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.
The victory of Christian forces led by Hungarian general János Hunyadi over the Ottoman Turks besieging Nándorfehérvár, today Belgrade, in 1456 has been commemorated in Budapest. After the fall of Constantinople in 1453, Sultan Mehmed II launched an attack to subjugate the Kingdom of Hungary. His immediate goal was to capture the fortress of Nándorfehérvár, whose defence was organised by Hunyadi, who had fought many battles against the Ottomans in the previous two decades. The siege eventually escalated into a major battle, during which Hunyadi led a sudden counter-attack that overran the Ottoman camp, ultimately compelling the wounded sultan to lift the siege and retreat. In 2011 Hungary’s Parliament declared 22 July a memorial day for the victory.
Estonia to close embassy in Budapest
Estonia will close its embassy in Hungary on 30 September. A non-resident ambassador will be appointed. “The good, close communication between Estonia and Hungary will continue… in both the European Union as well as NATO,” the Estonia Foreign Ministry said. “The activities of the Estonian Institute in Budapest will also continue. Croatia and Slovenia, which are located in Hungary’s consular area, will be covered by joint accreditations from other embassies.” Hungarian Foreign Minister Tibor Navracsics announced on 17 July that Hungary is planning to close its embassy in Tallinn, Estonia, for reasons of economy. He said the embassy would be merged with the Hungarian representation in Helsinki, Finland.
Rate setters wind up easing cycle with ‘bigger’ cut
The National Bank of Hungary’s Monetary Council has ended an easing cycle started almost two years ago with a bigger-than-expected 20 basis point cut. Analysts had augured a 10bp cut, as at the previous several rate-setting meetings. The reduction brought the rate to a historical low of 2.10%.
The HUF 2.6 billion project to renovate Nagyerdő park forest at Debrecen has been completed with the inauguration of a “fog theatre”, which presents images and short films of the eastern Hungarian city projected onto the sprinkles of a fountain.
Hungarians owe HUF 2,200 billion in back tax
Back taxes owed by private individuals and companies in Hungary stood at HUF 2,200 billion at 30 June, press reports citing the National Tax and Customs Authority (NAV) said. The data show 1.2 million private individuals and about 500,000 companies had arrears. About 80% was owed by extinct companies. The number of individuals and private entrepreneurs steadily in arrears – owing taxes continuously for more than 180 days – rose just 3% to 4,144 in the first half of 2014 and the minimum tax owed by them rose 3.1% to HUF 41.4 billion by 30 June, figures on NAV’s website show. The number of businesses steadily in arrears jumped 62% in the past half-year to 2,638 and they owed at least HUF 263.8 billion, more than 50% up on the end of 2013.
Water polo bronze and silver for Hungary as Serbia, Spain win
The Serbian men’s team (top) and the Spanish women’s team (bottom) won gold in the European Water Polo Championships in Budapest at the weekend. The Serbs won 12-7 against Hungary on Sunday and the Spaniards beat their Dutch opponents 10-5 on Saturday. The bronze went to Italy in the men’s tournament and to Hungary in the women’s.
Tarlós welcomes broadened powers for mayor
Broadened powers for the mayor of Budapest will allow the city’s management to be less constrained, Mayor István Tarlós has told commercial station TV2. Tarlós welcomed a Constitutional Court ruling that accepted new rules for the election of Budapest City Council, with the exception of one smaller rule on the method of calculating votes. The law was passed on 10 June and has been criticised by the opposition for hurting equal voting rights. It stipulates that 23 district mayors will be elected into the assembly, plus nine councillors from compensation lists of votes that did not return a mandate. The Constitutional Court scrapped the part of the law that would have used the method of weighing for ward size in the calculation of those compensation votes. Tarlós said the most important part of the law had been approved. He told TV2 that the mayor’s extended scope of authority is in the focus of this legislation, and with “the minimum powers” now granted it would be possible to run the city without excessive restraints, “whether the mayor is delegated by the right or left”.
OTP Bank to defend contracts in court
OTP Bank, Hungary’s biggest retail lender, and its subsidiaries OTP Mortgage Bank, Merkantil Bank and OTP Home Savings Bank will defend in court the fairness of contracts with borrowers, the lender has announced. A law recently approved by Parliament requires banks to refund borrowers whose contracts were unilaterally modified, unless lenders can prove in court that the changes were legal. The law also stipulates that banks must compensate borrowers for using exchange rate margins when calculating repayments for foreign currency-denominated loans. OTP Bank said the conditions to which the new law refers are based on expectations that were not known when the contracts were originally signed. The group expects to pay about HUF 27 billion in refunds because of the law voiding foreign exchange margins in retail loans.
A “rock movement memorial” called “The guitar was victorious over the hammer” has been inaugurated by Budapest Mayor István Tarlós in District XIII’s Rock Museum. The sculpture – designed by Nándor Hérics – is based on some well-known advertising of the communist era but the hammer is replaced by a guitar, thus showing a rock musician getting ready to trash his instrument in the ecstasy of a concert. The artwork is to symbolise Hungarian rock music, which was born during communist times.