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18th May, 2023

EP group objects to top-down approach in utilising EU funds

The delegation of the European Parliament’s budget supervisory committee urges the Hungarian government to involve affected parties in deciding how to use EU money, rather than imposing decisions from the top down, delegation leader Monika Hohlmeier told a press conference in Budapest on Wednesday.

The centre-right politician also exhorted the government to meet the conditions necessary for the release of EU funds, adding that “the future of euro 28 billion depends on whether the so-called 27 super-milestones and the related 17 adjustments negotiated will be met.

The EU funds set aside for Hungary constitute a great opportunity for the country, but the delegation has reservations about whether Hungarian citizens and entrepreneurs will be the beneficiaries, Hohlmeier added.

Among the problems, Hohlmeier listed the following:

- The Hungarian legislature is “very hasty and fast”. This year alone 95 budget amendments were approved that were not debated or about which the cabinet did not hold public consultations.

- Regional and municipal councils are not involved in development negotiations.

- Opposition-led local councils are at a disadvantage.

- Several multinational companies have filed complaints to the effect that the Hungarian laws are discriminatory and serve the purpose of driving them out of Hungary.

- There are a number of errors and problems with the operation of the State Audit Office. The Office was unable to provide information in 29 cases about the fate of euro 1.5 billion of EU funding.

- The government gives preferential treatment to one sphere of people.

Hohlmeier spoke highly of the establishment of the new Integrity Authority, and called the changes taking place at the tax office and the strengthening of the judicial council positive. (hvg.hu; index.hu; demokrata.hu)
18th May, 2023

Navracsics not optimistic about EP delegation’s report

Minister for Regional Development and EU Funds Tibor Navracsics said he did not believe that the delegation from the European Parliament budget supervisory committee would present a good opinion of Hungary in its report, after meeting with the MEPs in Budapest on Wednesday morning.

“They did not appear to have read the background materials received from the government”, he said.

Navracsics told journalists that the meeting was businesslike, and both sides strove for mutual understanding, but he felt that the members of the delegation were biased and they accused the government of the same.

In response to the accusation of political bias against opposition-led municipalities, he said there are 60 settlements and four towns in his own constituency led by opposition leaders with whom he has outstanding co-operation in development projects. (infostart.hu; rtl.hu; 24.hu; hang.hu; index.hu; mfor.hu)
18th May, 2023

Date set for EP and local elections

Hungary’s municipal and European Parliament elections will be held on June 9, 2024, Portfolio reports.

As member states were unable to reach unanimous agreement on the EP election date, voting will take place during June 6-9, according to a letter to EP President Roberta Metsola from the Swedish Minister of EU Affairs, whose country holds the rotating EU Council presidency.

EU election law stipulates the date of the elections at the beginning of June.

As Hungary’s constitution states that elections must take place on a Sunday, Hungarians will vote on June 9. (portfolio.hu; infostart.hu; euractiv.com; naphire.hu)
18th May, 2023

Mi Hazank could win seats in EP

The Mi Hazank Movement could win seats in the European Parliament, the Democratic Coalition and Momentum would not increase the number of their MEPs, and Dialogue and LMP would have a bigger chance for winning a seat if they ran together, according to the latest poll by Zavecz Research, commissioned by the LMP’s party foundation, Okopolisz.

Fidesz has the support of 46% of decided party voters, while the Democratic Coalition leads the opposition with 19%, ahead of Momentum with 8%, Mi Hazank 7%, Jobbik 6% and the Socialist Party also at 6%.

If LMP (4%), the Hungarian Two-Tailed Dog Party (3%) and Dialogue (2%) ran on their own, they would not win any seats.

With these numbers, Fidesz would win 12 seats in the European Parliament, the Democratic Coalition 4, Momentum 2, Mi Hazank 1, the Socialists 1 and Jobbik 1.

Klara Dobrev of the Democratic Coalition is the most popular opposition politician, followed by Momentum MEP Anna Donath.

The results are based on a survey of a representative sample of 1,000 adults between April 28 and May 5. (telex.hu; 168.hu; nepszava.hu; rtl.hu; hirklikk.hu; 24.hu)
18th May, 2023

Majority opposes Budahazy pardon

Only 20% of Hungarians consider it right that President Katalin Novak pardoned convicted terrorist Gyorgy Budahazy on the occasion of the visit to Hungary by Pope Francis, according to a survey conducted by the Publicus Institute for Nepszava.

