Daily News Hungary | Mar 24, 2019 | 1
Weekly government press briefing about Putin’s visit, new wave of migration and other interesting topics
Budapest, January 19 (MTI) – Russian President Vladimir Putin is scheduled to visit Budapest on Feb. 2, János Lázár, the government office chief, announced on Thursday. Preparations are needed to contain migration in the event Turkey fails to meet its related obligations, Lázár told a weekly press briefing. Lázár said that he will file a criminal complaint over the construction of Budapest’s fourth metro line, based on a recent report by the European Union’s anti-fraud office (OLAF).
Speaking at a weekly press briefing, Lázár said Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó would leave for Moscow next week to make preparations for the presidential visit.
Lázár said Putin’s visit was part of a fixture of annual meetings in which both leaders reviewed topical business and political issues. “This will be an important meeting but nothing out of the ordinary,” Lázár added.
On another diplomatic topic, Lázár said 2017 would be an important year for Hungarian diplomacy, not only because of the inauguration of a new American president and Brexit, but also because the government has decided to shift focus from pursuing multilateral ties to fostering bilateral relations.
Lázár said it was in Hungary’s interest to seek “fair and correct” agreements both with the United States and the United Kingdom. He added that Brexit should be completed on a basis of mutual benefits “so that it is good for both Europe and Britain”. On the same subject he added that the Hungarian government must protect the interests of Hungarians working in the UK.
Concerning migration, Lázár highlighted that the first contingent in a new border police unit, over 500 “border hunters”, had taken their oaths last week. He added that a second fence would be necessary to be built in parallel on the Hungarian side of the border with Serbia.
Answering a question, Lázár said that the intelligence services have compiled a report about attempts by organisations, including those associated with American financier George Soros, to influence the politics of countries in central Europe, Lazar said, adding that the report was being considered by parliament’s national security committee. “Soros calls himself the opposition of [prime minister] Viktor Orbán and tells the US press that he is waging a campaign to change political conditions in Hungary. This is something the national security committee should evaluate,” he said.
Asked about President-elect Donald Trump’s remarks concerning NATO and its “obsolescence”, as well as the possibility of a European defence system independent of the US, Lazar said Hungary’s standpoint is that Europe must have its own defence capabilities. The Hungarian government is ready to get behind a proposal for an independent defence capability, he said, adding however that “it is too soon to bury NATO”.
In connection with Hungary’s own defence capability “which has been described as currently central Europe’s-and perhaps Europe’s-weakest”, he said the government would discuss in February a development concept for Hungarian defence. This concept will outline how many soldiers and what kind of hardware developments are needed. Lazar added that the defence budget would be expanded. He also made clear that there were no plans to restore national service.
Hungary’s ambassador to Washington will represent the country at Trump’s inauguration, Lázár said.
Lázár warns of possible new wave of migration
János Lázár said the government is expecting the migration situation to deteriorate. Hungary must be prepared to protect its own and the EU’s borders independently of Turkey, he said.
Lázár noted that the interior ministry was working to re-introduce the detention of illegal entrants.
Lázár to file criminal complaint over metro 4 construction
Briefing the press, Lázár noted that OLAF had conducted an investigation into alleged criminal activities involved in the metro’s construction financed using EU funding.
Lázár insisted that the project constituted a “crime by the international left” and that nearly all public procurement bids in the project had been conducted fraudulently.
Answering a question whether the government would publish the OLAF report, Lázár said he thought OLAF itself would do so. “The government was not the investor, the government did not conduct the investigation; the government was just informed,” he added.
In response to a question about why the criminal complaint does not name the main persons in charge of the investment project, Lazar said the OLAF report discusses contracts and in the majority of cases shows the initials of the people that signed contracts. In response to another question on where former Mayor Gábor Demszky and his “number one, two and three” deputies Csaba Horváth, János Atkari and Miklós Hagyó, stand in the line of responsibility, he said “they stand in first, second and third place”.
In connection with accountability, he said the OLAF report includes several company names, including “Siemens among those at the front”.
Metro line 3 upgrade
Commenting on a planned demonstration by the opposition Socialists in connection with the third metro line, he said the same people who had “left Budapest’s cupboards bare” are protesting for the revamp now.
“The Socialists are hungry, and they perhaps think there is an opportunity for theft in the capital just as with the fourth metro line…” Lázár said.
Concerning the revamp of the third metro line, he said the city council enjoyed the government’s support with 138 billion forints of EU funding available. He expressed agreement with Mayor István Tarlós that the revamp project could start in the summer.
Socialist prime ministerial candidate
Commenting on Szeged Mayor László Botka’s nomination as the Socialist party’s prime ministerial candidate, he said the “jostling” for power had started among members of the opposition but the government would maintain its distance. He confirmed that Prime Minister Viktor Orbán will meet Botka in Szeged on Jan. 30 to discuss city development plans.
Hungarian state support granted to a soccer teams
In connection with 3 billion forints of Hungarian state support granted to a soccer team in Serbia, he said some 27 billion forints support had been granted to ethnic Hungarian organisations beyond the borders at the end of last year. Kindergartens in the Carpathian Basin received 9 billion forints and sports clubs in Osijek (Eszék) in Croatia, Dunajska Streda (Dunaszerdahely) in Slovakia, Miercurea Ciuc (Csíkszereda) in Romania and Vojvodina in Serbia also received Hungarian government support.
He said Hungary’s natural gas supplies were sufficient and rejected opposition criticism in connection with the reserves.
The first round of consultations between ministries on the 2018 draft budget will be held in March and the government wants it to go before parliament earlier than last year, Lázár said.