Hungary will not take back a single expelled illegal migrant. The Minister heading the Prime Minister’s Office also spoke about the land auctions at his press conference Governmentinfo held on Thursday, and highlighted: as part of the Land for Farmers Programme, 102,000 farmers will have the opportunity to buy land.

Government rejects quota system

Therefore Hungary will not take back a single expelled illegal migrant, the Minister heading the Prime Minister’s Office stated. János Lázár said: Western-European countries notified Hungary of the expulsion of some 40,000 people; however, they did not enter the European Union at Hungary but at Greece, and consequently, the individuals concerned must be sent back there. He added: the southern security border closure is working, and successfully prevents illegal border crossing.

In response to the statements made by Colleen Bell, US Ambassador to Hungary, he remarked: not even at her request “shall we take anyone in, or shall we allow anyone to cross the country”. He added: Hungary is a member of the European Union, and not of the United States, and will not tolerate the interference of any country that is not a member of the EU.

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Government meets demand of organisations representing farmers

As part of the Land for Farmers Programme, 102,000 farmers will have the opportunity to buy land. With this, the Government is seeking to meet the demand of the social organisations which represent farmers, Mr Lázár said. By the Minister’s account, in the first few days, some 8 thousand plots have been offered for sale from among areas ranging in size between 3 and 10 hectares. He remarked that only 26 plots larger than 200 hectares have been offered for sale.

Mr Lázár stated in response to opposition criticisms: if MSZP and Jobbik want to stop the sale of land, they should convince the farmers who want to buy land of this.

The Minister also told the press that the Government is working on the establishment of model farms, and the plots assigned to these will not be auctioned off in the future. In this context, he said that there will be three state-owned stud farms which may be declared model farms: the Bábolna, the Szilvásvárad and the Mezőhegyes farms. The latter stud farm will be re-established, as the Minister said. Outside the realm of state-owned farms, farms engaged in integrated activities may become model farms, he added.

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Government to set up consultation forum regarding use of EU funds

The Government wishes to consult with the interest representations whose members are involved in the absorption of EU funds with quarterly regularity, the Minister heading the Prime Minister’s Office said.

Mr Lázár highlighted: they would like to conduct regular consultations with social organisations, small and medium-sized enterprises and municipal organisations, among others, regarding the utilisation of funds and the adequacy of calls for proposals.

The Minister told the press that they would put up funds worth HUF 2,000 billion for calls next year, that is, some 20 to 30 per cent of the sum available up to 2020, and the absorption of these funds cannot be detached from economic growth.

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Park function of Városliget to be enhanced, Western Railway Station may be refurbished

The Government laid down the content of the first part of the Liget Project, and the most important element of this is the enhancement of the park function of Városliget, János Lázár, the Minister heading the Prime Minister’s Office said at his press conference held in Budapest where he further reported that the Western Railway Station may also undergo renovation.

The Cabinet expects Ministerial Commissioner László Baán, who is responsible for the Liget Project, to publish a call for landscaping ideas in the interest of the enhancement of the park function of the Városliget area, the Minister said.

The new national gallery and the House of Hungarian Music may be built as part of the Liget Project, he said, and the Government would also relocate the Museum of Ethnography to Városliget, but regarding the latter, the call for plans has been invalidated, and authorisation has been given to invite proposals for a new concept. The Castle of Vajdahunyad, the zoo, the Transport Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts will also be refurbished, and the Városliget Theatre may be re-built, he listed the project elements. At the same time, he indicated that the museums of photography and architecture will not be built in Városliget.

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According to plans, the new project, “Liget 2” would involve the rehabilitation of the area between the Western Railway Station and Városliget, he continued. In this context, Mr Lázár will propose that the Government decide on the complete renovation of the railway station. At the same time, the railway company MÁV is expected to rehabilitate the dilapidated areas located behind the railway station which extend to Városliget and to turn them into green areas as envisaged by architect József Finta, Mr Lázár said.

He additionally told the press that the Government will publish a call for ideas regarding a Csontváry Museum.

In answer to the question as to why the State bought the Párisi Department Store in Budapest, formerly known as Divatcsarnok, Mr Lázár said: the State exercised its pre-emptive right because they did not want the building to “fall into utter ruin”.

He pointed out in answer to a question: the Minister of National Economy has been given authorisation to increase the allocation available for the first family home benefit.

The Ministry of Human Resources will launch a multi-part programme to preserve the spiritual heritage of the architect Imre Makovecz, Mr Lázár announced. As part of this, a research institute will be set up to foster his life’s work, but the programme will also accommodate the refurbishment of existing Makovecz buildings and the completion of plans left unfinished.

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State to sell its OTP share package

Mr Lázár confirmed that the Government wishes to sell the OTP shares held by the State. The head of the Prime Minister’s Office was asked whether they will indeed sell the 5 per cent share package of Magyar Nemzeti Vagyonkezelő Zrt. (MNV), and in answer to this question the politician said: “it is indeed the package owned by the State that the Government wishes to sell”. They are planning to use the proceeds for a variety of projects and the development of the country, the Minister said.

