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29th March, 2018

Residency permits also granted to suspected criminals

A wanted international criminal and a suspicious figure suspected of money laundering for the Assad regime, and their families, may have settled in Hungary as they have been granted residency permits through the government’s preferential residency bond scheme, the websites 444 and Direkt36 reported on Wednesday, citing information they received in an envelope from an anonymous sender more than two months ago.

The envelope contained a list of those nationals who have received a residency permit from the government under its preferential residency bond programme.

After being able to verify several names on the list from several sources, 444 and Direkt36 decided to only publish the names of those whose identification could be of public interest, 444 and Direkt36 said.

One of those is Salmo Bazkka, a Syrian man, whom the Italian authorities suspect of being a member of an international money laundering ring.

Another such person is Atiya Khoury, whom the US Treasury Department put on a sanction list for assisting Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s regime in 2016, 444 and Direkt36 said. Khoury was instrumental in the financial transfers of the isolated Assad regime and may have helped it with obtaining fuel from the Islamic State, they added.

“It is not known when the two men bought the residency bonds – before the respective accusations or after those. Sources familiar with the Hungarian authorities’ administrative procedure said, however, that the screening of the bond buyers was superficial, in large part because of the high number of people that had to be checked,” the websites said.

The website 444 learnt that Bazkka, who had opened a money-changing kiosk near Blaha Lujza ter last autumn, and his two sons in their twenties were arrested last November. Hungarian police did not confirm that. Bazkka is in the custody of the Italian authorities at present, the websites said.

Direkt36 and 444 contacted Khoury via multiple channels before publishing its article, but they did not receive any response.

The Immigration and Refugee Affairs Office said the procedures for applying for residency bonds were in order: only 20 out of the 20,000 applicants were rejected because of national security or public safety concerns, 444 wrote. The Prime Minister’s Cabinet Office, run by Antal Rogan, did not respond.

Prime Minister’s Office head Janos Lazar reiterated Wednesday at a press conference that the four authorities involved in the residency bond-related screenings did vet every residency bond owner.

The Interior Ministry issued a statement on Wednesday, saying, without mentioning the news article, that the claims are pure fabrication and nothing else but a means to stoke pre-election public sentiment. (direkt36.hu; index.hu; 444.hu; hvg.hu)
29th March, 2018

Strong mandate needed to defend Hungary – Orban

A government with a strong mandate is needed to defend the country, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said in an interview with Szolnok TV station on Tuesday night.

“Difficult years are ahead, filled with pressures. It would be good if the government could be strong again, thus our mandate would not only be sufficient to govern, but we would also have enough strength to defend the country,” he added.

Fidesz’s sweeping victory in 2014 made it possible for the government to stand up for Hungarian interests globally without concessions, he said.

“Should the government be less strong than it was, the migrants would have flooded us,” he added. “The electorate does not really see, cannot really see” any other political formation than the Fidesz-Christian Democratic alliance that “has the courage, the bravery and the commitment to defend the country,” he said.

The Hungarian government was the first to say in Europe that mass migration is bad and it not only said that it should be, but that it must be stopped, he stressed.

“We would never have thought that our way of life, which has grown out of Christian traditions, would ever be in danger,” he said.

“Our future depends on the way mass immigration is handled. What good is it to develop the country if it loses its Hungarian and Christian identity?” he said. (pestisracok.hu; hirado.hu)
29th March, 2018

Gyurcsany: either Europe or Orban

The most important election of the past 28 years is ahead as it will decide for quite some time whether Hungary will return to the main street of history or keep marching toward a cul de sac, Democratic Coalition president Ferenc Gyurcsany told a local forum in Budapest on Tuesday evening.

He said one must not play with history as it is stronger “than the prime minister who is showing off his political muscles” and than the prime minister’s supporters.

Gyurcsany recommended that the prime minister borrow a map of Europe from a fifth grader and see why Hungary has no other option than to join the European mainstream. The European mainstream represents freedom, democracy, civic life and peace, he said.

Either Europe or Orban, either life or a fall into nothing, that is at stake, he summed up his opinion. (infostart.hu; valasz.hu; mno.hu; index.hu; magyaridok.hu; nyugatifeny.hu)
29th March, 2018

Simicsko: Hungary to manufacture firearms again

Hungary will manufacture hand-held firearms for the infantry again, Defence Minister Istvan Simicsko and Czech Defence Minister Karla Slechtova announced in Budapest on Wednesday.

An agreement to that effect was signed by David Hofer, managing director of Ceska Zbrojovka Export company, and Roland Kranicz, managing director of the Hungarian Defence Ministry’s company HM Arzenal. The 10-year agreement is worth €100 million and is for about 200,000 firearms. The Czech armed forces will also receive some of the firearms to be manufactured in Hungary.

The assembly of firearms will begin in Hungary based on a Czech patent as the first step. Production of the firearms is planned to start in January, 2019. The project will create jobs for about 200 people.

