Leader of­fer­ing sub­si­dies to spur na­tive pop­u­la­tion

San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition - - WORLD - By Pablo Gorondi Pablo Gorondi is an As­so­ci­ated Press writer.

BU­DAPEST, Hun­gary — Hun­gary’s govern­ment is greatly in­creas­ing fi­nan­cial aid and sub­si­dies for fam­i­lies with sev­eral chil­dren, the coun­try’s prime min­is­ter said Sun­day.

The mea­sures an­nounced by Vik­tor Or­ban dur­ing his “state of the na­tion” speech are meant to en­cour­age women to have more chil­dren and re­verse Hun­gary’s pop­u­la­tion de­cline.

The ben­e­fits in­clude a life­time per­sonal in­come-tax ex­emp­tion for women who give birth and raise at least four chil­dren; a sub­sidy of 2.5 mil­lion forints ($8,825) to­ward the pur­chase a seven-seat ve­hi­cle for fam­i­lies with three or more chil­dren; and a low­in­ter­est loan of 10 mil­lion forints ($35,300) for women un­der age 40 who are mar­ry­ing for the first time.

Or­ban, who has made “zero tol­er­ance” for im­mi­gra­tion his main theme in the past four years and was elected to a third con­sec­u­tive term in April, said the ini­tia­tive is meant to “en­sure the sur­vival of the Hun­gar­ian na­tion.”

“This is the Hun­gar­i­ans’ an­swer, not im­mi­gra­tion,” Or­ban said.

The prime min­is­ter also listed some of his govern­ment’s eco­nomic achieve­ments — such as low un­em­ploy­ment — and vowed to fight poverty.

Or­ban then turned his at­ten­tion to May’s Euro­pean Par­lia­ment elec­tions, re­peat­ing his ac­cu­sa­tion that the lead­er­ship of the Euro­pean Union wants to fill the con­ti­nent with mi­grants, most of them Mus­lim.

“We have to un­der­stand that the Euro­pean peo­ples have come to a his­tor­i­cal cross­roads,” Or­ban said. “Those who de­cide in fa­vor of im­mi­gra­tion and mi­grants, no mat­ter why they do so, are in fact cre­at­ing a coun­try with a mixed pop­u­la­tion.”

Europe’s left-wing has be­come “the gravedig­ger of na­tions, the fam­ily and the Chris­tian way of life,” Or­ban said.

Af­ter his speech, sev­eral hun­dred mem­bers and sup­port­ers of Hun­gary’s main op­po­si­tion par­ties held an anti-Or­ban rally that started in Buda Cas­tle. The event also was aimed at protest­ing re­cent heavy fines the state au­dit of­fice im­posed on sev­eral op­po­si­tion par­ties. A small group of pro­test­ers used their cars to block traf­fic from cross­ing the Chain Bridge over the Danube River for most of the day.

Op­po­si­tion lead­ers said the fines were po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated and meant to hin­der their cam­paigns for the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment and mu­nic­i­pal elec­tions in Hun­gary later this year.

Las­zlo Balogh / Getty Im­ages

Demon­stra­tors rally in Bu­dapest to protest the poli­cies of Prime Min­is­ter Vik­tor Or­ban. The new ini­tia­tive on pop­u­la­tion, Or­ban said, “is the Hun­gar­i­ans’ an­swer, not im­mi­gra­tion.”

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