Budapest pedestrian underpasses to be closed at night

November 19 at 7:00 PM CET edited 19/11/2018 7:02 PM CET
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"I asked for the investigation of the possibility and the potential effects of closing the main Budapest pedestrian underpasses," mayor of Budapest, István Tarlós told Index when we asked him about the proposition that recently hit the news.

According to hvg.hu's information, the municipality of Budapest is planning to physically close all major underpasses every night after the last subway has departed from the corresponding station, as it is laid out in the proposition.

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BrewDog opens their first bar in Budapest (Warning: may contain traces of punk)

November 19 at 5:25 PM CET edited 19/11/2018 5:25 PM CET
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Craft beers, neon lights, above average prices - BrewDog opened their first bar in Eastern Europe. We went to the grand opening to see what it's all about.

If the globalisation of the craft-beer movement could be blamed on anyone in particular, the Scottish BrewDog would be a prime suspect. The Aberdeen brewing company always tried to emphasize their punk ethics, but in the meantime, they grew into an international chain with more than hundred-thousand shareholders. After opening sixty-something bars worldwide, they finally arrived in Hungary, positioning themselves in a way that is also a recognition of the local craft-beer scene.

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State secretary: Gruevski "in need of special treatment"

November 19 at 3:48 PM CET edited 20/11/2018 7:58 AM CET
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Today's session in the Hungarian Parliament saw numerous inquiries addressing the asylum request of the convicted former Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski. Few were answered, and the legal explanation for why he is not detained in a transit zone does not check out.

As expected, almost all of today's questions concerned the former prime minister of Macedonia who fled to Hungary escaping his Macedonian jail sentence. 

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Hungary in the News, Week of 16/11/18

November 16 at 3:50 PM CET edited 16/11/2018 4:27 PM CET
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In this series published every Friday, Index in English will present you with a selection of the week's most relevant articles concerning Hungary from the world's leading news sites.

This week,

  • Many different international media outlets ran detailed pieces about the former Prime Minister of Macedonia, Nikola Gruevski, who is currently seeking asylum in Hungary after sentenced to jail for a corruption case concerning an armoured Mercedes.
  • Reuters reports on U.N. human rights experts calling off their Hungarian trip after they were refused entry into the country's transit zones where asylum-seekers are detained (except for Nikola Gruevski of course) along the barbed wire fence of the Hungarian-Serbian border. One U.N. experts said the unimpeded access to all places of deprivation of liberty would be vital to the protection of human rights.
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Hungarian Goverment in Contradiction over the Case of the Convicted Macedonian ex-PM

November 16 at 3:49 PM CET edited 16/11/2018 4:50 PM CET
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Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán claims that his Government regards the case of Mr. Nikola Gruevski, the convicted Macedonian ex-prime minister who, running from a prison sentence, sought political asylum in Budapest, a legal and not a political one. However, no evidence supports this claim. There is no law permitting Gruevski to bypass the infamous transit zones on the southern border: without a valid passport he could only have entered Hungary if so authorized by the Minister of Interior. Yet, such an authorization is an indisputable evidence for the political nature of the case.

News broke on Tuesday of Nikolai Gruevski hiding out in Budapest. The Macedonian ex-prime minister, a political ally of Hungarian PM Viktor Orban, was sentenced to two years in jail for exerting influence over the public procurement procedure of a €600,000 armoured Mercedes in 2012 and would have had to start his sentence 8 November, but fled to Hungary where he sought asylum.

It is unclear how Gruevski entered Hungary and how he applied for refugee status.

Rumours are rampant, Gruevski supposedly crossed the Macedonian border in secret, disguised in women's clothing, some say he used Hungarian embassy vehicles to travel between various Balkan countries. According to the controversial Hungarian legislation adopted in recent years by Orbán's Fidesz party, the Macedonian ex-prime minister is supposed to be waiting for his asylum claim to be processed in a transit zone facility by the border, together with all other asylum-seekers. However, he is clearly not. The Hungarian Government refuses to answer questions about Gruevski, saying they have nothing to do with the case since it is not a political matter, but a strictly legal one. 

