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9th September, 2021

New evidence of Pegasus surveillance of journalist

The investigative news website Direkt36 has evidence that the spy software Pegasus developed by Israeli company NSO was recently deployed in Hungary.

The website reports that the spyware was implanted in the smartphone belonging to Zoltan Pava, an ex-Socialist politician who runs the pro-opposition website Ezalenyeg, more than once last spring.

Experts from Amnesty International and Canadian research group Citizen Lab found that Pegasus was present on the phone on March 16-24 and May 23-27.

It is not known what data the hackers wanted to obtain, but it is certain that they had access to everything that was available on the device. The phone’s microphone and its camera may have been turned on remotely by the spyware.

The Pegasus story erupted in July, when an international team of journalists discovered a database containing 50,000 telephone numbers that may have been monitored via the spyware, including 300 in Hungary belonging to journalists, opposition politicians and business figures. Pava’s phone was not among them because it is supposed that the database was leaked before he became a target.

There is a great deal of information suggesting that Hungarian state bodies could be behind the use of Pegasus in Hungary, Telex writes.

Earlier, a former Hungarian intelligence officer told Direkt36 that, according to his information, national security agencies had started using Pegasus, which in principle the developer may only sell to government clients, in 2018.

A former employee of NSO also confirmed that Hungary had purchased the Pegasus service.

Since the outbreak of the case, no representative of the Hungarian government has clearly denied that the Hungarian state is a client of NSO, nor that they have targeted the people mentioned by Hungarian media.

Pava said it is “desperate and frightening” that in Hungary if a journalist, lawyer or businessman does not think what the governing side does, and expresses it, this can be a reason for surveillance.

“I am definitely not scared and this is why I want what happened to be made public because I have nothing to hide,” he declared. (telex.hu; hvg.hu; index.hu; hang.hu; hirklikk.hu; atv.hu)
9th September, 2021

National security committee convened

Parliament’s national security committee chairman Janos Stummer, a Jobbik MP, is convening the committee for September 20 to ask the ministers affected about the use of Pegasus spyware in Hungary, Magyar Narancs reports.

Stummer said he expects Interior Minister Sandor Pinter, Justice Minister Judit Varga, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto and Defence Minister Tibor Benko to be present at the meeting.

“The committee must hold a meeting every year at which the ministers responsible for the secret services report on the work done and questions can be put to them. I am convening this meeting for September 20,” Stummer said.

He said Pinter, Szijjarto and Benko are legally obliged to appear before the committee.

Szijjarto earlier said that he knows of no “presumed data collection,” Varga referred to the rule of law and pointed to Pinter as competent in the matter, who once said he does not claim that Hungarian state authorities did not use the spy software. (magyarnarancs.hu; 444.hu; hang.hu; telex.hu)
9th September, 2021

Maruzsa: no precautions in schools

The number of coronavirus patients receiving medical treatment in hospital is rising slowly but gradually but according to every indication the cabinet will not order the wearing of masks nor social distancing in schools, Telex reports.

Education state secretary Zoltan Maruzsa told Inforadio on Wednesday that masks will not be made mandatory in schools as protection is based on inoculation.

Hungary is the only country in the region that started the new school year without any restriction measures in place, Portfolio observes.

“I consider it an unequivocal success that we were able to launch live classes last week practically without any problems,” Maruzsa said.

He added that anybody can apply to be vaccinated in the future but he sees no sense in launching another campaign.

Some 48,000 pupils over 12 years of age were inoculated in the first week of the school year, and 185,000 pupils were vaccinated prior to that.

Maruzsa said vaccination will be opened to those under 12 once it becomes scientifically approved, but there are no plans to make it mandatory.

He added that 85-90% of teachers have been inoculated, which represents a much higher degree of protection, a higher proportion than the national average.

He then affirmed that body temperatures will not be gauged, masks will not have to be worn, nor will social distancing rules be imposed in the first term of the school year. (infostart.hu; telex.hu; portfolio.hu/en; atv.hu; klubradio.hu; penzcentrum.hu)
9th September, 2021

Karacsony first on primary ballots

Lots were drawn for the order of the prime ministerial candidates on voters’ ballots for the primary at noon on Wednesday.

Accordingly, the order is as follows:

- Gergely Karacsony (Socialist-Dialogue-LMP)

- Peter Marki-Zay (Everybody’s Hungary)

- Andras Fekete-Gyor (Momentum)

- Klara Dobrev (Democratic Coalition)

- Peter Jakab (Jobbik).

The parties taking part in the primary set for September 18-26 said in a statement that the event shows well that the opposition party alliance is committed to democratic values, something the primary is about: “the parties opted for the vision of democracy, co-operation, creating opportunities, a more equal society and the unseating of the present cabinet.” (atv.hu; index.hu)
9th September, 2021

Inflation accelerates to 4.9% in August

Inflation stood at 4.9% year-on-year in August, up from 4.6% in July, the Central Statistics Office announced on Wednesday.

Among the largest increases, the price of cooking oil soared by 30.6%, the price of catering at workplaces rose by 9.2%, poultry was 8.9% more costly than a year ago and the price of flour went up by 8.2%.

Fuel prices alone have expanded by 21.7%.

Core inflation – which excludes energy and seasonal foods – reached 3.6% year-on-year in August, up from 3.5% in July, and was up by 0.3% from the previous month.

Over the first eight months, the average inflation was 4.3% year-on-year.

The August inflation figure was above the average forecast of 4.7%, Portfolio notes.

