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Civitas Europica Centralis Forum Minority Research

Foundation Institute

Births of EU-topia along the
Hungarian-Slovakian borders
Forecasting demand for new public
services at planned Hungarian-Slovakian
border crossing points

Research report

The research project on which this publication is based has
been supported by the International Visegrad Fund

Kisebbségek változó világban
Minorities in a changing world
Births of EU-topia along the
Hungarian-Slovakian borders
Forecasting demand for new public
services at planned Hungarian-Slovakian
border crossing points

Research report

Erika Törzsök és András Majoros

András Majoros
Anita Radi
Attila Simon
Erika Törzsök
Lajos Tuba
Éva Valis

The research project on which this publication is based has been
supported by the International Visegrad Fund
In the memories of Katalin Molnár and Saint John of Nepomuk
Foreword . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5

1. Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8

2. Investigation methodology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13

3. Case studies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
3.1. Building connections along the Danube . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
3.2. The quiet embrace of Lower-Ipel . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27
3.3. Innovative mobility along the Middle-Ipel Valley . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44
3.4. Stillness of Gemer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 74
3.5. The pull of Košice . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 97
3.6. Springboards in the Bodrog Alley . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 122

4. Utopian forecasts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 138

5. Inspirations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 145

Births of EU-topia along the Hungarian-Slovakian borders 3
The co-operation of border areas has a major political, economic and social importance
since the birth of European integration. Indeed, it is one of the most important pillars of bottom-
up construction, which, if it is successful – and assuming appropriate macro-level policies –
is an indispensable driver of integration processes, it is one of the pillars of the quality and
durability (sustainability) of integration.

This statement (and expectation) is particularly valid for cooperation between the border
regions of the new Member States. Not only because these areas are generally less developed,
so in their cases, from the very beginning there is a clear need for convergence. And not only
because in many cases their historical past is common, and the European integration brings an
opportunity to break down the artificial – physical and mental – borders. In fact, it is more than
that: the success of these cross-border co-operation also depends on how the regions and, of
course, their mother countries can integrate into the changed European and global processes
of the 21st century, and strengthen their ’modest’ but indispensable contribution the internal
stability and international positions of European integration.

The success of the cooperation that has been or can be established along the borders
of nations is also dependent on the level of development of the border regions. Between two
regions being more developed in themselves, cooperation and its positive benefits are almost
natural (see German-Dutch, German-French, French-Italian, etc. examples). A similarly positive
and often significant dynamical effect is generating by the cooperation between regions with
different levels of development. This, on the one hand, further strengthens the position of
a more developed region within its motherland, while pulling a less developed region into a
higher socio-economic level. This is well demonstrated by the concrete cases of Hungary or
Slovakia, or by the cases of Burgenland or Czech-Bavarian co-operation. The cooperation of
two moderately developed regions could also contain dynamical elements, see Hungarian-
Slovakian cooperation along the Danube. However, a major challenge for the development
strategy is the basic situation where both sides of the border are less developed, sometimes
explicitly disadvantaged, and where areas suffered from the lack of capital and skilled labour
can be found. A significant part of the co-operation between the border regions of the new
Member States falls into this category (including the Eastern Slovakian and Northeast Hungarian
regions). This volume, in the form of case studies, deals with these micro-regional features, and
is based on in-field research pursued continuously and structurally for a long time.

On the basis of Pan-European and national level political-economic-social considerations,
I would like to formulate some personal thoughts in this foreword.

Births of EU-topia along the Hungarian-Slovakian borders 5
First: cross-border and broader regional cooperation bring, by any means, not only
economic, but also cultural, social and mutual value-sharing benefits. Some of these benefits
are not measurable numerically, but in many cases their significance exceeds the economic
benefits that can be specifically demonstrable.

Second: the availability of EU funds significantly improves the economic strengths of the
cooperating regions, enhances the interest of domestic and international capital and, in the
medium term, clearly contributes to the qualitative reproduction of labour. Of course, assuming
that they can be used to fund effective projects in comparison with the earlier modest resources.
As I have already mentioned, efficiency is not only an economic criterion, but also, last but not
least, it also generates social value-added.

Third: successful catching-up of border regions is a challenge for national regional
development policies of each Member State, in terms of incorporating these areas effectively
into the eventually more developed (or actually less developed) systems of national regions.
The sustainability and positive spill-over effects of successful cross-border developments in
themselves are only effective if they can successfully embed into the broader national economic
frameworks, and do not result in new differences in development levels and socio-economic
tensions between individual Member States.

Fourth: cooperation between the (Polish-Czech, Polish-Slovakian, Slovakian-Czech,
Hungarian-Slovakian, Hungarian-Romanian, Hungarian-Serbian etc.) border regions of the new
Member States can also play a decisive role in the future of EU-level cooperation. Looking at
the current transportation map of the EU, we can see that while the Western-Eastern highway
and freeway corridors have been well-established and have been further developed towards
our region following the accession of Central and Eastern European countries, in the enlarged,
eastward-moving integration the creation of a third, a north-south corridor is a more and
more serious bottleneck. There are two such corridors in the pre-accession EU-15: one from
Scotland to Gibraltar, the other from the Scandinavian countries to Sicily. At the same time,
more than a decade after the ’big-bang expansion’, there is still a lack of a geographically and
economically justifiable third corridor, from the Baltic Sea through Central Europe to the
Aegean / Mediterranean Sea. The small-regional cross-border co-operations developed or
to be established in our region can be important links in this trans-European project.

Fifth, finally: above all, with regard to the current (and partly future) challenges of the
European integration, the role of cross-border cooperation is being appreciated. Cooperation is
not only about (European Union) money and not just about successful economic projects, but
about mutual openness, bilateral solidarity, confidence building, cross-border social cohesion,
joint preparation for future and unexpected, positive and sometimes risky and cost-enhancing

6 Civitas Europica Centralis Foundation
changes. Last but not least, besides preserving national and regional identity, cross-border
cooperation should also play a role in strengthening European identity. Especially now,
when in various countries of the European Union, because of different reasons and situation
judgement, aspirations for secession-independence are intensifying, in other cases, however,
as a part of government policy, the largely artificial but effective fear-making is spreading, and
even, hatred campaign infects is infecting wider and wider classes. Cross-border co-operation
being successful and far-reaching over the economy is (should be) an indispensable and, in the
future, an appreciating remedy against this tendency.

Budapest, October 2017

András Inotai
research professor
Hungarian Academy of Sciences
Centre for Economic and Regional Studies
Institute of World Economics

Births of EU-topia along the Hungarian-Slovakian borders 7
1. Introduction
In the Visegrad Countries in 2004, similarly to the other countries also becoming EU member
states, most of societies, hoped that the common European Union integration would launch
and accelerate long-term processes. Mainly by that the development possibilities and
economic interests of both the majority nations and minorities overlapped each other.
Therefore, those regions have become potentially revitalized by exploitation of opportunities
generated by the ‘space’ (resulting in changes in economic organizations, utilization of natural
resources and operation of societies), which had transformed into peripheral border areas
being far away from centres in states established after the First World War and had been
eroded in terms of economy, society and culture.

As opposed to the expectations and legitimate claims of ‘Central European Citizens’
(Civitas Europica Centralis), not only since the EU accession but for almost 30 years after the
fall of ‘existing socialism’, none of the governments following each other has been unable
to give effective responses and tools for the catching-up of those border regions (Ózd
Basin in Hungary, Gemer in Slovakia, Bodrog Alley in both countries, for example) where the
local economies based on agriculture and heavy industry had been collapsed at the
beginning of the 1990s.

The decision-makers do not address on its merits the challenges posed by regional
inequalities that are particularly visible in border regions. Since 2004 the EU’s tendering
system, which has become almost an exclusive development tool, as the use of funds is mostly
linked to pre-financing, bank guarantees and real estate collateral, further deepens the gap
between the developed (catching up) and underdeveloped regions and settlements.
The ability to enforce interests of the lagging regions and settlements is also weaker in
‘competition’ for public investment resources. For example, let’s think of how many Ipel bridges
and how many football stadiums were built in Hungary from public funds over the last few years!

