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Now Is Not the Time for Raising Salaries, Says Orbán, Whose Own Salary More Than Doubled This Year

Viktor Orbán addressed the economic downturn caused by the war in his regular Friday morning radio interview this week. In the interview, the Hungarian Prime Minister recalled the parliamentary debate earlier in the week, in which, he said, opposition MPs came up with sudden demands for salary increases for public workers.

While the opposition demanded higher pay for teachers, nurses, policemen, and firefighters, Orbán stated that “talk of 20-30-40% increases, and doubling salaries” shows they do not understand how difficult the situation is.

I’m trying to say both then and now that there’s a war situation going on, and we’re not attacking, we’re defending. Now is not the time to take a step or two forward, say in development projects or even in the wage issue – now is the time for us to defend what we have achieved.

-the Prime Minister commented on Kossuth Rádió.

Orbán also said that “success and a result today is for us to not slide back, but be able to find our footing and not allow the war situation to push us backwards in terms of economic development and living standards.”

Politicians from the opposition, such as Jobbik’s Péter Jakab and András Fekete-Győr from Momentum, have asked Orbán why, with such high inflation and the consequent increase in the cost of living, his monthly salary was recently increased from 1.5 million (US $3,910) to 3.5 million Ft ($9,123).

However, Kossuth Rádió host Katalin Nagy did not ask the Prime Minister this question. [HVG]

Suburbs Around Budapest Struggling With Extreme Water Crisis

Water service was cut off in several towns in Pest County on nearly the same day as the start of the current heatwave. Several areas in Solymár, for example, have had no tap water since at least Tuesday. Most affected are the higher-lying neighborhoods of Kerekhegy and Hutweide in the Budapest suburb.

Residents told HVG that the most pressing issue wasn’t the lack of drinking water, which they can get from a water-distributing vehicle, but rather water needed for washing and cleaning. Many households are using bottled mineral water to flush their toilets, which they feel is not only a luxury, but a huge waste.

The region’s representative in Parliament, Tamás Menczer of Fidesz, said that “water governance” was being set up in Solymár, but he was not able to say how long the water shortage in the settlement would last. Menczer asked the area’s residents to use their water supplies extremely sparingly once their household water service resumes.

In addition to Solymár, water restrictions were introduced in at least ten other towns in Pest County: Üröm, Piliborosjenő, Pilisszentiván, Budakalász, Pomáz, Pilisszántó, Pilisszentkereszt, Pilisvörösvár, Csobánka, and Szentendre. The local water works asked the residents in these settlements to conserve their drinking water, not to fill pools with drinking water or irrigate with it, and not to wash their cars.

In addition, Telex readers told the news site that there had been no water in some parts of Pilisszentlászló since Thursday, and had been informed that water service wouldn’t resume until Wednesday. [HVG, Telex]

Special Election Results Unlikely Predictor of Future Elections

Municipal by-elections were held in five county seats, nine other towns, and four Budapest districts on Sunday, with 16 declared Fidesz candidates winning 12 of their races.

Mayor Gergely Karácsony described the results as disappointing, saying that voters had “sent a message” to Hungary’s opposition parties with their votes.

However, with a remarkably low turnout of around 20% in these elections, political analysts warn against reading too much into what the results might portend for future elections.

“No far-reaching conclusions for national politics can be drawn from these results,” said Gergely Rajnai of the Center for Fair Political Analysis. Turnout is generally lower in the special elections, he said, but even more so when they are held in the summer.

Rajnai also noted that cash-strapped political parties are less able to run campaigns now, since they only receive campaign funding for parliamentary elections. As a result, many people are typically not even aware of such special elections unless they are approached by a party activist.

I would caution against drawing any long-term conclusions. These were by-elections with a particularly low turnout.

-said Andrea Virág of the Republikon Institute.

