Prime Minister’s Office chief Gergely Gulyás, at a regular press briefing on Thursday, underlined the importance of electing new European Union leaders as quickly as possible, adding that getting the right people into the top jobs was more important than rushing appointments.
The Hungarian government supports leaders who “are not motivated by personal ambitions for power”, but can negotiate with all EU members, promote consensus and “have not attacked any member states and have sought fair ties”, he said.
Gulyás said the candidates vying for the position of European Commission president failed to meet these criteria, noting the Hungarian government’s opposition to the spitzenkandidat system overall.
He said Manfred Weber, the lead candidate of the European People’s Party (EPP), had failed to meet the requirement of having respect for all EU governments, arguing that Weber had “insulted” Hungary and voted for the Sargentini report critical of the state of the rule of law in the country.
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Gulyás said member states should have the right to decide on the appointment of the leaders of all EU institutions, adding that EU leaders will meet to discuss this on Sunday, ahead of the inaugural session of the new European Parliament.
The PM’s Office chief said there was no reason why member states could not reach an agreement on the new EU leaders, adding that the appointments could have been finalised earlier had it not been for the spitzenkandidat system slowing down the process.
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He said the Visegrad Group countries have coordinated their positions on the candidates they would support for the top positions. Gulyás noted that Michel Barnier, the European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator, was one such candidate, adding that there were other people the V4 found “acceptable”. He noted the need for political balance in the bloc’s top brass, pointing out that if the European Commission were to be headed by someone from the EPP, the president of the European Council would likely have to come from another political grouping.
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Meanwhile, referring to recent remarks by Alex Soros, son of US billionaire George Soros, Gulyás said that the Hungarian opposition and the Soros family “are seeking to involve the EU in their fight against the Hungarian government”.
Earlier this week, news portal Index cited Alex Soros as saying at the Central European University’s graduation ceremony that the CEU had been “banned and driven out of Hungary” but not defeated, as the university would flourish in Vienna and around the world.
Gulyás accused Alex Soros of “slandering” Hungary, saying: “It appears he wants to follow in his father’s footsteps.”
Asked why the government had not released a recent report on Hungary by the Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO), Gulyás said the report would be released within a few weeks, along with a response from the government.
As regards the Budapest Municipal Court’s recent rejection of North Macedonia’s request to extradite former Macedonian PM Nikola Gruevski, Gulyás said the government respected the court’s decision. He said Hungary’s asylum law was clear on the rights of refugees, insisting that Gruevski, who has been granted asylum in Hungary, did not have a special status.
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Concerning climate change, Gulyás noted Hungary’s commitment to keeping to its 2030 carbon emission reduction target, adding, at the same time, that it was not possible to further reduce emissions without the use of nuclear energy.
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Answering a question about civil service staff shortages, he said the problem existed in Budapest and Pest county but would be resolved by relocating civil servants from provincial offices.
Asked about the appointment of Judit Varga as justice minister, Gulyás said that in her role as a state secretary in charge of EU affairs, she had done an excellent job representing Hungary’s interests in Brussels. He confirmed that with Varga’s appointment EU affairs will be reassigned to the justice ministry from the PM’s office.
Commenting on the opposition’s preselection process to choose a Budapest mayoral candidate ahead of the autumn local elections, Gulyás said the process had highlighted how none of the candidates was fit to serve.
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Concerning the issue of debt accumulated by hospitals, Gulyás said the government planned to revamp the sector’s financing.
In the featured photo PMO Head Gergely Gulyás. Photo by Attila Kovács/MTI