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What’s Next for the Liget Project?

Ábrahám Vass 2019.12.17.

While the government apparently still hasn’t given up completing the Liget project as it was planned, Karácsony appears to insist on the halt of the project. According to the current situation and existing power lines, only those buildings will be built that are already in progress. However, the case is far from being concluded.

(Our detailed analysis about the situation one month ago can be found here.)

Gov’t still won’t let it go

While in connection with the World Athletics Championships the parties eventually reached an agreement, this is not the case with the refurbishment of Városliget (City Park). At the joint press conference held with PMO Chief Gergely Gulyás, Budapest mayor Gergely Karácsony said that with the Liget project he doesn’t see how the capital’s and the government’s positions could come closer. He declared that the General Assembly of Budapest had already decided that the construction that was already taking place should be completed, but no new construction should begin (this mean three projects in practice: National Gallery, House of Hungarian Innovation, and the new Városliget Theatre).

Meanwhile, the central government seems to have not given up on the full realization of the project. After Viktor Orbán hinted about it in Japan, Gulyás, at the aforementioned press conference also expressed that they still hope for a full realization of the project.

Gulyás and Karácsony. While they agreed on the Athletics stadium, the capital’s and the government’s positions didn’t come any closer on the Liget project. Image by MTI/Noémi Bruzák

A recent interview with liberal 444.hu, government commissioner for major Budapest investments Balázs Fürjes admitted that “in line with the decision of the Capital, certain elements of the Liget Project are indeed stuck. He repeated a well-known argument previously echoed by other government officials, stating that they stick to the ten-year-old practice of only realizing a major urban development investment in Budapest in case it is supported by the capital’s leadership. He added, however, that what is under construction would be built and the entire public park can expect a face-lift. They will ask the Capital, however, to reveal by the end of the year which other developments they want to prevent.

Karácsony under pressure

Zugló’s (14th district) MSZP mayor Csaba Horváth even toughened his stance on the matter. On Wednesday, ahead of the Assembly meeting, he claimed that they plan to order impact studies about the already-begun construction projects to determine if a full or partial completion or total demolition would result in less environmental impact.

In addition, Karácsony also faces pressure from his electorate, as, despite his stadium-ban program, he okay-ed the Athletics stadium, and building works in City Park are still ongoing. Over the weekend, Socialist Csaba Horváth, along with deputy mayor Gábor Kerpel-Fronius (Momentum) and deputy mayor of Erzsébetváros (7th district) Zsuzsanna Borbélyné Bárdi, paid a visit to Városliget to have a look at the project and meet Ligetvédők (City Park Defenders) there. According to economic site Mfor, they are increasingly displeased with the city’s new leadership (who took a firm stance by the group and by “saving” the park ahead of the municipal election) arguing that it could do a lot more to stop the project.

What is more, the article revealed that construction was going ahead at full speed, additionally speculating that even those projects are now moving forward that are supposed to be “stuck.”

According to the current situation, the House of Hungarian Innovation won’t be built in Városliget. Image via ligetbudapest.hu

Contradicting survey results

Meanwhile, two pollsters have recently asked Budapesters about their opinion on the project. The first one, ordered by the investment company itself and done by a relatively unknown pollster, Inspira Research Group, found that more than two-thirds of Budapest residents supported the Liget project once they had insight into the concrete plans.

Another poll, done by left-leaning Publicus Ins., however, discovered otherwise. In their November poll, they found that 46% of Fidesz voters stand by the realization of the project, 6% would stop it completely, and 45% would build only those buildings which had already begun. The latter option is supported by an overwhelming majority of opposition voters.

In the featured photo illustration: the planned new National Gallery. Photo via Liget Budapest