Simicsko said the re-launch of arms production is a milestone in the upgrade of the Hungarian armed forces. The project will be part of the development of the Visegrad Four countries’ defence capabilities and carried out in co-operation, the minister said.

In the late 1980s as many as 30,000 people worked in the Hungarian military industry. That dropped to about 1,000 after the change of the political regime, he said.

There are Hungarian companies that manufacture weapons, but those are typically small firms that serve niche markets, the minister said. (index.hu; 168ora.hu; origo.hu; hirado.hu; propeller.hu; napi.hu)
29th March, 2018

Jobless rate remains at record low

The unemployment rate in December-February remained at the all-time low first seen in November-January, Central Statistics Office data published on Wednesday show.

The unemployment rate fell sharply on the year in December-February as employment increased dynamically over the same period. The number of unemployed dropped to 177,700, down from 202,500 a year earlier, bringing the unemployment rate down to 3.8% from 4.4%.

The combined rate of those unemployed and working in budget-funded schemes was 7.4% in December-February, down from 8.9% a year earlier, Portfolio said based on its own calculations.

The number of those in employment was 4,441,100 in December-February, up by 70,000 from a year earlier. That was mostly the result of jobs opening in the private sector since the number of those employed in budget-funded schemes fell by 40,000.

Out of the total, 4,182,000 worked in the private sector, 164,900 in the public sector and 94,100 were Hungarian workers posted abroad. The number of those posted abroad fell by 20,000 to 94,100. It is unclear whether the decline was due to their returning home or the number fell because they have terminated their Hungarian address, Portfolio noted.

The number of male unemployed fell to 87,000 from 111,000 and their unemployment rate decreased to 3% from 4.5%. The female unemployment rate remained at 4.3%. The average length of unemployment decreased to 14.9 months. Among the unemployed, 38% had no job for over a year. (ksh.hu; ksh.hu; napi.hu; portfolio.hu)
29th March, 2018

More Hungarians working in Slovakia

Hungarians are now the third largest group of foreigners working in Slovakia, head of the labour, social and family centre Marian Valentovic told Uj Szo, a Hungarian-language daily in Slovakia.

Hungarians number 5,000, up from 4,000 a year ago, Valentovic said. Their number has even surpassed that of the Czechs, who number 4,800.

The number of foreigners working legally in Slovakia has reached 50,500, up from 37,500 a year ago, Valentovic said. The highest number of foreign workers, 12,000, arrived from Serbia, twice as many as a year earlier. The number of Romanians rose by 1,000 to 8,700. (ujszo.com)
29th March, 2018

GS Yuasa starts to build battery plant

Japanese battery maker GS Yuasa laid the foundation stone on Wednesday for its electric-car battery plant to be built in Miskolc.

The government will provide Ft 465 million in state support to the Ft 8.8 billion project, Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Peter Szijjarto said. The Czech Republic and Germany were also in competition to host the factory, Szijjarto underlined.

GS Yuasa plans to supply European electric car makers from its Hungarian plant, which is to start production next year.

First, the company will build a 60,000m2 production site, which, at a later stage, could be expanded to 140,000m2, GS Yuasa International’s president Osamu Murao said. (napi.hu)
29th March, 2018

Stadler to double capacity in Szolnok

The Hungarian unit of Swiss railway rolling stock manufacturer Stadler has received the construction permit to expand to double its manufacturing capacity in Szolnok, Stadler Magyarorszag supervisory board chairman Zoltan Dunai announced at a press conference on Wednesday.

Stadler will spend Ft 10 billion on building production halls on the site of a former sugar refining plant and buying machinery. As a result of the investment, its capacity will double to 500 units of rolling stock a year.

The company will build a 8,000m2 production facility by September this year and a storage facility by the end of September next year. The company will also create 15 jobs with the project. (napi.hu)
29th March, 2018

Pakistani PM opens MOL gas facility

Pakistani prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi officially opened on Tuesday Hungarian oil and gas company MOL’s $15 million gas processing facility in Tolanj, state news agency MTI said on Wednesday.

Tolanj is close to the Tal Block, which is operated by MOL. The gas processing facility, which was commissioned on December 5, 2017, produces 20 million cubic feet of gas daily.

MOL Pakistan is the largest LPG producer, the second largest oil and condensate producer and the seventh largest gas producer in Pakistan. (portfolio.hu)
29th March, 2018

Spar opens sandwich plant

Supermarket chain Spar Magyarorszag opened a 1,500m2 sandwich plant in Ullo, south of Budapest, on Wednesday, CEO Gabriella Heiszler said at the opening ceremony.

The plant was established at a cost of Ft 1.2 billion. Spar spent a total of Ft 23 billion on modernisation in 2017, Heiszler said.

Spar made Ft 562.5 billion in revenue last year, up 8.9% from the previous year and a record high.

