its goals of improving the situation of teachers and the quality of education “not through pandemonium, but through negotiations and through the changes achieved via negotiations”.
They should give negotiations a chance, because the Government doesn’t dispute the intentions of teachers, and so teachers should not call into question the fact that the country’s democratically elected leaders have an interest in seeing the situation improve, he stated.
Mr. Lázár also raised the personal responsibility of the trade union’s president, Mrs. Istvánné Galló, who according to the Minister talked teachers out of demonstrating in 2009, when teachers’ end of year, 13th month payments were terminated. He very much hopes that Mrs. Galló still has that sense of personal responsibility and does not want to bring politics into the classroom, he noted.
The Minister of the Prime Minister’s Office also told reporters that it must be investigated who is responsible for various deficiencies; whose fault it is if there is no chalk or toilet paper in schools: the state’s, that maintains the school or the municipality’s that operates them. If municipalities cannot fulfil their responsibilities, we must consider taking the running of schools into state hands, he indicated.
The Government does not want to dodge responsibility, but if running schools causes difficulty to municipalities, it would be better for municipalities to “show their cards” and state that it is beyond their capabilities and resources. And the state must examine the possibility of taking over the running of schools, he declared.
At the last Cabinet meeting, the Minister of State László Palkovics from the Ministry of Human Capacities reported on issues relating to public education and the launch of the public education roundtable, Mr. Lázár told reporters, adding that the Government appreciates the fact that so many organisations had accepted their invitation to participate in roundtable discussions.
In reply to a question relating to the list of 25 demands put forward by teachers, the Minister said that it would seem to him that the demands include a 15-20 percent pay increase, while current pay increases are still ongoing. People must accept that this country is not capable of giving teachers a 20 percent pay increase every year, he added.
However, the Minster indicated that with regard to professional issues, teachers and teachers’ trade unions are “banging on open gates”, so there is no need for demonstrations.
In reply to a question, Mr. Lázár said that it is an unquestionable fact that there are some people who have an interest in turning action by teachers into a political issue. We are talking about organisations that oppose the administration, he clarified. The organisers of this “political ruckus” include people who have been organising demonstrations against the government for years, and those who are providing financing include people who have been financing anti-government forces for years.
Two Family Home Allowance Scheme (CSOK) decrees published
The Minister also spoke about the two government decrees on the Family Home Allowance Scheme published in the Hungarian Official Journal on Wednesday, confirming that the primary goal of the programme is to support families in having more children, while the scheme’s secondary goal is to increase property construction, which could contribute to the country’s economic growth. The Government is encouraging financial institutions and the public to begin organising CSOK-related administration as soon as possible.
According to Mr. Lázár, the Government has introduced significant concessions with relation to purchasing existing property and have also clarified regulations concerning the construction of new housing.
People will also have the possibility of applying for CSOK funding in the case of peripheral properties, the Minster announced, adding that infrastructure requirements had been set straight, meaning bored wells will also be accepted and the presence of a sewage network will not be required. According to the Minster, this means that new houses could also begin sprouting up in periphery areas thanks to the CSOK scheme.
With relation to the situation of public workers, Mr. Lázár stressed that they will not be able to begin construction of new homes in view of their current income, and in their case assistance with acquiring or renovating an existing property could be the realistic solution. This is something they have access to, suitable funding is available, he stated.
Debate continues on the future of ten state institutions
Negotiations with Ministries are still ongoing with regard to the future of ten background institutions out of the 73 that are due to be closed, Mr. Lázár stated, adding that in the upcoming weeks, Ministries must answer the question of what activities do not need to be performed in house.
In the case of the background institutions in question, the subjects of investigation include whether reorganisation would have a negative effect on the distribution of EU funding, what tasks can be taken over by higher education and what research institutes must operate under state supervision, but also it is also under review as to how the reorganisation corresponds to the professional policy plans of the given Ministers of State, Mr. Lázár said. Background institutions must expect a significant cut in the number of executive positions, he added. The Minister repeated: the goal is for the administration of the nation to occur in Ministries, government offices and district offices.