What we know for certain is that Mr Gruevski did not enter Hungary illegally, as stated by Hungarian government officials. Chief of Staff Gergely Gulyás did not say much on his weekly press conference on Thursday, but made two important statements:

  • Gruevski notified a Hungarian embassy in an unnamed country of his intent to seek asylum in Hungary;
  • Gruevski entered Hungary legally.

Mr Gulyás mentioned another important detail: the Gruevski-case is in the competence of the authorities. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán made a similar statement in recent days, he said it is a "legal matter."

The facts, however, do not support this claim. Gruevski's passport was reportedly taken away by Albanian authorities, and there is no law that would permit Gruevski to enter Hungary without a valid passport while bypassing the transit zones – whether he arrived by air or by ground.

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ELTE Faculty of Social Sciences went on strike against the government's ban on gender studies

November 14 at 5:19 PM CET edited 14/11/2018 5:21 PM CET
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Wednesday morning the Social Sciences Faculty of ELTE, one of Hungary's most prestigious universities, went on a solidarity and information strike because the government effectively banned gender studies.

According to the strike's facebook event, no classes were cancelled, but their topics were instead all changed to gender inequality, the independence of universities, and the violation of the freedom of education.

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Here are the best dog-friendly businesses of Hungary!

November 14 at 4:36 PM CET edited 14/11/2018 4:39 PM CET
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As every year since 2014, Kutyabarat.hu presented its awards to Hungary's best dog-friendly businesses and accommodations to raise awareness of the fact that more and more dog owners prefer to enjoy certain services in the company of their pets.

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How to avoid getting your luggage ransacked at Budapest Airport

November 14 at 3:26 PM CET edited 14/11/2018 4:24 PM CET
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Broken locks, empty wallets, ripped zippers, missing valuables - luggage theft is a booming industry at Budapest Airport as confirmed by many reports from our readers. Index went to investigate who steals from the suitcases, why they do it and what you can do to avoid it happening to you.

Thefts have always been present at airports. Budapest Airport was no exception, but since last year the incidents have become rampant. The thieves seem to go mostly for passengers of Wizzair, a Budapest based low-cost airline, and carry-on luggage taken away during boarding is the most affected. Locks are easily cracked, but shrink-wrapped suitcases are fiddly to open, so they are usually left untouched. The clues point to the Budapest luggage handlers. One of them – who prefers to remain anonymous – spoke to Index.

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Mysterious €11 Million Cost Overrun on Huge Indoor Sports Complex in Orbán's Hometown

November 14 at 9:43 AM CET edited 14/11/2018 4:06 PM CET
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The infamous football arena seating 3500 fans in the village of Felcsút with 1800 residents is getting a symbolic supplement: a sports and conference center with 11 thousand sqm usable floorspace. Footed mainly by taxpayers, the prizetag on the largest such multi purpose facility in the country has just turned out to include an additional €11 million, increasing the original cost by 66 percent. The way the enlargement was approved leaves more questions than answers.

Since 2011, corporate taxpayers in Hungary can gain a tax advantage or tax credit by sponsoring cultural organizations or sports clubs (for easier readability, we will be using the tax benefit's Hungarian abbreviation "TAO" from this on). In the most reductionist terms, this means that companies can reduce their corporate taxes by giving it directly to specific types of organizations whose development programs were approved by the relevant authorities and in the case of sports clubs, the relevant national sports federations. Sports TAO sponsorships can only be given to clubs active in certain spectacle sports, chief amongst which is football, the Prime Minister's favorite sport.

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Hungary in the news, week of 5/11/18

November 9 at 6:08 PM CET edited 09/11/2018 6:08 PM CET
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In this new series published every Friday, Index in English will present you with a selection of the week's most relevant articles concerning Hungary from the world's leading news sites.

This week,

  • The Independent reported on European Council president Donald Tusk indirectly warning Viktor Orbán at the European People's Party's Helsinki congress. The politician addressed the crowd saying:

    "Let me be absolutely clear: if you are against the rule of law and independent judiciary, you are not a Christian Democrat. If you don't like the free press and the NGOs, if you tolerate xenophobia, homophobia, nationalism, and antisemitism, you are not a Christian Democrat."

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Chief of Staff: Hungary to Participate in Article 7 Debate

November 9 at 6:04 PM CET edited 09/11/2018 6:12 PM CET
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Prime Minister Orbán's chief of staff, Mr. Gergely Gulyás said that even though the Hungarian government holds the European Parliament's decision on the Sargentini Report invalid, the Hungarian Government will still participate in the debate on the Article 7 procedure before the EU's General Affairs Council.

