Hungarian PM calls pending anti-bank legislation “historical”

AFP PHOTO/THIERRY CHARLIER

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban

Orban said the new bill was in line with other government measures aimed at fairness


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Addressing parliament on the first day of its autumn session on Monday, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban called a new bill, set to go before the House “historical in significance.”

The forthcoming law, assured of adoption given the government’s two-thirds majority in parliament, is focused on unilateral amendments banks have made to contracts with borrowers that have contributed to raising borrowing costs for home loans granted by banks in foreign currencies.

The weakening of the forint against the euro and Swiss franc have in some cases doubled monthly installments and unilateral hikes in interest rates have left many families unable to cover their debts. The current bill is aimed at the unilateral interest rate hikes with local elections coming up in less than one month.

The new bill follows a ruling by the Supreme Court in June against the unilateral contract amendments.

Orban said the new bill was in line with other government measures aimed at fairness, such as cuts in electricity, gas, and water bills.

The prime minister also noted that unemployment was at a 20-year low, having dropped to below 8 percent, while investments were at a three-year high.

Orban mentioned floods, triggered by several days of heavy rain, leaving several villages surrounded by water.

The prime minister said that six villages were cut off by the floods, and that 285 people had to be evacuated. Of them, 120 had since returned home, he said.

Left-of-center opposition leaders focused on European Union (EU) poverty data showing that poverty in Hungary had gone up by 14 percent compared to an EU average of 4 percent.

The Socialist MSZP said that over four million people were living on the net minimum wage of 66,000 forints/month (272.12 U.S. dollars), while the statistical minimum subsistence level was 87,000 (358.70 dollars).

The green LMP also asked why the government had waited until now to help debtors when it could have acted at any time since 2010.

The far right Jobbik party also charged the government with foot dragging on debt relief. Jobbik, however, was most concerned with events in Ukraine and urged Hungary to stay out of the conflict despite its NATO obligations. 

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