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13th February, 2020

Fidesz foundation to open office in Brussels

The Foundation for a Civic Hungary (PMA), a foundation of the Fidesz party, will open an office in Brussels later this month, Nepszava wrote in an unconfirmed report.

The foreign affairs director of the foundation, Daniel Szilagyi-Landeck, has reportedly been entrusted with running the office.

Nepszava’s sources say that Zoltan Balog wrote an English-language letter heralding the opening of the office in which he said the foundation would like to see “the Brussels bubble” get to better know “the real Central Europe”. Balog wrote that news reports about Hungary are often one-sided and present a false picture about the country which the PMA in Brussels would like to change.

This will be the foundation’s first office abroad. (atv.hu; nepszava.hu; hirklikk.hu; 168ora.hu; magyarhang.org)
13th February, 2020

Baan: gov’t not giving up on Liget project

Ministerial commissioner Laszlo Baan said on Tuesday that the government would not launch investment projects in Budapest without the agreement of the city council.

Baan said a chance for a compromise could arise in the future which would make the full-scale implementation of the Liget Project possible. The government will not seek another location for the New National Gallery, he said, and it could still be built in the City Park if the city government agrees to it in the future.

The commissioner in charge of the development project, which would transform Budapest’s City Park into a museum quarter, claimed that if the New National Gallery were not built as part of the Liget Project then international visits to City Park institutions would be lower and the project would not be financially recouped. Baan said the Museum of Fine Arts drew about half a million visitors last year while the National Gallery drew 400,000 visitors. (hvg.hu; propeller.hu; magyarnemzet.hu; 444.hu; fidelio.hu)
13th February, 2020

Poll: 40% of Fidesz supporters approve of Karacsony

A poll by the Publicus Institute shows that 43% of the general populace are happy with developments in Budapest since mayor Gergely Karacsony entered office, while 40% of Fidesz voters approve of the opposition mayor’s performance.

According to the poll commissioned by Nepszava, opposition voters hoped for faster results from the new mayor: just over 50% are satisfied with his performance.

At the end of 2019, some 40% of respondents thought the new mayor would successfully represent the interests of Budapest residents against the government, a figure which has now risen to 45%.

The poll also gauged how people viewed the mayor’s controversial interview on state television channel M1 in January (Karacsony was aggressively attacked by the programme’s host and was often unable to answer questions). Some 63% of respondents had heard about the interview; 47% of them had seen at least some of it; and 70% said they considered the interview “outrageous”. (nepszava.hu; hvg.hu; 444.hu; atv.hu; 24.hu; propeller.hu)
13th February, 2020

MP office building to undergo renovation

A tender will be launched this year for the renovation of the office building for members of parliament on Jaszai Mari ter in Budapest, Nepszava reported on Wednesday.

No renovation has been carried out in the building for decades.

MPs, party caucuses and around half of the parliamentary committees and their employees currently work in the building. During renovations, the staff of the parliamentary committees will move to the mezzanine in Parliament while staffers of the Office of Parliament will move to the Szabad Gyorgy Office Building recently opened on Kossuth ter. (hvg.hu; nepszava.hu; index.hu)
13th February, 2020

Hungarians most pessimistic on health care – poll

A recent Ipsos poll shows that Hungarians have the most pessimistic view in the world on the state of health care.

According to the survey, 76% of Hungarians are worried about health care while the world average is only 27%.

Nearly half of Hungarians consider political and economic corruption a major problem, while immigration control is a key issue for 11% and terrorism for 2%.

Hungarians are generally pessimistic, the poll found: 72% said things are proceeding “in the wrong direction”. (atv.hu; noizz.hu)
13th February, 2020

V4 mayors lobby in Brussels for direct EU funds

The mayors of the capitals of the Visegrad Four countries lobbied in Brussels on Wednesday for direct EU funds for climate protection.

Gergely Karacsony of Budapest, Zdenek Hrib of Prague, Matus Vallo of Bratislava and Rafal Trzakowski of Warsaw are trying to give their cities access to more EU funds during the next EU budget cycle by having EU institutions rather than national governments award funds.

“Certain governments are not very dedicated to climate protection and sustainability, but we want to show to our citizens that we are,” Trzakowski said.

Karacsony last visited Brussels in October during his campaign for mayor of Budapest to lobby for environment-related funds.

