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.
Budapest Taxi has introduced 50 compressed natural gas-powered Opel Zafiras and two fully electric Nissan Leafs into its fleet. According to CEO Csaba Horváth, the development will reduce carbon-monoxide output by seven tons a year, but the further expansion of the electric fleet will only be possible if the number of charging stations in the capital is increased. Currently there are 37 such stations in Budapest, the use of which is free of charge for now.
The Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (TASZ) says it will ask the health state secretary’s office why abortion pills are not available in Hungary despite having passed safety tests by the National Institute for Quality and Organisational Development in Healthcare and Medicines (GYEMSZI). TASZ programme leader Rita Bence said the GYEMSZI had made the results available after a hiatus of two years, and these show that the abortion pill is safe and can be used in line with current abortion regulations and professional medical positions. The office of the state secretary of health earlier told TASZ that “risks connected with the use of the pill are still a subject of dispute”, so now TASZ is asking the office in an open letter to reveal what “hidden risks” are suspected. The GYEMSZI approved the use of the abortion pill in 2012 but the official documents on their tests have only been made available now, TASZ said. The GYEMSZI gave its approval for the distribution of the pill for five years. Bence also cited a 2005 position by the Hungarian College of Gynaecology and Obstetrics stating that the introduction of the abortion pill would not result in an increase in the number of abortions, and its use is less risky than surgical abortions.
Protesters against German occupation statue
Activists held a demonstration in Budapest at the weekend against the government’s plans for a statue to commemorate the victims of German occupation in the Second World War. The demonstrators, who organised the event through a Facebook group, aimed to prevent the establishment of “a political symbol which advertises historical lies”, one of the organisers, Péter Béndek, said. The government’s goal was to relieve the nation of the responsibilities of its past and present, for which it has no authority, knowledge or a moral basis, he said.
Fidesz pledges post-poll FX loan action
Legislation affecting lending in foreign currency will be drafted no sooner than May once the European Court of Justice and the Kúria, Hungary’s supreme court, have made relevant decisions, a ruling Fidesz MP has said. Fidesz can promise a solution to FX loans by the end of the coming governing cycle, following decisions by the Kúria and the Constitutional Court, Gergely Gulyás told commercial television TV2. He noted the importance of maintaining the stability of the banking system while managing the situation. The Kúria ruled in December that FX loans were valid, but said it was waiting for the European Court’s stand on questions regarding unilateral changes to loan contracts as well as exchange rate margins. Hungary’s Constitutional Court ruled this month that FX loan contracts may be modified through legislation, in an equitable manner, if changed circumstances violate the legal interests of the parties involved.
An exhibition of Hungarian self-portraits from the famed collection of Florence’s Uffizi Gallery was the first event opening the 34th Budapest Spring Festival in Budapest History Museum last Friday. The exhibition features 24 canvases by painters Pál Szinyei-Merse, József Rippl-Rónai and László Lakner, among others, from the rare Uffizi collection. The festival runs until 6 April and will offer 172 events at 58 venues including classical and contemporary music, theatre and fine arts. Some of the highlights include US composer and pianist Philip Glass, the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Zubin Mehta and the first Madách Imre International Theatre Festival.
Motorists promised an easier ride
Motorways in Hungary should reach the country’s borders by 2020, to bring closer ethnic Hungarians living in neighbouring countries, cabinet head János Lázár has told a forum in Hódmezővásárhely. He noted the missing sections of the M3 motorway in the direction of Kosice (Kassa) in Slovakia, the M43 to Nadlac (Nagylak), Romania, and the M6 towards the Croatian border. Lázár said that after relieving households of their foreign-exchange home loan stocks, it is equally important to assist car buyers who are indebted in a foreign currency.
Balaton towns push their luck for casinos
Three towns around Lake Balaton are lobbying for casino licences, business daily Világgazdaság reported. Hévíz, Balatonfüred and Siófok have all signalled to the government that they want the licences but only two are likely to get their wish, the paper said. Legislation limits the number of casinos in the west of the country to three, and Sopron, near the Austrian border, already has one.
Consumer confidence improves, business confidence stable
GKI-Erste’s combined gauge of consumer and business confidence rose in March to minus 0.7 points from minus 2.1 in February. The business confidence index fell to 4.7 points from 4.9 in February. Industrial expectations worsened slightly in March, while those of trade and service companies improved slightly, and those of construction companies remained unchanged. More businesses planned new hires except in the construction industry. The outlook for the Hungarian economy as a whole improved. The consumer confidence index rose to minus 15.9 points from minus 22.0 in February, reaching an eight-year peak. Households’ assessment of their own financial positions and their ability to make savings in the coming 12 months improved. More saw the chance to make big-ticket purchases and they were more optimistic about the outlook for the economy.
The Hungarian Press Photo Exhibition opened in the Capa Centre of Contemporary Photography in Budapest on Thursday and runs until 18 May. This follows the “City in Turmoil” exhibition showing 70 pictures by seven Hungarian press photographers of the recent street turmoil in Kiev that deposed the country’s president..