It opened four hypermarkets, 26 new units including franchise partners and filling station shops, and modernised 21 supermarkets last year. In December 2017, Spar had 33 Interspar hypermarkets, 344 supermarkets and 142 franchise units.

Spar employs nearly 13,000 people, of whom 74% are women. Only 10% of the employees work part-time, which makes it clearly different from discount chains, Heiszler said. (napi.hu)
29th March, 2018

Vienna Insurance Group merges subsidiaries

Erste Biztosito, Union Biztosito and Vienna Life Biztosito, the three Hungarian subsidiaries of the Vienna Insurance Group, will merge on April 1, to continue to operate under the name Union, the subsidiaries announced on Wednesday.

Existing contracts will remain in force and clients need not take any action, Union underlined.

Erste and Vienna Life are life insurance companies while Union is a life as well as a general, non-life insurance company.

The three insurance companies’ combined premium income reached Ft 76 billion last year, out of which Ft 45 billion was realised on life and Ft 31 billion on non-life products.

The new company, Union, will be the sixth largest insurance company and the fifth largest on the life insurance market alone, based on income. (napi.hu)
29th March, 2018

Magyar Telekom to suspend some services temporarily

Magyar Telekom will suspend some of its services for a few hours at several locations throughout the country on March 29 due to electricity network upgrades carried out by the respective local power suppliers, the telecommunication company announced on Wednesday.

Magyar Telekom will perform various upgrades of its own network as well at some additional locations. That will also result in a temporary suspension on the same day of its analogue and digital phone services, and internet and IPTV services, the company added.

The list of the affected areas, together with a timetable of the suspensions, is available on Magyar Telekom’s website. (telekom.hu; napi.hu)
29th March, 2018

Richter receives innovation award

The Hungarian Innovation Foundation has awarded its 2017 Innovation Grand Prize to pharmaceuticals maker Richter Gedeon for its original drug cariprazine, an antipsychotic to treat schizophrenia and bipolar mania.

Janos Latorcai, parliament’s deputy speaker, and Jozsef Palinkas, president of the National Research, Development and Innovation Office, handed the award to Richter Chairman Erik Bogsch in the Parliament on Wednesday.

The laudatory address highlighted that cariprazine is the embodiment of the concept “invented and made in Hungary.”

Bogsch noted that Cariprazine is the first drug of a Hungarian developer which has received approval from the US medical authorities.

“The success of cariprazine is of historic importance not only for Richter, but also for the entire Hungarian pharmaceutical industry,” he added. (portfolio.hu)
29th March, 2018

Banderas was Picasso in Szentendre

National Geographic shot its series entitled Genius: Picasso with Spanish movie star Antonio Banderas in the title role in Szentendre.

A photo exhibition of the shooting has opened at the P’Art cinema, the National Geographic said on Facebook on Wednesday. It will be open until April 30. A number of the scenes were filmed in the scenic town near Budapest. (mno.hu; 24.hu; hvg.hu; femina.hu; pestibulvar.hu)
29th March, 2018

New bridge to be built between Hungary and Slovakia

A new bridge will be built on the Ipoly River connecting Ipolydamasd in Hungary and Helemba in Slovakia, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto and Slovak Economy Minister Peter Ziga announced in Ipolydamasd on Wednesday.

The countries had bid together for Ft 2.1 billion in EU funds to build the new bridge. The 54-metre long bridge is expected to be completed by 2020. (magyarhirlap.hu)
29th March, 2018

Blaha Lujza ter to be renovated in 2019

The capital has earmarked Ft 1.8 billion for the renovation of Blaha Lujza ter, a busy transport hub in the Eighth District in Budapest, mayor Istvan Tarlos announced at a press conference on Wednesday.

Architectural planning will commence this year, he added, and the project will be completed by the end of next year.

The government has provided financial aid to the Eighth District’s local government for the restoration of the original façade of the Corvin department store, which is located on the square, local Fidesz mayor Mate Kocsis said. (napi.hu)
29th March, 2018

German far-right activist suspected with arms trade caught

A 34-year-old German man, a far-right activist suspected of illegal online firearms trade on his anti-immigrant website, was captured in Budapest on Wednesday, the Hungarian police said. He has been taken into custody for extradition.

The Berlin province’s state prosecutor general turned to the Hungarian police with a legal aid request on March 13 regarding the suspect, National Police said in a statement.

The Berlin prosecutor said in a statement that the authorities had held searched homes in Budapest and Barcs and impounded various pieces of evidence, mainly data storage devices.

The man, Mario Ronsch, is suspected of having engaged in illegal arms trafficking from May to November, 2016, on his website called Migrantenschreck (migrant alarm), operated from Hungary.

The online store sold arms to German shoppers in 193 cases. The transactions were handled through the suspect’s company and several Hungarian bank accounts. (atv.hu; gondola.hu; magyaridok.hu; ma.hu; mno.hu; nepszava.hu)

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