Academic journal article East European Quarterly

Micro and Macro Developments in Hungary under the Glance of EU Cohesion Funds

Academic journal article East European Quarterly

Micro and Macro Developments in Hungary under the Glance of EU Cohesion Funds

Article excerpt


It is rare to write on poverty and underdevelopment in an European Union (EU) member state, but it is timely. The consolidation of both democracy and the market economy is far from being a closed issue in Hungary, given the current economic, social, political and spatial processes. Hungarian economic and political elite consider the EU cohesion funds as the opportunity for regional development. The New Hungary Development Plan 2007-2013 of the Hungarian government and the National Development Policy Concept both have explicit emphasis on sustainable development of regionally integrated rural areas based on the availability of EU funds. Strengthening regional cohesion, improvement of regional competitiveness and regional realignment are all big pledges embedded into the process of regional development as foreseen by these documents. In this attempt, the Hungarian government puts an emphasis on the need for a developmentary state, which should respectively put in place the conditions of market-conforming and sustainable economic and social development in guarantee for the interests of future generations. (1)

In parallel to these goals at the macro-level, there are also micro development programmes; a certain example of which is the development project for Cserehat initiated by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the previous Hungarian Ministry of Youth, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities (ICSSZEM). In this paper, I will illustrate the extent of rural poverty in Hungary on the basis of my research in Cserehat and discuss whether the current institutionalism regarding the distribution of the EU funds can solve the problem of regional underdevelopment or not.

To observe how over-bureaucratised structures without a systematic approach in the new EU members copes with the new actors and institutions of rural development will be a new challenge for social scientists. After the local election in Autumn 2006 and in view of the EU cohesion funds, the discussion in Hungary on how to (re) organise various development councils at the local level and how to involve the local governments into the implementation of the government policies for development at the central level accelerated. Therefore, on the one hand, given the pending political crises and the extremely polarised political scene between the opposition right-wing Fidesz and the left-liberal coalition between MSZP and SZDSZ, every single step towards change is prone to have very complex political implications.

In rural Hungary, on the other hand, civil society, local businesses, local governments, minority self-governments and alike participate in rural development projects funded by the EU as the actors. In order to observe the efforts and the positioning of such structures, I have been a participant observer at events for micro development project stakeholders, which were organised by the Cserehat Programme at Homrogd in March and Encs in August 2006. I have also visited certain project sites in Cserehat and held interviews in Hungarian during Summer and Autumn 2006 both with the mentors of projects, UNDP representatives and grant recipients in various micro-regions. In brief, the organisation and the implementation of the Cserehat programme towards regional development illustrates a picture of micro-development efforts in Hungary with human capacity building and rural development as its two main aims.

Development cannot be understood as being directed towards some fixed, static aim; it is towards dynamic processes. Alongside, it is not towards passive adaptation, but active adaptability. And it is not directed towards a self-sufficient survival, but towards the permanent competitiveness in relation to the outside world. These points imply that development (re)produces the conditions for further development, and hence creates a momentum. Retaining a momentum of development is the current phase of Europeanisation for the new members of the EU. …

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