Gulyás: "Biggest, specific institutional danger" is posed by NATO’s mission in Ukraine

In the event that NATO forces wanted to enter Ukraine’s territory, Hungary’s interest was in the alliance reaching a decision that Hungary could be left out of.

Concerning the Russia-Ukraine war, Gergely Gulyás, Head of the Prime Minister's Office, said the “biggest, specific institutional danger” is posed by NATO’s mission in Ukraine.

According to MTI, Gulyás told a regular government press briefing that in the event that NATO forces wanted to enter Ukraine’s territory, Hungary’s interest was in the alliance reaching a decision that Hungary could be left out of. He said this meant that Hungary did not want to contribute soldiers or financially to the mission. Meanwhile, he said Hungary faced a fine due to not implementing a European court ruling, adding that voters would also be making a decision on the issue of migration in the EP elections. Hungary faces the threat of having to pay a daily fine worth around 6 million forints (EUR 15,000) for as long as it upholds its external border protection measures and migration-related laws, Gulyás said. He said that as far as the government was aware, the ruling had already been reached by the Court of Justice of the European Union, but its announcement had been postponed until June 13, after the EP elections. Gulyás said the decision was a clear demonstration of Europe’s approach to migration in the sense that while the view that it is necessary to protect the external borders was gaining traction, the European Commission was “attacking and having Hungary fined”, even though it had protected the bloc’s external border in an “exemplary fashion all the way long”. He said that though the issue of migration had taken a back seat to the war, the EP elections would also be a decision about migration. Gulyás called for sending MEPs to the EU’s legislative body which supported “the most stringent border protection measures” instead of supporting migration and a Europe with open borders.

Government websites are regularly hit by hackers, Gulyás said, adding that a 2022 cyberattack “of Russian origin” against the foreign ministry had not led to a leak of any confidential information. Responding to a question, Gulyás said it was untrue that the Russian intelligence services had “severely compromised” the foreign ministry’s IT systems, noting that this was the reason why the ministry had denied those claims in 2022. He said he had no knowledge of any diplomatic countermeasures taken after the cyberattack, adding, at the same time, that Hungarian government IT systems were regularly targeted in such a way from “numerous countries”, and he could not recall a case in which an ambassador would have been summoned over the matter.
Answering another question concerning whether the leak of information might have caused damage to Hungary’s allies, Gulyás said ‘no, in my opinion’. He said he had no knowledge about any attacks that had been carried out by Russian hackers with success or about data leaked from the protected systems of the Prime Minister’s Office.

On another subject, he said Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó did not need to return an award received from Russia because the two issues were unrelated. If a state grants an award to a minister, it is normal to accept it, he said. Angela Merkel also received a US award after it had been reported that the US had tapped her phone, he added. Speaking about the assassination attempt against the Slovak prime minister, Gulyás wished Robert Fico a speedy recovery, adding that “there is a level of inciting to hatred in politics that is neither acceptable nor legal”. Even if it is dangerous for the country if some promote pro-war opinions, it still “remains within the limits of democratic political discourse”. This is a dispute, “with us believing that an immediate ceasefire and peace talks are needed and they believing that the war must be continued until Ukraine can recapture the areas that Russia had overtaken by violating international law”, he said. Commenting on Fico’s attacker, he said the person had been “ideologically lost” for a long time but he has also been associated with several progressive leftist communities and he was certainly pro-war because most recently he had attended a demonstration demanding weapons for Ukraine and made comments to this end, he said. In response to a question concerning whether government members and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán had lately received any life threats, he said there were threats being made all the time and even if they were not individually reported they were taken seriously. The counter-terrorism centre and police evaluate all such threats, he added. Gulyás called a request by the International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor for an arrest warrant against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “unacceptable”. He said the decision was a political rather than a legal one that discredited the ICC and showed that the United States administration was “wise, in a way” never to have adopted the treaty on the ICC. He said Hungary had ratified the treaty but had not incorporated it into Hungarian law, so “no measure in connection with this can be carried out in Hungary today”. He said it was “not good” when a court was being used as a “political tool”, noting that it should not be forgotten that the current developments in the Gaza Strip had been triggered by the terrorist attack suffered by Israel. Meanwhile, Gulyás said a conference attended by Israel’s ambassador to Hungary that had been disrupted by Palestinian protestors had not been a state event. He added that if the organisers sought the help of the authorities because of the presence of a protected individual, the state did have a responsibility, but no such request had been made in this case.

