The Budapest Times is unrivalled among English-language print publications in the capital for its coverage of the week’s most important national stories, whether they be economic, political, cultural, sporting or among the hundreds of other happenings that go on daily in a major European city. Here, in one concise package, we present some of the important and fascinating news developments of the past seven days.
Protesters demand autonomy for Szekler Land
Thousands gathered in Budapest’s Heroes Square on Monday to demand territorial autonomy for Szekler Land in Romania. Árpád György-Mózes, head of the For Szekler Land Society, read out a petition calling on the Romanian government to respect human rights and start negotiations with organisations advocating autonomy for Szekler Land. He said the demonstration was to remind the Romanian government that Szeklers’ love of freedom and desire for autonomy is just as strong as it was 160 years ago when three Szekler martyrs revolting against Habsburg rule were executed. György-Mózes referred to Romania’s earlier pledge to ensure self-government for ethnic minorities in areas where they constituted a majority, and warned that the country’s planned administrative reform would probably involve integrating Szekler Land into other regions with a Romanian majority, which would “eliminate the remaining institutions of Szekler interest representation”. The petition was read out at similar events in 19 other cities across the world, including Targu Mures (previously Marosvásárhely) in Romania, Bratislava, Vienna, London and cities in the US and Canada, he said.
Hungarian boxer Zsolt Erdei beat Georgia’s Shalva Jomardashvili in a match for the WBO European Champion belt in Kecskemét, after which the 39-year-old Erdei announced his retirement from competitive boxing. He will continue in the sport as a coach. Erdei is the former undefeated WBO light-heavyweight champion, WBC cruiserweight champion and the first Hungarian to win a world title in two weight divisions. He boxed at the 2000 Summer Olympics, where he won a bronze medal in the middleweight division. He won 33 of his 34 professional fights, the only defeat coming last year at the hands of Russian Denis Grachev in a controversial split decision.
New British business centre to focus on SMEs
UK Minister for Trade and Investment Ian Livingstone and Hungarian National Development Minister Zsuzsanna Németh inaugurated the British Business Centre in Budapest last Friday. Németh said the centre would further strengthen trade ties with the UK, the seventh-biggest investor in Hungary. Livingstone said the aim of his visit was to help the UK double the volume of trade with Central and Eastern Europe to 30 billion pounds by 2020. The number of UK firms present in Hungary is 4,700. The centre was established by the British Embassy, the British government’s trade development and investment agency UKTI and the British Chamber of Commerce in Hungary. It occupies office space in central Budapest’s newly renovated Eiffel Palace. UK Ambassador to Hungary Jonathan Knott told business daily Napi Gazdaság the focus will be on small- and medium-sized companies (SMEs), a barely tapped market in Hungary. Most of the 40 firms that have expressed interest in investing in Hungary are SMEs from the energy, security technology sector and equestrian gear makers, as well as high-tech, low-tech and b2b or b2c companies, Knott said. The most attractive feature of the Hungarian market is that it is practically unknown territory for British companies, so it is a completely fresh market for certain British brands, he said. Moreover, it was only a two-hour flight, which made it an attractive and easy market. The only obstacle in the way of business was a lack of information on both the Hungarian and British side.
Activists from Greenpeace Hungary used the “White House” (the building housing the offices of MPs) as a canvas to project “Stop Paks 2”, “Fukushima” and the nuclear version of the famous Scream mask on the third anniversary of the nuclear catastrophe in Fukushima, Japan. The intention of the flash mob was to raise awareness of nuclear dangers and to call on MPs to reject the expansion of the Paks nuclear power plant. “Hungary has the option to fulfil the energy needs of its citizens with alternative energies, so we don’t have to live with the dangers and pollution of nuclear energy,” said Brigitta Bozsó, the head of the organisation’s climate and energy campaign.
CIB continues online home auctions
CIB Group is following up last year’s successes by continuing its series of online property auctions. Almost 50 residential properties will be offered for sale in next month’s auction from 9-11 April. They can be viewed online at www.cibingatlanaukcio.hu.
Count on us to get it right: Jobbik leader
The radical nationalist Jobbik party has four years of experience in Parliament, a good programme and “excellent” candidates for the forthcoming election that should bring about change after 24 years of failed governing, party leader Gábor Vona said this week. The main pillars of Jobbik’s programme are livelihood, ensuring fair wages and pensions; order, public safety and the peace of citizens and families; and accountability, especially for corrupt politicians, Vona said in Kecskemét. He pledged to scrap parliamentary immunity and double for a politician or a parliamentary deputy the sentence an ordinary citizen would receive for the same crime. He pledged to declassify all records and documents. Jobbik was already earlier popular among youth and men but now has become increasingly popular among older people and women, Vona said.
Disgraced former senior Socialist official Gábor Simon has been arrested on charges of forging documents in connection with his recently discovered undeclared assets, the Central Investigating Chief Prosecutor’s Office said on Monday. Spokesman Imre Keresztes said Simon, a former Socialist deputy chairman and MP, was taken into custody after questioning. He is suspected of having asked a friend to open a bank account in his name with a Hungarian bank, using a forged passport from a southern African country. The evidence strongly suggests Simon was an accessory to forgery, the investigating prosecutor’s statement said. Keresztes said the prosecutor’s office had decided to take Simon into custody because it was assumed he would attempt to influence witnesses and destroy, forge or hide documents to prevent or endanger the investigation. Simon quit as the party’s deputy leader and gave up his seat in Parliament in February after reports that he had undeclared assets worth 240 million forints (EUR 780,000) in an Austrian bank account. Parliament’s immunity committee is also investigating.