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20th September, 2018

Hungary sends response to EU on “Stop Soros” laws

The cabinet has completed its response to the European Commission’s objections in the infringement proceedings concerning the “Stop Soros” legislative package and the related constitutional amendment, Justice Ministry state secretary Pal Volner announced yesterday.

He confirmed that Hungary will not repeal the laws objected to, but will “defend the country and Europe”.

The European Commission initiated infringement proceedings against Hungary in July due to concerns about whether the legislative package and the constitutional amendment are compatible with EU law.

Volner said the answers were sent to the Commission on Wednesday.

“The European Commission continues to openly support a pro-immigration stand instead of defending the law,” he said. (atv.hu; 444.hu; klubradio.hu; napi.hu; magyarhirlap.hu; KR)
20th September, 2018

Anti-Sargentini ad campaign begins

The cabinet’s new campaign video starts with Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s opening remark in the debate on the Sargentini report in the European Parliament: “Do not let us surrender to blackmail, let us defend Hungary.”

Although the Sargentini report primarily criticises the state of Hungarian rule of law, the ad claims that the pro-immigration majority of the European Parliament simply “wants to silence us, because we defend our country and Europe with a fence”.

It presents the pro-migration majority as represented by George Soros lurking behind liberal MEP Guy Verhofstadt and Judith Sargentini. (24.hu; 444.hu)
20th September, 2018

Momentum defends Sargentini report

Momentum activists have begun handing out leaflets defending and interpreting the Sargentini report, website 444 reports.

Momentum said in a statement “We believe that the Sargentini report is about protecting the interests of Hungarians. The Hungarian government is guilty and this report is an indictment.”

The party said it has begun distributing the leaflets to offset the government propaganda critical of the report.

Momentum briefly expounds what the 12 points are in which rapporteur Judith Sargentini found the Hungarian government guilty.

They include the elimination of the independence of the judiciary, the continuous amendment of the constitution, the possibility of mass surveillance, corruption, restrictions on religious, press and academic freedom, as well as the transformation of the election system according to Fidesz interests.

Momentum politician Daniel Berg said it follows that “Fidesz is not fit, much less worthy, to represent the nation in Europe.” (444.hu; hvg.hu; origo.hu; mandiner.hu; merce.hu)
20th September, 2018

Amnesty delivers petition in support of convicted refugee

Two officials from Amnesty International on Tuesday handed over a petition to a Justice Ministry official in Budapest, demanding the release of Syrian Ahmed Hamed, one day before the Szeged Court of Appeals rules on his conviction on terrorism charges.

Hamed was convicted of throwing stones at border police during a clash between asylum-seekers and police at the Roszke border station in September 2015.

Amnesty spokesman Aron Demeter said the human rights organisation had collected more than 109,000 signatures from a total of 163 countries. Of them 1,000 are from Hungary and the largest number are from Norway and the Netherlands.

The signatories urge the authorities not to treat Hamed’s actions as an act of terror.

Demeter said it is beyond any doubt that Hamed had thrown a few stones, but that constitutes an attempt at violence against an official, not a terrorist act.

Hamed has been in prison for three years, has “more or less served” his punishment, and does not constitute a threat, Demeter added.

He said recordings by police and journalists show that Hamed tried to calm the situation and soothe the crowd at Roszke.

A Szeged court sentenced Hamed to seven years penitentiary on March 14 and expelled him from Hungary for ten years. (hirado.hu; hirtv.hu; mandiner.hu)
20th September, 2018

Jobbik successfully sues newspapers

The Capital Court of Appeals has ruled that newspapers Lokal and Magyar Idok must pay Ft 1 million in damages to Jobbik, aside from the trial costs, as earlier they lied that the party had hired so-called “paid commentators”.

“The defendants did not even try to prove their claim and the court ruled that they intentionally made false claims about Jobbik,” the party said. (hvg.hu)
20th September, 2018

Putin and Orban had private talks

Russian President Vladimir Putin completely unexpectedly invited Prime Minister Viktor Orban for an informal meeting after their official talks in Moscow on Tuesday. It is not known what they discussed.

The pro-government website Origo says that “the meeting caused surprise as it had not been scheduled during the consultations on the meeting between the two leaders.”

No details leaked from the private meeting. HVG says it is certain only that Orban and Putin discussed something in the Kremlin for at least 40-45 minutes.

Dialogue MEP Benedek Javor suggested that Orban may have discussed organising a far-right pole within the EU with Putin at their private meeting.

He told Klubradio that after the approval of the Sargentini report by the European Parliament, it became clear to the prime minister that he cannot change the European People’s Party, and that is why he turned toward a Plan B and the Russian president.

