Gergely Gulyás:" The destruction, done by communism, motivates me enough"

11/11/2021

Special interview with the Minister in charge of the Prime Minister's Office of Hungary about communism, childhood, the pandemic, and work. Only on Konstans.

The interview was made before Gergely Gulyás’s positive COVID-test.

Do you often give interviews to student journalists?

It's relatively rare that student journalists contact me.

Let's get it started then. You studied at Lónyay Utcai Calvinist High School. What was the role of the school as well as your family in your childhood?

They all had a significant role. I grew up in a conservative family which took the discussion of ordinary questions naturally. I can thank my friendships, especially the ones that last even today, to my school, particularly to Lónyay Utcai Calvinist High School. By the way, the school was not in Lónyay Street (Lónyay Utca), because not only did the communists close the building, but they also even took it away. At its restart in '93, it had to operate in a "forced-sublet" in District 8 and they only got back their building on Lónyay Street at the turn of its millennium. And that's the reason why I studied at Lónyay Utcai Calvinist High School, but Lónyay Street was not the place I walked on in the mornings.

Were you preparing to be a politician even then?

No, never was it my lifegoal. My plans regarding the future were simple: because my grandfather and father were both lawyers, I wanted to be one as well. I even achieved these goals in 2004, when I graduated at Faculty of Law at Pázmány Péter Catholic University. By the time I was 24, with a qualification exam in my hand, I opened my very own lawyer's office.

By the way, career. From 2010, you're a parliamentarian, from 2014, the vice president of the Parliament and from 2018, the Minister of the Prime Minister's Office of Hungary. Have you got any other plans?

Even though, judging by my resumé, you can easily find contraries, but I was never reaching for any office. Avoiding the hypocrisy, people work in the public life to do something for the public, and for that, you need some kind of "position". I always knew which political positions or tasks were not for me. Everyone accepted that. I gladly do my current job; I love working in the government.

What motivates you in your job every day? I bet you must need inspiration; this operational office probably takes a lot of time and hard work.

Every job requires motivations. You can easily find this driving force in the government because it comes from 2 directions. The tailwind is the job of people who work at the Prime Minister's Office to have the best results in their area, and they succeed successfully when the government agrees with the composed goals and even supports them.

The other - probably the more important - motivational force is that we've got a notion of the country's future and every member in the government is focused on it in their own professional field. Just as the radical rise of minimum wage takes part, the double citizenship, the program for village-development and the historical reconstruction of the Opera House do as well. 

To take role in the public life you need to be dedicated - in a good way - to create and maintain a successful, united country and nation which can give more and more options to those, who were born as Hungarian.

Several people might not know the function of the Prime Minister's Office. What kind of work is done in the building?

The word "chancellery" is the one that's more expressive. This was the name of this position at the time of my predecessors as well. It expresses a helping organization for the Prime Minister since, along the classical tasks of chancellery, we operate as a ministry: territorial administration, Modern Cities Program, Hungarian Village Program, the support of persecuted Christians, and sources of financial support from the European Union.

The key, of course, is to have the right undersecretaries responsible for their own professional area. I believe we've found the appropriate people for these roles and so maybe we don't even need a Minister (*chuckles*).

How does a cabinet meeting work, how's the atmosphere?

The genre of cabinet meetings is hardly definable, but they're basically unconstrained. There's a daily agenda, but number-wise, the larger part of decisions is not discussed. That's because the government functions in a cabinet-system. There's a strategic, economical, national security and national political cabinet. In those cases, where these cabinets make the final decisions, the government only have to approve them. 90% of cabinet-made-decisions turn to be governmental-decision.

Of course, there are some cases, that has a much bigger significance to society, in political impact, or in budgetary impact. These are points in the daily agenda that are discussed in a longer period, comprehensively. If necessary, even extra invited individuals are taken into the discussion of the Parliament. Generally, we hold meetings on Wednesdays, but then almost all day.

How do you prepare for the press conferences (Kormányinfó)?

These press conferences don't require much of a preparation, simply because, in the cases, that must be disputed, I have knowledge by my governmental job. We tend to discuss what the most important topics are to be highlighted.

Which achievement are you the proudest of in the past terms?

Starting from 2010, I am probably the proudest of our Constitution. It's a great honor that I could partake in the process of creation. It's a huge opportunity to someone, who is interested in public law, if they're member of the parliament at the time when there's a realistic chance that a constitution is about to be approved. Since then, 10 years have passed by, but if I'd need to highlight only one thing, this would be it.

