Budapest, December 3 (MTI) – The government is planning to have Hungary’s pavilion moved from the Milan Expo to Karcag, in eastern Hungary, Janos Lazar, head of the government office, said at a regular government press conference on Thursday.
The government has selected Karcag out of five applicant cities to host the pavilion, Lazar said. He added that “Italy has taken the pavilion hostage” but the government would make efforts to recover it.
On another subject, Lazar said that the government had approved plans for a new soccer stadium to be built in the city of Szeged, southern Hungary.
At a session on Wednesday, the government also agreed to contribute financing towards the democracy centre at the Tom Lantos Institute, Lazar said.
Answering questions about plans to move government headquarters to the Castle District, Lazar said that it was a long-term plan spanning the next 20 years. The plans focus on moving the prime minister’s office to the presidential Sandor Palace, while the chancellery would occupy the former Carmelite monastery next to it, and the offices of the President would be moved to the Royal Palace.
Lazar also announced that some 200 billion forints (EUR 639m) in direct EU subsidies will have been paid out to Hungarian farmers by the end of the year.
Concerning the sales of state-owned plots of farmland, now under way, Lazar said that prospective buyers have applied for a total 193 billion forints (EUR 617m) of loans to help them with the purchases, and added that the Hungarian Development Bank, providing the loans, will need additional coverage from the central bank. So far, some 50,000 hectares have been auctioned at a total price of 70 billion forints (EUR 224m). He added that the auctions would probably continue in January.
The government will start new negotiations with the European Commission concerning Hungary’s utility cuts programme with the aim of protecting the scheme, Lazar said. He noted that the Commission had launched infringement procedures against ten member states over similar programmes, and said that Hungary would seek allies among those countries.
Concerning a recent amendment to Hungary’s public procurement law, Lazar insisted that the changes mean that now the legislation is “Europe’s strictest” because it stipulates that family members of senior state officials living in the same household are barred from bidding for public projects. Lazar rejected allegations that the changes should have been tailored to benefit certain persons. “The government has adopted the principle that distant relatives should not be excluded from public purchases,” he said.
Answering a question, Lazar said that he had raised the salaries of state companies within his authority. He argued that “good experts are difficult to engage unless competitive salaries are offered”. He noted that senior officials in the banking sector made a monthly 5 million forints (EUR 16,000), while heads of smaller companies earned 2-3 million forints.