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21st May, 2020

Government MPs avoid welfare committee meeting

Governing-party MPs did not attend a Wednesday meeting of Parliament’s welfare committee convened to discuss the situation at the Bajcsy-Zsilinszky Hospital – where staff were not tested for the coronavirus until late March – and the purchase of ventilators used in patient care.

The MPs had signalled to committee chairman Lajos Korozs of the Socialist Party that they would be busy elsewhere.

As a result, the committee was left without a quorum.

A welfare committee hearing held a few weeks ago lasted for over six hours, as chief medical officer Cecilia Muller and Budapest mayor Gergely Karacsony, among others, answered the MPs’ questions.

Human Resources Minister Miklos Kasler was also invited, but he did not go, saying he was too busy.

The Government Information Centre said on Wednesday that government representatives will be available to report to the committee after the end of the emergency. (hvg.hu; index.hu; atv.hu; 24.hu; hirado.hu)
21st May, 2020

Bill banning single-use plastics is withdrawn

Deputy prime minister Zsolt Semjen, on behalf of the government, withdrew a bill that would have banned single-use plastic products shortly before it was to be voted on by Parliament on Tuesday evening.

No explanation for the decision was provided.

The bill submitted by the Innovation and Technology Ministry on May 13 would have banned single-use plastics and very light bags, including biodegradable plastics, in Hungary from January 1, 2021, in line with an EU directive.

The government’s proposal was also in line with EU standards, banning plastic earplugs, cutlery, plates, straws, drink mixers and balloon sticks.

The ministry had also proposed to ban the light plastic bags used at the fresh produce and pastry section in shops and supermarkets.

Prime Minister’s Office leader Gergely Gulyas referred to “EU coercion” when discussing the bill last week, and said Hungary was being “forced” to reduce use of single-use plastics by 90% by 2025.

Origo reports that Parliament will discuss the bill at a later date.

The bill was reportedly withdrawn because domestic plastics companies are in a difficult situation due to the epidemic and need support.

For the time being, the government has instructed the Innovation and Technology Ministry to continue negotiations and set a timetable for an effective implementation of the change in technology.

In addition, the government wants a more detailed guideline from the European Commission due to a lack of precise specifications and directions on single-use plastic products, Origo writes. (hvg.hu; origo.hu; 444.hu; index.hu; 24.hu; portfolio.hu)
21st May, 2020

Jobless to be paid for military training

The armed forces intend to participate in the government’s initiative to help to create jobs during the coronavirus epidemic by introducing a voluntary reserve military service, Defence Minister Tibor Benko said yesterday.

The army will accept citizens aged 18-50 who have lost their jobs and are ready to undergo six months of training at one of 25 different locations.

The first training will start on July 1, and 3,000 or more applicants are expected this year. The gross monthly salary is Ft 161,000.

Jobseekers can apply at recruitment offices or government offices, and after a simple medical screening will receive basic, general shooting and vocational training over six months.

They may then return to civilian life without any restrictions, extend their training for another six months, or they may choose to continue their career as volunteer, professional or contracted soldiers.

Training will take place in Budapest, Pecs, Gyor, Szombathely and Nyiregyhaza among other locations.

The designation of the 25 locations will help applicants to find a location close to their residence to make their commute easier.

The training will take place during regular working hours. (infostart.hu; index.hu; 24.hu; magyarnemzet.hu)
21st May, 2020

Jobbik voted for bill by mistake

The Jobbik party has threatened to expel MP Andrea Varga-Damm for having advised the party to vote for the omnibus bill which permits the National Security Service to monitor private data on Tuesday.

The party has demanded that Varga-Damm, who was elected from the party list, give up her seat in Parliament.

“We are not infallible,” Jobbik said earlier on Wednesday after admitting that its MPs had made a mistake in voting in favour of the government’s omnibus bill.

Jobbik said party MPs voted in favour of the bill based on the opinion of an advisor on the topic.

Varga-Damm is a deputy chairwoman of Parliament’s defence and law enforcement committee.

The party MPs would never have supported the proposal “if properly informed of the content of the bill and properly prepared for it,” the party said.

It added: “We have not had any illusions for a long time about unconstrained surveillance by the Orban regime, but this is now legalised between the lines of the omnibus bill”. (444.hu; nepszava.hu; index.hu; hvg.hu; 24.hu; infostart.hu)
21st May, 2020

Six more universities to be privatised

The government will assign the right to operate six universities to private foundations from August 1, 2020, the Information and Technology Ministry announced after Parliament approved the related bill on Tuesday.