What things are developable the most?

A country's - especially a nation's - development is endless. There's a beginning, but we work to make it everlasting so we can not only be maintained but also intensified. Even today, we've got a lot of areas where we could improve. It's a fact that we've stepped a lot forward in terms of standard of living and standard of wages, even though we're still behind West-Europe.

We've got to put an objective on having Hungary as the safest and most livable country, and for the fair workers, the richest country as well. 

This, by itself, is a program for the next, at least, 10 years.

Not so long ago, our national holiday of October 23 took place. Previously, you turned in the law, for the conviction of the guilty individuals of the communist system, called "Lex Biszku", to the Parliament. When did you hand it in and what are the results so far?

I've said it before, that a delayed justice is still better than a failure of justice. In 2011 we solved a serious problem of the regime change. There was a limited compensation: those, who innocently suffered in jail or in forced labor in the times of communism, could get a modest annuity. Unfortunately, those communists, that have blood on their hand, didn't have to be held accountable for their actions. In 1990, the same law would've had a more practical relevance, since those, who were responsible for the executions after 1946 or the revolution, were alive. But because of their biological legalities, after 2010 the importance of this was rather symbolic than practical. It's important to mention that after approving the bill, criminal proceedings were instituted against Béla Biszku.

This is history, but the 1st administration after the change of regime, the Antall Administration handed in a bill like this. That was popularized with the name of "Zétényi-Takács-kind of bill" but the then-President, Árpád Göncz and the Constitutional Court hurdled this bill to ever become law.

By approving "Lex Biszku", we declared what the Constitutional Court should've declared much before that the state, in the time of dictatorship, which was until 1990, was not in a position to chase the crimes done by communists, because they were partaking in those crimes as well. 

Therefore, we declared it 2 decades later and even though in the case of Béla Biszku this led to criminal proceedings, it didn't reach the impulses, that it could have sooner.

Even though you didn't live that much in the times of dictatorship, why was it so important to you to hold the guilty accountable for their actions?

Despite my younger age, I've got an endless amount of political experience in the period of regime change. My father took me to a Transylvania-protest when I was 6. It had been clear from the beginning that communists were bad, and everyone who opposed them was good - or at least could look for the good people on that side. This is something that still seems to be proven true. Thank God, I did not have to live in a dictatorship for decades, but the destruction, that communism has done, motivated me significantly in these instances as well.

☕ Personally

Favorite movie?
There’s a lot. It depends on the genre: “The Corporal and the Others” if Hungarian, “Bedtime Story” if foreign. – I deeply recommend it to everyone.
Ferencváros (Fradi) or Újpest?
Fradi.
Favorite food?
Can I say negative? Except for the sour egg-soup and potato pasta, I consume anything with pleasure.
Hobbies?
I used to play football. Today, I don’t get much time to do so, generally, I go for a run when I have the chance. I love reading.
Favorite book?
It’s difficult to highlight only one, but if I really want to fit the question, my answer is “Sienkiewicz Quo Vadis"
Favorite Hungarian folktale?
Tales of King Matthias.

Back to reality: last year, the first pieces of news about the lockdown started to appear; from November 1, some aggravations started to take place as well. Do we have to expect any of these to reappear (online education, etc.)?

The Operational Staff and the government were constantly looking after the epidemiological situation, and if justified, they made the appropriate decisions. The lockdown / shut down of the country is not our intention, simply because we've got all the tools against this virus, and that is vaccination.

This is the most effective solution, which helps us avoid the severe illness.

Our goal is to convince the largest number of people to get the vaccine.

Many has reviewed the management of the pandemic in many ways. What's your personal opinion?

Because I'm the part of this administration, I can't give a completely objective answer, but it factually shows that in Hungary, no patients were left without any medical attendance. Our country could get the vaccines the fastest in the entire Europe, which saved thousands of people's lives. This year, Hungary's economic growth will be the highest since 1990, which shows that we could restart the economy successfully. And what the most important is - when the whole world shuts down - that we could prevent the big numbers of unemployment, and we could keep our promise to create just as many new jobs as which were destroyed by COVID.

Header photograph: Gábor Izsák/Konstans

Konstans in English.
Read the original article in Hungarian.

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