Debates over Budapest’s Városliget have been revived after Viktor Orbán, reversing his earlier position to compromise on the matter, said that after his party’s landslide election victory, the projects in Városliget will be implemented as originally planned. According to Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony, the government has no money to carry through with the plans, but if it tries to, the capital will use all the legal and political means at its disposal to stop the developments.
Speaking at an international press conference following the parliamentary elections on Wednesday, Viktor Orbán said that the recent two-thirds parliamentary majority acquired by Fidesz had decided that the developments of Városliget (Liget Budapest Project) would be implemented as originally planned.
The project, the first version of which was even included in the 2010 election program of the second Orbán government, has long been the subject of serious professional and political debate.
The termination of the key government plans was one of the cornerstones of Budapest’s opposition Mayor Gergely Karácsony’s electoral campaign in 2019, 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, the Orbán administration suspended the completion of the plans for the remainder of the project: construction of the new National Gallery, the House of Hungarian Innovation, and the Children’s Theater all stopped. Prime Minister Orbán said that the government would not complete investments that the citizens of Budapest did not want, specifically mentioning the Liget project.
“Hungary’s government does not want to implement developments in Budapest that the responsible leaders of Budapest do not want,” said Orbán at the time, in one of his speeches to Parliament.
But the statement of the Prime Minister as of Wednesday seems to be a clear shift from the previous tone of compromise.
“The opinion of the Municipality of Budapest has not changed: we do not support the development of Városliget,” Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony replied to the prime minister’s recent comments on social media.
In a later interview with Klubrádió, Karácsony said that he believed the government would not be able to carry out further construction works of the plan despite Orbán’s comments, as the government has insufficient financial resources for the project. The Mayor of Budapest said he did not understand how the election results would affect the realization of the Liget project. However, if the government does go ahead with it, the capital will use all possible political and legal means to enforce the will of the people of Budapest, he stressed.
Deputy Mayor Ambrus Kiss also reacted to Orbán’s statement to news site 444.hu. The politician said that the capital’s leadership would even protest at the site of Városliget if the government decided to start the construction.
“In such cases, political opposition is more important than any legal challenge, as they can pass a law on anything with a two-thirds [super-]majority. They can’t create a law for one thing, however: if the voters who assured us of their support can show up on the streets, they might even show up in Városliget with us,” Kiss said.
Like Karácsony, he said the government would find it difficult to provide hundreds of billions of forints for the investment, while even with the expected EU funds, a readjustment of the budget will be needed. “Let’s talk together about the development of other green spaces instead,” he said.
Featured photo by Attila Kovács/MTI