Hungary reveals appetite for environmental justice

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A long-standing centre-left government has been ousted by centre-right opposition. No, it’s not a flash forward to May 7, but the result of last week’s Hungarian election, which saw Viktor Orban yesterday declare victory for his centre-right Fidesz party.

Close to the geographic centre of Europe, the politics played out in the central European state of Hungary could be seen as a good barometer for the political fortunes across the region – and further afield. And that also goes for environmental policies.

Indeed, the role of the Hungarian government in the recent carbon credit recycling scandal has put an international spotlight on the country’s environmental policies – the ramifications of which have shaken carbon markets around the world.

Hungary, like many of its neighbours, has been hit especially hard by the global recession, and was forced to accept a £15.6bn loan from the IMF in October 2008 – the first EU country to do so. The financial conditions imposed by the IMF have further curtailed whatever wiggle room was left to the socialist government given the crippling effects of the financial crisis.

However, carbon recycling aside, cash-strapped Hungary has a pretty good stance on environmental policies and might provide some valuable guidance on how to develop environmental policies when you really can’t afford to.

For example, Hungary recently became the first country in the world to appoint an environmental ombudsman. Sworn in just over a year ago, Dr Sandor Fulop is the Hungarian Parliamentary Commissioner For Future Generations. A former public prosecutor, Fulop also served as the director of a not-for-profit environmental law firm, the Environmental Management and Law Association (EMLA), and has lectured in environmental law since 1997.

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