Regarding the issue of restarting life in Budapest, experts take the view that we must wait for a fall in the number of fatalities caused by coronavirus infection. Until this happens, we must be cautious with reopening measures in the capital, the Prime Minister indicated.
He stressed that he is for restarting life, but professors are calling for caution.
At the same time, he asked political decision-makers and journalists not to believe that they have suddenly become virologists, and not to believe that they now know more about the topic than experts do.
As to whether schools will reopen before the summer break, the Prime Minister said he is very uncertain regarding this issue, and at this point, he has not observed mass demand for reopening. Should such demand emerge, they will consider the matter, he added.
At the same time, he spoke about the changeover to digital education in words of praise because “it has transpired that it works” and “we have excellent teachers” who have solved this task like nowhere else in Europe, “they have passed the test with flying colours”. He also spoke about the final examinations currently under way, observing that there were some who believed that this could not be done, but reality has proved them wrong. Only 3 per cent of students said they would not take their final examinations at this time, and even they would have the chance to do so later, he indicated.
“Our education system has done well,” Mr Orbán said in summary.
Regarding the procurement of the supplies and equipment necessary for the containment of the coronavirus epidemic, he said his priority was to ensure that no one should be left without care just because there were not enough supplies. He said it is also important that Hungary itself should be able to manufacture the most important supplies, including face masks and ventilators, and once there is a vaccine, also the vaccine.
“The State must be loyal to its citizens”; at times of trouble, it cannot abandon them, not a single Hungarian can be left by the wayside, he stressed.
In the context of the criticisms levelled at the Hungarian legislation on the containment of the coronavirus epidemic, he said “we know that they’re lying, while we’re telling the truth”.
What is behind the battle under way in Europe, the Prime Minister continued, is “whether there will be an empire in Europe” or nation states will survive. Hungarians do not in the least want to become “absorbed” into any empire, the same as they did not want to in the Ottoman, Habsburg or Soviet empire during their history, he said.
Those, however, who want to build an empire “want to break” nation states into some imperial order, a “United States of Europe”. “We want to be left out of this, and want to stay Hungarian; we want Hungary to remain a Hungarian country,” he stressed.
He added that due to this position, the “empire devotees” will seize every opportunity to weaken the Hungarian government. Additionally, they are attacking things which the overwhelming majority of people in Hungary support, he observed, mentioning as examples the bank levy, the reduction of household utility charges, the issue of migration, and most recently the management of the epidemic. “The debate is not about democracy, it’s about the empire,” Mr Orbán stated.
However, when the lives of tens of thousands of people are in danger in Hungary – half the country is fighting to save those lives – and “they kick you from behind,” we must state our view more emphatically and say “hold your horses!” because “unless we do so, they will do it again,” he said, stressing that we must make it clear that they cannot pick fights with Hungarians without consequences. In particular, in times of trouble, “we don’t forget, we will remember, and we will settle our scores”.
The Prime Minister answered the question of whether there is any point in talking about unity in the European People’s Party, Fidesz’s European party family, in the affirmative because there are disputes in every family, but “we’re in the same place for a reason”. A normal person keeps working hard to hold their family together for as long as possible; there are, however, times when this is not possible and a new chapter must be opened, he added.
Commenting on the statistical data about the decline in industrial production in March, Mr Orbán said we have yet to see even worse data. The April figures will be “brutal” because that whole month was devastating as far as the economy was concerned. The May data, too, will be bad enough, but it is to be hoped that it will be better than the figures of April. At the same time, the June figures are expected to be much better, he said.
He highlighted that protecting jobs and creating new ones was the “remedy”. At the Wednesday cabinet meeting, they spoke about state job creation programmes, as part of which he instructed the Interior and Finance Ministers to double the number of public works scheme participants. “We are ready to provide jobs for as many as 200,000 public works scheme participants […] and if this contingent doesn’t prove to be enough, we will raise it further,” he stated, observing that at present there are fewer than 100,000 persons in these schemes.
He also mentioned that the defence forces had embarked on more intensive recruitment, while state-owned companies had been given new tasks for which they could hire new people with temporary contracts.
The Prime Minister said so far some 160,000 persons have sought state help due to the loss of their jobs. It is the duty of the government to provide job opportunities, and it will.
He also urged the implementation of projects and developments because these will create jobs. There are grants available in the magnitude of a thousand billion forints, he highlighted.
“We are building a workfare economy. Therefore, in Hungary – among the available tools – the focus is on creating jobs,” he said, recalling that they announced this policy in 2010, and this approach which pulled the country out of trouble at the time “will succeed also this time around”. He said the country will find its way back – in his opinion, faster than many believe today – to the path of a successful Hungarian economy.