Virág cited the summer season and the less important stakes of these elections as reasons for the weak turnout, but also pointed out that politicians and voters may have become weary of campaigning. Prior to parliamentary elections in April, Hungary’s political parties had campaigned continuously since last August, she said. [Szabad Európa]

Appeals Court Says Showing “Rainbow Family” PSA During Daytime Not Illegal

The National Media and Communications Authority’s Media Council, consisting exclusively of members appointed by ruling party Fidesz, ruled in February that it was against the law to broadcast a public service advertisement featuring LGBTQ families. The media authority stated that RTL Klub had aired the Background Society’s “Family is Family” spot 11 times in December 2020 at an “inappropriate” time of day.

The Media Council felt that the short film should only be broadcast after 9:00pm, as its message of “reconciling homosexuality together with child-raising and the family may have sensitively affected those under 16, causing them misunderstanding, tension, and uncertainty.”

Following the ruling, the TV station vowed to fight the verdict, and has now won a second instance lawsuit against the anti-LGBTQ decision. The Media Council’s decision was overturned by the Metropolitan Court in April, and the Metropolitan Court of Appeal upheld the verdict on appeal on June 30.

In its reasoning, the court referred to a previous judgment by the European Court of Human Rights in another case, which determined that:

there is no scientific evidence or sociological data to suggest that mentioning homosexuality or an open public debate on the social status of sexual minorities would have an adverse affect on children.

Last summer, the Hungarian Parliament passed amendments to a law that banned children under 18 from accessing advertisements that “depict sexuality for its own purposes, or promote and display self-identification that deviates from one’s birth gender, the changing of genders, or homosexuality.” [444]

Orbán: War is Causing Hungary’s Inflation, and Only Peace Can End It

The main program of Wednesday’s NATO summit had just barely ended when Viktor Orbán’s Facebook team reported on the happenings of the day, repeating the latest government messages in a precisely-edited video posted to social media.

If we have peace, there will be no war inflation, and we are on the side of peace.

-reiterated the Prime Minister at least three times in the recording, making it clear that the developments currently making life hard in Hungary should be seen exclusively as a direct consequence of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.

Throughout the video, Orbán said that the food crisis, war inflation, and looming economic crisis was due to the worsening war in Ukraine, and this could only end through peace, which Hungarians support.

As a defensive alliance, NATO should stay out of the conflict, he said, giving the impression that the opposite had come up as a possibility among the other member states.

He mentioned repeatedly that Hungary was pushing for peace, which in turn requires strength. As a result, the planned increase in military spending will be moved up one year, and raised to 2% of the nation’s GDP in 2023.

At the end, Orbán repeated once again that if there is peace, there will be an economic recovery, if there is peace, we won’t have inflation, “and the risks that now threaten Hungary’s security will come to an end.”

The Prime Minister repeated the same message a day earlier in Parliament in another video posted to Facebook.

In truth, Hungary’s inflation rate began increasing months before the start of the war, and analysts point to the enormous handouts given to voters during the election campaign and the development of the forint exchange rate as factors contributing to its rise. [444]

More Pro-Government Media Outlets Shutting Down

The printed version of weekly Figyelő and daily newspaper Világgazdaság are being discontinued, writes hvg.hu, with their final editions to be published on Thursday. Rising energy and paper prices were cited as reasons for the decision.

Péter Csermely, Deputy CEO of Content Development for publisher Mediaworks, made the announcement on Wednesday afternoon at the respective editorial offices. Mediaworks is part of the Central European Press and Media Foundation (KESMA), the organization operating the large Fidesz-friendly media empire.

Journalists from these two periodicals will be able to take part in producing economic content for Origo and Magyar Nemzet in the future, which suggests that the online versions of Figyelő and Világgazdaság will also be eventually phased out.

In addition to the most recent announcement, the pro-government media empire has taken several steps to slim down since Hungary’s parliamentary election on April 3:

  • Layoffs were announced at Bors and Metropol.
  • It was announced in early April that sport magazine FourFourTwo would be publishing its last edition in May.
  • Also in April, it was revealed that the free weekly newspaper City7, which was distributed in opposition-led cities and districts, would not continue except in Budapest’s Józsefváros district.
  • At the beginning of May, it was announced that Pesti TV would stop broadcasting in July, but would continue to operate online.
  • Mediaworks also closed two of its printing houses.

