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23rd November, 2023

Special House session convened to debate sovereignty bill

Parliament will hold a special two-day session next week to debate the sovereignty protection bill and other proposed legislation, including amendments to the Basic Law, so that they may be voted on, HVG reports.

As well as the sovereignty bill, MPs would debate a proposal to ban unions in the armed forces.

According to the proposal for the agenda, to be discussed by the House committee today, other topics would be on the agenda of the November 27-28 session, such as last year’s report by the commissioner of fundamental rights and his deputies.

MPs will also deal with Janos Lazar’s proposed amendment to the tobacco trade law, which would strictly punish the sale of tobacco products to people under the age of 18 and allow the opening of tobacco shops in workers’ accommodation.

HVG also says that, despite the additional two plenary session days, Parliament will not take time to ratify Sweden’s accession to NATO. (24.hu; hvg.hu)
23rd November, 2023

Opposition MPs see Russia and China as threats to sovereignty

The real threat to Hungary’s sovereignty comes from Russia and China, opposition parties said yesterday in response to the sovereignty bill submitted on Tuesday night.

At a press conference with representatives of the Socialist, Democratic Coalition and Momentum parties, Dialogue-Greens caucus leader Timea Szabo said Viktor Orban personally held talks with the Vladimir Putin who was declared a war criminal by the Hague International Court, Hungary’s dependence on Russian gas has not lessened, and Orban supported the Chinese Communist Party with Ft 1 trillion by setting up Chinese battery factories here.

“The real security risk is Viktor Orban and his government”, Szabo declared as she announced that the four opposition parties will next week “submit a real sovereignty protection package that will truly enhance Hungary’s security and stop the selling out to foreign interests”.

Momentum president Ferenc Gelencser called the bill an “intellectual distortion”, which he also called a “law of intimidation”, as it was drafted “solely to intimidate opposition politicians and civilians who disagree with the ideas of the state party”.

Democratic Coalition deputy caucus leader Gergely Arato said the bill is false, lying, misleading and base, as it is not the West but the cabinet of Viktor Orban that jeopardises Hungary’s sovereignty.

Separately, LMP co-president Erzsebet Schmuck said if the government wants the country to become sovereign, it should convert to energy independence as soon as possible. (444.hu)
23rd November, 2023

Mi Hazank proposes changes to Budapest election rules

Mi Hazank MP Istvan Szabadi has submitted an amendment motion to Parliament proposing that the members of the Budapest city council should be elected next year in a voting procedure based on party lists rather than appointing the mayors of the city’s 23 districts to the council.

Such a change would require a two-thirds majority in Parliament. But the modification of the election of the Capital Assembly, even enforced for next year’s election, may be more favourable to Fidesz right now.

The proposal would restore the previous system of electing the city council, which was changed by Fidesz in 2014, because the current system suited the party better then, 444 writes.

Since 2014, the system has been that the elected mayor is a member of the city council, along with the district mayors, and the remaining nine seats are allocated on the basis of compensation lists based on votes given for losing mayoral candidates in the districts.

However, this may no longer be the most favourable system for Fidesz, as the party may be more successful with a party list system, since it is the strongest party in Budapest, although it does not have a majority.

When the proposal was raised a month ago by former Free Democrat politician Gabor Fodor, the government media embraced it, calling it a left-wing idea, and now this left-wing idea has become a Mi Hazank amendment.

Mayor Gergely Karacsony alleged that Fidesz is behind the proposal, saying that “they are too cowardly to submit the proposal in their own name, but entrusted it to their semi-fascist sister party” barely seven months before the elections.

“The ruling powers that change their principles as often as others their underclothes are not worthy of the trust of the people of Budapest”, Karacsony wrote. (444.hu; 24.hu; rtl.hu; hang.hu; telex.hu)
23rd November, 2023

Bill would outlaw armed forces unions

It will be forbidden to form a trade union within the armed forces under a proposed amendment to the Basic Law officially submitted by deputy prime minister Zsolt Semjen on Tuesday.

