Viktor Orbán: Moving in 2018 to the place of his dreams?

It is really amazing how easily unabashed lies flow from the lips of Hungary’s current political leaders. For example, last Thursday at the “government info” session János Lázár announced that the relocation of the prime minister’s office to the Castle District of Buda wasn’t Viktor Orbán’s idea at all. It was Ferenc Gyurcsány who in 2004 made plans to move his office right next to the Sándor Palace, which is currently occupied by President János Áder. A few hours later published an article titled “For a moment we believed Lázár that it was Gyurcsány who forced Orbán to move to the Castle.” Well, he didn’t fool me because I have been following Hungarian political events ever since 1993. I knew about only one Gyurcsány plan to create a so-called government quarter near the Western Station where all the ministries, currently scattered in expensive downtown buildings, could have moved into modern office buildings. The idea had to be dropped for lack of funds.

Members of the Orbán government should have learned by now that it is dangerous to come out with such brazen lies because these days journalists can debunk them in no time. And what did they find in this case? That in 1999, during the first Orbán government, the decision was made to move the prime minister’s office to the Sándor Palace, a building then in ruins that between 1881 and 1945 had served as the prime minister’s residence and office. The next project would have been the reconstruction of the former Carmelite Cloister next door to be used for government offices. So, Orbán has been plotting for at least fifteen years to move himself and his huge staff to the Castle District.

The reconstruction and refurbishing of the Sándor Palace began in a great hurry in 1999, to be finished by March 15, 2002. Orbán was certain that he would win the elections, to be held between April 7 and April 21. After all, there were polls that showed Fidesz 10% ahead of the socialists. But he lost, and with his defeat his dream of moving into the lavishly refurbished Sándor Palace collapsed. The most he could do was to hold his last cabinet meeting in the palace. For more details of the story see my post “Viktor Orbán and the Sándor Palace.”

After the election, it was decided not to use the palace as an office for the prime minister. Instead, it was declared to be the office of the president. After Orbán’s return as prime minister, people wondered whether he would boot the president out in order to occupy the Sándor Palace himself, but it seems that he realized this would not be a wise move politically. He now seems to be satisfied with separate quarters inside the former Carmelite Cloister, which will be reconstructed as the prime minister’s office with all its 700 or more employees. The location of the building, right next to the Sándor Palace, can be seen on the photo below. In the background on the right is the former royal palace, which will also be completely reconstructed and refurbished. Orbán has expensive taste.

The old Carmelite Cloister, the Sándor Palace and the Royal Palace

The old Carmelite Cloister, the Sándor Palace, and the Royal Palace

It was in June 2014 that we first heard about the plans to move Orbán’s office to the Carmelite Cloister. Just for planning the project, the government set aside 1.4 billion forints. A few months later we learned that in 2016 8.2 billion forints and in 2017 5.8 billion forints will be set aside for the reconstruction of the building. This past February it was announced in Magyar Közlöny (Official Gazette) that, in addition, one billion forints will be spent on works of art, I assume for the prime minister’s quarters. Looking at one of the drawings of the plan, I have the feeling that this space will cut out from the interior with most likely a separate entrance for the exclusive use of the prime minister and his visitors. By February of this year newspapers were talking about a total cost of 20 billion forints, which is way over the original 14 billion anticipated in 2014.

One problem facing the architects is that the Carmelite Cloister is a historic building under special, very stringent protection. This particular building is situated in the Buda Castle District, which is one of the nine UNESCO heritage sites in Hungary. No major structural changes are allowed that alter the exterior of the buildings. And yet a few days ago it became clear that Viktor Orbán’s plans include a balcony facing the Danube. As you can see from the video of the interior of the Sándor Palace, it has a terrace with a terrific view of the city, which is always shown to visitors. I guess Orbán is not satisfied with anything less. What UNESCO thinks of the balcony idea we don’t know yet, but Gábor Fodor’s Magyar Liberális Párt is planning to inquire of UNESCO whether it has given its blessing to adding a balcony to the building.