At his international press conference, Gulyás stated that there is a procedure against Hungary that stems from a political decision, even if it is dressed up as a rule-of-law issue. He said the Hungarian Government believes it's an absurd accusation that Hungary presents a clear risk of a serious breach of the EU values.

Mr. Gulyás also said that the Sargentini report (a document about the serious risks of Hungary breaching core European values recently approved by the European Parliament) does not only contain false statements but touches upon subjects outside of EU jurisdiction. He went on to say that the procedure might create a bad precedent since the procedure and the report itself is

sending the wrong message and might lead member states to the conclusion that there is no sense in constructive negotiations with the European Commission.

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Orbán talks CEU, EPP, UN in his weekly radio interview

November 9 at 12:35 PM CET edited 09/11/2018 1:18 PM CET
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In his weekly interview on Hungary's public radio, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán talked about the Central European University (CEU), founded by the same George Soros who aided the initial years of Fidesz. CEU has been the target of constant attacks from the Hungarian government in recent times due to the government's fixation on the so-called "Soros plan."

The Parliament passed the Act on Higher Education in 2017, which set a condition for the continued Budapest operation of the prestigious university; the new law required CEU to have a headquarters in the United States that offered its own courses. CEU complied, as they established their US base and soon started a joint masters programme with Bard College, as the registrar New York State Education Department certified it for the Hungarian government. Even so, the government did not budge and is not willing to accept this. Late October CEU announced their plan to move to Vienna if until December the government will still not have signed the agreement with the State of New York that is necessary for CEU to continue their operation.

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Proposed legislation would ban protests at Hungarian state ceremonies

November 7 at 6:48 PM CET edited 07/11/2018 7:13 PM CET
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Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjén proposed new legislation that would make it impossible to hold protests before and during state ceremonies on locations such as Kossuth square.

According to the legislative intent attached to the proposed amendment to the Act on the Protection of Municipal Landscapes, all premises traditionally used by the State and municipalities to hold ceremonies on national holidays, days of mourning, memorial days, and other (for instance religious) holidays shall no longer fall under the legal definition of "public spaces" in connection with public land use for the time of the event and the preparatory period leading up to it.

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Police drops investigation against former company of PM's son-in-law

November 7 at 6:46 PM CET edited 07/11/2018 6:46 PM CET
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Hungary's National Police Headquarters announced today that upon finding no evidence of a crime, they are dropping the investigation against Elios Innovatív Zrt.

Spokesperson of NPH Kristóf Gál told MTI that during the investigation police seized a significant amount of documents that they revised in cooperation with other authorities. Upon performing all investigative acts deemed necessary by law, the police have concluded that 

no criminal activity occurred, therefore the criminal investigation was terminated on account of the absence of a crime.

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Report on Hungarian Society: Portugal on the horizon, Austria still far away

November 7 at 5:04 PM CET edited 07/11/2018 10:18 PM CET
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At a press conference on Tuesday researchers working for the Hungarian social research institute TÁRKI presented the latest edition of Report on Society, their biannual publication summarising the most important social indicators and social trends of Hungary. The collection includes 22 studies delving deep into questions of social mobility, integration and disintegration, examining the pitfalls of Hungary's education system, taking a look at the secluded elite and the closure of society.

Future Shock

István György Tóth, one of the editors of the publication remarked in an interview conducted by 444.hu that the political elite started to underestimate the importance of education. He said there is a trend in Hungarian education policy that encourages children to specialise as soon as possible, favoring vocational training over lifelong learning. As Mr. Tóth elaborates, this attitude submits education to the day-to-day needs of the job market, and it goes against the tough demands set by the current pace of technological progress. Vocational knowledge turns obsolete fast, and this phenomenon requires people to possess a flexible set of skills to remain competitive. The current approach of the political elite - discouraging flexibility, innovation, curiosity - is running a high risk of the country falling into a negative spiral that might create a social division with one distinct part of society that will be able to compete in a globalised economy and another one that falls behind and becomes an easy target for political manipulation due to their growing frustrations.

