Gulyas: Govt steps up southern border controls

The government has reinforced controls along Hungary’s southern borders due to reports of some 70,000 migrants in the Western Balkans heading north, the head of the Prime Minister’s Office sand at a weekly government press briefing on Thursday.

Gergely Gulyas, citing interior ministry information, said the migrants were some 70kms south of the country. Hungary has offered Croatia help in handling the migrants, he added.

Meanwhile, he said national immigration and citizenship office will be renamed the office in charge of foreign nationals “to reflect the wish of Hungarian voters that the country should not become a migrant destination”. The structure of the authority will not change but “renaming it sends a clear message that migration is a law enforcement issue”, he added.

On the topic of Hungary-Ukraine ties, Gulyas said the government strove for good neighbourly relations but “this is not possible if prospects and opportunities for Ukraine’s ethnic Hungarians narrow rather than expand”. He said it was regrettable that Ukraine was using the “Hungarian card” in its election campaign. Hungary will “speak up for Transcarpathia Hungarians” in all possible forums, he added.

Asked about the government’s rejection of plan to appoint a European prosecutor, Gulyas said the initiative would “curb national sovereignty”.

Concerning Budapest’s Central European University, Gulyas said, “We consider any threats or offers by the CEU as political bluff by George Soros”. The government cannot be blamed if the CEU decides to open an campus in Vienna “to issue degrees”, he said, noting that the law on higher education contains provisions for issuing joint degrees such as Hungarian-American ones.

On the topic of health care, Gulyas said “health care is not a business”. “Public health services must be guaranteed to all taxpayers and pensioners”. He added, however, that the government has “never restricted anyone’s right to buy a supplementary health insurance policy or to buy private health-care services”.

Answering a question about reports of planned layoffs of 17-18 percent of public sector employees, Gulyas said he had briefed union heads about the plans amid a “very constructive atmosphere”. He said 10 percent of the jobs in question would be scrapped and actual lay-offs would not exceed 10 percent. “This is in line the government’s position that there should be no blanket layoffs.” He added those retaining their positions would benefit from an average 30 percent pay rise on Jan. 1.

Source and photo: MTI

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