European history has entered an “era of war” and people will have to fight for things they have hitherto taken for granted, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said on public radio on Friday.
“Nobody thought on February 24 that the war between Ukraine and Russia will not be just a conflict, but mark the end of an era and usher in the new age of war in European history,” Orbán told public broadcaster Kossuth Radio.
Besides the fronts, the war is also being fought in the world economy, especially in the European economy, as shown by rising energy prices, he said.
One “great battle” will be fought for energy resources and the cost of living and affordable utility costs. Another is likely to be a “fight for jobs” as sanctions policies and the war are pushing the European economy into recession, he said. While Hungary is still facing a labor shortage, Orbán advised: “everyone holding a job to value it and do everything they can to keep it, because the next months are expected to bring economic recession in Europe.”
The price of electricity has grown five-fold and that of gas three-fold because of the war, he said.
Orbán called on Brussels to “grasp that they have made a mistake,” and that the sanctions against Russia have backfired. The sanctions are currently hurting Europe more than they hurt Russia, he said. “They thought they could shorten the war through sanctions because weakening Russia would yield swift results, but the war keeps dragging on,” he said.
While some countries will have to face a dearth of energy resources, Hungary will have gas, but at a “very high price,” he said.
The government has announced an energy emergency, and is setting up an operative body to deal with the situation, headed by the prime minister’s chief of staff, Gergely Gulyás. To preserve the achievements of the government’s utility price caps, the measure will have to be restricted, Orbán said. Those using energy above the Hungarian average will have to pay market prices for the energy consumed over the average “or try to restrict consumption.” Otherwise, the entire utility price cut scheme would be in peril, he said. While left-wing parties have never backed the utility price caps, “we introduced them … and now, we will protect them as far as average consumption goes,” he said.
Regarding the changes to the itemized tax for small businesses (KATA), which have triggered protests in Budapest this week, Orbán said the tax was originally created to offer a simple and easy-to-handle tax for small businesses providing for private customers. However, companies have been using the tax to force their employees to work as sole proprietors through KATA, he said. Of some 450,000 KATA taxpayers, some 300,000 now invoice companies, “mostly just one company, which is basically a hidden contract,” he said. “Now that there is a war and we need to employ wartime logic, this cannot go on,” he said.
The correct response to a war situation is cooperation, rather than political profiteering, Orbán said, asking people affected by changes to KATA and households paying capped utility fees to understand the recent government decisions affecting them.
The leftist opposition has proven during the election campaign that they could not be trusted with leading the country, “much less in warlike conditions” Orbán said. They “have been sitting idly by” since suffering that defeat, then tried to “ride the waves” as soon as the first unpopular measures were introduced, he said. Orbán said the leftist opposition was likely to continue with those tactics, using future “measures that can be questioned or debated” to whip up a negative atmosphere for political gain. He added that this was a very bad policy because, in a war situation, the only solution is to join forces.
He asked KATA taxpayers and households to “understand what’s happening” and help the government to maintain an operational country, people’s living standards, jobs, and to protect pensions.
He also said that military developments must be accelerated by two or three times. He added that he will sign decrees in the next few days that give extra resources to the army.
“We have a problem at the southern border,” he said, adding that “the situation is getting increasingly hard.” Under the current circumstances, “it would be a luxury” to use soldiers for border protection, and police are unable to cope on their own, with many…already transferred to the borders from other parts of the country, Orbán said. A decree on setting up “border hunter” units could be signed as soon as this afternoon, he added.
Featured image via Vivien Benko Cher/MTI/Prime Minister’s Press Office