EC Challenges Legality of Hungary’s Luncheon Voucher Monopoly

    The Wall Street Journal
    By The Wall Street Journal

    BUDAPEST--Hungary's stormy relationship with European Union authorities took another bad turn Thursday when the European Commission said the country would be brought before the European Court of Justice for making luncheon vouchers a state monopoly at the beginning of last year.

    It marks the latest step in the EU's infringement process after Hungary failed to heed the commission's view on the matter sent in November 2011, the commission said.

    The EU has challenged Hungary over several policies, including new telecommunications taxes and its refusal to tax home-made spirits. It has also monitored Hungary in recent years for its central bank independence and kept it under surveillance for being adrift of the EU's budget deficit limits since it joined the it in 2004. The country should finally shake that off in coming days.

    Some recently proposed constitutional changes threaten to keep it under the EU spotlight since an European Parliament committee on Wednesday threw its weight behind a report that said the move was anti-democratic--a view shared by the United Nations.

    Luncheon vouchers are offered by employers as a staff benefit to subsidise meals, and another version can be used to pay for hotel nights. They were previously supplied by private foreign businesses such as France's Sodexo, Groupe Cheque Dejeuner, and Edenred.

    The government says it cornered the market in order to raise cash needed to fund social projects without making further tax hikes.

    By: Margit Feher
    Posted: June 20, 2013, 6:56 pm

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