Orbán airs thoughts on Merkel, Putin, U.S.

Visits

Following two weeks of holiday from the public spotlight, Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán gave an interview for state-owned Kossuth radio, addressing topics like the upcoming visits of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin, American-Hungarian relations and the recently approved system for road tolls.

Merkel and Putin

“We have a schedule for Merkel’s visit, while in connection with Putin all we know is that I invited him, and he is coming rather sooner than later”, Orbán said. The German leader is due on February 2 and the Russian leader is expected some time in March.

Orbán said he does not expect Merkel to be critical of Hungary, “despite the expectations of the leftist parties”, and the prime minister asked the opposition “not to confuse Merkel with a violinist, as they cannot order songs from her”.

He said that the disappointment with the government that has been appearing in the press is nothing but the “complaining of the left”. He also emphasized that domestic politics cannot be confused with foreign politics.

Orbán did not discuss the reasons for Putin's visit. Addressing events in the Ukraine he said that Hungary’s interests are to “keep a distance from conflicts that are not our conflicts”.

America and Hungary

As for American-Hungarian relations, Orbán said they need to be nurtured in a way that prevents Hungary from being involved in a cold war situation. He admitted that Hungary’s relations with America have been better, but said “now they are what they are”. The prime minister said believes that the two countries are less and less able to communicate with respect, but added that the economic and military relations of the two countries are excellent.

In connection with the issue of six Hungarian officials having been restricted entrance to the United States, Orbán said he could not provide new information or advances, but he added that he hopes there would be changes to the issue as “a new year means new chances”. Orbán said Hungary is working hard on solving the problem and called for America to do the same, noting that there “are two parties in the game”.

Road toll and county stickers

On the recently passed legislation regulating road tolls and introducing new highway tolls for each county, Orbán said that the issue is “professionally difficult and politically sensitive, thus there is a trial period”. The objections against the plan are “the noise of the trial period, so I encourage everyone to express their ideas and problems in connection with the system”, he said. Based on the feedback, the government will review the system by the end of January and will correct the mistakes, he added.

Education and health

The prime minister agreed that the Hungarian education system is faulty, and one fourth of certain social groups lag behind. “The next months will see discussions on a new system of education,” the prime minister said. He also described the work that his government has already done on education: “The issue of the career of educators is already addressed, the teaching materials are good and children said be involved in education from the age of three.”

On health, Orbán said that, for the sake of establishing a healthier nation, the levels of services by general practitioners needs to be raised in terms of both moral and salaries. The government will focus on raising health awareness, and to this end sport facilities will be refurbished, all children will be taught physical education and public parks will be built.

Governance and aims for 2015

Orbán disccussed his government's overall program, saying “the period of 2010-2014 focused on overcoming the crisis, while the period of 2014-2018 will focus on the financial strengthening of families”. He said that the 2015 budget “enables those who are not yet part of the middle class to become the part of it, while middle class families will be able to further strengthen”. Pensioners will see the “strengthening of the pension’s value”, he added.

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