Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s fifth government was formed as its fourteen ministers took their oaths of office in parliament on Tuesday. Before the oath-taking, a transcript of President Katalin Novák’s formal appointment of the ministers was read out.
Presenting his cabinet, Orbán said he has asked Judit Varga to continue to serve at the helm of the justice ministry.
“The justice minister will have the task of enforcing the country’s Fundamental Law and safeguarding constitutionality, which is why I have assigned the minister the right of veto over any proposals submitted by any other ministry,” he said. The ministry will also be in charge of the government’s EU relations, an area of responsibility “not envied by any other minister”, Orbán said, praising Varga for being a staunch advocate of Hungary’s national interests in debates with Brussels. He said this was expected from Varga in the future as well.
Introducing Sándor Pintér, who will continue to serve as interior minister, Orbán noted that he and Pintér “have served together over 16 years” during which period the minister had performed every task assigned to him with “exemplary precision”. He restored public safety, radically reduced crime, significantly repressed crimes against property and human life and renewed and rejuvenated the police force to the extent that it has “regained its honour and dignity”, Orbán said. He said that the country’s law enforcement agencies had earned longstanding merits during the coronavirus pandemic and the ongoing refugee crisis in Ukraine, adding that Hungary would continue to need these capabilities in the coming period. The prime minister also noted Pintér’s achievements in launching the fostered work scheme which had helped hundreds of thousands of unemployed people find jobs in the primary labour market, as well as in managing the restructuring of the Hungarian municipal system. In politics, experience is the greatest asset, “it is what really matters”, the prime minister said, adding that this was why Pintér had been assigned to oversee “the most difficult areas”.
Orbán said Zsolt Semjén, who will serve as minister responsible for policies for Hungarian communities abroad and policies for national minorities and church relations as well as church diplomacy, would be expected to “make the idea of the united Hungarian nation enshrined in the Fundamental Law a reality”. He said the co-ruling Christian Democrats formed the “intellectual-ideological” core of the government. János Csák, who will head a new cultural and innovation ministry, will be in charge of family policy, culture, higher education, vocational training and innovation, the prime minister said. The head of the cultural and innovation ministry needs to be someone who is familiar with the business world, “doesn’t get lost in the modern maze of intellectual debates”, is disciplined but at the same time “looks for ways we can go beyond the limits of today’s reality”, Orbán said.
Turning to Mihály Varga, who will continue as finance minister, Orbán praised his “forward-looking rigour” which “allowed Hungary to maintain the balance between growth and fiscal discipline” during the pandemic. The same will be expected of Varga now when the war presents a new challenge to the economy, the prime minister added. Introducing László Palkovics, the minister for technology and industry, Orbán said he will be expected to carry on with the shift started over the past few years and to develop Hungary’s energy system in a way that it meets the challenges of the new era. The ministry will be expected to address the situation created by rising consumption and prices while reducing Hungary’s harmful emissions, Orbán said. István Nagy, the minister of agriculture, has been tasked with protecting Hungary from the effects of the looming global food crisis and further strengthening the position of Hungarian agriculture, he said.
Orbán said Tibor Navracsics, who has been appointed minister for regional development and the utilisation of EU funds, had the best chance of holding his own “between the mill wheels of Brussels bureaucrats and Hungarian MEPs”. Introducing Kristóf Szalay-Bobrovniczky, the new defence minister, Orbán said Hungary’s Zrínyi defence development scheme could make Hungary’s military one of the most competent in the region. The war next door “shows how irresponsible it was to have the military and defence take a back seat on the continent”, the prime minister said. Orbán said he had tasked Antal Rogán, the head of the cabinet office, with communicating the ideas and aims behind the government’s decisions to the public. János Lázár, who will head the new ministry of construction and investment, has been tasked with ensuring that state resources spent on investments are used efficiently, renewing construction regulations and “the protection of our built heritage”, the prime minister said.
Orbán said he expected of Márton Nagy, minister without portfolio responsible for economic development, to “help Hungary’s development with innovative economic policy decisions rooted in Hungarian logic [even if] some of them will not help him make friends.” The European economy is in “great trouble”, and Hungary will need new, unorthodox, innovative steps if it is to develop further, he said. “The escape from the debt trap, the change in tax policy and the price caps were such measures,” he said. Regarding the appointment of Péter Szijjártó, who is staying on as minister of foreign affairs and trade, Orbán said he had asked him to continue to represent Hungarian interests “as inexhaustibly as we have come to expect him to”, to bolster Hungary’s relations with its allies and find new opportunities for trade and investment. In the new cycle, Szijjártó will also be responsible for the upgrade of the Paks nuclear plant, he said. Gergely Gulyás, the head of the prime minister’s office, will be responsible for “strategic planning … as he will have to see the entire country, rather than just one ministry.” Gulyás will coordinate the work of individual ministries and “represent a culture of respect and cooperation, and work on techniques for that.” As the prime minister’s office “doubles as the government’s lightning rod”, Gulyás will have to also “bravely represent the government’s arguments in intellectual debates at home and abroad,” he said.