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.
Singer Robbie Williams debuted his new world tour “Swing Both Ways Live” with a concert in Budapest’s Papp László Sportaréna in late April. The nearly 50 tons of equipment arrived in 18 semi-trucks, eight buses and four smaller trucks, and the 80-man staff was extended by 120 locals assisting in building the stage. The 40-year-old former Take That member is the most successful British singer ever, selling 60 million albums and 11 million singles during his solo career alone.
Wizz Air to open base in Riga
Hungarian low-cost airline Wizz Air will open a base in Latvian capital Riga on 19 June, with a new Airbus-320 aircraft, a Ukrainian economic news portal has reported. Russian-language website delo.ua said Wizz Air will launch flights from Riga to four new destinations: Barcelona, Doncaster Sheffield, Dortmund and Paris. Wizz Air will also increase the frequency of its London flights to eight per week and its Oslo flights to three per week. The airline will operate 25 flights a week from Riga to eight destinations.
It is important to entice successful Hungarian scientists in the US into returning home so that they can transfer their knowledge and skills, President János Áder told public television in an interview at the Hungarian consulate in New York before opening an interactive exhibition on the Rubik Cube at the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City. It would even be useful if they returned for six months, he said, calling for regular contacts between Hungary and its scientists working in the US. The Rubik Cube, invented by Ernő Rubik, is one of the greatest Hungarian inventions, Áder said. The world’s first and largest exhibition celebrating its 40th anniversary features games, puzzles, art and engineering inspired by Rubik’s best-selling masterpiece. The exhibition will be open in the Liberty for nine months before travelling the world for seven years with a stop-over in Budapest.
Parliament committee ‘gesture’ to opposition
Hungary’s next parliament will have 15 committees under an agreement reached during preparatory talks ahead of the first session on 6 May. Opposition parties will delegate heads to five committees. Fidesz lawmaker Antal Rogán said the ruling parties had been “restrained and generous” in the negotiations, giving the opposition parties more positions on various committees than justified by the size of their parliamentary groups.
EC targets Hungarian plaza ban
The European Commission has launched an infringement procedure against Hungary over its ban on the construction of big shopping centres. An EC spokesman was unavailable for comment. A spokesman for governing Fidesz said the “bureaucrats in Brussels” were again taking the side of multinationals, instead of national interests. Péter Hoppál said Fidesz continued to back the “plaza ban” that supports Hungarian small and medium enterprises. The halt to building shopping centres over 300 square metres was introduced in 2012 and is set to expire in December. It aimed to pave the way for a balanced structure of retail trade, the government said in 2012. Opponents say the government is using the idea of protecting small business to cover up favours granted to companies close to Fidesz. A review committee has granted seven exemptions from the ban.
A small group of demonstrators started a sit-in protest at the site of a planned monument to victims of the German occupation of Hungary in 1944 in central Budapest’s Szabadság Square in late April. Fruzsina Magyar, a spokesperson for the protesters, told MTI state news agency they had arrived at 5.30am, determined to physically prevent construction. She said they would “hold out to the end”. Construction workers had arrived at around 6am but left soon after, Magyar said. Police did not take action. Protesters have removed the fence around the controversial site several times since 8 April, when the foundations were laid two days after the government was re-elected. The structure is scheduled to be completed by 31 May. Several civil groups and parties of the leftist opposition sharply criticised the plan, insisting the government wants to diminish the Hungarian state’s participation in the Holocaust. The government says the monument is to pay equal tribute to all victims of the Nazi occupation.
US urges dialogue on Holocaust commemoration
The US embassy in Budapest says the Hungarian government should fulfil its promise to engage in dialogue with Jewish groups and civil society over state Holocaust commemorations. Referring to the monument to the victims of the 1944 German occupation being built in central Budapest, the embassy noted “significant concerns raised within Hungarian society to government proposals related to this anniversary year… Hungarians from all walks of life, Jewish organisations, civil society groups and Hungary’s international partners have expressed reservations about these plans”. The embassy noted that it had supported the commemoration of “the events of 70 years ago when Nazi forces and their Hungarian allies rounded up and deported Hungarian Jews, Roma and other minorities”. However, the government should fulfil its promise to resume dialogue after Easter “with stakeholders concerned about Memorial Year plans. Constructive engagement between a government and its citizens is a hallmark of good democratic governance… genuine dialogue would demonstrate the government’s commitment to discussing openly and transparently important issues even with those who may at times disagree with the government position”.
A nearly 10-kilogram alligator snapping turtle that was first seen in early April has been captured in the creek below the Biatorbágy viaduct by two experts of the White Cross Animal Protection League, one of whom suffered superficial injuries after being bitten. The alligator snapping turtle is the largest freshwater turtle in the world based on weight. If provoked, its powerful jaws can easily snap off a person’s fingers.