The Western segment of the Danube Limes line, which once marked the frontiers of the Roman Empire, has been added to the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. Although the Hungarian section was originally also included in the nomination proposal, it was left out because the Hungarian government had decided to withdraw from the joint bid.
The World Heritage Committee of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has inscribed the Germany-Austria-Slovakia segment of the Danube Limes line – a number of fortress ruins by the Danube river which have served as a natural border of the Roman Empire – on its World Heritage List.
The Hungarian section of the Limes, however, was excluded from the World Heritage list after the Orbán administration withdrew from its joint bid in June with Germany, Austria, and Slovakia at the last minute.
Previously, together with the three other countries, Hungary had jointly submitted their nomination proposal to UNESCO in 2018 after almost two decades of preparation work.
In 2019 however, the Hungarian government unexpectedly removed a location – a part of the Hajógyári Island in Budapest – from the list. The decision reportedly angered the three other countries as without it, the committee would have been able to award the World Heritage title last year.
According to press reports, Zsolt Visy, the former Ministerial Commissioner of the project, even apologized to the international partners on his own behalf for the move, not long before his mandate was withdrawn.
The government explained the decision by saying that “Hungary is committed to ensuring that the entire Danube Limes is awarded the World Heritage title,” (i.e. they want not only the German, Austrian, Slovakian, and Hungarian sections of the Limes to be awarded the status, but also those found in Croatia, Bulgaria, Serbia, and Romania).
However, as liberal news site 444 points out, it was well known from the beginning that the eastern sections of the Limes would apply for protection at a later date, so the real reason for Hungary’s withdrawal is still unknown to this day.
Previously, an anonymous source told leftist HVG that the government wanted to avoid “archaeologists and monument preservationists running to UNESCO if the reconstruction is not to their liking.”
Featured photo illustration by Gábor Kiss/MTI