At a press conference held with Mayor Zsolt Fekete at the Salgótarján stop on the Modern Cities Programme, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said that a growth path must be outlined which will enable Salgótarján to be turned from a losing city into a winning city.
The Prime Minister stressed that Salgótarján is the last county-ranked city in Hungary which still gives one the strong impression that it is disadvantaged, and a loser after the fall of communism.
Twenty-seven years have passed since the fall of communism, however, and we therefore cannot allow the country to have a county-ranked city which still sees itself as a loser from the political changes, he said, adding that ending this state of affairs is the number one goal.
Mr. Orbán stressed that Salgótarján is important for Hungary, which would like to see the city continue to grow.
Hungary needs Salgótarján, the Prime Minister said, and it is essential that this former industrial city with great traditions should find its place in the Hungary of the 21st century. The Prime Minister described the cities of Tatabánya and Dunaújváros – which were previously in a similar situation, but for which residents now feel pride – as good examples of the benefits of development.
“So the course, the goal that we have identified is not impossible to achieve, as there are precedents for it in our own Hungarian history”, he said.
Speaking about political differences, Mr. Orbán said that a path of accord has been sought, in which a socialist mayor and a conservative, national, Christian prime minister have been able to come to an agreement which they can heartily recommend to anyone; the current agreement is just such an agreement.
He pointed out that the Mayor had given him a frank account of the tax figures for the local economy, as well as the city’s economic performance indicators and tax revenues. With reference to these, Salgótarján’s lack of adequate resources mean that on its own it would be unable to complete the ambitious course being planned.
The city would be happy simply to keep operating at its present level with a wise management scheme, he added, but despite all its best efforts it might need the Government’s assistance even for this.
In twelve points the Prime Minister summed up the areas of development covered by the agreement – ranging from a bypass road to a new city centre.
He first mentioned the construction of a dual carriageway – part of a HUF 40 to 50 billion project – bypassing Salgótarján and extending to the border of the country.
Mr. Orbán said that Salgótarján’s needs for a fleet of electric buses must conform to the national transport and public transport concept, and therefore a joint working committee will seek to find the best solution for organisation of the city’s public transport. Meanwhile the Government will provide the requested allocation of HUF 1.7 billion for the construction of a new local bus terminal and parking facility.
In order to develop the local economy and industry, HUF 10 billion will be allocated to develop a total area of 40–45 hectares of the city’s brownfield “rust zones”, with a new industrial park enabling suitable areas to contribute to production. Another industrial park on a 12-hectare greenfield site will be created, with funding of HUF 2.5 billion.
A task force will look into the technical aspects of creating an energy supply system for the city to cover its energy needs from renewable sources. The Government will allocate HUF 4.5 billion to raising glassware production to higher industrial quality standards.
In order to create modern training opportunities in catering and trade, the educational institutions concerned will receive HUF 3 billion, and the Government will contribute a further HUF 2 billion to establish dual training tailored to local needs.
The parties discussed the various health and sports developments as part of a separate chapter. According to the agreement, a new oncology centre will be created in the hospital from an allocation of HUF 1.2 billion. Salgótarján has completed plans for the construction of a sports and recreational centre, and the HUF 8 billion project will also include a 25-metre swimming pool. The Government recommended the building of a 50-metre swimming pool, and the state has also agreed to operate the swimming pool for five years. An athletics centre will be created from an allocation of one and a half billion forints on the premises of the glassware factory sports field, while an ice sports centre will be built near the Slovak border.
Mr. Orbán said that these developments are particularly justified if Salgótarján seeks to become a regional centre.
Projects needed to enhance the region’s tourist appeal will cost HUF 22 billion. The Prime Minister said that this sum will be made available following technical approval of the plans. Another task force will assess all church development needs in and around the city – including churches, parish churches, parsonages and church-run educational and social institutions. The Prime Minister stated that the Government will support the agreement to be concluded with churches.
Mr. Orbán finally mentioned the development of Salgótarján’s city centre, which is planned to be raised to the status of regional centre. He said that the Government will cover the costs of the related rehabilitation plan, within limits which are generous but reasonable.
Mr. Orbán said that within a very short time Salgótarján will receive one billion forints for planning purposes, and within a month a further few billion forints.
The Prime Minister said that if the city uses these funds wisely and plans are completed with an associated schedule, within a foreseeable time – a year or two – we can see results in Salgótarján residents’ quality of life, the cityscape and the opportunities offered by the local economy.
At the press conference Mayor of Salgótarján Zsolt Fekete stressed that the agreement means that the development of Salgótarján as a regional cultural, economic and sports centre can finally begin.
He described the development of the economy as the top priority, because unemployment in the city stands at nine per cent, which is more than double the national average.
The Mayor said that the developments launched as part of the Modern Cities Programme will make Salgótarján a more liveable and lovable city, and the development of northern Hungary and Hungary’s less advanced counties is an interest shared with the Government.
(Source: MTI, Cabinet Office of the Prime Minister)