Company row hangs over Hungarian leader's Paris visit
Hungarian Prime Minister Gordon Bajnai will have talks with French leaders in Paris Monday overshadowed by fears that utility Suez Environnement may launch legal action against a Hungarian municipality.Budapest - Hungarian Prime Minister Gordon Bajnai will have talks with French leaders in Paris Monday overshadowed by fears that utility Suez Environnement may launch legal action against a Hungarian municipality.
The city of Pecs, south of Budapest, announced on September 10 that it was unilaterally terminating a 1995 contract, to last 25 years, that granted the water and waste management company a stake in the city's water works.
At the start of October Pecs locked out Suez Environnement staff from its Hungarian subsidiary and handed control of the city's water utilities to a new local company.
Since the incident Suez has been unable to access its holdings and has had to pay its employees through its parent company in France.
Bajnai described the municipality's action as "dubious in legal terms and rough in conduct.
"This can create a dangerous precedent in Hungary," he told MTI press agency.
"Whilst the government does not have the ability to intervene directly in a dispute between a private company and a municipality, we must point out that similar irresponsible steps jeopardise over 60,000 jobs created by French investors in Hungary," he added.
In his first visit to France since taking office in April, Bajnai was to meet French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Prime Minister Francois Fillion.
Over his two-day trip he will discuss the strategic partnership between the two countries, managing the economic crisis, cooperation on environment, research and development issues, the common agricultural policy central to the EU, and the situation in Middle East.
Bajnai was also to meet with Hungarian cultural figures based in France and heads of major French companies.