Nobody cares on its merits about the challenges and opportunities of new types of mobility
accelerated by technological advances, and about practical tasks (e.g the development
of multilingualism in education, public administration). To carry out these tasks, in a spirit of
‘subsidiarity’ and ‘multi-level governance’, the local actors would be the most suitable.
Nevertheless, the functions and powers, as well as financial resources of Hungarian
local governments have been decreasing since 2010, and the ‘autonomy’ based on
local, creative energies has virtually ceased. In the changed ‘big political’ environment, the
mayors of small settlements get or are forced into different roles, in the realization of
their development aspirations: ‘accepting-resigning’, ‘engine-driver-coordinator’, ‘innovative-
autonomous’. The withdrawal of competences and the suppression of innovative initiatives

8 Civitas Europica Centralis Foundation
have affected local economic competitiveness, labour market situation, ability of population-
retention, acceleration of ghettoization and development of Roma segregates.

The development of the cross-border transport infrastructure between Hungary
and Slovakia has been ‘on the agenda’ for decades. Innumerable inter-governmental,
inter-state agreements, and a lot of ‘strategic studies’ based them have been made on the
subject. However, the framework conditions for ‘operational’ possibilities were only created
by the joint 2004 EU-accession enlargement and then by the 2007 Schengen-accession. In
preparation for the elimination of common border control, the then Hungarian government
had already prepared in 2004 a study entitled ‘Examining the concentration of road
crossing possibilities on the external borders after the EU-accession’. On this basis, the
‘Seamless Europe’ program was created and published in 2008, which has designated new
border-crossing (road, rail, water) points in certain external borderlines of Hungary, with specific
technical investigations and economic-social benefit analyses. On the Hungarian-Slovakian
borderline, 62 new possible border crossing points were defined. The Public Foundation
for European Comparative Minority Research, being the ‘intellectual predecessor’ of the Civitas
Europica Centralis Foundation, played an active role in the professional preparation of the
Seamless Europe Program with making of socio-economic analyses.

Possibilities for revitalization of infrastructure

Births of EU-topia along the Hungarian-Slovakian borders 9
Over the past decade, however, compared to the needs and opportunities, there has been
little progress. It has become obvious that the two countries cannot / do not want to provide
‘national resources’ for investments, and ‘commissioned’ the institutional system of EU funds
with the implementation. However, INTERREG funds are also scarce. Thus, between 2007
and 2013, only a few joint infrastructure development projects (e.g construction of two Ipel
bridges, making design documentations) could be realized. Furthermore, from 2010 onwards,
in Hungary, the public administration system has changed considerably. The competences
and sources of local governments have been abolished, and the institutions responsible for
development of transportation, and the operative implementation of EU programs have been
also closed or merged. The public administration models of the two countries, being
different anyway, has become a major obstacle to operational cooperation since 2010.

New hopes for revitalizing social, economic relationships by means of transport braces emerged
in 2014. In March 2014, the prime ministers of the two countries signed a ‘declaration of intent
for cooperation’ in which they declare their agreement that during the 2014-2020 programming
period of the European Union, 21 new transport links listed by an ‘indicative list of projects’ will
be established between Hungary and the Slovak Republic. As usual, in the background, ‘lobbying
activities’ resulted in that one-third of these projects being removed from the list, or one of the end-
points of the transport links changed, but at the same time other relations also emerged (again).
Thus, another two years have passed until January 2016 when a Hungarian government
decree was published, which has ordered 18 new transport links in Hungarian-Slovakian
relation, to be implemented from INTERREG sources, until 2020.1

Hungary Slovakia
Technical content
Municipality County Municipality Region
Construction of a pedestrian-
Dunakiliti Győr-Moson-Sopron Dobrohošt’ (Doborgaz) Tranava
cycling Danube bridge
Komárom- Radvaň nad Dunajom
Neszmély Nitra Establishment of a ferry
Esztergom (Dunaradvány)
Ipolydamásd Pest Nitra Construction of an Ipel bridge
Tésa Pest Vyškovce nad Ipl’om (Ipolyvisk) Nitra Development of a byway
Ipel’ské Predmostie
Drégelypalánk Nógrád Banská Bystrica Construction of an Ipel bridge
Balassagyarmat Koláre
Nógrád Banská Bystrica Construction of an Ipel bridge
(Újkóvár) (Kóvár)
Őrhalom Nógrád Banská Bystrica Construction of an Ipel bridge

1 1007/2016. (I. 18.) Goverm. decree about the cross-border road infrastructure developments in the period 2014–2020,
published in the Hungarian Bulletin.

10 Civitas Europica Centralis Foundation
Hungary Slovakia
Technical content
Municipality County Municipality Region
Hugyag Nógrád Kováčovce (Szécsénykovácsi) Banská Bystrica Construction of an Ipel bridge
Zabar Nógrád Petrovce (Gömörpéterfala) Banská Bystrica Development of a byway
Borsod-Abaúj- Janice
Ózd (Susa) Banská Bystrica Development of a byway
Zemplén (Jéne)
Borsod-Abaúj- Neporadza
Gömörszőlős Banská Bystrica Development of a byway
Zemplén (Naprágy)
Hidvégardó Chorváty (Tornahorváti) Košice Development of a byway
Borsod-Abaúj- Perín-Chym
Hidasnémeti Košice Development of a byway
Zemplén (Perény-Hym)
Felsőregmec Michal’any (Alsómihályi) Košice Development of a byway
Borsod-Abaúj- Čerhov
Alsóregmec Košice Development of a byway
Zemplén (Csörgő)
Borsod-Abaúj- Strážne Development of main road and
Pácin Košice
Zemplén (Örös) byway
Nagyrozvágy Vel’ký Horeš (Nagygéres) Košice Development of a byway
Borsod-Abaúj- Biel
Dámóc Košice Development of a byway
Zemplén (Bély)

These 18 planned transport links have been the subject of a common research
project of the Hungarian Civitas Europica Centralis Foundation and the Slovakian
Forum Minority Research Institute, supported by the International Visegrad Fund, and
implemented during the period 1 February to 31 October 2017. The investigation using
the tools of economic-sociology has focused first and foremost on the identification of economic
and social opportunities that can be derived from new possible transport relations. In line with
the ‘Bratislava Declaration’ formulated by the V4 prime ministers in 2011, the research
has examined the potential effects of the common transport infrastructure of the Visegrad
Countries on local and regional economic-institutional development. The research has aimed at
revealing the new dimensions of access to public services for citizens living in border areas and
cross-border co-operations, created by new links.

The other chapters of the research report are structured as follows. The investigation
methodology used during the research is presented in Chapter 2. The Chapter 3 contains
‘settlement pair’ case studies summing up the results of the ‘field work’. The Chapter 4 contains
the main conclusions, future forecasts. Finally, the study concludes with chapter 5 summarizing
the main proposals mainly for those responsible for the preparation and implementation of
political (policy) decisions.

Births of EU-topia along the Hungarian-Slovakian borders 11
With the written issues, the research participants try to ‘inspire’ the decision-
makers and the Central European citizens who are empowered to do so. To awaken
the creative, future-minded thoughts of those concerned with new cooperation and
development opportunities. The research has not dealt with countless ‘missed, historic
opportunities’, has not looked for the responsible ones of ‘idleness’. It has founded the
possible, yet ‘utopian’ scenarios of the future. In the notion of ‘history is life’s teacher‘, it
has dealt with the past only in order to establish some conclusions and predictions that can
be derived from the ‘historical facts’.

12 Civitas Europica Centralis Foundation
2. Investigation methodology
The methodology of the joint, economic-sociological focused research project of the Civitas
Europica Centralis Foundation and the Forum Minority Research Institute supported by the
International Visegrad Fund has been developed in the framework of common ‘methodological
workshops’. The experts participating in the research started out from the 18 new traffic
connections defined by the January 2016 Hungarian Government decree and listed in the
Introduction, which are planned to be implemented along the Hungarian-Slovakian border within
the framework of the 2014-2020 INTERREG programme.

