Sale for 'whale'

The Budapest Assembly has voted to sell the Bálna Budapest Commercial and Cultural Centre to the state. The meeting approved the initial offer from the Hungarian National Asset Management Company (MNV) of 11.2 billion forints. Bálna Budapest, a 13,000-square-metre complex by the River Danube that resembles a whale, was opened in late 2013. Deputy mayor Gábor Bagdy said at the opening that in 2010 his administration had inherited a technically unfinished building which lacked commercial potential, in an underfinanced project under a legally challenging public-private partnership. The building, designed by Dutch architect Kaas Oosterhuis, should have opened by August 2010 but the contractor left it half-finished and failed to pay subcontractors. The Budapest municipality bought up outstanding debt in 2012 and paid some subcontractors, Bagdy said. The city of Budapest called an open tender to sell the building in June 2017 with a minimum net sale price set at 11 billion forints. The government said it intended to buy the Bálna for the Hungarian Tourism Agency.


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# Refurbishment of the northern section of M3 subway line completed


GDP growth '3.7pc'

Economic research company Pénzügykutató expects Hungary's GDP growth to slow to 3.7 percent in 2019, with the slowdown due to adverse changes in the external environment, growing tensions in the global economy and major difficulties facing Europe, the market for 80 percent of Hungary's exports, with Germany's economic growth projected at close to 1 percent. The institute projects full-year inflation of 3.2 percent and 12-month inflation of 3.3 percent at the end of the year. The forint/euro exchange rate would be 318 forints on average in 2019.


Man 'Islamic State warrior'

A Syrian national detained at Budapest's international airport last December has turned out to be a member of the Islamic State terrorist organisation and has been arrested, according to the municipal chief prosecutor, Tibor Ibolya. The 27-year-old man is believed to have participated in IS executions in 2016, Ibolya said. The suspect was detained after producing false travel documents for himself and a woman in his company. A court handed him a suspended prison sentence for "human smuggling and other crimes" and he is awaiting expulsion from Hungary. The suspect's alleged IS history was revealed through cooperaton by Hungarian and Belgian authorities, and he is now facing charges of terrorist activities.


Renaissance art on show

An exhibition of over 80 Renaissance drawings, including works by Michelangelo, da Vinci and Raphael, has opened at Budapest's Museum of Fine Arts. The exhibition dubbed "The triumph of the body – Michelangelo and sixteenth-century Italian draughtsmanship" also opens the 38th Budapest Spring Festival. Budapest Mayor István Tarlós said Michelangelo's works set an example to contemporary artists, "even from a distance of 500 years". The spring festival will host nearly 150 events at over 40 venues between April 5 and 22, with several star performers.


# Valais blacknose sheep born in Debrecen Zoo


Defence pact with US

Hungary and the United States have signed a Defence Cooperation Agreement on the margins of a meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers in Washington, DC on April 3-4. US Ambassador to Hungary David B. Cornstein said the agreement will modernise the previous status of forces agreement to reflect new realities in defence, and represents another positive step forward in the journey that the Hungarian people began 30 years ago when they chose to end communism and embrace liberty. “We look forward to an even stronger security relationship with Hungary, and we hope the Hungarian Parliament will complete its approval of the agreement as soon as possible,” he said.


# MIG-21 military memorial unveiled in Pápa


Another 15 flights

Airlines will launch 15 more flights from Liszt Ferenc International this summer. Shanghai Airlines will start flying between Shanghai and Budapest three times a week from 7 June. Wizz Air will launch a daily flight to London Gatwick, Flydubai will offer a Dubai flight and Poland's LOT will launch flights to Brussels and Bucharest. Air Canada Rouge's Toronto flight and American Airlines' Philadelphia flight will relaunch in summer. The flights will raise passenger capacity at the airport in the period to the end of October to 12.4 million seats. Annualised passenger number growth slowed to 6.5 percent in the first quarter from 13.5 percent a year earlier.


Coalition lead grows

The ruling Fidesz-Christian Democrat (KDNP) alliance has increased its lead over the opposition among decided voters, garnering the support of 56 percent two months before the European parliamentary election on May 26, a poll by Nézőpont Institute shows. Fidesz-KDNP's votes would translate into 14 seats in the European Parliament should the election be held now, the pollster said. The ruling parties outperformed their results at last April's national parliamentary election by 9 percentage points. Opposition parties' popularity has remained relatively unchanged. Among decided voters, the Socialist-Párbeszéd alliance has 11 percent, the Democratic Coalition (DK) 6 percent, green LMP 5 percent and Momentum 4 percent. Conservative Jobbik has 12 percent, a fall of 8 percentage points compared to the 2018 election. Such results would ensure three seats at the European Parliament for Jobbik, two for Socialist-Párbeszéd, and one each for DK and LMP.


# Silly walks flashmob in Budapest


Payment over lynching

The family of Lajos Szögi, a 44-year-old local geography teacher lynched after a minor road accident while driving his car through a Roma district of in Olaszliszka village in October 2006, is set to receive compensation of 4.9 million forints, the daily Magyar Nemzet has said. Szögi was beaten to death by three men after causing mild injuries to a girl, 11, in a road accident. The perpetrators were sentenced in 2009 to 17, 15 and 10 years in prison and were ordered to pay 46 million forints in compensation to the family of the victim. Dezső H, the primary perpetrator, successfully sued the Hungarian state for inadequate conditions in prison, and his compensation has been handed to the family as an installment of the compensation due. The men pulled Szögi out of his car and beat him to death in front of his two daughters sitting in the vehicle.


Retail bond to launch

The government will launch in June a bond for retail investors that pays a graduated coupon of 3.5 percent to 6 percent over five years. The coupon on the five-year bond will be 3.5 percent at the end of six months and 4 percent at the end of 12 months, Finance Minister Mihály Varga said. Half a percentage point would be added to the coupon each year after that, meaning the bond would pay 6 percent in its final year.


# Murals on walls of apartment buildings in Kazincbarcika as part of the KolorCity Festival


Court rejects nightclub man

The European Court of Human Rights has unanimously rejected a complaint by a former co-owner of Budapest nightclub West-Balkan, now closed after a fatal incident in 2011, as inadmissible. On January 15, 2011, a stampede broke out in the overcrowded club and three young women were crushed to death. Győző Szalontay was prosecuted as a principal defendant and received a prison sentence of three years and four months, half of it suspended for two years, in a final ruling by Budapest High Court. Szalontay lodged a complaint with the European court in November 2013 claiming that Hungarian authorities had not complied with the requirements of the right to a fair trial, which is against the European Convention on Human Rights. The court's final decision said he had not complied with the rule of exhausting domestic remedies before applying to Strasbourg, as he had not made a constitutional complaint.


# Fashion show of the Polish Nah-Nu at the 3rd Budapest Central European Fashion Week


Facebook 'control on way'

The opposition leftist Democratic Coalition (DK) has accused the government of laying the groundwork to censor Facebook, citing a paper on the website of Századvég Foundation, a think-tank that DK says is close to ruling Fidesz. DK spokesman Sándor Rónai said social media is the last platform in Hungary free from government control. Századvég, which Rónai called "the government's cash register", now proposed several measures to curb activities on Facebook. Századvég published a document on April 3 that suggested nation states should extend state jurisdiction and constitutional rules to cover social media, which should be "categorised as traditional mass media" and regulated accordingly, Rónai said. The foundation also proposed firmer legal steps against "self-appointed censors" who aim to curb the freedom of speech and opinion, he added. Should the government try to curb the social media site's activities, demonstrations on the scale of the 2014 protests against the "internet tax" could ensue, Rónai asserted.


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