The building has a colorful history. A medieval church that stood there was destroyed by the Turkish occupiers, who built a mosque in its place. The mosque was also destroyed at the time of the liberation of Buda in 1686. The empty lot was given to the Carmelite sisters, who built a church and a cloister in the early eighteenth century. Emperor Joseph II with the Edict of Idle Institutions disbanded monastic orders that didn’t engage in teaching, nursing, or other practical work. As a result, the number of contemplative friars and nuns dropped from 65,000 to 27,000. Joseph expropriated the monasteries and took their money to pay ordinary priests more. The Carmelite sisters’ cloister was one of the victims of Joseph’s reforms. He visited Buda in 1786 and personally decided to transform the church into a theater and the cloister into a casino. It was in this building that Beethoven gave a concert on May 7, 1800. In addition, all the great Hungarian actors and actresses of the nineteenth century who later founded the National Theater played in Várszínház (Castle Theater).

During World War II the building was heavily damaged, and it was only in the 1970s that it was rebuilt and again became a functioning theater with its old name “Várszínház.” Between 2001 and 2014 the Nemzeti Táncszínház (National Dance Theater) rented the building, which they then had to vacate.

I wonder what the fate of this dream of Hungary’s megalomaniac prime minister will be. Will he ever move into the building with a commanding view of his capital, a capital he doesn’t really like? Or will something interfere with his plans, like in 2002 when his cherished dream came to naught? Despite their seeming self-confidence, György Matolcsy’s most likely illegal foundations with their corrupt practices have shaken this government more than the leading Fidesz politicians let on. I suspect Orbán often reflects on the fate of his palace in which he could hold only one cabinet meeting, which must have resembled a funeral after a lost election. He might consider it a bad omen that his new office, so close to the former Royal Palace, will again be ready in an election year. The original deadline for the completion of the building was March 15, 2016, safely tucked between two elections. But now it will be ready for occupancy only in 2018. I’ll bet it worries him.

April 30, 2016
Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
May 1, 2016 6:44 am

If he is in power after 2018, I would be willing to bet that Orban will then move into the Royal Palace which now houses the Szechenyi Library, because the library is going to be moved and the palace, according to Fidesz, will be renovated, or rather put back into its old style, to be used for special government functions. Because the interior of the old palace looks nothing like it did before WWII, it will take several years before the project is completed, and until it is Orban is foxy enough not to say that it is being renovated for him.

May 1, 2016 7:14 am

London Calling!

It would be interesting to know the percentage (and likely corruption cream-offs) of monies coming from the EU?

Paging Tappanch!

In England we have the National Trust and English Heritage to protect and maintain significant buildings here – where everything is open and transparent.

If a property is ‘lived in’ then the tenant usually has to show interested people around for a reduced rent.

Beatrice Potter’s house in the Lake District is one such property. (Who she? She was a much loved children’s author – still in print.)


Poor Orban!

His inaugural opening of his Choo Choo train has met with a little resistance today!

Protesters lay across the tracks to prevent it runnng!!!

It’s a bit like those silent films – drama drama drama.

And I bet Drama-Queen Orban will quadruple the revenge now!

Orban? Why don’t you build a fence to stop the plebs spoiling your Choo-Choo train fun?


Oh! You are?

Of course!

I think you need to call the TEK – it’s an issue of National Security!



May 1, 2016 7:34 am

When Viktor Yanukovych-Orban falls, I believe his Choo Choo trainset will be one of the first things to be destroyed by revenge citizens – if not before.

A symbolic icon of his corruption and dictatorship.

Just like Stalin’s statues and Ceausescu’s palace.

May 1, 2016 12:52 pm

Orban’s Choo Choo train was scheduled to cost 600 million forints ($2.2 m) – if it stuck to the budget.

How many AA and AAA batteries would this buy to allow patients to have their blood pressure and blood sugar taken?

May 1, 2016 4:21 pm

Charlie, you’re such a cynic! And yet, in Hungary, it is customary to attack those things that move us forward. This is what cynics do. We must ask ourselves: has cynicism ever built us anything? Has it moved the world forward? The answer is no. I urge all of Hungary not to give in. Orban Viktor will lay down the rails. He will put us on the right track. He will drive us forward!! And the Felcsut–Alcsutdoboz railway is the first step towards mighty victory!

May 1, 2016 4:51 pm


Forward and onward to the New World on the Felcsút Choo Choo train!

