Gulyás: Hungarian government remains pro-peace

Gergely Gulyás said that while so far, pro-war statements were limited to certain EU member states, now NATO was also preparing to play an active role in the war. That approach is concerning to the Hungarian government.

Gergely Gulyás, Head of the Prime Minister's Office, said the Hungarian government remains pro-peace even though the majority of its NATO allies are not.

Gulyás told a regular press briefing that while so far, pro-war statements were limited to certain EU member states, now NATO was also preparing to play an active role in the war. That approach is concerning to the Hungarian government, having seen the consequences in the case of member states: it started with sending helmets to Ukraine and continued with supplying the strongest lethal weapons, he said. This did not result in victory, only extended the war, he added. Gulyás said NATO was preparing to become an active player in the war: “it wants to provide financial aid and there are talks of weapon deliveries and trainings for troops. The leaders of EU member states are now talking openly of the need to send troops to Ukraine,” he said. Gulyás said this was the worst scenario because it could result in world war. The warring parties are nuclear powers, so NATO should avoid direct conflict with Russia by all means, he said. Yet, NATO’s military mission for Ukraine represents a fundamental change, he added. He said Hungary was in constant cooperation with NATO’s Brussels headquarters but the government’s priority was to stay out of the war. If the country can’t convince its NATO allies to do the same, Hungary will not participate in NATO’s Ukraine mission, he added. “We will continue to refrain from delivering weapons and sending soldiers, and will not allow weapon deliveries across the Hungarian-Ukrainian border,” he said.

Commenting on a recent US Congress decision, he said US foreign policy was not expected to change until the presidential election in the autumn, and this would also have a major influence on NATO. Hungary wants peace, and hopes that the presidential election on November 5 will bring results that give reason for peace, he added. Regarding fuel prices in Hungary, Gulyás said price changes in recent years have made it clear that Hungarians were also paying the price of war in petrol and diesel. The wars in Ukraine and Israel were both affecting fuel prices, he added. These prices will fall substantially when the war is over, Gulyás said. Therefore, the realistic goal and also the government’s goal is to prevent profiteering on the war-related prices, he said. Gulyás noted that petrol and diesel prices in Hungary are higher than the regional average, adding that the government earlier consulted the Hungarian Petroleum Association to change this situation and the association accepted that this claim was justified. He reiterated that the government called on Hungarian vehicle fuel retailers to lower the price of petrol and diesel to the regional average price.

Commenting on a constitutional amendment to tighten child protection rules, Gulyás said the prime minister had submitted an amendment proposal to prevent presidential pardons for perpetrators or accessories of sexual crimes against minors.
The Fidesz-backed proposal would also eliminate the statute of limitations for sexual crimes against children and prohibit parole of people as well as the expungement of their crimes from the record, he said. The amendments, combined with investigations ordered by the Minister of the Interior in child protection institutions, will establish the effective legal framework and practical directives for the institutions, he added. In line with another constitutional amendment proposal, taking out a joint European Union loan will require two-thirds majority support by parliament, he said. Changing the EU into a “debt community” has apparently become a goal for those that dream about a United States of Europe, he added. The Hungarian government approved a joint loan as a one-off solution after the coronavirus pandemic but “our experiences have been bad with it”, he said.
To adapt to the war situation, the constitutional amendment also affects the movement of military contingents to enable swift reactions, he said. It includes detailed regulations on the Hungarian army’s military operations, stationing, the cross-border movement of troops, and foreign armed forces’ military actions affecting Hungary’s territory, he added. Gulyás announced that Chinese President Xi Jinping is scheduled to visit Budapest on May 8-10. Hungary has a vested interest to “nurture good economic relations with as many countries as possible” and China is one of the leading world powers, so the government believes it is not worth setting up ideological barriers, he added.

Asked about the relationship between the government and the Budapest city council, Gulyás said it was good to have “a normal relationship” between the government and the capital and local councils in general, adding, however, that this did not necessarily have to happen at the prime ministerial level. He said it was important that Budapest’s leadership do not consider the government its enemy and focus on their differences rather than seeking partnership. Concerning an EU procedure in connection with Hungary’s motorway concessions, Gulyás said it was a “typical example of double standards … questioning a term of 35 years, while not criticising other countries where the term is even longer.” Asked about a Wednesday resolution by the European Parliament, Gulyás said it was aimed to “withhold funds to be paid to kindergarten and school teachers … at the initiative of a (Hungarian opposition) Momentum MEP.” “Such open action against Hungary’s interests is almost unprecedented,” he said, adding that “while they make a net 6 million forints, they will do everything to prevent teachers from earning a gross 800,000.”
Asked about political perspectives in Brussels, Gulyás said better positions for the European Conservatives and Reformers and international sovereigntist group ID will increase “representation of causes the government deems important.” He said it was not realistic to expect those two groups to win a majority in the upcoming EP elections. He added that the EPP “cannot be considered right-wing, only some of its members including (Hungary’s) Christian Democrats”. EPP and the two former groups could win a majority, he said, but added that “the European People’s Party would be ready to collaborate with the left liberals.” “One thing is for certain: the sovereigntist forces should win a majority in the European Parliament to facilitate draining the swamp in Brussels,” Gulyás said.

On the Fidesz party’s EP campaign, Gulyás said “the family has been one of the most important political values for and the government has made decisions accordingly; the importance of the family has been given focus in each campaign.” Among further topics he mentioned issues around the gender ideology and the “Europe of nations versus united states of Europe” dispute. According to the Hungarian government “cooperation in Europe is needed and does not have an alternative, but the boundaries outlined in the treaties should not be crossed; nations must not be eliminated but reinforced,” he said. Gulyás was asked if the government was planning to turn to the European Court of Justice over the EU migration pact, and he said the government had not made a decision as yet. Concerning migration, Gulyás said some 250,000 illegal entry attempts had been recorded along Hungary’s southern borders in 2022 and nearly 200,000 last year. “The pressure posed by migration has not diminished, but it is a well-protected border and there is no point in trying,” he said. He also said “the problem will not be resolved before it becomes common wisdom that asylum procedures must be completed outside the European borders and only those people are allowed to enter that comply with refugee criteria.”