Mr. Lázár also said that with relation to the reorganisation, the first step would be to convene a meeting of the Forum for the Reconciliation of Interests in the Public Service (KÉF), which will also serve as a meeting of the National Public Service Interest Reconciliation Council (OKÉT). Salary brackets are also under development for the directors of state-owned companies, with a view to harmonising pay levels with the V4 average, the Minister indicated.
Milk producers to receive funding
Milk producers can expect to receive higher levels of state funding both temporarily and permanently, Mr. Lázár said, adding that the Cabinet had given the Minister of Agriculture a mandate to develop a proposal to help the sector, which is experiencing difficulties.
The Minister also told reporters that the Minister of National Development had been given a mandate to connect the M0 and M4 motorways and expand the latter to four lanes up to Abony.
The Cabinet will be renovating the Károlyi-Csekonics Palace buildings in Budapest’s Palace District to mark the 500th anniversary of the reformation, and will of course be donating them to the church, primarily for higher education purposes.
The Cabinet also discussed the “Digital Nation” development concept this week, the Minster said, reminding the press that the Government plans to give a quarter of a million homes broadband internet access by 2018 and to establish a backbone network to assist both state organisations and the economy.
In reply to a question, the Minister declared that the Museum of Fine Arts lends out its works of art while fully conforming to all legal regulations. The Museum currently has some three thousand deposit agreements, one thousand two hundred of which it has concluded with state organisations, while the rest were signed with private parties and enterprises. With relation to press reports concerning the lending of paintings to Árpád Habony, Mr. Lázár said “In today’s day and age, in the 21st century, we should be grateful that there are people in this country who have an interest in 18th century art. In my mind, this is a great and important thing”.
In reply to a question concerning possible plans to erect a statue of former Minister of Religion and Education Bálint Hóman, Mr. Lázár emphasised that according to the Constitution, those who were collaborators after the country had lost its sovereignty, i.e. between 19 March 1944 and May 1990, cannot be accepted.
With relation to a question concerning the possible amendment of regulations on data provision by the postal service, the Minister said that the Post Office must continue to provide its usual services publicly, but the organisation’s competitiveness can only be protected if its service-related data remains private.
Listing further topics of Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting, the Minister told reporters that the Cabinet had also discussed the status of economic development funding provided to Hungarians living in Vojvodina, in addition to which the Government had evaluated the situation in the region, job market opportunities and the funding system for Hungarians living in the Serbian autonomous province.
The Cabinet had also discussed the so-called Irinyi Plan aimed at reindustrialisation, he said, adding that the Prime Minister’s recent visit to Kecskemét also took place in this spirit. The Cabinet also determined that ministry translocation is going well, just as the construction works in the Buda Castle District.
In reply to a question, the Minister said the shedding of non-core assets at healthcare institutions was justified by the fact that in future, those in need would receive treatment at so-called professional care homes instead of in nursing wards and chronic internal medicine wards of hospitals. According to Mr. Lázár, there is professional consensus on the issue and everyone would continue to receive treatment, except at the expense of the social budget rather than the healthcare budget.
With relation to the mid-term mayoral elections in Salgótarján, Mr. Lázár said in reply to a question that the Fidesz-KDNP Mayor who exited the post in 2014, left the municipality with a surplus of HUF 750 million (EUR 2.4M), whereas now it is one and HUF 0.5 billion (EUR 4.8M) in arrears. The people of Salgótarján must know that if the Government does not help the city, it will go bankrupt within the next few years, he added.
The Minister also told reporters that the draft government decree on the Uber taxi application will be discussed by the Cabinet on 24 February.
In reaction to press reports concerning the reorganisation of the system of tourism organisations, Mr. Lázár declared that the Prime Minister’s eldest daughter, Ráhel Orbán, holds no state position, does not perform any kind of state activities and has absolutely nothing to do with any kind of reorganisation whatsoever. “I categorically deny any claims that she is influencing any kind of reorganisation in any form, including with her presence or opinion”, the Minister declared. The Cabinet has discussed the draft government decree concerning tourism on two occasions, but a decision is yet to be made on the issue, the said.