One of the keys and not at all symbolic moves of what will be the 12th amendment to the constitution is that the government instead of Parliament could be in charge in future to decide on the legal status of professional members of the Hungarian Armed Forces.

In the future an armed forces union could only be formed according to the regulations defined in a government decree.

It may be that the government will allow some form of union, HVG writes, because the proposal states that: “Other interest-representative organisations operating in connection with the legal status of a professional member of the Hungarian Armed Forces may be formed and may operate according to the specific rules defined in the government’s decree.”

The detailed rules, according to the motion, could be worked out by the defence minister.

The bill would also enshrine in the Basic Law as part of the sovereignty protection package that it is the duty of all state bodies to defend Hungary’s constitutional self-identity and Christian culture. (telex.hu; hvg.hu; index.hu; infostart.hu; hirklikk.hu; atv.hu)
23rd November, 2023

Anti-EU posters modified

The posters depicting European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Alex Soros as would-be overlords telling Hungarians how to live has been modified, 444 reports.

The original version showed Soros’s right hand with his index finger pointing upwards, but this has been deleted from the new version.

No explanation has been provided for the change. A worker pasting over the old picture with the new suggested that Soros’s gesture might be some secret hand signal. A 444 journalist surmised that Soros’s open mouth and pointing hand make it look like the quote on the poster comes from him, and that he is advising von der Leyen “not to dance to their whistle”.

The website asked an unnamed senior government communication figure, but he said he had no idea why the change was made, even though he is a member of the innermost communication circle. (444.hu; 24.hu)
23rd November, 2023

Soros foundation calls new billboard campaign anti-Semitic

The political campaign launched by the Hungarian government which deprecates the head of the European Commission and the son of financier George Soros is “propaganda deeply tainted by anti-Semitism”, a spokesman for Soros’s Open Society foundation told Reuters on Wednesday.

He said Hungarian taxpayers’ money is again being used for political propaganda as part of a “well-worn tactic by the Hungarian government – creating a vague and imaginary foreign threat to distract voters from real domestic issues”.

Reuters recalls that while according to Orban there is zero tolerance in Hungary of anti-Semitism, the communication of the prime minister and the governing party has repeatedly presented the Hungarian born Jewish Soros as a puppeteer who plots to undermine his rule, among other things by supporting mass immigration.

State secretary for international communications Zoltan Kovacs dismissed as unfounded the accusations that the campaign is anti-Semitic. (hvg.hu; reuters.com)
23rd November, 2023

Teachers unions initiate resumption of strike talks

The Teachers’ Union (PSZ) and the Democratic Union of Teachers (PDSZ) have appealed to education state secretary Zoltan Maruzsa to resume the strike negotiations, and said teachers could go on strike at schools again if no agreement is reached with the government by January 2024.

The unions said the situation of half of those working in public education has not improved, and more teachers left after the adoption of the Status Law in the summer.

The unions added that classes are being taught by unqualified people and it is not rare for schools to employ students to replace the missing teachers.

The two unions are calling for a repeal of the Status Law, an immediate 50% wage hike for all those employed in public education, a reduction in the teaching hours to 22 per week, the abolition of the performance-evaluation system, the lifting of measures restricting the right to strike of those working in education, and the revival of a ministry of education. (telex.hu; economx.hu)
23rd November, 2023

AKK unveils new retail bond

State debt manager AKK yesterday rolled out a new Premium Hungarian Government Bond (PMAP) for retail clients, available from November 29.

The 2032/I series bonds, maturing on April 22, 2032, will have a “hybrid” interest rate structure during the nine-year maturity, with a higher premium in the last three years of its maturity.

However, it will pay a fixed 9.9% interest, or 13.9% when annualised, during the first 18-month period between November 29, 2023 and April 22, 2025.

In the following four years, the instrument turns into a variable interest rate bond with an interest premium of 0.5% above inflation, which rises to 1.0% in the last three years, between April 2029 and April 2032.

