After days of blockading one of the capital’s busiest intersections and threatening to extend their protest nationwide, cab drivers gave in late last week and ended the demonstration in exchange for promises of stricter oversight from the government.
The demonstration at the junction of Bajcsy-Zsilinszky út, József Attila utca and Andrássy út entered into a fourth day, with police securing the area and controlling traffic, but it came to a surprising end after two state secretaries from the Ministry of Development, Gábor Czepek and Laszló Tasó, met representatives of the taxi drivers.
Zsolt Gelencsér, one of the demonstration’s organisers, said after the meeting that an agreement was reached with the government representatives on starting talks next week concerning the law on taxi services and how the operations of Uber may comply with rules governing taxis. Gelencsér thanked the public for its patience during the protest and thanked the police for their help. He said the demonstration had met its goal.
Another organiser, Csaba Czifery, said government representatives at the talks declared they were on the side of taxi drivers. He said the taxi drivers will be represented by a delegation at next week’s talks, and they expect that at least four to six weeks will be necessary to introduce effective rules.
The ministry said the taxi drivers’ representatives promised at the talks that the demonstration would end. The government representatives said they are “on the side of the taxi drivers who obey laws and pay taxes”. The ministry said it had been agreed that taxi services can only be provided according to the rules of a government decree and under equal conditions for all participants.
Government office head János Lázár said the government needs to help taxi drivers because it is a regulated market, and if the state regulates a market it should involve protecting it. A common denominator needs to be found with the taxi drivers on how things should be regulated, Lázár added. He said the government wants everybody in Hungary to respect the law and pay tax, plus it wants to ensure the high quality and transparency of taxi services.
Lázár said Prime Minister Viktor Orbán had asked people at a cabinet meeting if they were using Uber, and none said they did. But the majority of younger people working for the government are Uber users, Lázár added.
Orbán said in his regular radio interview last Friday that the government position is that the taxi drivers are in the right. He said it is clear that there is a need for a relevant uniform regulation which is expected to be introduced within days.
András Tállai, state secretary for tax affairs, told public television M1 on Monday that people who use the Uber service should be wary because they cannot know when a driver received his driving licence or what state of repair his vehicle is in. If someone’s activity is taxable in Hungary – for instance if they provide a transport service – then they must comply with the same laws as those, such as taxi drivers, who pursue their activities legally, Tállai said.
He noted that the Tax and Customs Administration (NAV) has found that not a single Uber driver has a tax number or has reported to the tax authority. NAV, which operates under the roof of the Ministry of National Economy, said it will show zero tolerance over abuses.
Police catch Uber-driver attack suspects
Police have apprehended four men who are suspected of attacking a driver in Budapest last Friday evening. According to press reports, the victim was an Uber driver. The police said the attackers aged between 19 and 35 attacked a driver in District XVIII, inflicting grave injuries. Police have initiated the preliminary detention of all four suspects.