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Govt parties to submit over 40 amendment proposals to the constitution

Parliamentary groups of the Fidesz-Christian Democrat alliance, who are governing,  are planning to submit more than forty amendments to the draft constitution,  said on monday Janos Lazar, the Fidesz group leader, according to

Four of the proposals respond to the opinions of the majority of Hungarians polled by the government, he said.

Accordingly, a passage in the draft law on granting extra votes to parents in an election will be dropped, he said.

But the option of allowing judges to hand down real life sentences will be included.

Further, a parliamentary committee will have the power require people to attend hearings.

The fourth grants protection to indigenous species in the Carpathian Basin.

Additionally, Lazar said the party alliance would propose increasing the number of Constitutional Court judges from 11 to 15 and to dismantle curbs on its powers of jurisdiction over the public finances only if the public debt drops to below 50 percent of gross domestic product.

Independent lawmaker Katalin Szili’s proposal that constitution court judges should be at least 45 years old and ordinary judges 30 will also be tabled, he said.

Further, the forint will be stated as the national currency in the basic law.

Reducing the voting age from 18 to 16 will not be tabled, he also said.

Lazar said he would propose not using the expression “comitatus” (varmegye) instead of county in the new constitution because it carried “some bad historic connotations”.

At the proposal of several green organisations, the right to a healthy environment should also be included in the new law, Lazar said.

Hungarian nation’s unification should continue through constitution, says Tokes

Budapest, March 25 (MTI) – The unification process of the Hungarian nation should continue through the new constitution, Hungarian MEP of Romania, Laszlo Tokes said after his talks with Hungarian President Pal Schmitt in Budapest on Friday.

He said it was important that Hungary’s new supreme law would include in its main chapters a section stipulating that there is one Hungarian nation as a whole and the Hungarian state bears responsibility towards ethnic Hungarians in neighbouring countries,

In this framework, ethnic Hungarians beyond the borders should be given the right to vote in Hungary, said Tokes, adding that Schmitt had expressed agreement with this view.

Tokes said that as president of the Council of Autonomy for Hungarians in the Carpathian Basin (KMAT) he would initiate launching the Hungarian version of UNESCO’s World Heritage Programme, to be dubbed Hungarian National Heritage Programme.


EU Presidency – Ministers sign letter on intent on Mura-Drava-Danube biosphere reserve

Budapest, March 25 (MTI) – Hungarian Minister for Rural Development Sandor Fazekas and his Austrian, Slovenian, Croatian and Serbian counterparts on Friday signed a letter of intent to set up the Mura-Drava-Danube Cross-border Biosphere Reserve.

Before the signing event, Fazekas said this would be the first cross-border biosphere reserve in the region.

Director of World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Danube-Carpathian Programme, Andreas Beckman, said this would be the largest biosphere reserve and the first in the world to be created jointly by five countries.

The five participating countries agreed to set up a 15-member coordination body that will control the steps required to gain the biosphere reserve status.

The reserve will cover a large and diverse area from the Alps to central Hungary between the rivers Danube and Tisza, Fazekas said. It will stretch from the Julian Alps in Slovenia to Kopacki Rit in Eastern Croatia, along the Mura and Drava valleys and the confluence of the Drava and Danube, he added.

Fazekas said after Friday’s informal meeting of EU environment ministers in Godollo that a strategy on the protection of European waters is planned to be prepared next year. The Hungarian presidency would like to get council recommendations approved in June, he added.

“Water is national heritage and the most important natural resource in the 21st century,” Fazekas said.


State sec to propose writing forint into constitution

Budapest, March 25, 2011 (MTI-ECONEWS) – Mihaly Varga, Prime Minister’s Office state secretary, on Friday said he would propose inserting a clause into Hungary’s new constitution making the forint the official currency of the country.

Budapest, March 25, 2011 (MTI-ECONEWS) – Mihaly Varga, Prime Minister’s Office state secretary, on Friday said he would propose inserting a clause into Hungary’s new constitution making the forint the official currency of the country.