The Veterinary University, the University of Miskolc, the Moholy-Nagy University of Arts, the Neumann Janos University, the University of Sopron and the Szechenyi Istvan University will be operated in a new structure, financed by a foundation, following the example of the Corvinus University.

As a result, employees of these universities will lose their civil servants’ status.

The new form allows for more flexibility, so young people may receive more competitive knowledge that can be used better on the labour market, the ministry said.

Parliament also agreed on Tuesday that the state will donate 10% stakes in each of MOL and Richter to the Maecenas Universitatis Corvini Foundation, the owner of the Corvinus University in Budapest.

The state has a pre-emptive right to buy these shares should the foundation wish to sell them, and the foundation cannot offer them as loan collateral, according to the approved bill. (portfolio.hu)
21st May, 2020

Orban promises stadium to Pecs

Prime Minister Viktor Orban has approved a plan to construct a new stadium for Pecs sports club PMFC, local Christian Democrat MP Janos Hargitai said yesterday.

After meeting with Orban on Tuesday, Hargitai told local news website Pecsi Ujsag that, as a football lover himself and a former president of PMFC, it is naturally very important to build a new, modern stadium in Pecs and Baranya county.

State investments are also of particular importance in managing the economic crisis developed during the epidemic, he added.

Hargitai argued that the project will strengthen the economy of the city and the county as many companies and more people can get jobs and as a result local purchasing power will increase.

At the moment none of the stadiums in Baranya county meet the football league’s Second Division requirements but the new stadium will be fit to host international events. (pecsiujsag.hu)
21st May, 2020

72,000 new jobless registered in April

The number of registered unemployed was 330,700 in April, up by 26.5% – an increase of 69,000 persons – from one year earlier, state employment service NFSZ announced on Wednesday.

The number of newly registered unemployed last month was 72,000, an outstandingly high increase of 89.6% compared to one year earlier.

The unemployment rate, based on the number of registered unemployed, was 7.1% in April.

Among the registered unemployed, 46% received no financial aid at all while 33.4% were entitled to unemployment and 20.6% to social benefits.

Some 129,500 or 39.2% of the unemployed had basic schooling at the most, 180,600 or 54.6% had finished high school, and 20,600 or 6.2% had higher education degrees.

Unemployment was relatively low in Budapest and Gyor-Moson-Sopron, Pest, Komarom-Esztergom, Csongrad and Fejer counties. (portfolio.hu; napi.hu; index.hu; hvg.hu)
21st May, 2020

Gov’t increases funding for e-car purchases

The government has increased its subsidy for purchases of new electric cars from Ft 1.5 million to Ft 2.5 million, and also introduced a decreasing scheme for subsidies for more expensive cars, Innovation and Technology Ministry state secretary Peter Kaderjak announced on Wednesday.

He said the announcement is proof that the government has adopted a serious climate policy.

The maximum Ft 2.5 million subsidy is only valid for electric car purchases not exceeding Ft 11 million.

The subsidy for electric cars in the Ft 11-15 million price range is Ft 500,000, but there is no subsidy for vehicles costing Ft 15 million or more.

As a new element, taxi operators may obtain an even higher subsidy covering up to 55% of the cost of new electric vehicles priced at no more than Ft 15 million.

From now on, the government is also aiding the purchase of electric scooters for home delivery services. Only companies may apply for this subsidy.

The programme has a budget of Ft 5 billion and an additional Ft 2 billion for taxis.

The ministry estimates that the scheme will help to finance the purchase of 240 cars for taxi drivers and 1,000 other electric cars and scooters.

The previous such programme, which was closed in February, contributed to the purchase of 1,050 electric cars. (portfolio.hu; napi.hu; hvg.hu; index.hu; origo.hu; 444.hu)
21st May, 2020

4iG announces 11% profit growth

4iG realised Ft 311.8 million profit in the first quarter, up by 11% year-on-year, the IT company controlled by Gellert Jaszai and Lorinc Meszaros announced on Wednesday.

Revenues grew by 77.8% to Ft 8.6 billion, while ebitda came to Ft 577.9 million, 19.6% more than a year earlier.

The number of 4iG employees rose from 397 a year earlier to 620 on March 31.

Despite the coronavirus crisis, 4iG orders continued to grow, reaching more than Ft 23 billion on May 20, the company announced.

