Large multinational supermarket chains are behaving like price speculators: they are raising prices even amidst circumstances when nothing warrants them, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said on Kossuth Radio’s programme ‘Good morning, Hungary’ on Friday.
The Prime Minister stressed it was their job to knock inflation down; this is why they introduced the price caps, the cap on interest rates, the price monitoring system, the mandatory promotions and the acceptance of SZÉP cards for food purchases in supermarkets. It seems that “the process that we refer to as the knocking down of inflation has started,” and we will be able to achieve the goal of reducing inflation to below 10 per cent by the end of the year, he stated.
Mr Orbán said large multinational supermarket chains are behaving like price speculators: they are raising prices even amidst circumstances when nothing warrants them.
The Prime Minister highlighted that in the meantime the whole country was fighting against inflation, especially against food price increases, “regrettably, there are some who are not taking part in this fight; what’s more, they’re exploiting this situation.”
He said multinational supermarket chains are also increasing the prices of imported food products, and as long as at least a part of the rise in the prices of Hungarian products is not channelled back to Hungarian farmers, the raising of the prices of imported food products is unjustified and unacceptable.
He stressed that this was nothing other than “profiteering,” pure and simple. “And we are taking action against them,” but “they keep denouncing us” in Brussels, he pointed out.
He said Brussels “is trying to divert us off the path of protecting the people,” while the price speculator multinational corporations are colluding with the Brussels bureaucrats.
He observed that fines in the magnitude of HUF 3 billion had already been imposed, the authorities and consumer protection “keep hitting them from time to time,” and the number of hits must be increased.
He said “we cannot accept unjustified price speculation involving food products just because we’re undergoing a period of high inflation,” this is shocking, unfair and action must be taken against it.
On the programme, Mr Orbán said Tusnádfürdő was an iconic place for the national side, while the genre of his speeches delivered there could not be precisely defined. He said he used the opportunity of speaking at Tusnádfürdő to offer a chance for collective thinking, and so reactions were more exciting than the speeches themselves.
Regarding Hungarian domestic politics, the Prime Minister took the view that the Left and liberals have become provincial, they do not read anymore, are not following the latest events, have lost their freshness, and are not open to new things; they keep repeating the same old mantra.
He added that so many new things were happening in the world; some of them are dangerous, others are inspirational, and so the whole scenario is attractive. There is intellectual spirit in domestic politics, but this is not reflected in the reactions of the Hungarian Left.
Mr Orbán said he saw great opportunities in cooperation with Romania and Slovakia, “we could accomplish many fine achievements during the period ahead.” He said he had met with the Romanian Prime Minister, and would very much like to establish good relations with him. The new prime minister is young, strong and ambitious, “I think we could achieve serious results together with him,” he pointed out.
In the context of Slovakia, he drew attention to the fact that there will be elections there in September. He said as the two countries will not be able to agree on the issue of successor state, it should be left to historians, and it is a mistake to allow this issue into the very heart of Slovak-Hungarian relations.
He said on this issue the Slovak approach is completely different from the Hungarian. The Hungarians do not draw period boundaries, “we Hungarians have been in the flow for 1,100 years, for us, this is not broken or divided into pieces, it’s a single story,” he explained.
Mr Orbán also said, in his opinion, the Czechs are engaged in a debate with themselves. According to the Prime Minister, what the Czech minister for European affairs says must be accepted as a fact, and he says that the Czech Republic supports a United States of Europe. This is a federalist position, in contrast to the Hungarian and Polish sovereignty concept, he said, indicating that there is nothing we can do about that; this debate will come to a resting point in the next few years as will the fate of the European Union.
Regarding the economic situation, he said “we collided with two different meteors.” At the time of Covid, many people died, it was a very painful year and a half for Hungary. At the time, we had to fight to save lives, and to protect job opportunities, he recalled.
He highlighted that the war was different because for the time being, it was not jeopardising jobs. In Hungary, there was full employment before the war, “and the war has been unable to tip us out of this situation,” he stated.
He said, due to the increase in energy prices and the Brussels sanctions, the war “is pushing and choking the Hungarians” more from the side of inflation, and so they are seeking to protect Hungarian families through the reduced prices of household energy.
He observed that in the whole of Europe, Hungarian families paid the lowest household energy prices, and this was a great achievement of the Hungarian economy.
Regarding the war in Ukraine, the Prime Minister pointed out that there was no solution to it on the battlefield, the situation could only be resolved with diplomacy and talks, and the first step leading there was an immediate ceasefire.
He highlighted that Hungary must continue to urge this. We must persevere, “if they throw us out the window, we’ll come back through the door; if they push us out the door, we’ll come back through the window,” he said.
War is a very costly thing, and the Ukrainians have run out of strength; today, Ukraine is only being kept alive by the money coming from the West, the Ukrainian army is only being kept functional by the money provided by the West, the Prime Minister established.
