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15th February, 2018

Toth: gov’t overcharged for gas

Fidesz made a profit from the utility rate cuts, as it siphoned off Ft 70,000 from the pockets of Hungarian families between 2013 and 2017 by setting the price of gas at a higher than justified price, Socialist Party caucus leader Bertalan Toth declared on Wednesday.

Having gained access to the 2014 gas procurement prices after winning a court ruling, the Socialists said the cabinet had not done households a favour in setting gas prices, but had made a profit.

Gas retail prices have not dropped in Hungary while world market prices continued to fall, website 444 notes.

Toth said the Orban cabinet followed market changes in lowering gas prices by 10% in January and November of 2013 and 6.5% in April 2014, but presented these as an attack on service providers’ profits.

“Fidesz kept on lying to Hungarians for years,” he continued, as Hungarians would have had much lower gas prices if Fidesz had based the rates on market conditions.

It was reported on Wednesday that, due to a fall in global energy prices E.ON charges 5% less for gas in Hungary than the state provider, as the German company is not bound by the setting of official prices.

Jobbik said the Fidesz utility rate cuts campaign with which it double-crossed society has been uncovered as a sham.

“What earlier was seen as a lower utility rate is today well above the market price yet they want to sell it to ordinary people at the higher price,” MP Gabor Staudt stressed.

The state natural gas trading company made Ft 50 billion in profits in 2016 from overpayments, according to HirTV. (hirtv.hu; 444.hu; hirado.hu; helyivalasz.hu; magyarhirlap.hu)
15th February, 2018

Fidesz MPs prepare for campaign

Prime Minister Viktor Orban began preparing Fidesz and Christian Democrat MPs for the April 8 elections at a closed meeting on Wednesday evening.

The two-day gathering at the Thermal Hotel Visegrad will also decide whether Parliament will vote next week on the anti-migrant legislative package dubbed “Stop Soros”.

Orban was expected to give his assessment of the political situation after dinner, designate the ”directions” of the late stages of the campaign and tell the MPs what the party’s unified messages will be.

According to ATV, Orban was also expected to outline his “secret recipe” for victory at the elections.

Government communication has to fight against an unusually strong headwind, the website writes, because of the revelation that Hungary secretly accepted 1,300 refugees last year and because of the accusations of corruption involving Orban’s son-in-law.

The fact that provisions requiring a two-thirds support by MPs were included in the tightened version of the Soros bill indicates that Fidesz wants to force the opposition to take a position on the issue in the campaign, ATV observes, because if the opposition rejects the package, as expected, the entire opposition can again be accused of “playing Soros’s tune”.

Orban will speak at a conference on Christian Democracy on Friday and on Sunday will deliver his annual speech evaluating the past year and his government’s entire term of office. (atv.hu; infostart.hu; 24.hu; magyarhirlap.hu; KR)
15th February, 2018

Cabinet submits Stop Soros package

The government’s “Stop Soros” package of amendments on licensing the operation of organisations supporting migration was submitted to Parliament on Tuesday evening under the name of deputy prime minister Zsolt Semjen. Cabinet Office Minister Antal Rogan will present the bill in the House next week.

The general explanation of the bill states that the legislation reflects the will of Hungarians as expressed in last year’s national consultation on the “Soros plan”.

The part of the proposal requiring two-thirds support amends the law on national security services so that the Information Office, the Office for the Defence of the Constitution and the Military National Security Office can assess national security risks in connection with organisations supporting migration.

It stipulates that organisations supporting migration will have to obtain a permit from the Interior Ministry for such activity. The ministry could take up to 180 days and possibly a further 90 days to issue such permits.

Any organisation engaging in such activity without a licence could be subject to the suspension of its tax number, could be fined and possibly banned.

A second proposal in the package levies a 25% tax on funds received from abroad by organisations deemed to be supporting migrants. The sum collected will be spent on border defence.

An organisation may be exempt from paying the tax if it can prove to the tax authority that it provides humanitarian aid with the help of funds from abroad or that it does not support migration. At the same time if an organisation does not pay the duty, it can be fined double the amount.

The third element of “Stop Soros” empowers the authorities to ban foreigners from within eight kilometres of Hungary’s borders during a crisis caused by mass migration. In certain cases the Interior minister could ban foreigners from Hungary.

Foreign MPs and MEPs would be exempt from such bans, as would members of local councils in communities near the border, members of the diplomatic corps and persons providing legal representation according to the act on refugee rights. (atv.hu; origo.hu; infostart.hu; magyaridok.hu; magyarhirlap.hu; hvg.hu)
15th February, 2018

Szel, Vona accept invitation to debate

Presidents Bernadett Szel of LMP and Gabor Vona of Jobbik have accepted an invitation to participate in a debate from the Independent Students Parliament.

The students group invited all of the prime ministerial candidates of the parliamentary parties.

Jobbik MP Dora Duro indicated in an interview with the website Alfahir that Vona would take part in the debate. Szel confirmed on Facebook that she has accepted the invitation.Socialist-Dialogue nominee Gergely Karacsony and Prime Minister Viktor Orban have not responded.

