Tokaj fears acid rain, EU plans to ban adding sugar to wineWinemakers in Hungary’s world famous Tokaj region are up in arms because of plans across the border in Slovakia to build a huge coal fired power station. The mayor of Sátoraljaújhely, 20km from the site of the proposed plant, has called on the government and environmental groups to oppose the plan.
Example of EU integration too personal for someA film submitted to YouTube by the EU showing sex scenes from European films last week proved much more popular with YouTube users than with the continent’s rightwing politicians.Going under the title Film Lovers Will Love This, the short features 44 seconds of 18 European couples, both straight and gay, getting it on and then climaxing with the slogan “Let’s come together”, before adding “Millions of cinema lovers enjoy European films…every year.” The film has received over two million hits to date.
President will not OK Order of Merit for divisive PM after court backs his right to refusePresident László Sólyom last week repeated his refusal to award the Order of Merit to former Prime Minister Gyula Horn, this time with the backing of the Constitutional Court. It ruled last Tuesday that the President has the right to veto the Prime Minister’s nominations for state decorations. Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány nominated his fellow Socialist for the award in late June and had argued that the President had no right to refuse the award.
Political Capital’s analysis of energy market liberalisationThe liberalisation of the energy market will soon begin according to European Union directives. Nevertheless, in Hungary this question has become caught up in the political debate on the current economic reforms. The politicians concerned are most preoccupied with how prices are likely to change, but that is impossible to predict at this point. It is clear, however, that without terminating the long-term contracts signed with power stations, there are unlikely to be far-reaching changes.
Police claim journalist lied about assaultThe police alleged last week that an investigative journalist who was found beaten half to death on the banks of the Danube on 22 June has been lying about the circumstances surrounding the attack. Irén Kármán – whose investigative work into a 1990s oil scam allegedly could affect politicians of all major parties – countered with accusations that the police are trying to destroy her credibility.
New levy coming, but shape and timing uncertainFinance Minister János Veres confirmed during a television interview last Friday that that a new real estate tax will come into force, probably in 2009. A more comprehensive overhaul of the national tax system is also due to come into effect at the same time.
Vodka from window cleaner may be at a kocsma near youCustoms officials discovered 14 illegal factories in eastern Hungary that have been converting window cleaning fluid into vodka. They found evidence that some two million litres of bootleg vodka have been produced, but only found 5,000 litres. The remaining 1,995,000 litres, it is thought, are either sitting behind the bars of low-end pubs or have already been drunk.
Rogán demands that ministries pay fineDistrict V council and two ministries are engaged in a row over parking spaces. Antal Rogán, the Fidesz mayor of the district is demanding that the Health Ministry and Defence Ministry pay HUF 23.5 billion (EUR 94 million) for blocking off their parking spaces from public use and not paying for their use.
Gábor Szetey, a high-ranking official in the Prime Minister’s Office, last Thursday admitted he was homosexual as junior coalition member the Alliance of Free Democrats (SZDSZ) announced that it would ask for same-sex unions to be legalised.
Victim must prove physical resistance to establish case for sexual assaultVictims of sexual violence in Hungary are in a weak position in the criminal justice system with the police, the courts and the legal definition of rape and sexual assault all making it difficult to prove an assault, according to NGOs.
Low costs attract Nazi-era filmFor weeks there have been strange happenings in and around Budapest: huge swastika flags hanging from one building near the National Museum and boys wearing ‘40s style-trousers and severe partings in their hair running down the street next to the State Opera. The reason is that the British production company Heyday Films chose Budapest ahead of Berlin and Prague for the shooting of the film version of John Boyne’s novel The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.
It might not be as contentious as Danzig or the Polish Corridor, but Germany and Poland last week fell out over the cover of a Polish magazine. German politicians were up in arms at the cover of Polish current affairs magazine Wprost for showing a mocked up image of German Chancellor Angela Merkel breastfeeding the Polish President and Prime Minister under the headline “Stepmother of Europe”. The magazine, in a not very subtle way, was trying to suggest that Merkel was treating the continent like an evil stepmother. The row blew up in the wake of the recent summit on the EU Constitution hosted by Germany which was undermined by Polish demands for more voting rights based on the size of its population. German ire was aroused by Polish PM Jaroslaw Kaczynski claiming that Poland’s population would be a lot larger now if the Germans had not killed so many Poles during the Second World War.
Foreign direct investment is continuing to flood into Ukraine despite recent political unrest. The first three months of the year saw USD 1.2 billion invested from abroad, 20% more than the National Bank of Ukraine’s forecast. The bank expects that the figure will reach USD 6 billion for the full year. Despite this the economic picture in Ukraine is not an unqualified success. Ukraine’s government last week announced drastic restrictions on grain exports effective from 1 July, because of the recent drought which it estimates will reduce this year’s grain harvest by up to ten million tonnes. The restrictions are aimed at guaranteeing Ukraine’s food security, but might affect the country’s bid to join the World Trade Organisation.
Some 30 extreme right-wing demonstrators disrupted a live broadcast by commercial station Klub Rádió on Thursday in the eastern Hungarian town of Debrecen last week. Reporters from the station had just finished interviewing the Fidesz mayor of Debrecen, Lajos Kósa when demonstrators unfurled banners and disrupted the broadcast for about ten minutes. When the Klub Rádió reporters moved to a back room in the restaurant where the interview took place, the demonstrators tried to wrest the camera from an Echo TV cameraman who had been recording the event. Zsolt Kácsor, a Népszabadság reporter who came to his aid was struck over the head with a flagpole. An MTI correspondent at the scene said that in spite of the assaults, the four police officers, who only appeared after the attacks took place, did not take any action against the protestors. The demonstrators called the Klub reporters “traitors”and “dirty commies”, while Kácsor was called a Jew and told to “go back to Israel”.