Budapest, July 8 (MTI) – Parliament’s sustainable development committee on Friday held a hearing on the Liget project, called together by the committee’s head Benedek Sallai R., who is a delegate of the opposition LMP party.
The committee was not in quorum as governing-party members stayed away. Sallai said the developments around the Liget project have got to the stage where they were no longer of local importance only, but should be treated as a national issue, since the protection of green spaces affects the lives of nearly two million Budapest residents.
He said the Liget project involves the felling of 600-800 trees while another project, the reconstruction of Orczy park, will involve the chopping down of an additional 130. He mentioned several other government projects where trees had been cut down this year: 24 trees were lost to the underground car park construction on József Nádor square, 200 trees at the Kossuth square reconstruction and all the trees on Széll Kálmán square. The upgrade of the Dagály spa means 100 trees are threatened there, he said.
Sallai said the committee meeting can continue as an “informal summit on the Liget project” and activists of Greenpeace Hungary, Levegő (Air) working group, Védegylet (Protect the Future) and Ligetvédők (Park Protectors) as well as opposition politicans shared their views.
Anita Heringes, a lawmaker for the opposition Socialists, said the ruling parties want to push their will onto Budapesters instead of consulting, which is apparent from the fact that they stay away from the meeting.
Lajos Kepli, a lawmaker for Jobbik, said the Liget project is just one of many signs that the government has been “systematically toning down environmental issues and organisations” since 2010.
Gergely Karácsony, mayor of the district where the City Park is located and a lawmaker for opposition Dialogue for Hungary (PM), said there had been no genuine consultations over the project, but there is a document from 2012 which clearly states that no new buildings can be erected in the park. He cited another document, the Budapest 2030 strategy, which states that the Varosliget must remain a public park and that tourist sights must be scattered around the whole city.
Gergely Csák, the spokesman for the Ligetvédők group, said the activists in City Park had been removed from the site where they had held permission to protests by force. He said no other tool is left for protecting the trees but civil disobedience.
At the end of the meeting Sallai said he would look into possibilities of a procedure to get local protection for the park under an amendment of the environmental act and would coordinate with local Fidesz on the possibility of another committee meeting on this subject.
Earlier in the day the ministerial commissioner for the Liget project László Baán told a press conference that the company responsible for building developments in the City Park, Városliget Zrt, has organised a forum to hear opinions on the project. Baán said “naturally, some opinions will not be considered.” Breaking the law and occupying a building site are unacceptable, he said, adding that violence would not be condoned either.
Police removed activists on Wednesday morning from the Hungexpo site, where they had been camped for over a hundred days in protest of the works planned. A demonstration was held in the evening at the site. Police started procedures against 63 activists and made 12 arrests.