Budapest (MTI) – The Hungarian government is closely following the clashes in western Ukraine with heightened concern, government office chief Janos Lazar said at his regular news briefing, where several other topics were also addressed.
The cabinet hopes that the Ukrainian authorities will be able to control the situation and “it is only what appears in press reports that suggests otherwise.” He said the street fighting by “bandits” was unprecedented and urged the Ukrainian authorities to guarantee the safety of every Hungarian in Transcarpathia. The Hungarian government is being briefed on the situation and is ready to hold talks with Ukraine, he said, referring to last week’s armed clash in which three people were killed. He added that Prime Minister Viktor Orban has called for a thorough investigation into whether Hungarian customs officers had played a role in cigarette smuggling at the border with Ukraine.
On the subject of migrants, Lazar said the government would move to change Hungary’s criminal code to make illegal migration a criminal offense rather than a misdemeanor. The motion will be put to parliament in the autumn, he said, adding that Hungary’s borders were still open at legal entry points. The 4-metre-high temporary border fence built on the southern border will be completed by November, he added.
The government will take every possible measure to stop immigrants from “taking over” the country. The government regards Serbia, Greece and Macedonia as “safe countries”, and migrants will be returned to those places if they are sent back to Hungary from Germany or Austria, he said.
On the topic of tax collection, Lazar said the government is not planning to roll out the practice of online tills to the services sector. Answering a question about whether service providers such as hairdressers or masseurs would be directly linked to the tax authority, Lazar said that “the proposal came up but the prime minister threw it out”. He quoted Viktor Orban as saying that such a move would not be “justified or practicable”. Lazar added, however, that the economy ministry was considering ways to extend the online control system to casinos.
Another issue the government wants to look into is how to collect fines from foreigners passing through Hungary, he said.
Meanwhile, Lazar said the government was ready to face European Commission probes into Hungary’s supermarket oversight fee and health-care contribution payable by tobacco companies. He said there was “no question” of the government withdrawing either fee and that Brussels was not questioning the fees themselves, only their rates.
Lazar said the Spar supermarket chain and tobacco maker Philip Morris had filed complaints against Hungary in Brussels, but the government is ready to “argue its case”. He accused the commission of openly supporting the interests of these two companies after their “open lobbying”.
“The tobacco industry will pay hard cash in taxes and a very good hospital will be built in Budapest out of that money,” he said.
The government will address the issue of emerging terrorism in the Balkans at its next meeting on Tuesday, Lazar said, adding that asylum applications are already being processed amid heightened national security levels. He also noted that children were receiving special treatment and that Hungary offers protection and shelter to them, regardless of where they cross into the country. He said the current refugee camps where large-scale tents are used to house refugees under humane circumstances will not be needed “in such great volumes” after the border fence is erected.
Another issue on the agenda of that meeting is latest developments in job creation. The government has already met half of its pledge made in 2010 to create one million new jobs, he said. These jobs were not just boosted by fostered work schemes,” he said.