Budapest, June 23 (MTI) – Hungary wants to make clear to the European Commission and other EU member states that it is legally impossible for it to take back migrants who entered the EU through Greece and passed through Hungary before moving on to other countries in the bloc, the government office chief said on Thursday. British voters have the right to express their views on their country’s European Union membership, but Hungary wants to make clear that it is “honoured” to be Britain’s partner in the bloc, he told.
János Lázár told a regular press briefing that EU member states have expressed their intention to send back about 45,000 migrants to Hungary. Hungary has so far registered a total of 179,000 migrants, he said.
More than 21,000 people have submitted asylum requests in Hungary so far this year, Lázár said, adding that those asylum seekers have all been asked to confirm where they had entered the EU.
Now that the Balkan route has been closed, Hungary will have to prove that it was Greece that broke the EU’s asylum laws by failing to register its illegal entrants, Lázár said, insisting that Hungary cannot be penalised for Greece’s wrongdoing.
He noted that the European Council will meet next week to discuss the current migration situation.
Regarding cooperation between Hungary and Austria on migration, Lázár said that a law recently passed by Austria caps the number of asylum seekers that Austria can take in this year at 37,500. This means the country can send back migrants who exceed that limit to Hungary. Lazar said Interior Minister Sándor Pintér has therefore initiated setting up a bilateral working group aimed at ensuring that cross-border traffic can run undisturbed between the two countries over the summer.
On another subject, Lázár said the government will discuss at Friday’s cabinet meeting the Constitutional Court’s ruling from this week which green-lighted a referendum on the EU’s mandatory migrant quota scheme.
The government’s aim now is to give as many people as possible a chance to express their opinion on the quota plan, Lázár said. The referendum is about who gets to determine who can live or work in Hungary, he said.
Hungary ‘honoured’ to be UK’s partner in EU
Lázár said the government will discuss and assess the UK’s referendum on EU membership in great detail at a cabinet meeting on Friday.
Given that it appears the vote is on a knfe edge, the minority view cannot be disregarded. No matter what the Brits decide, the vote will influence the future of the EU, he added.
Asked if Hungary would also move to leave the EU if in the case of Brexit, he said the issue was unlikely to come up in Hungary. Asked whether he would vote to remain or leave, he said it was a “tough question”.
Friday’s cabinet meeting will also focus on major investments.
New buses for Budapest
On the topic of new buses for Budapest, Lázár said István Tarlós, the mayor, would not be at a cabinet meeting on Friday, and the government would not meet again until July 5.
“Tomorrow, Mayor István Tarlós will not participate at the cabinet meeting. We cannot discuss in earnest questions of public transport in Budapest,” Lázár said.
The local council decided earlier that it would buy Polish-made Solaris buses if the government fails to take a decision on the matter by the deadline.
The council postponed a vote to buy Solaris buses in May because of a government decision to implement a national strategy for bus production.
In a statement published on Budapest’s website responding to Lázár’s remarks, the local council said deputy-mayor Gábor Bagdy had been mandated by Tarlós, in writing, to stand in for him at the cabinet meeting on Friday.
Lázár said the cabinet wanted to speak with Tarlós in person and would not make a decision without him.
Local council employees
The cabinet meeting will also discuss a strike staged recently by local government employees, Lázár said. The government is ready to sit down for talks with local council employees and trade unions. The government does not question that many local council employees’ wage demands are reasonable but the real issue concerns where the necessary resources can be found.
The cabinet will also take a position about President János Áder’s decision to return to parliament for reconsideration an amendment proposal on compensation. Summer school meals and camps are also on the schedule of the meeting, he said.
Asked whether the government is planning to change its position on Hungary’s GMO-free status, he said Farm Minister Sándor Fazekas is a firm supporter of staying GMO-free.
Commenting on a statement by former Energol head Tamás Portik made last week concerning cabinet minister Antal Rogán, Lázár said the statements of a man convicted for murder cannot be taken seriously. He added that Rogán has been subjected to a political “witch-hunt” for the past three to four years, with opposition Együtt deputy leader Péter Juhász making this into his political “mission”.
He said the government accepted the decision of the European Court of Human Rights in connection with the former head of the Supreme Court but disagreed with it.
The European court earlier today ruled in favour of Hungary’s former supreme court president András Baka, declaring that the Hungarian authorities had wrongly terminated his mandate before it expired back in 2011.
Lázár said the government maintains the view that Baka’s human rights had not been violated. He said the court decision concerned only one person and did not impugn Hungarian democracy as whole. Baka will be paid compensation in line with the court ruling by the deadline, he added.
In response to a question, Lázár said he was unaware of a recording that press reports linked to businessman Zoltán Spéder, adding that he had not seen a police statement that would prove the existence of such a recording.
The opposition Socialist Party has demanded that the authorities release telephone recordings made by Spéder, head of FHB Bank, which reportedly contain conversations between Speder, the subject of a criminal investigation, and leading ruling Fidesz party politicians. The Socialists called Lázár to clarify what interests he personally had in FHB and whether this bank is indeed “the private bank of Zoltán Spéder”. According to press reports, the prime minister, the cabinet chief and the government office chief appear on the recordings made by Speder, a business partner of Lajos Simicska, a one-time friend of the prime minister’s.