News for Hungary

NATO Radar In the European Capital of Culture
Hungary Created: 4 Apr 2007
Press Release: NATO Radar In the European Capital of Culture
Also: A Letter to NATO in protest of a proposed radar station in Pécs, Hungary (city of almost 160,000 people).

Pécs, Hungary

Civil Movement for the Mecsek
(Civilek a Mecsekért Mozgalom)


Association for the Community of Istenkút
(Istenkúti Közösségért Egyesület)


Letter to NATO

Press Release Text:

As local non-profit, non-governmental and politically non-affiliated organizations based in Pécs, Hungary, we have been fighting to prevent the building of a NATO radar station within the official boundary and jurisdiction of our city of almost 160,000 people. Once the fight against the first proposed location, the Zengő Mountain, was won by local activists in 2004 as was reported in the international media, the government of Hungary declared a new location for the proposed radar station. They did so without consulting the local population. This location is the Tubes Hill, and is located within 1 km of heavily populated areas of the city of Pécs, and only 4 km from the city center.
Pécs has been named a UNESCO "City for Peace" in 1998, and it is now slated to become the European Capital of Culture in 2010. In spite of this, the national government and the local government representatives of the same national governing coalition have continued to support the building of this radar. It will be approximately 60 meters tall, contain a large diesel fuel tank and a solid waste container, and is to be situated in a protected area on the ridge of the Mecsek Hills overlooking the city of Pécs.
As local citizens we are primarily concerned for our health and the health of our environment. We are concerned because the long-term effects of such non-ionizing, microwave radiation are unknown (the current "safe" exposure levels are not based on long-term human studies, as such studies would be unethical) and may cause damage and disease in human beings. This radar would be in place for at least 20 years. We feel that this goes against the "precautionary principle", one of the foundations of international law dealing with such issues.
We are concerned for the safety of our drinking water. The particular limestone geology of the Mecsek Hills would allow any chemicals and pollutants from the construction and daily workings of this radar station to enter the "Tettye Spring" element of the water supply of Pécs, endangering the health of the local citizens. In case of an emergency which effects the water supply from the Danube River, the "Tettye Spring" is the only local source of fresh water. Because this radar would be a military object, we conclude that in the event of a military attack against the radar, the water supply of Pécs would be in jeopardy. In fact, according to the building code of Pécs and the public law no such structure could be built in this area, precisely because it is considered a particularly fragile part of the water table and is therefore protected.
We are concerned that such a military object makes our city a military target rather than providing protection.
We feel that the severe mistakes in the plan commissioned and published by the Ministry of Defense regarding the proposed radar, call into question the validity of the study, the legality of the project, as well as the appropriateness of its endorsement by the Hungarian government and NATO. The most glaring errors include the misrepresentation of the category of the land at the propsed site, with regard to what types of structures can be built there under what conditions, and the inclusion of a map of the area in the first pages of the study which places the radar 2300 meters to the northwest of the hill in question (the Tubes) and draws the lines of radar coverage and radiation exposure from this point.
In the course of our attempts to make our voices heard on this issue and to forestall this flawed process, we have continuously informed the local and national governments of our concerns and have not received any acceptable answers, nor were we ever invited to participate in the decision-making process as local people who would be living with the effects of this decision by the government. We have forced the consideration of our views through petition drives and local campaigning, culminating in a referendum on the issue of the proposed NATO radar. This referendum was an historic event, as their had never been a successful citizen campaign for a referendum in Pécs before, at least not since 1989. To force the referendum we collected over 18,000 signatures from eligible voters in Pécs. On the day of the referendum, over 40,000 people voted, 94% of these voted against the radar being built.
This is over 38,000 people. The current mayor of Pécs received only 28,000 votes in his election. The previous mayor also received fewer votes than this.
The referendum had a requirement for validity of 50% + 1 of the voting population, because of this the vote was considered invalid. It is important to note that this requirement does not exist for local elections, nor for national elections, and was suspended for the referenda on EU and NATO membership.
There are basic problems with the process by which the building permit is awarded in cases like this. Though the Ministry of Defense must comply with local laws in most cases, they grant the building permit to themselves, after having commissioned an impact study by their own contractors. After this there is an opportunity for appeal. This is the Defense Minister himself. There is no outside review or effective oversight in this process.
We are concerned about the callous disregard throughout this process for what we feel are our rights as citizens in a democracy. We are disturbed by the fact that our local politicians seem more concerned with representing the national government than with representing the views and wishes of their constituents, and the decisions of the national government whom the majority of local representatives follow, represent the wishes of NATO over the wishes of a large group of its own citizens.
There are several other options for realizing the building of a radar station or stations which will fulfill the obligation of the Hungarian government to NATO. The fact that the governments and Ministry of Defense have procrastinated on this issue since 1999 has led to this crisis situation where our rights and our interests are being trampled because NATO has finally begun to pressure the government for completion of the national radar network project. In 2004, a committee commissioned by the government (called the "Láng Committee" or "Láng Bizottság") to study options for the location of the radar station ruled out the Tubes as a possible location because of its proximity to the large population of Pécs, and well as the fact that it is less than ideal from a technical standpoint, as several hills in the region will block the line-of-site of the radar.
Now a change in the building code that clearly states that no military radar could be built on the Tubes Hill has been approved by the local government, but the majority coalition of the MSZP and SZDSZ parties which also govern the country currently, have refused to vote for a stoppage of all possible construction permits at the site, and the building code change will only come into effect in late June at the earliest. This means that if the Ministry of Defense obtains a building permit before the change in the building code, the change will have no effect on the radar construction.
We are disappointed in the fact that we have received no support from the President of Hungary, László Sólyom, who played a significant role in preventing the radar from being built on the Zengő Mountain. The Zengő was saved by the local people and the people of nearby Pécs primarily to protect its natural environment and the two small towns at its base, as well as to demonstrate that we could fight an undemocratic process successfully. President Sólyom participated actively there, and yet, when the next choice was proposed, atop the Tubes Hill, in an environmetally protected area, above a city of almost 160,000 people his only statement was that this was an "acceptable compromise.
We have written a letter to NATO, simply to inform them of the issues surrounding this proposed radar station, to ensure that they are informed of the apparent incompetance and compromises which will detrimentally affect our lives as citizens of a member state and will mean that, as we see it, they will be throwing money into a flawed and illegal investment. We wish to make it clear as well that most of the citizens of Pécs do not want or support this radar and will do whatever they can to prevent the proposal from going forward. We also wish to make it clear that our organizations oppose the building of the radar base on the originally proposed Zengő Mountain. Many of us were there at the Zengő protests and we are now organized and active in the protesting against the radar on the Tubes as well.
We are in contact with other groups fighting similar situations in the Czech Republic, Italy, Poland and other parts of Europe, and we express our support and solidarity with them. It is apparent to us that the issue of the rights of local citizens vis-a-vis the agendas of national and international political and military organisations is a current and unavoidable crisis in many countries in Europe.

Pécs, Hungary
April 4, 2007
Click here to view the source article.
Source: Baranyanet online, 04 Apr 2007

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