The four mayors are travelling by train from Brussels to London to hold talks with their London counterpart Sadiq Kahn on Thursday. (index.hu; 24.hu; privatbankar.hu)
13th February, 2020

European Court orders repayment of subsidies

Hungary must repay €28.1 million in agricultural subsidies to the EU, the European Court of Justice ruled on Wednesday in a case the European Commission brought against Hungary.

The ruling determined that Hungary improperly transferred subsidy funds to so-called producer groups in 2011-2016. The EU puts a ceiling on the total amount of subsidies such a group can receive in its first five years of operation, a rule which Hungary did not observe in a number of cases. (napi.hu)
13th February, 2020

Forint hits new low against euro

The forint weakened to Ft 339.55 against the euro on Wednesday, hitting a new historic low, Portfolio observed. It stood at Ft 310.9 against the US dollar.

The exchange rate broke through the 11-year trend on Friday, opening up space to reach Ft 350 per euro within one or two weeks, analysts forecast.

The Central Statistics Office will release the January inflation figure on Thursday which could be crucial for the future development of the exchange rate. Analysts forecast 4.4% inflation on average year-on-year, which is outside of the 4% tolerance ceiling of the MNB. The national bank might intervene in the near future, Portfolio writes. (portfolio.hu; 444.hu; napi.hu; hvg.hu)
13th February, 2020

December drop in industrial output confirmed

Industrial production dropped by 1.2% year-on-year in December, the Central Statistics Office confirmed as it released final data on Wednesday.

According to workday adjusted numbers, the decrease was 3.7% in December.

Industrial exports have decreased by 1.4% while domestic sales in the industry increased by 1.6%. Automotive industry exports, which represent 32% of total exports, expanded by 10.1%.

Industrial production fell by 3.8% from November to December, according to workday and seasonally adjusted figures. In all of 2019, industrial production increased by 5.4%. (ksh.hu; hvg.hu; magyarnemzet.hu)
13th February, 2020

Instant bank transfers start on March 2

Instant bank transfers will go into effect on March 2, MNB director Lajos Bartha announced on Wednesday.

Transfer time on bank transfers will be cut to a maximum of five seconds while actual tests have shown that most transactions are completed in 2-3 seconds, Bartha added.

The present system provides same day transfers if they are launched on working days between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. Instant bank transfers will work around the clock, on weekends and on holidays. (444.hu; hvg.hu, index.hu)
13th February, 2020

Soulbrain builds factory in Tatabanya

South Korean car battery manufacturer Soulbrain is investing Ft 7 billion in building an electrolyte factory in Tatabanya, Trade Minister Peter Szijjarto announced at a press conference in Budapest on Wednesday.

The government will provide a Ft 425 million subsidy toward the project. The 4,700m2 facility will produce the liquid used in lithium batteries. Soulbrain will supply its product to local units of Korean battery makers SK Innovation and Samsung SDI.

The construction of the factory will be completed by the end of the year and production will begin next summer, chief financial officer of Soulbrain Dominic Lee underlined. (portfolio.hu; napi.hu; magyarhirlap.hu; magyarnemzet.hu)
13th February, 2020

BKV unions prepare for strike

Unions of the Budapest Transport Company BKV could organise a strike if the city-owned company does not increase the 8% wage hike it offered at negotiations on Wednesday, the Unified Transport Unions announced.

The unions demanded a 15% wage hike and launched an official labour dispute process after no agreement was reached in Wednesday talks. That could lead to a strike if no agreement is reached. (portfolio.hu; napi.hu; hvg.hu; 444.hu; magyarnemzet.hu)
13th February, 2020

Kozgep wins state motorway bid

Kozgep has won a state contract worth Ft 43.6 billion for building the M44 motorway between Szentkiraly and Lakitelek, the EU public procurement website announced on Wednesday.

The target price for the project set by state infrastructure development company NIF was Ft 38.6 billion, Ft 5 billion lower than the bid by Kozgep.

The consortium of Domper, Subterra-Raab and Pannon-Doprastav, as well as construction companies Strabag and Swietelsky, also filed bids for the tender.

The present owner of Kozgep is Laszlo Szijj, a business partner of Lorinc Meszaros. The company was earlier owned by Lajos Simicska, a Fidesz co-founder and previously a wealthy ally of Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Kozgep realised Ft 112 billion in revenues in 2014 but only Ft 4.8 billion in 2017 and Ft 1 billion in 2018. (index.hu; hvg.hu; nepszava.hu)
13th February, 2020

E.ON crowds out minority owners in Elmu, Emasz

Utilising opportunities offered by the capital market law, E.ON Hungaria has launched a process that will buy out all minority shareholders in electricity distributors Elmu and Emasz, the energy company announced on the stock exchange website on Wednesday.

