BUDAPEST, HUNGARY (Worthy News) – A massive police force cleared a key bridge in Hungary’s capital on Monday as social unrest mounted against government-imposed tax reforms that will impact hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs and their families.
And those already struggling to make a living feared Monday that the government would dramatically raise utility fees for larger families as Russia was withholding natural gas to much of Europe.
With many having monthly incomes of $500-600 or less, the proposed changes could mean the new tax rate could rise to half or more of their salary.
So far, at least half a million small entrepreneurs have paid a fixed small tax under a simplified tax system known as KATA, but that changes under the new law.
“I am working as a food delivery guy and website designer and developer. But all my jobs are canceled now. I simply can’t make an effort to pay,” said Abel, 24, who studies as a paramedic. “My future is very uncertain.”
He spoke shortly before police ended the protest on Budapest’s Margit híd (Margaret Bridge), even carrying demonstrators from their location, Worthy News witnessed.
Later at night, protests moved towards the presidential palace on the hills of Budapest’s Castle District. They expressed outrage that President Katalin Novák signed the legislation Monday despite mounting public outcry even within the ruling Fidesz party.
A young food delivery became an instant hero after he interrupted the dining of Hungary’s industry minister and his quests, pleading to him to help overturn the dreaded law.
President Novák is a close ally of nationalist Hungarian Prime Viktor Orbán, who critics view as increasingly authoritarian.
Orbán introduced the legislation, critics say, because he doesn’t receive billions in aid from the European Union amid the rule of law concerns.
Yet Hungary’s justice minister Judit Varga said Monday she was cautiously optimistic that discussions with the EU’s executive European Commission would yield results
So far, the EU withholds roughly $15.5 billion in aid to Hungary from a recovery fund set up to lessen the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Separately the European Commission intensified its legal standoff with Hungary by taking the country to the EU’s highest court over a restrictive law on LGBT issues and media freedom.
The EU had already tried for a year to make Hungary change a law that bans content portraying or promoting homosexuality to minors.
The European Commission said it “discriminates against people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.”
A 31-year-old protester, who called herself Jane, told Worthy News she was “recently fired at a school” as she is “lesbian and wanted to talk about gender issues.”
Hungary’s rightwing government has defended its position, saying it wants to protect children against gender activism.
While conservatives support Orbán on these issues, he faces criticism for policies that the opposition says limit the freedom of media and other previously independent institutions.
Orbán has denied wrongdoing and accuses the EU of political bias when his nation faces a war in neighboring Ukraine that he says also impacts ethnic Hungarians living there.
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