budapest-property-building flat
Photo: Daily News Hungary – Alpár Kató

Real estate, hospitals, secondary schools, fire departments, suburban railway lines, bus lines, tax revenue, among other things: in the past four-five years, the government has taken away a significant amount of the Budapest Municipality’s properties. The mayor thinks it is obvious that the autonomy of the municipality is rapidly decreasing. While previously a series of negotiations preceded any ownership-change, last time, when Erzsébet Square was taken away, only the fact of the change was announced to the municipality, writes.

The new legislation that made Erzsébet Square the government’s property was only halted by President Áder’s veto which called out for the lack of negotiations, but today one of the city’s most valuable public spaces is in the hands of the government. The lack of negotiations makes the new law strange, but there is also no explanation given as to why it is necessary and what purpose the square will serve. The case of Erzsébet Square is one in a series of similar changes that occurred in the past years:

  • Dagály: At the end of 2015, the city of Budapest handed over the Dagály Bath and its surroundings to the government, so it could be reconstructed for the 2017 World Aquatics Championship.
  • Kossuth Square: On January 1, 2012, Kossuth Square became the government’s property, and it came under the property management of the Office of the National Assembly. The square was then renovated based on the government’s concepts.
  • Orczy Park: The government purchased the section of the park where a former BKV site was located. Then, following the Ludovika project, the whole area came under governmental control.
  • 12 hospitals: On January 1, 2012, 12 Budapest hospitals became government property with universal succession.
  • 150 schools: Since 2013, more than 150 educational institutions were taken away from the city. Mayor Tarlós considers this the biggest loss, adding that this is not only the capital’s issue: in the entire country, educational and health care institutions were taken from local governments.
  • Fire departments: Since 2012, the municipality’s fire departments belong to the state.
  • 4 HÉV suburban railway lines and 12 bus lines: Due to funding issues, the municipality voluntarily relinquished their right to several public transport lines in the agglomeration.
  • 3000 parking spaces: Since January 2013, the city has handed over 2257 parking spaces and 152 parking meters based on a legislation change. This constitutes a loss of income of 10 billion forints for the city, and there is no longer a unified parking system in place. The parking zones have since been expanded with hundreds of parking spaces.
  • Public utilities: In October 2014, the government purchased Főgáz for 20 billion forints, which provided the city with billions of dividend yearly.
  • Pecsa, Operetta Theatre: On the cultural front, the city has lost the Operetta Theatre and the Petőfi Hall, which has since been closed down.

The decrease in municipal autonomy is not restricted to the capital, but the reasoning for taking functions away from local governments has been that they are often unable to manage on their own. However, in the case of the Budapest Municipality, the government is decreasing the influence of an originally powerful and legitimate authority.

Today, almost every significant transport or city development project is under government control. The municipality has little say in the planning and the preparations, although, previously, their influence was much greater. Together with the properties and the associated income, the municipality’s authority and tasks are diminishing, too. In 2010, the general meetings were held with 65 participants and more than 100 items on the daily agenda. Today, 33 representatives attend the meetings, and the agenda has been halved as well.

Copy editor: bm


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