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.
Smuggled ‘family silver’ comes home
Seven pieces of silverware from the late Roman Empire known as the Seuso treasure have been reacquired by Hungary. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said the government had spent EUR 15 million to recover “Hungary’s family silver”. “Given that it’s ours, it is better for it to be here rather than elsewhere,” he said. “This is why we decided to bring it home. If a country has power and prestige, it is able to reacquire what belongs to it.” László Baán, director of Budapest Museum of Fine Arts, called the purchase a “historic moment”. The silverware, thought to have originated in the town of Polgárdi near Lake Balaton, will be on display, free-of-charge, in Parliament. It had been kept in a vault of London auctioneer Bonhams during a dispute over provenance. Baán said that later it will probably be one of the “gems” of the Museum Quarter to be established in City Park. Half of the 14 pieces from the late Roman Empire, including the famous Seuso dish, have now been returned. Recovering the remaining pieces would only be a matter of time, he said. Hungary’s re-acquisition of the Seuso silver collection is “joyful news”, the head of the German Archaeology Institute’s Frankfurt-based Roman-Germanic research institute told state news agency MTI. Eszter Bánffy noted that the Seuso treasure is one of the most important such collections from late antiquity, and insisted that experts were convinced the tableware is from the Lake Balaton area. Referring to Hungary’s earlier efforts to recover the collection from the United Kingdom, Bánffy said it had been “terrible” to see a New York court dismissing Hungary’s arguments while they supported evidence that “the treasures were smuggled out of Hungary”.
Hungary joins Earth Hour
Non-essential lights were turned off for an hour in a number of Hungarian cities on Saturday to celebrate Earth Hour, a movement for the planet organised by the World Wide Fund for Nature. The event is held worldwide annually encouraging individuals, communities, households and businesses to turn off their non-essential lights for one hour, from 8.30-9.30pm on the last Saturday in March, as a symbol for their commitment to the planet. Pictured is the Catholic cathedral in Nyíregyháza before and after turning off lights. In Budapest, Liszt Ferenc International Airport joined the event for the fourth time by closing one runway, switching off the related lights and reducing energy consumption in passenger circulation areas and in the nearly 300 buildings at the airport.
Russia sanctions harmful for Hungary: PM
Economic sanctions against Russia would “best be avoided” because these are neither in the interest of Europe nor Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has told business daily Világgazdaság. Asked whether the Crimea crisis could influence the expansion of Hungary’s sole Paks nuclear power plant, for which the country is taking out a big loan from Russia, Orbán replied: “It has not exercised an influence yet and we would like it to stay this way. The European Union has decided to use a three-stage sanction process. Now we are at the second stage, which involves freezing political relations and declaring certain individuals undesirable. The third stage is economic sanctions, which would best be avoided, as this is not in Europe’s interest and especially not in Hungary’s.”.
Left, right, left, right: best feet forward for poll victory
A pro-government event called Peace March organised by the Civil Union Forum (CÖF) was held in Budapest (pictured top) on Saturday, with the crowd estimated at 440,000-460,000 by the Interior Ministry. Fidesz supporters from around the country started off from the Parliament building for Heroes’ Square, where Prime Minister Viktor Orbán delivered a speech. The marchers were met by protesters holding flags with images of Orbán and Russian President Vladimir Putin, a reference to Hungary’s agreement with Russia to upgrade the Paks nuclear power plant. Orbán asked Hungarians for another four years. He said his government had restructured and modernised Hungary, “building a dependable, fast, intrepid racing car from a run-down, sputtering jalopy with flats”. When the “unprecedented history” of these four years is recounted, it would be written that Hungarians created in 2010 a unity “unmatched” in modern Europe and introduced the equitable sharing of the public burden, even for banks and multinational companies, he said. The following day the five parties of the opposition left alliance Governmental Change held a similar gathering. The election this Sunday will be about choosing between the East and the West, they said. Socialist chairman Attila Mesterházy promised the crowd genuine workplaces, honest wages, an economic policy that supports growth and a just social policy. He called the government “Horthyist” in terms of ideology, “feudalist” in approach and “Bolshevik” in view of its exercise of power. Democratic Coalition leader Ferenc Gyurcsány added: “We will send Orbán to where he belongs, to the dustbin of history and politics.”
US ready to export liquefied natural gas to CEE
The US is ready to help out countries in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) by exporting liquefied natural gas (LNG) to them, Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner has said after meeting Anita Orbán, Hungary’s ambassador for energy security. Noting US President Barack Obama’s recent attendance at the nuclear summit in The Hague, Boehner told the ambassador: “I hope he uses this as an opportunity to discuss how we can help the Europeans reduce their dependence on [Russian President] Vladimir Putin. Expediting the approval of US natural gas exports would send a clear signal that Russia’s energy stranglehold on Europe will not continue. The best way we can help them is to circumvent their vulnerability by meeting their energy needs,” Boehner said, referring to CEE. Anita Orbán told state news agency MTI she had noted at her meeting with Boehner that the Washington ambassadors of the Visegrád Group had written to the leaders of Congress at the beginning of March, urging them to support the release of a permit to export LNG to Europe, especially for the purpose of securing the energy security of CEE.
Erzsébet tér better
The renovated Erzsébet tér Cultural Centre and Park was inaugurated on Sunday, marking the end of a 10-year, HUF 2.5 billion refurbishment. One of the most important features of the development is a concert hall with seating capacity of 1,300, but the grounds can host three simultaneous musical events with a capacity of 300 each. To quench the thirst, a 40-metre bar has been established, while those longing to get familiar with Hungarian wine and pálinka culture can opt for Prosit right next door.