The New York Times: Debrecen Seethes Over Chinese Battery Plant


The New York Times has just posted an article about the current situation in Debrecen, namely that the $7.8 billion factory planned by a Chinese company in the city has infuriated many people living in and around Debrecen.


Andrew Higgins journalist at The New York Times has also traveled to Mikepércs to learn more about the planned battery plant and people’s opinion about it. He also talked to the mayor of Mikepércs Zoltán Timár who decided to side with residents opposed to the project and said that it was a “political suicide” and “it is like lying in front of a steamroller”.


The factory, which would be the biggest of its kind in Europe, promises to put Hungary at the center of a wrenching and, for some, highly profitable green transition, with electric cars leading the way. But the locals in Mikepércs are angry about the arrival of bulldozers and dump trucks, and many of them worry the project would create pollution, drain their water supply and bring an influx of Chinese and other foreign workers.


Higgins also writes about the protests that were organized in Debrecen in January citing Taman Polgar Toth journalist who said he “had never seen anything like it — hundreds of people yelling and fighting.”


CATL – the company behind the Hungarian project – already has a $2 billion plant in Germany that was widely welcomed, but its plans for the larger one in Hungary has left it at odds with the nearly half of the country’s population that, according to a survey this week, wants new battery plants banned.


When Hungary announced the battery plant last August, it trumpeted it as the biggest foreign investment in the country’s history. Now, the battery plant has met a strong opposition, from local residents, and from opposition politicians and civil society activists. More worrying for the Fidesz government is the public rift, small but highly unusual, that has opened up within the ranks of Fidesz.


The mayor of Debrecen, Laszlo Papp, a strong supporter of the Chinese factory and the Hungarian government too, acknowledged that many locals were upset but said this was largely because there “is a lot of fake information” about how much water the plant would use, where factory workers would come from and other important issues.


According to Peter Ungár, co-chairman of the Green Party of Hungary, factories like the one next to Mikepércs consume vast amounts of water and energy and cover arable land with concrete. CATL’s Hungarian plant would cover an area around the size of 400 football fields.


The whole article of The New York Times can be read here.

Photo: MTI

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