[Telex]

Gov’t May Propose New Laws This Summer to Protect Children from “LGBTQ Propaganda”

“Parental rights need to be strengthened more with regard to protecting children,” the Ministry of Justice’s state secretary in Parliament said in an interview with Mandiner. Róbert Répássy added:

Some proposals may even be put on the National Assembly agenda in the summer session that implement the aims of the [“child protection”] refendum in practice, that is, keeping LGBTQ propaganda away from children, kindergartens, and schools.

In addition, “it will also become clear from these rules that the purpose of the referendum was not to attack sexual minorities,” he said.

The European Public Prosecutor’s Office was also mentioned in the interview. Hungary has not joined the European-wide office, but Répássy believes that joining the organization “would not have helped the fight against corruption” at all.

“This body is so bureaucratic that Member State authorities can deal with such crimes much more effectively,” he said. [444]

Gyurcsány Makes “404” Joke About New Historical Low For Hungarian Forint

DK President Ferenc Gyurcsány reacted to the news of the forint’s new historic low against the euro on Monday morning.

The former Socialist prime minister posted an image on social media that displayed a screenshot of a supposed website called “euroarfolyam.hu” (euroexchangerate.hu) with text that read:

404! Oops! Responsible government not found!

It seems there’s nothing here, just a weak forint, weak government, and feeble prime minister. Come back later!

Underneath the image, Gyurcsány commented on the news of the morning:

One euro is worth 404 forints. The “street fighter” has even taken the forint to the mat.

Shortly after 1:00pm on Monday, the forint strengthened to 402.62 against the euro.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has referred to himself as a “street fighter” in the past. [Magyar Hang]

Szijjártó: Hungary Won’t Even Consider a Gas Embargo

“Hungary is not even willing to hold talks on a possible gas embargo,” said Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó prior to a meeting of EU energy ministers in Luxembourg. The Minister feels that such a step would lead to “the inability of the economy and the country to operate.”

Szijjártó added that Hungary does not have a problem with the EU wanting to locate new sources for its gas, but it should happen on a voluntary basis and without forcing Member States to take part.

The Foreign Minister added that serious technical problems are currently being reported on natural gas transportation routes from Russia to Western Europe. Hungary expects the European Commission to investigate whether there is indeed an interruption due to necessary equipment for operating the pipeline system not having returned from Canada after having been sent there for maintenance. If this is the case, Hungary expects measures to be taken to avoid a crisis in the supply of gas.

Szijjártó also reiterated that the sanctions hurt Europe more than Russia, as the restrictions “have caused a very high increase in prices in the European energy market. As a second step, a very serious problem with quantity then arose. Then a vicious circle began, and the challenges with quantity have meant another increase in prices.” [HVG]

Karácsony: Voters Sent a Message with Special Elections Results

László Vasvári won a seat in the Újpest Municipality by-elections on Sunday as the joint candidate for MSZP, Dialogue, LMP, Momentum, Jobbik, and DK, the parties that also ran joint candidates in April’s parliamentary elections. Vasvári’s 47.7% of the vote beat the pro-government candidate, Fruzsina Drabant, who only managed to get 40.7%.

However, Vasvári was the lone opposition winner in the capital on Sunday, as pro-government candidates won in two other Budapest races where special municipal elections were also held. The Fidesz-KDNP nominee won elections for local governments seats in Józsefváros and in the neighboring Erzsébetváros, both replacing DK members in their respective districts.

Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony admitted his disappointment with the result on social media:

Can’t deny it, it was a disappointing result.

The Mayor argued that the opposition’s current attitude of “if we can’t defeat Fidesz, we’ll defeat each other” isn’t leading anywhere.

He also wrote that “voters have sent a message: wake up!” [HVG]

Macron Determined to Get Hungary to Lift Veto on Global Minimum Tax

Emmanuel Macron announced on Friday that every effort would be made to get Hungary to rescind its veto on the global minimum tax on companies. The French President spoke after the European Council, consisting of EU heads of state and government, concluded its day-and-a-half meeting in Brussels.

France, which holds the rotating EU presidency until July 1, has a strong incentive to try to reach an agreement in its final week leading the European Union.

Macron stated that in the interest of making a compromise, they would be willing to go to the limits of reasonableness but no further, reported Népszava.