“If Hungary adopts the euro, then the text of the constitution will have to be changed,” Mr Varga said.

Changing the constitution requires the votes of two-thirds of MPs.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban said earlier that Hungary’s eurzone entry is “unimaginable” before 2020.


State secretary discusses church issues in Romania

Bucharest, March 25 (MTI) – Laszlo Szaszfalvi, Hungary’s state secretary in charge of church issues and ethnic minorities, discussed topics including restitution for Hungarian churches in Romania, the situation of the Orthodox Church, as well as using the mother tongue in services for Csango Hungarians, during talks in Bucharest.

Szaszfalvi told MTI on Friday that his Romania visit was aimed at continuing the dialogue between Hungary and the Orthodox Church, as well as to strengthen the role of traditional Hungarian churches in Romanian society and in the preservation of cohesion between the Hungarian community.

During talks with Orthodox Patriarch Daniel, Szaszfalvi urged that the restitution process involving Hungarian churches in Romania should be accelerated. He also told the patriarch that Hungary was mulling an agreement with the Orthodox Church under which its organisations in Hungary would receive the same subsidies as other traditional churches in the country.

At a meeting with Apostolic Nuncio Francisco-Javier Lozano and Roman Catholic Archbishop Ioan Robu, Szaszfalvi reviewed issues around the minority Hungarian churches, including the possibility of providing services to Csango Hungarians in Moldavia in their mother tongue. The nuncio voiced full support to that possibility, while the archbishop suggested that local church authorities should be approached with a request, Szaszfalvi said.


Eight economists call on govt to join Euro Plus Pact

Budapest, March 25 (MTI) – Eight senior economists called on the Hungarian government to join the euro zone competitiveness pact, dubbed as Euro Plus Pact, in a statement published on Friday.

“As responsible Hungarian economists, we call on Viktor Orban’s government to revise its position and approve the majority position in the EU summit,” the petitioners, including former Socialist finance minister Laszlo Bekesi and liberal economy minister Istvan Csillag, said.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban announced earlier this week that Hungary would not be going to join the euro zone competitiveness pact for the moment because the country wanted to retain its independence on tax matters.

The economists argued that the pact envisages uniform rules merely for calculating the tax base but does not rule out competition between the degrees of tax rates, and does not prevent Hungary from attracting foreign investment with lower tax rates. By adopting the pact, Hungary “would not give up its independence in tax matters”, they said.

“After a lost decade, we should not voluntarily get off the train of progress that would take us to the Hungarian euro”, the petitioners said.

The pact forms part of the package designed to increase financial stability in the euro zone, make the EU more competitive and step up economic coordination. It was approved last night by 17 euro zone member states and six non-euro zone countries. Four EU members – Hungary, the Czech Republic, Sweden and Denmark – decided not the sign it.


AI calls for protection of Roma ahead of murder trial

Budapest, March 25 (MTI) – The forthcoming trial of the suspects of the multiple Roma murders should carry a clear message to the public that the Roma communities should be protected against all racially motivated violent assaults and harassment, Amnesty International told MTI in a statement on Friday.

The trial of the four defendants accused of having killed six Roma people, including a five-year-old child, and seriously wounding five others, in Hungarian villages between July 2008 and August 2009 started at the Pest County Court on Friday amidst keen media interest and tight security in Budapest.

The series of attacks traumatised the Roma communities and kept them in permanent fear, AI said.

The human rights organisations expressed criticism that Hungarian authorities still lack appropriate instruments for investigating racially motivated crime.

Referring to recent incidents at the village of Gyongyospata in northern Hungary, AI expressed concern that police failed to make every possible step to prevent the harassment of the local Roma population.

A civil group calling itself the Civil Guard Association for a Better Future has been patrolling the village since early March citing an increase in crime among the local Roma.

On March 6 the radical nationalist Jobbik party staged a demonstration in the village in support of the action.