The research has sought answers to two basic questions: 1) with increasing permeability
of of borders will demand for new/existing cross-border ‘public services’ also increase?
2) are the settlements (local governments) directly involved prepared for the exploitation
of new economic and social development opportunities?

The research participants, already in the preparatory phase of the project, considered it
important to clarify the concept and the role and significance in societal development of ‘public
services’ as a ‘guiding thread’ of joint work. Based on Lapsanszky’s approach: ‘the creation of
boundaries, content and tools of public administration intervening in the economy have
always been elementary questions in market economies and government systems. In order to
increase and secure social welfare, creating a proper balance between the public sector, the

Births of EU-topia along the Hungarian-Slovakian borders 13
management of public services and the functioning of the ‘private economy’ and the market
competition is a major challenge for public policy and governmental decision-making.’2

The basis and purpose of the system of public services are ‘(a) eliminating the negative
effects and failures of market competition, (b) definite correction of it, and (c) strengthening the
market equilibrium situation. Among the elements of ‘market correction’, the ‘public interest,
the specific protection of community interests, responsibilities, the provision of basic
needs’ are of utmost importance for the research.3

One of the main features of the ‘non-market based public services’ being one of the main
types, is that ‘market mechanisms do not play a decisive role in their supply system. Non-market-
based public services are not subject to exchange or purchase, i.e. service delivery operates
outside the market and there is no profit maximization or profit orientation aspect.’ Most of them
are classified as ‘pure public goods’.4

On the other hand, the common feature of ‘market-based (in other words, economic)
public services is that they generally serve public needs, community interest, typically through
‘public utilities’. The most typical market-based public services are electricity, heating, gas
supply, water supply, sewerage, rail, road and air transport, transportation, other public
transport, postal and telecommunications services.’5

‘Local public services’ are in the focus of the research, being the services provided by
the public sector that are ‘closest to people’ and arisen from the development of transport
infrastructure. Based on a study published in 2012 by the ‘The Urban Institute’ being a ‘think
tank’ based in Washington, DC: ‘The Local Public Sector is the part of the public sector that is
closest to the people; it is the part of the public sector that interacts on a regular and localized
basis with residents, civil society, and the private sector; and it is where most public services
are delivered.’6

This study assigns the following local public functions and services refers to the ‘functional
area of public services’ interpreted by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) classification, in
which cases the localized manner of service provision can be detected.

2 Lapsánszky András: A közszolgáltatás fogalmának, tartalmának, tagolásának általános alapjai a hírközlési szolgáltatási
rendszer mintáján keresztül. Jog-állam-politika. 2009/1. szám, 64. o.
3 Ibid. p. 67
4 Ibid. p. 70
5 Ibid. p. 68-69
6 Measuring the local public sector: a conceptual and methodological framework. The Local Public Sector Initiative, The
Urban Institute, December 2012

14 Civitas Europica Centralis Foundation
Functional Area Government functions, and services that involve
(IMF classification) regular interaction in a localized manner
General public services Local administration (activities of local executive and legislative organs); civil registration
Defense None
Public order and safety Police services and fire protection
Economic affairs (excluded: The construction and operation of local markets; construction and maintenance of local roads and inf-
agriculture…) rastructure; traffic management and urban transportation; and local economic development activities
Agriculture, forestry, fishing Agricultural extension services (including the provision of fertilizers and seeds), construction and
& hunting operation of irrigation systems, and livestock services
Solid waste management, waste water management (sewer and drainage systems), and protection
Environmental protection
of local biodiversity and landscape
Housing and community
Housing development; community development activities and street lighting
Water supply Construction, operation, maintenance and support to drinking water supply systems and schemes
Public health service provided by local health posts, dispensaries, health centers, and local hospitals.
Health This includes both out-patient as well as in-patient services, preventative and curative services, as
well as the provision of pharmaceuticals (drugs) and medical supplies
Local involvement in –and support to - recreation, culture and sporting services, including the operati-
Recreation, culture, and re-
on or support of libraries, museums, art galleries, theaters, exhibition halls, monuments, historic sites,
zoological and botanical gardens, and so on.
Construction, operation, maintenance and support to pre-primary, primary and secondary schools and
Pre-primary, primary and se- education. Includes scholarship and public-sector support to non-governmental educational instituti-
condary education ons. This category may include the provision of subsidiary services to education, such as operation
or support of transportation, school-provided meals, and related subsidiary services for students
Education (excluded: pre-pri-
Frontline provision of all schooling and education (including vocational education and tertiary (univer-
mary, primary and secondary
sity) education as part of the local public sector
Certain types of social protection activities fall within the local public sector: these include local acti-
Social protection vities of social action funds, food for works programs, and other similar social protection programs or
livelihood activities that take place at the community level

Beyond clarifying the main related definitions and analysis-interpretation framework,
as secondary elements of the research, Internet-based statistical data, settlement
information, press materials and other analyses have been processed. At the level of
concerned municipalities comparable data (to a limited extent, in the case of labour data)
published by the statistical offices of the two countries were provided by the most recent,
2011 censuses.

As a primary research, during the period from February to May 2017, local ‘field-works’
have been done, ‘structured in-depth interviews’ have been made with local mayors (or
persons appointed by them) leading municipalities directly affected by the investments.
In addition to exploring the historical antecedents of the planned investments and the
information of its current status, the questions of in-depth interviews have aimed at identifying

Births of EU-topia along the Hungarian-Slovakian borders 15
future ‘opportunities’ related to the ‘public services’ defined by the above-mentioned
methodology, and that can be predictable in wider context and in longer time horizons.

The participants of the primary research summarized and validated their experiences in
a ‘reflection workshop’. While the preliminary presentation of the results of the research
were held in an international conference co-organised with the Corvinus University of
Budapest, on 21 September 2017 being the ‘European Cooperation Day’, where wide
range professional discussions took place and the first feedbacks could be obtained.

The main research results for the surveyed settlement-pairs are summarized by ‘case studies’
provided by Chapter 3. The main statistical data collected by the mentioned methodology and
being integrated part of the case studies, and ‘map snippets’ provided by Google Maps map-
viewer are for illustrative purposes.

16 Civitas Europica Centralis Foundation
3. Case studies
The following chapter summarises the results of the ‘field works’ completed during the
research in the form of ‘case studies’ based on the previously outlined methodology, presenting
the ‘settlement-pairs’ affected directly by the planned infrastructure investments, as well as the
development and co-operation opportunities with the new transport links.

3.1. Building connections along the Danube

Professional and political negotiations and arguments have followed the two nations’ joint
history for a long time, or at least since the Gabčíkovo-Nagymaros investment plan born
in the 1970s relating to the infrastructural investments made in the interest of interoperability
between countries, river regulations, based on both mutual and presumed unilateral benefits of
the Danube, as a border river.

The joint history of the settlements on the two sides of the Danube is fundamentally different
from that of the communities along the Ipel. The ‘bridging’ of the Danube, the historical,
relational and cultural relationships are not so tight in these cases; it is enough to just
think of the ‘size differences’, it was always considered to be a larger task. At the same time the
cases of Komárom and Komárno, as well as Esztergom and Štúrovo also indicate that the
realisation of an investment based on joint political will and strong co-operation of local
and civil communities stretching across borders is not an impossible mission.

3.1.1. Dunakiliti – Dobrohošť

The economic-social development, traffic-infrastructural and other ‘breakout’ opportunities
of Dunakiliti and Dobrohošť of the most recent times are defined by the vicinity of the triple
Austrian-Hungarian-Slovakian border, primarily by the proximity of Bratislava, as well as the
irreversible hydro-graphic consequences of the Gabčíkovo-Nagymaros Dam System
and its remaining ‘distortions’.

