Addressing a regular press briefing on Thursday, Gergely Gulyás, the head of the Prime Minister’s Office, hailed this week’s meeting between Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and US President Donald Trump as “an outstanding diplomatic achievement”, adding that Hungary had “balanced, good ties” with all leading world powers.
Gulyás said relations were “especially good” with all global powers with which “economic and political cooperation is of great significance”.
He said parliament was expected to approve a new bilateral defence cooperation agreement between Hungary and the US in the session following the European Parliament elections.
In response to a question, Gulyás said Orbán had not invited Trump to Budapest, adding, at the same time, that the two leaders would meet if it became necessary.
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He noted that Hungary was in the middle of reforming its military so that the country can join the ranks of NATO member states whose defence spending reaches 2 percent of GDP. Hungary’s defence budget is expected to reach 1.6 percent of GDP next year, he said, adding that the 2 percent target was likely to be met by 2023.
Hungary intends to buy the equipment necessary for the reform from NATO allies, Gulyás said, adding that the government was in talks with multiple member states.
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Commenting on the International Investment Bank and its links to Russia, Gulyás said Hungary was following standard international practice on investment banks and the bank’s majority owners were central European countries.
Government spokesman István Hollik and PMO Head Gergely Gulyás. Photo by Zoltán Máthé/MTI
On the subject of proceedings against Hungary at the European Court of Justice concerning migrant quotas, Gulyás said Hungary believed that the Lisbon Treaty did not allow for the distribution of migrants based on quotas. He insisted that the EU was applying double standards, arguing that only one member state had implemented the quota scheme, yet not every member state had been taken to court.
Hungary believes that in order to successfully handle the migration issue, the European Commission should be stripped of its capacity to manage it, and it should be handled instead by a council of the bloc’s interior ministers, he said.
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In response to a question, Gulyás said the first meeting with the body of “wise men” set up by the European People’s Party to monitor the situation in Hungary was expected to be held after the European Parliament elections. Under Fidesz’s agreement with the EPP, “everyone’s interests lie in settling the issue after the EP elections,” he added.
Gulyás said he believed that in order to resolve the dispute between Fidesz and the EPP, it was important to wait and see what direction the centre-right grouping would take after the election.
He said Fidesz would comply with EPP top candidate Manfred Weber’s comment saying that “he does not require our support”.
Gulyás noted that one of the biggest points of criticism against the spitzenkandidat system five years ago was that it overrides the Lisbon Treaty, which he said was “unacceptable”. Gulyás said the spitzenkandidat system stripped the European Council of a right it was entitled to under EU law.
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In response to a question, he said that if Michel Barnier, the European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator, were to be recommended to head the commission, the Hungarian government would come to a standpoint on the possibility.
“We have a positive opinion of him,” Gulyás said of Barnier, adding, at the same time, that the government had not yet had to consider his candidacy since he has not been nominated.
In the featured photo: PM Viktor Orbán speaking at the EPP Congress in Helsinki. Photo by Szilárd Koszticsák/MTI