The new retail bond is less favourable for investors in the short term compared to the previous inflation-linked series, (2033/I) which will pay an 18% yield in 2024, based on the projected annual average inflation for 2023.

After that period, it offers a 0.25 percentage point interest premium above inflation, Portfolio commented.

The lower yield, of as much as eight percentage points, payable on the new series could mean significant savings for the budget.

The rollout of the new bond also underscores the government’s efforts to channel households’ savings into government bonds, Portfolio adds. (portfolio.hu; index.hu; hvg.hu; novekedes.hu; privatbankar.hu)
23rd November, 2023

Rough year for building material makers

Building materials makers scaled back or shut down production as demand plummeted in 2023, according to building materials and construction product association Measz.

Turnover of fired ceramic brick and tile products decreased by 40-50% year-on-year, or more depending on the product type, in the January-October period, said Measz.

Local insulation producers have also scaled back production by reducing shifts and downsizing.

The sharp decline in construction orders is attributed to rising financing costs, the decline in household purchasing power and the postponement of state investments.

In addition, there is a wait-and-see attitude among buyers expecting prices to fall further.

Measz notes that there is limited scope for that, due in part to the rise in wages.

The lower production output is not affecting delivery times, as traders and manufacturers have ample stocks on hand, it adds. (uzletem.hu)
23rd November, 2023

Used car sales rise by 8%

Used car sales in Hungary were up 8.1% year-on-year to 73,700 in October, the highest monthly reading in 2023, listings site JoAutok reports, citing figures compiled by DataHouse.

JoAutok CEO Bertalan Halasz said it is “too early to speak about a trend reversal”, as household income and high interest rates continue to affect the market.

A chart published by JoAutok shows that transactions bottomed out in February with 60,708 cars sold and hovered around 68,000-71,000 between May and September.

Full-year sales could top last year’s record of 825,000, given that demand was subdued in the last two months of 2022, Halasz added.

Used car sales in the first ten months fell by 1.6% from the same period of last year to 689,900. The number of imported used cars was 18% lower at 89,300 during the period. (mfor.hu; origo.hu; hvg.hu; autoszektor.hu)
23rd November, 2023

Yields lower at T-bill auction

The first government security auction after the MNB’s latest 75-basis-point rate cut produced falling yields on Thursday.

Yields at the bi-monthly auction of the six-month T-bills dropped to 8.25% on Wednesday, compared to 8.47% two weeks ago, nine basis points under the secondary benchmark.

The AKK sold Ft 30.5 billion of the security, raising its offer by Ft 10.5 billion after receiving Ft 69.3 billion in bids from primary dealers. (tozsdeforum.hu)
23rd November, 2023

Erste reports cyberfraud rising in value and volume

Mobile and internet bank users of Erste Bank suffered a Ft 500 million loss from online fraud, and the loss for the entire sector reached Ft 7 billion in the second quarter alone, deputy CEO Laszlo Harmati reported at a press conference on Wednesday.

Overall, 2023 has seen rapid growth in cybercrime in the financial sector in volume as well as value and frauds have become more sophisticated, he added.

Affirming that Erste is continuously working to improve its 24/7 monitoring activities to prevent cybercrime, Harmati said these measures prevented Ft 4.4 billion of fraud in the third quarter alone, a three-fold increase from the first quarter.

Data phishing and fake stores are the most common forms of online crime.

Erste’s own statistics show that the highest number of frauds were committed against middle-aged women living in Budapest, as they are active on websites most likely to be targeted by criminals, but in terms of financial losses, middle-aged men living in the capital topped the ranking.

Erste’s head of compliance Anna Kosa warned customers against buying from “cloned” webshops that do not have an email or phone number. Bad spelling and misspelled URLs should also raise alarm bells, she added.

Erste can filter out fake webshop operators once they have been flagged. In these cases, the bank can instantly block the online purchase and the bank card before informing the client, she added.