Dunakiliti Dobrohošť
County, Győr-Moson-Sopron county, Trnava region,
district Mosonmagyaróvár district Dunajská Streda district
Population, 2011 (persons) 1987 428
Population changes, 2001-2011 (%) + 12 + 27
Population of Hungarian nationality, 2011 (persons) 1647 299
Population of Slovak nationality, 2011 (persons) 126 109
Aging index, 2011 (%) 140 136
Unemployment ratio 2011 (%) 5 14

Births of EU-topia along the Hungarian-Slovakian borders 17
The closest Slovakian border crossing at Rajka is less than 10 kms, while the
Austrian border at Hegyeshalom is appr. 20 kms away from Dunakiliti being part of the
Mosonmagyaróvár district in Hungary, Győr-Moson-Sopron county. The main town of the district
(Mosonmagyaróvár) is 12 kms away, while the county seat (Győr) can be reached after travelling
50 kms. It is not surprising therefore that for the settlement lying in the Szigetköz area the
‘natural’ economic centre of attraction is primarily the Slovakian capital, Bratislava,
whose downtown is located less than 30 km away. Dunakiliti is one of those rare settlements in
Hungary where the population did not shrink but grew by more than 10 % between the last
two population censuses. Although the data of the 2011 population census still show an aging
population, a relative ‘prosperity’ is indicated by the fact that the unemployment rate during the
period directly after the 2008-2009 crises was still only 5% and by now local unemployment has
practically disappeared. The prosperity of the settlement is due to the vicinity of the three
borders and other favourable economic-geographic features built on the free movement
of goods, services, capital and workers within the Vienna-Bratislava-Győr ‘economic

In the case of Dunakiliti the 2011 population census was already significant; it showed
Slovak (and 2% German) nationality rates, which account for nearly 7% of the respondents.
There are no up-to-date statistics of the Slovak population which increased dynamically after the
Schengen border opening in 2007 due to the lack of address notification obligation. According
to the local governments’ own estimates, by today, every fourth resident, i.e., appr. 500
persons are citizens of Slovak nationality whose native language is also Slovak. With
this, after Rajka, Dunakiliti has been one of the most ‘affected’ settlements in Hungary during
the last 10 years in relation to Slovaks arriving with the intension of settling. The main drivers
are the explosive growth of the real estate prices in Bratislava, the dynamic economic
development of the city, especially since the introduction of the Euro in 2009, as well as the
existence of a relatively developed, southern transport infrastructure of Bratislava that is
now a characteristic of the agglomeration stretching into Hungary.

The Slovakian Dobrohošť, part of the Dunajská Streda district in Trnava region is one of
the three villages (together with Vojka nad Dunajom and Bodíky settlements), which got stuck
between the Danube and the Danube canal with the construction of the hydro power station
of Gabčíkovo in 1996 providing about one tenth of the current electricity consumption in Slovakia
and the with the diversion of the river to Čunovo,7 thus ‘isolating’ it from its former economic
and labour market centre, Šamorín.8 Currently, this area and other parts of Slovakia may be
reached only after travelling 20 km in the direction of Čunovo and Gabčíkovo. Therefore the
consequences of the artificial regulation of the Danube are that for Dobrohošť the downtown of


18 Civitas Europica Centralis Foundation
Bratislava and the district centre Dunajská Streda is now almost 35-35 km away. To reach the
one-time centre of the region, Šamorín, today requires a 50 km trip. On the ‘island’, the Žitný
ostrov settlement situated without any doubt in a beautiful picturesque environment has
also become an attractive place of residence or holiday destination, primarily for the
people moving out of Bratislava. It can be said without exaggeration that as soon as property
becomes available it may be sold immediately. In light of this it is not surprising that between
the population censuses of 2001 and 2011, the population of the village grew by 30 % yet
it hardly reaches 25% of the population of Dunakiliti. The relatively high aging index indicates
that the new property owners of Dobrohošť mainly use their houses for leisure purposes or as a
place to retire to. However, similarly to other residents living in the area of Bratislava, a significant
part of the active aged settlers very rarely apply for permanent residency. They usually keep their
‘permanent’ residence in the capital city, close to their work place.

The issue of unemployment has practically almost disappeared from the lives of both
settlements. At the same time, they fundamentally differ from one another from an economic
point of view. Dunakiliti employs more people than its population; many people commute
from the neighbouring settlements to the village. Primarily, the higher employment is due to
a canning factory (mainly processing cucumber) owned by an Indian owner9, as well as to
an oil pipeline assembly plant owned by a German owner10, which provide employment to
over a hundred people each. At the same time, local tourism also offers a lot, originally aiming
at Austrian tourists, then slowly, in the last two decades, based more on the needs of people
of Bratislava, with its golf hotel, wellness hotel, numerous B&Bs and restaurants which
also guarantee local employment opportunities. Furthermore, in light of the above and in a
somewhat paradox way, the barrage of Dunakiliti, which is a part of the hydro-electric power
plant of Gabčíkovo never put to use, also attracts many visitors.

The Slovakians buying property at lower prices than in Mosonmagyaróvár and Rajka, but at
the same time at a higher price than in the middle-Szigetköz, initially were buying old houses,
but today, they prefer to build on vacant land. They employ local and nearby, mainly Hungarian
craftsmen to help with refurbishment in the first case and for construction in the second, which
in turn also strengthens the economy of the local and Szigetköz border settlements. Dunakiliti
has considerable local business tax revenues, yet receives less central support. There is a
local primary school and a kindergarten, and currently there are also plans for a nursery, in
view of trying to keep the growing number of young families with children.

In contrast, at Dobrohošť, there are no significant local companies providing
employment. The new residents tend to commute to factories in Bratislava and in the


Births of EU-topia along the Hungarian-Slovakian borders 19
agglomeration of the capital. The majority of ‘natives’ still capable of work are working in the
construction industry. Agriculture, the other traditional form of living, ceased here as fields
were flooded by the dam. It was another blow to the local residents that the canal replenishing
the water in the left branch of the Danube cut them off from the forest, which can now
be reached with a diversion and that the exploitation of forest management opportunities is no
longer a reasonable development option for them.

Dobrohošť is fully surrounded by the river Danube and Dunakiliti is also bordered by
various branches of rivers from almost all directions. The question arises: why, besides many
other options, the construction of a bridge across the Old-Danube i.e. the main water course
of the river to connect the two settlements has been put on the agenda now, as it was already
planned prior to the commissioning of the Gabčíkovo Dam? Although the issue already came up
in the 1990s, following the isolation of Dobrohošť, the first serious talks about connecting
Szigetköz in Hungary and Žitný ostrov in Slovakia with a Danube bridge at that point
emerged around the middle of the first decades of the new millennium. The Dunajská
Streda based regional development agency (Ister) was the first body to focus on the issue. In
the previous development period of 2007-2013 funding was provided for the preparation,
design and documentation. The designs were completed and the impressive visual designs
of the planned bridge are still displayed on the notice board in the hall of the mayor’s office
of Dobrohošť. Considering the low financing capacity of the two local governments, the
construction permits were issued for two state-owned water management companies. The
local governments were only ‘associated partners’ in the design INTERREG project.

20 Civitas Europica Centralis Foundation
A number of factors, important in terms of the quality of life of the local residents and the
people living in the larger area were taken into account in the design of the bridge. One of
those factors was the possibility that navigation will be re-introduced on the Old-Danube at
some point in the future. Another factor was to build a two-lane cycling and pedestrian path
on the bridge, connecting to the already established cycling stops. The third factor was the
requirement to make the bridge wide and strong enough also for ambulances and firefighting
vehicles. A connecting road to the village across the old flood defence embankment and an
appr. 40-m long small bridge across the Danube canal separating Dobrohošť from the Old-
Danube and supplying water to the left branch also connect to the designed bridge on the
Slovakian side. On the Hungarian side the bridge will connect to the Dunakiliti Dam appr. 150 m
lower than the point where the road built for the transhipment of boats from the Hrušov Dam to
the Old-Danube on Žitný ostrov side could also be used as a cycling connecting road towards
the cycle path running on the ‘crown’ of the Dam.

