As good as Puskás

Hungarian soccer player Dániel Zsóri has won the FIFA Puskás Award given to the scorer of the most spectacular goal of the year. The prestigious prize was presented to the 18-year-old striker at the Best FIFA Football Awards gala in Milan. As a player of Debrecen, Zsóri scored a crucial goal with a superb overhead kick in the last minute of a match against Ferencváros, the current champion, on February 16. He is the first Hungarian to win the award named after Ferenc Puskás (1927-2006), who was not only Hungary's all-time greatest soccer player but also probably the best-known Hungarian in the world in the second half of the 20th century. The prolific scorer captained Hungary's legendary Golden Team of the early 1950s and then established a brilliant career at Real Madrid.


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Lasers endanger aircraft

Pilots of aircraft landing and taking off at Budapest's international Liszt Ferenc Airport often have to contend with the dangerous use of lasers from the ground, HungaroControl Zrt. says. Flights have been affected by lasers almost 50 times so far this year, with a fifth of these in the past month. Almost 100 cases were recorded last year. Lasers can distract pilots from up to 10 kilometres away. Disruption of aircraft is punishable by three years' prison.

GDP forecast raised

Economic research institute Kopint-Tárki has raised its economic growth forecast for Hungary this year to 4.8 percent from 4.5 percent in a projection released in June, CEO Éva Palócz has said. The government's official projection for 2019 GDP growth is 4 percent, but Finance Minister Mihály Varga says higher-than-expected first-half growth of 5.1 percent could lift full-year growth to 4.3-4.4 percent. Kopint-Tárki left its GDP growth forecast for 2020 unchanged at 3.2 percent. The institute lowered its forecast for annual average inflation this year to 3.4 percent from 3.5 percent. It cut the projection for next year to 3.4 percent from 3.7 percent. The projection for gross wage growth was raised to 10.5 percent from 9.7 percent. Kopint-Tárki sees gross wages rising 8.5 percent in 2020 and expects unemployment to drop to 3.4 percent this year and edge down to 3.2 percent next year.

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Brazilian 'smuggled cocaine'

The municipal chief prosecutor's office has pressed charges against a Brazilian woman who allegedly attempted to smuggle cocaine into Hungary. The suspect was arrested at Budapest's international Liszt Ferenc Airport on February 10, when customs officers discovered 300 condoms filled with cocaine in her luggage, chief prosecutor Tibor Ibolya says. The 31-year-old woman allegedly said she had agreed to carry drugs due to financial difficulties.

Happy 95th, Jimmy Carter

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán congratulated former US President Jimmy Carter on his 95th birthday on October 1. Orbán sent a letter: "Many outstanding figures and names can be found on the pages of Hungarian history; the names of those who have done remarkable and noble acts for… the Hungarian nation. I can assure you that the people of Hungary will never forget the name of the American President who sent the Holy Crown back to our country, bringing a light of hope behind the dark shadow of the Iron Curtain. I believe that your decision was not only a fine display of political courage but also a true testimony of your commitment to our transatlantic relationship." Carter was US President from 1977-81, and the Holy Crown was returned by Secretary of State Cyrus Vance on January 6, 1978.

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Korean victims honoured

A traditional Korean memorial service has been held in Budapest to honour the victims of the Hableány pleasure boat disaster. Members of the South Korean traditional band Soo Jae Cheon Jeong-Eup marched from Olympic Park to Margaret Bridge then released roses into the Danube in memory of the South Korean and Hungarian victims after the Hableány collided with a cruise ship and sank by Margaret Bridge on May 29. The victims were also honoured with a Korean musical piece called "Requiem", composed by Korea's Lee Gum-seop specifically for the occasion. Addressing the ceremony, South Korea's ambassador to Hungary Choe Kyoo-Sik noted that the Hableány had 33 South Korean tourists on board and two Hungarian crew. Seven Korean tourists were rescued from the water and the authorities later found 27 bodies. The ambassador said the Hungarian government had provided all the necessary resources for the search for victims.

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Boars fall to swine flu

Some 2000 wild boars have contracted African swine fever in Hungary since the disease was detected in the country in April 2018. Chief veterinary officer Lajos Bognár says the infected areas grew at the end of summer, and more are expected to be declared infected in Jász-Nagykun-Szolnok and Hajdú-Bihar counties. In September the virus killed hundreds of wild boars in a fenced-off game park in Budakeszi. Hogs have not yet been affected, so Serbia has recently lifted a ban on unprocessed Hungarian pork, with a health certificate to be attached to every delivery.

