New Budapest Leadership Seeks Partnership With Gov’t

  • 18 Oct 2019 7:44 AM
  • Hungary Matters
New Budapest Leadership Seeks Partnership With Gov’t
Budapest’s new leadership is ready to develop a partnership with the government, mayor-elect Gergely Karácsony said.

Karácsony told an international press conference that he would ask for a personal meeting with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán after he enters office on Friday.

He also said that he would invite all opposition mayors in October to set up a so-called alliance of free cities. He also said that he would ask the rector of the Central European University in writing to keep as many activities in Budapest as possible under Hungary’s higher education law.

Karácsony said he was planning to maintain partnerships and that outgoing Mayor István Tarlós was an “extremely correct partner” during the preparations for handing over his post.

The inaugural meeting of the new General Assembly is expected to discuss a package based on the recommendations of anti-corruption NGOs focusing on transparency, social and green issues, Karácsony said.

Following the example of other large cities around the world, Budapest plans to declare a climate emergency as a symbolic measure, he added. Budapest’s new leadership will pay significantly more attention to climate change than its predecessor, he said.

As part of the social package, preparations will be started to make public transport free of charge for young people under the age of 14, Karácsony said. Before the end of this year public transport will be made free for children under 7 as against the current age limit of 6 and registered jobseekers will also be allowed to travel free of charge, he added.

He said municipal companies would be prohibited from exercising provisions in the “slave law”, referring to amendments to the Labour Code affecting overtime approved by lawmakers last December. He promised to initiate the establishment of a conciliation council for the capital.

In response to a question, Karácsony said he would raise the issue of Budapest’s underfinancing when meeting with the government. He added that Budapest suffered from high debt and state consolidation would be the only way out.

He said he disagreed with stadium construction projects of the past and would not support new projects because of their “stellar costs” and because they took away areas from Budapest that should instead be “turned green”.

He promised to increase resources for homeless services and to set up new accommodation options in the medium term in order to provide better conditions than homeless shelters. Karácsony said a new strategy would be drafted to deal with overtourism in Budapest, adding that regulations on tourist buses and boats should be rethought. He said a prohibition on docking cruise ships in the city as well as on sight-seeing boats could be weighed.

In an interview to news portal Index, the mayor-elect said one of the new Budapest municipal assembly’s first decisions will be to block any future construction permits for new buildings in Budapest’s City Park.

Karácsony said the assembly was scheduled to change the city’s building code in its first session, and no further construction projects would be allowed in the park. It was through recent press reports that he had learned of a building permit issued for the Ethnography Museum in the park. But no permit for a new National Gallery has been granted, he added.

Karácsony said he was happy about a new playground and the renovation of Olaf Palme House, a 19th century edifice — the completed parts so far of the Liget Project — but added that erecting new buildings in the area would be “colossal stupidity”.

Answering a question about an earlier pledge to ban the construction of new sports stadiums, Karácsony said the mayor of Budapest had a right of veto, and he would make use of it.

On the topic of parking regulations, Karácsony noted that many district authorities had outsourced the collection of parking fees to private companies. Karácsony said he would work towards issuing a municipal decree forbidding districts from prolonging those contracts.

Karácsony said that downtown Budapest should gradually be made car-free. The first steps would be to build P+R parks and to “start a public discussion” on a congestion fee for cars in downtown Budapest, he said.

This, he added, should be introduced temporarily before a referendum is held on whether it should remain a permanent arrangement.

MTI Photo: Kovács Attila

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