Mr. Orbán said that the most aggressive and active among those protesting against amendment of the Labour Code are in the pay of George Soros. The Prime Minister added that international networks are also active in the background, noting that he sees signs of this internationally: governments of the right have been under fire everywhere.
He stressed the unacceptability of the acts of vandalism carried outside the Hungarian parliament in Kossuth tér, and said that the throwing of smoke bombs at police officers is “a serious offence in legal terms”. Well-intentioned people never throw smoke bombs, he said, pointing out that the aim had been to create a smokescreen hiding the demonstrators’ activities. Regarding the fact that police officers were injured during the demonstrations, he recalled that in 2006 a mounted assault on peaceful demonstrators had been ordered, and the result had been people with bloodied heads. This time, he pointed out, the Interior Ministry had been requested to ensure that police were firm, but patient. He added that they had succeeded in this, and that the Government stands by the police.
In his view it is now clear that the debate on the Labour Code was only an excuse, adding that the opposition have declared the end of the world on a number of occasions already. He referred to the circumstances amidst which the law was passed in Parliament, likening the conduct of the opposition to that of “unpleasant characters”. However, the governing parties could not afford to give ground in the legislature: “The struggle was about whose nerves could hold out longer”, he said. He also pointed out that there are legal consequences involved in someone sitting in his seat and putting their hand over his voting button in order to prevent him from voting. He added that no one will be able to prevent legislation with scandalous behaviour if on the other side there are determined people like the governing parties, who did not use physical force. “We did not use violence in Parliament – they used violence,” Mr. Orbán stated.
He told listeners not to worry, because whatever the opposition does, the governing parties will do their job. No one can be obliged to work overtime, he said, and this is clearly laid down in the latest amendment to the Labour Code: “Anyone who claims otherwise is lying”. The Prime Minister pointed out that workers gain most protection not from labour laws, but from economic policy which renders them necessary. Today, he added, employers are “hunting for workers”, who must therefore be paid more and more; and as a result, wages have been continuously rising for four to five years.
The previous law, however, imposed “silly restrictions” on those who wanted to earn more, and who were also prepared to work more for it. Mr. Orbán added that workers will continue to receive their overtime pay together with their normal wages at the end of each month. He also highlighted that the legislative amendment is important not from the viewpoint of employers, but primarily from the viewpoint of workers, and seeks to address the problems that emerge in Hungary’s small and medium-sized enterprises. He went on to say that the current economic processes are expected to result in qualitative changes in both the labour and investment markets. The goal is to have more sophisticated businesses which offer their workers higher wages, Mr. Orbán said.
Regarding next year’s elections to the European Parliament (EP), the Prime Minister said that the country needs members of the EP who represent Hungary in Brussels, not Brussels in Hungary. He said that in the opposition’s view Hungary should do what Brussels tells it to do, and so sending opposition politicians to the EP means sending people there who do not represent Hungary in Brussels. The Prime Minister expressed the hope that the citizens of several other countries will send large numbers of deputies to the Brussels legislature who are committed to their nations and who “can change the direction of the wind”. He described migration as the most important issue, but added that the economic policy pursued by Brussels is also unfavourable to Hungary.
He noted that all calculations suggest that the Hungarian economy will continue to perform well in 2019, and that if negative global economic developments necessitate the adoption of further measures, the Government is determined to enact them rapidly. “We are able to withstand rough seas”, he said. Over the past few years, he noted, Hungarians have been given tangible proof that they can support their families through work, and “we are able to create a good life for ourselves from our own resources”. This is the path that will continue to be pursued, he said.
Mr. Orbán also said that workers and employers must come to an agreement over the level of the minimum wage, and that in this the Government should act not as an arbitrator, but as a mediator. While it has the right to do so, the Cabinet does not wish to decide on this matter instead of the parties concerned, he said. The Prime Minister therefore asked the Finance Minister to make every effort to ensure that negotiations between the two sides yield a satisfactory result.
The Prime Minister also spoke about the recent EU-Africa summit. He pointed out that by 2050 Africa’s population could reach 2.5 billion, and these people will find the continent too small for them. There must therefore be preparations for an outflow from Africa, he added, and Europe must be capable of stopping this flow at its outer borders. He stressed, however, that we must help Africans to stay in their own native countries. By way of example he mentioned the fact that Hungary provides scholarships for nine hundred African students, who after their graduation will be able to serve their countries.