Judit Lannert's study titled "No country for children - Hungarian education and 21st-century challenges" reveals that the most important indicators place the Hungarian education system amongst the weakest in Europe. Public education is burdened by overstuffed curriculums and improper pedagogical methods, creating a lack of motivation in pupils and amplifying the handicap of disadvantaged students. The most recent PISA tests show a decrease in mathematical performance and a steep fall in the students' trust in their ability to efficiently tackle problems and show that Hungarian students rank last in Europe in digital literacy despite the country's relatively high rate of internet penetration and time spent browsing the internet. The study concludes that the Hungarian society is in a state of "future shock", referring to the term coined by futurologist Alvin Toffler.

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Luxury vans, insane salaries, all paid for by the EU

November 5 at 5:10 PM CET edited 05/11/2018 8:04 PM CET
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The Hungarian tax authority are investigating a possible defrauding of EU funds which could result in Hungary having to repay HUF 1.5 billion (€4,65 million) to the European Union. The scheme is a typical example of how EU funds are misused in Hungary.

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Index Remains Unchanged

September 18 at 6:23 PM CEST edited 19/09/2018 7:34 AM CEST
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For years we’ve been feeling like we were stuck in the frontline of a world war. Sometimes it’s the Red Army, sometimes it’s the Wehrmacht that marches over us, and here we sit, turning our heads trying to keep up with the events. Sometimes there is just menacing silence. Maybe that is the worst.

It has been an open secret for weeks that something is definitely happening around us, and the silence was broken yesterday. The most important thing: the shares of our publisher, Index Zrt. remain in the property of Magyar Fejlődésért Alapítvány (Foundation for Hungarian Progress), controlled by László Bodolai. What changed is that the most important partners of Index – CEMP SH, that is selling our ad space, and the company that provides all IT services to us  – are now in the hands of Gábor Ziegler and József Oltyán.  The same two people, through companies they own, also acquired NP Nanga Parbat 17 Zrt. from Bodolai, the company which is the founder of the Foundation for Hungarian Progress.

There are two basic conditions which, if not met, Index cannot function properly. One is our editorial independence, meaning that our staff members – adhering to the journalistic standards we hold – produce whatever content they want. No outsider can have a say in our editorial decisions. The other condition is that no outsider can interfere with our decisions regarding which people work in the editorial staff.

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What is Orbán's secret?

September 13 at 10:34 PM CEST edited 14/09/2018 1:31 PM CEST
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What makes Orbán's regime tick, why does it seem to be set in stone, how do they acquire support from the majority of the population, while so many are dissatisfied? To get an answer, one must step beyond the usual clichés of the opposition, and a deeper understanding is required about the workings of the Hungarian society, the loyalty of the middle class, the muffled underclass and the system of power. That's precisely what the largest sociology study in quite some time, carried out by the Hungarian Academy of Science (MTA), attempted to answer. We spoke to the leader of the study, Imre Kovách, to find out whether Lőrinc Mészáros (Orbán's favourite oligarch) is the regime himself, why the left has nothing substantial to say, and what the historic crimes of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán are.

In April 2018, Fidesz won their third consecutive parliamentary election, while more than half the electorate wanted a change in government. The System of National Cooperation (NER for short) seems stable even after eight years. For some, this seems natural, others find it deeply puzzling. The reasons go beyond the political map, but even beyond personal factors: there is a power structure which can only be understood with a perspective on the social order of Hungary. Those who think it's all about Orbán are deeply wrong, says Imre Kovách, the sociologist spearheading the research on Hungaran society, carried out by MTA TK's Institute of Sociology. We discussed the political ramifications.

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Hungarian PM Calls Country's Leading News Website Fake

May 30 at 4:18 PM CEST edited 31/05/2018 12:09 AM CEST
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Viktor Orbán took part in a public event, but his guards tried to hold off the press. When we got close enough to address him, Orbán called Index fake news.

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How an Israeli Intelligence Company Attempted to Slur a Hungarian NGO and Failed

April 5 at 9:29 PM CEST edited 06/04/2018 6:13 PM CEST
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Evidence suggests that an Israeli private security company has been hired to discredit Hungarian NGOs. The company with close ties to Mossad and many ex-spies on its payroll, applied illegal intelligence methods. Their targets had one thing in common: the Orbán administration has labeled them an enemy of the government.

