European identity can only exist through national identities, and European unity can only be achieved by respecting national interest, said the Minister heading the Prime Minister’s Office in an interview with ATV. Gergely Gulyás stressed that the Hungarian government stands for the rule of law and the preservation of national diversity in Brussels, and believes that differences of opinion must be lived with.
In numerous ideological, political, and cultural debates, Western European governments have different positions, but Hungary is not alone on such issues, even if it is in opposition to the European mainstream, he added, stressing the importance of compromise, the Minister said. He added that the Hungarian side is seeking agreement and making proposals before any veto, and for example, accepted €18 billion in aid for Ukraine and the global minimum tax after receiving guarantees that it would not have to raise taxes and contribute to new EU borrowing.
The Minister said that
the EU itself would be a loser if it withheld EU funds from its Member States without an agreement, and that it was not primarily Hungary or Poland that had failed, but the European Commission.
According to Gulyás, the Commission withheld funds because of political pressure from the European Parliament, whose representatives have created a false image of Hungary, and whose Hungarian MEPs from opposition parties spend their time defaming their home country for a net monthly salary of HUF 6 million (EUR 15,000).
As the Minister emphasized, 130 billion forints (EUR 324 million) of EU funds have already been received, an advance on the EU’s seven-year budget, 1.5 percent of the total money to which Hungary is entitled.
He agreed with the statement of Hungarian President Katalin Novák that teachers’ salaries cannot depend on EU funds or the Hungarian economic situation. The government agrees with teachers that they earn little, but the pace of the pay raise depends on EU funds. For a bigger immediate increase, we really need the resources that Hungary is entitled to from the EU, he added.
Gulyás stressed that the government has the political will to increase teachers’ pay, but the left lacks it. He suggested that European representatives of the Hungarian left should stop lobbying in Brussels against the EU funds that Hungary is owed. “This is not in the interest of the government, but in the interest of the country,” he said.
On the funds for Hungary, he said that “the more the European Commission plays a political role, the more it jeopardizes the ability to maintain European unity – both in general and on important political issues.” Turning to the Hungarian veto policy, he said they are never happy when a decision is blocked by the Hungarian government, but they always propose a compromise before a veto.
The institutions of the European Union must also draw the conclusion that the Member States are not employees of the Commission or the Council leadership, but the opposite is true.”
The focus at the February EU summit will be on sanctions against Russia and their extension, as they expire on January 31. Gulyás said that if Hungary gets the exemptions it has had so far, it is in their interest of maintaining European unity, meaning that Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is likely to vote in favor of extending sanctions.
Gulyás also said that more than 2,600 billion forints (EUR 6.4 billion) will have to be spent next year to maintain the cuts in overheads and pay energy bills in the public sector. He also pointed out that the government has raised the deficit target in the 2023 budget from 3.5 to 3.9 percent to maintain the cuts, and municipalities will receive 80 billion forints (EUR 199 million) to ease the burden of utility bills.
The Minister also said that the policy of price freezes is aimed precisely at reducing inflation, and the government sees it as a clear brake on inflation. He added that 2023 would be the most difficult year, with war raging in the neighborhood, energy prices rising sharply, and Covid-19 not completely gone.
Featured photo via Facebook/Gergely Gulyás