Hungary: Known for its excellent food, vibrant city life and thriving countryside.
Official language: Hungarian
Currency: Hungarian forint (HUF)
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Hungary’s location on central Europe’s largest river system, the fertile soils and climate make the country well suited for agriculture. However, recurring floods and dry periods lead to occasional uneven production. Agriculture’s share of the economy has been steadily declining since the early 1990s, and today the industry accounts for only a few percent of both employment and GDP.
- CountryAAH: Comprehensive import regulations of Hungary. Covers import prohibitions and special documentation requirements for a list of prohibited items.
The most important crops are wheat, maize, barley, rapeseed, sunflower seeds, potatoes and sugar beets. Vegetable cultivation is also important – including peppers, tomatoes and onions – as well as fruit and wine growing. Much of the agriculture takes place on the Hungarian plains in the south and east, often called Hungary’s pantry.
In Hungary, wine has been grown for thousands of years. Several types of grapes are unique to Hungary, or were first grown here. Today, wine is produced in almost the whole country. Most famous varieties are the red Egri Bikavér and the sweet white wines, tokies, from the Tokaj district in northeastern Hungary. Among stronger alcoholic beverages is the fruit brandy pálinka, usually made on apricots (barack palinka). For Hungary defense and foreign policy, please check relationshipsplus.
Breeding of pigs, sheep and cattle and chickens as well as dairy production also provides good income. The Hungarian wool pig, mangalica, a furry domestic pig, is known for its fatty and flavorful meat. But the EU Food Safety Authority stated in early 2020 that the highly contagious disease of African swine fever existed in nine EU countries, including Hungary. Strict rules are recommended to protect animal herds against infection. This applies, among other things, to handling feed and washing clothes and shoes so that you do not accidentally carry the infection to farms with healthy animals.
Today, about two-thirds of the land in Hungary, mainly leased land, is used by companies or cooperatives. The rest of the land is divided into a large number of private small farms, which rarely cover more than one hectare of land. By the middle of the 2010s, the number of farms had decreased by a quarter compared to around the turn of the millennium. Only two percent of agricultural land is used for organic farming, which is less than half the average in EU countries.
Hungary is one of Europe’s poorest countries. Only about 20 percent of the country’s area is covered by forest. In 2020, Prime Minister Orbán launched an idea that would both lead to more forest and more children: a link between tree planting and birth rates (see Calendar).
Fishing and fish farming occur in rivers, ponds and to some extent in Lake Balaton. For the economy, however, fishing has little significance.
FACTS – AGRICULTURE
Agriculture’s share of GDP
3.6 percent (2018)
Percentage of land used for agriculture
58.4 percent (2016)
- Abbreviationfinder.org: Offers how the 3-letter acronym of HUN stands for the state of Hungary in geography.
Refugee plan goes to the European Court of Justice
The appeal of the EU refugee distribution plan is filed with the European Court of Justice, the day after Slovakia appealed against the EU decision. At the same time, the government is running an ad campaign against the EU plan in the country’s national newspapers. According to the news, refugees from the Middle East pose an increased terror threat. A poster campaign will also be carried out throughout the country with calls for all Hungarians to “defend the country”.
The EU is investigating statute crimes
The European Commission is launching a formal investigation into whether Hungary is violating the Union’s statutes through its handling of the autumn stream of refugees through Europe. The Hungarian government has two months to come up with an explanation of its actions, but immediately says that the EU wants revenge for Hungary not accepting the plan for compulsory distribution of refugees.
Parliament rejects the EU refugee plan
Parliament gives the government clear sign to appeal to the European Court of Justice to appeal against the decision that all Member States should share 160,000 refugees among themselves. In the past, Slovakia has also said it will appeal the decision. Poland’s new right-wing government has declared that it does not feel bound by the old government’s promise to welcome refugees from the Middle East. Prime Minister Orbán says that all EU countries have the right to defend themselves against the terrorism he claims the refugees would spread.
The border with Croatia is closed
Hungary closes the border with Croatia, leading to thousands of refugees being transported from there to Slovenia, whereupon Hungary reintroduces border controls along its border with Slovenia.
Chaotic refugee management
Chaotic scenes are played at Budapest Central Station, where over 2,000 refugees are prevented by police from boarding trains to Germany and Austria, in some cases despite being allowed to buy tickets. After a couple of days, several hundred refugees are allowed to board a train they believe will bring them to Austria. Instead, the train stops at a refugee camp west of Budapest, where they are asked to step off and register, which they refuse. From Budapest Central Station, thousands of people are reported to be leaving on foot to try to make their way to the Austrian border on the nearly 18-mile-long road.
