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.
Swimming coach reconsiders resignation
László Kiss (pictured) will continue coaching the national swimming team after having initially tendered his resignation following swimming champion Katinka Hosszú’s criticism of the swimming federation. The federation’s head, Tamás Gyárfás, said on Sunday that the stalwart had decided to stay on. Gyárfás said earlier he would reject Kiss’s offer to resign, insisting that Hungarian swimming needed both Kiss and Hosszú. Hosszú, a world and European swimming champion, criticised the activities and attitude of the federation and refused to sign a contract with it in December. Kiss said on Sunday that “support was so strong, led by the prime minister, who was joined by several coaches, my former athletes, swimmers of the national team and other sportsmen; there was no way I could have come to a different decision.” Kiss said he would not further exacerbate tensions by speaking further, but would carry on working in the background for the common success of the team.
Fidesz demands Migration Aid investigation
The ruling Fidesz party has demanded an answer from Migration Aid, a charity helping migrants in Hungary, on whether a man associated with it has a criminal record. Party spokesman János Halász, citing a report by online tabloid Ripost on Monday, said Csaba Tóth, alias Baba (pictured), who allegedly had been in a top position at Migration Aid, one of the largest migrant charities, was a repeat offender. The report claimed that Migration Aid was linked to George Soros, the Hungarian-born US billionaire, Halász said. Fidesz was demanding an investigation from Migration Aid because the case “has grave risks in terms of national security”. Fidesz also wanted to know “whether Soros’s Foundation had knowledge of this”. Halász declined to take questions after a press conference. Zsuzsanna Zsohár, a former spokeswoman for Migration Aid who was at the press conference, said Toth alias Baba “does not represent” the organisation and had not worked there for a long time. Neither did Migration Aid have links with George Soros, Zsohár said.
Italians want expo pavilion
The Milan World Expo organisers have asked Hungary not to remove its pavilion from the site so that it could become part of a planned Italian Institute of Technology. An official request was sent to Hungary on January 8 asking for “The Garden of Life” pavilion to remain, government commissioner Géza Szőcs said. He called the Italian request a major success and recognition for Hungary as well as for the designers and the builders. Only five countries had been asked to leave their pavilions. Hungary was asked to provide the building for the Italian side free of charge, Szőcs said, which would save the costs of disassembly and cleanup for the Hungarian state. The government will decide on the basis of Szőcs’s proposal.
Electronic ID card rolled out
The first new one-stop biometric card combining personal identification, social security and tax identification information was issued in Budapest on Monday. The e-card, which is also suitable for providing an electronic signature, was presented by Interior Ministry state secretary László Tasnádi at the Central Office for Administrative and Electronic Public Services (KEKKH). Tasnádi said the card is a “success story” that would “open the door to digital public administration”. Its rollout was in line with the government’s goal to make public administration cheaper and more efficient, and to reduce red tape. István Ignácz, head of KEKKH, said applications for the card began on January 4 and reached 39,204 within five business days. He said 6,900 of these were to replace valid ID cards. Some 94 percent of the cards are equipped with a chip because citizens over 65 may apply for a card without an embedded chip. A total of 70 percent of the cards store fingerprints and 19 percent contain electronic signatures. Ignácz said the card was ready in two months, a “world record” considering that no other country has launched one with such complex security functions within such a short time. He said it is user-friendly and will speed up and simplify public administration for citizens. The document would be valid for six years for citizens over 18 and for three years for minors. Citizens would receive their cards within eight days of applying.
HUF 800,000 fine for Holocaust denial
Tatabánya court has fined a Dömös man for posting a comment in August denying the Holocaust in public. The comment on a community site said the Holocaust was a “sham”, and was in response to an article by Slomo Koves, chief rabbi of the Unified Hungarian Jewish Congregation. Ferenc Szabó of Tatabánya court said the man had admitted the offence and apologised, claiming it was a result of losing his temper. Esztergom court fined him 800,000 forints in a final ruling. If he does not pay, he will face 400 days in jail, Szabó said. Parliament legislated in 2010 to make denial of the Holocaust and of crimes by the Nazi regime in public punishable by up to three years imprisonment.
Hazardous waste ‘all gone’
The government had removed all the hazardous waste from a depot in District IX’s Illatos utca, the government commissioner for Pest County has said after a visit. A total of 2,493 tonnes of hazardous waste has been removed of which 1,870 tonnes has been destroyed and the remainder would be destroyed in summer, he said. The clean-up had resolved a problem that originally started as many as 140 years ago and “for long decades, everybody knew what the situation was” at the depot but nobody had been willing to act. The first barrels were removed last April.
Netflix comes to Hungary
The US media streaming service provider Netflix has started offering its services in 130 new countries including Hungary, chief executive Reed Hastings announced at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas recently. Investors welcomed the news and Netflix shares rose 6 percent on Wall Street. Hungarian subscribers can choose from three packages after an initial free trial month, in a price range of EUR 7.99-11.99 a month.