Felling of trees in Kossuth Square was unlawful

As part of the reconstruction project of Lajos Kossuth Square (from a budget of 20 billion HUF) about 200 trees were felled in the early morning on 19 April; the District Council’s announcement on the felling was published just a couple of hours earlier, during the night. The appeal period for the announcement was 15 days, but the District Council only posted an official notice to NGOs – that previously had been excluded as partners from this case – a week after the felling. An official study obtained by Hungarian newspaper Népszabadság lists a variety of external, mostly aesthetic and health problems to rationalize the felling, but includes no mention of instrumental measurements to validate these claims. Trees that had no health problems were, according to the study, “blocking the view to the Parliament”.

In a similar case in February 2012 where the park around the then still standing Károlyi statue was cut clear; BRFK’s anti-corruption division was also investigating based on the request of the Metropolitan Prosecutor’s Office but closed the case after a month. The uprooting of 76 trees and 448 square meters of bush area was also approved in less than a day by the District V Council, leaving NGOs and district residents out of the decision process. In August 2012 non governmental organization Védegylet contested the decision of approval for the felling at the Metropolitan Prosecutor’s Office and requested the partner status of NGOs in the approval process to be reinstated. The Metropolitan Prosecutor’s Office responsible in the case stated in its answer that the Distitc V made a number of financial and procedural violations in its environmental procedure.

In a contradicting statement, on 21 December 2012 Dr Róbert Balogh, head of BRFK’s anti-corruption division, informed Védegylet and the Prosecution Service that the case has been closed in absence of a criminal activity without the possibility of appeal. The letter, contradicting the Metropolitan Prosecutor’s Office findings, denies the claims of Védegylet point-by-point and thus decriminalizes the official methods. A member of Védegylet called the reasoning a “mockery of law” and said that they would pursue the case further to avoid such destruction of trees in the future, even if that means that no trees would grow around the Parliament in the upcoming years.

Read the original article in Hungarian here.