Minister Overseeing the Office of the Prime Minister János Lázár says Western sanctions against Russia do not prevent Hungary from maintaining military equipment acquired from Russia, reports Hungarian news site propeller.hu.
Lázár made the statement on Thursday during his weekly press conference when he was asked about Hungary’s intention to buy military helicopters from Russia. According to Lázár, the sanctions cannot be automatically extended, and the EU should review whether they are still needed.
He said the sanctions prevent military cooperation but, based on the Hungarian government’s meeting with Russian officials on Wednesday, one cannot rule out that Hungary may wish to maintain or use military equipment manufactured earlier in Russia.
The Minister said Hungary would purchase new equipment from Russia. He pointed out that Hungary can be expected to draw down funding from the infamous EUR 10 billion Russian loan to facilitate the expansion of the Paks II nuclear reactor sometime mid-year. He said the Hungarian government has already made budget allocations for the loan repayment in the 2017, 2018 and 2019 budgets.
On a dispute between the two countries over debts stemming from Hungary’s now-defunct national airline Malév, Lázár said that, Russia’s claims notwithstanding, the courts have sided with Hungary. He did point out that in the interest of maintaining positive bilateral relations, Hungary is willing to have the issue reviewed over the course of the next year. According to him, Russia is demanding between HUF 100-150 million.
Plans for the downsizing of public sector workers employed by various organizations owned by government ministries are moving forward, Lázár said. Fidesz party leadership and the party’s parliamentary fraction had given Prime Minister Viktor Orbán the green light to downsize. The first decision would be made next week because meetings with various state-owned organizations were still under way.
Lázár said he agrees with statements by parliamentary Speaker László Kövér in the Salgótarján campaign. Lázár feels that the mayor of Salgótarján must be compelled to cooperate with the government because the city needs it. Salgótarján is running a HUF 1.5 billion budget deficit and it has not yet worked out a budget.
He confirmed that Minister of National Economy Mihály Varga has a plan to balance the Hungarian budget by 2017.
When asked about whether the case against far-right Jobbik MEP Béla Kovács for alleged espionage was raised during the Hungarian government’s meetings with Moscow, Lázár replied that Fidesz and the government are not in the habit of publicly displaying the issues of Hungarian parties and domestic politics for everyone outside the country to see.
He also said he does not think it is was a problem that Fine Arts Museum executive director László Baán gave the use of the museum free of charge for a government official’s wedding reception.
According to Lázár, a government decree on the “protection of the air” is set to come into force in March. This decree would force the owners of parking lots to plant trees in a lot if it accommodates more than 10 cars. He said the government is exploring ways to punish large multinational companies (he was likely referring to supermarket chains) if they do not have enough trees in their car parks.
Starting on February 24, the national government would be deciding what to do with its recent acquisition of the Fiumei cemetery. Lázár said the government plans to spend many billions of forints turning it into a cemetery worthy of national remembrance.