Hungary is one of the better-protected EU countries in terms of the coronavirus, with 317 deaths per million in Hungary as against 481 in the European Union as a whole.
In an interview published in Magyar Nemzet, Gergely Gulyás, the prime minister’s chief of staff, insisted that every possible measure had been taken to prepare for the second wave of the epidemic, adding that the country’s healthcare system was up to the job of keeping pace with the transmission of the virus. He said the coronavirus epidemic would have a bigger impact on the global economy than the 2008 global economic crisis.
Gulyás said Hungary’s currently favorable employment situation was a useful bulwark against the effects of the crisis, adding that there were now 900,000 more jobs during the coronavirus epidemic than when the country’s left wing was last in power. Gulyás also noted Hungary’s good standing on the international financial markets, noting that the government had slashed public debt by almost 20 percentage points over ten years, though some of these gains had been lost since. “We showed discipline in the good years,” Gulyás said, adding that this put Hungary in good stead in troubled times. On the topic of the current standoff over EU funding, he said the EU was attempting to establish for itself the right to intervene in Hungarian domestic affairs and in the domestic politics of member states it did not sympathise with.
Gulyás said issues such as whether Hungarians are free to decide who they want to live with are nothing to do with the rule of law but a question of “whether this country is governed from Brussels or in Budapest”. Referring to Article 7 of the Lisbon Treaty, he said there was already a procedure for the rule of law. “If anyone wants a new procedure that’s different, the treaty must be changed,” he said. “The rule of law is not best served by trampling all over the rule of law.”
Regarding the US presidential election, Gulyás said Hungary, as an ally of the United States in NATO, had a duty to work with the president who gained the trust of the American electorate. He added that the Democratic administration should reassess US foreign policy in the past few decades. “US prestige in central Europe waned until President Donald Trump’s inauguration because democratically elected governments in the region were not shown respect,” he said. Had an election been held in Hungary similar to the one that has just taken place in the US, people in the Democratic Party would have been “our loudest critics”, he said.