Work sets you free!

(But of a bummer – the communists lifting the tracks – you’re not meant to laugh!)

“Power, wealth and Choo Choo trains in the hands of the people!”

What a hoot, Bowen!

May 1, 2016 7:06 pm


Thanks for the link.

OMG, Guys you have to hear this. The half baked provincial fanfaron (French, disparaging- self aggrandizing braggart) is really off the handle.

Orban has an insatiable need to compensate for the mixed origin, for the end of-the-row mud-house, hence his fixation on a palace, actually on THE palace.

God save Hungary (from itself)!

May 1, 2016 8:08 am
One of the things Eva has pointed out several times on this blog is PM Orban’s computer illiteracy and his reliance on paper documents. The discussion by Eva of PM Orban’s move to the Castle District of Buda reflects the backwards and inefficient nature of his governance. If one goes to the White House website you will find numerous photos of President Obama working on his MacBook Pro 15, all be it with a Presidential shield stuck over the Apple symbol. President Obama also regularly uses an iPad. Modern governance is profoundly computerized and vast sums of money are spent on cybersecurity, around $3.1 billion is spent by the Federal GSA on cybersecurity with billions more budgeted by the US Department of Defense and CIA in hidden budget lines. I think this obsession with prestige on the part of PM Orban reflects insecurity with his own situation and maybe the situation of the small nation of Hungary. This type of small nation insecurity is also pronounced in the Slovak Republic which is now obsessed with the possibility that Tump’s wife Melania has effectively disowned herself from her birth nation in an interview with GQ magazine and set off and international… Read more »
May 1, 2016 8:57 am
Re: the Sandor Palace Watching the video, one would seem to get a musical echo of a wistful elegy to architectural beauty and the past of a time gone by left only to linger in individual memories. For one potential resident, it could be the many rooms will help fulfill a pleasure which delves in reveries or extravagant dreams rather than building to a strong and adaptable future for the people and country. 2018 will be pivotal for Magyarorszag. It is then when the people will ask and determine among themselves whether they still want to ‘pay rent’ to their expensive taste landlord. I mean that fellow just has a hard time fixing things within all the houses around the country. What do you have to do to get all those broken ‘ablaks’ fixed? And with the idea of Moscow having increasing influence in Magyar affairs, we’d have to figure the Sandor Palace will have a place. Such architecture with its nooks and crannies has to invite always nosey tenants. Look for it to be the Magyar ‘Kremlin’. Messages will no doubt be always picked up there at ‘the desk’. And 2018 election results will probably already go east the… Read more »
May 1, 2016 11:40 am

What is this story about Matolcsy being afraid of the number 8? Why? Does anybody know?
Apparently he has had the 8 removed from the address of the building of the National Bank, and has changed room numbers, so that all 8s are now something like room 7+1.
I’ve never heard of a fear of 8? Where does it come from?

May 1, 2016 12:12 pm


This was covered on here a couple of days ago.

If you click on this link and do a ‘find in page’ for ‘FUX’ – you’ll see FUX’s posting on the subject.

May 2, 2016 2:02 am

yes, but my question is WHY 8???
Fear of 13 is traditional. 8?


[…] and others continues to wake citizens from their illusory beliefs. I was saddened to read that the Hungarian Prime Minister Office was to move into the lavishly refurbished Sándor Palace […]

May 1, 2016 4:31 pm

I have been in the Sandor Palace on a guided tour after it was refurbished. The furniture was kitsch. Nothing authentic.

May 1, 2016 7:22 pm

Of course it is kitsch, everything coming from these bums is kitsch – from Orban’s beige suits circa 1998, the pictures commissioned earlier with Torgyán, recently by Kerényi, the Arts Palace, the celebration shows staged by P.Balázs, the Basic Law Table, Orban’s soccer mania, eating sunflower seeds, the Cho Cho train, etc. etc.
On the end they are again at the throat of he Budapest Festival Orchestra – the Budapest Council surprisingly has scut its subsidies from 260 to 60 million Forints. Mind you, this is one of the 10 best orchestras in the world and the full subsidy is less than the maintenance of a middle size stadium.

It is a killer kitsch.