State property database kept secret

The state-controlled holding company Magyar Nemzeti Vagyonkezelő Zrt. (MNV) responsible for handling a large chunk of Hungarian state property has refused atlatszo.hu the possibility to learn about the contents of one of its databases, which we requested under freedom of information legislation. The database that runs under the abbreviated name VIR supposedly contains information such as ownership, contract and transfer records regarding state-owned firms and their property. This data is crucial to the issue of government transparency, as there have never been a complete and public database of the total state property of Hungary. MNV had formerly ordered one such register, but the end result have never seen light. Most of the data content of VIR – which would have been one source of the planned super-database -, as we see it, should be made public, and therefore we file a lawsuit against MNV, who claimed that the information we requested falls in the category of trade secrets. The special importance of information on state owned firms is due to the political changes in 1990 which have left the formerly communist Hungarian state with hundreds of companies which are no use in a free-market environment. How these firms were – or are – going through privatization raised questions on several occasions.