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Surviving the World's Longest Sled Run

February 28 at 12:17 PM CET edited 28/02/2018 12:17 PM CET
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15 kilometers of pure thrill in the Swiss Alps for those seeking the ultimate toboggan ride in the World. We tested it, including a punishing hike to gain an extra 1500 feet of altitude from the ski lift's top station. Watch it on video!

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He Plays Cards with Orbán, Is Friends with Csányi, and Storck Cries on his Shoulder

November 30, 2017 at 2:53 PM CET edited 28/02/2018 12:05 PM CET
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He is a man always in the background, but he is one of Central Eastern Europe's most experienced consultants. He has a unique character: he was the local director of a global consultancy and is a cigar-smoking, whiskey-drinking, animal-hunting socialite. After reading this profile, you'll see how this outspoken economist became a best friend to Sándor Csányi and Zsolt Hernádi (the CEOs of OTP and MOL respectively), why Bernd Storck – captain of the Hungarian national football team – turns to him for advice, and why he plays ulti (a card game popular in Hungary) with Viktor Orbán.

“He's an instinctive genius. It pains me to say this, but he is the smartest person I have ever known – that's including myself,” says a Hungarian billionaire when I ask him about Anthony Radev.

But who is behind this name? It should come as no surprise if you don't know him. The Hungarian elite sought his advice for decades, but he has always remained a sort of éminence grise.

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Russian Meddling Behind Budapest's Metro Chaos

November 13, 2017 at 4:25 PM CET edited 13/11/2017 4:25 PM CET
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The head of Budapest's public transport was in the way of a Russian transport engineering company, with more than 200 million euros at stake. A KGB-style provokatsya was utilized to get him fired and force the Hungarian capital to buy malfunctioning and expensive Russian metro cars.

The mayor of Budapest couldn't hide his frustration anymore. “This is some kind of a Murphy's law or a game of devilish powers”, István Tarlós told reporters at his weekly press conference in March 2017. He was laughing in disappointment: “Although I'm a believer, I'm absolutely sure Satan's hand is in this M3 metro line case”. Tarlós was referring to the newly arrived and constantly malfunctioning Russian metro cars, which kept breaking down since their first full day in service.

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Complaining KFC Guest Gets Beaten By Security Guard in Budapest

October 17, 2017 at 2:34 PM CEST edited 17/10/2017 4:27 PM CEST
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On Sunday night, Zoltán Szabó (a journalist and senior staff member at Index.hu, Hungary's leading news portal), was assaulted by a security guard working for the KFC on Király Street in downtown Budapest.

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The Great Escape of ‘KGBéla’, Hungarian MEP Accused of Spying for Russia

October 10, 2017 at 3:24 PM CEST edited 11/10/2017 10:09 AM CEST
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Stunned and shocked would be an understatement if we wanted to describe how quite a few seasoned counter-intelligence officers at Hungary's Constitutional Protection Office (AH) could have felt in April 2014. Going against their professional convictions, AH terminated an ongoing investigation and subsequently initiated a criminal case against a lesser-known far-right politician. The accusation was severe: spying against institutions of the European Union on behalf of a third country.

Security officers of AH were embarrassed, not because they weren't fully convinced that Béla Kovács, a notoriously russophile Hungarian member of the European Parliament – dubbed as KGBéla even by his own far-right comrades – broke the law and made illegal contacts with Russian intelligence officers, but because they wanted to make sure he could not escape justice and his web of contacts would be fully discovered.

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The villagers were so horrified of the refugees that they even banished their beloved mayor

October 6, 2017 at 5:01 PM CEST edited 07/10/2017 11:47 AM CEST
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In the tiny village of Őcsény, locals turned to intimidation to prevent an inn keeper from hosting a few refugees for a couple of days as a charity gesture. The people from the village have never met any refugees, they only know about them through the media.

Due to the propaganda campaign that the Orbán government has been running for two years, people believe that refugees rape women and children, rob their houses and kill people. In a heated village hall meeting, locals threatened the owner of the motel and the refugees. The locals’ accusations against refugees resonate with the state-run propaganda campaign: George Soros is responsible for the refugees wave in Europe, and all migrants are terrorists.

