Hungary pleads for foreign legal help

HUNGARIAN government officials called on young European lawyers to help the country in its economic restructuring process.

Delegates at the European Young Bar Association's third annual conference heard how the country needed investment and economic stability as it adapted to a market economy.

Dr Lajos Bokros, the Hungarian Minister of Finance, said his government was setting out on privatising two “white elephants” – the Budapest Bank and the National Savings Bank – and the Ministry of Finance wanted to sell three further banks which were “not in any good shape”.

He said he relied on the legal and economic professions to help resolve the “creative tensions” thrown up by underperfoming banks.

Dr Peter Hack, an MP and president of the Hungarian Parliament's committee on constitutional and judicial affairs, said in the last five years the government had adopted a thousand pieces of legislation.

“In such an intensive law-making process we are trying to establish rules which could help those doing business in Hungary,” he said.

He added: “In the last five years Parliament has made significant steps creating a welcoming environment for investors.”

He stressed the country had no plans for imposing the kind of legal restrictions threatened against foreign lawyers practising in Poland.

“There is very strong resistance against such ideas and in recent weeks Hungarian legislation tried to open gates to foreign investors and this would be in the way of foreign investment.”

Dr Gyorgy Ruttner, partner at Budapest-based Ruttner & Partners and member of the EYBA executive committee, said “domestic counsel should be advised in all cases” for foreign work.

– Dutch lawyer Arie de Groot has been named the new president of the EYBA. De Groot, based at Amsterdam firm Ekelmans Den Hollander, will take over from EYBA founder Andrew Greenfield.

Greenfield, of London firm Howard Kennedy, started the Europe-wide association three years ago with former Richards Butler lawyer David Edwards. At the AGM after the conference it was proposed Edwards should have a new post of salaried secretary general created for him.

Edwards was responsible for launching the EYBA's magazine Eurolawyer which will be distributed to member countries. He said: “Eurolawyer is going to be our most important weapon in terms of publicity in the future.”