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15th November, 2018

Gruevski applies for asylum

Former Macedonian prime minister Nikola Gruevski has officially submitted an application for political asylum, the Prime Minister’s Office announced on Wednesday.

It said that for security considerations the Hungarian authorities have allowed Gruevski to submit his request and be questioned at the headquarters of the Immigration and Asylum Office. It said the Office will proceed in accordance with Hungarian legal regulations and in harmony with international law.

In a statement, the PMO said “Macedonia is Hungary’s strategic partner and important ally. Co-operation between the two countries is an important cornerstone of the progress of the Balkan region and the security of Europe. Hungary’s partner in interstate relations is the current Macedonian government, therefore we do not intend to interfere in the internal affairs of sovereign countries in any way, and we consider the assessment of the request by the former Macedonian prime minister solely a legal question”.

Hungarian authorities will not provide any more details until the procedure is closed, the statement said.

Fidesz communications director Balazs Hidveghi told a Wednesday conference that a politician has requested asylum who is persecuted and threatened by a left-wing government behind which the influence of George Soros is clearly visible.

Meanwhile, Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev announced that his government has asked Hungary to extradite Gruevski. His cabinet expects Hungary to set an example, and not to protect a criminal who has done damage to the citizens of Macedonia.

Apart from the abuse of influence for which Gruevski was convicted, 444 reports, more and more serious cases have come to light about his government: corruption scandals, massive wiretapping – allegedly of up to 20,000 people – and falsification of voter lists among others.

Gruevski may have crossed the Hungarian border dressed as a woman, the tabloid Blikk reported on Wednesday, citing Macedonian website sdk.mk.

Other reports claim that Gruevski is staying at Budapest’s five-star Corinthia Hotel.

Prime ministerial press chief Bertalan Havasi firmly denied a report by Macedonian station 1TV that Gruevski is hiding out in Viktor Orban’s house.

Macedonia’s Interior Minister Oliver Spasovski said Gruevski certainly did not leave the country by plane but illegally, by avoiding border stations. Gruevski had surrendered his passport to authorities months ago. (magyarhirlap.hu; index.hu; atv.hu; 444.hu)
15th November, 2018

Government tight-lipped on Gruevski

The Foreign Ministry has ordered government officials to say nothing substantial regarding the asylum request by former Macedonian prime minister Nikola Gruevski, Nepszava reports.

This indicates, the newspaper observes, that the government was not prepared for his arrival.

The “no comment” responses from government sources on Tuesday and the communication strategy applied afterwards, which appears to be hasty, also indicate that the government was taken off-guard, Nepszava writes.

The directive, issued shortly after the news that Gruevski was in Hungary was made public, instructs all officials, including Hungarian ambassadors and diplomats abroad, not to say anything substantial about the matter, but only to say in response to enquiries “I know no details about the case.”

It may be embarrassing “even to the Hungarian government” that Gruevski, who has been sentenced to two years in prison for abuse of office, has fled to Hungary, the newspaper adds.

The government apparatus regularly receives central instructions from the Cabinet Office run by Antal Rogan, and some of those are expressly pre-emptive in nature – preparing members of the administration for the communication of an event that is expected to happen.

If Gruevski had consulted Hungarian government officials in advance, they would presumably have known that the case was going to be made public one way or another and could have made preparations for it, but the instruction came only after 444 and then the entire Hungarian media wrote about Gruevski’s escape, Nepszava concludes. (nepszava.hu)
15th November, 2018

House starts debate on public administrative courts

Parliament on Wednesday began discussing the cabinet’s proposal to set up a new public administrative court, alongside the existing criminal and civil courts.

Opposition MPs said the aim is to have cases embarrassing to the government tried by judges hand-picked by Fidesz.

Justice Minister Laszlo Trocsanyi said the bill meets European norms, can pass the test of criticism from the Venice Commission and serves Hungary’s interests.

He said the new courts will basically perform a task of expressing opinions, putting forward proposals and consulting, primarily on questions related to judges’ careers, the promotion of judges and questions related to the operation of courts.

