Budapest, February 18 (MTI) – The Visegrad Group has proposed helping countries in the Balkans, the government office chief said on Thursday, adding that chaos would ensue otherwise. The government has no means to hike teachers’ wages by 15-20 percent at the moment, government office chief János Lázár said.

lazar-hungary-governmentV4 propose helping Balkans in migrant crisis

János Lázár told a weekly press briefing that Russian President Vladimir Putin was especially interested to hear about European disputes concerning the migrant issue during Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s visit on Wednesday.

The V4 countries, including Hungary, do not want to see a new divide in Europe. Maintaining European unity is a fundamental interest, he said. The idea that the V4’s position rubs up against German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s policy creates “an artificial confrontation”, he said.

The V4 countries accept that Europe’s lines of defence should be reinforced at the Greek and Turkish borders, he said, adding that Turkey’s input was key, he said.

The main line of defence should be at the Greek border but if migration cannot be stopped then the new line should not coincide with the Schengen borders of Hungary, Slovenia, Austria or Italy, he said. “It would entail unforeseeable consequences if the second line of defence coincided with the Schengen border,” Lázár said.

The V4 countries continue to reject the mandatory migrant quotas or any attempt by the European Commission or Germany to distribute migrants among EU member states, he said.

Hungarian-Russian ties

Concerning to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s visit to Moscow on Wednesday, he said the government welcomed Russia’s reaffirmation of its commitment to “maintaining the capacity” of the Paks nuclear power plant.

Hungary aims to develop and extend stable cooperation with Russia and, in line with its foreign policy strategy, seeks to negotiate with all in both the west and the east, Lázár said.

He reiterated Hungary’s view that European and global affairs cannot be resolved without Russia.

Lázár said he regarded the Brussels summit starting on Thursday as important, since it offers the EU an opportunity to take preventative measures to avoid an immigration crisis this year. The European Commission has been unable to resolve the problem for a year, he added.

It appears highly likely that sealing the Hungarian-Romanian border with a fence is unavoidable, Lázár said. The European Commission’s “impotence” and “the situation that has emerged” have forced such a move, he added.

Lázár criticised the Austrian left-wing parties and the chancellor for continuously attacking the Hungarian government and “sending messages without concrete facts”.

Lázár rules out wage hike for teachers

There is no way of doing so, even if protesters “use children … to blackmail the government,” Lázár said. He warned trade unions against engaging in such “demeaning action”. Instead he called on teachers’ representatives to attend official talks with the government, which he said is open to negotiations.

He said access to free textbooks would remain in place but there would be no concessions made to the “textbook lobby” even “if it hides behind teachers”.

The government will assess the outcome of talks between the ministry of human resources and teachers’ organisations at a meeting on Feb. 24, Lázár said.

Schools operator Klik is “not a perfect organisation” but the state’s right to maintain schools is beyond dispute, he said. In response to a question about whether Klik’s chief may be removed, he said problems cannot be resolved through personnel changes.

Lazar conceded that organisational problems emerged when the state took over the maintenance of public schools in 2012. “We didn’t organise the system properly,” he said.

He added that Klik owed 17 billion forints in unpaid invoices.

Farmland sales

Meanwhile, Lázár said state auctions of farmland — this time involving 140,000 hectares — will resume on March 1.

Local councils

On another topic, he rejected press reports that the cabinet planned to curtail the powers of local councils. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán recently told local council leaders that no systemic changes are planned and councils will not be put at a disadvantage, Lázár said.

Habony scandal

In response to a question about Árpád Habony, an informal advisor to Orbán who held his wedding party in the Museum of Fine Arts, Lázár said the museum’s director, László Baán, had been mistaken to assume that the future development of the institution depended on “the attitude of a high-ranking person or politician”. The museum, together with the Hungarian National Gallery, are strategic institutions “regardless of who holds a wedding party there or who doesn’t”.

“Directors of institutions who still think that, like in communist times, the institutions can be best developed with the help of good contacts … are wrong,” Lázár said. Orbán’s door is open to every museum director and he supports every museum development project, Lázár added. “This case has greatly damaged Hungarian museums and culture,” he added.

Photo: MTI


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