Economy Hungary News Politics

Sunday shopping ban not to be reinforced in Hungary

Hungary’s Independent Union of Retails Employees (KDFSZ) urged the government to consider reinforcing a shopping ban on Sundays.

Addressing the issue in pro-governmental daily Magyar Idők, KDFSZ leader Csaba Bubenkó argued that closing the shops on Sundays would be an appropriate answer to the current labor shortages in the retail sector. The move would also, according to him, send a clear signal that the Hungarian government is putting family values ahead of profit-seeking.

Reelected last April for a third consecutive term, Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán doesn’t seem inclined to amend the current legislation: asked about the issue by Hungarian news agency MTI, the government responded that it wasn’t planning to bring any changes to the law.

The debate over whether shops should be allowed to open on Sundays has been raging in Hungary for many years. In March 2015, a legislation, pushed by the Christian Democratic People’s Party (KDNP), enforced a ban on Sunday shopping.

But a vast majority of the population opposed the move. When the Socialist party MSZP won the support of the country’s highest judicial court to bring the issue to a referendum in early April 2016, things took an unexpected turn. The opposition party only had to collect 200.000 signatures to ask Parliament to organize a referendum on the matter.

Before that could happen, in order to avoid a political setback on a highly controversial topic, and to keep voters’ attention on a referendum on European migrant quotas planned at that time, the government did a political U-turn and backtracked in a matter of days: it repealed the act, without consulting social partners, and allowed shops, business and retailers to re-open on Sundays.

Many European countries, from Germany to France or Austria, have implemented partial or total bans on Sunday shopping. Last March, a similar legislation, proposed by trade union Solidarity and supported by the Catholic Church and the ruling party Law and Justice, was enforced in Poland. The new law bans almost all retailers to open two Sundays a month this year, three per month in 2019, followed by a total ban in 2020.

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