At the same time, he indicated that as the press conference was taking place during the bidding period, he cannot supply details, but the ministry responsible for development will be able to offer more information in the afternoon as expected. Mr Lázár was also asked how the sale of the OTP share package fitted into the Government’s objective of keeping minimum 50 per cent of the Hungarian banking sector in Hungarian national ownership. “We are already beyond this 50 per cent, and the sale will not affect this”, the Minister replied, who described the share of the State in OTP as symbolic.

In answer to a question regarding the timing of the transaction, he said: MNV does not only wish to sell the state-owned properties in its portfolio which stand unused but will also review the so-called dead assets which do have a value but do not serve to generate revenues. The sale of the OTP share package, along with other assets, emerged as part of this, Mr Lázár said. He confirmed that if the sale is completed, the proceeds will be placed in the investment fund of the budget.

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New episode in reduction of household utility bills

The Minister also spoke about the study which was commissioned by the Prime Minister’s Office with the involvement of international and local experts for the purpose of devising a response to the procedure conducted by the European Commission against the reduction of household utility bills. He stated: the answer to this question may be given by the First National Public Utility Provider as it will supply gas to 3.4 million households, and electricity to 2 million households next year.

He further pointed out: they also have a proposal with a view to another chapter in the reduction of household utility bills as well as for the reduction of the utility expenses of industrial consumers which will be presented to a social debate. This will propose that the country should regain its energy storage facilities, its energy conveyance infrastructure as well as its energy providers and distributors in the interest of its energy independence, and should never sell the Paks atomic power station.

Regarding the possible utilisation of the nuclear fund, Mr Lázár said: there is no such decision. The question has emerged due to the twenty-year extension of the capacity of the power station, he explained, stressing: they will seek to avoid all possible risks.

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Procedural fees to be reduced

The Minister heading the Prime Minister’s Office also rendered an account of the measures designed to reduce red tape. As he said, pursuant to a bill already submitted to the House, procedural fees will decrease by some HUF 10 billion as of January next year in five areas. Students will be able to attend the admission procedure in higher education free of charge, will receive their student cards free of charge, and the first driving licences, too, will be issued free of charge.

There will be no fee for the planning permission and occupancy permits of housing properties up to 160 square metres, while the entire fee payable for the certificates of the tax authority and the publication fees will be abolished for businesses, and discounts will be offered upon the issuance of company documents. Additionally, the fee for the issuance of cards for individual entrepreneurs will also be abolished. The certificate of good conduct, too, will be free, as will be the registration of title and usufruct upon inheritance and the replacement of documents upon a change of names.

Mr Lázár indicated that he will present another two bills to Parliament this year regarding this issue: one about electronic administration, while the other one will concern those working in territorial public administration who may expect a 30 per cent pay rise as of the middle of next year.

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Government to introduce new tobacco industry levy

The Government will propose the introduction of a new tobacco industry levy; they are planning to impose an extra levy of four forints per cigarette in the case of the types of tobacco products which are particularly harmful to health, such as menthol cigarettes, as of 1 January 2016.

He stressed that the Government will resort to every means possible to increase the burdens of the tobacco industry and to reduce smoking in Hungary. Consultations regarding the introduction of the new levy – to replace the health care levy imposed in a progressive regime – are currently under way with the European Commission.

Mr Lázár further said at the press conference that the European Commission prohibited Hungary from applying the progressive rates of the food chain inspection fee, and the body seated in Brussels “defended multinational companies”. As a result, the Hungarian budget will forfeit some HUF 23 billion in revenue, and the Government will have to restore the former food chain inspection system, based on which the market players concerned will only be required to pay a minimal fee for the procedure.

At the same time, the Minister said that the Cabinet will be looking into the employment policy situation of multinational companies, including ways in which larger supermarket chains engaged in retail are induced to take a larger share of taxation in other EU Member States. The news therefore, he said, that the larger a company, the more people it would be required to employ is not unfounded.

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Mr Lázár was also asked about press reports which claim that the Prime Minister’s confidence in his person has been shaken. He said: all his energy is tied up in work, and he has no time “for party political wrangling, or participating in political soap operas”. He added: his fellow-politicians in Fidesz have a vested interest in letting him do his job: “it would be good if they stopped and let me do my job because I believe that the work that I do may to a large extent create the foundations for enabling Fidesz to retain the trust of electors in 2018”.

At the press conference, Krisztina Baranyi, a member of the Ferencváros Municipality Board for the political party Együtt asked the Minister about the damage neutralisation project at Illatos út. She wished to find out whether an allocation of HUF 6 billion could be made available for the purpose.

Mr Lázár replied: the Government has allocated HUF 1.5 billion to date for the removal of harmful substances. He took the view that the fact that the site is in private ownership is a problem. At the same time, he reassured those concerned of his readiness to consult with the head of the government office and the state secretary supervising the project on the issue with the involvement of the liquidator.