The Hungarian prime minister told David Cameron on Thursday that his countrymen are not “parasites” on the British taxpayer, noting that the 55,000 Hungarians working in Britain pay more in taxes than they receive in benefits.
Speaking at a joint press conference with the British prime minister in Budapest, Viktor Orban refuted the notion that UK-based Hungarians travel to the UK to take advantage of the welfare system. “We would like to make it quite clear that we are not migrants to the UK," he said. “We are members of a state in the EU that can take jobs anywhere in the EU. We do not want to be parasites, we want to work there."
However, Orban said he understood the British anxieties over the "abuse," saying he was "sure" British concerns could be accommodated. He added that the Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia would be able to reach a compromise with Westminster.
Orban’s comments follow a period of intense diplomacy by the British PM, who on Wednesday held talks with Angela Merkel in Bavaria.
Speaking on Thursday, Cameron admitted that time was short before next month’s summit of European leaders – his goal for reaching a deal. Should Cameron secure an agreement, he will likely move ahead with a national ballot this June.
"I think we have made good progress right across the EU on all these issues," Cameron said. "I am confident we can reach agreement because there is a bigger picture here as well, which is the importance of Britain remaining in a reformed EU, but also for Europe ... We bring a lot to the EU as well as benefiting from the EU."
The sticking point for Cameron’s renegotiation remains the four-year ban on migrants claiming in-work benefits, though the PM said he would be open to alternatives.
Orban failed to address that concern directly, but said he would not accept any "discriminatory" measures. "I think we will be able to agree ... I am sure we are going to be able to find a solution that is going to be suitable for the Hungarian employees," the Hungarian PM said.
"The abuses that are seen in social benefits systems have to be eliminated,” Orban added. “I made clear that the Hungarian government does not support any abuses at all."