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Government plays down significance of European Court opinion on voucher rules

Retail

The National Economy Ministry yesterday said it did not wish to "attach an unjustified degree of significance" to an opinion issued by a European Court advocate general critical of the countryʼs unified voucher system, Hungarian news agency MTI reported

An assessment of the situation will be made when the court takes a binding decision, expected at the end of 2015 or early in 2016, the ministry said. It added that the opinion is an independent legal stand, not a judgment.

The ministry said the conditions for voucher issuers had been established to ensure a safe place for the earnings of the 1.2 mln Hungarians who use the vouchers.

Advocate general Yves Bót said in the opinion on Thursday that Hungaryʼs regulations on food and recreation vouchers effectively shut out foreign companies from the voucher business, which goes against the EU tenet of freedom of establishment. He also objected to restrictions on the type of companies allowed to issue vouchers and the requirement that they have offices in all of the countryʼs largest cities.

Bót said the monopoly the Hungarian National Recreation Foundation has on the issue of food vouchers goes against the freedom of establishment and the freedom to provide services.

The opinion does not bind the court, but prior experience suggests the courtʼs eventual decision will be along these lines.

The European Commission took Hungary to court over what it alleged were restrictive conditions on the issue of food and recreation vouchers in the summer of 2013.

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