Austria vs. Hungary: The Reckoning

These two nations were once joined together like a political Voltron to create one of the most powerful empires in the world.

rabaThe River Raba. Image by Frokor

Yet today these two former lions of Europe, long since past the peak of power, squabble over a factory and a shared river.

The issue in question is an Austrian leather factory that lies on the banks of the Raba River, a body of water which flows into Hungary. Hungarian officials believe the factory is polluting the Raba, and are furious with Austria over its continuing failure to take action over the environmental issue.

The spat has been going on for years now, with varying degrees of intensity. Many believed the problem was finished last summer. In May, the Hungarian President attacked Austria’s “cynicism” over the problem and pressed for the leather factory to lose its license. Later that summer, Austria struck a deal with the Hungarian government. Austria agreed to crack down on pollution by the factory and notify Hungary if the factory continued to commit environmental offenses.

Hungarian Environment Minister Gabor Fodor got downright nasty in his latest attack on Austria’s environmental failings. Fodor said: “Our patience is at an end. Austria has to finally come up with a satisfactory solution.”

Leather making is apparently a common business along the Raba in Austria. There are at least two other factories on the river that have managed to reduce their levels of pollution to acceptable standards. Fodor said: “I will negotiate with my Austrian counterpart that the leather factory in Wollsdorf [also reduce pollution].”

The Hungarian government’s biggest complaint is with the amount of tanning chemicals released into the water. The chemicals create white foam all over the water, and recent tests showed levels were triple their total five years ago. Austria says the factory’s water purification technology is cutting edge and the levels meet their own standards.

As a concerned world citizen, I only hope this issue doesn’t spiral out of control. With environmental problems at the forefront of many global citizens’ minds, this is an issue that the entire world could get involved in. I’d like to avoid that if possible. I believe the last time the world got involved in Austro-Hungarian affairs it didn’t end so well.

Info from Reuters

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