He said Orban practically admitted at his Tuesday press briefing with Putin that the Paks power plant expansion is a political project, it has no economic rationale and his purpose is to win Russian support for his European political dreams. (hvg.hu; origo.hu; klubradio.hu; 444.hu; napi.hu; nepszava.hu)
20th September, 2018

Szijjarto hopes to attract more Chinese tourists

It is in Hungary’s economic interest to have more Chinese tourists visit Hungary, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto told a conference of tourism ministers arranged for China and 16 Central and East European countries in Dubrovnik, Croatia Tuesday evening.

Aside from a direct Budapest-Beijing air link, another air corridor will be established between Shanghai and Hungary from next summer, he said.

He told state news agency MTI that tourism produces a growing share of Hungary’s GDP and that further growth is best generated by attracting high-spending visitors, adding that Chinese tourists are among the highest spending in the world.

Last year 227,000 Chinese tourists arrived in Hungary, 34% more than a year earlier, and in the first half of this year 140,000 Chinese tourists were in Hungary, marking another 11% rise.

Regarding the new air link, he said “we have reached the final phase of negotiations with China Eastern Airlines on establishment of a direct Shanghai-Budapest connection”. (magyarhirlap.hu)
20th September, 2018

Industry association submits vocational education reform plan

After two years of work, industrial association Mgyosz unveiled a package of proposals for renewing the vocational education system for the knowledge-based, innovative economy.

Vocational education is in need of a broad renewal, as minor patch-ups are not enough, said Mgyosz vice-president Gabor Gablini.

The industrial association looked upon Germany’s dual education system as a model when drafting the recommendations, which have been sent to the government, he added.

Mgyosz recommends in the package that pupils be required to pass a standardised test of basic reading, writing, comprehension and arithmetic skills before leaving primary school.

Pupils who fail the test could be offered a place in a one- or two-year remedial programme, which they would have to complete before entering vocational school.

The aim of the proposal is to ensure students are sufficiently equipped to start vocational school and reduce the number of dropouts. Mgyosz also proposes raising the compulsory school age to 18 from the present 16. The Orban government lowered the ceiling in 2012.

The proposal would set apprenticeship stipend rates at 40% or 60% of the minimum wage, depending on the type of vocational school. (napi.hu; portfolio.hu; hirado.hu; hvg.hu; origo.hu)
20th September, 2018

Car ownership at record levels

The proportion of households which own cars has reached 46%, the highest ever, according to a survey by Median.

The number of passenger cars reached 3.58 million in the first half of 2018 after continuously rising for six years.

There were 272,000 car registrations last year, including imported cars, and 150,000 registrations during the first half of 2018.

Most passenger cars are privately owned, with only 2-3% of households owning company cars.

The average age of vehicles, according to the survey, was 13.9 years in the first quarter, 0.7 years higher than two years ago.

The average annual distance travelled by cars came to 17,000 kilometres, around 800 kilometres more than in 2016. (index.hu; portfolio.hu; autoszektor.hu; napi.hu)
20th September, 2018

Diakhitel disburses Ft 6.8bn in loans

State-owned student loan provider Diakhitel Kozpont disbursed Ft 6.8 billion in loans in the first half and finished the first half with zero profit.

Total assets stood at Ft 258 billion at the end of June, down 2.7% from the end of 2017.

Since it began operations in 2001, Diakhitel has laid out Ft 335 billion to students. Almost 360,000 students have taken out general purpose loans. More than 31,000 have used special-purpose loans to cover tuition costs.

Outstanding credits stood at Ft 254 billion at the end of June. (profitline.hu; napi.hu; portfolio.hu; magyaridok.hu)
20th September, 2018

University to help startups

The Budapest University of Technology and Economics (BME) is launching a programme to give students and researchers the practical knowledge they need to launch their own startups, it was announced on Wednesday.

The university is teaming up with Hiventures Venture Capital Fund Management (a unit of state development bank MFB) and nonprofit Enterprise Hungary on the programme, dubbed Startup Campus BME Powered by Hiventures.

The partners signed an agreement on the programme on Wednesday. Participants can get funding of up to Ft 9 million per project. (gazdasagportal.hu, orientpress.hu, napi.hu)
20th September, 2018

Richter’s Romanian subsidiary reauthorised to operate

Romanian authorities have granted a new operating licence to Pharmafarm, Richter’s local wholesaler subsidiary.

The authorities earlier this year revoked Pharmafarm’s business license for a breach of good distribution practice.

The revocation of the license meant a monthly loss of €20 million in revenues.

Richter said most of its warehousing facilities have already reobtained their licences.