So far, 140 countries have signed on to a general minimum business tax rate of 15% under a framework by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

The European Union wants to join this international agreement, with EU leaders claiming that the measure would provide countries with huge benefits. However, Hungary is alone in the EU in not supporting the plans for a global minimum tax.

The Hungarian Parliament has already passed a resolution rejecting the new tax.

Reacting to President Macron’s intention to overcome Hungarian resistance to the global minimum tax, the Government Information Center wrote in an email that not a word was said about the Hungarian government’s rationale on the matter:

As government officials have said several times, the global minimum tax would double the effective tax rate for Hungarian companies. Our effective business tax rate is 7.5% at present, and the global minimum tax would increase this to 15%. This will mean a tax rate double the current amount, which is why we are against it.

-the office wrote. [Magyar Hang]

Dialogue Invites President Novák to Take Part in Budapest Pride Event

In an online news conference held on Friday, opposition party Dialogue invited Hungarian President Katalin Novák to take part in one of the Budapest Pride events.

Since Hungary’s head of state “has spoken so much” about how she represents the entire nation and wants to show some kind of unity, said party spokesperson Richárd Barabás, it would “very much help heal the country’s wounds if, for example, she paid her respects at a Pride event.”

Barabás said that Dialogue believes in love and freedom, and stands up for all members of both the hetero and LGBTQI communities.

In a possible response to the invitation, Katalin Novák listed on social media five areas in which she “will invigorate Hungarians,” but none declared any support for Hungary’s LGBTQI community.

Speaking in an interview with Telex a few days ago, Novák stated that she had not been to a Pride event, and was not planning to go one in the future. [Magyar Hang]

Polish MEP and Former Orbán Classmate Chides PM for His Position on the War

Népszava published an interview several days ago with Polish Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Radoslaw Sikorski, who once studied at Oxford together with Viktor Orbán. In the interview, Sikorski likened Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky to Imre Nagy, the Hungarian hero of 1956, while he also said that he could not now find the Orbán he once knew, and did not know what had happened to the Hungarian Prime Minister.

Sikorski also asked who Orbán was pulling for in the war: “the victim of Russian aggression, or the aggressor?”

The MEP’s words may have touched a nerve with the Hungarian Prime Minister, as the latter responded to Sikorski in a letter that was not widely publicized. However, Népszava obtained the English-language letter and published it on Friday.

In the letter dated June 15, Orban wrote that Hungary wants peace, an end to the armed conflict between Russia and Ukraine, and desires to help Ukraine and provide for the country’s wartime refugees.

Hungary and its citizens deserve recognition and gratitude for their efforts instead of offensive statements and indoctrination.

-Orbán wrote to the Polish politician.

Sikorski sent a response to Orbán’s letter a few days later, on June 22, which Népszava also published. He wrote that Orbán is correct that Hungary has the right to veto the decisions of the Council. “It is just the way that you have exercised that right which baffles me,” noted the MEP.

Radoslaw Sikorski also pointed out that Hungary has banned the transit of weapons across Hungary to Ukraine while the country is “fighting for its very existence.”

I struggle to reconcile the decisions you are making today with the words that launched your career in politics on 16th June 1989. During the reburial of prime minister Imre Nagy you said that the Soviet domination of Hungary was an “Asian impasse” from which the country needed a way out. You called for democracy, free elections and the withdrawal of Russian troops. Can you not see that President Zelensky wants for his country the same things that the young Viktor Orbán wanted for his?

Would Józef Bem, the hero of both our nations, be proud of you if you blocked the transit of weapons through Hungary when he fought the Russians on behalf of Poland?

-wrote Radolsaw Sikorski to the Hungarian Prime Minister. [HVG]

Spat Between Ryanair and Hungarian Gov’t Descends into Childish Name-Calling

After several days of calling Minister for Economic Development Márton Nagy an “idiot,” Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary went a step further by comparing Nagy and Minister Gergely Gulyás, the head of the Prime Minister’s Office, to the lead characters in the 1994 film “Dumb and Dumber.”

