Presenting in one concise package the holiday season’s most fascinating stories, whether they be economic, political, cultural, sporting or among the hundreds of other happenings that went on every day.
Some 150 tonnes of waste were collected from Budapest’s public areas on January 1, 50 tonnes more than after New Year festivities a year ago, a spokesperson for the company in charge of municipal areas, FKF, told public television M1. Gabriella Dorogi said FKF’s fleet of 300 trucks and staff of 330 had set to the streets and subways at 6am on New Year’s Day to remove litter after the many parties. Dorogi said the clean-up was concluded in the afternoon.
Phones lost to 2015
Tens of thousands of smartphones are estimated as having been mislaid at New Year parties in Hungary, a consultant to Sicontact, the distributor of IT security company ESET in Hungary, says. Péter Béres added that “knowing the nosiness of Hungarians” and because most phones are not secured, over 60 per cent of those who find a phone will look at its contents. Citing an ESET survey, Béres said 138,000 cellphones and laptops are lost in the UK at Christmas parties, 64 per cent of them with no data protection. The British study was based on a survey of 600 bars, and concluded that an average 12 phones or laptops are left at one place, with 83 percent returned to their owners. Nearly two-thirds of the respondents said they would peep into a phone found if it was not locked.
Bernd Storck, the German head coach of Hungary’s national football team, welcomed the result of the Euro 2016 draw last month, which put Hungary in Group F with Portugal, Iceland and Austria. Storck told public television channel M4 Sport that they are difficult opponents but he is happy with them. It would be a great opportunity for Hungary’s players to showcase their talent to the world. The tournament will be held in France from June 10 to July 10. Spain are two-time defending champions. For the first time, 24 teams will compete, not 16, Six group winners, six runners-up and the best four third-placed teams advance to the last 16. Hungary will play Austria in Bordeaux on June 14, Iceland in Marseille on June 18 and Portugal in Lyon on June 22. Austria and Portugal won their qualifying groups, Iceland was runner-up and Hungary qualified via a play-off after coming third in its group.
‘A million’ boozy Magyars
The number of alcohol addicts in Hungary could go up to one million from the current 800,000 within a couple of years, toxicologist Gábor Zacher believes. Drinking as an issue affects almost all families one way or the other since there are 30,000 people who die of an alcohol-related illness in the country each year, and another 2.5 million with the drive to take in excessive amounts, he told public television channel M1. What qualifies one as an alcoholic is not the amount consumed but the extent to which drinking overwhelms one’s day to day life as a habit, Zacher said. Adding to the problem was Hungary’s lack of a comprehensive strategy to combat alcoholism or a psychological assistance programme aimed at prevention.
Attila Kulcsár, the former broker of K+H Equities, has been jailed for six years and six months and fined HUF 230 million for embezzlement and other crimes. The ruling was passed in a retrial by the Municipal Court of Budapest and it is appealable. Bank executive Tibor Rejtő and businessman-journalist Tamás Forró were acquitted in the retrial. Kulcsár was engaged in a multi-year court case into what was seen as one of the biggest party financing scandals in Hungary’s history. The scandal emerged in 2003 when he was charged with embezzlement, money laundering, corruption, possessing stolen goods and serving as an accessory to crimes. The prosecution charged him with investing HUF 23 billion from clients’ deposits without authorisation between 1998 and 2003. The prosecution said clients consequently lost HUF 8 billion. Some of Kulcsár’s victims had been state companies and local governments. Kulcsár was first indicted in 2005. In 2008 the Budapest court sentenced him to eight years jail and a fine of HUF 230 million in a first-instance ruling. After several appeals the case was referred to the Budapest Court of Appeals in 2010. The court threw out the first-instance ruling and ordered a retrial. The retrial judge said Kulcsár had given contradicting testimonies throughout and “changed his defence strategy in terms of which charges he was willing to confess to” several times. Kulcsár had tried to “take control” of the trial, although several of his accounts had turned out to be accurate and consistent with some other evidence.
Bamako rally ‘won’t bow to terror’
Organisers of the Budapest-Bamako rally from January 15-31 say the event is still on after terror attacks in the Mali capital in November. Twenty-two people were killed and 14 wounded in the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako when terrorists took hostages. Later three people were killed in a rocket attack on a UN peacekeepers base in northern Mali. The organisers said after the hotel attack that they had requested the Interior Ministry of Mali for a review of the current security protocols and an increase of security measures. “We’re deeply shocked and saddened by the barbaric terror attack,” a rally spokesman said. “For the past 11 years the ghost of terrorism has been haunting the Budapest-Bamako, much like it’s been haunting our entire world. People have been asking us all day: is the Budapest-Bamako safe? We can only answer with more questions. Is it safe to go to a rock concert in Paris? Is it safe to attend a funeral in Baghdad? Is it safe to go to a disco in Bali? Is it safe to run the Boston marathon or go to work in the morning in New York?” The organisers say their job is to provide the highest level of security and protection during the rally. We, as people can only do two things to fight terrorism: live our lives and not fear. We can’t allow anyone to keep us in fear. If we cancelled we’d bow down to terrorism and hand victory over to the evil doers. By letting the rally take place we give the freedom to choose to all participants. Whether you want to stay at home or join the caravan to Bamako, it is your own personal free choice and it should always remain that way.”
