The Pegasus issue is an artificially stoked hysterics, the prime minister’s chief of staff told a regular press briefing on Thursday.
Regarding press reports that some 300 Hungarians, opposition politicians and journalists among them, were wiretapped using Pegasus, an Israeli-developed spy software (Scandal! Hungarian journalists and oppositional figures attacked by a spyware), Gulyás insisted there were no allegations of unlawful actions in the reports. “If everything was done within the bounds of the law, all is well,” he said.
The “artificially stoked hysterics” around Pegasus “fits well into the international environment the Hungarian government has had to face in the past few days”, he said.
No one was wiretapped because of their political views or because they are journalists, he said.
“We support the national security council in fulfilling its analytic tasks. We do not support scare-mongering,” Gulyás said.
National security procedures are subject to rigorous control mechanisms, and the harvested data can only be used for the purposes defined by law, he noted.
The Hungarian security services collected data only in line with the relevant regulations, he said.
The procedures will be reviewed by parliament’s national security committee, he added.
Referring to the opposition’s recent attempt to convene an extraordinary session of the committee, he said “the specific technology of data collection” did not warrant such a session.
Gulyás said that if EU funding will be withheld from Hungary at all, it will be because of the EU’s objections to the child protection law rather than risk of corruption as stated in the European Union’s recent report on the rule of law in Hungary.
Linking payments of the EU’s Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) to “judiciary reform” in Hungary is “nonsensical”, Gulyás said. The Hungarian judiciary reform was concluded nine years ago in perfect coordination with the European Commission, and so the condition is actually a criticism of the previous Commission rather than the government, he said.
An agreement on the recovery funding is “up to the Commission … but our experiences in the past few days are not good”, he said.
Since education is in the hands of the member states, the EC’s argument is “extremely week”, he said.
Although Hungary’s EU membership “has no alternative”, the government rejects EU institutions’ attempts at “stealthy power grabs” and to claw competencies from member states, he said.
Hungary, among other member states in central European and elsewhere, rejects the EU’s Fit for 55 climate protection plan and stands by the view that the largest polluters, rather than EU citizens, should bear the costs of climate protection, Gulyás said.
Delta variant, coronavirus in Hungary
Gulyás warned that the delta variant was spreading expontentially in a number of countries and said Hungarians should “continue to take the epidemic seriously.”
A fourth wave of the pandemic is inevitable, although high inoculation numbers in Hungary may delay and flatten the peak, he said.
Most experts agree that the booster jab for people showing low antibody numbers after full inoculation should be from a different producer than the first two, Gulyás said.
The type of vaccine will be decided by GPs, he said.
The government has yet to discuss a proposal of the Hungarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MKIK) on making coronavirus vaccination mandatory, he said.
Such a step “might make sense” in sectors such as the hospitality and services industry, he added.
Regarding economic recovery, Gulyás said the agriculture sector is expected to become one of the “winners” of the next seven years, with “an increase in funding unseen since the regime change”. Asked about increasing prices of basic foodstuffs, Gulyás said EU competition law does not allow any intervention in market processes, adding, however, that the prices were expected to fall in the medium term.