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Dispute over battery factory in Debrecen

February 1st, 2023

A left-leaning economist thinks that the Chinese battery plant planned in the city of Debrecen will not serve Hungarian economic interests but will harm the environment. A pro-government columnist finds such fears absurd and politically motivated, noting that similar factories operate in Germany.

The Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Limited announced last year that it would invest €7.7 billion to build an electric car battery factory in Debrecen. The battery plant is expected to create 9,000 new jobs. The government offered €280 million in subsidies. Local organizations and people living in the vicinity who fear environmental damage have organized rallies to stop the construction of the factory. According to an investigatory report, the NGOs organizing the protests to halt the project earlier received 2.2 million USD from the Open Society Foundation.

In an interview with Népszava, Dóra Győrffy, economist at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences says that the factory would not benefit Hungarians. Győrffy notes that battery production requires vast amounts of energy and therefore would further exacerbate Hungary’s energy shortage. Győrffy also thinks that Hungary will need to import foreign workers from Asia to fill the new workplaces, as there are not enough skilled workers in the country.

Magyar Nemzet’s Zsolt Bayer bluntly accuses Hungarian Greens opposing the project of  ‘high treason’. The pro-government commentator writes that Germany’s federal states compete to attract battery manufacturers, adding that the same Chinese firm already operates a plant in Thuringia in full compliance with EU environmental regulations. Bayer adds that even German left-wing parties fully support battery factories. He suggests that those NGOs that oppose the construction of the Debrecen plant serve foreign interests.

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