(MTI) – The European Commission has launched an infringement procedure against Hungary concerning a ban on the construction of big shopping centres, the EC said on its website.
The commission made the decision last Wednesday but officially announced it only some days later.
The EC was unavailable for comment immediately when asked by MTI.
The Economy Ministry said in a statement that the commission had “once again” put the interests of large companies before those of Hungarian small firms by launching the procedure. The ministry noted that the Hungarian authorities had put restrictions in place to rein in the spread of hypermarkets and plazas, which it argued had not so much brought about an improvement in competition on the market but had rather ruined small retailers and made such businesses unviable.
Commenting on the decision, a spokesman for governing Fidesz said the bureaucrats in Brussels were again taking the sides of multinationals, instead of national interests. Peter Hoppal said Fidesz continued to back the ban that supports Hungarian SMEs.
The ban on building shopping centres over 300 square metres in size was introduced in 2012 and is set to expire at the end of 2014. The measures aimed to pave the way for a balanced structure of retail trade, the government said at the time of introduction.
Critics of the ban have said the government is using the idea of protecting small business to cover up favours granted to companies close to the governing Fidesz party. Seven exemptions from the plaza ban have been granted by a committee set up for the purpose of reviewing requests.
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