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PM plans more fences, laments lack of funds for teachers

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán called for further protection from the influx of migrants, maintained that his government had done what it could to improve the pay of demonstrating teachers and said the time was ripe to establish a middle-class standard of living in this country, in a speech to Parliament yesterday.

(Photo: MTI/Noémi Bruzák)

Addressing the first day of the spring session in Parliament, Orbán said he had ordered the reinforcement of Hungary’s border fence and preparations for building more border fences, as a way to keep migrants from crossing into Hungary, according to press reports. He said migration would probably accelerate and asked lawmakers to fight against the EUʼs efforts to impose mandatory quotas for the number of asylum seekers that each country must shelter. He also said that the threats of Hungarians meant it was important for Parliament to support a proposed “state of terror emergency” law, which would give the government extra emergency powers if it declares a terror threat. Orbán said it was the government’s job to make sure that Hungarians are not forced to live with people “forced upon them against their will”, MTI said.

On the subject of teacher demonstrations over the weekend, in which protestors’ main demand was for reorganization of the centralized education administration, Orbán only addressed the subject of wage hikes, according to reports. “Right now, teachersʼ demands of an 18% wage rise, though understandable, is just not possible,” he said, explaining that there is insufficient money in the budget, online news portal reported.

The prime minister mentioned that HUF 12.8 billion had been spent on wage increases in the health-care sector in January, mostly for nurses and doctors, and other spending needed for health care. He added that staff working in public administration in district offices will get a 30% wage hike from July, MTI said.

Orbán gave an overview of economic achievements in 2015 and said 2016 should be the year when “everyone can take a step forward”. He also called for a balanced budget as a way to stop nominal debt from growing. He said this yearʼs main goals were tax cuts, home-creation and measures to “strengthen the family”.

Following Orbán’s speech, opposition party leaders addressed lawmakers and said they were dissatisfied with the measures put forward by the prime minister. Gábor Vona, leader of the far-right Jobbik party, reportedly said that, while his party supported Orbán’s anti-migration efforts, they feared that the measures of the ruling Fidesz party would bring a return of the single-party system. The Socialist party leader called for financial and legal guarantees on improvements to public education. The group leader of the Green (LMP) party reportedly said the government has made Hungary a country of low wages while attracting multinationals, effectively “turning Hungary into an assembly plant”. A speaker for the left-leaning PM party said Orbán failed to address the ruin of the health care system, the collapse of public education and the rise of poverty. PM party co-leader Tímea Szabó was quoted as saying: “Who cares about public debt cuts, GDP growth and the foreign trade balance, when 40% of the population lives under subsistence level?” László Varju, deputy leader of the center-left DK party, told a press conference that Hungaryʼs public debt had in fact increased in the past six years and the economy was just “kept alive by EU resources”, MTI reported.