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Answering a question concerning upholding the rule of law in central European countries, the head of the Prime Minister’s Office, Gergely Gulyás said these countries had no problem with this principle but they opposed double standards in defining the rule of law.

Regarding a hiring stop in public administration, Gulyás said the government had stopped filling posts in central administration that had been vacant for at least half a year. The measure does not apply to local administrative bodies, he added.

On the topic of banning single-use plastics, Gulyás said the government is willing to support selective waste management. It will also comply with any mandatory EU regulations that might be introduced, he said.

Meanwhile, Gulyás said the innovation and technology ministry (ITM) headed by László Palkovics will take over the management of higher education. The change will be effective from Sept. 1 at the latest, he said, adding that the government had decided that the measure was necessary to ensure the most effective management of research and innovation.

He said the new model adopted by the government in the running of Budapest’s Corvinus University may provide a basis for operating other institutions, though there were limits to its applicability.

Gulyás announced that Hungarian pensioners will receive vouchers worth 9,000 forints (EUR 27) by Sept. 30. The Hungarian economy, he said, was performing better than expected, and the older generation should have their share of the benefits. The vouchers can be used by March 31 for paying gas and electricity bills, Gulyás said, adding that the separate pension bonus and pension supplement will also be available this year.

Further, public employees who have been employed in the sector for at least three months between January 1 and July 31, 2019 and who are still employed as of August 1 will receive a one-off net payment of 54,000 forints.

Gulyás also announced that Csaba Káel, the director of Budapest’s Palace of Arts (Müpa), is to be Hungary’s new government commissioner for film from Sept.1. Káel will carry on at the helm of Müpa concurrently with his new duties, Gulyás said, noting that he will succeed the late Andy Vajna in the post. He also said that Káel would take into consideration criticisms and address the lack of some genres such as historical dramas.

On the topic of the local election campaign, Gulyás said lots of fake news was circulating and that this was especially true “on the side of the opposition”. He said the October elections were really about local communities trying to find the most suitable leaders. Often, he added, voters’ local choices diverge from their general party preferences.

Further, the minister noted that Hungary will be hosting the European Men’s Handball Championship in 2022 and that a large hall designed to hold 20,000 people will be built to accommodate the event. A public procurement process is under way and bids will be submitted in the next few weeks. The principal contract is worth 100 billion forints (EUR 306m), he said.