Goals for 2023 Outlined by Orbán

  • 22 Dec 2022 9:13 AM
  • Hungary Matters
Goals for 2023 Outlined by Orbán
The prime minister, addressing an international press conference on Wednesday, hailed Hungary's "exceptional performance" in what he called the country's "most difficult year" since its change of regime.

As regards Hungary’s goals for 2023, Orbán said: “We will be on the defensive in 2023 but won’t give up on our great objectives.” 

Staying out of the war in Ukraine will continue to be of paramount importance for the country, Orbán said, adding that another top priority was to ensure economic growth as opposed to recession elsewhere in Europe. 

The government also wants to ensure that inflation is brought down to the single digits by the end of 2023, he said.

Speaking ahead of a government session later on Wednesday, Orbán said the government was expected to decide on extending young people’s personal income tax exemption from 25 years of age to 30 in the case of mothers. 

“Sovereignty, freedom, full employment and assistance to families — those are the great goals we won’t give up even under predictably difficult conditions,” Orbán said.

Migration Remains Challenge, Says Orbán

Asked about Hungary’s border fence, Orbán said that even though the authorities had thwarted 250,000 illegal entry attempts this year, some migrants are still successful in breaking through the fence. 

And even though some 2,500 people smugglers have been jailed, there will be further people embarking on the trade, he added. Orbán noted the recent establishment of the border patrol regiment. 

Hungary welcomes Croatia’s accession to the passport-free Schengen zone, he said, noting that this will allow the country to move patrols to the Hungary-Serbia border, “which means that we’ll be more effective than before”. 

The prime minister also said that Hungary had reached an agreement with Serbia and Austria on forming a border protection alliance. 

Their first task, he said, would be to push the line of defence on the Serbia-Hungary border to the North Macedonia-Serbia border. The plan is to strengthen the Serbia-Bulgaria border the same way, he added.

Orbán Addresses Energy Issues

On another subject, Orbán said Hungary and Qatar had signed an energy and investment deal, but it would soon be followed by “longer, inter-governmental talks touching upon strategic areas, too”.

The government aims to reduce Hungary’s dependence on energy imports, Orbán said, adding that nuclear energy involved the least such dependence, that is why the government had decided on upgrading the Paks nuclear plant.

The outcome of the project will depend on the government’s efforts to “prevent the entire nuclear energy industry from being included in the (EU’s) sanctions list,” he added.

Once the Paks upgrade is complete, Hungary will be able to significantly reduce its gas consumption, Orbán said, and suggested that attempts at such reductions so far, like reducing the gas consumption in public institutions had been insufficient. 

He noted the recent agreement with Azerbaijan, Georgia and Romania on building an electric cable, while pipeline connections were being upgraded and the government was also studying opportunities to receive LNG delivered by sea.

Concerning Croatia’s increasing the transit fee for using the Adria oil pipeline, Orbán said that “Hungary wants to pay a fair price and Croatia wants a fair price, too, therefore talks are necessary”. 

The European Commission has not yet made a position on the matter, he said.

Orbán Calls Efforts to Isolate China ‘Ill-Advised’

On the subject of China, Orbán said its significance as an investor had increased in recent years and called endeavours to “isolate” China “ill-advised”. 

“Everything must be done in the interest of the best possible ties between China and Europe, and China and Hungary,” he said. Hungary needs Chinese technology and skills, he added. 

Answering a question on the Fudan University campus in Budapest, he said building good ties required “a knowledge of eastern economic philosophy” adding that “all university training coming from Asia is an asset”.

Prime Minister on Disputes with European Institutions

Although Hungary disagrees with other EU countries on a number of issues, this does not mean isolation, the prime minister said. Isolation implies that someone stays away from common decision making; Hungary, however, takes part in all decisions that determine the future of the community, he added.

While belonging to a community and therefore not being isolated, Hungary is arguing at full strength against the formation of blocks, Orbán said, noting that whenever military or economic blocks had been formed over the past thousand years, Hungary ended up on the loser’s side. 

“If there are blocks, we are the eastern periphery of the Western world. If there is East-West cooperation, we are the centre of the world,” he said.

Orbán called the rule-of-law procedure designed by Brussels a failure, saying that rule of law would require clear definitions and standards, ones that are missing from Europe because of the different cultures and traditions. 

Orbán said he did not question the good intentions behind the creation of the rule-of-procedure but added that it “is in fact dismantling and disintegrating the European Union”. If the question is raised in the form whether we remain Hungarians and fight, then we will remain Hungarians and fight, he said.