E.ON Hungaria filed its corresponding request at the financial supervisory MNB on Wednesday.

After E.ON purchased stakes in these companies from state energy company MVM, its ownership share went to over 90%, enabling it to launch the crowd-out process.

The shares of both companies will be delivered to E.ON between February 12 and 26. The transaction is managed by brokerage Equilor. (portfolio.hu; napi.hu; magyarhirlap.hu)
13th February, 2020

Solar cell subsidy conditions eased

The government eased conditions Wednesday on an EU-funded tender for establishing small capacity solar cells for SMEs after barely a fifth of the available funds were claimed since its announcement in June.

So far, 1,732 applications have been filed to obtain Ft 4.3 billion in subsidies out of the Ft 23.9 billion available. SMEs may receive Ft 1-3 million in subsidies for establishing solar cells with 5-15 kilowatt peak (kWp) capacities.

The subsidy now covers 100% of costs up to Ft 200,000 per kWp. Requirements banning conflicts of interests were cancelled while administrative requirements were also eased. (portfolio.hu)
13th February, 2020

Slovak court rules in favour of Hernadi

The Slovak Constitutional Court in Kosice declared an arrest warrant executed in Slovakia against MOL President and CEO Zsolt Hernadi to be unlawful.

The court established that the Slovak prosecutor general had not conducted a preliminary investigation in 2015 when it executed an arrest warrant against Hernadi that was issued in Croatia. The court declared that the prosecutor had violated Hernadi’s fundamental rights to due process and legal protection. The court referred the case to the prosecutor general’s office for further examination and ordered it to refund Hernadi’s costs related to the proceedings.

The Croatian prosecutor’s office brought charges against Hernadi in 2013, claiming the MOL chief executive had given a €10 million bribe to then-Croatian prime minister Ivo Sanader. Both MOL and Hernadi denied the charges. (infostart.hu; magyarnemzet.hu; portfolio.hu; hirklikk.hu)
13th February, 2020

Exhibition opens in metro carriages

A photo exhibition will be on display on metro lines M2, M3 and M4 in Budapest until April 11.

The exhibition, titled “Budapest Is Free – February 13, 1945”, features posters depicting the siege of Budapest by the Soviet Red Army that ended 75 years ago this month.

Mayor Gergely Karacsony said in his opening speech that the pictures had been selected “to remind everyone of the painful past in a way that they can still bear.”

Speeches were also made by BKV managing director Tibor Bolla, deputy mayor Erzsebet Gy. Nemeth, and Peter Kirschner, president of the Hungarian Jewish Cultural Society, one of the editors of the exhibition. (hvg.hu; hirado.hu; ezalenyeg.hu; szmo.hu)
13th February, 2020

Hungary to face France, Russia in Fed Cup final

The Hungarian women’s tennis team has been drawn against title defender France and Russia in group matches at the Budapest finals of the Fed Cup in April.

Gabor Juhasz, who was recently elected general secretary of the Hungarian Tennis Federation, said he has submitted his resignation as team manager to be able to focus on his duties as general secretary. Juhasz said world champion Timea Babos would play doubles for the Hungarian team at the Cup. (24.hu; magyarnemzet.hu; nso.hu; borsonline.hu; nepszava.hu)
13th February, 2020

Police seize major drug haul

Police seized over Ft 70 million worth of drugs in the home of a Dutch man and his Hungarian companion in Fot, Pest county, Budapest Police department head Attila Balotai told Inforadio on Wednesday.

Balotai said the house search netted a pistol, 11 kg of marijuana, 3 kg of ecstasy tablets, 2 kg of amphetamine and more than a kilo of cocaine. Some Ft 48 million worth of forints and foreign currencies and two vehicles worth about Ft 60 million were also seized.

Police received an anonymous tip in the middle of last week about a Dutch national keeping a firearm without a permit. The 40-year-old man had earlier been implicated in a drug-related crime.

The man and his companion were met by police at Liszt Ferenc International Airport on Sunday as they returned from abroad, after which police conducted the house search. (infostart.hu; blikk.hu hirtv.hu; 168ora.hu; 24.hu)

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