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Hungary in makeover mode

While there is some criticism of the government’s recently revealed economic reforms for being only skin-deep, the Fidesz-KDNP party alliance is keen to renew the country at least in terms of marketing.

The first step in Hungary’s rebranding is laid down in the draft of the new constitution. The basic document, if accepted in its present form, would rename the country to “Hungary” from the current official title of “Republic of Hungary”. “As far as I know, Hungary has always been called Hungary,” Fidesz floor leader János Lázár said ironically, referring to the fact that the move is only symbolic and does not change the Hungarian system from that of a republic.

Budapest Ferihegy was also a name not well-sounding enough for the government. The parliament on Thursday accepted to rename the capital’s airport in honor of the internationally renowned composer born two hundred years ago and dub it Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport. The new name seems to neglect the suggestion of the geographical names committee, which earlier said that such a long name would not be easily established in everyday language and also that it would be unfortunate to remove the word “Ferihegy”, which is already generally recognized. However, the committee will probably not be able to express its disapproval for much longer, as the government plans to take away some of its jurisdictions and reduce its size.

Also to express that the current leaders of Hungary are to totally break with the past decades, the capital will likewise get a new image. The civic arms of Budapest will probably remain unchanged but the city will get a new flag that, according to Mayor István Tarlós’s vision, would have the current tricolor of red, yellow and blue “lighter” and would be “simpler” in general. However, while it is a fact that Budapest had been led by the liberal Gábor Demszky for the past twenty years, the city flag and the civic arms were created at the time of the foundation of Budapest in 1873 and so is not actually attached either to the leftists or to Demszky himself. Nonetheless, it has regularly been criticized by conservatives, mostly because of its resemblance to Romania’s national banner.

In the heat of rebranding, Tarlós also plans to rename the city’s youngest Danube bridge from Lágymányosi Bridge to Szent László Bridge. According to the regulation currently in effect, the approval of the geographical names committee is required for the renaming. A decision can be made at the next session in June.

While Szent László was Hungary’s strong-minded king in the 11th century who revived the country, another “king” might also be a name-giver of a Budapest public spot. Elvis Presley tér would be the name of the area between Ferenc körút and Üllői út if the Budapest Assembly accepts the proposal. In early 1957, a few months after the Hungarian revolution against the Soviet-imposed regime, Elvis raised 26 million Swiss francs for the country by singing Peace in the Valley at the Ed Sullivan Show, Tarlós recounted when explaining the inspiration to honor the memory of Elvis in such a fashion.

After spending ten years on the shelf, the idea of renaming Moszkva (Moscow) tér in Budapest’s district 2 has also come up again. Tarlós has “ambivalent feelings” about the name of the square given by the communists in 1951 but restoring the original of Széll Kálmán tér “might create emotional tensions” that is not needed at the moment. After consideration, he would make a decision “as diplomatic as possible”, he promised.