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Gov’t to Push Through Entire Liget Project, Contrary to Promises?

Ábrahám Vass 2020.09.30.

One day before the Budapest Assembly would discuss City Park’s (Városliget) new building regulations, a fresh government decree determined that the capital will not have the authority to amend construction rules. Apparently, the government is still committed to realizing the entirety of the controversial developments in the capital’s second-largest public park, something that would go against its earlier promises.

The opposition-led Budapest Assembly has been scheduled to discuss the new building regulations on Wednesday. This would have prevented the kick-start of any new projects in City Park. In practice, this would take three buildings off the table, namely the New National Gallery, the Hungarian House of Innovation, and the Városliget Theater.

The halt of the Liget Project, a key governmental project, was one of the cornerstones of Budapest’s opposition mayor Gergely Karácsony’s electoral campaign, who vowed to protect the park’s green areas and ban any further construction there. After the elections, which the left-liberal joint forces won by a large margin in the capital, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said that the government would not complete investments that the citizens of Budapest didn’t want, specifically mentioning the Liget project. At one point, it seemed that a compromise had been reached, resulting in that only the ongoing project would be finished, and those that hadn’t been started back then would be canceled.

Later, however, the government didn’t show any sign that it would call off the project despite the Budapest Assembly’s efforts.

Government: Liget Project a national issue

László Baán, the ministerial commissioner in charge of the Liget Budapest project, explained to state wire service MTI that the decree does not entail any changes in terms of how the Liget Project investment proceeds, and maintains the current regulations in all respects. Budapest’s city administration, he insisted, had been intent on bypassing dialogue with the project’s leaders, but thanks to Tuesday’s decree, opportunities for dialogue remain.

the issue of the park’s revamp was a national matter as well as a local one,

Baán insisted, adding that the Project’s developments handed over so far had proved popular.

Baán said the project’s leadership was committed to putting the construction of the three new sites that the capital’s leadership objected to on hold until an agreement was reached. However, given the “outstanding importance” of the planned developments, all sides should work towards the conclusion of an agreement based on professional arguments and facts, he added.

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Baán also stated that the proportion of green areas in City Park would grow from 60% to 65% under the Liget Project plans, claiming that buildings had always been in place at the sites in question, so, he insisted, the city leadership’s claim that its amendment was about protecting green spaces was spurious.

Karácsony: we will carry out what the majority voted on

The central government had apparently “re-opened the fight” over the issue of City Park with the decree, the Budapest mayor commented, insisting that

“the majority of Budapest residents voted for this program which we will carry out.”

Referring to the whole process in which the government slowly got (partial) oversight over the territory, he likened it to the housing maffia’s methods. He also ironically noted that the government didn’t appear this quick [to react] with the Chain Bridge [renovation], where it has failed to move to provide support for months now.

The mayor also mentioned that “for a short while” Viktor Orbán had appeared to accept the voters’ choice. The decree, however, invalidates the Prime Minister’s promise, he argued, adding that it contravened Hungarian law declaring public parks off-limits to construction sites.

He pledged to submit a proposal that corresponded to his original program “and respects the will of Budapest voters” to the municipal assembly later today.

featured image: ongoing works in the City Park; via Zoltán Máthé/MTI