The data may strengthen the determination of monetary policy makers to continue tightening, the website adds. (ksh.hu; portfolio.hu; 24.hu; novekedes.hu; nepszava.hu; napi.hu)
9th September, 2021

Pensioners question inflation data

Elderly persons were surprised by the official pensioners inflation figures released on Wednesday, and they have serious doubts that the figure is only 3.9% year-on-year for the first eight months, the Pensioners’ Parliament announced.

In calculating pensioners inflation, food, medicine and housing-related expenses have a 62% weight in the overall basket, compared to 47% in the standard figure.

The pensioners organisation complains that the Central Statistics Office’s method of calculating pensioners inflation does not include additional expense items that have emerged due to the epidemic that particularly affect the elderly, such as disinfectants, immune-boosting products and services essential for maintaining social contacts.

The Pensioners’ Parliament asks the government to use its authorisation given by the law to impose an additional pension hike retroactively to January 1, calculating with the 4.3% average inflation figure for the first eight months, not the 3.9% pensioners inflation. (napi.hu)
9th September, 2021

Surprising trade deficit in July

Hungary recorded a trade deficit of €193 million in July, down from a €186 million surplus a year earlier, the Central Statistics Office announced as it released its first estimate on Wednesday.

The last time Hungary produced a trade deficit was in April 2020, a result of the shock of the pandemic, Portfolio points out.

Compared to June, exports fell by 9.5% to €9.5 billion, while imports decreased by 1.8% to €9.7 billion.

The slowdown in exports in July from June may have been due to a decline in vehicle production, as has appeared in industrial output figures, the Statistics Office said.

Compared to a year earlier, exports increased by 5.4% and imports were up 8.5%.

The trade surplus for January-July was €3.5 billion, up from €2.3 billion a year earlier.

The final figures for July will be announced on October 1.

Import growth rates exceeded export growth rates for the third month, Portfolio observes.

It says the present decline in the trade balance is due to several factors, such as the stoppages, mostly in the automotive industry, caused by global supply problems, as well as demand problems for exports due to the uncertainty, and the overheated Hungarian economy, which boosts imports of fixed capital goods. (ksh.hu; portfolio.hu; napi.hu; hvg.hu)
9th September, 2021

State control over Dunaferr ends

The Budapest Court of Appeals has removed Dunaferr, the troubled steelworks in Dunaujvaros, from control of state receiver Nemzeti Reorganizacios Nonprofit (NRN).

The court appointed NRN as a receiver in a bankruptcy procedure on June 22 and decided to end it on July 22, a decision that entered into force on August 11.

The state sold its minuscule stake in Dunaferr in August, making it possible to end the stewardship of the state receiver.

London-based website Argus Media wrote on August 18 that Russian metal industry giant Metalloinvest had expressed interest in purchasing Dunaferr.

Employees of Dunaferr will receive their monthly wages in one payment from December, replacing the present practice of two payments in a month, website 24 reports. (index.hu; portfolio.hu; 24.hu)
9th September, 2021

NetPincer becomes Foodpanda

NetPincer will change its name to Foodpanda from October, CEO Zoltan Patai of the food delivery service’s operator Delivery Hero Hungary announced on Tuesday.

Both the Netpincer and Foodpanda brands are owned by Germany’s Delivery Hero group, so there is no change of ownership and the essential elements remain the same.

NetPincer, founded in 1999, became part of the Delivery Hero group in 2016. The group intends to unify its brands under the Foodpanda name in various countries.

Patai said technological innovations will arrive in Hungary faster, and domestic users will be able to use the same standard mobile app across several countries.

He said Foodpanda will grow and expand in Hungary and will create hundreds of jobs by investing billions of forints. (index.hu; hvg.hu; napi.hu; telex.hu; portfolio.hu; 24.hu)
9th September, 2021

Wing to erect HOP Passage office building

Wing will build the office building HOP Passage in the Hungaria Office Park, the former Siemens property on Hungaria korut, the property developer announced on Wednesday.

The A+ category, five-storey, 32,000m2 building will be opened at the end of 2023 with parking space for 376 vehicles.

Wing purchased the former Siemens site in Budapest’s 14th District in 2018 and renamed it Hungaria Office Park in the summer of 2021.

It first renovated the tallest building, now called Gizella Loft.

Wing will renew the existing buildings and erect new ones in the area, increasing the total space to 65,000m2 with 1,000 parking spaces, said chairman and CEO Noah Steinberg. (portfolio.hu)
9th September, 2021

Budapest Airport investments reach €200mn over 2.5 years

The total value of investment projects realised at the Liszt Ferenc International Airport has reached €200 million over the last two and a half years, operator Budapest Airport announced on Wednesday.

In the first half of this year, five taxiways were renewed, including a complete surface replacement and improved public lighting on one of the service roads. The construction of a new 8,000m2 hangar has also begun.

Budapest Airport suffered a €110 million loss last year, as revenues shrank by 65% from the previous year to €118 million.

Despite the sharply falling revenues, Budapest Airport has decided to continue its airport development programme and has even brought some projects ahead of schedule to utilise low passenger traffic.

The airport will open its new 440m2 main hall within weeks. (portfolio.hu)
9th September, 2021

Three more patients die of coronavirus infection

Another 246 coronavirus cases were registered in Hungary on Tuesday, as the number of registered infected continues to rise for the fifth straight week.

On a per capita basis, the largest number of infections occurred in Budapest.

The rapid rise in the number of Covid patients hospitalised has stopped.

The delta variant infects more people than the previous variants, but, due to inoculations, it is likely that fewer infected people will be hospitalised, website 444 writes. It is supposed that their number will continue to rise from the current 208.

The mortality rate is rising. This week 16 people died. The epidemic last claimed more lives in the week of June 21-27, when 30 people fell victim to the disease. (444.hu)

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