In all, 54% of respondents say it is normal that the law allows scope for a presidential pardon, but 75% said Budahazy should not have been pardoned.

Only 41% of Fidesz voters agreed with Novak’s decision. Her decision was also supported by 5% of opposition voters and 8% of undecided voters.

Strategic director Andrea Virag of the Republikon political institute said the presidential pardon was a gesture from those in power toward the voters of the far-right Mi Hazank and the radicals within Fidesz. (24.hu)
18th May, 2023

New car registrations fall 6% in April

The number of new passenger car registrations in Hungary was down 6% year-on-year to 8,549 in April, according to data from the European automobile manufacturers’ association ACEA.

Sales of hybrid electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles reached 3,800 last month, accounting for 44% of all car sales.

Cars with petrol engines made up 36% of the total, and vehicles with diesel engines 14%.

In the first four months, 38,109 new cars were registered in Hungary, 0.9% more than a year earlier.

Sales of purely electric cars rose by 32.4% year-on-year to 2,053, and those of plug-in hybrids saw 10.1% growth to 1,846.

Sales of hybrid-electric vehicles were almost unchanged at 15,393.

A total of 14,161 petrol cars and 4,364 diesel cars were sold In the January-April period, declines of 1.7% and 1.9%, respectively. (napi.hu; portfolio.hu)
18th May, 2023

Leasing outlays rise, but contract numbers fall

Leasing outlays were up 19.5% year-on-year to Ft 198.7 billion in the first quarter, the highest quarterly figure for the period since 2008, the Hungarian Leasing Association said in a quarterly report.

New leasing contracts declined 13% to 15,641, the lowest first-quarter figure since 2016, amid rising asset prices, high inflation and rising borrowing costs.

SMEs accounted for 77.5% of leasing companies’ business, followed by large companies and retail customers with shares of 14% and 4.7%, respectively.

Leasing by individuals has great potential, as they account for 29% of the total, on average, in Western Europe.

Vehicles made up close to three-fourths of financed assets, of which light commercial vehicles and passenger cars had a 49% share and heavy commercial vehicles 23.5%.

New contracts and the value of leasing outlays could drop in 2023, due to economic uncertainties, the Leasing Association warns.

On a more positive note, it said state-subsidised lending schemes could stimulate the market. (penzcentrum.hu; portfolio.hu)
18th May, 2023

EC clears MOL takeover of OMV Slovenija

The European Commission yesterday announced its approval of the acquisition of petrol retailer OMV Slovenija by MOL, almost a year after the deal was announced.

The Austrian oil company agreed to sell its Slovenian unit, including 120 petrol stations and a wholesale business, in June 2021 to MOL, which was already present on the Slovenian market with 53 fuel stations.

The Commission’s in-depth investigation of the market found that the transaction would restrict competition in the retail fuel market in Slovenia, and would reduce the number of dominant retail fuel distributors from three to two.

To address these competition concerns, MOL offered to sell a nationwide retail network of 39 fuel stations in Slovenia to Shell.

With the Slovenia acquisition, MOL has a network of almost 2,500 petrol stations in 10 countries in Central and South-Eastern Europe and is the market leader in the retail fuel segment in most of these countries. (index.hu; portfolio.hu; novekedes.hu; hvg.hu; mfor.hu; piacesprofit.hu)
18th May, 2023

Janaf to ship oil to MOL via Adriatic pipeline

MOL has signed a transport and storage contract with Croatian pipeline operator Janaf that allows the Hungarian oil company to transport 2.9 million tons of crude oil to its Hungarian and Slovakian refineries via the Adriatic pipeline.

Under the contract, Janaf will store 79,385m3 of oil at the Omisalj terminal on the island of Krk, as well as 70,000m3 of crude oil at the Sisak terminal.

In a press release, Janaf said the contract, sealed after months of negotiations, guarantees a secure and uninterrupted supply to Hungary and Slovakia and confirms the strategic importance of Janaf for the energy stability of the region.