The Students Parliament, organiser of protests held in January, announced yesterday that it will organise another demonstration on February 23 to “lay the foundations for a change of regime in education”.

It will be announced at the demonstration who will take part in the debate. (index.hu; 444.hu)
15th February, 2018

LMP, Together and Dialogue act to stop evictions of families with children

LMP, Together and Dialogue have submitted an amendment to Parliament in a bid to prevent the eviction of families with children, at the initiative of homeless persons support group The City Belongs to Everybody.

LMP deputy caucus leader Erzsebet Schmuck told reporters that their proposal would ban the eviction of families without providing them a new home, and would oblige local councils to accommodate children so threatened.

Schmuck pointed out that the moratorium on evictions ends in late April, so if Parliament does not act next week, a number of families could find themselves on the street.

Together executive committee member Judit Spaet said the Orban cabinet has done nothing for eight years to prevent the eviction of families with children.

She called for the creation of a safety net in which nobody has to fear being put on the street. (mno.hu; 444.hu; nepszava.hu; 24.hu; hirtv.hu)
15th February, 2018

OLAF investigates EU funds overseen by Homolya

OLAF, the EU anti-corruption authority, has called for the repayment of Ft 3.3 billion after investigating EU-financed projects related to Development Ministry state secretary Robert Homolya, news website 24 has learned.

Homolya is a former deputy head of state development agency NFU, which was the main co-ordinator of EU subsidy tender calls.

OLAF began its investigation in 2010 and completed the task only recently.

Homolya had a conflict of interests, as he had financial interests in consultancies working in the public procurement market. As a result, he was in a position to influence the award of contracts on which his companies were bidding.

After completing its audit, OLAF asked Hungary to repay Ft 3.3 billion, the amount granted for a project of the town of Abadszalok, as well as the Ft 651 million granted to the Szent Istvan Museum.

The irregularity was considered to be serious, which justified a full 100% refund. (24.hu; hvg.hu; index.hu, 444.hu)
15th February, 2018

Office: Fidesz did not break the law

The Capital Government Office has denied opposition party claims that Fidesz has broken its own law by gaining access to outdoor advertising services at below-market prices.

Opposition parties said Fidesz is paying 2017 prices for its current billboard campaign against migrants.

However, the government office said some persons have misunderstood the regulation in question, as prices published by billboard owner JCDecaux will be valid only from next year. (hvg.hu; atv.hu; hirado.hu)
15th February, 2018

Man fined for wearing swastika

Esztergom sub-county court has fined a man Ft 400,000 for wearing a swastika on his garment, in violation of the ban on symbols of tyranny.

The defendant, a Slovak citizen, wore the swastika on an armband in downtown Esztergom. The verdict is final. (444.hu)
15th February, 2018

GDP rising faster than expected

Hungary’s year-on-year GDP growth in the fourth quarter of last year came to 4.4%, the Central Statistics Office announced as it released preliminary data on Wednesday.

Analysts on average had forecast a 4.1% GDP increase for the fourth quarter.

According to seasonally and workday adjusted figures, the increase was 4.8%.

The raw figure exceeds the 3.9% annual growth recorded for the third quarter.

For the whole year of 2017, GDP was up 4%, or 4.2% according to seasonally and workday adjusted data.

The economy grew by 1.4% from the third quarter of 2017. (ksh.hu; portfolio.hu; napi.hu; index.hu; hvg.hu; magyarhirlap.hu; magyaridok.hu)
15th February, 2018

C/A surplus higher in December

The current account surplus grew to €501 million in December, from €390 million in November, the MNB announced on Wednesday.

There was a slight trade deficit of €3.7 million in the month, after a €403 million surplus in November.

Hungary’s net financing ability – the sum of the current account and the capital account – rose from €667 million in November to €747 million in December. (napi.hu; magyaridok.hu)
15th February, 2018

Retail bonds only for households

The total amount of retail bonds issued stood at Ft 7.145 trillion at the end of January, up from Ft 6.939 trillion a month earlier, the state debt manager AKK announced yesterday.

From January 1, new bonds issued with a maturity of two years or more can be purchased only by households, the AKK said.

Previously, local governments and NGOs were also allowed to purchase them, Portfolio added.

Portfolio has reported earlier that a substantial amount of retail bonds might be held by the banking sector. (portfolio.hu; napi.hu)
15th February, 2018

More cattle, fewer pigs

The number of cattle on Hungarian farms stood near 870,000 on December 1, 2017, up from 852,000 one year earlier, the Central Statistics Office announced.

The number of pigs went down by 37,000 to 2.9 million.

There were 1.1 million sheep at the beginning of December, up by 6,000.

The number of hens declined by 183,000 but remained near 32 million. (ksh.hu; napi.hu; magyarhirlap.hu)
15th February, 2018

Leasing market boom in 2017

The total amount financed by leasing was up 18% last year to a nine-year high of Ft 613 billion, the Leasing Association announced on Wednesday.

A similar figure was last reached just before the financial crisis in 2008.

Further growth of 5-7% is forecast for this year, according to association chairwoman Katalin Nyikos.

