- Stay updated on the latest news from Hungary by signing up for the free InsightHungary newsletter:
State Secretary of Ministry of Justice resigns over suspicion of bribery
On the morning of December 7, the chief prosecutor’s office had requested the waiver of the immunity of member of parliament Pál Völner, secretary of state in the minister of justice.
Such a high-ranking politician, who incidentally is a key player in the Pegasus surveillance scandal, has never been found in such an unpleasant situation in the government of Viktor Orbán.
The chief prosecutor's statement revealed that Völner - who was also the ministerial commissioner responsible for the Hungarian Court Bailiffs Chamber since August 2019 - is accused of having illegally received regular bribes of 2 to 5 million forints from the president of the branch of bailiffs over a sustained period of time.
Details are not known as of yet, but Völner has announced in a press release that he was resigning from his position with an immediate effect.
As a prelude to the Völner case, György Schadl, the head of the Hungarian Court Bailiffs Chamber was reportedly arrested on his way to Dubai with his wife, who also worked as a bailiff. This was first reported by Blikk on November 12.
According to the prosecution, Pál Völner can reasonably be suspected of having undertaken to deal with specific cases in compensation for an unjustified advantage - by abusing his supervisory, official and administrative powers - in accordance with the request of Schadl.
If charged and proven guilty, Völner could see a sentence of 5 to 10 years of prison, legal expert György Magyar told commercial radio Klubradio Wednesday morning.
“Everyone is entitled to be considered innocent until proven otherwise, but the mere fact that the protection had asked for the lifting of his immunity means that authorities have been conducting an extensive amount of preliminary investigations, and have come up with a very heavy dossier on him,” he added.
According to weekly newspaper HVG, the ruling parties have tried to do everything possible to keep the details of the embarrassing case in secret for as long as possible, preferably until the election.
In any case, there has been no reaction so far from the highest levels. Neither Viktor Orbán nor Völner's immediate boss, Justice Minister Judit Varga, spoke.
True, the Justice Department has said it sees Völner's resignation as the right move.
Opposition parties called on Justice Minister Judit Varga to step down, arguing that it was inconceivable that she, as Völner’s immediate boss, had no knowledge of his subordinate’s actions.
Péter Márki-Zay, the opposition’s prime ministerial candidate, said that the justice minister and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán had been aware of Völner’s actions.
New far right EP groups fails to form in Warsaw
Against expectations, the new right-wing EP faction of Orbán and his political allies did not come alive in Poland, as several invitees, including Salvini did not attend the Warsaw meeting.
The great right-wing deliberation did not turn out exactly as planned by the representatives of the Polish Law and Justice Party (PiS).
The guests formally initiated discussions on the future of the European Union and the future cooperation of the Conservatives, but the meeting was previously signaled in several places as the founding of the new European faction of alternative right-wing parties, that could have been the third largest group of the European Parliament.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, Marine Le Pen, presidential candidate of the French National Rally, Santiago Abascal, president of the Spanish Vox, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, president of PiS, leading the Polish governing coalition, and Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki appeared at the summit.
However, the missing ones were more noticeable: the leaders of the two Italian right-wing parties, the League and the Italian Brothers, Matteo Salvini and Giorgia Meloni, did not attend the gathering in the Polish capital due to “other occupations”.
Negotiations with the two Italian parties will continue at a later date, with Salvini and Meloni allegedly "open to meetings to be held at a later date."
The Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ), and the Alternative for Germany (AfD) to its right were also missing from the Warsaw meeting. They all are, along with Le Pen, friends of Putin's Russia, in sharp contrast to the Poles.
Hungarian senior political, minister responsible for families, Katalin Novák, also took part in the event, but refuted possible collaboration with the aforementioned parties, saying:
“Contrary to other rumors, I can assure everyone that Fidesz will only cooperate with democratic, conservative parties in the future.”
A PiS deputy spokesman talked about what was going on behind closed doors: Radoslaw Fogiel explained that conservative parties were different indeed, but were also looking for topics that connected them.
With Le Pen, for example, Polish cooperation will surely not go smoothly, as she is already considered by the local public as a pro-Russian politician.
Hungarian rockstar János Kóbor dies of Covid
János Kóbor, the legendary figure of the Hungarian pop music scene, and singer of the rock Omega band, died at the age of 78 on Monday.
Before succumbing to the virus, the musician spent several weeks in hospital with a covid infection, and his condition was steadily deteriorating.
The band posted the news on their Facebook page:
“We are shocked to announce that János Kóbor, the founder of the Omega band, owner of the Kossuth and the Liszt Ferenc Prize, has passed away after a short illness. He was adored by millions of fans at home and abroad as a shining star in the world of rock music. His passing leaves an incomprehensible void behind. There are no words, only silence remains. Mecky (his nickname) will stay with us forever.”
The famous musician was hospitalized in the beginning of November. In an earlier interview, he said he did not want to be vaccinated because he had never been seriously ill and “trusted his own immune system.”
János Kóbor was born in Budapest in 1943 and founded his first orchestra in high school. He graduated as an architect, but never worked as such.
The band Omega was founded in 1962 as a successor to the band Prophet. At first, several people sang in the band, but from the second half of the ’60s, most of Omega’s own songs were sung by Kóbor, and no-one else.
Omega was not only beloved in Hungary, as records have been also released in English and German, as well as a number of concert recordings.
Kóbor was one of the very few Hungarian pop stars who spent his entire career as a member of one single band. In one of his last interviews, he said that he wanted his ashes to be scattered in the waters of his beloved lake Balaton after his death.
Top Court gives green light to vaccine mandate for health care workers
The Hungarian Constitutional Court informed that it was not unconstitutional to oblige health care workers to get vaccinated, it said in a ruling.
The government has made vaccination compulsory for health care workers in several decrees earlier this year, and also ruled that those who did not get the jab should be fired without fringe benefits.
The constitutionality of the regulations has been challenged by hundreds of petitions, but the Constitutional Court dismissed the motions and ruled:
“The regulation serves the continuity of the operation of national health care, it also serves the safety of patients, and the enforcement of patients' right to life and health.”
The vaccine mandate for health care workers therefore contains a constitutional and proportionate restriction, the court also said.
The Constitutional Court also referred to the position of the World Health Organization (WHO) that public health objectives, and in particular a serious pandemic, may justify the use of coercive legal measures as a last resort.
Hungary on Friday reported 6,884 COVID-19 cases in a 24-hour span, raising the national total to 1,182,922.
In the past 24 hours, 166 people have died from the disease, taking the toll to 36,429 in the country, while 968,897 have recovered. Currently, 6,939 patients are being treated in hospitals, including 573 on ventilators, figures from the government's coronavirus information website showed.
As of Friday, 6,176,567 people have received at least the first shot of a vaccine, while 5,883,873 had two jabs, and more than 2,906,959 got their booster shot, according to the website.