New laws against the refugee stream
The refugee crisis is severely straining relations within the EU, and Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán blames the German government for the chaos through its decision to admit all Syrians regardless of their first arrest in Schengen. The Hungarian Parliament adopts a series of laws to try to curb the refugee stream. Among other things, the police are given increased powers and people who enter the country without permission can be jailed for up to three years. Orbán claims that millions of refugees will want to travel to Europe within a year. “Just as it is, we find that we are a minority on our own continent,” the Prime Minister says, making it clear that Hungary in particular does not want to admit any Muslims.
Refugees are bused to Austria
The international uprising surrounding the acute refugee crisis in Hungary leads to the authorities deploying more than 120 buses that drive thousands of people to the Austrian border, from where most continue by train to Germany. However, bus traffic only lasts a single day, and hundreds of refugees continue to try to reach Austria on foot. About 140 Austrian motorists drive on their own initiative into Hungary where they pick up refugees they push across the border, despite warnings from Hungarian police that they are breaking the law.
Protest against Austria
The Foreign Ministry calls itself the Austrian ambassador, since the Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann compared Hungary’s treatment of the refugees with the Nazis’ deportation of Jews and others to concentration camps. The Hungarian government dismisses the statement as “totally unworthy of a European leader in the 21st century”. Prime Minister Orbán accuses those who have entered Hungary without permission to “revolt against the Hungarian legal community”.
Exception laws should stop refugees
On September 15, the tougher laws against unauthorized migration will come into force. The state of emergency is announced in two southern counties, giving the police extended powers and the opportunity to deploy military if needed. The last open border crossings from Serbia are clogged. Refugees seeking asylum in Hungary at the Serbian border are now ordered to stay in Serbia, which Hungary describes as a “safe” country. Those who try to cross the border should be arrested and run the risk of imprisonment. Already on the first day, 367 people were arrested, of whom 316 are awaiting trial for impact on the border fence and 51 for having entered the country without permission. The penalty for damaging the fence can be up to five years in prison. The Government of Serbia describes the new Hungarian rules as unacceptable and UN spokesmen question whether Serbia has such capacity to take care of thousands of refugees that the country can be described as safe. On the same day, the Hungarian government says it also plans to build a fence along the border with Romania.
Tear gas against refugees
The day after the border with Serbia was closed, the police deploy tear gas and water cannons against refugees, among them many children, who try to get into Hungary by tearing up parts of the barbed wire fence. 14 police are reported to have been injured in the riots when refugees must have thrown stones, among other things. Serbia submits an official protest against tear gas being fired into Serbian land. The UN and the EU condemn Hungarian action. Thousands of refugees are instead trying to move further north via Croatia and Slovenia.
Borders are clogged
After the Croatian authorities began transporting refugees to their border with Hungary, the Hungarian government began to build a fence along its more than four kilometers long land border with Croatia. Nearly 2,000 soldiers and 800 police officers are commanded to guard the border. However, the pressure on Hungary becomes so great that the government opens border crossings against both Croatia and Serbia and allows thousands of refugees to pass through the country towards Austria. The Hungarian government accuses Croatia of lack of European solidarity.
Advertising campaign should scare refugees
The Hungarian government places advertisements in Lebanese newspapers, where people who plan to try to enter Hungary without permission are warned of “extremely stringent measures”. Recently, the Danish state announced in Lebanese press with similar messages.
The refugee resistance strengthens Fidesz
The government’s tough attitude towards the refugees results in a strong increase in public opinion support for Fidesz. From June to September, the government party’s support increases from 20 percent to 24. The support for neo-Nazi Jobbik decreases somewhat.
The army must stop refugees
By a large majority, Parliament gives the army and the police increased powers to prevent refugees from entering Hungary. The army is given the right to work with border controls, to restrict personal freedoms and to resort to arms power against refugees, however without killing anyone “if it can be avoided”. Prime Minister Orbán says “not only do the refugees knock on the door, they kick it in. Hungary and the whole of Europe are in danger”.
Barbed wire against Slovenia and Croatia
Police and military are starting to roll out barbed wire fences along the border with Slovenia as well. Prime Minister Orbán says that in the long term the ambition is to completely close to the border with Croatia, which has been barred by barbed wire for a few days.
The UN is proposed to resolve the refugee issue
Hungary submits a proposal in the UN on global quotas for refugee reception. The government considers it unreasonable to place such a heavy burden on the EU alone.
Police strengthen border
The government says thousands of police will be sent to the Serbian border to “defend” the country against the “increasingly aggressive refugees” – most Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis – who are seeking refuge in Hungary.
Border fence against Serbia complete
On August 29, the Ministry of Defense announces that the fence along the border with Serbia is complete after six weeks of work. For the time being, it mainly consists of three barbed wire rolls placed on each other. Later it will be supplemented by a four meter high fence.
Asylum rules are tightened
Parliament adopts a law on stricter asylum rules. Among other things, the law shortens the processing time for asylum applications and makes it possible to reject refugees who, on their way to Hungary, traveled through countries that are considered safe. It also gives the formal clear sign of the controversial border fence. Both the UN and the Council of Europe have already criticized the law in advance in order to weaken refugees’ opportunities to seek protection in Hungary.
