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Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s press statement after his talks with Mayor of Budapest István Tarlós

Good morning,

I greet the Honourable Mayor of Budapest, and all of you. István, thank you for kindly inviting me here to a meeting at the City Hall. I would now like to inform you all of the outcome of that meeting. If I understood the invitation correctly, I received it in a dual capacity: both as prime minister, and also as party president. The invitation was in order for us to exchange opinions on the future of Budapest, and if possible to come to an agreement on some important issues. I informed the Mayor of the Government’s position. This can be summed up by saying that the Government is not blind: it is well aware that there are bigger cities in the world than Budapest, and there are also better-known cities; but from a Hungarian point of view, there is no city more important than Budapest. The Government’s view is that Budapest is home to its residents, but is also the nation’s capital; hitherto this belief has driven the Government’s policies on Budapest, and it will continue to do so in the future. I offered the Mayor this pledge.

As this is how we see the capital, recently we have launched an enormous number of development projects – some of which have already been completed, while others are still under way. As proof of the Government’s is commitment to the capital’s development, at today’s meeting with the Mayor I was able to present a list of sixty of these. I would also like to remind you that between 2011 and 2014 the Hungarian government took over the debt of the Municipality of Budapest. This amounted to 217.7 billion forints. Yes, you heard that right: an amount of more than 217 billion forints. As I don’t want to burden you with all sixty items on this list, I’d like to mention just a few of the already completed developments – from, say, the reconstruction of the ice skating rink in the Városliget city park, to the renovation of the Buda Vigadó, which has only just been opened. The Erzsébet Tér Cultural Centre and Park is also important, as is the Music Academy and the Korányi Project, while the Dagály Swimming Complex is another project close to our hearts. Yesterday we inaugurated the restored Tomb of Gül Baba. There was the refurbishment of the National Riding School, and a great many education-related projects: Ludovika Campus, MOME – and the list goes on. Of the projects currently under way, I would mention the restoration of the Buda Castle District, Fiumei út Cemetery and the Salgótarján utca Jewish Cemetery, renovation of the State Opera House, and – according to our plans – a new athletics stadium being built in the hope that the capital will win the right to host the World Championships in Athletics. The completed projects represent investments with a combined worth of 288 billion forints, while the projects now under way are worth over 600 billion forints. And I have not included transport projects, which are perhaps the most important for the Mayor, and on which we have spent a good deal of time recently. The sum total of such projects is more than 700 billion. The Metro Line M4 project alone amounted to 452 billion, and – if I’ve correctly understood the agreement we reached today – we have also agreed on providing the tens of billions of forints that are necessary for refurbishing Metro Line 3. We have also shaken hands on this.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Why do I think it important to draw your attention to these developments? Mostly because we are convinced that we all have an interest in Budapest regaining its former glory. We owe this to our forebears, and we also owe it to ourselves. The Government is convinced that Hungary can only be a serious country if its capital also undertakes serious endeavours. I mentioned that Budapest is home to its residents and is also the nation’s capital, but I don’t want us to hide our light under a bushel: in our minds Budapest is also the natural centre of the Carpathian Basin – a kind of cultural and business centre. This means that we would like the influence of this city to be felt not only at a national level, but also at a Central European level: together we would like to build here a Central European power centre that fills us with pride. All these considerations have led us here today to the honourable Mayor, and to tell you that for the attainment of these goals a strong, confident and popular mayor is indispensable. This is the Government’s view, and that carries some weight – but it is far from decisive. What is decisive, however, is that this view is shared by Fidesz’s district mayors in Budapest. Recently we had a meeting in which we asked our district mayors to voice their opinions on the most important issues for the next Budapest municipal elections – including the issue of the Mayor of Budapest. As on this matter the opinions of the Government and the district mayors coincide, today I have asked Mayor István Tarlós to again run for the office of Mayor of Budapest in the next mayoral election; and we have assured the Mayor of our full support in this campaign.

You know the Mayor. You may presume that he made his voice heard on the matter. I would not say that he set conditions, but he did mention some strict limitations. There will be a decision on the most important of these at our Cabinet meeting today, which will begin soon, and which at my invitation the Honourable Mayor has agreed to attend. Today we will decide on the establishment of a Budapest development council, which the Mayor and I will lead together as co-chairs, and within which we will jointly develop and build Budapest. The timetables for developments regularly bring political issues to the surface, because our mandates are for limited terms: mine is limited to just four years, while that of mayors around the country is limited to five years. Budapest, however, is such a large city that its developments and its life cannot be broken down into terms of four or five years. If we are to look ahead, our time horizon must be a longer one: our eyes, imaginations and purses allow us to plan for a period more or less up to 2030. This means that we will launch the developments that we will soon agree upon within this development council, and several of them will extend as far as 2030. This is not unusual in the history of Budapest. From what I have learnt of the enduring developments of our great predecessors – including the Steindl and Hauszmann plans – they were implemented over a period of around fifteen years. After today’s meeting I can tell you that we may reasonably hope that we will also have the patience, perseverance and diligence in the years ahead to implement the great plans which we will resolve upon together. It is in the hope of this that I have asked Mayor István Tarlós to continue to assume responsibility for the future of Budapest in the period ahead – in which he has my support.

Thank you for your attention.