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UPDATE - Business association presses for country strategy that extends beyond election cycle

The Hungarian European Business Council (HEBC) pressed for a broad, long-term country strategy that extends beyond election cycles in Parliament on Tuesday.

Presenting the council's annual report, HEBC chairman László Kerekes told MPs on Parliament's European Affairs Committee such a plan was necessary for competitiveness and to achieve sustainable growth. Creating a political, economic and social environment that is predictable in the long term is a basic condition for the country's development and competitiveness, he added.

Benedict Laux, CEO of Philips Central South East Europe, told the committee that predictability, competitiveness and the national image are all closely tied to each other. Building confidence is a long process, and it can be lost in just a moment, he added.

In the experience of the parent companies of HEBC members, Hungary's international assessment has deteriorated lately, Laux said.

Tamás Ferenczi, managing director of British Telecom Hungary, welcomed the government's plans to restructure Hungary's education system. He urged support for more instruction in engineering and said Hungarians' low knowledge of foreign languages was "concerning".

Honorary HEBC member Miklós Pécsi-Szabó praised the government's goal to raise employment, but he said Hungary's low birth rate limits the expansion of the labor market. At the same time, the shortage of trained laborers and the problem of an ageing population has to be managed, he added. Not everybody needs a university diploma, he said.

Kerekes said Hungary's demographics require an efficient immigration strategy.

HEBC was established by the European Round Table of Industrialists (ERT) in 1998. The council's 15 members had combined annual revenue of almost HUF 3,500 billion in 2010.