There are two questions. One of them is how much longer the President of the United States of America will continue to spend uncounted billions here in Eastern Europe; the other one is how much longer Europe can hold on, Mr Orbán said, evaluating the situation.
In the radio interview, the Prime Minister explained that the EU was able to raise money in such a way that the Member States “contribute their money to the collective pot.” The question is “how much longer we can continue while the European economy is in trouble, the war doesn’t seem to want to come to an end, we have given more than 70 billion euros and we don’t know where it’s gone, no one has accounted for it.” He added that in this situation, at half-time of the seven-year EU fiscal period, the European Commission is asking the Member States to provide EUR 100 billion, while the EU is unable to meet its obligations towards its Member States.
The EU owes Hungary approximately EUR 2 billion for border protection and the construction of the fence, HUF 800 billion to teachers as they promised to help Hungary to implement a swifter pay rise for teachers, and they also owe us the funds of the recovery facility which we set up – also with Hungary’s monetary contribution – with a view to a swift post-pandemic economic recovery. We have every reason to ask: Are they not paying us these sums perhaps because they have already spent the money we are entitled to on something else, say, on Ukraine?
In answer to the question of whether it is a possibility that Hungary will not consent to the modification of the EU’s budget until it receives the EU funds it is entitled to, Mr Orbán said “this would be a very unfriendly statement,” and in his view, it is a clever rule in the EU that Member States are expected to manifest loyal cooperation.
Connecting different things together is not appropriate and is perhaps even on the limits of the law, but there are temporal coincidences; also most recently, decisions requiring unanimity coincided with the decisions on the funds due to Hungary, he observed.
He said both the EU itself and the Member States are stretched to the limit. In answer to the question of whether Europe could be left on its own with the war being waged in its neighbourhood, he said at that very moment, Europe, too, would become pro-peace.
The Prime Minister said as public opinion is calling the justification for the financing of the war increasingly into question, members of the public are increasingly concerned with their own problems, and are less and less convinced about how this war could be won and whether it made sense to finance the war instead of peace and engaging in talks, it is impossible for politicians to stand by their earlier decision.
In a democracy – and the EU is one of the world’s largest democratic areas – there cannot be such a stark contrast between the will of the people and the movements of the leaders of countries over an extended period. Sooner or later, something must happen, the people cannot be overthrown, it is governments that are replaced with new ones. The democratically elected European leaders have not got much time left to adapt to the shift in public opinion, the Prime Minister concluded.
The problem, the dislocation, the mistake lies in the starting point, he said, recalling that when the Russians attacked Ukraine, Europe had two possibilities. One of them was – as was the case with Crimea – to seek to localise the conflict. This is what Hungary suggested when the conflict broke out; Hungary said attempts should be made to localise the conflict because if others become involved, they will raise the whole conflict to a global level. This is just what happened, he stated, adding that this has severe consequences, the war has taken its toll on the entire world economy.
He highlighted that the chief virtue of the world economy – of which Hungary itself was a beneficiary – was free trade. Hungary worked hard for 30 years, trained diligently in the gymnasium in order to be able to take part in the global trade and production race at a higher level. “We are finally in the shape we want to be in, our muscles are bulging,” and then a war hits which, instead of isolating, they allow to cloud over the entire system of world economic relations, he said.
Instead of connections, a division of labour, production and the criterion of economic growth, there comes a kind of isolation. The whole affair has been mismanaged right from the start, and so the waistcoat must be rebuttoned, from the war we must return to the negotiating table, he said.
He further pointed out that we did not want either migrant quotas or migrant ghettos. He said all we Hungarians are able to say is that we regard the very risk of the spoiling of the country as so high that we want neither migrants quotas, no migrant ghettos, and if we do not want these, there will not be any.
He said it was an unexpected temporal coincidence that Italy, which had been opposed for a long time to the mandatory quotas and the establishment of migrant ghettos, had changed its position, and had received a few weeks later EUR 19 billion from the post-Covid recovery facility from which Hungary had received nothing so far. It is evidently a mere coincidence, a mere temporal coincidence. “Complex games are taking place in the background, I am not a great fan of these,” said the Prime Minister who regards migration as a historical issue, rather than as a tactical or strategic issue, which must be managed on that level.
If we let migrants in, if we lose control over whom to let in and whom not, people will appear in the country – with all the risks involved, primarily security risks – about whom we know nothing or very little. People smugglers “forced them on you, you let them in, their numbers will increase, the number of new entrants will also increase, and they come from countries with cultures where families are stronger than in our countries in the Christian world,” he explained.
He said the number of entrants who preserve their cultural identity increases both due to the influx itself and the high number of children born. “You then start feeling like an indigenous person in your own country, without anyone having asked you, without you having had a chance to decide, without you having had a chance to say that you don’t want this, but it happened all the same.” This can destroy a country, Mr Orbán stated, wishing pro-migrant western countries that he should not prove to be right and this migrant policy should not have very severe consequences for them.