Hungary to give women with 4 or more kids life tax exemption

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban delivers his annual "State of Hungary" speech in Budapest, Hungary, Sunday, Feb. 10, 2019. (AP)
Updated 11 February 2019
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Hungary to give women with 4 or more kids life tax exemption

  • The prime minister also listed some of his government’s economic achievements — such as low unemployment — and vowed to fight poverty

BUDAPEST, Hungary: Hungary’s government is greatly increasing financial aid and subsidies for families with several children, the country’s prime minister said Sunday.
The measures announced by Viktor Orban during his “state of the nation” speech are meant to encourage women to have more children and reverse Hungary’s population decline.
The benefits include a lifetime personal income-tax exemption for women who give birth and raise at least four children; a subsidy of 2.5 million forints ($8,825) toward the purchase a seven-seat vehicle for families with three or more children; and a low-interest loan of 10 million forints ($35,300) for women under age 40 who are marrying for the first time.
Orban, who has made “zero tolerance” for immigration his main theme in the past four years and was elected to a third consecutive term in April, said the initiative is meant to “ensure the survival of the Hungarian nation.”
“This is the Hungarians’ answer, not immigration,” Orban said.
The prime minister also listed some of his government’s economic achievements — such as low unemployment — and vowed to fight poverty.
Orban then turned his attention to May’s European Parliament elections, repeating his accusation that the leadership of the European Union wants to fill the continent with migrants, most of them Muslim.
“We have to understand that the European peoples have come to a historical crossroads,” Orban said. “Those who decide in favor of immigration and migrants, no matter why they do so, are in fact creating a country with a mixed population.”
Europe’s left-wing has become “the gravedigger of nations, the family and the Christian way of life,” Orban said.
After his speech, several hundred members and supporters of Hungary’s main opposition parties held an anti-Orban rally that started in Buda Castle. The event also was aimed at protesting recent heavy fines the state audit office imposed on several opposition parties. A small group of protesters used their cars to block traffic from crossing the Chain Bridge over the Danube River for most of the day.
Opposition leaders said the fines, which cannot be challenged in Hungarian courts, were politically motivated and meant to hinder their campaigns for the European Parliament and municipal elections in Hungary later this year.


US envoy ‘disappointed’ by collapse of inter-Afghan peace meeting

Updated 19 April 2019
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US envoy ‘disappointed’ by collapse of inter-Afghan peace meeting

  • A 250-strong delegation of Afghan politicians and civil society figures had been due to meet Taliban officials in Doha at the weekend
  • The event was abruptly canceled on Thursday amid arguments over the size and status of the group

KABUL: The US envoy for peace in Afghanistan expressed disappointment on Friday after the collapse of a planned meeting between the Taliban and a group of Afghan politicians in Qatar that exposed some of the deep divisions hampering efforts to end the war.
A 250-strong delegation of Afghan politicians and civil society figures had been due to meet Taliban officials in Doha at the weekend. The event was abruptly canceled on Thursday amid arguments over the size and status of the group, which included some government officials attending in a personal capacity.
“I’m disappointed Qatar’s intra-Afghan initiative has been delayed,” Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special representative for Afghan reconciliation, said on Twitter. “I urge all sides to seize the moment and put things back on track by agreeing to a participant list that speaks for all Afghans.”
The collapse of the meeting before it had even started, described as a “fiasco” by one senior Western official, laid bare the tensions that have hampered moves toward opening formal peace negotiations.
Khalilzad, a veteran Afghan-born diplomat, has held a series of meetings with Taliban representatives but the insurgents have so far refused to talk to the Western-backed government in Kabul, which they dismiss as a “puppet” regime.
The Doha meeting was intended to prepare the ground for possible future talks by building familiarity among Taliban officials and representatives of the Afghan state created after the US-led campaign that toppled the Taliban government in 2001. A similar encounter was held in Moscow in February.
President Ashraf Ghani’s office blamed Qatari authorities for the cancelation, saying they had authorized a list of participants that differed from the one proposed by Kabul, “which meant disrespect for the national will of the Afghans.”
“This act is not acceptable for the people of Afghanistan,” it said in a statement on Friday.
Sultan Barakat, director of the Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies in Qatar, which had been facilitating the meeting, said there was no disagreement about the agenda.
“Rather, there is insufficient agreement around participation and representation to enable the conference to be a success,” he tweeted.
Preparations had already been undermined by disagreements on the government side about who should attend, as well as by suspicions among rival politicians ahead of presidential elections scheduled for September.
The Taliban derided the agreed list of 250 participants as a “wedding party.” Some senior opposition figures who had been included refused to attend.
The Taliban also objected to Ghani’s comments to a meeting of delegates that they would be representing the Afghan nation and the Afghan government, a statement that went against the insurgents’ refusal to deal with the Kabul administration.