Criminals posing as bank employees also regularly target clients with direct calls and manipulate them to give out sensitive data. Once that happens, there is little chance of recovering the money, Kosa said. (portfolio.hu; 24.hu; novekedes.hu; index.hu)
23rd November, 2023

EIB extends euro 100mn loan to MFB

The European Investment Bank (EIB) will lend euro 100 million to state development bank MFB for renewable energy and energy-efficient investments under an agreement signed by the two banks on Wednesday in Luxembourg.

The agreement allows the MFB to expand financing of investments contributing to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and lower energy costs, further strengthening competitiveness and sustainability, the Hungarian bank said.

The operation is co-financed by the Council of Europe Bank, bringing total project costs to an expected euro 150 million, the lender said. (portfolio.hu; novekedes.hu)
23rd November, 2023

Villeroy & Boch and Continental announce layoffs

The year-end brings mass layoffs in Mako and Hodmezovasarhely, as 50 workers from the Continental tyre factory in Mako will be laid off this year, and in Hodmezovasarhely, German-owned Villeroy & Boch Magyarorszag, the city’s largest employer, will part with the same number of Hungarian workers.

Both companies blame a decline in orders for the dismissals.

Continental’s international company network includes six factories in Hungary, a tyre trade centre, and a development centre, which together employ more than 8,000 people.

In Mako, ContiTech Fluid Automotive Hungaria produces components for European automotive companies, such as pipes for car heating-cooling systems.

In recent years, there has been high staff turnover at the factory, and layoffs were frequent due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In 2021, the company paid back Ft 1.7 billion in support to the state, which it had received for expanding the workforce.

In Hodmezovasarhely, Villeroy & Boch Magyarorszag has reached an agreement with unions on the dismissal of 50 of its Hungarian employees.

The 86 foreign workers who came to work at the company from Indonesia were dismissed earlier. (telex.hu; mfor.hu)
23rd November, 2023

New regulated real estate investment company debuts on BSE

Shares of Biggeorge SZIT, a regulated real estate investment company, began trading on the Budapest Stock Exchange in the standard category on Wednesday after the MNB approved the company’s request for the change of corporate structure to SZIT.

The company is a member of Biggeorge Holding, one of the largest Hungarian private real estate and investment groups, engaged in the development of industrial parks.

The company listed 3.8 million dematerialised shares, or 25.8% of the total, with a face value of Ft 1,000 on the bourse.

Biggeorge, the fifth SZIT on the stock market, serves as a good example for companies seeking sustainable financing solutions for long-term growth and competitiveness, said BSE CEO Richard Vegh.

Founder and CEO of Biggeorge Property Tibor Nagygyorgy called the listing a milestone in the company’s strategy, based on capital market presence and transparent operations.

Biggeorge does not plan further share sales, he added. (portfolio.hu; novekedes.hu)
23rd November, 2023

Penny also closing on Christmas Eve

Penny Market has become the latest retail chain to announce that its shops will be closed on December 24 this year, a Sunday.

The retailer told 444 that it will try to make it easier for its customers to prepare for Christmas with longer opening hours in the days leading up to this.

Penny pointed out that it also kept its shops closed on December 24, 2016, which fell on a Saturday.

Lidl, Rossmann and Mountex have said they will be closed on Christmas Eve, while Aldi has said its shops will remain open until 7 p.m. (444.hu)
23rd November, 2023

Over 120,000 see Renoir show

More than 120,000 visitors have viewed the exhibition of paintings by Pierre-Auguste Renoir in the two months since it opened at the Museum of Fine Arts at the end of September.

In view of the keen interest, the exhibition is open to visitors on Mondays and one hour earlier on weekends, at 9 a.m.

Nearly 70 works of the French master are on display at the large-scale exhibition on show until early January.

The Museum of Fine Arts arranged the exhibition in co-operation with the Musee d’Orsay and Musee de l’Orangerie in Paris but includes artworks on loan from more than 20 foreign museums. (magyarnemzet.hu; 24.hu; magyarhirlap.hu; origo.hu)

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