BBJ’s stories of the week, August 3-9
It’s Friday, another ending of a news cycle – and so, before BBJ logs out seeks out some shade and/or the Sziget for the weekend, we take one look back at the bigger stories we followed this week.
• Unfortunately for the country’s image internationally, perhaps the top stories of this week both centered on serious mistreatment of Roma citizens in Hungary. While few would dispute that justice was done in the sentencing of three killers and their criminal accessory in the slayings of six including one child, a well-circulated opinion from Amnesty International recognizes that much more needs to be done to improve this people’s plight here.
Case in point: The frankly inhuman decision by Ózd Mayor Pál Fürjes to reduce water pressure or stop supplying altogether from 88 roadside pumps due to the expense of an annual €50,000 for the supply, justifying the move despite the 40º weather by explaining that locals were frivolously using the water “to wash their cars and fill swimming pools.”
When accused of discrimination directed against the town’s sizable Roma population, Fürjes told local media that the action “is valid for the entire city and not focused on Roma settlements.” Apparently that didn’t wash (so to speak) with said residents, as Csaba Harkály of the interestingly named Roma-Hungarian Friendship Association (RMBT) stated his group would organize a public demonstration should the ban not be lifted, but the ban was finally lifted today after an order to switch all pumps back on from Interior Minister Sándor Pinter.
• Hungary is still looking to an East-centric future. For some time, Minister of Economy Mihály Varga and Foreign Trade Secretary Péter Szijjártó have trumpeted the current administration’s goal to focus more on exporting to non-European Union countries and specifically those in Eastern Europe and Asia. This week demonstrated this tendency with overtures social and business to the countries of Vietnam, Japan and China.
The government apparently sees great potential within the educational sphere to deepen connections with Asian nations. While 50 students from China returned to their country after a two-week study exchange, Energy Affairs Minister Pál Kovács spoke on the importance of university-level educational exchange between Hungary and Vietnam as the latter’s Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Thien Nhan visited the Paks nuclear power plant. Some 116 Vietnamese students have trained in conjunction with the Budapest University of Technology and Economics (BME) at the Paks plant and a further 40 will be taking a course there beginning in September.
Energy Affairs Minister Pál Kovács reported to media the advancement of cooperation between his ministry, the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) and Japan’s Institute of Energy Economics of Japan (IEEJ) on coal/lignite-based energy systems. Kovács is optimistic a multi-function plant to be established in Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén County is going forward in its development. Currently, the IEEJ is preparing a pre-feasibility study on the project, with various consultation meeting scheduled through March 2014.
• Aside from clean coal, a number of other alternative energy sources made business headlines this week, thanks to three big tenders announced by the National Development Ministry: On Tuesday, the ministry announced an HUF 867.2 million tender for the installation of solar energy systems for residential buildings as part of the New Szechényi Plan; Thursday saw geothermal energy and hydrocarbon mining concessions for seven locations opening.
The various alternative fuel projects as supported by the various tenders were backed up by the ministry to varying degrees of meeting the European Union “20-20-20 Targets,” more fully exploiting Hungary’s own natural resources and reducing dependence on imported energy sources. All in all, none are coincidences given the state of the Hungarian fuel market.
• Don’t know about you, but this former film critic is *pumped* about The Hungarian Oscar Committee’s selection of “The Notebook”/“Le Grand Cahier” for contention in the “Best Foreign-Language Film” category for next year’s Academy Awards. Full disclosure: Everyone in BBJ editorial has yet to see the film, but judging by the buzz and acclaim, i.e. taking the best film award at the recent Karlovy Vary Film Festival, this one has the best chance at actually making the final cut since István Szábó was cranking ‘em out in Germany.
Better still, “The Notebook” appears to be a sign that the not long ago moribund Hungarian film industry has been revitalized, with another 26 projects having received funding from the Andrew G. Vajna-backed National Film Fund’s HUF 5.1 billion budget. Could it be that we owe the maker of Rambo III…?
• Finally, “ICYMI” as the kids say these days, check out the website BucharestNotBudapest.com for a few giggles – and a genius-level marketing campaign from some old masters. Maybe.
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