dark christmas signals tough times for a prosperous city in hungary

Dark Christmas Signals Tough Times for a Prosperous City in Hungary

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Last week, European finance ministers meeting in Brussels decided to release a portion of billions of dollars in frozen funding for Hungary after Mr. Orban’s government agreed to stop trying to block European aid to Ukraine.

But it will not help cash-strapped cities like Gyor much in the short term. Most of the funds, about $6 billion in previously stalled pandemic relief grants and possibly billions more to follow, will go to Budapest to help fill a hole in the national budget and save the government from having to borrow.

Hungarian news outlets, most of which are controlled directly or indirectly by Fidesz, hailed the deal as a “big Hungarian victory.” But independent observers viewed it more as a long-overdue truce between Budapest and Brussels, the seat of the European Union’s executive arm and its Parliament, which in September passed a resolution condemning Hungary as a “hybrid regime of electoral autocracy” that should not get any more money.

Reality has also dawned in Gyor.

Tibor Lorincz, a forklift operator at a subsidiary of the German plant and a former Fidesz voter, said he was appalled by the decision to cut the festive lighting. “We all need some light in our lives at Christmas,” he said. Using social media, he rallied hundreds of fellow residents behind a plan to string up their own lights in the center of the city.

Embarrassed, the city government, run by Fidesz, suddenly announced it had found extra money and began decorating — not much, but enough to lift the darkness. “We won a small battle,” Mr. Lorincz said, “but not the war.”

Gyor’s mayor, Csaba Andras Dezsi, declined to be interviewed but, in response to written questions, said that “the armed conflict taking place in our neighborhood and the related energy crisis” had put “a heavy burden on all of us” and forced “more modest decorations.”