Photo: wikipedia

Oversight of firewood harvesting unchanged

All tree felling will continue to be scrutinised by forestry and environmental protection officials and by national park experts, even after modifications to rules making it easier to harvest firewood, the agriculture ministry's state secretary for forestry and land said on public radio on Sunday.

Peter Zambo said the recently issued government decree paves the way for harvesting a large volume of firewood, if necessary in the event of an energy emergency. Experts will still decide on whether or not to issue permits for tree-felling only after inspection of the site, he added.

He said 1.3 million cubic metres of firewood will be harvested in state-owned forests before the end of the year, and the government is also counting on firewood from privately-owned forests.

He added that 3.8 million cubic metres of locust trees, on areas that are not protected, can be legally felled at present, and the felling will start there, if necessary.

Around 13 million cubic metres of wood, of a total of around 400 million cubic metres of living wood stock, is harvested in Hungary each year, Zambo said. State- and privately-owned forestry companies account for 8-8.5 million of that, of which 3-4 million is firewood, meaning there is close to 4-4.5 million cubic metres of “reserves”, he added.

Starting the harvest of firewood two weeks earlier, in August, will not have any negative effects on the soil or bird life, Zambo said, noting that trees felled now would yield dry firewood after 90 days.

Military to practice flyovers in Budapest on Monday

Aircraft of the Hungarian military will practice flyovers in preparation for an August 20 air show over Budapest in the early afternoon on Monday, the defence ministry told MTI.

The practice will involve increased noise in the area around the parliament building and the Chain Bridge between 1.30pm and 3pm, while the River Danube will also be partially closed for traffic, the ministry said.

The nearly one-hour air show itself is scheduled to start at 9am on the August 20 national holiday as part of state celebrations.

Illustration – Photo: wikipedia

Jobbik calls on former leader to return parliamentary mandate

The leadership of opposition party Jobbik has called on its former head, Peter Jakab, to return his parliamentary mandate.

In a statement sent to MTI on Sunday, the party said its board voted unanimously on Saturday to call on Jakab – who announced days earlier that he would leave the party but continue to sit in parliament as an independent – to return his mandate “to the group of people who once saw in him hope as a new leader who represented right-wing, conservative values”.

“Peter, this group of people once looked up to you and followed you. Now all they see in you is how others are taking decisions in your place,” Jobbik said.

Jakab won a seat in parliament in 2018, and was elected Jobbik’s parliamentary group leader in 2019. He was elected party leader in 2020 and re-elected in May 2022, but resigned a month later, citing differences with the party leadership.

“Britain’s Secret Defences” by Andrew Chatterton (published by Casemate)

Civilian assassins, saboteurs and spies awaited Germans

After the Nazi war machine – the Blitzkrieg – steamrollered through the Low Countries and France in May 1940, some 338,000 trapped Allied troops were evacuated across the Channel in the “Miracle of Dunkirk”. The threat of an invasion of England became very real, and here is the mostly untold story of the highly secretive defence network set up in readiness by the British government.
14. August 2022 9:23

As the book makes plain, this was no “Dad’s Army”/Home Guard-like affair involving comical characters charging around with pitchforks. Although the networks were made up of civilian volunteers, they were often ruthless people, highly trained in sabotage and guerilla warfare, for which they would emerge from hidden underground bunkers. Any German occupation would be monitored by swathes of spies who would pass on details via runners, wireless operators and Auxiliary Territorial Service women.

Assassins too in a length-of-the-country network in which capable hands included the likes of vicars and doctors. As we read, Britain had the world’s largest navy and merchant navy, a huge empire and immense global reach, but its army was small and had been defeated and humiliated in France, its weapons and equipment left on the sands of Dunkirk. Now, the asset-rich island nation felt weakened, exposed and very vulnerable.

Britain, then, became the only country in World War Two to prepare a secret guerilla and resistance movement before any enemy invasion had actually happened. These were the Auxiliary Units, as they were deliberately vaguely called, an organisation so hush-hush that all participants had to sign the Official Secrets Act, and many of them never told anyone of their role, not even their closest family and friends. Many took their commitment to keeping quiet to their graves.

The name Auxiliary Units covered a multiple of possible uses and, if overheard by the enemy, would not arouse immediate suspicion. The units had to be set up quickly to be effective  against an invasion, and the embryonic guerrilla cells were run by Intelligence Officers often recruited through the “old boys” network.

The usual recruitment red tape was thrown out the window and a nationwide search was on for thousands of people with adventurous natures and who who knew their local forests, woods, mines, old closed shafts, hills, moors, glens. The secrecy meant patrol leaders tended to enrol relatives, close colleagues or friends of friends and trusted contacts.

