Presenting in one concise package the week’s most important and fascinating national stories, whether they be economic, political, cultural, sporting or among the hundreds of other happenings that go on daily.
Is it a bird, a plane or an exotic supercar? A Hungarian-developed concert piano that would perhaps not look out of place in “Star Wars” has made its public debut at Budapest Academy of Music. The sleek, futuristic Zengafons piano was developed under the inspiration of Kossuth Prize-winning pianist Gergely Bogányi. Among its novelties is that its soundboard – made of a multi-layered carbon composite rather than wood – and casing are suspended in the air thanks to a cantilevered construction beneath the keyboard. Musicologist András Batta said the Bogányi piano “is rooted in the Lisztian tradition but points to the future”. To illustrate its sound, Bogányi performed two Debussy pieces, followed by a short recital by four-time Grammy nominee US jazz pianist Gerald Clayton. It may look aerodynamic and robotic but the piano has a “more human, more friendly sound” than the contemporary ones and requires less maintenance, Bogányi said, adding that its qualities had even surprised its developers. Zengafons has made two “Bogányis” so far and won HUF 126 million in EU funding and HUF 60 million from the National Bank of Hungary for its development. Gábor Reisinger, head of the New York-based Klavierhaus, said the new instrument testifies that “art has gained the upper hand over industry”. He said his company would spare no effort to put the Bogányi piano on the “international piano map”.
The government-initiated social housing estate near Ócsa, south of Budapest, is now home to 350 people, business daily Napi Gazdaság has reported. Citing information from the National Asset Manager, which runs the estate, the paper said all 80 rental units are occupied by 79 families, and half of the community are children. The tenants are charged a monthly HUF 16,800 for a unit of 50 square metres, or a 70-square-metre house is HUF 21,100. The scheme, built for families unable to pay their mortgages and who lost their homes, earlier met with severe opposition criticism for its high construction costs and low comfort level.
“Walter” keeping tabs on planes
Hungarian air traffic control company HungaroControl has announced the launch of an online flight tracker system, dubbed “Walter”. Walter tracks flights around the Budapest international Liszt Ferenc Airport. Flight information can be searched back 15 days. The system was developed by the Public Transport Information Centre of the Institute of Public Transport Science. Walter can be accessed at HungaroControl’s website.
Opposition goes to town on road toll
Opposition parties have savaged the government for its changes to the new motorway toll system, saying the scheme should be scrapped altogether. County e-stickers introduced at the start of this year will be valid until the first exit in the neighbouring county, saving drivers from having to pay the toll for both counties. Some stretches of motorway, such as the bridges spanning the Danube and a section that runs to Liszt Ferenc International Airport from central Budapest, may be used free. Families with four or more children, as well as the physically disabled, will be eligible for compensation for purchasing the e-stickers. The government also decided to grant motorists a two-month grace period for an administrative fee they must pay for motorway use before purchasing a county e-sticker. The radical nationalist Jobbik party said levying a toll on bypasses had been “totally ill-considered” and should be reversed. The Socialist Party said it was keeping to a plan to hold a partial road block on January 30. József Tóbiás, the party’s leader, insisted that the government had succeeded in passing a single decision: it has made roads that became part of the toll system on January 1 free. Green party LMP said it continued to regard as unacceptable the government’s handling of the introduction of the road fee, which it called superficial and conducted without professional consultations. Bernadett Szél, the party’s co-leader, said it was regrettable that the government had failed to draw the conclusion that it should ditch the measure altogether and apologise. Instead it was standing by its flawed policy, she added. The Együtt (Together) party called for the previous state of affairs to be restored in their entirety.
The European Union’s anti-fraud office has screened public procurement deals connected to a refurbishment project of central Budapest, for alleged fraud and irregularities. OLAF told state news agency MTI that it had sent its recommendations to the European Commission and the Hungarian public prosecutor’s office, but did not disclose details of its findings. The local government of District V said it had provided OLAF with “all necessary information” about the Heart of Budapest programme, but they were not aware of any complaints about the scheme. The opposition Socialists demanded that Antal Rogán, group leader of ruling Fidesz, who had been mayor of District V, should “make a clear breast” and tell the public about the deals of the district council under his tenure. The leftist Democratic Coalition (DK) called on Rogán to give up his MP’s immunity and face an investigation. Erzsébet Gy Németh, DK’s delegate in the Budapest Council, called on Budapest Mayor István Tarlós to assist with the investigation. Governing Fidesz said OLAF had specifically screened parts of the project managed by the municipality of Budapest, which was then governed by a Socialist-Free Democrat coalition.
Colleen Bradley Bell, the new United States ambassador to Hungary, posted a short welcome message on YouTube following her delayed arrival last week. “I look forward to working together to pursue our common goals in regional security, stability in the Balkans, energy independence and the promotion of democracy in Europe’s east,” Bell said. She called Hungary a strong ally of the US. Bell presented her credentials to President János Áder, who hosted a formal lunch in her honour. Meanwhile, the Foreign Ministry announced that the US will not lift the diplomatic immunity of André Goodfriend, who served as US Chargé d’affaires while Budapest awaited Bell. Levente Magyar, state secretary for economic diplomatic relations, said the Hungarian government now regards the case, in a legal sense, closed.