Asked about foreign support for the left-wing media, Orbán said he saw no difference between left-wing parties and the media. It follows, he said, that this support qualifies as political support.

Orban said “we oppose all sanctions. We are generally against the policy of sanctions. If it were up to us, there were no policy of sanctions at all”. This instrument, he added, could only be used in a narrower, more targeted and more carefully planned way. 

Hungary has not supported and would not support the EU packages either in the future but “we cannot veto them at every moment without destroying the community of the EU”, he said. 

Concerning the 18 billion euro support for Ukraine, Orbán called it a “bad solution” that the financial assistance was not provided on an intergovernmental basis but through the EU institutions. Hungary did not support the idea of a debt community, he said, adding that finally an intermediate solution was found.

Brussels’ Sanctions Contribute to Inflation, Says Orbán

The prime minister attributed inflation to several factors, some of which, he said, may affect the government. These include exchange rate movements, economic productivity and public debt.

“If energy were not a matter of Brussels sanctions, Hungary’s rate of inflation would perhaps fall by half,” he said. The prime minister said it is hard to understand how any price cap could generate inflation. 

He added that bankers had protested every price regulation the government had rolled out over the past ten years. “Price caps were not introduced for bankers, but for people in need,” he added.

Orbán conceded that fluctuations in the forint’s exchange rate form an argument for adopting the euro, but said accession to the euro zone would cause economic growth to slow. 

“If Hungary’s economy is to grow and there is to be convergence, it’s better to stay outside of the euro zone. If stability is more important than convergence, then it’s better to join,” he explained, adding that he takes the position that convergence is more important.

Orbán said the government does not plan to reduce the value-added tax. The prime minister called it a “key to the success of the Hungarian taxation system that the country has the lowest labour taxes in Europe. 

The central budget, he said, collects the money it needs through consumption rather than through labour taxes. “This is a tax philosophy and we don’t want to change it,” the prime minister said.

Orbán said the government was not planning to negotiate with the IMF on taking out a loan because the conditions attached to such loans “usually hurt people”. The best money is always the one raised from the money market, he said.

Asked about troubled steel maker Dunaferr, Orbán said the government would try to “save what can be saved”, but added that the situation is “chaotic” as even identifying Dunaferr’s owner is problematic. He added that Dunaferr has about 500 billion forints in liabilities.

Asked about a scarf he had worn at a soccer match, which depicted pre-WW1 “greater Hungary”, Orbán said “Hungary is a 1,100-year-old country, we are surrounded by historical symbols which symbolise national unity as part of our everyday life”.

He said he did not accept any opinion which regards an ethnically homogenous community less valuable than an ethnically mixed one.

The prime minister hailed that Benjamin Netanyahu has been re-elected as Israel’s new prime minister.

 “Netanyahu was the first Israeli prime minister to pay an official visit to Budapest in 2017 after 30 years,” Orbán said, adding that the visit “opened a whole new chapter in Hungarian-Israeli relations”.

Asked about his future plans, Orbán said he had been in opposition for sixteen years before and now it is his seventeenth year in power as government head. “So, I don’t feel it is time for me to retire [from politics],” the prime minister said.

“Hungary Must Stay Out of War”, Says Orbán

Concerning the war in Ukraine, Orbán said Hungary “must stay out” of it, partly because of the Hungarian minority in Ukraine, “partly because war is always bad … several hundred [ethnic] Hungarians have died already as soldiers in the Ukrainian army,” he said. So far, he said “the war has only made losers” with both adversaries and also the European economy on the losing side.

Hungary has suffered serious damage and paid “sanctions-related surcharges”, he said, adding that in 2023 nearly all European countries would face the challenge of how to avoid recession “arising directly from the war and Europe’s participation in the war which they call sanctions”. 

Hungary must “not allow itself to be dragged into the war”, while a large part of Europe “has been dragged into it”, he said.

Countries sending weapons to the warring countries are in the war “ankle-deep” and those training soldiers of one of the adversaries are “knee-deep”, while those providing operational training are “up to the waist” in the conflict, he said. 

Those financing one of the countries in terms of not only its war-related costs “but the operations of the state, as the EU is doing with 18 billion euros” are “in the war up to the shoulders”, he insisted, adding he hoped that Europe would not get involved “up to the neck”.

Despite huge international pressure, Hungary has maintained its position calling for an immediate ceasefire and peace talks, he said.

Meanwhile, Hungary has met its “humanitarian and Christian” obligations to help those in trouble and the country launched its so far largest humanitarian programme to help the Ukrainian people, the prime minister said.

MTI Photo: Szilárd Koszticsák

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