Gergely Karacsony, Budapest’s new mayor, has set out the mottoes which he said would guide the city’s leadership in the next five-year municipal cycle. Speaking at the new municipal assembly’s first meeting after his oath-taking, Karacsony said there should not be any “second-class” citizens in the city.
He said municipal leaders must serve the interests of residents. Further, people have a fundamental right to a roof over their heads, he said. Also, the city will contribute towards efforts to combat climate change. City leaders, he said, will work to protect Budapest’s architectural heritage and natural environment, and preference will be given to sustainable forms of transport. Karacsony called for a balance between the development of inner districts and the outskirts.
He also signalled the promotion of the city’s cultural diversity. The mayor pledged that city leaders will consult residents on all major issues. The city’s operations must be transparent and free of corruption, he added. The new assembly will build “a new kind of cooperation” both with the districts and the central government, Karacsony said. The capital “must not be subordinate to any government” but an equal partner, he insisted.
“Nobody must decide about Budapest residents without their contribution, nobody must strip them of what is theirs and nobody must deprive Budapest of its future,” he said, adding that “Budapest will not allow its autonomy to be restricted”.
The general assembly elected as deputy mayors DK’s Erzsebet Nemeth Gy, Kata Tutto of the Socialist party, David Dorosz of Parbeszed, political scientist Ambrus Kiss who sits in the assembly as an independent, and Gabor Kerpel-Fronius of the Momentum movement.
It also accepted amendments to the authority’s organisational and operational regulations enabling the mayor to propose to the assembly to fast-track submitted bills. It also decided to set up a committee for climate and environmental protection.
Meanwhile, Csaba Horvath, the mayor of the 14th district, told a press conference that the Socialists have the most representatives in the new Budapest assembly. “Budapest will no longer be in opposition; a new majority has been formed,” he said before the assembly meeting.
The assembly supported the implementation of an anti-graft programme aimed at increasing transparency of the city’s operations. Karacsony noted that in the election campaign he had pledged to implement a “minimum programme” worked out by anti-corruption organisations Atlatszo, K-Monitor and Transparency International Hungary.
Karacsony also noted that the city had already published “more information than required by law” but added that “the municipality should proceed along that path, further increasing the range of information released to the public”.
At its first session, the assembly also suspended preparations to erect a Saint Stephen statue in the park named after Hungary’s first king. The assembly decided to reconsider the planned location in the south of the oblong park, and find another site for the contested monument if necessary.
The assembly announced a climate emergency in Budapest, and said that the Healthy Budapest programme should be developed further. “Climate change is already affecting our everyday lives significantly. If we fail to take measures, … we will be remiss in our duty towards further generations,” Karacsony said. The assembly has commissioned the mayor to review where the authority’s institutions stand regarding carbon neutrality and the transition to green energy. The mayor will also review the city’s action plans for extreme weather conditions and develop a climate change adaptation and mitigation plan, the assembly said. The assembly declared a ban on changes to the northern embankment of the Danube where the previous leadership had planned a levy, seen as controversial due to its alleged environmental impact.
In another development, the assembly banned implementation of the overtime work law at municipal companies. In his proposal, Karacsony said that the law would seriously impact employees who could be made to work a “drastically increased” number of overtime hours.
The assembly passed a decision not to support major construction projects which have been planned but not started yet, such as the new National Gallery, in the City Park. According to the decision, the planned building sites should be parkland. The assembly authorised the mayor to negotiate with the government concerning its new measures and requested that Karacsony should prepare a proposal aimed at ensuring protection to the City Park as a historic garden.
The Budapest general assembly consists of 33 members: the directly elected mayor, the mayors of the capital city’s 23 districts and 9 representatives who have won their mandates via compensation party lists. The opposition parties have 17 representatives: 7 Socialist, 4 Democratic Coalition (DK), 4 Momentum and 2 Parbeszed. The Fidesz-Christian Democrats have 13 representatives while 3 sit as independents. Karacsony was backed in the local election by Momentum, DK, the Socialist Party alliance with Parbeszed and LMP.
Source and photo: MTI