Saturday

17th Nov 2018

Hungary open to UK deal if it avoids discrimination

  • Hungary's Orban (l) and UK's Cameron (r) in Brussels in December. "It is very important that we are not considered as migrants," Orban said. (Photo: 10 Downing Street)

Hungary could accept the UK’s proposed changes to the EU, if the curbing of in-work welfare benefits does not discriminate against Hungarians working and paying taxes in the UK, prime minister Viktor Orban said on Thursday (7 January).

Orban, who hosted UK prime minister David Cameron in Budapest, said Hungary could largely support the UK’s efforts to reform the EU.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Hungary’s bellicose prime minister agrees with the idea of giving a bigger role to national parliaments, to have more competitiveness in the EU and to make sure that decisions made by the 19-member eurozone are not detrimental to those outside the currency union, like the UK and Hungary.

On the controversial issue of cutting in-work benefits for EU migrants in the UK, Orban added that any deal needed to be done in coordination with the Visegrad group of countries that along with Hungary include the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia.

He said Hungary could support a compromise that stopped the abuse of the UK’s health care system.

Workers, not migrants

“We will find a solution that will be suitable both to the interests of Hungarians working in the UK, and that also serves the requirements of the government of David Cameron,” he stressed.

But he stressed Hungarian workers should not be labelled migrants and should not be discriminated against.

“For us it is very important that we are not considered as migrants. Words matter,” he said.

“We would like to make it quite clear that we are not migrants into the UK. We are European citizens who can take jobs anywhere freely within the EU. We are not going there to sponge off benefits, or take something away from them. We do not want to be parasites. We want to work there, and I think that Hungarians are working well. They should get respect and they should not suffer discrimination,” Orban said.

He cited official data saying that 55,000 Hungarians work in Britain, paying more in taxes than they claim in benefits.

'We can find solutions'

For his part, Cameron said his proposal of cutting in-work benefits for EU employees in their first four years in the UK remained on the table until a viable alternative emerged.

Cameron, who earlier spent the day in Germany campaigning for support for his reform ideas, said his proposal addressed the fact that the UK’s generous health care system provided an additional draw for people from the EU.

“I support the free movement of people,” Cameron stated with regards to Hungary’s concerns.

Cameron also said that despite the difficult questions, the reform issues were making progress across the EU, and that he was confident that a deal could be achieved at the February summit of EU leaders.

“With goodwill, with creative thinking, we can find solutions,” he added.

Orban said last month after the EU summit that the UK's plans were not radical enough, and that he would like a discussion on revamping the EU's structure. He also said he would support treaty changes.

The two prime ministers, who were the only leaders who voted against the election of Jean-Claude Juncker as president of the EU Commission in 2014, agreed they both wanted a strong EU.

Cameron asks Germans to help keep Britain in EU

The British prime minister appeals to Germans to help achieve his proposed changes to the European Union that would help keep Britain in the bloc, and said he is not challenging the freedom of movement.

Poland to trade UK welfare for Nato bases

Poland says willing to trade British welfare rights for UK support for Nato bases, as country edges closer to EU pariah status over domestic reforms.

UK talks: Cameron 'will have to face reality'

The British prime minister is to present his demands for EU reforms to the other leaders. Cuts in benefits for EU citizens and treaty change will face strong opposition.

Asylum for Macedonia's ex-PM puts Orban on spot

Authorities in Budapest confirmed the former prime minister of Macedonia, fleeing a jail sentence in his own country, has filed for asylum. Despite Hungary's strict asylum laws, the pro-Kremlin politician was not turned away.

Merkel calls for 'real, true' EU army

Angela Merkel's much-anticipated speech to the European Parliament was brief and to the point. Her message: Europe is alone in the world, the EU should be more united on defence, but not on the economy.

News in Brief

  1. US warns EU banks and firms against trading with Iran
  2. Merkel urged Romania not to move embassy to Jerusalem
  3. Protesters call for Czech leader to step down
  4. Former German chancellor labelled 'enemy' of Ukraine
  5. French lead opposition to Brexit deal on fisheries
  6. Private accounts of Danske Bank employees investigated
  7. UK's May defends Brexit deal to MPs, after ministers resign
  8. Brexit MP calls for 'no confidence' vote on May

Opinion

On Armistice Day, EU is still best gift we can give our children

While young people fought each other in 1918, young people in 2018 travel to study together under the Erasmus programme. But there is a risk of limiting our commemoration to representing the past through just speeches, museum exhibits and visits.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Latest News

  1. Brexit dominates EU affairs This WEEK
  2. How the EU commission got tunnel vision on self-driving cars
  3. No-confidence calls against May put Brexit deal in doubt
  4. Key points of the Brexit deal (if it ever comes into effect)
  5. Romania heaps scorn on 'revolting' EU criticism
  6. US steps in to clean up Cyprus
  7. 'Decisive progress' on Brexit as British cabinet backs deal
  8. Asylum for Macedonia's ex-PM puts Orban on spot

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us