On the basis of the completed visual designs it is obvious that the bridge itself will
be a new tourist attraction in Szigetköz, and will also increase the number of tourist
attractions of Žitný ostrov. Naturally, the question is why do we need to construct a bridge
that cannot be used for passenger car traffic? The answer is that, at this connection point
between Szigetköz and Žitný ostrov the main priority at present is to develop pedestrian
and cycle traffic. Due to the factories operating in Dunakiliti there is already large daily truck
and passenger car traffic. Some employees are transported with regular bus services even
from beyond Győr. At the same time, it is impossible to leave the village in any direction on a
built cycle path, which means that cycling among cars and trucks is a life hazard. In order to
exploit the tourist potential of the new bridge, cycle paths connecting to the bridge are also
required. The international Eurovelo 6 route may be joined after appr. 7 km of cycling from
Dunakiliti at Rajka, or the Dunasziget-Halász route, which is appr. 10 km away to the south
may be used, but there are no cycle paths built on those sections yet. The development of a
cycle path section between Mosonmagyaróvár and Feketeerdő could also be ‘’acceptable’’ for
Dunakiliti. In both settlements the services based on cycle tourism are expected to increase
and the related investment requirements are likely to give a boost to the local economy. These
positive synergies may be exploited with the construction of a bridge across the Old-Danube.

According to estimates, the cost of construction of the planned bridge will be more
than EUR 8 million, and therefore it is unlikely that funding can be raised for it during the 2014-
2020 budget period. The INTERREG project has not yet been submitted in the current

The urban development strategy and local regulation plans of Dunakiliti are based on the fact
that the settlement is surrounded by water from every direction and under such conditions

Births of EU-topia along the Hungarian-Slovakian borders 21
safe transport routes, including cycle paths must be created. The local government is an active
participant of the regional development activities of Szigetköz. It is a member of the ‘Arrabona
European Regional Association’, which has its seat in Győr and is also a committed ‘front
line’ actor aiming at the development of cycle tourism in Szigetköz. Dunakiliti also took part in
the ‘Sacra-Velo’ development project, which was aimed at the construction of cycle pilgrimage
routes, combining religious and active tourism.11 Within the framework of the urban operation
action plan generated by Arrabona, the main objective of Dunakiliti is not to terminate
the Bratislava bus service 801 at Rajka but extend it to Dunakiliti by running further 7-8
km. Dunakiliti, as well as 28 other settlements are also members of the ‘Mosonmagyaróvár
Small Region Association’ and has even closer cooperation with three neighbouring settlements,
Rajka, Dunasziget and Feketeerdő. They not only invite each other to various cultural events,
but also cooperate more closely in the coordination of the urban development plans. The
local government of Dunakiliti and Dobrohošť have had regular contact since the successful
implementation of an INTERREG project implementing a joint event between 2007 and 2013.

The local government of Dunakiliti assists its new residents whose native language
is Slovak primarily by translating all forms required for local government administration
into Slovak. The local government has a permanent Slovak translator and they also employ
an interpreter who may be used by residents who speak Slovak only. ‘Finding each other’ is
mutual. Since 2014 the village has also had a ‘Slovak contact person’ for the organisation of
the Advent programmes because the Slovak residents insist on hosting the Hungarian ‘native’
residents, which means that during the Advent period they choose a weekend when they offer
mulled-wine, tea and Slovak food to the Hungarians. No Slovak children attend the local
school although there would be demand for it. However, there are more than 10 Slovak
children in the kindergarten. In general during the enrolment neither the parents nor the
children speak Hungarian and therefore the first 3-4 months raise significant communication
problems too. The interpreter employed by the local government also helps in those situations
whenever possible. Later on, when the children learn to speak Hungarian, they get on a lot more
easily. For enrolment the people of Slovakian origin must have a Hungarian address card,
which can only be obtained in Győr, which deters quite a few people from registering at a
Hungarian place of residence.

Dobrohošť is not a member of Arrabona ETT or any other regional development association,
yet it has developed a great deal compared to the local conditions over the past few years. They
have reconstructed the village hall and its surrounding area and combined the kindergarten and
the lower classes of primary school in another reconstructed building. The local roads were also
reconstructed and dozens of construction land plots were created on the territory provided by
the neighbouring Kyselica. The general situation of the village is developing ‘well’. Of the three


22 Civitas Europica Centralis Foundation
villages stuck behind the Dam the population is growing only in Dobrohošť, it stagnates
in Vojka nad Dunajom and shrinks in Bodíky. Bodíky has no school or kindergarten. Vojka nad
Dunajom has a kindergarten, but in Dobrohošť there is a kindergarten and the lower classes
of primary school are also available. More than 30 children go to the kindergarten. The
institution operates in Hungarian, but the Slovaks who moved out from Bratislava also send their
children there. Naturally, the Slovaks then send their children to a Slovak primary school but are
also satisfied with the fact that their children learn some Hungarian in the kindergarten.
Dobrohošť is likely to be the first village in the country introducing a school bus, helping
primarily Slovak students to commute to Rusovce. Most Hungarian students attend schools in
Gabčíkovo, and use a scheduled bus service to reach the school.

3.1.2. Neszmély – Radvaň nad Dunajom

Neszmély is situated in Komárom-Esztergom county, between Komárom and Esztergom,
but is closer, only appr. 20 km away from Komárom. The village, situated at the foot of Gerecse
hill and surrounded by the Danube, vineyards and the Gerecse nature conservation district has
more than 1300 residents, although its population shrank by appr. 7% since the turn of the
millennium (until 2011). Even though the border is close, the settlement, which had a rather old
population and high unemployment at least in 2011, primarily mainly as a result of the Nokia
crisis of Komárom, has no population of Slovak nationality. Practically it is combined with
the neighbouring village of Dunaalmás, which is closely associated with the name of Lilla, i.e.
Julianna Vajda, who was the ‘muse’ of the famous Hungarian poet Mihály Csokonai Vitéz.12 The two
settlements constituted one village under the name of Almásneszmély between 1977 and 1991
and are still separated only by one border sign, symbolising their administrative independence.
The district centre Tata is 10 km away and is accessible by road through Dunaalmás (across
the nature conservation area of Dunaalmás quarries), or through a windy minor road, through
Dunaszentmiklós, which is not always passable (especially in winter).

Neszmély Radvaň nad Dunajom
County, Komárom-Esztergom county, Nitra region,
district Tata district Komárno district
Population, 2011 (persons) 1344 725
Population changes, 2001-2011 (%) -7 -2
Population of Hungarian nationality, 2011 (persons) 1165 653
Population of Slovak nationality, 2011 (persons) .. 67
Aging index, 2011 (%) 184 125
Unemployment ratio 2011 (%) 13 22


Births of EU-topia along the Hungarian-Slovakian borders 23
Radvaň nad Dunajom in Slovakia, which is only a stone’s through away on the other side
of the Danube, can only be reached from Neszmély with an appr. 40 km diversion, across
the Komárno bridge, as there is no direct crossing option. Radvaň nad Dunajom is situated in
Nitra county, Komárno district, at appr. 20 km from the country seat, while Štúrovo is appr. 30
km away, by the rather busy secondary road number 63 connecting the two small towns. Of the
appr. 700 residents of the village 90 % are of Hungarian nationality. The aging is lower,
but unemployment is higher than the census figures recorded for Neszmély. As Radvaň nad
Dunajom lies on a high river bank, no flood protection embankment had to be built, and therefore
it has an elegant beach type river bank. Žitava, which is famous for the ‘Žitava Peace’,
which closed the 15-year Hapsburg-Ottoman war, is also part of Radvaň nad Dunajom and
is very close to the river Danube. The ‘holiday resort’ stretches from there to Moča and is
considered by many one of the nicest resorts in the Danube region.13

The potential future economic cooperation between the two settlements may be described as
‘complementary’, because the current local economic structures are fundamentally different. In
the case of Radvaň nad Dunajom there is a relatively large number (appr. 40) of local small
corporate and private enterprises, most of which are engaged in ‘small-scale’ agriculture and
food processing based on local agricultural products. There is no major local employer. On
the basis of the data of the last census, appr. two thirds of the economically active population,
i.e. 200-250 people commute to Komárno, the district seat appr. 20 km away. It is also true
that in the case of Radvaň nad Dunajom the economic work force ‘adaptation’ process that started
with the bankruptcy of two dominant large regional employers, the ship factory in Komárno and the
paper factory in Štúrovo before the systemic change is still ongoing.

