Minister Overseeing the Office of the Prime Minister János Lázár held his weekly marathon press conference Thursday afternoon. According to Hungarian news site Index.hu, the minister wants Hungarians to know that the border fence along Hungary’s border with Croatia is 99 percent complete. Border fences notwithstanding, the government expects some 600,000 asylum seekers to pass through Hungary by the end of the year. Lázár said the government will decide by December whether to challenge the European Union’s proposal for a quota system. He also announced government plans to sell two recently acquired banks (MKB and Budapest Bank) and that Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is finished restructuring the government. Finally, he said the sale of state-owned agricultural lands in six counties will begin in mid-October, and that the government has formally applied to host the 2019 Maccabi Games.
Defending Hungary’s borders
Lázár said the Croatia border fence is 99 percent complete, but the government isn’t sure yet whether it should serve the same function as the fence erected along the Serbian border. He said the government will make the decision following discussions which presumably are to take place with EU and Croatian leaders. Beyond that, the government also plans on using personnel from Visegrád 4 countries to protect Hungary’s southern border with Serbia.
Croatia supporting human smugglers
Lázár said more than 300,000 asylum seekers crossed through Hungary in the first nine months of 2015. He thinks an additional 300,000 will pass through by the end of the year. The minister blamed the high number on human smugglers operating “with intense support from the Croatian government”.
He said the Hungarian state railways company has spent HUF 524 million (USD 1.9 million) transporting asylum seekers, the Budapest transportation authority between HUF 160-200 million (USD 570,000-USD 715,000), and the Volán transportation companies around HUF 200 million (USD 715,000).
Hungary may challenge EU’s quota system
The Hungarian government continues to oppose EU plans for a quota system to distribute refugees among Member States, even though Hungary would not be among the net recipients. Lázár said the government will decide by December whether to challenge the quota system in European courts. He said Hungary’s Justice Ministry believes that the quota system is unlawful, but he did not say how the system would adversely affect Hungary.
Lázár said Orbán will meet the Slovakian government to decide whether the countries should jointly file a lawsuit against the European Union.
Government restructuring is finished
According to Lázár, Orbán has finished restructuring the government, both in terms of personnel and structural changes, and all changes will be finalized in the coming ten days. No further changes were expected.
Sell-off of state lands to begin in six counties
The state intends to begin selling state-owned agricultural lands in six counties in mid-October, said Lázár, adding that the government is not selling off the lands merely for the sake of helping the poor, and for this reason people can count on fair market price or more. According to him, the reason the government has chosen to go about the sale in this manner is to prevent the lands from falling into the hands of foreigners.
The government wants to sell MKB and Budapest Bank
Lázár said the government plans on selling two banks acquired last year, the Hungarian Trade Bank (MKB) and Budapest Bank. He said the government would like to sell MKB by the end of the year and anticipates selling the Budapest Bank the first half of 2016.
Although he did not rule out foreigners acquiring a controlling interest in MKB, Lázár volunteered that this would be a “bad thing” were it to happen.
Regarding news that FHB and its subsidiary commercial bank would be joining the government’s controversial “savings union integration” entity, Lázár said “the government fully supports the move because the Hungarian National Bank has for some time been calling for changes in the banking system which would result in fewer and stronger banks”.
Such a move, Lázár said, would only strengthen Hungary’s savings union banking sector and the government “would interfere in the market”.
Hungary hopes to host 2019 Maccabi Games
Lázár disclosed the government has bid to host the 2019 Maccabi Games, and would appropriate around HUF 2 billion for the event.