Fidesz keynote speaker Zoltan Kovacs said the minister’s purview in making decisions is strictly limited, ruling out the possibility of subjective decisions.

Democratic Coalition MP Gergely Arato said the main purpose of the bill is to take cases important and embarrassing for the state away from independent appraisal and refer them to a “party court”.

He said the proposal makes a citizen defenceless against the state and leaves justice vulnerable to politics.

Socialist Laszlo Varga asserted that judges in the new system will be whoever the justice minister wants for as long as he wants.

He said the justice minister will be able to greatly influence decisions in individual cases.

The practice of the past eight years shows that the cabinet and the president of the National Judicial Office will exploit any loopholes in the judicial system, according to Jobbik’s Gabor Staudt.

LMP MP Lorant Laszlo Keresztes said the cabinet wants to further strengthen its “excessive power” with the bill.

Dialogue MP Timea Szabo said the cabinet could not explain why autonomous public administrative courts are needed.

She proposed that the proposal be revoked or that the cabinet should at least wait for the opinion of the Venice Commission. (klubradio.hu; infostart.hu; hirtv.hu; merce.hu)
15th November, 2018

Hungary supports European defence

Hungary urges Europe to do more for its own protection, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said in answer to a question at a press conference in Budapest on Wednesday.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel had proposed a united European foreign and security policy as well as the establishment of a common European armed force at Tuesday’s plenary session of the European Parliament.

Alluding to Merkel’s remark, Szijjarto said Hungary had made a similar proposal earlier but it is important that parallel features in the European defence system and NATO be eliminated, as they could lead to operational difficulties or new conflicts.

Szijjarto also said illegal migration should be listed among the dangers facing Europe. (hirado.hu; mfor.hu; echotv.hu)
15th November, 2018

Students protest for academic freedom

Professors from the ELTE university Faculty of Sciences engaged in a one-day “information strike” yesterday in protest against the cabinet decision to terminate gender studies at the university.

In the “information strike” professors devoted Wednesday’s classes to gender studies topics such as the forms of social manifestation of differences between women and men.

Students from the Corvinus and CEU universities marched to the ELTE faculty of Social Sciences to express their support.

Agnes Kover-Van Til, head of the master’s studies programme for social gender studies at ELTE, said the university no longer uses the English expression “gender,” as government media has attached so many misleading meanings to it that it is becoming a dirty world in public discourse.

“This has been taken away from us. But we cannot be silenced,” she declared.

CEU students are organising a demonstration for academic freedom on Fovam ter at 2 p.m. on November 24.

They called on the cabinet to sign the treaty guaranteeing the future operation of the CEU in Budapest, to terminate all censorship of higher education and research, and to ensure high quality, available, independent and adequately funded education and research opportunities.

Ombudsman Laszlo Szekely has begun an inquiry to see whether basic rights are violated in the matter, Index reports.

He will examine whether rights linked to study, teaching and the freedom of research defined in article 10 of the Basic Law are being violated. (index.hu; nepszava.hu)
15th November, 2018

Anti-Orban billboard in Felcsut

The mobile billboard denouncing Viktor Orban created by the leader of the Liberal faction in the European Parliament will be parked outside the prime minister’s Felcsut home today.

The billboard, presented on the streets of Brussels by Guy Verhofstadt last week, shows Prime Minister Viktor Orban standing above piles of cash with the caption: “First he took our money, now he wants to destroy Europe”.

The other side displays a similar message in Hungarian, saying “at first he just wanted our money, now Europe’s unity is at stake”.

At the bottom of both sides are the words “Stop Orban!” evoking the government’s “Stop Soros!” and Stop Brussels!” billboard campaigns.

Hungary’s Momentum party has brought the billboards to Hungary. The party said on Wednesday that the truck carrying the sign will be parked today between Viktor Orban’s house and the nearby Felcsut Arena.

The truck is taking part in Momentum’s Friday demonstration in favour of the CEU. The billboard will then go on a tour of the country “to present in as many places in Hungary as possible over the weekend the harmful policy that Orban represents,” Momentum said. (444.hu; index.hu; 24.hu; atv.hu)
15th November, 2018

State to open outpatient clinics

State health care supply centre (AEEK) will open 20 outpatient surgery centres for a total of Ft 8 billion, it was announced in Szekesfehervar on Wednesday by EU development projects state secretary Eszter Vitalyos.

