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.
President of the Republic János Áder has convened Hungary’s new Parliament for 6 May, fulfilling the constitutional obligation to do so within 30 days of the general election. Áder will open the session and nominate the next prime minister, who will be elected with a simple majority of votes. The founding session will also elect a parliamentary Speaker, the deputy Speakers and the notaries in a secret ballot. After the vote the heads of the National Election Office and the National Election Committee will present their reports on the 6 April general election. The formation of the parties’ parliamentary groups will be announced. Ruling Fidesz and the Christian Democrats have secured 133 seats in the smaller Parliament – see the before and after shot of the downsized chamber to the left – meaning a two-thirds supermajority. The left-of-centre opposition alliance will sit in separate groups: Socialists (29 seats), E-PM (4), Democratic Coalition (4) and the Liberal Party (1). Radical nationalist Jobbik will have 23 and green LMP five MPs.
Hungary reopens consulate general in Toronto
Hungary has reopened its consulate general in Toronto, Canada, after its closure by the previous government in 2009. Deputy state secretary at the Foreign Ministry Szabolcs Takács said the reopening is an important measure implemented under the new nation policy launched by the government in 2010. Under the policy a fast-track citizenship procedure had been introduced and efforts had been made for opening permanent missions in countries where a significant number of Hungarians live, Takács said.
After marketing the English, German, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese and Korean versions, Hungarian presentation software developer Prezi will release a Hungarian-language edition too. The company, which has redefined presentations with its 3D interface, is celebrating five years in the business and will open a social incubator called Prezi House of Ideas in Budapest, for conferences and workshops. Prezi, founded by three young Hungarians in 2009, has more than 40 million users worldwide and head offices in San Francisco and Budapest.
EC challenges Hungary on three issues
The European Commission has taken three infringement procedures against Hungary to the next level, concerning anti-trust law for the farm sector, excise duties on spirits and trade of tobacco products. The Ministry for National Economy said the government does not want to modify excise duty regulations because it believes these conform to European Union law. It would defend this position before the European Court of Justice if necessary. In each case, the Commission requested that Hungary act in a “reasoned opinion”, the second step of EU infringement procedures. If a country fails to bring domestic legislation in line with EU law, the EC may proceed to the European Court of Justice. The EC asked Hungary to comply with rules that require cartel members be fined, noting that the country had earlier adopted a law “which essentially prevents the Hungarian competition authority from sanctioning cartels on agricultural products”. The Commission requested Hungary apply one, rather than two, excise duty rates on spirits, as required by an EU directive. It said one of the Hungarian rates is “significantly higher than the other”. The EC also asked Hungary to amend legislation that restricts the sale of tobacco products after the introduction of new tax rates. At present, following a change in the VAT or excise tax rates, tobacco products fitted with tax markings bearing the old rate may not be sold by wholesalers or importers after 15 days.
Pancho Arena, a new stadium for Hungary’s Puskás Football Academy, opened at Felcsút, west of Budapest, on Monday. Guests of honour included Erzsébet Puskás, the widow of Hungarian football legend Ferenc Puskás, Croatian football star Davor Suker and Germany’s world champion Lothar Matthaeus. Construction of the stadium in Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s native village took two years and cost HUF 3.8 billion. The opening match between the under-17 teams of Puskás Academy and Real Madrid was won 1-0 by the Spanish side.
Bishop unhappy with state’s church financing
The system of church financing needs to be revised and this would require a straight political decision, the leader of Hungary’s Reformed Church has said on reformatus.hu website. Gusztáv Bölcskei said the past four years of government had left the long-term predictability of church financing unresolved. It is neither predictable nor comforting that financing is based on voluntary contributions from people’s personal income tax, he added. “It is no good that we must wait until December each year, and whatever remains unallocated during the debate of the central budget is spent on church funding.”
Harmony as well as Holocaust in street photos
A public photo exhibition on the life of Jewish and non-Jewish communities is running outdoors on Budapest’s Corvin Square until 18 May as part of the programmes commemorating Holocaust Memorial Year. The photos depict Jews and non-Jews living peacefully side by side “until history and politics interfered”, says the House of Traditions, the organiser. The pictures carry captions in Hungarian and English and information is provided, if available, on the fate of the people photographed. The Budapest Holocaust Memorial Centre, Hungarian National Museum, Centropa Foundation, Ethnography Museum and Vishniac Archive have supplied photos from their collections.
OTP withdraws from Crimea
OTP Bank ended operations in Crimea on 18 April due to the legal uncertainty resulting from the political situation in the region. An OTP statement said several Russian laws governing the operation of the financial system in Crimea have taken effect that contradict current Ukrainian legislation. “OTP Bank will continue to serve its Crimean customers at its other branches in the continental part of Ukraine,” CEO of OTP Bank Ukraine Tamás Hák-Kovács said.