Taxi Uber protest wins support, little else

About 100-120 taxi drivers began an unannounced protest against car dispatcher Uber in central Budapest on Monday morning. They lined up their cars at the three-way junction of Bajcsy-Zsilinszky and József Attila streets and Andrássy Avenue, all major thoroughfares. The protesters completely blocked traffic in both directions

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of the two major routes at one point during the day. Budapest police warned them that a complete blockade was illegal, and called on them to free one lane for traffic, which the demonstrators did. The government said it supports law-abiding and tax-paying taxi drivers. Several taxi drivers drove to City Hall to present a petition and meet Mayor István Tarlós, but only received support “in principle”, they said afterwards. However, the city has neither the “official means” nor the “physical possibility” to prohibit or shut down Uber, the mayor said. Zsolt Gelencsér, representing the taxi drivers, said the protest was in response to authorities ignoring their approaches for talks earlier in the day. The drivers wanted to know from the transport authority, the Ministry of National Economy, tax office NAV and Uber’s offices when their demands would be met. Gelencsér said state secretary at the Ministry of National Development János Fónagy had only said that his “heart” was with the taxi drivers but could do nothing else. Later in the day Fónagy met representatives of the protesters, and the ministry said the government would “continue to do its utmost to ensure the security of passengers and ensure an environment in which taxi drivers can work and make a living”. Taxi trade union MTSZ said Uber’s operations were not in line with legal regulations. While taxis were required to meet stringent technical requirements, “Uber’s cars are not checked and nobody is interested in their technical condition”. MTSZ said that whereas obtaining a taxi licence required considerable investment, starting an Uber business involved no more than a “passing idea”. Taxi drivers had a mandatory tariff system, which Uber did not, and thus it could offer lower fares. Uber said the demonstration proved the need for modern passenger transport regulations that take new technologies into account. Talks with officials about the introduction of such regulations are ongoing, the company said.

“Son of Saul” on Oscar shortlist

The US Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has nominated Hungarian director László emes Jeles’ “Son of Saul” for an Academy Award in the best foreign-language film category. “Son of Saul” recently won a Golden Globe, following several international awards including the Grand Prix at the 68th Cannes Film Festival last year.

The film takes place at the Auschwitz concentration camp and tells the story of a fictional Jewish member of the death camp’s Sonderkommando aiding with the disposal of gas chamber victims. So far the only Hungarian film to win an Oscar in the foreign-language category has been István Szabó’s “Mephisto” in 1981. This year’s competitors will be “Mustang” (France), “Theeb” (Jordan), “Embrace the Serpent” (Colombia) and “A War” (Denmark). “Son of Saul” is a clear favourite at betting agencies for the Oscar next month, with “Mustang” considered the dark horse.

Győr hot for Audi

Audi Hungaria Motor again set records in production at Győr in 2015, the company says. The plant made 2,220,520 engines last year, about 50,000 up on 2014, and 160,206 vehicles, 25,000 more than in 2014. Audi Hungaria plans further investments at its plant in 2016 in an effort to boost its competitiveness in international markets, Peter Kössler, the managing director, said.

British, Dutch embassies moving to count pennies

The British and Dutch embassies will move to smaller premises to save costs. The Netherlands is moving to the Office Centre complex in District II’s Kapás utca housing the Swedish Embassy. Dutch Ambassador Gajus Scheltema said the move follows constraints due to the economic crisis over the past years, leading to staff reductions in foreign missions. The British Embassy will give up its grand premises near Deák tér, which it has occupied since 1947, and move to the former Dutch embassy building in Füge utca, also District II, and operate with a reduced staff.

Ghetto liberation recalled

A commemoration was held on Monday in the Dohány utca synagogue to mark the 71th anniversary of the liberation of the Budapest ghetto. “The yellow star was removed from coats 71 years ago but they have left a trace, memory and impact that is today’s reality,” Robert Frohlich, Hungary’s chief rabbi, told the gathering.

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The ghetto had not come about “out of nowhere”; several laws and decrees preceded it over 25 years, Frohlich noted. The actual creation of the ghetto had begun in 1920 with the passing of the “numerus clausus” act, which differentiated between Jews and non-Jews – all Hungarian citizens. He said the act and other anti-Jewish laws forced Jews out of more and more careers and ultimately “life itself”. Never would the Holocaust be forgotten, he added. The commemoration lit candles and placed pebbles in memory. The ghetto was set up in November 1944 and remained until the liberation of Budapest in January 1945 by the Soviet Army.

Sports winners named

World and Olympic champion swimmer László Cseh (pictured) and world champion swimmer Katinka Hosszú have been elected Hungary’s Athletes of the Year 2015 by the country’s sports journalists. Former manager of the Hungarian national team Pál Dárdai, who now coaches Germany’s Hertha BSC, was elected the top coach of the year. The Hungarian national soccer team triumphed in the team category and goalkeeper Gábor Király was best footballer.

Sziget, VOLT praises sung

Hungary’s Sziget and VOLT music festivals have won two of the European Festival Awards for 2015. Sziget, the week-long festival held on a Danube Island in Budapest, won for Best Festival Line-Up. VOLT, a major music event hosted by Sopron, won for Best Medium-Sized Festival. The awards were presented at a gala in Groningen in The Netherlands.

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