Commenting on a pro-Russian protest planned to be held in Budapest, Gergely Gulyás, the prime minister’s chief of staff said yesterday that Hungary condemned Russian aggression against Ukraine. At the same time, in the spirit of classical liberalism, Hungarian law since 1990 has protected the right of assembly except in cases of extremism, he added.
In response to a question, the prime minister’s chief of staff said Hungary’s health-care system was open to caring for injured Ukrainian soldiers without limit. He called the US and NATO position on avoiding any direct conflict with Russia “a wise one”, and Hungary, he added, shared same position.
“No one wants a third world war.”
Commenting on Hungary being the first country in Europe to approve Gazprom’s request to amend its contract with the company on gas deliveries, he said Hungary had been open and above-board about it, unlike other countries “quietly doing the same”. He said it was “impossible” for the country to replace Russian natural gas from other sources and it would be “difficult and expensive” to wean itself off Russian crude oil. Gas interconnectors with neighbouring countries which have undergone major developments since 2010 are all supplied with Russian gas, he added.
“We’d be delighted not to have to buy Russian gas if other sources were available at the same price,”
he said, adding that alternative sources would be several times more expensive and in insufficient volumes. The government plans to refill gas stores in the coming period, he said, adding that Hungary was currently receiving Russian crude oil and natural gas without interruption, “and we trust this will remain the case”. Like nine other countries, Hungary is paying in euros before a conversion to roubles, he added.
Whereas contingency plans are in place, Hungary does not expect Gazprom to stop gas supplies to Hungary since the country is fulfilling its payment obligations in full, he said.
Meanwhile, on the subject of family support, Gulyás said the government was proud to spend the highest proportion of its GDP in the European Union in this area, and these benefits, he noted, are linked to work. This will remain the case, he said.
Put to him that 90 percent of
600 small petrol stations in Hungary may be bankrupted because of the current cap
on the price of petrol, Gulyás said the government was not considering changing the blanket cap since a more graduated and targeted system would involve too much red tape.
Commenting on food-price caps, he said that some of the sectors affected generated big profits, and the interests of Hungarian families currently had priority over profits. The annual cost of the measures, around 50 billion forints (EUR 130m), introduced in February mainly affect multinationals. Smaller retailers are far less affected, he added.
Making long-term decisions on price and interest caps amid the current instability, he said, would be hard, so the government making sure that the measures and their deadlines are predictable and properly communicated.
Commenting on the EU recovery fund, Gulyás said talks were in progress but the ball on signing the agreement was in the European Commission’s court.
“We don’t see any problem — especially after receiving the letter of conditionality — that we wouldn’t be able to resolve,” he said.
Criticism of the high number of single-bid public procurements was valid, he said. But other censures were “absurd”, he added, referring to the allocation of judges, “a technical issue” which did not warrant the withdrawal of EU funds. Gulyás said
Hungary had the right to the EU money because “we are part of the common market and we observe its rules”.
Hungary, he added, would “certainly receive those allocations sooner of later”.
It was after parliament approved the child protection law that the EU refused to sign off Hungary’s portion of recovery money, he said. The government stuck to its insistence on keeping the law during coordination talks, especially in light of the results of the referendum which overwhelmingly backed the measures, though it would find acceptable if certain allocations were transferred to different areas, he added.