Consequences of the epidemic, such as the expansion of home offices and the higher need for robots and artificial intelligence, have increased the demand for 4iG’s services, so the company is expecting further expansion.

4iG is continuing to examine opportunities for domestic and foreign acquisitions, the company highlighted. (portfolio.hu; index.hu; napi.hu)
21st May, 2020

Zwack cuts losses in Q1

Distiller Zwack yesterday announced a decline in first-quarter net losses to Ft 268 million from Ft 717 million a year earlier.

For the fiscal year ending on March 31, Zwack reported a Ft 1.7 billion profit after taxes, down by 35.3% from Ft 2.6 billion a year earlier.

Gross sales were up 0.1% at Ft 26.4 billion, while net sales fell by 11.3% from Ft 15.7 billion to Ft 14.0 billion.

Operating profit suffered a 29.6% decline from Ft 3.1 billion to Ft 2.1 billion.

Pre-tax profit fell similarly, down by 29.2% from Ft 3.1 billion to Ft 2.2 billion.

Exports increased by 11.8%, with Germany and Italy as the main export markets, in the business year.

Zwack sells 90% of its products on the domestic market.

Sales of premium alcoholic drinks had been expanding before the coronavirus crisis, but the epidemic will reduce sales, as most restaurants closed or maintained shorter opening hours, the company warned.

Zwack has scheduled its AGM for June 25. (portfolio.hu)
21st May, 2020

Netrisk grows with foreign acquisition

TA Associates and MCI EuroVentures, the two major owners of online insurance brokerage Netrisk, have purchased insurance brokerage Klikpojišteni, known as Klik, which is active in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, it was announced on Wednesday.

The target company was acquired from investment bank Benson Oak.

The transaction will result in the creation of an online insurance platform in Eastern Europe, under which the Netrisk Group expands to other countries in the region, the brokerage underlined.

Klik founder Andrew Fuchs and other executives remain leaders of the new subsidiary of the group.

Benson Oak, the oldest investment bank in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, invested in Klik during its start-up phase and helped the brokerage to become a significant company now employing 120 workers. (portfolio.hu; napi.hu)
21st May, 2020

Danubius reopening hotels on May 29

Danubius will reopen its hotels in Balatonfured, Buk and Gyor on May 29, the spa hotel chain announced on Wednesday.

The hotel chain ordered a general closure on April 1.

The company has introduced strict hygiene regulations and applied specific solutions to increase safety and has made cancellations and refund payments easier.

Many of the chain’s hotels are being renovated due to the forced closures.

Danubius expects a revival of domestic tourism at first, followed by growing demand for hotels in Budapest, said CEO Balazs Kovacs. (napi.hu; origo.hu)
21st May, 2020

MOL scraps plan to close stations

MOL has abandoned a plan to close 28 of its 468 filling stations temporarily from the end of May, the energy company announced on Wednesday.

MOL underlined that all of its filling stations are continuing their operations as the company has experienced a recovery in sales after the great fall in demand.

MOL has, however, reduced the opening hours at some of its stations, Index observes.

Competitor Shell has closed 15 of its filling stations due to the epidemic crisis and introduced shorter working hours at half of all of its stations. (index.hu; napi.hu; hvg.hu)
21st May, 2020

Air France, Finnair return to Budapest

Air France will resume flights to and from Budapest from the first week of June, the airline has announced.

Flights will initially link Budapest to France once a week, expanding to a daily service by the end of the month.

Wearing masks is compulsory on all Air France flights and each ticket-holders’ body temperature will be checked before boarding.

Finnair announced the revival of its flights between Budapest and Helsinki also in June, flying once a week at the start then increasing the number of flights to four a week later in the month.

Wizz Air, KLM, Lufthansa and Swiss have already announced the resumption of operations at Liszt Ferenc International Airport in Budapest. (portfolio.hu; hvg.hu; index.hu)
21st May, 2020

No more menthol cigarettes

The EU ban on menthol-flavoured cigarettes came into force yesterday, Portfolio reports.

The regulation, aimed at preventing young people from taking up smoking, follows the EU tobacco guidelines approved in 2014.

The sale of flavoured cigarettes, which had a market share of less than 3%, was banned in 2016, but the menthol version remained too popular.

As part of the new regulations, at least 65% of the surface of the packaging of tobacco products must contain health warnings, also from Wednesday. (portfolio.hu; hvg.hu; 444.hu; index.hu; origo.hu; nepszava.hu)

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