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State Secy: Gov’t Proposes EUR 8.1 bn in Extra Funding to Budapest

MTI-Hungary Today 2021.03.19.

The government is proposing handing Budapest extra development funding worth 3,000 billion forints (EUR 8.1bn) from the central budget, Balázs Fürjes, state secretary for developments in the capital and its agglomeration, told public media, ahead of a session of the Municipal Development Council.

The extra funds would go towards health projects, universities, and road and park development, Fürjes said.

“Hungary cannot succeed without a successful Budapest,” Fürjes said, adding he hoped that the city would lend its support to the government’s programmes.

Answering a question about substantive plans, Fürjes said that the city’s suburban train network (HÉV) had been neglected. The system calls for renewal and enlargement to encourage more people in the suburbs to leave their cars at home, he said. Concerning green developments, he said that projects under way at 39 locations would create new parks “covering the area of 2,500 football pitches”.

Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony said in reaction to the government’s proposal that the grand total should be “spent on developments Budapest voters authorised [city leaders] to make”.

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Karácsony insisted that the city had been appealing to the government to negotiate on how EU funds were used “for months”. “Let’s see the list of projects, then we’ll be ready to sit down for talks — every day if necessary,” the mayor said.

“I take the future of Budapest, as well as government, seriously. Seriousness requires talks first and briefing the press later. The government has just done it the other way round,” Karácsony added.

Fürjes said in a video posted on Facebook after the Municipal Development Council session that agreement had been reached on several matters. It has been agreed that the government would provide to local municipalities 10 billion forints annually over five years under the arrangements of a scheme dubbed Healthy Budapest. The money can be used for revamping and building doctors’ surgeries and outpatient facilities and the purchase of therapeutical and diagnostics equipment, he added.

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It has also been agreed that the government would provide 75 billion forints for the revamp and development of Danube embankments to make them more pedestrian and cycle friendly, he said. An interconnected tram network will be further developed in Buda, linking Szent Gellért Square with Budafoki Road through the university campus and Kopaszi dyke areas, he added.

Fürjes said Budapest was eligible for 80 billion forints European Union development funding in the 2021-2027 budget period but the government would like to help the city have access to 3,000 billion forints. “We will be able to agree on this,” he added, noting that target areas for EU-funded developments would include health care, transport, green spaces and educational infrastructure.

Karácsony said on Facebook after the session that “intensive talks” with the government would start next week concerning the use of EU resources. He said he had consulted with representatives of other EU capitals and European Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms Elisa Ferreira earlier on Thursday. She confirmed that governments will be obliged to hold partnership consultations with affected local municipalities on developments, he said.

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“Finally we have managed to convince the government to start real consultation about EU resources,” he said, adding that this was a good development, even if he expected difficult talks because “the government basically likes to spend such resources for its own purposes”.

He welcomed the agreement on the annual 10 billion forints to be received from the government for the development of outpatient services and the agreement on developing the Danube lower embankment on the Pest side, which he said will enable the implementation of the city leadership’s green embankment plan.