Minister Overseeing the Office of the Prime Minister János Lázár and government spokesman Zoltán Kovács held their weekly marathon press conference Thursday afternoon. The two-and-a-half-hour event addressed the usual range of topics (including migrants, Hungary’s performing better, etc.). However, one topic really made the two officials squirm — the deepening scandal involving the National Bank of Hungary (MNB).
Anyone watching Lázár attempting to downplay the scandal could see that the topic is a touchy one for the Fidesz-KDNP government. On one hand the government claims the MNB is totally independent of it. On the other hand the government tried to sweep the scandal under the carpet, so to speak, by passing a law that would have classified information pertaining to the spending by MNB-established foundations of almost USD 1 billion of public funds.
According to Lázár, attacks on MNB governor György Matolcsy really amount to political attacks on Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, and attacks on Hungary’s currency, the forint, amount to attacks on Hungary.
Lázár said MNB’s foundations could not have been involved in illegal activities because their incorporation was registered by Hungary’s business court.
(Yes, he actually said that-ed.)
He explained why, in his estimation, Matolcsy is a great Hungarian and great central bank governor as evidenced by low inflation.
According to Lázár, the MNB is only doing what other Western European central banks are doing — engaging in “social responsibility”.
He said it is unfortunate the public now knows about the MNB’s purchase through its foundations of state securities — an activity strictly forbidden within the EU.
After the press conference
Kovács appeared on ATV’s Egyenes Beszéd (Straight Talk) with host Olga Kálmán a few hours later and pretty much admitted that the government tried (and failed) to cover up the impending scandal.
Olga Kálmán: You guys tried to cover this up.
Zoltán Kovács: But did it work?