City air race barred

The municipality of Budapest will not grant a permit to this year's Red Bull Air Race after considering residents' "complaints and interests" and "due to the inadequacy of conditions". Mayor István Tarlós suggested that the event could be held at the Danube Bend or over one of the larger lakes in the country. The event each summer has often been criticised for its noise, air pollution and risk to safety.


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# Nyíregyháza Zoo gifts white lion triplets born in 2017 to Negev Zoo in Beersheba, Israel


Budapest 'best destination'

Budapest has won the best European destination 2019 title, the tourism organisation European Best Destination has said on website budapest.hu. More than half a million travellers voted in the poll in January-February, and no other previous winner received as many votes from abroad as Budapest, with 77 percent of them coming mostly from the UK, US, Germany, France, Austria and Italy. Budapest alone received more votes than Paris, Athens, London, Florence and Geneva combined.


Rulers ride out protests

The ruling Fidesz-Christian Democrat parties have retained a large lead of 54 percent among decided voters and 39 percent across the whole sample despite street protests in December, pollster Nézőpont reported citing its latest poll of a representative sample of 5000 voting-age adults in January. Nézőpont said conservative Jobbik would garner 13 percent, the Socialist-Párbeszéd parties 10 percent, Democratic Coalition 7 percent and LMP 5 percent among decided voters if elections were held now. The Momentum Movement with 4 percent and the satirical Two-Tailed Dog and radical Mi Hazánk with 3 percent each would not clear the parliamentary threshold. According to the poll, the ruling parties would have 14 mandates out of a total 21 if the European parliamentary elections were held now. Jobbik could send three MEPs to the European Parliament, while Socialists-Párbeszéd would have two, and the Democratic Coalition and LMP one each.


Real estate on the up

Real estate prices are set to rise in every category in the next 12 months in Hungary with the price of building plots rising the most, economic research institute GKI said based on its representative survey conducted in January. The survey shows that the price of resale homes should rise by 5.7 percent in the next 12 months from January, the price of new homes should be up by 5.0 percent, office building prices should rise by 2.3 percent and store facility and warehouse prices could be up by 2.0 percent each. GKI expects price rises for residential housing to be higher in East Hungary than previously estimated. GKI said around 150,000 households are planning on building or buying a home during the next 12 months, the highest number it has on record. GKI's gauge of plans and prospects of real estate companies as well as households in the property market reached 9 points in Budapest, down by 2 points from the previous survey in October, while the national index was up by 3 points at 11 points.


# Avatar: Discover Pandora exhibition opens in Budapest


New HUF 500 banknote

Hungary's new HUF 500 banknote, upgraded with enhanced security features, entered circulation on 1 February. The old HUF 500 bills will be withdrawn from circulation on 1 November but may still be exchanged, free of charge, at banks and post offices for three years, and at the central bank for 20 years. The bill continues to picture Ferenc Rákóczi II, a Hungarian nobleman who led an uprising against the Habsburgs, on its obverse side, and the Castle of Sárospatak on the reverse.


# Army receives helicopter crew tactical trainer simulator


EC sees higher growth

The European Commission has raised its projection for Hungary's GDP growth this year to 3.4 percent in a quarterly forecast. The projection was raised from 3.2 percent in a forecast in November but is still well under the government's latest forecast of 3.9 percent. The EC puts 2020 growth at 2.6 percent.


Better bids for tenders

The proportion of public procurement procedures in Hungary published in the European Union's Tenders Electronics Daily journal that received only one bid fell to 24.2 percent last year from 26.4 percent in 2017. The value of the contracts these procedures produced accounted for 12.8 percent of total procurements, down from 15.6 percent in the previous year.


# Snowdrops start to bloom near Nagykanizsa


Uni aids Siamese twins

A team from Budapest's Semmelweis University has successfully performed plastic surgery on a pair of Siamese twins conjoined at their skulls and brains, the university has said. The operation was part of the second phase of a series on interventions aimed at separating the two-year-old twins. The first phase, including groundbreaking work to separate the blood flow of the brains, was conducted by a Hungarian team led by Dr. Istvan Hudák in Bangladesh in August 2018. During the 25 January operation a tissue expander system of Hungarian design was implanted. The twins, Rukia and Rabia, are in good health and have already been released from the hospital, the statement said. They have also undergone diagnostics and examinations in preparation for the operation to separate their skulls and brains, the university said. A final decision on that operation would be decided in view of the results.


