Authorities breast tape

Officials of the government and new municipal assembly have agreed on the conditions for Budapest to host the World Athletics Championships in 2023. Mayor Gergely Karácsony called it a major success for the city that the projects to be built in connection with the championships would be backed by a majority and would serve all sports-loving people. Concerning construction of a “superhospital” in southern Buda, no consensus had been reached, as the municipality disagreed with the sites proposed by the central government. On building a new bridge in southern Budapest and a revamp of Chain Bridge, the sides had moved closer towards a consensus but further talks needed to be held. The gap between their views on the completion of the Liget museum quarter in the City Park has not narrowed.


# Participants of the annual new year‘s splash make their way into the Balaton near Szigliget

Holocaust drama shortlisted

Hungarian post-Holocaust drama “Those Who Remained” has been included in the shortlist for the 92nd Oscars in the International Feature Film category published by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The film directed by Barnabás Tóth is on a shortlist of 10 international features selected from 93 submissions. It has been described as “a lyrical story of the healing power of love in the midst of national conflict, loss and trauma, it reveals the healing process of Holocaust survivors through the eyes of a young girl in post-World War II Hungary”.

Fertility treatments free

The government will provide additional support to make fertility treatments easier and cheaper for Hungarians who want children, state secretary for family and youth affairs Katalin Novák has said. From 2020, medication used during fertility treatments which is subsidised at present will be free, Novák said. Fertility exams would also become free and limits on fertility clinic volume would be scrapped, eliminating long waiting periods. There are about 150,000 infertile couples in Hungary who want to have children, Novák said. If every couple who wanted to have a child could, depopulation ‘would no longer be a problem’. Novák also announced the state’s acquisition of a number of fertility clinics.

New flights to Xi’an

Shanghai Airlines has launched two direct flights a week between Budapest and Xi’an, the capital of Shaanxi province in central China, Xianyang International Airport says. The flights will operate on Mondays and Thursdays both ways. This brings the number of flights between China and Hungary to ten.

# Long-eared owl selected as 2020 bird of the year

‘Protection’ for fliers

A draft action plan to protect consumer rights tailored for low-cost air passengers has been completed after a lengthy coordination process, MEP István Ujhelyi, of the opposition Socialists, says. Ujhelyi said he had submitted his initiative to European Commissioner for Transport Adina Valean. “It is important that minimum expectations should in the future apply not only to lowcost airlines but also to conventional services,” he said. “The low-cost business model is a welcome development but scandals in the recent period have made it necessary to prepare a ‘code of ethics’ for consumer protection.” The submission covers issues such as the smooth transfer of bookings, ways to effectively inform travellers about changes to flights and providing drinking water on board in case of delays in departure. It also proposes that airlines should not be allowed to charge premium rates for customer service by telephone and should be obliged to transfer compensation within 30 days in the case of justified claims. Ujhelyi hopes the code could become legislation and be expanded to the whole of a new and sustainable “ecosystem of air transport” currently under formation.

# Snowdrops blooming in the unusually warm weather

Pianist ‘in gas death’

Russian pianist Elina Valiyeva, 27, has been found dead in the bathroom of a Budapest vacation rental flat following a suspected leak from a gas heater. The owner of the 13th district flat declined to comment. The National Ambulance Service said paramedics had fought hard to save Valiyeva. Separately, a man had to be hospitalised with non-life-threatening gas poisoning.

Heart transplants record

Hungary’s two heart transplant centres performed a record 72 transplants last year, the National Blood Supply Service says. Of these, 64 were carried out at Budapest Semmelweis University’s Heart and Vascular Centre and eight at the Gottsegen György National Cardiology Institute. Overall, 440 organ transplants were performed in Hungary in 2019. Hospitals removed organs from 180 deceased patients to use in transplants. A total of 543 organs were removed from patients who had been declared brain dead and 30 from living organ donors. Altogether 1435 patients were waiting for organ transplants at the end of 2019.

Disillusioned Socialist quits

Tibor Szanyi, former deputy leader and former MEP of the Socialist party, is leaving because his colleagues “were not leftists enough” and the Hungarian political spectrum lacks a leftist party critical of the “regime”. Climate consciousness is another feature connecting leftist groups that have been “popping up left and right” in the country, Szanyi said, adding that the “task” would be to mould those groups into a community. His membership was temporarily suspended in June after his sharp remarks about the party’s leadership after the European parliamentary elections. He was withdrawn from his post as deputy leader in July after another clash with the party leadership.

# Israel‘s new ambassador remembers hungarian victims of the holocaust

Theatres ‘fight for life’

Deputy Mayor of Budapest Erzsébet Gy Németh, who is a board member of the national opposition Democratic Coalition, says independent theatres are fighting for survival because the government is intentionally keeping them in uncertainty. Contradicting government resolutions have been published as to whether the affected theatres would receive support for their operations, Gy Németh, who is in charge of cultural affairs, said. The government appeared to back off following protests in Budapest but now it is continuing to pursue “retribution” against independent theatres to force them “keep their mouths shut”, she said. “Budapest, however, is a free city and every effort will be made to amend the situation.” The city council was working on finding resources that could be allocated to independent theatres, and sponsors were being sought.

Ban fireworks: LMP

Green opposition LMP will submit to parliament an amendment proposal to ban fireworks and pyrotechnics. LMP co-leaders Erzsébet Schmuck and János Kendernay cited health risks and animal safety concerns as the reason. They said pyrotechnics often cause fires, resulting in financial damage and health problems. Also, pets were prone to going into shock from the noises and bright lights, causing them to run away or even die. Pyrotechnics contributed to worse air, they said.

# Trucks and tourist buses banned from chain bridge

Base rate on hold

Rate-setters of the National Bank of Hungary have left the base rate unchanged at 0.90 percent and the central bank O/N deposit rate at -0.05 percent. The Monetary Council has not changed the base rate since May 2016, though it has tweaked monetary policy on a quarterly basis, coinciding with the publication of the central bank’s Inflation Report. The council said the consumer price index “is expected to rise further temporarily until January 2020, mainly reflecting the base effect of fuel prices and the increase in food prices. Following a gradual decline, inflation is likely to stabilise at the 3 percent inflation target in the second half of the forecast horizon.” The central bank’s measure of core inflation excluding indirect tax effects – a bellwether indicator of underlying inflation – “is likely to decrease from the first quarter of 2020.” Inflation expectations “remain anchored”.

People smuggler jailed

A court in Kecskemet has sentenced a Romanian national to 14 months prison for smuggling six Syrian and Iraqi migrants across the Hungary-Austria border in his car. According to the local chief prosecutor’s office, the defendant had received instructions from a person in the United Kingdom to help illegal migrants in the Baja area, in southern Hungary, to cross into Austria. The court passed its non-appealable ruling in an expedited procedure.

# Danube boating accident – claiming 28 lives – commemorated with a painted image of the sunken Hableány

Illegal migrants surge

Last year the number of illegal entrants to Hungary grew 2.6 times compared to 2018, the leader of the police’s border patrol forces, László Balázs, has said. Migration pressure was particularly strong at the end of the year with some 1400 arriving between December 16 and 22. Another 803 were apprehended between January 1 and 5, 2020. Illegal migration was on the rise everywhere along the border of the Schengen area, especially on the Serbian and Romanian sections, Balázs said.

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