The following is a transcript of a shocking debate that took place yesterday in the Hungarian parliament between LMP co-chair Bernadett Szél and Minister János Lázár over the diversion of hundreds of millions of euros of revenue from state-owned MVM to privately owned energy trader MET:
MP Bernadett Szél:
Thank you, speaker.
Honorable Minister, I hope you’ve had time since Christmas to look into what the situation is with MET because recently, as the minister responsible for that area, you acted as if you’ve never in your life heard of MET, which happens to own the biggest gas-fired electricity plant. So, if you’ve really never heard of them, aside from being incredibly embarrassing to the government, it would also been unfortunate, because the government to this day has not spoken openly on the issues surrounding MET. It’s quite obvious that the rise of MET is directly related to the decline and deterioration of MVM.
As you know, MVM is state-owned company that has always been its own “state within a state”, and governments have always been keen on seeing it operate profitably. This is the first time since the beginning of the 2000s that MVM operates with a loss and [the government] has tried to pump HUF 50 billion of taxpayer monies into it, but it appears the budget is appropriating HUF 18 billion for MVM. This, esteemed ladies and gentlemen, means that Fidesz-KDNP have gutted the company. The question is “why?” In the case of two companies who are competitors and yet strongly interconnected, why is it necessary for Fidesz-KDNP to gut the company that is state-owned and allow the one that making money to blossom?
Minister, isn’t all this really about Fidesz needing bags of money now that Lajos Simicska has left? Is this what the MET story is all about? Is this why you and Viktor Orban are traveling to Switzerland to manage affairs when you’re not watching children’s choirs? Furthermore, it’s clear that there is a bridge between the two companies. Management travels freely from MVM to MET. Esteemed minister, I’m telling you Gyorgy Kobor, Kralik Gabor, and Balazs Lehocz. They started their careers in one and continued their careers in the other, and it continues like this. Esteemed minister, aren’t you the least bit concerned that the people working for MVM, a company kept-up and managed with taxpayer monies, are going to work MET and taking secrets with themselves to help MET, a company that is profit oriented. How much are they hurting the taxpayers?
Minister János Lázár:
Yes, speaker and my fellow esteemed representatives. The truth is that I’m in trouble because in reality, as a minister, the prime minister has entrusted me with a portfolio that greatly exceeds my strength, my abilities, and my knowledge, but thanks be to God that until now I have not had to concern myself with energy issues, and I hope that [Szél]’s presumption that I am the government official responsible for this area is one that will never become true. I eagerly anticipate relieving myself of some of the responsibilities of my portfolio and to not receive any new responsibilities. In any case, I can only approach on this question from a theoretical perspective, because I, unlike you, am not an energy expert, and I’m not an expert from MVM, nor am I expert of the MET companies. I’m not involved in huckstering. What I do is to carry out that which my voters elected me to do. All of us in Fidesz, be they government officials or members of parliament, were given the mandate and entrusted to serve the benefit of the country, and, bound by our oath to do so, we will do this each for each and every issue. It is for this reason that I shouldn’t be asked any questions regarding trade, or regarding the nature of business – especially in cases regarding privately-owned business – because I am not an expert in this sector. If these businesses are connected in any way to the state, such information would be public and freely accessible for everyone because it’s related to the activites of MET. If you feel there is a connection, then you should contact them and inquire there. You obviously have experts who have given you advice and information because you have listed names that I believe are unfamiliar to many in parliament. I would gladly answer your questions if they were submitted to me in writing, but at this moment answering these questions would exceed my modest abilities. I can say one thing to you: never has, is, or will, the government work to further the interests of Lajos Simicska or Sandor Csanyi. This government’s duty is serve in the interest of Hungarian voters with every decision it makes, even in the decisions made by MVM.
You’re playing at a very strange game. The government of Hungary should be able to account for what is happening at MVM. It simply must be able to account for why it is necessary to pump HUF 18 billion forint into MVM when the year hasn’t even finished yet. I would like to remind you that MVM also has its own obligations. For example, I understand that if the Paks expansion – which falls directly into your portfolio – begins, then the financial obligation of the Hungarian state would have to be covered by MVM. But given the situation how can MVM guarantee this if it is losing money? Please tell me where they plan on securing the funding needed for the expansion of Paks, because it’s quite obvious that the money won’t come from MVM. Minister, do you have an answer to this question? Just for this question. Aside from this we still haven’t received an answer for why the Hungarian government burdens the taxpayers when it gives our goose that lays the golden egg to MET, then you come here today and tell us that you can’t do anything, you have no idea what is happening in that area. Minister, this is completely irresponsible. We will continue this and the majority of opposition MPs support the creation of an investigative committee. I sincerely hope that your party will support this, otherwise it will be your trips will to Switzerland will serve as self-incrimination.
Please bring me information regarding MET, Switzerland, and such issues I am really uninformed about these. I would gladly promise and commit to answering your questions if submitted to me in writing, and I am ready to share with you all information I have at my disposal here with you now. The government of Hungary has strategic assignments and strategic goals for MVM, as was the case in the previous twenty years, intent of making sure that MVM doesn’t only serve the nation with energy but also generates energy, and this is a huge task for the future. We are planning investments which require funding sources that aren’t available only in Hungary but also in Central Europe. The Economics Committee should listen to MVM’s leaders, the supervising minister, because these people will can provide specific details. No one said that MVM’s economic activity is being discontinued, or that it’s activities are being curtailed in any way. It’s the exact opposite. MVM will have a key role in energy production and supply and we hope that it won’t only be able to supply energy for the country, but that it will also have a dominant role the region. Nothing unlawful or abusive has happened to warrant your questions.