Great art lined up

Drawings by Michelangelo, works by Rubens, Van Dyck and Flemish Baroque masters, surrealist paintings by Magritte and Dali and photographs by Brassai are in the 2019 exhibition schedule of the Museum of Fine Arts and the Hungarian National Gallery. The Museum of Fine Arts will present a Michelangelo exhibition from April. Thirty masterpieces by Rubens and ten by Van Dyck will be included in the Flemish Baroque show to open in October. The Hungarian National Gallery will present a large surrealist exhibition including works by Magritte, Miro, Dali and Picasso, to be followed by a photography exhibition by Brassai and a show by the early 20th-century Hungarian painter István Farkas.


Fatal fire 'arson'

It is suspected that a fire at a university dorm in Budapest's 9th district, which claimed a life, was arson, Budapest police chief Tamás Terdik has said. The fire gutted the Károli Gáspár Reformed University dormitory on 23 January, and three suspects have been interviewed by police on suspicion of endangering the public.


# Graphic design of Liget‘s new playground released. Construction is planned to be completed by autumn


Jobless rate 3.6 percent

Hungary's rolling average three-month jobless rate was 3.6 percent in October-December, unchanged from July-September and down from 3.8 percent a year earlier, the Central Statistical Office has said. The rate covers unemployment among those aged 15 to 74. In absolute terms, there were 167,200 unemployed, 1500 fewer than in the previous period and 8000 fewer than a year earlier. Péter Virovácz of ING Bank said the jobless rate was stable in the second half of 2018 and employment cannot be expected to expand significantly further unless structural reforms are implemented. In the absence of these, the jobless rate could be 3.5 percent at the end of 2019, he said.


Audi, union end strike

Management of Audi Hungaria has agreed on this year's wages with the Audi Hungarian Independent Union (AHFSZ), the local unit of German carmaker Audi says. AHFSZ started a week-long strike over wages in January, bringing the Audi Hungaria plant in Győr to a standstill and interrupting production at Audi's headquarters in Ingolstadt, Germany, too. Under the agreement, in force retroactively from 1 January until March 31, 2020, base pay will rise by 18 percent, but at least HUF 75,000 per month, and workers will get non-wage benefits up to an annual HUF 400,000 for both 2019 and 2020, AHFSZ said. The agreement also guarantees all workers at least one full free weekend every month from 1 May. Audi Hungaria employs some 13,000 people in Gyor. AHFSZ counts more than 9000 of those workers among its members.


'Human smuggler' sentenced

A Hungarian court has sentenced a human smuggler holding Dutch citizenship but originally from Iraq to four years and four months in prison, and the accused will be banned from Hungary for five years. The person known as M.N. is accused of trying to smuggle Iraqi, Syrian and Iranian citizens to Western Europe in a van. The court has established that M.N. travelled to Romania to help citizens from third countries for financial gain and to transport them in Hungary after they crossed the Hungary-Romania border. M.N. has lodged an appeal for his acquittal, stating that he had only picked up hitch-hikers near Körösszegapáti village, thinking they were Hungarian workers.


# Lunar eclipse photographed near Salgótarján


Gyurcsány up for fight

The current period is an era of "opposition and rebellion", Democratic Coalition leader Ferenc Gyurcsány said at an event marking the Day of the Republic commemoration. "Hungarian patriots and democrats, regardless of where they come from, must join forces against the regime of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán," Gyurcsány said, insisting that Hungary "has a single-party system, and a republic cannot survive in such a system... Our only task is to overthrow this regime and establish a new, fourth republic."


Jailed migrant loses case

A Budapest court has rejected in a non-binding ruling a lawsuit filed against the government by a Syrian migrant seeking compensation for alleged violation of his personality rights in a 2017 government survey on public attitudes to migration. Ahmed H. spent 40 months in prison for inciting a riot in September 2015 on the Hungary-Serbia border. He was sentenced to five years in prison in a repeat procedure last year for illegally crossing the border as part of a rioting crowd and throwing objects at police, which the court regarded as complicity in terrorist activities. He filed a lawsuit against the Prime Minister's Cabinet Office saying that the 2017 "national consultation" survey on the "Soros plan" referred to him directly and gave the impression he had already been convicted when the court had not yet passed a final ruling. Ahmed H. sought 8 million forints in damages. He was absent from the announcement of the ruling.


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