Fences should block the border with Serbia
The government orders the Ministry of the Interior to have a four-meter high fence erected along the entire 17.5-mile border with Serbia. The intention is to prevent migrants from entering Hungary that way. Since 2014, the number of migrants to Hungary has increased sharply and 95 percent come via Serbia. Since Hungary participates in the Schengen cooperation, those who enter the country can easily continue to other countries, as most do. The message of a border fence comes at the same time as the government is carrying out an intensive campaign against the migrants and among other things on posters urging new arrivals not to “take the Hungarians’ jobs”. The European Commission comments on the decision that a fence is not an effective way to deal with the huge refugee stream to Europe. “We have just demolished the fence in Europe and we should not rebuild them”
Orbán continues to advocate the death penalty
Prime Minister Orbán reiterates the death penalty in a radio interview. He says it is a matter where every EU country should have the right to make its own decisions and that many Hungarians would feel safer if the death penalty was a deterrent for criminals.
Right extreme victory in fill selection
The right-wing party Jobbik wins a parliamentary election in a constituency previously held by ruling Fidesz. This is Jobbik’s first directly elected mandate in Parliament (see Political system).
Debate on capital punishment stirs up EU
Prime Minister Orbán calls for a general debate on whether the death penalty should be reintroduced. He says that life imprisonment without the possibility of conditional release is not daunting enough. Orbán also says that the public should be given the opportunity to express their views on migration. The proposal immediately faces harsh criticism from the EU. EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker says that if Orbán really means what he says, he should expect to “take a fool” with the European Union. The criticism seems to make Orbán give in. He announces that he is following EU rules and does not intend to submit any draft death sentence.
Russian nuclear cooperation is secretly stamped
Parliament votes for all information on nuclear cooperation with Russia to be kept secret for 30 years; The expansion of the nuclear reactor in Paks is done by the Russian company Rosatom and is financed with a loan from Russia of EUR 10 billion. Critics of the project fear that the secret stamp could be used to conceal corruption in connection with the procurement process. Several independent organizations are appealing to the President to ask the Constitutional Court to review the new law. The EU Commission is investigating whether the contract with Rosatom was concluded in accordance with the Union rules on public procurement and government subsidies.
Protests against the government’s EU policy
The day before German Chancellor Angela Merkel comes to visit, thousands of Hungarians in Budapest are demonstrating the demand for Prime Minister Orbán to guard relations with the EU and respect Western democratic values. The protesters express their resentment at how Hungary, under Orbán’s leadership, is increasingly approaching Russia. Merkel expresses her concern about the treatment in Hungary of civil rights groups and the media when she meets Orbán. It is the first time since Fidesz came to power in 2010 that the German Chancellor is visiting Hungary. She also openly disapproves of Orbán’s statement at a joint press conference that not all democracies are liberal. Merkel says she does not understand what the term “illiberal” has to do with democracy.
Media conflict shakes Fidesz
The Fidesz government party is hit by what is described as the most serious conflict in 20 years, when media magnate Lajos Simicska breaks with Prime Minister Orbán. The two have been very close to each other and Simicska’s media empire has served as a spokesman for the government. The breach is caused by the government planning to introduce a new media tax, which according to Simicska is an attempt to stave off the independent media. The tax is intended to distribute the state’s income from the media more evenly than under the criticized law that levied higher tax from large media, usually foreign-owned. Simicska threatens a “total media war” and says that he should “dismiss all orbanites and replace them with their own people”. Several editor-in-chief of media owned by Simicska resign “for conscience reasons”,
Protests against Russian relations
A couple of thousand people are demonstrating in Budapest against the government’s closer relations with Russia, the evening before Russian President Vladimir Putin’s arrival in Hungary. The visit to Hungary is considered important to Putin as a mark of his being an ally in the EU and NATO. The meeting between Orbán and Putin is mostly about continued cooperation on energy issues. They agree on continued Russian gas deliveries after the current contract expires during the year. In practice, Putin’s visit to Hungary is believed to have been part of his quest to divide the EU in the view of sanctions against Russia for the Ukraine conflict. The day after Putin’s visit, Orbán says there is a deep, “strategic” crack within the EU in Russia’s view. He particularly accuses the European Council President Donald Tusk, former prime minister of Poland, to isolate Russia. Orbán, for its part, is accused of leading those who oppose EU sanctions on Russia for its involvement in Ukraine.
Orbán requires immigration stops
Prime Minister Orbán demands that immigration to the EU be stopped, except for those seeking asylum. He states that Hungary should not be allowed to become a target for migrants. “We want to keep Hungary as Hungary,” says Orbán. According to official statistics, around 350,000 Hungarians have sought a better life in other countries in the EU.