Geography does not allow Hungary direct access to the sea, but this does not prevent the Budapest government from making a seaport. Just as China is trying to make its way physically and commercially through Eastern Europe to the heart of the continent, to the wealthiest consumers in the eurozone, so is Hungary targeting the West. It is developing its own port in the Mediterranean, in Italy, on land purchased in the area of the port of Trieste.
A journey from Budapest to Trieste takes about 6 hours on the highway via Slovenia, and about 10 hours by train, as much as a trip from Bucharest to Timisoara.
The Hungarian government says the investment will help the country’s companies speed up export shipments. It is an investment of about 100 million euros made by the Hungarian state company Adria Port in a multipurpose terminal in the Noghere area. The land in question has an area of 32 hectares and is leased for 60 years. Hungarian exports are likely to reach the sea by rail, given the partnerships between Adria Port and Rail Cargo Austria and Hamburger Hafen & Logistik.
The route and the system are already used by Hungarian exporting companies. The peak traffic was about 1,050 trains a year. The Hungarian investment has been facilitated by the Italian Council of State and when the port is ready it will be able to handle at least 70-80 thousand containers per year, or two million tons of goods annually, according to Hungary Today. This means that the port will also have logistical facilities. Hungarian media speculate that the project is possible thanks to the alliance between Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Matteo Salvini when the far-right Italian politician was interior minister.
However, Trieste is the second choice of Hungary, the first being the Slovenian port of Koper. The project failed, probably for political reasons, because Orban’s Slovenian ally failed to win the election, Hungary Today notes. In order to gain access to Koper, the Hungarian government would have been willing to invest 200 million euros in a Slovenian railway line. More recently, Hungary has set its Slovak neighbors on fire. Orban’s government issued a decree in the summer of September to set up a fund – Termofold Magantokealap, or the Private Equity Fund for Agricultural Land – for the purpose of acquiring agricultural land in Central and Eastern Europe.
The official justification is to “lay the groundwork for the international expansion of Hungarian agricultural companies”. The fund would have financial resources of 400 million euros, of which 70% would come from the state budget. For a long time, the project was shrouded in secrecy, but news of Budapest’s plans reached the Slovak press and alarmed Slovakia’s leaders.
Criticisms, reproaches and challenges followed. The Slovak government has reacted with a draft amendment to the law on agricultural land to provide for the obligation to inform the foreign ministry in case of land acquisitions by another state. Also, only active farmers would have the right to buy agricultural land. Following talks between officials from the two countries, the Hungarian government has abandoned plans to buy land in neighboring states.
Euractiv calculated that if the fund’s money had been divided equally for each neighboring state, Hungary could have bought 9,000 hectares of arable land in southern Slovakia. In addition to the agricultural issue, the Slovak government also learned from the press that Budapest intends to allocate four million euros for the renovation of some Slovak churches. The Catholic Church praised the gesture, but the Slovak government did not. But the Hungarian “siege” did not end here.
The Slovak Ministry of Economy has been forced to intervene to prevent the sale of a minority stake in the energy company Stredoslovensk · energetika to the Hungarian giant MVM. Stredoslovensk · is the second largest electricity producer in Slovakia, while MVM is the largest electricity supplier in Hungary and is state-owned. The Slovak government has explicitly stated that it does not like the idea of Hungary making significant financial investments in the country. MVM would have offered 1.2 billion euros for that stake, more than any other competitor. A more successful Hungarian foreign action is access to the liquefied natural gas terminal on the Croatian island of Krk, which opened earlier this year. MVM has a Croatian subsidiary, and it received the first deliveries when the facilities were put into operation there. If Hungary’s land expansion seems to be limited for political reasons, space space may be limitless. This month, Budapest launched the implementation of the national space strategy, which aims, among other things, to send a Hungarian astronaut into space on the International Space Station by the middle of this decade. Hungary also wants to launch its own telecommunications satellite. The government has set up a fund to finance companies in the sector.
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