Hungarian-born American cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond died at the age of 85 on January 1. Zsigmond won an Academy Award for Best Cinematography for “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” (1977) and received Oscar nominations for “The Deer Hunter” (1978), “The River” (1984) and “The Black Dahlia” (2006). Born in Szeged in 1930, he studied cinema at the Academy of Drama and Film in Budapest, graduating in 1955. One year later he and fellow student László Kovács escaped from Hungary with about 10,000 metres of footage of the anti-Soviet Uprising. The two friends settled in the United States where Zsigmond became a citizen in 1962. He started his career working on low-budget independent and educational films, but graduated to work with directors Robert Altman on “The Long Goodbye” and Steven Spielberg on “The Sugarland Express”. Zsigmond received Britain’s BAFTA in 1978 for “Deer Hunter”, which he considered his best work. He received a Life Achievement Award in Cannes in 2014.
Experts are still examining the seven pieces of the late-Roman Seuso silver collection reacquired by Hungary in March 2014, daily Népszabadság has said. The collection could be put on permanent display in the National Museum this year, Director-General László Csorba said. The silver trays and jugs are believed to have been part of the tableware used in a rich villa in the Balaton area, then part of the Roman Empire, in the 4th century. Following a lengthy international dispute over the ownership of the treasure, which had been smuggled out of the country and ended up in Britain, the Hungarian government recovered the seven pieces for EUR 15 million.
President of Hungary János Áder focused on the importance of “love, empathy, assistance, goodwill and humility” in his address televised in the first minutes of 2016. “Let love be our compass,” Áder said, and wished peace to Europe and the world, success to Hungary and a “very happy New Year” to its people. He advised that New Year’s wishes should be complete with “compassion for people in trouble, readiness to help the poor or the disabled, assistance to people who cannot find their way in the world and a humble attitude towards our natural environment”. Referring to terror attacks of 2015, Áder said “there is no greater treasure than the safety of our country and loved ones”.
The opposition Democratic Coalition (DK) has accused Minister in charge of the Prime Minister’s Office János Lázár of participating in a hunt where, according to several photographs received by DK, he is shown standing behind a boy holding a rifle, and in another “holding a rod at an initiation ceremony” for minors. DK spokesman Zsolt Gréczy said the law is that only persons over the age of 18 can receive a hunting permit in Hungary, and handing over a rifle to a person who does not have a licence to handle it is a crime. Gréczy said the investigation authorities need to clarify whether Lazar was an offender, personally handing over the rifle to the minor, or just an accomplice, being aware that the rifle had been handed over. Gréczy cited Minister of Agriculture Sandor Fazekas as telling Parliament that a hunter handing over his rifle to a child qualifies as a severe violation of the law, and raises the suspicion of misuse of weapons or ammunition. He said the photos had been sent by an unknown person in an envelope. The place or date of the hunt was unknown but it was assumed that the photos were taken this autumn. Lázár replied that he was a guest at the hunt with his family and he was not associated with the person holding a rifle in the photo. He said he is ready to undergo any investigation.
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”, the latest in the sci-fi franchise, has broken several box-office records in Hungary. On the film’s opening weekend, it drew 282,265 viewers over three days, generating HUF 413 million in receipts. On the Friday it broke the record for daily box-office revenue and on the Saturday it did so for daily number of viewers on any day in Hungary. The earlier record for the number of viewers was held by 2005 Star Wars instalment “Revenge of the Sith”, which drew 244,444 people. The box-office revenue record was previously held by “The Minions” with HUF 284 million. Both of these needed four days to set their records, whereas “The Force Awakens” needed just three.
The Hóman Bálint Foundation has dropped plans to erect a statue to its namesake, the Horthy-era politician, in Székesfehérvár. The foundation notified the mayor, András Cser-Palkovics, in a letter, and he submitted a motion to withdraw support of HUF 2 million approved by the council in June. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán earlier said he did not support plans for the statue. Gábor Kováts, the Hóman foundation’s head, insisted that Homan’s “contributions to the nation and the city” justified a statue in his honour. The plans elicited sharp protest both in Hungary and abroad from Jewish organisations, US congressmen, diplomats and others. The Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities said “in a democratic country there is no place for a statue for an anti-Semite”.
Lost war photos on show
An exhibition presenting rediscovered negatives taken by Hungarian photographer Robert Capa and two fellow photojournalists during the Spanish Civil War has opened at the OSA archives in Budapest. “The Mexican Suitcase” exhibition focuses on the story of the suitcase that contained about 4,500 negatives by Capa, Gerda Taro and Chim arranged in three small boxes carrying a caption each. When the war ended in 1939, the negatives went from hand to hand for safekeeping and ended up in Mexico City, where they resurfaced in 2007. They finally entered the Capa collection of the New York International Centre of Photography in that year with the help of Irish film director Trisha Ziff.