Addressing a regular press briefing on Thursday, Gergely Gulyás, the head of the Prime Minister’s Office, hailed this week’s meeting between Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and US President Donald Trump as “an outstanding diplomatic achievement”, adding that Hungary had “balanced, good ties” with all leading world powers.
Gulyás said relations were “especially good” with all global powers with which “economic and political cooperation is of great significance”.
He said parliament was expected to approve a new bilateral defence cooperation agreement between Hungary and the US in the session following the European Parliament elections.
In response to a question, Gulyás said Orbán had not invited Trump to Budapest, adding, at the same time, that the two leaders would meet if it became necessary.
He noted that Hungary was in the middle of reforming its military so that the country can join the ranks of NATO member states whose defence spending reaches 2 percent of GDP. Hungary’s defence budget is expected to reach 1.6 percent of GDP next year, he said, adding that the 2 percent target was likely to be met by 2023.
Hungary intends to buy the equipment necessary for the reform from NATO allies, Gulyás said, adding that the government was in talks with multiple member states.
On the subject of Trump’s measures aimed at slashing his country’s trade deficit, Gulyás said it was “good news” that the European Union was in second place behind China in terms of the size of their trade surplus with the US. But, he added, if the US and the EU failed to reach an agreement on trade, the US could impose measures that could hurt the Hungarian economy.
On the subject of proceedings against Hungary at the European Court of Justice concerning migrant quotas, Gulyás said Hungary believed that the Lisbon Treaty did not allow for the distribution of migrants based on quotas.
He insisted that the EU was applying double standards, arguing that only one member state had implemented the quota scheme, yet not every member state had been taken to court.
Hungary believes that in order to successfully handle the migration issue, the European Commission should be stripped of its capacity to manage it, and it should be handled instead by a council of the bloc’s interior ministers, he said.
In response to a question, Gulyás said the first meeting with the body of “wise men” set up by the European People’s Party to monitor the situation in Hungary was expected to be held after the European Parliament elections. Under Fidesz’s agreement with the EPP, “everyone’s interests lie in settling the issue after the EP elections,” he added.
Gulyás said he believed that in order to resolve the dispute between Fidesz and the EPP, it was important to wait and see what direction the centre-right grouping would take after the election.
He said no one from the EPP had reached out to opposition nationalist Jobbik. He ruled out the possibility of Jobbik joining Fidesz in the EPP, arguing that Jobbik was considered a “far-right, anti-Semitic party” in Brussels.
On the topic of the debate between the candidates for European Commission president, Gulyás said he knew few politicians in Europe who were more populist than Frans Timmermans, the spitzenkandidat of the European Socialists.
He said Fidesz would comply with EPP top candidate Manfred Weber’s comment saying that “he does not require our support”.
Gulyás noted that one of the biggest points of criticism against the spitzenkandidat system five years ago was that it overrides the Lisbon Treaty, which he said was “unacceptable”. Gulyás said the spitzenkandidat system stripped the European Council of a right it was entitled to under EU law.
In response to a question, he said that if Michel Barnier, the European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator, were to be recommended to head the commission, the Hungarian government would come to a standpoint on the possibility.
“We have a positive opinion of him,” Gulyás said of Barnier, adding, at the same time, that the government had not yet had to consider his candidacy since he has not been nominated.
As regards Ukrainian outgoing president Petro Poroshenko signing the language bill into law, Gulyás said Hungary would uphold its veto of Ukraine’s talks to join NATO. He said that hopefully the incoming Ukrainian president would have a different approach to ethnic minorities.
In response to another question, he said a “propaganda video” put together by Germany’s public broadcaster on Hungary’s family support scheme contained false claims such as that the subsidies would only be made available to Christian families. Gulyás said German public media was a “left-liberal propaganda tool”.