The poultry firm Hungarit has ceased production of foie gras in the southern Hungarian town of Szentes. Although the company said the move was partly in response to pressure from animal rights groups, Hungerit maintained that the main motivation was economic. Two hundred workers responsible for the force feeding of geese in order to fatten their livers to produce the delicacy are to be laid off. The director of a local goose farm said that farmers are now stuck with 280,000 birds that they cannot sell. Hungary is the world’s second largest producer of the delicacy after France, producing almost 2,000 tonnes of foie gras each year.
The European bison, the continent’s largest native mammal, is to be reintroduced into Hungary. Local businessman and hunter András Mester has created a 25-hectare private game preserve in Füzérkomlós (northeast Hungary) where five bison brought from Poland will live in natural conditions. The last of the species in the Carpathian Basin died in the 18th century. The European bison became extinct in the wild following the First World War, but was reintroduced using zoo animals to forests in Belarus, Poland, Russia, Lithuania and the Ukraine. The largest concentration of the species lives in Poland’s Bialowieza National Park, Europe’s last remaining primeval forest.
The HUF 25 billion (EUR 105.08 million) state IT public procurement tender was fair and did not restrict competition, Judge Katalin Rávi of the Budapest Court ruled in a first-instance ruling last Monday. The Competition Office had objected to the naming of “Microsoft or equivalent” products in the tender, but the Public Procurement Authority argued that this merely clarified the requirements of equivalent products. László Kürti, manager of Open SKM Agency, one of the three companies who raised objections to the tender in the spring, said “we will wait for the written judgement and then the GVH has eight days to appeal. If they decide against taking the case to the Constitutional Court then we will take it to the European Commission for Internal Markets and Services. The next hearing could take place within a month of the issuing of the official written judgements, which must be issued within 30 days,” he added. Neither Microsoft nor the open source software companies are directly involved in the legal dispute.
Thieves stole medical equipment from three vehicles belonging to the Samaritanus ambulance service in District XII, Antal Váradi from the service told news agency MTI last Thursday. Váradi estimated the same at HUF 1.5 million (EUR 6,300). Stretchers for people with spinal injuries, vacuum stretchers and medical bags were stolen from the vehicles. A CTV recording was made of the theft.
Top Hungarian wine associations have named Vylyan Cellars from the famous red wine region of Villány as Winemaker of the Year. Vylyan is the seventh winery to receive the title, awarded by the National Council of Vineyards, the Hungarian Wine Academy, and the National Viticultural and Winemakers Association. Last year the award went to the Bock Winery, also in Villány, whose near-Mediterranean climate makes it Hungary’s best region for producing red wine.
A pilot and his female passenger died after their hang glider crashed onto the hangar roof at a disused barracks in Szolnok last Thursday afternoon, police told news agency MTI. By the time rescue workers got to them, both were dead, Jász-Nagykun-Szolnok county police spokeswoman Éva Veres said. According to eyewitness reports, the crash was caused by the glider’s engine stalling. The barracks is very close to the busy Highway 32 that serves Szolnok. Police and the National Aviation Authority have begun an investigation into the incident.
Hungarian State Railways (MÁV) is investigating the derailment of its express train travelling from Kaposvár to Budapest on 2 August. Between Csibrák and Dúzs, one carriage turned on its side, and only the engine and the first carriage remained on the tracks. Twelve people suffered minor injuries. MÁV’s Imre Kavalecz told news agency MTI that the results of an internal investigation would be announced on 15 August. Deformation of the tracks due to heat is being considered as one possible cause. On 1 August MÁV had ordered more track checks because of the hot weather. According to Népszabadság, however, the track-watchman had not noticed any problems when he examined the track three hours earlier, nor had the driver of the previous train. Antal Dániel, former president of the Hungarian Railway Office told the newspaper that the state of the engine or the carriages could have caused the accident, so the investigation needs to look at whether every carriage of the train had a valid technical permit. Antal added that an objective investigation is only likely if it is carried out by the National Transport Authority rather than by MÁV’s own team. Bonyhád police have launched a criminal investigation into the derailment. They will look at the state of track, the speed of the train and possible personal responsibility.
The Customs and Finance Guard (VPOP) and the Hungarian Tax Office (APEH) have uncovered a HUF 30 million (EUR 128,258) income tax fraud scheme, VPOP official Róbert Dávid said at a press conference last Tuesday. According to his account, a criminal gang filed 243 bogus income tax returns to various regional tax directorates, claiming a total of HUF 30 million. The same post office box address in Budapest was given on all of the forms. The claims, all of around HUF 100,000 (EUR 427) so as not to attract the attention of the authorities, were made in the name of people working for or connected to a Romanian company. Most of the bank accounts to which the tax returns were credited were opened in the name of homeless people, and the leader of the ring then withdrew the cash. CCTV pictures from cash machines helped to identify him, and he has been taken into police custody, Dávid said. APEH spokeswoman Ágnes Bakonyi described it as the first time that the tax authority has come across a tax return fraud scheme nationwide. The gang leader, who was described at the press conference as a young man in possession of several valuable properties and cars, now faces a wealth accumulation inspection, she said.
Immigration Office head Zsuzsanna Végh has denied that the brawl between Afghan and Somali asylum seekers, in which 13 people were injured at the refugee camp in Debrecen on 30 July, was the result of under-funding. She underlined that the government spent HUF 855 million (EUR 3.62 million) on refugee services in 2007, and a further HUF 446 million (EUR 1.89 million) in the first six months of this year. Végh described as “exaggerated” recent criticism of the treatment of refugees in Hungary from the United Nation’s High Commissioner for Refugees’ regional representative, who complained of low-quality cooking, insufficient spending money and inadequate healthcare access. Asylum seekers receive free accommodation, three daily meals – with vegetarian, halal and children’s options – and HUF 7,000 (EUR 29.62) spending money a month, as well as a one-off education subsidy for children and free language courses. Végh argued that tension often results from those without official refugee status being denied travel documents. This can mean long stays at Hungary’s refugees camps in Debrecen, Békéscsaba or Bicske, when they had originally hoped to move on to Western Europe, she added.
Hungary’s three mobile phone companies, Pannon, T-Mobile and Vodafone, discussed a shared subscriber blacklist last week with the National Communications Authority (NHH), a spokesman for the authority said last week. The state news agency MTI reported that an unpaid HUF 5,000 (EUR 21.35) will get a customer onto the blacklist, but only after repeated demands for payment are ignored. Subscribers who were found to have used false identities on mobile phone contracts will also be marked down. Subscribers on the list will immediately have both outgoing and incoming calls suspended.