Working wonders / Big cog in a big wheel

Bosch, Continental, Denso, Apollo, ThyssenKrupp. Opel, Suzuki, Mercedes, Audi and now BMW. Slowly but surely Hungary has become a car manufacturing superpower. There. I said it. If a large car company wants to open a factory in the CEE region, Hungary has to be somewhere near the top of the list. The last time we apparently beat out cities in Romania and Slovakia for the BMW contract. You’d think that this is good news for everyone, but many media outlets already started complaining that the factory will be filled by Romanian and Ukrainian guest workers, because of labour shortages in Hungary. These are the same organisations, by the way, that would have been quick to criticise the government had BMW chosen a different country. These are the mediums that still want you to believe that millions live in deep poverty in Hungary and explain to you how much better it is in Romania. Are there still problems that need to be solved? Poor people? Children in need? There most certainly are. But if it’s so much better in Romania, then why are there one million new citizens from the areas of the historic Hungary, and on my way home from Transylvania a few weeks ago why did I see tons of cars with British, Italian, Spanish, French or German licence plates at the border and on the highways making their way back to western Europe? I tell you why. Because according to Eurostat data from May, 19.7 percent of Romanians and only 5.2 percent of Hungarians work abroad.

EU guarantees M3

The European Commission's recent decision to fund the reconstruction of Budapest's metro line 3 with EUR 557 million guarantees completion of the project, Budapest Mayor István Tarlós has said. Tarlós proposed to the government to use funds from the EU to cover 85 percent of the costs, around HUF 149 billion, with the government and Budapest paying the rest jointly. The government has already allocated HUF 5 billion for unforeseen costs, and has an agreement to the value of HUF 5.6 billion to make the entire line accessible by wheelchair, he said. Air-conditioning machines cannot be mounted on the already revamped metro carriages for "structural reasons", Tarlós said. The Budapest transport authority was working on installing fans. On reconstruction of Budapest's Chain Bridge and the Castle Hill tunnel, the Mayor said the government "has given positive feedback" on funding the extra HUF 6 billion that would allow the two projects to run simultaneously.

Airport expanding

Construction will start this year of a cargo base and a six-level enclosed car park at Liszt Ferenc International Airport. Spokesman Mihály Hardy told Kossuth Radio the airport had recently inaugurated a HUF 7.8 billion passenger pier, 220 metres long and more than 10,000 square metres. Boarding gates line both sides of the pier. About 10,000 people employed by 70 companies now work at Budapest Airport, Hardy said. Flights operated by 44 airlines serviced more than 100 destinations.

Mexico sends ‘fugitive’

Mexico has extradited a Hungarian man suspected of attempted homicide 17 years ago in Budapest. The suspect, identified as Balazs B, allegedly stabbed three hotel employees as they sought to prevent him and his accomplices from robbing a hotel room in Budapest in September 2001. The suspects escaped. One man, who was allegedly using false identification, was detained at the request of Hungarian authorities in Mexico on June 27 then taken to Hungary.

Three days to celebrate

State events marking 20 August, a major national holiday celebrating Hungary's statehood, will be held over three days this year. Organisers say the 2018 celebrations will reflect on a time when emphasising Hungarian statehood, national identity and national cohesion are more important than ever. Programmes include a gastronomy festival of Hungarian specialties starting on 18 August. The festival will focus around Hungarian coffee houses and spices. There will be concerts each day, including rock band Tankcsapda at the Gellert monument at the foot of Elisabeth Bridge on the Danube embankment. The main event will be the traditional fireworks spectacle along the river.

Pop, food popular

One-third of Hungarians go to festivals, according to a survey by Kutatópont. The rate was higher among younger Hungarians: 53 percent for 18- to 29-year-olds, 48 percent for 30- to 39-year-olds and 48 percent for 40- to 49-year-olds. Pop music festivals were the most popular type, then food festivals.

Jobless rate at 3.6 pc

The rolling average three-month jobless rate was 3.6 percent in April-June, down from 3.7 percent in the previous period and 4.3 percent a year earlier, the Central Statistical Office says. The finance ministry's deputy state secretary for employment said the number in employment has grown by 765,000 since 2010. Fully 610,000 of them had found jobs on the primary labour market, Attila Istvan Simon said. Hungary has the third-lowest unemployment rate in the EU, behind the Czech Republic and Germany, and level with Poland's, he noted. The government's goal was full employment, and it had passed a "budget of stable growth" for 2019. The six-year wage agreement also contributes to that goal, Simon said. Analyst András Horváth of Takarékbank said the number of employed could exceed 4.5 million during the summer months for the first time since the early 1980s, and the unemployment rate could sink to 3 percent by the end of summer. Horvath said the annual average unemployment rate could be 3.4 percent in 2018. The Hungarian labour market continued to move towards full employment and the economy still held workforce reserves of about 500,000.