Pharmafarm, which Richter acquired in 2007, has six regional warehouses and employs more than 500.

The company has a 6% share of the wholesale market. (hvg.hu; napi.hu; portfolio.hu; profitline.hu)
20th September, 2018

Mergers and acquisitions rising

The value of Hungarian mergers and acquisitions (M&A) rose 136% year-on-year to $2.3 billion in the first six months, data compiled by consultancy EY shows.

The number of transactions reached 66. M&A activity was highest in the real estate sector, with 17 deals disclosed.

Most M&A transactions involved two Hungarian companies, but the biggest deals were made between Hungarians and foreigners.

British companies made five purchases, German and French ones three each, and Austrian and Swiss firms two apiece.

The biggest deal of the first six months was the acquisition of Partner in Pet Food by private equity fund Cinven in April for $607 million, followed by the sale of TriGranit to investment firm Revitas in June for $348 million and LogMeIn for $342 million. Industry insiders estimate the acquisition of cybersecurity firm BalaBit by software maker One Identity at over $100 million. (napi.hu; portfolio.hu; profitline.hu; ado.hu)
20th September, 2018

MAM-Hungaria announces expansion

Austria’s MAM-Hungaria opened a 2,000m2 production hall and a 1,400m2 warehouse from a Ft 2.5 billion investment in Vaskeresztes, Vas county, it was announced yesterday.

MAM-Hungaria is the country’s only baby product manufacturer.

The company began operations in 1991 with a staff of eight people, which has grown to above 500 over the years.

By doubling the size of production facilities, the company will be able to increase annual production of baby bottles and soothers from 80-90 million to 110-120 million.

MAM-Hungaria reported an after-tax profit of €2.3 million on €42 million in revenue last year. (vaol.hu)
20th September, 2018

Mineral water maker to double capacity

Mineral water and soft drinks company Szentkiralyi-Kekkuti on Wednesday inaugurated a Ft 2.2 billion plant and bottling line at its base in Szentkiraly.

The new production line has capacity to fill 32,000 bottles per hour, twice the present limit, said chairman Levente Balogh.

The Hungarian businessman, the founder of Szentkiraly, teamed up with Italy’s Pasquale family in 2015, merging his Szentkiralyi business with their Hungarian bottler Kekkuti to form Szentkiralyi-Kekkuti, which is now the market leader in Hungary.

The investment will strengthen the company’s market position, Balogh added. Alessandro Pasquale said the Szentkiralyi brand is one of the strongest and best-liked brands within the group.

The company’s revenues rose from Ft 10 billion in 2016 to Ft 16 billion in 2017, while after-tax profit in the same period declined from Ft 1.5 billion to Ft 1.4 billion. (forbes.hu; napi.hu; hvg.hu)
20th September, 2018

Matrai Eromu shareholders approve investment strategy

Shareholders of Matrai Eromu, operator of Hungary’s second biggest power plant, approved a long-term strategy that includes investments in renewable energy and energy storage at an extraordinary general meeting on Wednesday.

Matrai Eromu, which is controlled by Opus Global, plans major investments in renewable energy, electricity network regulation and power storage to 2030.

The company also aims to ensure that its coal-, biomass- and gas-fuelled power businesses are profitable for the coming decade, as the era of coal comes to an end.

The company will enter a new era as the strategy fits the country’s national energy policy goals, said chairman Jozsef Valaska.

Among the investments Matrai Eromu plans are two solar parks with a combined capacity of 40MW. Construction of one of the parks began on Wednesday.

Shareholders decided to finance the projects with the proceeds from the sale of a 16MW solar park to state-owned MVM Hungarowind. The company is also planning to build a refuse-derived fuel block. The investments will not require a capital raise.

Matrai Eromu produces about 20% of the electricity generated in Hungary. (portfolio.hu; napi.hu; hvg.hu)
20th September, 2018

National Theatre open day Saturday

The National Theatre will be open to the public on Saturday on its sixth Open Day.

The theatre will put on a large number of free programmes from 2-10 p.m. As capacity is limited, it is necessary to register on the theatre’s website.

All performances of the theatre will be available at a 30% discount and seasonal passes will also be available at the same discount on Saturday. (origo.hu; delmagyarorszag.hu)
20th September, 2018

Body found of tourist who jumped off bridge

A tourist who jumped off the Chain Bridge two weeks ago, has died, the tabloid Blikk reports.

Budapest Police told the daily that the body of the young man was found a few days after the jump.

Blikk also reported on the basis of an eyewitness account that it is unlikely that a suicide had been committed. The tourist had arrived with friends in Budapest and they a took video of him as he climbed up the bridge. (index.hu)

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