Hungary 'matters to China'

Hungary is a "key component" of China's Belt and Road strategy within the group of the Visegrád Four countries, Chinese ambassador to Hungary Duan Jielong has said. China announced its new economic policy in 2013 and Hungary launched its foreign policy strategy of eastern opening the same year, marking the 70th anniversary of diplomatic ties. This has led to a significant improvement in Chinese-Hungarian relations, the ambassador said. Hungary always considered China an important partner and provided a lot of help and support to it, he added. The ambassador highlighted the strategic agreement Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán had concluded with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Belt and Road conference in Beijing in 2017.

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Inflation on rise

Hungary's consumer price index climbed by an annual 2.8 percent in September, and prices were 0.1 percent higher than in August, the Central Statistical Office has said. The price of alcohol, tobacco and food increased significantly in the past year, with spirits and tobacco averaging rises of 8.4 percent with food prices up 5.1 percent. In January-September, consumer prices rose on average by an annual 3.3 percent. Seasonally adjusted core inflation rose 3.9 percent in September from a year earlier and by 0.4 percent month-on-month.

Higher in competitiveness

Hungary has placed 47th among 141 countries in the annual Global Competitiveness Index compiled by the World Economic Forum. Hungary moved up one spot from last year, when the index included 140 countries. Hungary's score on this year's index was 65.1 on a scale of 0-100, from 64.3 in 2018. The country's score for institutions rose to 55.7 from 54.2, its score for infrastructure climbed to 80.7 from 78.4, and the score for macroeconomic stability was unchanged at 90.0. The score in human capital rose to 74.8 from 73.3, and in markets to 58.8 from 58.4. Hungary is behind the Czech Republic (32nd), Poland (37th) and Slovakia (42nd) but ahead of Bulgaria (49th) and Romania (51st). The Hungarian finance ministry said the 2019 ranking acknowledges national economic policy that aims to further improve competitiveness while maintaining macroeconomic stability. The better result was chiefly thanks to improvement in the corporate environment, macroeconomic stability, the labour market and infrastructure, the ministry said.

Airport numbers rising

Passenger numbers at Liszt Ferenc International Airport rose by an annual 6.8 percent to 4.7 million in the third quarter of the year. There were more than 1.6 million passengers in both July and August, and more than 1.5 million in September. The number of take-offs and landings per month was around 11,570, higher than before but lower than the 12,000 record in 2006. Most passengers travelled between Budapest and London, followed by Frankfurt, Paris, Brussels and Tel Aviv.

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Base rate unchanged

The Monetary Council of the National Bank of Hungary kept the central bank O/N deposit rate at 0.05 percent and the base rate at 0.90 percent at its latest policy meeting. The decision had been expected. The council said risks to inflation had become asymmetric as downside risks strengthened further because of the slowdown in Europe and a loosening of monetary policy by big central banks. Because of the base effect of a fall in fuel prices last year, headline inflation was "likely to rise again until the end of 2019, and then to stabilise at the level of the 3 percent inflation target following a gradual decline". Core inflation excluding indirect tax effects, a bellwether indicator of underlying inflation that rate-setters follow closely, is expected to "rise slightly" in the next months "before decreasing to 3 percent along a lower than previously expected path, due to external disinflationary effects".

Court rejects Mol appeal

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has turned down an appeal by Zsolt Hernádi, head of Hungarian oil and gas company Mol, against Croatian authorities, which issued a European warrant against him. The appeal, tendered in 2015, complained that the warrant and Croatia's detention orders prevented him from leaving Hungary. According to the decision, "the applicant had not complied with the Court's admissibility requirements as he had not properly raised this complaint before the Croatian courts". Hernádi had "essentially directed his arguments at the decision to order his pre-trial detention, and had not submitted any specific arguments about the violation of his freedom of movement". Croatian authorities believe that Hernádi gave former Croatian prime minister Ivo Sanader a EUR 10 million bribe to help Mol obtain a stake in the management of Croatia's Mol-INA oil company.

Israel honours King András

A state secretary of Hungary's human resources ministry has inaugurated a memorial plaque in Mi'iliya, Israel, marking the 800th anniversary of Hungarian King András II's crusade into the Holy Land. "The memorial creates a special relationship between Mi'iliya and Hungary, based on the past but building the future," Csaba Latorcai said at the ceremony. Ahead of the event, locals and Hungarian pilgrims attended a mass celebrated in Hungarian and Arabic by Yousef Matta, Melkite archbishop of the diocese of Galilee and Greek Catholic Metropolitan Fülöp Kocsis of Hajdúdorog, Hungary.

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