Asked about the Article 7 procedure against Hungary, Gulyás said the law in Brussels was “meaningless”, and “only political will matters”. “This is something we have to live with,” he said, adding that “whoever thought the law matters more in the European Union than it did in the Soviet Union was wrong.” Still, he said, today’s world was a better one because of the absence of labour camps and physical violence, adding that he still believed that “Brussels is not Moscow,” Gulyás said Hungary’s upcoming EU presidency and the progress of Ukraine’s EU talks were unrelated. Asked if Prime Minister Viktor Orbán would exercise his veto, Gulyás said that over the course of the talks, Hungary had made it clear what its minimal expectations were “in numerous areas” in order for the talks to advance. These, he noted, included the restoration of the rights the ethnic Hungarian community enjoyed before 2015. Meanwhile, he said Hungary’s preparations for its EU presidency were “going excellently”, citing János Bóka, the European affairs minister, as saying that the government intended to fulfil the presidency as a “neutral and fair mediator”. The presidency’s priorities, he noted, included economic competitiveness, security and defence policy, the common agricultural policy and demographic challenges. Asked to comment on Herald Vilimsky, the top EP candidate of the Freedom Party of Austria (FPO), recommending Prime Minister Viktor Orbán for European Commission president, Gulyás said the Hungarian PM was not interested in the position.

Commenting on Italian Antifa activist Ilaria Salis’s nomination as an MEP candidate, Gulyás said it was “outrageous” that the European far left wanted to make an MEP out of someone who had committed “a brutal crime”. “Someone who brutally assaults peaceful pedestrians belongs in prison, not the European Parliament,” he said. Gulyás said they would not work with Salis if she won an EP mandate. Concerning Democratic Coalition top MEP candidate Klára Dobrev’s accusation that President Tamás Sulyok was a “criminal”, which the Sándor Palace has denied, Gulyás said the left was getting “very crowded”, and Dobrev “doesn’t even shy away from making a false accusation for some publicity”. He said it was untrue that the president had “helped circumvent the law as a lawyer”, insisting that Sulyok had been involved in the drafting of “completely lawful contracts”. He said there was no evidence to suggest that the German-language pocket contract involved in the case had been drafted in Hungary.

Gulyás said it was important that the Sovereignty Protection Office’s recent report on illegal campaign financing the leftist opposition has received should be “read by as many as possible”. He noted that accepting financing from abroad for political campaigns was illegal in Hungary since 1990, and asked “why does the left still keep receiving large sums from abroad aimed at winning power?” “If somebody comes to the conclusion that new politicians appearing on the left usually receive money from abroad … it does not appear unfounded to say that Peter Magyar, head of the Tisza party, also receives such sums, but statements like that should be supported by evidence,” he said. Gulyás said Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony’s “silence” about foreign aid “raises the suspicion that the leftist parties did not start receiving financing from abroad in 2022 but earlier, in his own mayoral campaign in 2019,” adding that “Karácsony should provide an answer and disprove the evidence published in the press.” Magyar’s claim that “nobody supports war on the left” is “not true”, Gulyás said and referred to “earlier statements about sending weapons and suggesting even participation in the conflict on NATO’s side.” On another subject, Gulyás said that nominating Gergely Kovacs, of the satyrical Two-tailed Dog party, for mayor of Budapest’s 12th district was “another step in the moral decay of the left” and suggested that “even drug dealers have a good chance to become leftist candidates.” Referring to a decrease in the country’s investments, Gulyás said it was due to the war, but added that “growth figures are still good and a 9.8% increase in real wages is a “multiannual record”. He said higher prices of bread were generated by higher grain shipping and energy costs, and that the results of investment projects soon to be completed in the processing industry could soon be visible. He said the country had a good chance for an annual real wage increase between 8-10%, with inflation as low as 4-5%.

Concerning central bank governor György Matolcsy’s “problems with the government’s competitiveness strategy”, Gulyás said, “there may be differences of opinion between the central bank and the government … but it is very important that a dialogue is maintained.” He added that “the government and the national bank work together when it comes to key issues”. Referring to world politics and the global economy, Gulyás said ties with Russia “are made extremely difficult by the EU sanctions”. Concerning China, he said the country had a good chance to become “the strongest economic player” within ten years, but added that “the US also has the vital force to stay in competition”. “The chance, however, for the EU to be the third global economic player is fading in the wake of Brussels’ self-destruction in the past decade,” he added. Hungary has a vested interest in building good economic ties with all world powers … the EU should not make the mistake of rejecting the economic opportunities China offers, for reasons of ideology,” the minister said. The EU’s protective import duties on Chinese electric cars could lead to European car makers losing Chinese markets, Gulyás said. He also said Hungary’s recent nuclear cooperation agreements with China and Japan served security in the first place, adding that “technology cooperation does not mean building nuclear plants.”