According to a proposal recently published by media outlet Népszava, the Hungarian federal government will neither request nor approve any EU-financed projects in Budapest for the next eight years. This would be a radical departure, as every major development project in Hungary’s capital has been at least partially funded by the European Union for the last decade. Completely cutting off the nation’s most populous city would be an impediment to economic growth and also mean that Budapest would be unable to join the EU’s “Green Deal” on climate protection, the Austrian newspaper Die Presse reported.
This development comes in the wake of Budapest’s mayoral election in Oct 2019 where the opposition candidate, Gergely Karácsony, emerged victorious thanks to an unprecedented popular front which saw parties from across the spectrum put aside their differences to oppose Fidesz during the mayoral race. The capital is known for not giving in to the state legislature without a fight: There have been anti-government demonstrations against the tightening of control over media, universities, and civil society, just to name a few.
Following his established strategy to discredit his critics, Orbán promptly condemned non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the media, claiming that the demonstrations, which were attended by tens of thousands, were orchestrated by “media outlets maintained by foreign concerns and domestic oligarchs, professional hired activists, troublemaking protest organisers, and a chain of NGOs financed by an international speculator, summed up by and embodied in the name ‘George Soros.’”
The prime minister is well-known for not playing well with those who oppose him, and the capital might have raised his ire. Budapest is at the heart of Orbán’s ““soft autocracy,” merging crony capitalism with right-wing rhetoric,” but would he really defund the capital for political reasons? That would shock even his opponents. After his victory, Karácsony was asked about the prospect of an vindictive federal government. “The future of Budapest is at stake! The campaign was the war between us, now it’s time for cooperation!“ In light of recent developments, opposition politicians have already expressed that they would rather have the EU directly contribute funding for urban areas.
The cabinet initially denied the existence of such plans until a whistleblower leaked that such a proposal had already been submitted to the EU in December; more recently, an Urban planning task force for Budapest has been set up. Mayor Karácsony is cautiously optimistic about the new initiative, as he commented in a Facebook post: “I am naturally happy about it, however their real intentions are visible when it comes to actions, I have just been informed that the federal government will not contribute to the restoration of the [Budapest] Chain Bridge”.
(Foto: Flickr/ Stefan Munder)