Prime Minister Viktor Orbán announced at a press conference on Tuesday that turning Pécs into a successful city is a matter of honour for the Government, as in the local government elections people had put great faith in the Mayor and the City Council.

The Prime Minister visited Pécs as part of the Modern Cities programme, within which he signed a cooperation agreement with Mayor Zsolt Páva (Fidesz-KDNP).

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At the press conference the Mayor explained that the document they had signed is the last stop in a long journey: in 2009 they had inherited poor infrastructure and a grim economic situation, but they have succeeded in setting the city on a path of development. The agreement provides a guarantee for continuing this development, he said, and with the help of the Government it will provide economic prosperity.

Mr. Páva went on to say that the Government supports small and medium-sized enterprises, and within that the establishment of brownfield investments. Furthermore, new areas may be created in the Pécs industrial zone, where – thanks to government support – new investors can find suitable infrastructure.

The agreement also includes the government-financed construction of the M6 motorway and the M60 as far as the borders of Hungary, and a decision has been made on establishing a working group that will examine how the Zsolnay Cultural Quarter might operate, and how that operation might be financed in the future.

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Mr. Páva announced that, in addition to the National Basketball Academy (which is currently under construction), a sports and leisure facility with an aqua park will also be established, and this investment will be supported by the Government.

Prime Minister Orbán stressed that in the last local government elections people had shown exceptional confidence in the Mayor’s team, and the Government wants to show its appreciation for this and wishes to turn Pécs into a successful city.

Mr. Orbán pointed out that one of the most important means of achieving this had been the Government’s assumption of the city’s debts. He recalled that Pécs had earlier reacquired public service companies (the water utility company and public transportation company), and this was also a necessary step in ensuring the city’s stable operation.

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Talking about business developments, Mr. Orbán pointed out that four hundred new jobs will be created by the end of the year thanks to an investment by the US-based audio technology company Harman,  and he expressed the hope that similar investments will follow. He explained that one of the Government’s commitments is to create six thousand new jobs in the Baranya County seat by 2018, and to thus achieve full employment in the city. With these measures, he said, Pécs has joined the elite club of which Győr and Székesfehérvár are already members.

The construction of the M6 motorway as far as the Croatian border will start in 2016 and it will be finished the same year, Mr. Orbán stated. They have also agreed that the M60 will also be built as far as the Hungarian-Croatian border; construction work on this will begin during the current government term.

The Prime Minister emphasised that the city’s development cannot be imagined without its university, and that therefore the Government wants to increase the number of foreign students from 2300 to 5000 by the end of this government term.

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Talking about the city’s future industrial development, Mr. Orbán said that the currently low ability of Pécs to attract capital is due to a lack of large modern industrial sheds. Therefore they have agreed that the Government will support the local government in expanding the existing industrial park by 90 hectares and in constructing new production sheds in the area. Thanks to these measures Pécs will have the infrastructure to enable the city to serve as a location for significant investments.

Concerning the Zsolnay Cultural Quarter, Mr. Orbán said that a working group has been established which will analyse the future state- or local government-funded operation of the institution, and how the operating costs should be divided between the two. He stressed that the quality of cultural services will not be neglected in the future either.

The Prime Minister recalled that, as part of a consultative exercise, the City Council had asked for citizens’ opinions on what developments they would like to see in the city by the year 2020. The results indicate that there is a need for an aqua park, which will be realised as part of Government-supported construction of a sports and leisure facility.

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At the end of the press conference the Prime Minister also touched upon the topic of the radioactive waste disposal facility to be constructed near the Baranya County settlement of Boda. “We cannot decide on these matters without involving the citizens of Pécs; we will do what the people of Pécs and its surroundings want”, he stressed.

Answering a question concerning the murder committed in Kaposvár a few days earlier, he expressed his indignation at the crime. He said that a few years ago it was thought that the introduction of the “three-strikes” law and whole life imprisonment without possibility of parole had put an end to debate on Hungarian criminal law and law enforcement. The deterrent effect of these alone has not been enough, and therefore the issue of the death sentence must be kept on the agenda, he said. He stated that it must be made clear to criminals that Hungary will stop at nothing when it comes to protecting its citizens.

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In response to a question related to Árpád Habony, Mr. Orbán said that the phrase “political advisor” is a technical term in Hungarian public law: it does not apply to people with whom one holds discussions, but describes a legal relation one can have with the Government. Political advisors are employed at both the Prime Minister’s Office and at various ministries. The Prime Minister stated that decisions are made by him and the Government, therefore it is he who must also assume responsibility for them, and this is what matters for the country.

Discussing the issue of employees in the social sector, the Prime Minister said that he supports tax cuts as a means of increasing wages, as in this way many difficult debates can be avoided. At the same time, there are certain professions which are unjustly underpaid, he pointed out. In these cases the Government wishes to achieve a fair level of pay, and this is also what will happen in the case of employees in the social sector.

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Talking about the Paks Nuclear Plant agreement, he said that the Government has presented the case to Parliament, Members of Parliament have had the chance to debate the issue, and they have in fact adopted legislation on it. He explained that the confidentiality clause does not concern financial and implementation-related matters, but technical provisions in the agreement. He added that, in the application of transparency regulations, the example followed had been provided by the Finnish nuclear power plant built as a joint Finnish-Russian project.

Elaborating on a suggested potential demonstration in front of his house, the Prime Minister said that everyone must be granted the right to freedom of expression, but it should not be exercised in a way that ruins other people’s lives.

(Prime Minister's Office/MTI)