The sale of cars and light trucks increased 15.5% last year but the total amount of car leasing expanded 27% to Ft 184 billion. (napi.hu; portfolio.hu)
15th February, 2018

GE selling East European units

General Electric is selling its East European units to a company owned by Jorg Bauer, the former chairman of GE Magyarorszag, the US multinational announced on Wednesday.

The transaction includes all five of GE’s Hungarian factories, in Budapest, Nagykanizsa, Kisvarda, Zalaegerszeg and Hajduboszormeny, with a total of 4,000 employees.

GE is selling its whole lighting business in the Europe, Middle East, Africa and Turkey region.

In addition to the factories in Hungary, the transaction also includes representative offices outside Hungary and other properties, as well as trade and distribution agreements, parts manufacturing units and the global organisation and capacity of the automotive lighting business.

The sale will be completed by the middle of the year in several phases. The purchase price has not been revealed.

The former GE units will form a new Tungsram group that will also use the GE Lighting brand name for a temporary transition period.

GE purchased Tungsram in 1989, a company whose name was a synonym for lighting in many European markets for a century, the announcement underlined.

Bauer praised Tungsram as “the most innovative Hungarian company over the last hundred years”.

State export promotion bank Eximbank has expressed that it will continue its export financing with the new group. (napi.hu; hvg.hu; portfolio.hu; index.hu, origo.hu)
15th February, 2018

Konzum fund reassigns Hunguest holdings

Konzum is to receive a capital injection valued at Ft 16.2 billion in the form of a 71.2% stake in Hunguest Hotels, the holding company announced on the Budapest Stock Exchange website on Wednesday.

The Hunguest shares will be contributed by capital fund Konzum PE Magantokealap, which will receive newly issued Konzum shares in exchange.

After the transaction Konzum will own a 99.99% direct stake in Hunguest Hotels.

The value of the capital increase was established by consultancy PwC.

The value of the new Konzum shares was fixed at their Ft 3,141 market value reached on December 11, 2017.

After the transaction Hunguest hotels will be fully consolidated in the Konzum books.

The transaction is the first step in Konzum’s Ft 30 billion capital increase programme announced by the company in December. (napi.hu; portfolio.hu; magyaridok.hu; hvg.hu)
15th February, 2018

E.ON: offer was misinterpreted

E.ON regrets that its offer made to large gas consumers on the deregulated market was grossly misinterpreted, the energy company said on its website on Wednesday.

The offer of gas at 13% cheaper than the price set by the government on the regulated market was made to small businesses, the company said.

It added that similar campaigns were also carried out by competitors in recent years, E.ON underlined.

Fidesz vice-president Szilard Nemeth on Tuesday accused the German energy company of interfering in the election campaign with “a politically motivated utility bill price cut”. (napi.hu; hvg.hu; index.hu; 444.hu; nepszava.hu)
15th February, 2018

Knorr-Bremse workers form strike committee

Workers at Knorr-Bremse Hungaria have threatened to go on a two hour warning strike if no agreement is reached with the railway wagon manufacturer by Friday.

The Metal Workers Union announced that it had formed a strike committee in the Budapest factory on Wednesday.

The work stoppage would be the first strike in the history of the Knorr-Bremse factory.

The point of contention is not the average size of a planned wage hike, but the way it is to be distributed among employees.

The union is unhappy with the lack of standardisation in the wage hike as local bosses will be authorised to decide on the new wages.

The managers may base their decisions on personal preferences rather than on objective performance, the union underlined. (napi.hu)
15th February, 2018

Folklore researcher Kallos dies

Renowned folklore researcher Zoltan Kallos died in his 92nd year on Wednesday.

An official with the Kallos Zoltan Foundation confirmed the report to state news agency MTI, saying that the famous researcher died in his home.

Kallos, a recipient of the Kossuth Prize, the Corvin Chain, and an Artist of the Nation, was born on March 26, 1926.

He was also awarded the Europa Nostra prize for his achievements in the field of cultural heritage protection.

A museum presenting his ethnographic collection operates in the family mansion in Rascruci, Romania. (hirado.hu; hirtv.hu; 24.hu; index.hu; magyaridok.hu; 444.hu)
15th February, 2018

More airport thieves caught

Airport Police have again caught thieves who had been stealing from passengers’ luggage, it was announced on Wednesday.

The two baggage handlers are suspected of stealing a gold ring on January 8 and a watch and perfume five days later.

Detectives suspected the pair after examining how luggage was loaded on to the flights in question.

They found the valuables and other presumably stolen items during house searches. (index.hu; atv.hu; origo.hu; hvg.hu; infostart.hu; KR)
15th February, 2018

New coach for Katinka Hosszu

Swimming star Katinka Hosszu confirmed at a swimming race in Kecskemet at the weekend that she will soon have a new coach.

The tabloid Bors reports that the three-time Olympic champion’s new coach will be Frenchman Fred Vergnoux, succeeding American Shane Tusup, her husband of five years.

Vergnoux coaches Olympic 200-metre butterfly gold medallist Mireia Belmonte of Spain. (24.hu; atv.hu; infostart.hu; 168ora.hu; 444.hu; hvg.hu

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