As O’Leary told Euronews:

These two Hungarian ministers are like that Jim Carrey movie, “Dumb and Dumber,” if they think people will happily pay the extra tax and choose a more expensive airline from one day to another.

The low-cost airline got riled up after Viktor Orbán announced on May 25 that the government would be imposing an “extra-profit tax” on certain industries, including airlines. The state will levy an extra 3,900 Ft. (US $10.27) per ticket for European destinations, and 9,750 Ft. ($25.68) for destinations outside of the continent.

Ryanair announced it would pass on this new tax burden to passengers, which the government has protested, launching a consumer protection investigation over the matter.

Not to be outdone, Fidesz MEP Tamás Deutsch continued the name-calling on Thursday. Speaking to HírTV, the 55-year-old man expressed his view that the Ryanair CEO was a “male appendage.”

[Telex, HírTV]

Orbán: Yes to Ukraine Entering the EU, No to More Sanctions

We say yes to Ukrainian membership in the European Union, yes to peace, and no to further sanctions!

-said Prime Minister Viktor Orbán on social media on Thursday on the EU summit taking place today and tomorrow in Brussels.

In a video uploaded to his Facebook page, the Prime Minister said he had met with Western Balkan leaders in the morning, followed by an overview of Ukraine and the situation with the war in the afternoon. On Friday, “we will be discussing the European economic situation in sufficient depth and length,” said Orbán, which he claims is “not at all rosy.”

“Europe is suffering,” said Orbán. “It is suffering from war inflation and suffering from the economic crisis from the war.”

The Hungarian Prime Minister added that more and more sanctions were being proposed, but he believes the sanctions, along with the war, are the cause of economic difficulties.

We need peace now, not new sanctions, because the only antidote to wartime inflation is peace.

-stated Orbán in the video. [HVG]

Hungary the Only EU Country to Oppose Global Minimum Tax

The European Parliament urgently addressed the issue of a national veto threatening the global tax agreement on Thursday after Hungary said last week that it did not support the new global tax for the richest companies, reported MTI.

Paolo Gentiloni, the European Commissioner responsible for economic policy, said that the European Commission had tried to come up with a proposal for a directive that would be acceptable for all Member States, but at the last minute, just one, Hungary, refused to support it.

He added that the Hungarian government cited the economic effects of the war in Ukraine as the reason not to accept the proposal.

But the Commissioner pointed out that the war in Ukraine is affecting all EU Member States, which is exactly why measures that generate revenue for the EU to protect its citizens from the effects of the war are needed. “A 15% corporate tax rate would be a huge benefit, so why deprive ourselves of it?” asked Gentiloni.

The initiative is also in line with a OECD framework proposal that has the agreement of 140 countries. As HVG‘s EUologist wrote, its intent is to eliminate tax havens that allow multinationals to avoid paying taxes or significantly lower their tax burdens. In addition, the proposal would generate an extra €48 billion (US $50.5 billion) in annual revenue for the Union.

Representing the current French presidency of the EU, Clément Beaune, France’s state secretary for European affairs, said that even with a Hungarian veto, the EU’s founding treaties allow a group of Member States to commit themselves to certain issues through so-called enhanced cooperation. This means that the other 26 Member States in the EU may decide to introduce a global minimum tax on their own, excluding Hungary. [Magyar Hang]

Viktor Orbán’s Son-in-Law the Biggest Winner of Grants for Tourism Development

Companies connected to István Tiborcz, the Prime Minister’s son-in-law, received the largest amount in non-repayable grants given out by the Hungarian Tourism Agency (MTÜ), reports Válasz Online.

MTÜ provided a total of 316.8 billion Ft. (US $845 million) for tourism development between 2018-2022 under the Kisfaludy Program. While many small companies were also able to win tenders for some of this money, the largest amount, 56.4 billion Ft. ($150 million), ended up going to firms associated with the husband of Ráhel Orbán, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s oldest daughter.

In other words, every fifth or sixth forint of Kisfaludy funds enriched the Tiborcz group of companies.

The government’s share for the amount of the tenders was also unusually high, close to 70%. This meant that the winners only have to pay around a third of the value of the proposed development projects, with the state picking up the rest of the bill.