No vote on business plan at Malev EGM; strategic decisions expected soon

Budapest, March 25, 2011 (MTI-ECONEWS) – Shareholders of Hungarian national carrier Malev did not vote on a reworked business plan for the airline at an extraordinary general meeting on Friday because of strategic decision expected to be taken in the near future, the National Asset Management Company (MNV) said in a statement sent to MTI.

MNV said the outcome of “the talks with potential investors could substantially influence the company’s operations in 2011 and its new vision…”.

Shareholders did take decisions on changes to the board of directors and the supervisory board.

Malev shareholders asked the management to draw up a reworked business plan for 2011 because of the uncertain macroeconomic outlook and market conditions at an EGM on March 11.

Troubled Malev was renationalised in March 2010, but Russia’s state-owned Vnesheconombank still holds 5pc of the airline’s parent company.


Hungary establishes new trade and investment agency

Budapest, March 24, 2011 (MTI-ECONEWS) – The Hungarian Investment and Trade Agency (HITA) aims to protect Hungarian jobs and create new ones by rewarding investments in the country and developing trade, HITA head Erzsebet Dobos said at a press conference on Thursday, showcasing the newly established indpendent government office.

HITA will make expanding Hungarian SMEs’ export markets a priority, Ms Dobos said.

HITA wants to raise the proportion of Hungarian exports from SMEs from 18pc to 20pc within the foreseeable future, said deputy chief Gyorgy Kerekes.

The agency plans to operate with a staff of 155 and run six regional offices in addition to its base in the capital. Tenders have been called to fill the positions.

The agency will work closely with professional associations, business chambers and trade development agencies.

HITA plans 173 export development programmes in 20 sectors on 40 target markets this year. The programmes will give some 3,000 companies efficient, direct assistance. Emphasis will be placed on competitive, job-creating sectors, such as biotechnology, the drug industry, green industries, the food industry, IT and software development.

The agency will operate with a budget of HUF 3.6bn in 2011. Most of the money will be cover professional tasks.

The HITA officials said the agency is not the legal successor of the Hungarian Investment and Trade Development Agency (ITD Hungary).


Former Hungarian PM, Gordon Bajnai sets up think-tank.

Budapest, March 24 (MTI) – Gordon Bajnai, the predecessor of Viktor Orban as Hungary’s prime minister, is setting up a political think-tank called Home and Progress, Magyar Nemzet daily said on Thursday.

Bajnai stepped in as head of the government when Ferenc Gyurcsany, the Socialist prime minister, resigned in the spring of 2009 after his popularity nosedived.

Bajnai, who was not a member of the Socialist party, made it clear from the outset that he intended to head a largely technocratic government and, alongside his appointee as finance minister, Peter Oszko, put the country’s near-crippled finances in order under a programme agreed with the IMF and EU as part of a 20 billion euro bailout following the October 2008 economic crisis.

Bajnai was praised by international economists and investors for cutting several large spending items and restoring a sufficiency of confidence for government debt financing to return to the market in place of the IMF.

Bajnai’s new think-tank will include several familiar faces from his technocratic government, the paper said, without naming any sources. Oszko will serve as head of the think-tank’s supervisory body and Peter Balazs, the foreign minister in Bajnai’s administration, will serve on the same board.

Viktor Szigetvari will also be a presence familiar from past campaigns. Szigetvari, who was the Socialist party’s election guru, will help Bajnai run the outfit together with Bajnai’s one-time cabinet chief, Dora Hegedus.

Bajnai can count on a long period during which the current centre-right government retains power, and so will have plenty of time to build up the organisation, the paper said.

Bajnai’s people are of the opinion that the present leadership of the Socialist party and green party Politics Can Be Different are not up to the job of building a credible alternative to Fidesz, while Gyurcsany — who admitted to “lying day and night” about the public finances — lacks credibility, the paper said. Bajnai has deliberately stayed out of political and social conflicts, the paper added.

At the same time, they have been surprised that the Fidesz government has opened up so many battle fronts both at home and abroad, the paper said.