BUDAPEST, Hungary — Hungary's government announced new tax benefits for families on Sunday as part of an effort to increase the birth rate while holding a hard line against immigration.
The measures announced by Prime Minister Viktor Orban during his "state of the nation" speech are meant to encourage women to have more children and reverse population decline.
"We need Hungarian children," Orban said.
The benefits include:
- A lifetime personal income-tax exemption for women who give birth and raise at least four children and a subsidy of $8,825 toward the purchase a seven-seat vehicle for families with three or more children.
- A low-interest loan of $35,300 for women under age 40 who are marrying for the first time. A third of the debt will be forgiven when a second child is born and the entire loan waived after the third child.
- A loan program for families with at least two children to help them buy homes will also be expanded.
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."
The prime minister also 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."
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.
Opposition leaders said the fines, which cannot be challenged in Hungarian courts, were politically motivated and meant to hinder their campaigns for the European Parliament and municipal elections in Hungary later this year.