City in line for IAAF

The governing body of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has approved the recommendation that Budapest be the preferred European city to host the IAAF World Championships in 2023, at a meeting in Buenos Aires. "The process now is for a full technical, financial and risk evaluation to be undertaken with the results presented to the Council in December. At that stage a final decision will be made," the IAAF said. The biennial championships were hosted by London in 2017. They will be in Doha next year and in Eugene, in the United States, in 2021.

PM ‘against free speech'

An official of the radical nationalist Jobbik party has accused ruling Fidesz of waging a war of "terror against free speech" and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán of "representing the Bolshevik tradition of suppressing and eliminating alternative thinking". Deputy party leader Enikő Hegedűs said the "one-time liberal terror against free speech represented by the now-defunct SZDSZ party has been succeeded by a Fidesz-led one". Hegedűs was reacting to what she called "a demonstration of power; the occupation by force of the studio of commercial news channel Hir TV" the previous day. Orbán, "the best student of SZDSZ", considers the media "a type of psychotropic drug", Hegedűs said. "As Hungary stands on the brink of an economic crisis, the Orban government has a vested interest in eradicating all dissent from public life." She accused Fidesz of having no answer to the nation’s crucial economic or social problems. "If Fidesz were right in any field, it would stand its opinion against the opinions of others," she said. Hir TV was sold recently by business magnate Lajos Simicska, alongside his other media outlets, to Zsolt Nyerges, his former business partner. Nyerges has announced changes in the entire management and staff at the broadcaster, including a return of former staff members.

US uni on way

Indiana's University of Notre Dame has signed a deal with Pázmány Péter Catholic University to launch degree courses in Hungary starting in September 2019. Under the agreement, Pázmány University will launch its own programme – also accredited in the Vatican – at the University of Notre Dame. The two institutions are still finalising their deal.

Fidesz high, Jobbik sliding

The ruling Fidesz-Christian Democrats had the support of 42 percent of the entire electorate, or around 3 million voters, in June, according to a Nézőpont poll. The conservative Jobbik party captured the sympathy of 10 percent of the respondents, down a point since April. László Toroczkai's new radical party, Our Homeland Movement, managed to attract just a single percent of all voters. The opposition Socialist Party's alliance with Parbeszed notched up 6 percent, the leftist Democratic Coalition 4 percent, green party LMP 3 percent, liberal Momentum 2 percent and the satirical Two-Tailed Dog Party 1 percent. Among committed voters, Fidesz would get 55 percent in an election held now, level with its showing in April. Jobbik would receive 17 percent in this category. Fully 9 percent would vote for the Socialists and Parbeszed, less than the 10 percent required for a joint list to get seats in parliament. Support for DK increased by one point to 6 percent while backing for LMP fell to 5 percent, the threshold for a single party to enter parliament. Momentum attracted 4 percent.

Doctor jailed over 'tips'

An orthopedist has been jailed for two years for making patients pay for free procedures in the national health system. Budapest chief prosecutor Tibor Ibolya said the defendant had worked in a hospital in Budapest and, often dissatisfied with the "tips" offered, demanded more. The doctor would also bargain over the gratuities or offer to accept payment in instalments. The court found him guilty of accepting a bribe on nine occasions, jailed him and banned him from practising for three years.

Thousands swim Balaton

More than 7300 people participated in this summer's cross-Balaton swim, organised for the 36th time. The swimmers traditionally begin at Révfülöp, in the north, and cover 5.2 kilometres to Balatonboglár on the south side. Organisers said the fastest, Márk Papp, took one hour and 26 seconds. Papp holds the cross-Balaton record of 58 minutes and 33 seconds, which he clocked in 2016. The fastest female swimmer was Mexico's Fernanda Armenta, in one hour and 17 minutes. Elemer Bucsányi , 82 years, and Zsuzsanna Kertész, 80, were the oldest participants. Swimmers came from around Hungary and some 40 other countries.

Oldest timbered well found

Archaeologists excavating a neolithic village near Tiszakürt, east Hungary, have discovered a timbered water well dating from 5600-5400 BC, the oldest such find in Europe. The head of the excavations, Péter Mali, said the wooden structure was found in good condition at the bottom of the 2.9-metre-deep well, and the well also contained a huge amount of clay fragments, mostly broken vessels. He said such discoveries are extremely rare, and the second-oldest well had also been found in Hungary, followed by a similar structure in Germany. The neolithic wooden structure is being conserved in nearby Szolnok's Damjanich János Museum.

‘Sunset’ in Venice

László Nemes Jeles's second feature after “Son of Saul”, which won an Oscar in 2016, is competing at the Venice Film Festival. “Sunset”, made with an international cast of professional and amateur actors, tells of a Hungarian girl who investigates the fate of her family and the Budapest family shop circa 1913. Nemes Jeles has used many of the crew from “Son of Saul”. The National Film Fund said that even before the “Sunset” world premiere, distributors from nearly 70 countries had bought the film. It will open in Hungary on 27 September.

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