Foreign minister Peter Szijjarto – Photo: Facebook

Szijjarto: Activists ‘inciting against’ battery plants ‘serve foreign interests’

Those "inciting against" plans to build battery plants "serve the interests of other countries", the minister of foreign affairs and trade said on Monday, and insisted that the planned factories were instrumental in saving jobs and meeting environmental goals.

The foreign ministry quoted Peter Szijjarto as saying at the launching ceremony of a 15 billion forint (EUR 38.5m) investment project by Nippon Paper Industries in Vacratot, north of Budapest, that the Hungarian state was contributing 2.3 billion forints to the scheme which would create 60 jobs. “Cellulose making is one of the most environment friendly technologies possible,” he said.

The minister said the European economy was suffering from the war in Ukraine and related “ill-advised sanctions”, but added that all those “would be no sufficient reason to give up the strategic objectives of protecting the environment and securing jobs”. Hungary has had significant achievements in both areas despite a difficult economic situation in Europe, “which was only possible through electric car projects”, he added. The electric car industry provides a guarantee for economic growth and jobs for decades, he insisted.

He said those protesting against battery making in Hungary “will jeopardise tens of thousands of jobs and want to achieve that those jobs should be created in other countries”. He also insisted that “there are no electric cars without batteries … and the environmental goals could not be met without transforming transport”.

Hungary is currently the world’s fourth biggest producer of batteries, with batteries being a leading export product in the past two years, Szijjarto said. In the past six years, battery production-related investments worth a combined 7,000 billion forints were made in more than 20 localities in Hungary.

Opposition LMP said in response that “the government is serving foreign interests” by representing the interests of the battery plants against the Hungarian people’s. “Those serve foreign interests who damage Hungary’s water resources, arable land and the environment for the multinationals’ profits, and even support them with tax allowances and subsidies,” spokesman Jozsef Gal told a press conference. He called on Szijjarto to attend public forums in Debrecen, Fot or Nyiregyhaza to get personal experience of the public’s dissatisfaction. The battery makers are setting up plants in Hungary because they can pay less to workers, and they do not have to abide by environmental protection regulations and respect workers’ rights, he said.

Ruling Fidesz said battery plants in Hungary were being built under the same strict rules as in Germany but the “dollar left”, in an effort to serve foreign interests, was ready to risk jobs in car manufacturing. Europe is undergoing a transition to electric cars, and electric cars cannot run without a battery, it added. If no battery plants are built in Hungary, then the car industry will close down and 300,000 jobs will be lost, it said.

Leave a Reply