Budapest (MTI) – The government has decided to extend by six months a state of emergency, covering the whole country, in response to the dangers presented by mass migration, the government office chief told a weekly press briefing on Thursday.
János Lázár said the state of emergency would be maintained until Sept. 7. The reason to keep it in place is that 800,000 people stuck in the Balkans are unable to return to Turkey, he added.
The measure also includes restoring immigration detention as well as strengthening the border with a second fence to be completed along the 150km Hungarian-Serbian section by May 1, Lázár said.
Altogether 700 prisoners will contribute towards the construction, he said. Lázár noted that the government had set aside 38 billion forints (EUR 123m) for the purpose last week, bringing the total cost of the fence along the southern border to 284 billion forints.
Noting a regulation passed by the European Commission on Feb. 16 requiring blanket checks at EU external borders, EU citizens included, Lázár said waiting times were bound to increase but the government would uphold the new rule to the point that “no disproportionate harm comes to society”.
The European Council agreed with the European Parliament on Feb. 22 to approve new regulations enabling Ukrainian citizens to enter the EU without a visa, Lázár said. Those Ukrainians who hold biometric passports are planned to gain visa-free entry to the EU, Lázár added.
On another topic, Lázár noted that the Visegrad Four countries had adopted a joint position concerning the future of the European Union and another on food quality at a summit in Warsaw earlier in the day. An EU summit held in Rome on March 25, on the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, will be the venue for discussions concerning the future of Europe, he said, adding that the V4 countries will stress the need for strong nation states.
The V4 also held consultations on 2020 budgetary issues. The Hungarian government is making special preparations to discuss the budget and will join Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic in lobbying in this area, Lázár said.
The V4 will also jointly ask the European Commission for consumer protection measures. They want retailers to be obliged to inform consumers about the quality of the products they sell here and whether the quality differs in Hungary from supplies to western Europe, he said. Hungary objects to being disadvantaged and discriminated against, Lázár said. Large multinationals have been flooding central and eastern Europe with “food-industry rubbish”, he added.
Lázár said Prime Minister Viktor Orbán will meet parliamentary party group leaders on Monday morning in order to present Hungary’s position before the EU summit.
In response to a question about green opposition LMP’s initiative for a referendum about the expansion of the Paks nuclear power station, Lázár said small parties in Hungary suffer from “the problem of trying to become visible”. If the elections were held today, “LMP would not get in parliament and so they obviously must do something big to increase their visibility,” he added. Hungarians have already voted on this issue in the 2014 elections, Lazar said, adding that LMP had gone to great lengths to make the Paks project a decisive issue. The government has played its cards openly and LMP has been given the chance to present its position in parliament, he said. At the same time, LMP has not lost its right to initiate a referendum, Lázár said.
“There are few more transparent investment projects by the state than the nuclear power station project” he said, insisting that the referendum initiative was a political move and not really about the nuclear power station, the same way as the Momentum Movement’s petition was not about the Olympics, Lázár added.
In response to a question, he also said that a super-hospital to be set up by merging the city hospital and the county hospital in Miskolc would receive extra funding. The construction of a new super-hospital in Budapest is planned for the current government term, he added.