PM Orbán's Press Conference: Wage Hikes, Climate Change, U.S.-Iran Conflict

  • 10 Jan 2020 10:26 AM
  • Hungary Matters
PM Orbán's Press Conference: Wage Hikes, Climate Change, U.S.-Iran Conflict
The government will continue to reduce unemployment and hike wages because "there is no other way to eliminate poverty", Prime Minister Viktor Orbán told an international press conference.

Orbán Pledges More Wage Hikes

Orbán called it a “fantastic achievement” that the number of jobholders had exceeded 4.5 million “for the first time in thirty years”. Wages have been growing for 82 consecutive months, and their growth rate has been the fastest for low earners, he added.

The Hungarian economy is constantly developing, and the government aims to reach 85% of the average European Union level of development by 2030, Orbán said. That figure was at 63% in 2010 and at 71% this year, he noted.

Meanwhile, regarding EU investments, Orbán said it was a “generally accepted practice” that states folded into the state budget those investments the EU had objections to and there was no meaningful difference between European and domestic funds.

The more developed a country is, the less funding it is entitled to from the EU, he noted, adding that Hungarian firms would have to repatriate more dividends from abroad in order to make up for the decline in EU funding.

Orbán said that Hungary’s payments into the EU in proportion to GDP were higher than some more prosperous members such as the Netherlands and Sweden.

Hungary To Adapt To Climate Change Steadily

The government’s national energy and climate protection strategy aims to maintain the “common life of Hungarians” in the Carpathian Basin while adapting to climate change calmly and systematically.

The plan is to gradually achieve 90% carbon-neutral electricity by 2030, with the Paks nuclear power plant providing the bulk of generation and solar most of the rest, he said. Hungary, he added, belonged to a group of countries that aimed for a climate-neutral economy by 2050, but this, he said, would cost 50,000 billion forints (EUR 152bn) to achieve.

Among substantive measures to achieve such goals will be putting electric buses into circulation and eliminating all illegal landfill sites, while getting rid of plastic bottles from rivers, Orbán said. Hungary is one of 21 countries that have managed major economic growth while reducing carbon dioxide emissions, he added.

Orbán said that amid the protracted debates in Europe, it was important to keep the costs of adapting to “climate change” topmost in mind. The household costs of energy and food should not rise, he said.

Further, poorer countries should not be deprived of their funding, such as money from the EU’s cohesion fund, he said. Moreover, he said that it should be recognised that creating a climate-neutral economy without nuclear power would be “impossible”.

Orbán Ready To Continue As PM

The PM said he is ready to run for a fifth term as prime minister, though no personnel decisions had been made by the ruling Fidesz party concerning the 2022 elections. Commenting on recent remarks made about his age, he said youth in politics was less relevant than momentum and bravery.

Looking at politics from this perspective, the youngest politicians in the world today, he added, were British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and US President Donald Trump.
Meanwhile, asked about the possibility of “a new Christian democratic initiative” in connection with the European People’s Party, he said Fidesz was not interested in EPP in its current form, and a change was needed within the party family.

“The EPP is shrinking and losing influence, positions and seats because it is heading in the wrong direction, a liberal, Socialist, centrist direction,” Orbán said. The question is whether Fidesz has enough influence within the EPP to force through or initiate a change, he added.

If the EPP is unable to change direction, then a new Christian democratic initiative would be needed in European politics. It would be necessary, he added, to create a counterweight to the rise of French President Macron’s “left-wing movement”.

In response to another question, he said he agreed with those who noted that Fidesz had developed a more combative style in the past two years, but this, he added, had been part of a two-year election campaign.

“The campaign is over and we must return to the earlier style of politics by, for instance, launching national consultations.” Orbán said the political campaign had been too long and people disliked long periods of confrontation. “I’m not happy with them either.” He said the government planned to hold at least two consultations in 2020.

In response to a question about personnel changes in the government, he said stability was a prime virtue and changes were not needed unless there was a very good reason for them.

“But if corrections are needed, then they must be made.” Commenting on recent critical remarks by István Stumpf (a former constitutional court judge), Tibor Navracsics (a European commissioner) and János Lázár (a former head of the PM’s office), Orbán said he was biased towards all three as he considered them as friends. Orbán said he would always ask for and listen to Stumpf’s opinion and he counted on Navracsics’s work in the upcoming period. Lázár, he added, had a job to win back the town of Hódmezővásárhely.

Asked about the impact of the US-Iran conflict on Hungary’s energy policy as well as its diplomacy as part of the western alliance, the prime minister said the gap between the EU and the Israeli-American position on Iran should be narrowed. Orbán added that Hungary does not support the adoption of nuclear weapons by any country.

MTI Photo: Szigetváry Zsolt

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