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The 1956 commemorations are usually a fairly somber affair, but this year’s 60th anniversary saw them become much more politicized and in isolated cases even saw scuffles as pro-government supporters clashed with demonstrators who booed and whistled during Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s speech in order to express their disagreement with the government’s latest actions. Photo: MTI/János Marjai

OLAF suspects 24 frauds in Hungary since 2012

OLAF, the European Anti-Fraud Office, has found 24 suspected cases of fraud, fiscal fraud and misappropriation in Hungary since 2012, and has made recommendations to the Chief Prosecutorʼs Office to investigate them, the latterʼs spokesman Géza Fazekas told Hungarian news agency MTI on October 24, after the office brought charges in one such case. The Chief Prosecutorʼs Office filed charges of suspected fiscal fraud against two directors of a company located at Lake Balaton who allegedly received EUR 178 million of EU and Hungarian budget grants for the purchase of forestry equipment, the costs of which, an OLAF investigation showed, could have been magnified through false invoices. Mentioning two other cases in which his office initiated court proceedings after OLAF warnings, Fazekas said one person had been sentenced to one year in prison, suspended for two years, while an accomplice was fined in an appealable ruling, in a case involving misappropriation of funds in a project related to printing machines. The other case Fazekas mentioned involved a person with three accomplices, who were reported to have used false documents and invoices to draw HUF 110 mln in funding for the upgrade of a “hydrotherapy treadmill” for dogs, a project which was eventually not realized.

Christian Democrats propose new Sunday closing

Just a few months after legislation restricting retailers from opening on Sundays in Hungary was repealed, with retail sales experiencing a pickup since, junior governing partner the Christian Democratic Peopleʼs Party (KDNP) is said to be proposing to reintroduce Sunday closing two days a month, according to reports. Csaba Bubenkó, chairman of the Independent Union of Retail Workers, told government-friendly daily newspaper Magyar Idők that the amendment could be brought before Parliament by December at the latest. According to the daily, under the changes two Sundays a month should be given to workers in the retail sector as days off, while no retail worker should work more than eight hours on a Sunday.

Exchange students mistaken by public for refugees

The Hungarian Police were called out to intercept a group of foreign exchange students who were participating in the Erasmus program in Hungary, and were mistaken for refugees near Hungary’s southern city of Szeged, according to Hungarian online news portal Délmagyar. The student group comprised of Estonians, Latvians and Slovenians is visiting the Hungarian refugee NGO MigSzol. As part of an excursion program, the students were following the route taken by refugees crossing the country in 2015, when the migrant crisis peaked in Hungary. It was while walking along the railway tracks connecting Serbia’s Subotica and Hungary’s Szeged that the students were mistaken for refugees and a report was made to local police that “25 migrants were walking along the rails”, Délmagyar reported. As prior notice of the students’ excursion had been given to the police, officers arriving at the scene found there had been no breach of the law, and allowed the students to continue on, Délmagyar added. Since the Hungarian government built a razor-wire fence along its entire Serbian border last year, most refugees fleeing war or poverty and arriving in Europe now bypass Hungary as they try to reach their preferred destinations in the EU’s northern states.

Hungary nurtures plans to strengthen military

The Hungarian Defence Forces are planning to train 20,000 volunteer soldiers from January 2017, after the country’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán expressed dissatisfaction with the conditions of the country’s armed forces, online news portal index.hu reported, citing an interview Orbán gave to Hungarian Catholic Radio. According to the interview that the leader gave in late September, a few days before the refugee quota referendum, doubling the number of armed forces is only the beginning. Index.hu reports that there are also plans to teach basic military knowledge in more Hungarian schools. The concept is being nurtured by the government in order to strengthen “patriotic commitment and the willingness to make sacrifices,” index.hu reported. In practice, more young people would be offered the possibility of joining the army as volunteer soldiers, within the framework of emphasizing the national interest, the daily reported. “A serious country has its own army, which is not an obligatory task to be ticked off, but an actual force to be taken seriously,” said Orbán in the interview. Minister of Defence István Simicskó was also cited by the online daily as saying that Hungary is not planning to introduce military training in schools, but “a type of counter-culture: a value system and way of thinking based on patriotism.”

Pro and anti-government groups clash at ʼ56 event

This yearʼs 60th anniversary commem-orations of Hungaryʼs 1956 Uprising against communist rule saw clashes in front of Parliament as anti-government demonstrators whistled and booed during a speech by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, with several people attacked by pro-government supporters, according to reports. Opposition party Együtt (Together) encouraged Hungarians opposed to the current Orbán regime to whistle and boo during the leader’s commemoration speech in order to express their rejection of his government. The demonstration turned ugly in some places, footage taken at the event showed, when pro-government citizens attempted to remove whistles from the mouths of some protesters in order to try and silence them. The Hungarian police announced after the clashes that four individuals had been arrested on charges of disorderly conduct. At a separate demonstration civilians initiated at Blaha Lujza tér, Hungarian left-wing opposition parties urged the creation of an alliance in order to remove the Orbán government. Leftist parties attending the event – the Socialists, Democratic Coalition, Dialogue for Hungary and Movement for a Modern Hungary – stressed their desire to live in an independent and free Hungary, according to Hungarian news agency MTI. Orbán said in his 1956 commemoration speech that Hungarian freedom had been “buried in a grave, face down in the ground” under the Soviet-controlled regime, but now “it has revived, and has been here with us ever since,” according to MTI. Commenting once again on the refugee crisis, the prime minister said Hungary had chosen the more difficult path when it “chose its own children instead of immigrants; work instead of speculation and aid; standing on our own feet instead of debtor slavery; and defending borders instead of raising arms,” MTI reported. Orbán apparently referenced the protesters whistling and booing during his speech by saying that while the revolutionaries of 1956 had sent the message that communism could be defeated, it still “sometimes comes back whistling”. Christian Keszthelyi