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Budapest vs Brussels over the telecom tax

October 1st, 2011

Népszava comments ironically on the government’s reaction to a resolution by the European Commission which found Hungary at fault for imposing a surplus tax on telecoms. Magyar Hírlap, on the other hand, complains that Brussels interferes too much in Hungarian domestic affairs.

In a sarcastic comment in Népszava, Zoltán Simon asks how Hungary can ask Croatia to comply with European directives and guidelines, while she fails to do so herself.

On Thursday, the EU Commission asked Hungary to abolish the surtax on telecom service operators, arguing that under EU telecoms rules revenue from telecom taxes should be used for meeting the specific costs of regulating the telecoms sector. Hungary has two months to comply, and if it fails to do so, the Commission may turn to the European Court. Prime Minister Orbán’s  spokesman told the press that the government was ready to take the dispute to the Court of Justice of the European Union.

Commenting on these events, Portfolio, a popular business website, suggests that the main question is not whether, but when the court will declare the tax illegitimate. Other questions include what proportion of the telecom tax already collected should be refunded. The treasury collects over HUF 60 billion yearly from the controversial telecom levy.

Népszava’s commentator interprets the spokesman’s words as a flat rejection of the need to take European directives into account. At the same time, President Pál Schmitt cautioned the Croatian authorities against passing legislation on the national oil company INA that would be in contradiction of EU market rules. 49 per cent of INA’s shares are owned by MOL, Hungary’s oil multinational, but Simon contends that that is insufficient reason for changing Hungary’s stance on EU directives.

In Magyar Hirlap, Attila Csákó feels that the Brussels ruling is unfair to Hungary. He admits that belonging to a community implies certain obligations, but concludes that “in certain cases, the European Union digs too deeply into our affairs”.

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