Of Legal Powers and Hospitality


It is apt, though entirely coincidental, that our annual overview of the Hungarian legal market comes at a time when law and order has become internationally topical, not to say highly contentious, thanks to what is going on in the United States.

I do not intend to make any comment on that; we do not cover U.S. affairs, and the video footage, both of the death of George Floyd on May 25, and the subsequent riots and national protests, speak volumes on their own.

In any case, it is not as if we do not have legal controversies of our own to focus on, not least Hungary’s government by decree emergency powers. As we report inside, these are due to come to an end on June 20, assuming Parliament agrees to it. The very passing of the law raised international hackles (and a fair few domestically), although Fidesz, most notably through Minister of Justice Judit Varga and the government’s combative international spokesman Zoltán Kovács, was always ready to fight its corner.

The political genius of Viktor Orbán is that he understands the mindset of the Hungarian voter far better than perhaps any previous politician. (One important caveat to that from the last general election is that his Fidesz party may be losing the younger generation. Whether it can recover from that, or whether the numbers will become substantial enough to make a difference, only time will tell.)

The government argued that Parliament ceded those powers, and always had the possibility of taking them back. That is undeniably true, although you don’t have to be much of a cynic to note that Fidesz has a two-thirds majority in Parliament and is one of the most disciplined parties to ever play the political game.

Still, the prime minister knows his handling of the pandemic will be judged by local votes, not international commentators. The opposition parties may have hoped Orbán had overreached in taking such strong powers, but the fact that they are being given back robs that argument of most of its potency. Be that as it may, the next general election is not due until spring 2022. If a week is a long time in politics, 20 months sounds like an eternity.

The leading law firms have other concerns, of course. The regional and international players largely serve national and multinational businesses. Put bluntly, for them to prosper, so must the economy. Labor law has been a busy area, as has advising on the many government schemes rushed into action. But the legal market will be waiting for the economy to pick up just as much as the commercial world.

One other area of focus in this issue is hospitality. Tourism is a huge contributor to Hungary’s GDP, but this is not a passing phase; the country’s traditions in this area go back to the turn of the 19th century into the 20th, and again in the inter-war years, where Budapest boomed and became part of the Grand Tour.

We will revisit this sector in a later issue, but here we talk with three of the leading hotel general managers, and a leading restaurateur, about how they have coped with the lockdown, and their hopes and aspirations for the future. It makes for fascinating reading, but the take away bullet point is clear: Roll on 2021.

Keep safe.

Robin Marshall


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