Budapest, June 6 (MTI) – Demolition works have started in Budapest’s City Park in the face of protests by environmentalists.
The company responsible for new building developments in the park, Városliget Zrt, said in a statement on Wednesday that the area occupied by activists protesting against the Liget Budapest project was now legally under its control.
Work has now started to demolish old Hungexpo office buildings after the authorities started to empty the area on Wednesday morning, the company said.
“As is known, there are protesters currently staying next to the ruins, blocking the legal works from being carried out, in spite of the legal demolition permit in the possession of Varosliget Zrt. Staying at the site is hazardous and a danger to life,” the statement said.
The Facebook group of activists said in a posting on Wednesday that several hundred police had appeared in the park and forced most of them out. Several activists have blocked themselves in, they added.
MTI’s on-site correspondent said the area has been almost completely cleared of protesters. Around thirty activists were seen sitting on the ground in front of the fence surrounding the construction site, protesting peacefully.
The Budapest police department said on its website that twenty-three activists had left the area willingly after authorities had instructed them to do so while twelve protesters had to be led out by police. No arrests were made but police said they would file misdemeanor reports against twelve people.
The ruling Fidesz party derided the “hysterical” protests in City Park called on “the opposition and activists” to stop spreading “fake news” over the Liget project. Had it been up to the left wing, Budapest would not have seen any upgrades or developments at all over the past years, Fidesz said. “They [the left] let City Park and the capital’s other natural and architectural treasures deteriorate during their tenure in government,” the statement said. Fidesz said that the project would make City Park “greener” and turn it into Budapest’s most beautiful park.
The green opposition LMP party expressed support for the protesters at the construction site, saying the party would use civil disobedience to thwart the project. Budapest councillor Antal Csárdi told MTI that it was unacceptable that City Park had been “taken over”, based on a document handing legal control over the area to Városliget Zrt. He said four-fifths of Budapest residents disapproved of the Liget project, which he said if completed, would “ruin” the capital for future generations as well.
Earlier Benedek R Sallai, the opposition LMP lawmaker who heads parliament’s sustainable development committee, said Budapest residents objected to plans to chop down hundreds of trees to make way for the buildings of a planned museum quarter in the City Park. A special committee session will take place on Friday to discuss the matter, giving representatives of the government, the Budapest municipal council, the construction company and civil groups a platform to state their positions. Sallai called on the government to “stop cutting down trees” and “speak out against the abuse of residents who want to express their opinion”.
The Budapest police department said on its website that twenty-three activists had left the area willingly after authorities had instructed them to do so while twelve protesters had to be led out by police. They said they would file misdemeanor reports against twelve people. Later on the police said that three people had been detained, one for allegedly attacking a policeman.
Radical nationalist Jobbik called on national and municipal leaders not to neglect local residents’ disapproval of the project. Jobbik MP Lajos Kepli said in a statement that “only a handful of entrepreneurs close to the government” would benefit from the Liget project, while hundreds of thousands of locals would suffer.
A municipal representative of the leftist Democratic Coalition (DK) referred to a recent survey and said that most residents rejected plans to erect buildings in the popular park. The government and Budapest Mayor István Tarlos would still “force onto Budapest plans to replace the little remaining green areas in the city with concrete”, Erzsébet Gy. Németh said. She demanded that Tarlos face the protesters and tell them that “he serves not Budapest but Fidesz”.