Prime Minister’s Office chief Gergely Gulyás, at a regular press briefing on Wednesday, said the reason behind the European Commission’s recent decision to sue Hungary over the “Stop Soros” package of laws was that the outgoing body was “aiming to cement its policies in its remaining months”.
Gulyás added, at the same time, that EC President-elect Ursula von der Leyen was capable of easing divisions within the European Union. He said the government also believed she could lead the commission well, create consensus among member states and define the bloc’s shared values.
Gulyás noted that Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is scheduled to meet Von der Leyen for private talks on Thursday, underlining the Hungarian government’s continued confidence in the EC president-elect. He said the two leaders could potentially cover any variety of topics. He added that Hungary respects the incoming EC chief’s authority to decide on the makeup of the new commission.
He also touched on a decision issued by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) earlier this week under which judges can grant international protection to refugees if an administrative body has overruled their decision without establishing new elements in the given case.
Gulyás said the ruling had granted the courts powers that were not guaranteed by Hungarian law. He said the ruling meant that the EU was opening up the asylum system to possible abuse.
Gulyás cited as an example the case of a Russian national with a criminal background whose asylum application had been rejected by the Hungarian state, while the EU court had ruled that he qualified for asylum. He said the justice minister would have to look into whether the ECJ’s ruling required the enactment of new legislation.
In response to a question, Gulyás said German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s scheduled joint commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the Pan-European Picnic will include an ecumenical worship service to be addressed by both leaders.
Answering to a question whether Lőrinc Mészáros, a businessman linked to the Hungarian prime minister, was “paying the prime minister back” by renting a golf course from his father, Gulyás said it appeared that “opposition politics is more and more about defamation and libel”. The government does not concern itself with business matters, he said, expressing incomprehension as to why the opposition was making accusations concerning a market-based leasing deal.
Meanwhile, asked if there were any plans to change boating regulations after the May 29 Danube ship collision, Gulyás said discussions on the matter would have to wait until the end of the criminal proceedings in the case.
On the distribution of top jobs within the EU, Gulyás said that László Trócsányi’s nomination for European commissioner was the best decision the cabinet could make. He noted that the former justice minister had topped the Fidesz-Christian Democrat (KDNP) list in the European parliamentary election, adding that the support of voters for that list was the second highest in the EU.
Regarding the Article 7 procedure launched against Hungary last July, Gulyás said the government was ready to answer all questions “but this is a political witch hunt that lacks any foundation”.
Commenting on reports that European Commission head Ursula van der Leyen may appoint Frans Timmermans EC vice-president responsible for upholding the rule of law, Gulyás said the Hungarian government would respect the EC head’s decisions. The goal for Europe to have a leading body that sees the continent’s interests as a priority, he said. Measures in the past five years have shown different intentions, however, and “Timmermans definitely belongs to that circle,” he said.
Regarding an infringement procedure the EC has launched against Hungary regarding the circumstances in Hungary’s transit zones for asylum seekers on the Serbian-Hungarian border, Gulyás said the government’s response was that “nobody is being starved in the transit zone.” All those within the asylum procedure “are provided for impeccably”, he said. The transit zone is open towards Serbia, and those housed there are free to leave, he said. The government finds it “offensive”, however, that Hungary’s defence of the EU’s external borders is met with “baseless criticism and opinions disguised as political discourse” instead of financial and political support.
On the subject of a Russian aircraft carrying weapons which entered Hungarian airspace, Gulyás said the aircraft was not a military plane and therefore had the right to enter Hungarian airspace after notifying the authorities without waiting for specific permission. Hungary could not have legally refused airspace use, he said.