The main goal is securing equal access to services for patients all around the country, she added. All of the clinics are to open by January 2020.

Outpatient surgery cuts recuperation time, reduces complications and is also cheaper, observed AEEK deputy director Endre Lenart. (portfolio.hu)
15th November, 2018

Economic growth hits 5%

Third-quarter GDP growth was 4.8%, year-on-year, exceeding analysts expectations of a 4.3% rise, the Central Statistics Office announced yesterday.

Seasonally and workday-adjusted figures show growth of 5.0% year-on-year, and an expansion of 1.2% from the previous quarter.

The figure, while unexpectedly high, was just below the 4.9% registered for the second quarter.

Based on raw data, the GDP growth was 4.7% in the first three quarters.

The government now expects that GDP growth will also be well above 4% in the fourth quarter, Finance Minister Mihaly Varga said as he upgraded the official 2018 GDP growth target from 4.3% to 4.3-4.5%.

Varga’s forecast is modest, since even a 3.2% growth rate in the fourth quarter would result in annual GDP growth of 4.5%, Portfolio observes.

Varga said the third-quarter increase was the second highest in the EU after that of Ireland, and Hungary is the growth leader in Eastern Europe.

However, Ireland and Malta have not yet released their third-quarter GDP data, Portfolio points out. It adds that third-quarter GDP growth came to 5.7% in Poland and 5.5% in Latvia.

It was probably agriculture and construction that contributed more to the growth than analysts expected, said ING Bank senior economist Peter Virovacz. (ksh.hu; magyaridok.hu; portfolio.hu; napi.hu; hvg.hu; hirado.hu)
15th November, 2018

Agricultural prices 6% higher

Agricultural producer prices were up 6.2% year-on-year in September, the Central Statistics Office announced on Wednesday.

Produce prices went up by 12%, while livestock and animal product prices dropped by 2.8%.

There were increases of 15% and 27% in grain and vegetable prices, respectively, and declines of 11% in fruit prices and 3.2% in livestock prices.

In January-September, agricultural producer prices were 2.2% higher, year-on-year.

Livestock and animal product prices were down 2.1% while plant product prices were up 4.8%. (ksh.hu; magyarhirlap.hu; origo.hu)
15th November, 2018

Pension funds expand in Q3

Voluntarily pension funds received a total of Ft 23.6 billion in contributions in the third quarter, up 12% from one year earlier, head of the pension and health fund association Oposz Gabor Kravalik told a Wednesday press conference.

Members paid in Ft 13.1 billion, an increase of more than 14%, while employers paid Ft 10.5 billion to their employees’ accounts, a 9.3% rise.

Total assets managed by the funds reached Ft 1.320 trillion at the end of September, an increase of more than 3%.

The number of fund members remains steady at around one million.

Revenues of private health funds went up by 12% to Ft 9.7 billion in the third quarter. (portfolio.hu)
15th November, 2018

Audi union rejects wage hike proposal

The union representing Audi employees has rejected the carmaker’s wage proposal, the union announced on Wednesday.

The Gyor subsidiary of the German company has offered a 3% guaranteed and a further 4% performance-based increase for some workers for each of the next two years, while keeping the annual amount of fringe benefits at Ft 620,000.

The union would like to sign a one-year agreement only.

The 4% part of the wage hike would be at the discretion of bosses, cherrypicking employees that they like, said union vice-president Gyorgy Csalogany.

The union is asking for an 18% wage hike with a minimum monthly raise of Ft 75,000 for the lowest paid.

The main objective is to have all wage elements included in the monthly wage and have guaranteed wage hikes, Csalogany said. (napi.hu)
15th November, 2018

GVH withdraws approval of Digi-Invitel merger

The competition authority GVH has fined Digi and Invitel Ft 90 million and withdrawn its earlier approval of the merger of the cable TV and telecom companies, saying the companies provided incorrect information.

