Orban conquers Europe

Hungarian expansion in Slovenia: first a football academy, then a wellness complex paid from taxpayer funds

A Hungarian state ’fund’ called Comitatus has made a bid on a wellness hotel and tourism complex in the Slovenian town of Lendva (Lendava), local media reported. The ’fund’ owned by the Hungarian state, according to economy news site Finance, offered 9 million euros for the Terme Lendava tourism complex.

The establishment includes the three-star Hotel Lipa with 120 rooms and five swimming pools. the complex includes a camping site and an apartment village as well. According to Hungarian-language local newspaper Népújság, the complex needs to be developed and expanded and that would possibly cost about 5 million euros.

The first interesting fact is that the hotel complex is situated right next to the plot where the Lendava football academy is under construction at the moment. The Hungarian state supported the construction of the academy with 1.3 billion Hungarian forints.

Another interesting feature of the deal is that it is unclear what Comitatus actually is. The website Finance says it is a ’fund’ and newspaper Népújság says it is a ’foundation’ but there is no such foundation, fund or NGO of such name in Hungary.

However, there are several companies called Comitatus and two of those are owned by the state-owned Hungarian National Asset Management Inc. (MNV, Magyar Nemzeti Vagyonkezelő Zrt.).

We managed to prove that the entity that is bidding for the Lendava complex is Comitatus Üzletviteli és Vagyonkezelő Kft. It is not well known: until 2016 it was the asset management company for Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén county municipality, in the East of Hungary. It was acquired by MNV a year before that date.

We asked the company about the details of the (possible) Lendava deal and we also filed a freedom of information request for the documents relating to the bid. They did not get back to us until now and the freedom of information request was denied almost immediately, citing trade secrecy.

The denial confirmed our information that it is actually Comitatus Üzletviteli és Vagyonkezelő Kft. that bid for the hotel. However, we will fight for that information because the company is using taxpayer money for the deal.

It is important to note that the Hungarian company might not be able to buy the hotel complex in the end. The owner of the hotel, Sava Holding has accepted the offer of Comitatus, but news site Finance mentions that Slovenian economy minister Zdravko Počivalšek is not happy about the deal arguing that tourism is an industry of national importance.

Also, the Slovenian State Holding and the Slovenian pension fund each have a 22.5 percent stake in the parent company of the hotel complex, which means that the minister of economy might have a say in the deal. Also, there used to be a list of state-owned companies that cannot be sold, and Sava Holding was on that list.

Politics has a hand in this matter as well: Slovenian critics see the move as another unwanted attempt by Hungarian PM Viktor Orban to expand his influence in Slovenia. Accordingly, those who sympathize with Orban are happy about the proposed deal because they see the Hungarian leader as the ’savior’ of Europe.

And Orban does pay a lot of attention to Slovenian politics. In the spring of 2017 Atlatszo reported that Orban’s enigmatic spin doctor, Árpád Habony bought a TV station in Slovenia. After that he bought a few more smaller media outlet.

These media outlets were openly supporting right-wing SDS party during the June 2018 elections. SDS is the political ally of Viktor Orban.

Written by Antónia Rádi

English version by Anita Kőműves

You can read the original, Hungarian-language story here.

Photo: viaslovenia.com