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.
Title defender Győri Audi ETO KC won the handball ladies’ Champions League Final Four in Papp László Budapest Sportaréna after defeating Montenegrin Buducnost Podgorica 27-21 on Sunday. Győr won the series without suffering a single defeat in its 14 games (12 victories, two draws) and became the first Hungarian team ever to defend a European cup title. The four teams played their games before a capacity crowd, making the event slightly profitable. As a result there is a possibility that Hungary could also host the Final Four next year, Hungarian Handball Federation president Iván Vetési told sports network Digi Sport. Pictured with the trophy is team captain and top scorer of the Champions League series Anita Görbicz.
Big screen claws back attendances
Cinema ticket sales came to HUF 13.2 billion last year, up from HUF 11.9 billion in 2012, business daily Világgazdaság has reported. The number of cinema-goers rose to 9.9 million from 9.4 million, Hungarian Film Distributors Association head Sándor Feldmájer told the paper. Ticket sales were still down from 12 million in 2006, Világgazdaság said.
Hungarian property developer Futureal has announced it will build a EUR 170 million office building at the Kelenföld terminus of Budapest’s new M4 metro line. Construction of the 70,000-square-metre Budapest One building will start in early 2015 and wind up in early 2017.
Hungary ‘spying hotbed’ over Ukraine
Russian intelligence agents are increasingly active in Hungary as a result of the Ukraine crisis, working in semi-secret and clandestine operations, daily Magyar Nemzet has reported, citing unnamed Hungarian army sources. Hungary, on the borderline between the European Union and Ukraine, functions as a unique buffer zone where Western and Eastern powers attempt to gather information about each other, the paper said. The tasks for Hungarian counter-intelligence services have increased and they are in need of extra resources, it added.
Media freedom remains a concern: NGO
Freedom House says Hungary’s media situation still only merits its “partly free” hallmark. The US-based democracy and rights non-governmental organisation gave Hungary higher marks in its 2013 global media freedom report, ranking Hungary 71th on its global list of 197 countries, with press freedom scoring 35 out of 100. Its 2012 report ranked Hungary 74th with a press freedom score of 36. Hungary, which was downgraded to “partly free” in 2011, remained largely unchanged in 2013, Freedom House said, adding that there are “serious and persistent concerns” that the extensive legislative and regulatory changes since 2010 have had a negative impact on media freedom. It also noted in a positive development that Klubrádió, a station critical of the ruling Fidesz party, had its main frequency restored in 2013 after several lengthy court battles, adding that “Hungary enjoys a broad array of print, broadcast and online media . The media landscape is dominated by private companies, with high levels of foreign investment in national and local newspapers.”
The erection of a monument to commemorate the victims of German occupation is “morally exact and immaculate”, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has said in his latest pronouncement on the controversy. He said the Hungarian leadership of the time should be held responsible for the events but without the German occupation of March 1944 there would not have been deportations. Orbán wrote a four-page letter published by news portal origo.hu in response to comments by a member of the Hungarian Arts Academy. “To set up a memorial to hundreds of thousands of innocent victims is not only the right thing to do but a moral obligation,” he said in his reply. In his opinion it was not Nazis but Germans who had occupied Hungary, and the symbol of the eagle of the German Empire depicted in the statue was not a matter of any concern. Several civil groups and parties of the leftist opposition have sharply criticised the plan for the monument, insisting the government wants to diminish the Hungarian state’s responsibility for the Holocaust. Police have removed protesters from the Szabadság tér construction site after a number of demonstrations.
Head a bank, top the rich list
Sándor Csányi, chief of OTP Bank, again heads Napi.hu’s Hungarian rich list, keeping the top spot for the third year in a row. Second is László Bige, the owner of Nitrogénművek Zrt., and third is György Gattyán, who made his fortune in online erotica, Napi.hu said ahead of publication of its “100 richest” on Thursday. To make the list you’d need at least HUF 5.3 billion, HUF 400 million more than last year. The only woman included is Erika Kósa, the head of a financial consulting company.
Tippin Corporation of Canada has begun the EUR 100 million renovation of the former Exchange Palace in Budapest’s Szabadság tér. The 35,000-square-metres of office and retail space are expected to open at some point in 2017. The building was designed by Hungarian architect Ignác Alpár, who was also responsible for the National Bank of Hungary opposite, and at one point the Budapest stock exchange was the largest in Europe, both in floor area and trading volume. The exchange operated until 1948, the building then became the Lenin Institute, and between 1955 and 2009 the headquarters of Hungarian Television (MTV).
Daimler starts third shift at Kecskemét
German carmaker Daimler launched a third shift at its plant in Kecskemét on Monday. Human resources manager of Mercedes-Benz Manufacturing Hungary László Ács said headcount at the factory has reached 3,500. The EUR 800 million Hungarian unit of Daimler opened in March 2012 and is home to the CLA series. Last year the Kecskemét plant produced more than 109,000 vehicles.