Szombathely is a politically stable and economically strong city with a good management, in good hands, and the Government is therefore assured that the funds now awarded to the city will be used reasonably and well, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has said in the county seat of Vas County.

As part of the Modern Cities Programme, the Prime Minister visited the seat of Vas County, where he signed a cooperation agreement with Mayor Tivadar Puskás (Fidesz-KDNP). After the signing ceremony they told the press that they had also decided that the city will be allocated HUF 5 billion in the second phase of the St. Márton Plan, and that not only will Route 86 extend all the way to Szombathely, but that the city will also be connected to Kőszeg by a dual carriageway.

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Mr. Orbán pointed out that Szombathely has regained its old strength, and in recent years has become one of Hungary’s important economic centres.

To achieve this, it was necessary for the state to assume the city’s debt of almost HUF 20 billion, or else it would have “crushed” the city and would have imposed long-term debt slavery on it, the Prime Minister said.

In his words, those in charge of the country’s economic policy created the opportunity for the Government to remove the debt burden from the shoulders of all settlements in a situation similar to Szombathely, and for this he expressed his gratitude.

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Mr. Orbán highlighted the fact that unemployment in Szombathely is now below three per cent, which means that effectively there is full employment in this city.

He said that not only has there been success in “absorbing the army of unemployed people” with different employment schemes, but the capacity of the local economy is expanding continuously, and this has formed the foundations for achieving a 45 per cent increase in the city’s tax revenues in recent years, while keeping taxes at the same level.

According to the Prime Minister, labour shortage is an obstacle to further growth in Szombathely, and it is therefore important that in the city there is once again higher education in the field of technology: training for mechanical engineers has been launched, and this may be followed by courses for electrical engineers.

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The housing situation may, however, be an obstacle to the arrival and long-term retention of new workers, and an agreement was therefore reached on setting up a task force to look into the possibilities for building new homes with the aid of the Government. He added that the precise form of this project and the financial arrangement have yet to be finalised, but the intention is there.

After disclosing the details of the signed agreement, Mr. Orbán told the press that the Government will provide assistance with the development in an industrial area of a multi-functional municipal public utilities site, for which grants totalling HUF 1.5 billion will be made available.

The Prime Minister also said that the Government will help with the formulation of a flood control solution for Szombathely and the neighbouring settlements, through construction of a flood control reservoir in Dozmat. This is a project worth billions of forints, the entire budget of which the Government agrees to finance.

Mr. Orbán went on to say that, according to the agreement, the Government will support the refurbishment of the Gothard Palace and the development of pilgrimage accommodation there, the construction of an exhibition space suitable for displaying the works of sculptor Imre Schrammel, and – if necessary as part of this, or as an independent project – the renovation of Szombathely’s art gallery.

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The Prime Minister said that the Government has pledged to provide further grants for the St. Márton Plan, for which the Catholic Church and the municipality have already received grants of HUF 2.5 billion each; in the second phase another HUF 5 billion will be made available for implementation of the urban development programme. Additionally, further funds will be allocated for organisation of programmes for the Year of St. Márton.

Mr. Orbán informed the press that the Government also wishes to provide assistance in relocating the bus terminal from the city centre to a location near the railway station.

He said that, in addition to the construction of the Haladás Sports Complex, the Government further supports the development of the Illés Academy and the Király Sports Complex, and government funding will likewise be made available for the third phase of the development of the city swimming pool and thermal baths.

The development of Route 86 as a dual carriageway between Győr and Szombathely will be completed by the end of next year, and according to the new agreement Szombathely will also be connected to Kőszeg – thereby linking the city to the Austrian motorway network. The development of the road in the direction of Zalaegerszeg will also continue, the Prime Minister announced.

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At the press conference Mr. Puskás said that over the past five years the city’s leadership has succeeded in fulfilling its election slogan: “Looking ahead, with the Government behind us”.

the Mayor said that, among other things, this support from the Government has enabled the city to turn the Markusovszky Hospital into one of the region’s most advanced and best-equipped hospitals, and this support has also enabled implementation of developments which make Szombathely a city which is both liveable and loveable.

(Cabinet Office of the Prime Minister/MTI)