The seventh amendment of the constitution and the “Stop Soros” package of laws approved by parliament serve to guarantee Hungary’s sovereignty and security, the head of the Prime Minister’s Office said on Thursday.
The laws passed on Wednesday are aimed at preventing Hungary from becoming a migrant country, Gergely Gulyas told a regular press briefing. The constitutional amendment announces a ban on the forced settlement of foreign populations in Hungary and it reinforces the first safe country of asylum principle. Commenting on the latter, Gulyas said that European disputes could have been avoided if all European Union member countries had applied this principle which originates from the Geneva Convention.
The “Stop Soros” law will make the prevention of organising illegal migration more effective, he said. By approving the relevant laws, the ruling Fidesz-Christian Democrats have fulfilled their election promises, he added. During the election campaign, the parties acted in a transparent manner and made clear their plans to restrict migration. Some amendments have been made to the bill since its first reading in February but it was approved without changing the original intention, he added.
He welcomed the fact that the bill was approved by a majority that surpassed that of the ruling parties, but he added that this did not mean the majority of the opposition supported it. “The majority of the opposition still takes a pro-migration position,” he said.
At the same time, he expressed hope that the government could rely on the opposition when it came to defending Hungary in international disputes on migration. In response to a question, he said the commission is unlikely to impose any sanctions on Hungary but further disputes were possible.
He declined to comment on reports that Prime Minister Viktor Orban would meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
He also declined to elaborate on domestic political issues in Germany. He added, however, that if Europe’s external borders were protected, then the problem that generated disputes between the CDU and CSU would be nonexistent.
In response to a question concerning a bill which ups the limit on the salaries of ministers to 5 million forints (EUR 15,400) per month, he said the bill only establishes salary bands and the prime minister would decide on the actual amount. The bill ensures that ministers should be able to make at least as much as the heads of companies, he added. The PM’s salary remains the same and it is now possible for a minister to be paid more than the PM, Gulyas said.
Commenting on the US exiting the UN Human Rights Council and the possibility that Hungary plans to do the same, he said Hungary respects the decision of a sovereign country. Hungary has a poor opinion of UN legal bodies and representatives straying into politics and overstepping their authority. At the same time, Hungary’s government has not made a decision similar to the US, he said.
He confirmed press reports that current Ambassador to Finland Vince Szalay-Bobrovniczky will become deputy state secretary in charge of NGOs from Aug. 1.
Meanwhile, asked why the government had not considered the Venice Commission’s draft opinion on the “Stop Soros” laws or waited for its full opinion before passing the legislation, Gulyas noted that the commission was only scheduled to approve its final opinion on Friday, whereas the draft report had been out for a week. He said the commission rarely made changes to its draft opinion when approving its final one and the two usually ended up being identical. Gulyas said the commission had acknowledged that the regulations in the “Stop Soros” law were justified and had only raised concerns relating to proportionality, which, he added, the government disagrees with.
Asked about the dispute over state funding earmarked for scientific research at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (MTA) in next year’s budget, Gulyas said Hungary spends 70 billion forints (EUR 216m) a year on R+D+I. He said Laszlo Palkovics, the minister of innovation and technology, has entered into talks with the Academy’s leaders in the hope of reaching an agreement on the institution’s funding. The innovation and technology ministry recently announced it will distribute almost 70 billion forints of R+D funding to state institutions. Gulyas said a deal between the government and the Academy was close, adding that “everyone accepts that if the government and the Academy work together to reach their shared goals, then state funding is put to better use”.
The distribution of research funds to state institutions “doesn’t threaten the MTA’s constitutional independence in any way,” he said, arguing that all funds earmarked for the upkeep of the Academy were part of the institution’s budget. The funds in question have been allocated exclusively for research purposes and serve to tighten cooperation between the government and the Academy, Gulyas said.
EU spox: Commission will examine new Hungarian legislation
The European Commission has said it will examine whether the new legislative package adopted by Hungary’s parliament on Wednesday falls in line with EU law, and it will take the Venice Commission’s opinion into consideration, an EU commission spokesman said on Thursday. Pending the assessment’s conclusions, the commission will take any steps necessary, Christian Wigand, said.
The commission will take into account the impact of the law on European values as well as how those values are protected, he added. Commenting on the new rules on homelessness contained in the constitution, Wigand said all EU member states, including Hungary, have committed themselves to sheltering and helping refugees and homeless people as well as promoting their social integration. The commission’s policy is that homeless people should have access to shelter, he added.
Source and photo: MTI