They all had to have a determination to fight using whatever tactics would cause the most chaos, no matter the consequences to themselves. “Dirty tricks” were acceptable in alternative ways of fighting. The ability to travel silently at night across fields, ditches and rivers would be a big advantage over invaders who were in a strange country.

Farmers, farm hands, gamekeepers and estate workers were valuable for knowing the lie of the land, and some gamekeepers recuited poachers, the latter being able to handle weapons, set booby traps and live off a land they perhaps knew better than the gamekeepers. By the end of the 1940s thousands of men were being trained in unarmed combat, explosives, sabotage, guerrilla warfare and silent killing, with the expectation that their role would probably end ultimately in their own death.

They became some of the most highly trained troops in the country, adept at killing with a knife, using grenades, knowing where to put explosives on German aircraft and tanks, and living underground. They were certainly much better trained than the Home Guard, and, often, the Regular Army too.

Some patrols were reportedly given envelopes that were to be unopened unless the Germans came. These contained names of British targets, Nazi sympathisers and potential traitors, to be assassinated immediately. The sheer ruthlessness extended to the Auxiliary Units themselves. If a patrol member was injured on a mission and could not get back to base, probably an underground bunker, the other members were obliged to shoot him. The belief was that if the casualty fell into enemy hands, the Germans would only torture and shoot him anyway.

The units were well provided with weapons and explosives with the aim of doing as much damage as possible to invading forces. If the Germans entered their area, they were to disappear into their bunkers and emerge mainly at night to destroy ammunition and fuel dumps, trains and railways, planes and airfields, bridges and roads, convoys – anything that might create mayhem and gain time for Regular forces to regroup and prepare a conventional counter-attack.

Author Andrew Chatterton is described as a Second World War historian and Public Relations professional. His role as a volunteer Press Officer for the Coleshill Auxiliary Research Team (CART), a volunteer group that researches, documents and records the goings-on of the units, led to his fascination with the subject. CART maintains the British Resistance Archive where the story of some of the civilian volunteers is kept and its website is www.staybehinds.com.

Coleshill House in Berkshire (now in Oxfordshire, now demolished after a fire) was where the Auxiliary Units established their headquarters and training centre, and it features among the previously unpublished photographs of men and women operatives, cramped bunkers, weapons and equipment, letters, disguised training pamphlets and so on. The weapons include sub-machine guns, fighting knives, knuckledusters and a garrote.

Chatterton did 12 years of research and is being credited with filling a hole in the history of the war with his untold story. Apart from his own work, he draws on a brief unpublished pamphlet containing an official history about the units written by Major Nigel Oxenden in 1944 and another book, “Last Ditch” by David Lampe, published in 1968. There is one museum dedicated to the units, in Parham, Suffolk, which opened in 1997.

Fortunately for Britain, but perhaps unfortunately for the book, the Luftwaffe was defeated in the Battle of Britain in the second half of 1940, Germany invaded the USSR instead in June 1941 and Japan attacked Pearl Harbour in December 1941, altering the course of the war. Realistically, by 1941 the threat of an all-out invasion of Britain had passed. The justification for keeping the Auxiliary Units going was becoming increasingly harder. The Nazis were only ever able to occupy Britain’s Channel Islands (the subject of other books) for most of the war from June 1940 until liberation in May 1945. Despite Chatterton’s dedication, the fascinating events he describes tend to fizzle out somewhat.

The secrecy of the Auxuiliary Units meant they received no public recognition. The Home Guard members received the Defence Medal while the units got a letter of thanks and a small lapel badge before disappearing back to “normal” life.  A recently discovered document sent to group commanders in East Anglia, and presumably the rest of the country, noted: “As there are no Army funds from which the cost [of the badges] can be met it will be necessary to make a charge of 6d each.” Today, at least, the badges are worth a small fortune.

Photo: Flickr

Gazprom starts delivery of additional gas to Hungary

Gazprom started delivery of additional gas to Hungary - above the volume stipulated in the country's long-term contract - in the morning on Friday, the foreign ministry's state secretary Tamas Menczer said in a post on Facebook on Saturday.

Menczer noted that the government had earlier decided to procure an additional 700 million cubic metres of gas to ensure Hungary’s supply as Europe faces an energy crisis caused by the war and sanctions. Talks Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto held in Moscow paved the way for an agreement on the basis of which Gazprom has started delivering additional gas volume, he added.