However, Válasz Online also found that the biggest winners of these tenders didn’t even have to pay their own share of the tenders themselves, but received loans from various “friendly” banks for this amount.

These lending institutions included Gránit Bank, MKB, Takarékbank, and OTP, but even the publicly-owned Hungarian Development Bank and the Russian-backed International Investment Bank also lent money to the tender winners, the news site learned. [Népszava]

Ryanair Now Asking Passengers to Protest Directly to Hungarian Government Over “Extra-Profit” Tax

Dear Passenger,

The Hungarian Govt. has recently imposed a baseless and unjustified “extra profits” tax at short notice, on the airline sector suffering record losses, so we need your support, to have this idiotic and unfair tax on our passengers scrapped.

read an email that Ryanair sent to its passengers on Wednesday, urging them to write a letter of protest to Economic Development Minister Márton Nagy over the “extra-profit” tax, rtl.hu has learned.

The new tax has caused quite a bit of back and forth between the airline and the Hungarian government, and the company’s CEO, Michael O’Leary, has repeatedly called Nagy an “idiot.”

A yellow button prominently featured at the bottom of Ryanair’s email, when clicked on, creates a pre-written message that their system will then email to the Prime Minister’s Cabinet Office at kommunikacio@mk.gov.hu.

The pre-written English-language email, which is personally addressed to Minister Nagy, demands the immediate abolition of the tax, which the email claims will increase air travel expenses for Hungarian passengers and their families, and damage Hungary’s image and reputation in the European Union.

Ryanair announced that because of the tax, it would be adding an extra 3,900 Ft. (US $10.41) for all flights departing after July 1, even for those who had already paid for their tickets.

The government has launched a consumer protection investigation against Ryanair over the matter. [Magyar Hang]

After Putin and Lukashenko, Orbán Most Disliked by Ukrainians

A new poll conducted by Ukrainian pollster Rating has found that after the Russian and Belarusian Presidents, Ukrainians feel most negatively about Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, reports Mandiner.

The survey revealed that 98% of Ukrainians have a completely negative opinion about Vladimir Putin, but Alexander Lukashenko is not far behind at 95%.

By comparison, far fewer Ukrainians dislike the Hungarian head of government: 33% of respondents have completely negative feelings about him, while 20% feel somewhat negatively about him. 15% of them have somewhat positive feelings for Orbán, and only 5% feel completely positive towards him.

20% of Ukrainians were unfamiliar with the Hungarian Prime Minister, and 7% of them found it hard to answer the question.

Survey respondents felt most positively about Polish President Andrzej Duda (92%), British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (89%), and US President Joe Biden (89%).

1,200 people were interviewed by phone in every county in Ukraine except for Russian-occupied Crimea and Donetsk Basin, as well as in areas where the Ukrainian mobile network is currently inoperable because of the war. [444]

Zelensky Invites Orbán to Ukraine as Two Leaders Talk on Phone

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called Prime Minister Viktor Orbán on Tuesday, with talks that focused on Ukraine’s European integration, Hungary’s acceptance of war refugees, and other areas of Hungarian-Ukrainian co-operation, Bertalan Havasi, Deputy State Secretary for the Prime Minister’s Press Office, told MTI.

During the discussions between the two leaders, Viktor Orbán stressed that Hungary supported Ukraine’s candidate status for EU membership, and that bureaucratic obstacles must be removed as soon as possible before Ukraine can join the EU. The Hungarian Prime Minister informed the Ukrainian head of state that he would advocate for this position at this week’s EU summit in Brussels.

Viktor Orbán also mentioned that Hungary has now received nearly 800,000 Ukrainian refugees fleeing the war with Russia, and that the country is open to further energy cooperation with Ukraine, transporting Ukrainian grain by rail, and letting even more Ukrainian students into Hungary.

The Ukrainian President wrote about the phone call with Viktor Orbán on Twitter, mentioning that the conversation was “fruitful,” and also thanking the Hungarian head of government for supporting Ukrainian sovereignty and “shelter for Ukrainians during the war.” He additionally wrote that they had agreed to further “cooperation in the energy sector,” and that he had invited Orbán to visit Ukraine.

[Telex]