The GVH began a new investigation into the proposed merger.

The regulator has not told the companies to cease preparations for the merger, but appointed a commissioner to oversee the process until the new investigation is completed.

The GVH approved the merger in May on condition that in communities where Digi cable TV services and Invitel’s cable network are both present, the new company must cancel contracts with networks other than that of Invitel.

Information supplied by the companies indicated that the number of communities where this condition applies is 23 rather than the actual 89. (portfolio.hu; hvg.hu; kreativ.hu; index.hu)
15th November, 2018

Raiffeisen Hungary profit drops

Raiffeisen Hungary realised a €31 million profit after taxes in the third quarter, according to figures released by Raiffeisen International on Wednesday.

The Hungarian subsidiary generated a €57 million post-tax profit in the first three quarters, down from €93 million a year earlier.

The decrease is mostly due to smaller loss reserve releases and lower operating revenues.

Parent bank Raiffeisen International realised a €417 million profit after taxes in the third quarter, of which €130 million was generated in Russia and €65 million in Romania. (portfolio.hu)
15th November, 2018

Erste to bank for social co-operatives

Erste Bank has signed a co-operation agreement with the Interior Ministry on providing low-cost bank account services and cheap loans for social co-operatives.

These co-operatives are organised by the ministry to provide jobs for socially challenged people in villages where traditional business forms cannot really work.

Erste offers its Social Banking package to the co-operatives. (portfolio.hu)
15th November, 2018

Teva opens new production line

Teva will produce its newly developed active ingredient caspofungin in its new Ft 5 billion, 1,500m2 production facility that was formally opened in Debrecen on Wednesday.

The Hungarian pharmaceutical industry is competitive on the global market, Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Peter Szijjarto declared at the event.

Teva exports 84% of the drugs made in its Debrecen facility, he underlined, adding that Hungary became the world’s 19th largest drug exporter last year, in which result Teva has a great share. (origo.hu; haon.hu)
15th November, 2018

Heineken revives hop cultivation

After a break of more than 20 years, Heineken Hungaria, in co-operation with Ecumenical Aid (MOS), has revived hop cultivation in Hungary, the brewery announced on Wednesday.

Some 2,500 hop seeds have been planted on a one hectare site owned by MOS in Kastelyosdombo, Somogy county.

Heineken provided Ft 30 million to the aid organisation for teaching local people how to cultivate hops and agreed to purchase the harvest at market price. (agrarszektor.hu)
15th November, 2018

Altera appoints investment officer

Altera has appointed Gabor Szekely as its new investment officer to oversee the listing of the firm’s shares on the Budapest Stock Exchange, the car trading company announced on Wednesday.

Szekely was a founder of property developer Appeninn in 2009 and became its investment director.

Altera, owned by Wallis, increased its capital to Ft 3.4 billion on October 11 by absorbing the four car trading subsidiaries of the Wallis group.

The shares will probably be listed in the fourth quarter. (napi.hu)
15th November, 2018

Cameras to be installed on two Budapest thoroughfares

Traffic safety cameras will be installed on Szentendrei ut in Buda and Vaci ut in Pest, the city council decided unanimously on Wednesday.

According to a report presented to council, numerous accidents causing death or serious injury have occurred on the two wide thoroughfares, presumably in illegal speed races.

Construction of the three checkpoints where the cameras are to be installed will cost Ft 400 million. The two district councils affected have pledged to contribute 25% of the costs, a further 25% will come from Budapest city council on condition that the remaining 50% will be financed from the central budget. (hvg.hu; 444.hu; hirado.hu; blikk.hu)
15th November, 2018

Acquitted homeless man on trial again

Istvan Gyulai, a 60-year-old man from Pecs who went on trial three weeks ago for being homeless but was acquitted, will go on trial again on Thursday, the website Szabad Pecs reported on Wednesday.

The man could be convicted in another misdemeanour case.

Pecs-based lawyer Mihaly Gabor Kiss who defends Gyulai for free, said his client is charged with two misdemeanours. (atv.hu; 24.hu; nlcafe.hu)

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