The opposition Socialists have called on ruling Fidesz MEPs “to fight” to increase the level of EU subsidies for Hungarian farmers. Speaking at a press conference, a board member of the party asked why Fidesz MEPs had not voted in the European Parliament in favour of a proposal to increase farming subsidies by 20% if Fidesz were committed to supporting Hungarian farming. The Socialists are committed to farm subsidies, Gábor Harangozó said, adding that they called on the government to support a common budget with a minimum payment of 100,000 forints (EUR 310) per hectare and 30% co-financing so that “more money gets to the Hungarian countryside and villages”. Harangozó noted that although Hungary is one of the recipients of the highest level of EU subsidies, the government only provides 15% co-financing, the lowest rate in Europe which compares with a rate of 30% or higher in all other EU members in the region.
Harangozó was responding to Monday’s announcement by Zsolt Nyitrai, the prime minister’s commissioner for social affairs, that farming experts will commence a nationwide tour to ask farmers for their opinion on how to boost their competitiveness. Hungary’s rural development programmes are slow to get off the ground, he said, noting “massive delays” in central funding allocations. Since January 11, lawfully buying and selling land has been “nigh impossible in absence of legislation regulating the terms of pricing in a contract,” Harangozó added. Also, he said it was unclear why no funds had been allocated for irrigation this year, the driest of the past 20 years. Had the government delivered investments promised in three election campaigns, up to ten times as much land could have been brought under irrigation, Harangozó said. He proposed building reservoirs to take advantage of Hungary’s vast water resources.