In the initial phase, Gazprom will deliver a daily 2.6 million cubic metres of the additional gas through the TurkStream pipeline until the end of August, he said. Talks are underway on the pace of deliveries in September, he added.

Menczer noted that Hungary’s gas storage facilities are at over 32 percent capacity, while the European Union average stands under 20 percent.

Hungarian Petroleum Association petrol stations to remain open August 19-20

Petrol stations of the Hungarian Petroleum Association (MASZ) will remain open on August 19-20, when 500-600 stations operated by the Association of Independent Petrol Stations (FBSZ) will close.

MASZ said in a statement on Saturday that members’ petrol stations will operate as usual on August 19-20. However, the association warned that the some 1,000 petrol stations operated by its members will not be able to provide the “full degree” of service that the over 2,000 petrol stations in Hungary normally provide and asked motorists to take that into consideration when planning to top up their tanks.

MASZ’s members include MOL, OMV, Shell, Lukoil, Oil, Mobil Petrol and Castrum Ferrerum.

FBSZ said on Friday its members would close their stations on August 19-20 to raise awareness of the impact of the regulated motor fuel price cap on owners and their families.

Photo: Flickr

S+P revises outlook on Hungary ‘BBB’ rating to negative

S+P Global Ratings affirmed Hungary's investment grade 'BBB' sovereign rating, but revised the outlook to negative from stable at a scheduled review on Friday.

S+P rationalised the revision citing external risks – including potential cuts to European Union funds and reduced gas flows – that could weigh on Hungary’s growth prospects and endanger post-pandemic fiscal consolidation.

Rising wage and price inflation, a volatile exchange rate, and upward pressure on borrowing costs could also narrow the government’s policy flexibility, S+P said.

Photo: MTI

Karacsony: Government ‘taking away’ streets from city council without consultation

The government has "taken away" entire streets from the city council in addition to squares "without consultation", Budapest Mayor Gergely Karacsony said on Friday, referring to a government decree issued overnight.

“They will then be passed over to the 5th district where property utilisation is usually described as ‘the Rogan model’…” Karacsony said in reference to Antal Rogan, former mayor of the district who now heads the prime minister’s cabinet office.

Under an amended government decree, the management of seventeen public spaces has been transferred from the Budapest metropolitan council, which is run by the national opposition, to the ruling Fidesz-led 5th district council.

Karacsony cricitised the government for focusing its efforts on legislative changes instead of addressing the problem of “record-high inflation, soaring food prices and millions feeling anxious about their approaching energy bills.”

The 5th district said earlier that under a government decree amended on July 25, it would manage 17 public areas in the capital “so reducing tasks” managed by the metropolitan council “and their related expenses”. No transfers of property or changes in ownership will take place, it added. Government critics of Karacsony’s administration had accused it of mismanaging certain squares and public spaces.

Photo: MTI

Some 500 petrol stations to stay closed on August 19-20

The members of the Association of Independent Petrol Stations (FBSZ), some 500-600 stations, will remain closed on August 19-20, the association said on Friday.

The association’s assembly voted for the strike unanimously on Friday, wishing to raise awareness of “the livelihoods of thousands of Hungarian families gradually slipping away since November 2021,” the statement said.

The association cited supply chain issues, the sector’s uncertainty and unpaid government subsidies as the root of the problems. Oil and gas company MOL cut supplies to pumps by half, the state support for July is yet to be paid, and the August subsidies are also uncertain, the statement said.

Battery plant in Debrecen largest ever investment project in Hungary

The largest ever investment project in Hungary will be carried under an agreement signed with Chinese battery producer Contemporary Amperex Technology (CATL) which will set up its second European plant in Debrecen, in eastern Hungary, the parliamentary state secretary of the foreign ministry said on Friday.

Levente Magyar said that after a series of talks spanning over more than two years, the world’s largest battery maker will invest 3,000 billion forints (EUR 7.6bn) in a plant occupying 221 hectares and employing 9,000 people.

Further details will be announced once approval by the Chinese company’s shareholders council is granted, he said.

The investment will spur electric vehicle manufacturing in Hungary, he said, adding that the government made the right decision by launching a strategy of opening to China and making electric vehicle manufacturing a key axis of Hungary’s economic development.

At a time when the war in Ukraine has driven Europe to economic crisis, the government’s aim is to make Hungary a local exception and stay out of the deepening crisis, he said. This is possible by maintaining the level of economic growth by attracting large investments to Hungary, he added.

The company said in a statement that Hungary, and especially Debrecen, offers a stable business environment, developed infrastructure and logistics networks, a long history of car manufacturing and a large and competitive workforce, making it the perfect choice for CATL’s second battery European plant.