Such was the panic that the mayor was forced to resign. He had been the village leader for 11 years and had brought investment and prosperity to the community. The once peaceful village has become a place of conflict and fear.

The refugees who would have stayed at the motel were women and children with asylum status issued by the Hungarian authorities. After the incident, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán defended the illegal actions of the locals.

The  original version  of this video (without English subtitles) was published on September the 29th, 2017.

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Mosul was tougher than a horror movie

October 6, 2017 at 4:45 PM CEST edited 06/10/2017 4:52 PM CEST
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The streets of Mosul are covered with the traces of air raids. It appeared as though the collapsed buildings were trying to illustrate the varied aesthetics of the devastation. Some of the houses were transformed into a Laocoon group of rubble, ferroconcrete iron and wires, while some others were opened up along the lines of gaping wide cracks, or the roof was leaning gently deep down to the ground level, eliminating any difference between the inside and the outside. In this deconstructed space, cramped vehicle wreckages crammed into buildings once used as homes.

“Sixty people were killed when the assailant blew himself up with the car” – said the woman in the black scarf with the children crowding around her, dragging me back to reality. Indeed, the wreckage piercing into the wall was not a decorative object but the remains of a car that had been fully loaded with explosives and metal shards with the purpose of driving it into the residential building at full speed.

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Europe is unprepared, though another wave of migrants may come

October 6, 2017 at 4:40 PM CEST edited 06/10/2017 4:53 PM CEST
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  • Europe is concerned with the Syrians and Turkey, while there is another crisis zone of a similar size nearby: Iran.
  • About the same number of Afghan people live in Iran as many Syrian migrants live in Turkey. Their situation is at least as bad, if not worse than Syrians.
  • We traveled to Iran and moved into a small town inhabited by Afghan people in order to find out about the seriousness of the danger that Afghan people may set off towards Europe in an even larger number.
  • No matter that, due to the serious steps taken, the number of migrants decreased in Europe, the migration crisis is far from being over.

I did not expect that I would have a first-hand experience of the pressure that makes Afghan people set off towards Europe. I spent less than five days with an Afghan family living in Iran, and I would already have undertaken the march in the desert of the Turkish-Iranian borderline accompanied by some evil-looking human trafficker. I felt so, even though I did not starve, I was not deprived, there was a roof above my head, my Afghan hosts looked after me and catered for me. In spite of all these, or rather because of these, the claustrophobic feeling settled on me.

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Read Index in English!

October 6, 2017 at 3:20 PM CEST edited 07/10/2017 11:47 AM CEST
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Have you ever wondered if freedom of the press actually persisted in Viktor Orbán's ill-famed illiberal democracy? The outlook for independent news outlets is murky, but that makes reading them all the more exciting. Now you can check things out about Hungary for yourself!

This is the English section of Index.hu, Hungary's leading, iconic news website. We translate our most important stories and analyses on a timely basis, to provide non-Hungarian audiences an access to the best of our coverage, as well as an overview of the most important current developments in Hungary.

With the upcoming general elections in Spring 2018 and the current government's peculiar role in the EU amid the migrant crisis, Hungary is expected to remain in the focus of international attention. We believe that our English section can serve as a prime source for in depth understanding of ongoing issues in Hungary.

Trump might be right about the Germans

October 5, 2017 at 1:52 PM CEST edited 06/10/2017 5:09 PM CEST
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This article was originally published in Hungarian (Trumpnak igaza van: a németek tényleg nagyon rosszak. 06.19.2017). It was first published in English by The Center for Transatlantic Relations.

Donald Trump has declared war. Not on terrorism, nor on the “cheating” Chinese, not even on Mexico. Instead, the US President appears to have decided that his main international adversary will be a loyal ally to the U.S.: Germany. Recently, Berlin has had to bear the brunt of Trump's anger on international trade and security, through which, at least according to the President, the United States is supposed to be taken advantage of.

At the end of May in Brussels, Trump essentially kicked down the door on unsuspecting European leaders by turning a NATO summit designed to appease him into a tirade against Germany and its ‘very bad' export policies. The problem according to Trump: Germany ‘exports too many cars to the United States, and that needs to be stopped. (The majority of German-brand cars sold in the US are actually assembled in America. The same is true for Japanese automobiles.)

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