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PM Orbán Talks Ukraine, Army Development, Pension Premium, Opposition in Radio Interview

MTI-Hungary Today 2021.10.01.

The government will pay pensioners a 80,000 forint (EUR 222) premium in November, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán told pro-government public broadcaster Kossuth Rádió on Friday morning.

In view of the Hungarian economy’s performance, the government decided to pay that amount also to the 435,000 pensioners who wouldn’t be eligible under the pensions act, Orbán said.

Meanwhile, inflation was higher than expected this year, he noted. While half of pension compensations to offset inflation had been paid by July 1, the second half is due in November, bringing the one-off supplement for certain pensioners to as much as 100,000 forints, he said.

Should the government’s economy policy remain successful in the next three months, Orbán said “there is a chance” of a full month’s pension premium payment in early February. “We need to work for it, we need to fight for it, but it’s not impossible,” he said.

GDP growth is sure to reach 5.5 percent this year, and the government will make good on its promise to refund personal income tax to some 1.9 million adults raising children by mid-February, Orbán said.

Opposition would scrap utility price cuts

Regarding the opposition’s ongoing campaign, Orbán said the opposition’s claim that they would align utility prices to the world market in effect means scrapping the government’s measures to cut utility prices. “We would be back to where we were before 2010,” he said.

“The problem with Hungarian politics is that we keep arguing about whether the past should return, rather than looking into the future,” Orbán said. The well-known players of the Gyurcsány-Bajnai governments, which were in power between 2004-2010, are trying to make a comeback, he said. “If they return, so will high prices,” he said.

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Under leftist governments, large international companies thrived while families struggled, Orbán said. “Between 2002 and 2010, I regularly slammed the Gyurcsány and Bajnai governments for multiplying gas and electricity prices,” he said.

When coming to power in 2010, the Fidesz-Christian Democrat government had to scrap that practice and fight international companies and Brussels to freeze utility prices, Orbán said. “This is how we got to a point where our household gas prices are the cheapest in the European Union, and household electricity prices the second cheapest,” he said. Hungary has achieved all this without having its own energy resources, he noted. “Meanwhile, Western Europe is seeing price hikes we couldn’t imagine,” he said.

Gazprom deal, Ukraine

Regarding the gas deal signed with Russia’s Gazprom earlier this week, Orbán praised the foreign ministry and the negotiating delegation for achieving lower prices than those in the previous contract of 1995.

Orbán also lauded the “fairness” of the Russian partners in “concluding an agreement worthy of reliable partners who respect each other’s interests”. “The truth is we need gas, and issues of energy supply and energy security should not be conflated with political criticism against Russia,” he said.

Regarding Ukraine’s statements that Hungary was violating the Hungarian-Ukrainian intergovernmental treaty by agreeing to delivery routes shunning Ukraine, Orbán said Hungary could “unfortunately” not take those protests into account. “I respect Ukraine and wish the Ukrainian people much success, but as regards the matter of gas, we have to consider the interests of Hungarians rather than Ukrainians,” he said.

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Defence industry developments

Concerning yesterday’s cabinet meeting focusing on Hungary’s defence industry developments at a military base in Hajmáskér, in western Hungary, Orbán said it reviewed defence industry development and the army’s technological development, as well as the situation of the recruitment, training and supplies of troops. Decisions on further military developments in 2022 were also made, he said.

“We are living in an age full of dangers, and as we face migration, we need an effective, well-functioning army because we would not be able to protect our borders without the soldiers”, Orbán said, adding that Hungary had received very little money from Brussels for border protection.

Fourth wave

In connection with the coronavirus pandemic in Hungary, the prime minister said the government had prepared for a fourth wave, noting that the country has 17 million doses of vaccines on stock.

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He asked Hungarians to get inoculated, stressing that herd immunity was not an option with “this type of virus – it will seek out those who are not vaccinated”. “The risk is in being unvaccinated, not in getting a jab,” Orbán said.

featured image via MTI/PM’s Press Office/Benkő Vivien Cher