Neszmély, on the contrary, has a remarkable local economy relying primarily on viniculture
and viticulture and the related tourism. The Neszmély wine region has been a separate wine
region since 1977, but did not have the same ranking between 1959 and 1977 due to the
increase in production, quality problems and the delay in the plantation of new vineyards after
World War II.14 These days viniculture is flourishing again. There are almost 20 wine producers
and / or sellers in the settlement and in the surrounding area, among which one of them
that has gained natural reputation employs appr. 150 people.15 Numerous other companies
‘engaged’ in hotel services and event organisation can also connect to viniculture, thus
improving the tourist attraction and capacities of the region. Outside of that there is only a small
plastic industry factory in the region. However, the majority of the population of active age
do not work locally but commute to Tata (13 km), Tatabánya (25 km) or Komárom (18 km).
Owing to the favourable local and regional employment opportunities, the local unemployment


24 Civitas Europica Centralis Foundation
rate is only appr. 3%. The number of the unemployed is lower than 50, of whom less than 10
people are public employees. Their employment is organised by the members of staff of the
local government office, shared with Tata.

As a local consequence of the 2008-2009 global financial crisis, between 2008 and 2012 the
local government was subject to a debt settlement procedure. They had managed to ‘get rid of the
‘bankruptcy’ receiver only by 2012 and settlement had been unable to apply for any development
resources until then. Since then however, HUF 600 million was invested from EU resources.
The local cultural centre, a public park, the local kindergarten and school and the roads were
reconstructed, but the village also took part in cross-border projects. As a ‘partner’ of Neszmély, it
contributed to the project of ‘Let’s clean up the Danube bank (Upracmesi Podunajsko)!’ project,
implemented by the association of lower-Žitný ostrov villages in Slovakia and the association of
local governments of the Bakony region in Hungary as main partners between 2012 and 2013,
with an almost EUR 1 million budget. One of the most important components of this Hungarian-
Slovak CBC project was the activity of ‘elimination of small waste deposit sites in the polluted
border region’, which ‘mobilised’ the local governments, schools, civil organisations and citizens
of 37 Hungarian and Slovakian settlements. Keeping the Danube bank clean is not only an
environmental but also an important economic interest. It is enough to consider that while in
the central parts of Radvaň nad Dunajom the price of construction land is EUR 35 / m2 according
to a local by- law, the market price of land on the Danube bank is almost 5 times higher, appr.
170 EUR / m2, which is almost comparable to land prices in Bratislava.

Births of EU-topia along the Hungarian-Slovakian borders 25
The shared plan of the two settlements focuses on a regular ferry service across the
Danube connecting the two settlements and, indirectly, their smaller areas full of major tourist
attractions instead of aiming for a bridge across the Danube. This request was more seriously
expressed in 2014, when the governments of the two countries reached an agreement, i.e. the
objective is not to restore a transport connection which existed ‘at a time’. The ‘idea’ stems from
the fact that as a result of a project implemented within the framework of the Hungarian - Slovakian
Interred program between 2007 and 2013, a seasonal (from spring to autumn) ferry service,
limited to passenger and cycle traffic, was re-opened after almost 70 years between Lábatlan
and Kravany nad Dunajom, situated appr. 10 km away to the west.16 The professional views and
arguments for connecting the (twin) settlements on the Hungarian-Slovakian borders with a ferry
service across the river Danube became stronger on the basis of the examples of Lábatlan and
Kravany nad Dunajom, which is where the current mayor of Radvaň nad Dunajom who comes from
Hungarian and Slovak ancestors and speaks perfectly in both languages comes from. In addition,
contrary to the Danube bend, there is still no bridge or ferry service on the Danube between
Esztergom and Komárom regional centres that could also be used by passenger cars.

Considering that the project affects state-owned areas (road, Danube bank, rail tracks)
in Hungary the national infrastructure development company (NIF) undertook to perform all
preparatory tasks for the projects and to finance the costs of the projects, which were initially
estimated at around EUR 4 million, but have been reduced to appr. EUR 2 million. In this case
the local governments will be left out of the process of preparations for the INTERREG
project, and will receive only ‘information’ on the specific (not) completed actions. In this case
adequate professional and financial planning of operation is outstandingly important. In this
context the Municipality of Neszmély has received a number of offers from private companies
that operate regular ferry services elsewhere. The ferry port on the other side is planned to be
constructed between the village centre and Žitava village part, near the WW II. memorial of the
‘Soviet Danube Military Fleet’. The main factor in the selection of the site was that the island does
not impede the ferry crossing on that route. For the time being it is still unclear who will construct
the facilities and the connecting road on the Slovak bank of the river and the responsibilities of
the various parties at the different levels (local, county, ministry). It is certain though that, given
its just EUR 4 million budget a year, the local government will not be able to pre-finance
the project or fund the costs of operation.

If the ferry service can be put into operation, tourism on the river Danube will clearly pick
up and Komárom-Komárno and Esztergom- Štúrovo will also be partially relieved from
the north-south transit car traffic between the two countries. The tourist attractions of the
two villages could be better coordinated in the future. The cellars, family-run B&Bs, the boat


26 Civitas Europica Centralis Foundation
‘open-air museum’ in Szent Ilona bay 17and the beach in Neszmély on one side and the wellness
centre (Aquapark) on the river Danube and high-quality restaurants and B&Bs in Radvaň nad
Dunajom will allow for planning cross-border tourist recreation ‘packages’ for multiple days.
Regardless which settlement you visit, you will come across pictures and other symbols (e.g.
a boat screw in front of the Neszmély office) illustrating the Danube (e.g. on the walls of both
mayor’s offices).

The two villages are also ‘twins’, their residents mutually visit each other’s cultural,
local events. In addition, they have a lot of relative links, and therefore the ferry service will make
it easier for relatives and friends living on the two shores of the river Danube to see each other on
a daily basis. The administrative services are already available in two languages (Slovak
and Hungarian) in Radvaň nad Dunajom. In addition, taking into account especially the aging
population of Neszmély, the old people’s day centre operated by the local government of
Radvaň nad Dunajom, which has been reconstructed recently from EU resources and also hosts
a number of youth organisations and the local library as well as provides catering opportunities
when required, could also be an interesting opportunity of cooperation.

Naturally, not everybody is clearly happy about the joint project in this case either. In Neszmély
even the local council is divided on the issue because the fishermen are concerned that their
favourite spots will disappear when the ferry service is put into operation. Nonetheless, the
ferry service can also save lives because the river Danube is rather dangerous at the point
where the Neszmély port is planned due to the frequent whirls, yet many people swim there. In
addition to water and hiking tourism, cycle tourism is also likely to pick up if the section
of the Eurovelo-6 international cycle path across Neszmély, which is currently in its licensing
phase and is likely to be opened in 2018, will lead to the ferry port. The number of guests in the
local open-air boat museum is also expected to increase.

All in all, Neszmély and Radvaň nad Dunajom may both return to the ‘map’ of European
locations with outstanding tourist attractions after long decades, recreating an opportunity for
the villages that used to function as flourishing bathing resorts yet got totally ‘destroyed’ both in
natural geographic aspects and in terms of human capital in the second half of the 20th century
through the intensive coal and bauxite mining in Tatabánya basin to recover and flourish again.

3.2. The quiet embrace of Lower-Ipel

The history of Ipel bridges is also closely connected with the history of the two countries
and two nations. Wooden bridges were built as early as in the early middle ages, and the first
stone bridge was built in Šahy during the Mongol invasion. Before WW II. there was a


Births of EU-topia along the Hungarian-Slovakian borders 27
bridge at every 3 km on average, proving that crossing the Ipel is not necessarily a technical

The current length of the river, which starts in Slovakia, in the Vepor hills is appr. 212 km
following its regulation that took place in the 1970s. It reaches Hungary at Ipolytarnóc and then,
by flowing around the hill of Börzsöny, it joins the river Danube in Szob.19 The volume of water
in the river varies extremely. In summer it may be crossed on foot at several points (where the
water level reaches only ankle height) yet in spring frequent floods make the lives of residents
of the settlements by the river more difficult. According to the locals the unpredictability of the
water yield is almost comparable to the ‘female caprices’.

