As part of the Modern Cities Programme, the Prime Minister held a press conference in Békéscsaba City Hall’s ceremonial hall. He said that in Hungary Békéscsaba is seen not as a city in need of assistance, but rather as a city of unexplored opportunities, and that he had brought work to the city so that it can explore these opportunities with the help of the Government.
Mr. Orbán said that the M44 motorway may well be completed by the next parliamentary election, but in any event it will be built before the next local government elections. Next year’s budget features funding for construction of the road’s first 70 kilometres. He said that János Lázár, the Minister heading the Prime Minister’s Office, has pledged to ensure that the work will begin at the end of the summer. Mr. Orbán told the press that there is no scope for raising international funding for the project, and therefore it will be financed from the Hungarian budget “down to the last penny”.
The Prime Minister said that he had agreed with Mr. Szarvas on construction of a refrigeration facility, for which HUF 12 billion has been allocated. Mr. Orbán expects the municipality to appoint the owner or chief executive of the refrigeration facility because, in his words, they need a partner for the negotiations. Since Békéscsaba provides one quarter of all printing press specialists trained in the country, a knowledge and training centre for this profession will be established in the city from an allocation of more than HUF 1 billion. Mr. Orbán said that the Mayor has asked for an allocation of HUF 5.2 billion for the enlargement of the market hall, which the Prime Minister concludes will be Hungary’s largest market space.
The existing handball arena will be remodelled, and a HUF 3.2 billion multifunctional sports centre will be built next to it. A swimming complex with a fifty-metre pool and a practice pool will be built from an allocation of HUF 3 billion, and HUF 900 million will be provided for a volleyball academy devoted to training a reliable supply of future talent. At the time of this announcement, there was celebration of the news that the Békéscsaba women’s volleyball team had become national champions for the third time – an achievement which the Prime Minister congratulated them on. CsabaPark will be enlarged from funding of HUF 1 billion, and the airfield – which is operated by the municipality, but is owned by the state – will be developed from an allocation of HUF 4.1 billion. In the first stage of this the runway will be enlarged to make it suitable for receiving larger aircraft, he said.
Mr. Orbán informed the press that a task force will be set up in order to develop a cultural quarter named after the 19th-century painter Mihály Munkácsy, the exact brief for which has yet to be discussed. Plans for the refurbishment and enlargement of the city’s theatre and its homeless shelter have been suspended for the time being, he said. The Prime Minister reminded his audience that after 2010 the Government had taken over debt of HUF 9.5 billion from Békéscsaba, and between 2010 and 2013 development funds worth HUF 65 billion were channelled into the city.
The Prime Minister also told the press that in their two-hour meeting he had also enquired about the progress of land auctions in the county, and reported that they had been conducted smoothly. In his words, while large farms play a significant role in the region, “it is important that small and medium-sized farmers should not feel that they are being forced out”. Mr. Orbán stressed that, in addition to making the city more accessible, it is also important that Békés County should once again become the country’s “larder”; to this end it is necessary to develop local agriculture and food production.
The Prime Minister pointed out that the limits on developments are not desires, but the financial possibilities. At present Hungary is experiencing a prosperous, upward arc; 4.3 million people are in employment, meaning that tax revenues have also increased. In response to Mr. Szarvas’s proposal that the construction of the M47 motorway should also be considered in the development plans, Mr. Orbán said that consideration is being given to linking Szeged, Békéscsaba and Debrecen, but this plan will not be implemented in the current parliamentary term. It is currently expected that planning for this would begin in the next term.
In answer to a question, the Prime Minister said that competitive professional sport is close to his heart, but he is more interested in encouraging leisure and grassroots sport. This is why there is an emphasis on ensuring that there are swimming complexes, fencing and athletic centres, shooting ranges and pentathlon facilities in every district centre. “We shall build them all, and shall make them accessible to every Hungarian child”, he said. Mr. Orbán also pointed out that an era is beginning in which the biggest question is not how to avoid bankruptcy and how to repay the IMF loan: “These are already things of the past”. The most important question now, he said, is what we are going to create, adding that there has been no period in Hungary’s history – including the period after the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867 – “when so many cities have been able to grow so rapidly at one time”.
Answering a journalist’s question on the M44 motorway, he underlined that experience has shown that major new roads do not bring anticipated projects to a region immediately – as the leaders of settlements might hope – but within a period of two to three years.
At the press conference Mr. Szarvas said that the agreement will also have an impact on the Central Békés region, and the towns of Gyula and Békés. He hopes that the developments will enable Békéscsaba to join the ranks of successful, modern European cities. After the press conference he said that, in his view, the projects outlined in the programme may be implemented within one to four years.