The Prime Ministry

prime

Minister in Charge of the Prime Ministry János Lázár.

The Prime Ministry (Miniszterelnökség) is the office of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. Most of the  Prime Ministry―which was known as the Prime Minister’s Office (Miniszterelnöki Hivatal) from Hungary’s democratic transition in 1990 until Orbán returned to power as head of government in 2010―is housed in the Hungarian Parliament Building in Budapest. János Lázár has led the office as Minister in Charge of the Prime Ministry (Miniszterelnökséget vezető miniszter) since June 2014. Lázár previously served as head of the office as State Secretary in Charge of the Prime Ministry, succeeding current National Economy Minister Mihály Varga in this position in June 2012.

Under Prime Minister Orbán, the Prime Ministry has become significantly bigger and more powerful, assuming many of the traditional functions and duties of government ministries, particularly since Orbán restructured his cabinet and administration following the victory of the FideszChristian Democratic Party alliance in Hungary’s 2014 National Assembly election. During the 2010–2014 National Assembly cycle, the Prime Ministry carried out the Orbán government’s most important foreign-policy initiative, the Eastern Opening, under former State Secretary in Charge of Foreign and External Economic Affairs Péter Szijjártó.

Growing Staff and Budget

The staff of the Prime Ministry grew steadily during the first two and a half years following Prime Minister Orbán’s return to power, rising from 50 in June 2010 to 164 in May 2012 under the leadership of Mihály Varga and subsequently to 275 under the leadership of János Lázár (source A, B and C in Hungarian). The Prime Ministry was forced to rent offices at a location near the Hungarian Parliament Building in order to accommodate this rapid increase in personnel (source in Hungarian). Minister in Charge of the Prime Ministry Lázár announced in May 2013 that he would cut the office’s staff by 20 percent to around 220 (source in Hungarian).

The Prime Ministry employs nine state secretaries and 24 deputy state secretaries, up from 11 deputy state secretaries at the end of the 2010–2014 National Assembly cycle and two at the beginning of the cycle (source in Hungarian).

The proposed 2015 government budget calls for 227 billion forints in funding for the Prime Ministry and organizations operating under its authority, up nearly seven-fold from 34 billion in 2014 (source in Hungarian).

The proposed 2017 government budget calls for 903 billion forints in funding for the Prime Ministry and organizations operating under its authority (source in Hungarian).

Increasing Duties and Authority

In addition to the customary organizational, consultative and communications duties of prime minister’s offices, the Orbán government’s Prime Ministry has gained authority over the following state organizations:

—The Information Office (Információs Hivatal), Hungary’s civilian foreign-intelligence service, from the Foreign Ministry on September 1, 2012 (source in Hungarian). Prime Ministry chief Lázár subsequently imposed passage through Hungary’s most rigorous level of security screening as a condition for employment at the office (source in Hungarian).

—The National Development Agency (Nemzeti Fejlesztési Ügynökség, or NFÜ), which was responsible for administration and coordination of Hungary’s European Union developmental funding, from the National Development Ministry on August 1, 2013. The NFÜ was subsequently dissolved and its duties formally transferred directly to the Prime Ministry on January 1, 2014 (source A and B in Hungarian).

—MKB Bank, Hungary’s fourth-largest bank, following the Orbán government’s purchase of MKB from the Munich-based Bayerische Landesbank on October 16, 2014 (source A and B in Hungarian).

—The Hungarian Development Bank (Magyar Fejlesztési Bank, or MFB), which provides Hungarian enterprises with credit under preferential repayment conditions, and Hungary’s postal service, Magyar Posta, from the National Development Ministry on June 6, 2014 (source A and B in Hungarian).

—The company that is conducting the Russian-financed and -implemented expansion of the Paks Nuclear Power Plant from the Hungarian Electricity Works (Magyar Villamos Művek, or MVM) on November 15, 2014 (source A and B in Hungarian).

Information Office logo.

Information Office logo.

The Prime Ministry has assumed duties from all government ministries with the exception of the Defense Ministry since János Lázár became the head of the office in August 2012. The list of duties of the head of the Prime Ministry covered five pages and required 20 minutes to read aloud during the National Assembly committee hearing regarding the nomination of Lázár to serve as minister in charge of the Prime Ministry in June 2014 (source in Hungarian).

The Prime Ministry has, additionally, overseen and conducted some of the Orbán government’s most controversial measures, such as the construction of the Occupation Memorial in Budapest and the crackdown on organizations administering EEA Grant funding for NGOs in Hungary.

Move to Castle Hill

The former Carmelite Monastery

The former Carmelite Monastery and future Prime Ministry building (left) next to the presidential Sándor Palace on Castle Hill in Budapest.

In July 2014, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán announced that the Prime Ministry would move to the former Carmelite Monastery located next to the Sándor Palace housing the offices of the president (source in Hungarian). Prime Ministry Spokesperson Éva Kurucz said that the office would be moved to the former monastery building on Castle Hill in Budapest by March 15, 2016 (source in Hungarian).

However, the Prime Ministry subsequently postponed its move to Castle Hill until late 2017 or early 2018 (source in Hungarian).

The government allocated 8.3 billion forints in 2016 and 5.75 billion forints in 2017 for reconstruction of the Carmelite Monastery that will house the Prime Ministry (source in Hungarian).

Moving the Prime Ministry, including the office of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, from the Hungarian Parliament Building to Castle Hill will cost an estimated 16 billion forints, or 50.8 million euros calculated according to the forint-euro exchange rate on May 25, 2016 (source in Hungarian).

Last updated May 25, 2016. 

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