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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Bill banning single-use plastics is withdrawn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The bill was reportedly withdrawn because domestic plastics companies are in a difficult situation due to the epidemic and need support.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)

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