Government regular press conference about Paks project, NBH scandal and taxes
Budapest, May 5 (MTI) – The European Commission is ready to come to an agreement with the Hungarian government on the Paks nuclear plant upgrade project once “appropriate legal and financial guarantees” are in place, government office chief János Lázár told his regular press conference on Thursday.
Summing up his talks in Brussels earlier this week, Lázár said the commission had dropped one of three infringement procedures against Hungary in connection with the upgrade project.
Lázár voiced hope that the two remaining procedures would also be concluded with an agreement. One of those concern state subsidies while the other is to establish whether or not Hungary abided by European laws when signing a contract with Russia to implement the upgrade without a public tender.
On another subject, Lázár said that in line with a recent European Court ruling, the government will discuss introducing uniform packaging for tobacco products and a possible ban on menthol and capsule cigarettes.
On the subject of the central bank’s controversial foundations, Lázár said their social responsibility was beyond dispute and they had not incurred financial liabilities. Commenting on the central bank’s purchase of state securities, he said “the central bank has not in any way pursue any prohibited activities”.
In connection with the purchase of a 15 percent stake in Erste Bank Hungary, he said the government does not plan to acquire ownership in any other banks.
In response to a question about planned amendments to the excise tax of petrol and cigarettes, he said the government proposed that fuel prices should be adjusted to world market prices. In connection with the excise tax on tobacco, which the EU requires by the end of 2018, he said it has not been decided whether to do this in one step or more. The economy ministry has proposed a single-step increase but this is still a matter of debate, he added.
In response to a question about an amendment proposal laying the ground for the 2017 budget which classifies certain data of state-owned companies, he said one of the reasons this was necessary was that the state has repurchased billions of forints worth of assets which must be managed under market conditions. In line with a constitutional court ruling, a request for data cannot be rejected in the case of universal services, he added.
Commenting on education, he said it has been decided that daily PE classes will be preserved as well as mandatory religious education and ethics classes. On Wednesday, the ruling Fidesz board discussed and approved a ministry proposal on the transformation of education, he added.
He also said that talks with the state secretary for health care were close to a “constructive agreement” and it cannot be excluded that a wage increase will happen in the sector before year-end.