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The new Hungarian Code of Civil Procedure (the “Code”) came with a number of ambitious promises, many of which have already been addressed in CEE Legal Matters. However, a prominent promise, namely increasing the transparency and predictability of litigation, has not yet been discussed in these pages.

In early 2017 the Hungarian Parliament passed the Code of Administrative Litigation as a beginning of the reform of the central administration. As the final step, the Hungarian Parliament adopted a law on the Administrative Courts on 12 December 2018. The goal of the new legislation was to ’restore the prestige of the administrative courts’ which was abolished in 1949. Since then no separate administrative court system existed, it was integrated into the civil courts.

The amendments of the Act on the Transactions in Agricultural and Forestry Land (Land Act) entered into force on 11 January 2019. Based on the new rules, in the approval procedure of the sale and purchase agreement for agricultural lands, the regional entity of the Hungarian Chamber of Agriculture as local land committee will prepare an opinion whether the sale and purchase agreement is in compliance with the aspects included in the Land Act (e.g. transparency of the relationship of tenures, preventing speculative land acquisition). The amendment determines the conditions that shall be considered in the course of the assessment of the compliance with these aspects, such as the purchase price of the land, the lands already owned by the purchaser, or how the sale and purchase of the land serves the acquisition of ownership of young farmers or new agricultural producers.

The Hungarian Competition Authority (HCA) cleared the acquisition of sole control over Invitel Távközlési Zrt ("Invitel") by Digi Távközlési és Szolgáltató Kft ("DIGI") conditionally - with commitments - in May 2018. A few months later, it established that DIGI had intentionally misled HCA officials and therefore revoked the decision and imposed a fine on DIGI of HUF 90 million (approx. EUR 280,000). It then reopened the proceeding to assess the relevant markets affected by the misleading information. Revoking a merger clearance decision is not without precedent in the HCA's recent practice, as the HCA has invoked three clearance decisions in the last two years. What is new, however, is that the HCA granted a derogation from the suspension clause to prevent negative market consequences from interfering with the already closed transaction. The HCA also resorted to a dawn raid during the original proceeding, which is a new instrument in merger control cases.

On September 11, 2018, CEE Legal Matters reported that Akos Eros, the Managing Partner of Squire Patton Boggs in Hungary, had taken a team from that international firm to join Wolf Theiss, led in Budapest by his old friend Zoltan Faludi. The reunion of these two actual comrades-in-arms is a source of real excitement at Wolf Theiss Hungary, which is embracing the changing legal market of the moment with confidence and style.

On 20 November 2018, the European Parliament’s Committee on Employment and Social Affairs (“EMPL”) adopted modernised rules for coordinating social security systems. The EMPL focused on facilitating labour mobility while safeguarding the workers’ social security rights in cross-border situations, by determining under which Member State’ s system a person is insured. The purpose of the new rules is to make it easier for EU citizens to work in another EU Member State and to have a fair access to social security benefits.

Taylor Wessing Budapest, working with lawyers from America's Nixon Peabody law firm, has helped persuade the United States Supreme Court to uphold a lower court's ruling that US courts lack jurisdiction over the Hungarian State in a lawsuit involving the attempted restitution of artworks that once belonged to the Herzog Collection. The Court published its decision on January 7, 2019.

The Hungarian Act on the Employee Stock Ownership Plan (the “ESOP Act”) was amended by the Hungarian Parliament in November 2019. It is good news that the amendment does not affect the taxation of incomes from the ESOP organization, so it is still possible to get a private income through an ESOP under very favorable tax conditions. Accordingly, payments made to the employees within the ESOP are solely subject to a 15% personal income tax, which means 18.5% savings for the employees, while on the other hand employers can reduce their public burdens with 21%.

In December 2018 the Hungarian Parliament adopted a new legislation that significantly changes the Hungarian Labour Code. The proposer stated that the goal of this new legislation is ‘to remove administrative burdens from the employees, so if they want to earn more – with their consent – they can work more’.