The settlement of Šahy is not only a geographical ‘water shed’’. After flowing west from
Kováčovce and following the ‘middle-Ipel’, the river Ipel turns south again at Šahy. In this lower
section known as ‘lower-Ipel’ the current and future economic and social development
options are different. The quiet embrace of the river simultaneously represents determined
attributes, problems that are difficult to bridge as well as options for peaceful old-age retirements
and economic and social development options of ‘withdrawal into shade’, which have not yet
been exploited.

3.2.1. Ipolydamásd – Chľaba

Ipolydamásd is a village in Szob district, Pest county, Hungary. In 2011 its population
was lower than 350 and shrank by appr. 8% since the turn of the millennium. The aging and the
unemployment rate corresponds with the national average. In terms of population the Slovakian
Chľaba is appr. twice as big on the other side of the border. The population of the village, which
is part of Nitra region Nové Zámky district stagnates around 700. Approximately 80% of the
residents are of Hungarian nationality and the age composition of the village indicates a
relatively young population, yet the unemployment rate in 2011 was appr. twice as high as the
rate in Ipolydamásd. Despite the fantastic natural characteristics, both settlements face the
threat of turning into ‘vacant’ villages, which is a tendency prevailing in the whole lower
Ipel valley due to the lack of local, long-term, stable employment opportunities.

Ipolydamásd Chľaba
County, Pest county, Nitra region,
district Szob district Nové Zámky district
Population, 2011 (persons) 346 695
Population changes, 2001-2011 (%) -8 -1

18 Bence Hajós: Ipel bridges. From Ipolytarnóc to Šahy. March 2001.

28 Civitas Europica Centralis Foundation
Ipolydamásd Chľaba
Population of Hungarian nationality, 2011 (persons) 247 543
Population of Slovak nationality, 2011 (persons) .. 123
Aging index, 2011 (%) 154 110
Unemployment ratio 2011 (%) 13 27

At the moment the residents of Ipolydamásd find jobs at companies located primarily in
Vác and Budapest, which are accessible from the district centre, Szob being only 5 km where
direct public transport connection possibilities are available. However, there is also a vehicle
industry supplier owned by a Belgian investor in Ipolytarnóc nearby, which employs appr.
500 people at present (a large number of whom commute from Slovakia), and manufactures
decoration and design components for the interior of passenger vehicles and the Márianosztra
prison, which is another major employer in the region, is also within 10 km. The Suzuki plant
in Esztergom is also within commuting distance. It is accessible from Ipolydamásd through
the Ipel bridge in Letkés and then through Mária Valéria bridge which connects Štúrovo and
Esztergom from 2000, i.e. with a trip from Hungary to Hungary across Slovakia.

For the residents of Chľaba the major economic centre of attraction is Štúrovo, which
is appr. 15 km away and is accessible through Kamenica nad Hronom at a distance of 8 km. The
small town with appr. 10 thousand residents have gone through a major economic restructuring.
The famous paper factory of Štúrovo employed thousands of people prior to the systemic
change, and still gave jobs to appr. 300-400 people in 2010, when it was finally closed down.
It employed not only local residents, but many commuted from the nearby settlements, including
Chľaba. At some point hundreds of workers commuted from there. The role of Štúrovo has also
reduced in railway transportation. At one time it was the second largest rail reloading site
in Slovakia after Čierna nad Tisou, in the district of Košice.20 As freight traffic was transferred
to the cheaper but more environmentally polluting roads, not only the importance of the railway
of Štúrovo increased but the local railway station at Chľaba was also closed down. The site of the
former paper factory in Štúrovo was turned into an industrial park21 in 2012 where at present
a number of smaller, multinational companies manufacturing paper and packaging materials and
construction products, vehicle industry supplier and steel industry business operate.22 Bathing
and wellness tourism in Štúrovo picked up significantly primarily owing to the Vadas Thermal
Bath Complex, which functions as the largest ‘aqua-park’ in Slovakia.

Consequently, Chľaba no longer has its own railway station. The local residents only
remember with nostalgia the trains on which many of them commuted to work and which were


Births of EU-topia along the Hungarian-Slovakian borders 29
known as ‘the goose train’ presumably referring to the one-time regular visits to the market. At
the same time, it is a social, geographic and railway history rarity that Chľaba and Szob are still
connected by a railway bridge. It is Sávoly bridge, which was completed in 1859 in order to
support the railway line connecting Pest with Bratislava (by converting the former wooden
bridge into a steel structure bridge).23 These days only freight trains rumble across the bridge,
yet the people of Chľaba and the tourists in the area can cross it on foot or by bicycle to get to
Szob in Hungary and then easily move on to Vác and Budapest.

Kamenica nad Hronom of the agricultural cooperative that organised agricultural
production in three settlements (Kamenica nad Hronom, Bajtava, Chľaba prior to the collapse of
the economy after the ‘velvet revolution’. Local horticulture, fruit and grape production and field
crop cultivation (primarily wheat and corn) flourished especially in the 1970s. Chľaba is a ‘cul-de-
sac’ settlement, which is situated at the confluence of the rivers Danube and Ipel. Not only
the two rivers but also the picturesque Burda nature conservation site ‘takes a lot away’ from its
arable land. There is very little land suitable for arable cultivation. Such land exists only along the
river Danube and in the lower part of the village (closer to Szob). At the moment most of the land
plots are cultivated by a company registered in Rožňava but the business is likely to make a loss for
them too. The harvested products generate less income than the related logistics costs. However,
the traditions of grape and wine production continue in the village. This is also indicated by the
cellars, by the road leading to the village, cut into the bottom of the eastern line of Burda hill,
some of which are protected as historic monuments.24 In 2015 a businessman from Dunajská
Streda purchased the vineyard of the former cooperative. He planted vines on more than 10
hectares on the slopes (more suitable for vineyards than for wheat and corn production) and soon
the investment will produce the first bunches of grapes. The vineyard already gives jobs to 15-20
people and the plans also include the construction of a small processing plant and a guest house.

In addition to the vineyard, at the moment jobs are offered to the local residents of Chľaba
at the mayor’s office, the post office, the kindergarten, a small shop and two pubs. In addition
to the Štúrovo options mentioned before (industrial park, thermal baths, small shops) a lot of
residents work in the Suzuki plant in Esztergom (15-20) and some people found jobs in
the hospital of Esztergom. As the suburban railway was shut down, the residents are forced
to use their own vehicles or the bus (including the commuting bus operated by Suzuki) for
transportation. The neighbouring Ipolydamásd is accessible only with a 25-km diversion,
through the Ipel bridge between Salka and Letkés.

However, the purpose of these trips is not employment. At the moment there are only two
catering units (pubs) in Ipolydamásd that offer a living under market conditions mainly relying


30 Civitas Europica Centralis Foundation
on the expensive transit traffic. Those who are not willing to commute can only opt for
public employment locally. Among the public employees there are some with professional
qualifications (locksmiths or bricklayers); most of them are close to retirement, who can no longer
find a job in the open labour market. The public employment programme in Ipolydamásd
is innovative and sustainable in the long term (in the moment it gives jobs to every third local
public employee). Its main component is the ‘mobile mushroom’ programme, within the
framework of which oyster mushrooms are grown in mushroom houses and poly-
tunnels. The workforce is provided by the local government, while the expertise and training
are offered by a business. For the time being the dried oyster mushroom is supplied to
kitchens run by the local governments and to green grocers nearby. The next milestone in
development could be entry into the Budapest wholesale market and if they manage to achieve
a certain volume, in the long-term wholesalers could come here to pick up the primary goods. In
order to further increase the achieved results of the mobile mushroom development project, the
local government building was being refurbished during the interview conducted with the mayor.

