Hungary's government to implement “anti-war action plan”

As part of measures will be introduced against “pro-war propaganda”, parties and media outlets will be obliged “to make their resources transparent,” Gergely Gulyás said.

Gergely Gulyás, Head of the Prime Minister's Office, told a government press briefing that the government has decided to implement an “anti-war action plan”, the head of the Prime Minister’s Office.

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 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.