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16 Mär 2023

France 24,
ANDREW HIGGINS - The New York Times (USA)

Hungary: Pollution risks spark protest against Chinese battery giant CATL's plant in Debrecen; incl. co. comment

"Hungary protests against Chinese battery plant defy 'Orbanomics'" 10 February 2023

Even as diggers turned over land for one of Europe's biggest electric battery plants, environmental protesters vowed to run the Chinese project out of town.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban is keen to woo foreign manufacturers and promote the country as a global hub for electric vehicle (EV) batteries. [...] But the groundswell of opposition in Hungary's second biggest city of Debrecen is a rare grassroots challenge to the nationalist premier.

Chinese giant CATL is pouring 7.3 billion euros ($7.8 billion) into building a lithium-ion EV battery plant, under a deal announced in August.

Rancorous public hearings followed in January, with angry locals confronting officials over worries about the giga-factory's demands for water and energy, and pollution risks. [...] Alarm and resistance only grew after last summer's drought, which dried up a lake near the city, a longtime stronghold of Orban's ruling Fidesz party. [...]

CATL told AFP it was "open for questions and comments" from the local community.

In an emailed comment, it said that it "strives to become a partner in the sustainable development of Debrecen and the wider region".

The government expects the factory to comply with the "strictest possible environmental protection rules", Orban's chief of staff Gergely Gulyas told reporters on Thursday.

He said that many of the protesters' concerns were "based on fake news about the factory". [...]

The promise of new jobs resulting from the factories has also been met with scepticism.

Analysts say they will likely be filled by migrant workers from Asia due to a local labour shortage, as has happened at other new plants. [...]