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The debate over the battery factory in Debrecen in northern Hungary, may seem to concern environmental issues, but the investment is reportedly being attacked because of the growing economic competition, the Parliamentary Secretary of State of the Prime Minister’s Office said in a video post on Facebook on Sunday. According to Csaba Dömötör, those who oppose the factory do not have a problem with the battery factory being built, but that it is being built in Hungary, adding that the Hungarian opposition is joining this campaign.
The politician recalled that the new EU regulation is pushing the car industry towards electric cars. According to the European Commission’s proposal, only zero-emission vehicles could be placed on the EU market from 2035. A huge race for production capacity has therefore been launched, and these years will determine where the dominant electric car factories will be located. Moreover, cars need batteries, many more battery factories than at present, close to the car factories.
The competition for battery factories has been launched worldwide, and Hungary has entered the race, Csaba Dömötör said, adding that
if the investments are realized, Hungary will be able to become the third largest producer of batteries by 2030. This means thousands of jobs and important bridgeheads for the industry of the future.
The Chinese CATL investment in Debrecen is part of this plan, he said. The new plant would also produce batteries for domestic car manufacturers, including BMW, which has investments in Debrecen. Besides new jobs, the investment would mean huge tax revenues for the city for decades to come.
It was announced last September that in the largest ever investment in Hungary, worth some HUF 3,000 billion (EUR 7.4 billion), China’s Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Limited (CATL) will directly create 9,000 new jobs in Debrecen. The world’s largest battery manufacturer had chosen Hungary to build its second European plant after two and a half years of negotiations, following huge international competition.
Dömötör recalled that the same company has built a similar factory in Thuringia, Germany, a place where left-wing political parties, the Socialists and Greens, are typically in government and even they support the project. In this context, the Hungarian politician asked the question: why is it that something that means clean energy, a future, and jobs in Germany is said to be environmentally destructive in Hungary?
Meanwhile, it has emerged that the protests in Debrecen could be linked to an international political lobby network.
According to a video made by Hungarian reporter Dániel Bohár, the Association of Alternative Communities (Alternatív Közösségek Egyesülete) in Debrecen started organizing protests against the battery factory last year. This organization has received a total of 2.2 million dollars since 2017 from Open Society Foundations (OSF), a political lobby network linked to Hungarian billionaire George Soros.
Also active in Debrecen is the Together for Debrecen group (Együtt Debrecenért Egyesület), which received around HUF 15 million (USD 41,700) from OSF between 2019 and 2020 to set up a media outlet called Debreciner. In January alone, the portal published around 80 articles railing against the battery factory.
This is not the only problem with the protests in the northern Hungarian city. According to Bohár, the demonstrations are also linked to the opposition, since the Hungarian left is even using professional protesters to prevent the factory from being built. As the reported noted in his video, Attila Bertalan, who is known for regularly appearing at protests linked to the Hungarian opposition, had appeared at the Debrecen demonstrations. He was also in the middle of the demonstrations when there were protests regarding teachers, when the situation of farmers was on the agenda, or when people protested against the amendments of the tax for small business owners (KATA).
Featured photo via Facebook/Qingdao Multinationals Summit