The canopy walkway without a canopy, built from EU funds
May 08. 2023. – 12:12 PM
We traveled to the village of Nyírmártofalva to find out the truth about the numerous stories surrounding the infamous canopy walkway which has no canopy around it. We wanted to see it for ourselves, and wanted to speak to the locals and to the mayor, who was awarded an EU grant for the project.
It was in late March that the news emerged that an entire forest near Nyírmártonfalva, a village of 2,000 people located 30 kilometres from Debrecen, was cut to the ground to build a canopy walkway using 60 million HUF (161 thousand euros) of EU funding, according to a video report by Átlátszó. According to photos taken by a reader of the paper, the trees were still there in February 2022, and Google Earth satellite images indeed indicate that there used to be a forest in the area, making it likely that the trees were felled in the summer of 2022. Mihály Filemon, the Fidesz mayor of Nyírmártonfalva, told Átlátszó that it was none of their business how he spent EU funds.
"Anyone who knows the basics of forestry shouldn't be surprised to see a canopy walkway in a felled forest,"
Mihály Filemon, the Fidesz mayor of Nyírmártonfalva, told Cívishír.hu.
"This is a public amenity project, meaning that I had my commercially managed forest reclassified as a public amenity forest so that the public can visit it for free. I opened up the forest to the public. It so happened that the forest reached the end of its life at this point, but the forest that was cut down will be replaced by a new forest. I submitted my application for funding to support the establishment of the canopy walkway back in 2017.
If it had been built back then, we could have enjoyed the view of the canopy from above for years. But I didn't receive the grant until 2021. And if you look at construction prices, the 2017 prices are not comparable to the 2021-22 prices," the mayor said, adding that he is preparing to replant the forest around the canopy walkway soon.
Shortly after the story broke, Transparency International Hungary turned to the recently established Integrity Authority in connection with the case. The NGO requested a thorough examination of the matter, because, as they say, this case goes to show that there are "systemic errors" in the selection of projects for EU funding in Hungary.
Mihály Filemon, the village’s mayor meanwhile announced that because the media had deeply offended and discredited him in connection with the canopy walkway, he would sue all the media who had reported on it, and until this was over he wouldn’t talk to anyone.
MP of the Democratic Coalition (DK), Ágnes Vadai addressed a question in writing to Péter Polt, the Attorney General of Hungary, regarding the EU funding of the canopy walkway in Nyírmártonfalva and asked whether EU funds had been properly used in the case of the structure. Polt assessed the question as a "denunciation in terms of content" and forwarded it to the Criminal Directorate General of the National Tax and Customs Administration (NAV).
A social worker employed by the municipality of Nyírmártonfalva recently used a smiley to comment under a photo of the structure on Facebook – as she found it funny. Mayor Filemon, however, didn’t share her sentiment and called on her to remove the symbol – which she recorded and made publicly available.
Due to the publicity the walkway has received, many Hungarians have traveled to the village in recent weeks to see the infamous structure personally, and most recently, it was reported that the road leading to the structure had been closed down.
We wanted to see for ourselves, and here’s what we found at the scene:
The subtitles for this video were created as part of a paid cooperation, using the Alrite speech-to-text software.