Battles can be expected in Brussels on migration and economic strategy issues

Friday, January 13, 2017

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán expects two major battles in Brussels this year: one on the issue of migration, and the other on economic strategy. On both fronts, he said, “we shall have to defend our sovereignty”.

On Kossuth Rádió’s “180 Minutes”, the Prime Minister said that Hungary must block attempts by Brussels to appropriate national competencies related to migration. In this context, he said that the Government has decided to reinstate detention of alien persons, and with this measure “we are openly opposing” the European Union. In his view, however, this measure is necessary, due to the threat of terrorism in Europe. To ensure national defence, he said, all legal provisions which make acts of terrorism easier must be changed.

Regarding the other “battle”, Mr. Orbán said that Brussels is seeking ever greater power of intervention in issues of economic strategy – such as energy pricing, taxes and wages. In his view, however, Hungary must ensure that such intervention cannot happen.

He specifically highlighted defending reductions in household utility charges. Such defence is necessary, he explained, because the planned European energy union would prohibit state price regulation, which in turn would mean that reductions in household utility charges would need to be phased out.

The Prime Minister described the coming year as one of rebellion: the nations of the EU will rebel against Brussels’ policy of seeking to continually appropriate powers from the nation states, “sometimes openly, sometimes by stealth”. He mentioned the centre-right French presidential candidate François Fillon, who he described as having “a programme of rebellion”: on the issue of migration, for instance, the programme rebels against the common European asylum policy which has been pursued to date.

In Mr. Orbán’s opinion, in 2017 we can expect a major struggle between an approach that seeks to protect Member States’ rights within the EU and a centralising impulse in Brussels that seeks to appropriate ever more powers.

He also said that a feeling of “sour grapes” lies behind “Western sophistry”. Mr. Orbán observed that Westerners are accustomed to telling Central Europeans how to be modern, how to be successful, how to build capitalism and the market economy, and explaining what democracy is. “Now they are suffering from a lack of success: their figures are poorer, ours are better, and the reason is that we are doing things differently from them. They do not want to admit that our way of doing things is more sensible”, he stated. He added that, instead of people in the West facing up to reality, “they continue to force their broken old record onto the turntable” for ideological reasons.

With regard to the Visegrád Four (V4), he said that Hungary will attempt to intensify V4 cooperation during the Hungarian presidency starting in July. He also spoke about Hungarian-Polish relations, indicating that “solidarity is working well”. As an example, he observed that in the EU recently the Hungarians stood up for the Poles on the issue of coal mining, and in return he asked Warsaw to stand up for the Hungarians in Brussels on reduction of VAT on internet services to 5 per cent.

Concerning the Hungarian economy, Mr. Orbán said that the Government’s efforts are beginning to come to fruition. “The change apparent in the workfare economy is also slowly taking place in people’s lives”: in other words, there is the possibility of work for everyone who wants to work, unemployment is falling dramatically, wages are rising and payroll taxes are decreasing. He said that shortages of labour are a sign of continuously growing business investment.

Finally he mentioned the recent extremely cold weather. Mr. Orbán asked all homeless people to make use of the shelters which have been made available. He stressed that there are more spaces in the shelters than there are homeless people.

The Prime Minister further confirmed that there are sufficient energy reserves to guarantee the country’s continued operation, observing that reductions in household utility charges have made energy bills “bearable”.

(Cabinet Office of the Prime Minister/MTI)

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