Munkacsy owner in win

The Budapest Administrative and Labour Affairs court has invalidated the listing of “Golgotha”, a monumental painting by Hungarian master Mihaly Munkacsy (1844-1900). The listing prohibited the removal of the work from Hungary and gave the state pre-emption rights for its purchase. The court said the listing was directly related to a breakdown in talks over the painting’s sale, and thus violated the owner's right to due process. The decision may not be appealed, although a request for a review by the Kuria, Hungary's supreme court, may be made within 60 days. An appeal against the listing by the “Golgotha” owner, Hungarian-born American collector Imre Pakh, was earlier rejected but the Kuria ordered a retrial. The painting was listed after Pakh refused the National Bank of Hungary's offering price for the masterpiece and threatened to remove it from the Deri Museum in Debrecen, where it is on loan. The state already owns the other two paintings in Munkacsy's "Christ Trilogy": "Ecce Homo!" and "Christ Before Pilate".

Hosszu, coach part

Three-time Olympic champion swimmer Katinka Hosszu has announced she will no longer be coached by Shane Tusup, her husband. "I would like to get ahead of the gossips, sadly Shane and I haven't been able to resolve our personal issues, therefore we are no longer working together," she said on Facebook. Hosszu said she is still preparing for competitions while seeking a support team. She last competed in the LEN European Short Course Championships in Copenhagen in December, and will compete next in the Mare Nostrum international series and the European Aquatics Championships in Glasgow in August.

CEU fate ‘overdue’

The opposition LMP party has criticised the government for what it calls the unclear future of Central European University (CEU) in Hungary. MP Peter Ungar noted that a three-member delegation had visited New York State over a month ago to examine if the university had a campus and courses there but the foreign minister had still failed to determine on the matter. Ungar said it would serve national interests if the university continued to operate in Budapest. Parliament amended the higher education act in spring 2017 to require foreign colleges and universities in Hungary to operate on the basis of an intergovernmental agreement and have a campus in the country in which they are based. CEU complained that it was targeted by the legislation because it had no campus in the United States. Then, in autumn, the university said it had signed a memorandum of understanding with Bard College to provide educational activities in New York.

Happily spaced out

Fully 83 percent of Budapest residents are satisfied with the public spaces in the city, among the highest rates in capitals in the European Union, a Eurostat survey shows. It records satisfaction rates with markets, squares and pedestrian areas among residents of European capitals ranged between 41 percent and 88 percent, the highest being in Luxembourg and Vienna (both 88 percent), Stockholm (87 percent) and Ljubljana (86 percent).

‘Politics-free’ city plan

The development of the city of Budapest is a matter to be addressed independently from party politics, the head of the new secretariat for Budapest and its agglomeration has told the daily Magyar Hirlap. As of the autumn, the public also will be asked to make proposals on urban development projects, State Secretary Balazs Furjes, former government commissioner overseeing priority investment projects, told the paper. Public transport will be a key topic for consultations which will cover the refurbishment of suburban railway HEV, linking the city with Liszt Ferenc International Airport by road and rail, and further expansion of the park-and-ride network, he said. Asked whether the new secretariat will take away municipal powers from the Budapest city council, Furjes said the case would in fact be just the opposite. The role of the mayor of Budapest would be further strengthened as he would have to be also involved in government-level decision making on the city.

Gross wages up 11.3 pc

The average gross monthly wage of full-time employees increased by an annual 11.3 percent to HUF 331,500 in March, the Central Statistical Office has said. The average monthly net wage climbed at the same pace, to HUF 220,500. Calculating with an annualised consumer price index of 2 percent in March, real wages rose 9.1 percent.

Debrecen adds flights

Hungarian low-fare airline Wizz Air will launch seven new flights from Debrecen: to Dortmund, Basel, Doncaster/Sheffield and Barcelona starting mid-December, and to Larnaca, Palma de Mallorca and Malta in March 2019. CEO Jozsef Varadi said the company will add another Airbus A320 to its fleet based in the eastern Hungarian city.

Q1 GDP up 4.4 pc

Hungary's first-quarter GDP climbed by an annual 4.4 percent, the Central Statistical Office (KSH) said. Adjusted for seasonal and calendar-year effects, GDP was up 4.7 percent. KSH said market-based services, especially trade and tourism, were the main contributors to the growth. Quarter-on-quarter, GDP rose an adjusted 1.2 percent. The government targets full-year GDP growth of 4.3 percent. Economy Minister Mihaly Varga said the economy had remained on the growth path in spite of unfavourable weather and fewer workdays. Growth in the tourism sector has been in the double digits for years, but increases were moderate in the farm and industrial sectors, he said. Takarekbank analyst Gergely Suppan said Q1 growth was slightly over the consensus. Growth in the coming quarters could be lifted by a wave of home and office building completions, EU-supported investments and continued strong consumption, he added. Takarekbank is raising its forecast for full-year growth from 4.5 percent to 4.6 percent. ING Bank chief analyst Peter Virovacz said wage increases may have contributed to the strong Q1 growth. New industrial capacity could boost growth in the coming quarters, he added. ING Bank has raised its forecast for 2018 GDP growth to 4 percent.

EU issues chosen

A new survey by Eurobarometer of the most important issues of the 2019 European parliamentary elections shows 60% of Hungarians cite migration, 47% the fight against terrorism, 43% the protection of the EU's external borders and 40% unemployment. Sixty-one percent of Hungarians think EU membership is "a good thing", up 5 percentage points from last year and up 14 percentage points since 2016, the report said. Half of Hungarian respondents felt their voice counted in the EU, an 11 percentage point rise since 2017. "With one year to go to the European elections in May 2019, the latest Parliament Eurobarometer survey confirms citizens' steadily growing support for and favourability of the European Union," the report said. Almost a third of respondents already today know the date of the elections, and 49 percent of EU citizens and 51 percent of Hungarians regard the vote as important.

Hungary’s day at Cannes

Hungarian director Zsofia Szilagyi's debut feature-length title “One Day” won the prize of the International Federation of Film Critics in the category of first or second films in the parallel selections at the 71st Cannes Film Festival. The film, presented in the parallel selection La Semaine de la Critique, tells the story of a mother with three children living under a tight schedule. Szilagyi's film received 62 million forints under the Hungarian Film Fund's Incubator Programme for debut directors.

Jobs being lost

The labour shortage in the industrial sector could force multinationals to postpone capacity expansions or take some of their production elsewhere, a union leader has warned in the daily Magyar Idok. Zoltan Laszlo, the deputy head of union Vasas, told the paper that one multinational recently laid off more than 500 workers at bases in Gyongyos and Godollo because it could not find enough labour. The union has learnt of other production units facing the same dilemma, he added. Laszlo estimated that 2000-3000 jobs have been lost as companies take capacity elsewhere, while shelved investments have prevented job creation. He urged immediate government intervention.

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