BBJ’s stories of the week, August 10-16

Parliament

It’s Friday, another ending of a news cycle – and so, before BBJ checks out for a nice four-day weekend, we take one look back at the bigger stories we followed this week.

• Certainly we all love a good “bank holiday,” but just as surely few are more looking forward to the upcoming deployment of the term on the calendar than those financial institutions themselves. In an otherwise fairly slow news week, Hungarian banks hit the business headlines again and again: MKB Bank divested its interests in Bulgarian subsidiary MKB Unionbank; the National Bank of Hungary (MNB) announced a shrinkage in retail lending stock; and OTP Bank reported a 1% drop in overall profit year-on-year for the second quarter of 2013.  

• Speaking of OTP, the bank’s CEO Sándor Csányi apparently tired this week of trading barbs with Prime Minister’s Office State Secretary János Lázár and has decided to take court action. The scorecard thus far: After Lázár used an unflattering simile to characterize Csányi, the CEO sarcastically approved of Lázár’s none-too-appreciated handling of the National Tobacco Shop scheme. The last straw was apparently Lázár’s use of the term “Hungary’s no. 1 usurer” to describe Csányi; unfortunately for observers, the incipient court meeting will likely preempt any witticisms directed at one another in the meantime…  

• And speaking of not taking it any more, there was Romanian President Traian Băsescu reaching boiling point with Hungary’s politicians after Gábor Vona dropped some of his “wisdom” regarding ethnic Hungarians in Transylvania last weekend. Băsescu declared that his government would “rein in Budapest” from interfering with national government policies throughout the region, later continuing to thump the same tub while complaining of interference from Serbia and Bulgaria as well.    

• One has to guess that any Fidesz appointment will meet with opposition at this point, but the naming of László Szekely to the Civil Rights Ombudsman post to be vacated by Máté Szabo in September actually generated a somewhat muted reaction from other parties (LMP and, of course, Jobbik notwithstanding). On the other hand, the naming of Mónika Karas as Media and Communications Authority (NMHH) Director – effective next week – garnered the ruling party quite a bit of flak and seemingly with good reason. Aside from a perceived lack of experience, numerous critics have pointed out Karas’ close personal and business ties with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

 • Finally, a little eye candy for you. Sports fans should definitely check out the below clip, the capturing of what this writer – hatred for the instant hyperbolizing so rampant in sports nowadays – may have to admit is in fact “the miss of the year.” Petr Jiráček’s un-goal went down in Budapest’s Ferenc Puskás Stadium and allowed Team Hungary to eke out a draw with Czech Republic in the friendly, 1-1.

For those not necessarily into sport, how about a little time travel? Via science fiction-centric website io9.com, writer Miklós Vincze has compiled a collection of composite photographs which portray a given landmark or historical site in two different historical periods at once, with stunning results. The image included atop this article is from Budapest-based visual artist Zoltán Kerényi’s “Window to the Past” project and the io9 article features seven more stunning simultaneous views of Hungary’s past and present alongside such shots from all over the world – definitely worth a look.  

And BBJ’ll see you back in modern times next week…

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