The parties did not disclose the financial details of the deal. (portfolio.hu; hvg.hu)
18th May, 2023

GVH approves as MBH swallows Duna Takarek Bank

The Competition Authority (GVH) has approved the absorption of the Gyor-based Duna Takarek Bank by MBH Bank, which was launched earlier this month after ending a long merger process involving MKB, Budapest Bank and Takarekbank.

Duna Takarek Bank and MBH signed a declaration earlier this month and submitted a merger notification to the GVH on May 8.

The GVH gave the green light for the transaction, saying the approval process would not require an investigation, as the merger will not significantly impede market competition.

Duna Takarek Bank, formed in 2013 from the savings co-operative with the same name, was one of the few financial institutions not to be part of the wider integration of savings co-operations, spearheaded by Takarekbank.

According to earlier reports, Takarekbank began talks on acquiring Duna Takarek Bank in 2020. (mfor.hu)
18th May, 2023

Budapest Airport invests euro 30mn in cargo base

Budapest Airport will expand its annual air cargo capacity from 250,000 to 300,000 tons with the expansion of Bud Cargo City at a cost of euro 30 million, deputy chief development officer Rene Droese announced at Wednesday’s topping-out ceremony.

Bud Cargo City handled a record 200,000 tons of air freight last year, an annual increase of 5.8%, and 43% above 2019 levels.

Budapest Airport began construction of the cargo base in 2018 from a euro 50 million investment and completed the first phase of the project in 2020.

The second phase will consist of an euro 18 million expansion of the floor space and a euro 12 million project to enlarge the apron for aircraft, to be completed by the end of this year.

As for other projects, Budapest Airport plans to inaugurate a new parking lot in front of Terminal 2 in the summer, and reopen Terminal 1 to passenger traffic by 2026.

The airport operator is also making preparations for the construction of Terminal 3, which it aims to complete by 2030 at a cost of euro 1 billion, Droese said. (mfor.hu)
18th May, 2023

OTP completes $500mn bond issue

OTP Bank issued $500 million in bonds on Wednesday, its second international issuance on the foreign markets this year.

Hungary’s largest lender secured $650 million in fresh funds in February.

Besides domestic and international investors, the EBRD and IFC also subscribed the bonds.

The four-year maturity senior preferred bonds will pay a coupon of 7.5% and can be redeemed after three years.

Lead managers in the new issue are BNP Paribas, JPMorgan, Morgan Stanley, Societe Generale and OTP. (portfolio.hu)
18th May, 2023

Brazil drug baron may be extradited

A court has ruled that Hungarian authorities can extradite Brazilian drug lord Sergio Roberto de Carvalho, who was captured in Budapest last summer.

Brazil, the US and Belgium seek his extradition. Justice Minister Judit Varga will decide to which country he will be extradited.

The US wants to prosecute him not for drug trafficking, but for money-laundering, while Brazil and Belgium want to prosecute him for drug trafficking.

Hungarian police arrested Carvalho, considered one of the world’s biggest drug dealers, on the terrace of a Vigado ter restaurant on June 21 of last year.

Carvalho has an adventurous past, having used countless aliases and even faking his death with one of his identities.

He is wanted by the Brazilian authorities for international drug-trafficking, mafia activity, smuggling, money-laundering, forgery and murder.

By playing a connecting role between Paraguayan and Bolivian drug suppliers and European markets, he became one of the biggest drug dealers in Europe.

The criminal organisation that Carvalho controlled smuggled 45 tons of cocaine from South America to Europe in 2017-19. (hvg.hu)
18th May, 2023

Wild boars roam Salgotarjan streets

Wild boars inundated the streets of Salgotarjan in northern Hungary Tuesday evening, causing fear among local residents.

This is not the first time that wild boars appeared in the town (earlier they were sighted in pizzerias and in some streets) but the tabloid Blikk says it is a new feature that they appeared in various parts of the town.

Local residents fear for their children and pets, and walking the dog has become particularly dangerous because of the presence of wild boars. (hvg.hu; blikk.hu; naphire.hu; atv.hu; liner.hu)
18th May, 2023

Man jumps into Danube from bridge

A man jumped into the Danube from the Rakoczi bridge at around 5 p.m. Tuesday afternoon, Budapest Police reported on Wednesday.

Water police immediately tried to lift him from the water but the man resisted those rushing to his help.

Police officers eventually managed to take him to the shore, from where paramedics took the man to hospital with a police escort. (police.hu; atv.hu)

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