In an interview with Austrian daily Die Presse, the head of the Prime Minister’s Office talked about Hungary’s rule of law debate, his party’s EPP membership, the acquisition of the news site Index, and the ongoing conflict around the Theater university.
Even though the number of coronavirus infections has never been so high in Hungary, we are still in a better position than many other countries, Gulyás said. The government now has to protect its citizens- especially the elderly- without introducing a lockdown similar to the one in March. This keeps the jobs of Hungarians safe.
Gulyás thinks the accusations against Hungary defying the rule of law are completely unfounded. He believes the whole debate is a simple political attack under the disguise of criticism over the state of Hungary’s democracy. The minister voiced his opinion that the launch of the Article 7 procedure was also a mere political decision.
Gulyás argued that the Hungarian government had already amended laws the Commission found problematic in relation to the courts and the media.
Talking about the agreement reached between EU leaders this past July, he denied that the Hungarian government would impose any further conditions on the economic crisis fund. The minister thinks the decision must be implemented the way it is without changing the agreement’s rule of law criteria.
The head of the Prime Minister’s Office pointed out that it was up to German and Austrian conservatives alone to decide whether Fidesz should leave the European People’s Party. He sees no such intention at the moment, but this could change, just as CDU will soon choose a new leader, and Germany a new chancellor.
However, according to Gulyás, Fidesz would be happy to help the EPP if asked, as the party family did not perform too well in last year’s EP elections.
Asked about the acquisition of Hungary’s most prominent news site Index, Gergely Gulyás said the portal has hardly changed its tone, as it still publishes mainly government-critical articles. He believes that the recent change of ownership is perfectly normal in a market economy. Gulyás thinks that the diversity of opinion in the media is much stronger in Hungary than in Germany.
In Germany, 85-90% of journalists lean toward the Social Democrats, but even more so to the Greens, while in Hungary, 40% support the conservative forces, Gulyás argued.
Talking about the Theater university (SZFE) conflict, the minister denied allegations that the government had stripped the institution of autonomy, claiming that in fact it was them who transferred the control rights from the state to an “independent private foundation” (the members of the supervisory board were appointed by the government). According to the minister, the whole dispute is about Attila Vidnyánszky, the conservative director of the National Theater who has been appointed the chairman of the supervisory board.
Featured photo by Tamás Kovács/MTI