Mayors&Heritage: Budapest, Hungary
World Heritage City Mayor
January 2009.(born in 1952 in Budapest). He studied at the Law Faculty of Budapest University. While a student he was suspended for a year for organizing a left-wing student demonstration in 1972. Between 1978 and 1981 he studied sociology. In 1988/89 he spent ten months at Columbia University. He is one of the founders of the Network of Free Initiatives and of the Alliance of Free Democrats. He was elected to the Executive Board of this party in 1989. At the first free election in the spring of 1990 he was elected Member of Parliament.
In October, 1990 he was elected Mayor of Budapest. With the assistance of a group of specialists he worked out a comprehensive long-term program for the development of Budapest. He was elected vice-president of the Standing Conference of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe in 1992 and he was re-elected in 1994.In 1994, 1998, 2002 and 2006 he was re-elected as Mayor of Budapest. In 2004 he was elected Member of the European Parliament but due to problems of incompatibility, he had to renounce on his mandate.
1. The city of Budapest was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1987. What changes has your city undergone since then?
Since 1987 when the two banks of the river Danube with the Buda Castle were inscribed on the World Heritage List, several factors have been forming the development of Budapest. Together with the change of political systems in 1990 the system of local governments was also established within which the Municipality of Budapest operates. City development and townscape protection were put on a new basis. The City of Budapest promotes the preservation and restoration of the architectural heritage of the capital in different ways, by projects of its own and by application systems for renovations.
Thus a significant part of the building stock of the historical quarters could be restored in the last two decades but, of course, we still have a lot to do in this field. It is perhaps an appreciation of our work in townscape protection that the World Heritage area of Budapest was extended with Andrássy avenue and its environment in 2002. At the same time new developments are being carried out. In recent years, the city has been enriched with two new Danube bridges, the new National Theatre and the Palace of Arts have been built, a huge number of new buildings have been erected within the framework of revitalization in several districts, line four of the underground system is under construction and so on.
Inscription on the World Heritage List must have has had a positive impact on tourism which has shown undiminished develpment for a long time. There is a particularly great demand for elegant, luxury hotels which is evident in the case of two well-known buildings of the turn of the century, namely the Gresham Palace and the New York Palace, which were recently converted into hotels.
2. What is your role in the management of heritage as the Mayor of a World Heritage city?
My mission is to ensure that the aspect of heritage protection be represented in the development plans of the Municipality according to its importance. As one who is dedicated to historical townscape protection I follow closely to ensure that the proper balance between city development and heritage preservation can be maintained. The Management Plan of the World Heritage area of Budapest is prepared jointly by the experts of the Municipality and the National World Heritage Committee.
3. What are the major enhancement projects of your city related to heritage (present and future)?
Several projects are in progress and others are expected to be launched in the near future. The renewal of the public spaces of the Inner City is being realized together with the creation of new pedestrian streets along with transportation developments. Underground garages and entrances to subway line four are being constructed in connection with the renewal. We would like to enhance the connection between the Danube promenade and the river bank. The former public warehouses of the city, which are by the riverside in the World Heritage area and in a rather poor condition now, may be revived as a lively arts centre as the result of a design competition.
4. Could you speak about the OWHC Regional Secretariat of Eastern and Central Europe?
The Central and Eastern European Region of the OWHC held its first meeting in 1996 in Budapest. At the 2nd Budapest conference of the member cities of the region in 1998 Budapest was charged with the great honour to be the regional secretariat for Central and Eastern Europe. It was the second OWHC Regional Secretariat to be established. Its task is to promote the connection and the exchange of professional experiences between the member cities.
In September, 2008 it was for the seventh time that as the Mayor of Budapest I welcomed the traditional biannual conference of the region. The cooperation between the Regional Secretariat and the member cities was further strengthened by the fact that Budapest held the 5th regional conference in 2004 together with Banská Štiavnica and the 6th conference in 2006 with Kutná Hora. I feel proud that Budapest received a diploma of merit at the 7th International Symposium of the OWHC in Rhodes for its work in the Organization and for the preservation of World Heritage.