The mayors of both settlements see opportunities for a breakthrough for the villages and
their environment and the way to stop the young people from abandoning their villages in the
development of tourism by the river of Ipel, interconnecting the traffic of the Danube
bend, and Štúrovo-Esztergom and Szob-Vác regions. However, the regional tourism
development plans cannot be implemented without the construction of the Ipel bridge
between Ipolydamásd and Chľaba.

Births of EU-topia along the Hungarian-Slovakian borders 31
In this particular case the plan does not relate to the reconstruction of a previously existing
bridge. The former road bridge was not erected at the currently designed point providing direct
interconnection between the Slovakian village of Chľaba and Ipolydamásd but at the railway bridge
at the other side, belonging to the Szob cadastre between 1986 and 2000. Going back more
in time five wooden bridges were available for crossing the capricious river only at Ipolydamásd.
The two settlements have been interconnected through many relative links since ancient
times. In addition, as it happened, the people of Ipolydamásd had land in Chľaba and the residents
in Chľaba had land in Ipolydamásd, and they were able to freely cross the river Ipel to cultivate their
lands. The still active traditions, whereby the residents of the two settlements visit the bank of the
river Ipel to bury the winter each year at the time of the carnival (before Ash Wednesday) goes back
to the period before WW I. The special procession with masks, also known as the local ‘busó
procession’ also symbolises the relative and cultural links between the two settlements.

The wooden bridges still stood between the two world wars and were destroyed after
WW II. However, as a result of a special turn in history a still disputed gigantic investment
created an opportunity to re-vitalise the connection between the two villages. The steel
structure ‘military bridge’, originally designed to ease the construction work of the Gabčíkovo-
Nagymaros Dam was built between the two settlements in the second half of the 1980s.
The ‘Friendship Bridge’, originally constructed as a temporary structure and opened in 1986
to assist in the auxiliary works of the dam was used to transport construction material for
the construction of all dams on the river Ipel. The vehicles did not have to make any diversion
through other bridges.

In the end the Gabčíkovo-Nagymaros Dam was not implemented but it still brought
a benefit that a number of Hungarian and Slovakian villages on the river Ipel are still
protected from flood. The plan of the dam failed but the bridge stayed there for a long time,
giving a lot of pleasure to the local residents. The two local governments immediately proposed
that the residents of the two villages should be able to use it as a ‘temporary border crossing
point’ on a few occasions a year, during the shared carnival and other state celebrations and
cultural events. Following the break-up of Czechoslovakia, the competent state bodies gave
their consent under specific terms and conditions. The residents of the two villages were able
to use the bridge and the road leading to it on a few occasions a year with the consent of the
Hungarian state asset management company, the owner of the bridge, on condition that the
two local governments agreed to cover the costs of the border protection services related to
the shared events. Accordingly, actual toll had to be paid for crossing the bridge, but it was
worth charging it for both local governments, because it was the price of maintaining a good
relationship between the twin settlements and of the ability of the residents of the two villages
to meet at least during shared holidays. Consequently, the social benefit of the bridge was
much greater than what could have been quantified in money.

32 Civitas Europica Centralis Foundation
The bridge, which functioned from the middle of the 1980s had a technical fault though,
because the poles were too densely located in the river bed, at the distance of only 3 m. That
is why alluvium was constantly collected, primarily during floods. On 1 March 2000 a tragic
event occurred: the icy flood on the river Ipel washed under the poles to such an extent
that the Friendship Bridge submerged at a number of points. Technical experts concluded
that the bridge could no longer be used. The governments in office did not allocate any
funds for reconstruction and therefore the Friendship Bridge was demolished in 2000,
which meant that the icy spring flood also washed away the dreams of the residents of the two
banks of the river for any direct contact.

Since then the local governments of the two settlements have been constantly lobbying
for the construction of the Ipel bridge between the two settlements irrespective of the mayor’s
identity or the composition of the local council. There are exact documents stating the
number of requests, petitions and other documents submitted by the mayors of the
region to the competent ministries and government institutions, requesting the supply of
funds for the construction of a bridge. The process was slightly accelerated by the accession
of the two countries to the European Union and then to the Schengen Area, but the funds
have always been missing. The first investment plans with simplified technical content were
already completed in 2001, but we still had to wait for the project plans until the 2007-2013 EU
programming period. In that period a high-level decision was made to build bridges on the river
Ipel between Ipolydamásd-Chľaba, Vámosmikola-Ipeľský Sokolec as well as a connecting road
to the Ipel bridge between Tésa and Vyškovce nad Ipľom in one package, within one INTERREG
project. Of the three projects however only the Ipolydamásd-Chľaba bridge progressed as
far as obtaining the construction permit, in the other two cases the responsible officials have
not managed to achieve even that. Then the Hungarian government decided to implement
only the project for which the construction permit was already available. However, the Nitra
regional assembly of the Slovakian partner decided not to implement one gigantic project from
the available appr. EUR 10 million funds allocated to the three projects. With those decisions,
the costs could not be reallocated. Most probably the decisions found it risky at the end of the
2007-2013 EU budget cycle, because there was a risk that the money had to be returned to
Brussels if the project was not implemented.

The government’s intentions were clearly indicated by the fact that the construction of the
Ipel bridge between the two settlements and of the related structures25 was ‘enacted’ in Hungary
within the framework of Act. XXIII. 2012. Nevertheless, the ‘Szada agreement’ of March 2014
did not include the construction of this Ipel bridge but it was ‘put back on the agenda’ with a

25 Act XXIII. of 2012 on the promulgation of the agreement between the government of Hungary and the government of
the Slovak Republic for the construction of an Ipel bridge on the state border shared by the two countries between
Ipolydamásd and Chľaba and of the related structure.

Births of EU-topia along the Hungarian-Slovakian borders 33
government decision made in Hungary in January 2016. Thus, there are no more political
obstacles that would prevent the two settlements from repeatedly trying to arrange for
the construction of the bridge in the 2014-2020 EU budget period. With the involvement
of a new Hungarian technical design company, similar to the previously employed design staff,
the fifth technical plan was completed with reduced capacity for the bridge (also requiring
an amendment to Act. XXIII. of 2012) and a lower height for the connecting road leading to the
bridge in Hungary through the flood plain. This means that for a few years the connecting road
will most probably be flooded for a few weeks, but the locals can absolutely live with it as during
the flood periods they will continue to use the bridge in Salka. The environmental impact
studies were also completed, which is another important result, considering that the Hungarian
side of the project is under NATURA2000 protection.

Both local governments are actively involved in the preparation for the project. To
date the two mayors called the technical experts on a number of occasions but, through regular
contact with county and parliament representatives and ministers of state, they are also up to
date in relation to the consultations and informal agreements reached in county halls and in the
parliaments of the two capital cities. The decision makers involved them; they can express
their opinions on the feasibility studies and can monitor the progress of planning. Pest
county also supports the plan for the bridge and is regularly represented at the discussions.
Nitra county has also decided to support the project and to supply the own funds
required from the Slovakian partner.26 So now the required political intention to construct
the bridge is in place at county level in both countries and several Hungarian and Slovakian
politicians have decided to support the project as patrons.

Further development plans for the bridge and the active involvement of the local
communities also indicate long term thinking. No decision has yet been made on weight
restriction. For Ipolydamásd it would be important that the transit traffic to Slovakia crosses the
bridge. At the moment the bridge in Letkés can only be reached if the vehicles drive through the
settlement. However, coming from Szob, vehicles could turn on the bridge to Chľaba sooner,
after leaving the town behind. At the moment there is a kindergarten in Chľaba directly
opposite the bridge site, i.e. the kindergarten pupils of Chľaba and the potentially commuting
pupils of Ipolydamásd could obtain a direct positive experience of the crossings across the river.
The road leading to Kamenica nad Hronom from the bridge head is rather narrow and it also
passes the cellars that constitute local rarities and are under protection as historic monuments.
Consequently, the regulation plan of Chľaba also includes the construction of a 1.5-2 km long
road, financed and maintained by the region, which would relieve the inner area of the village
from a reasonably increased transit traffic.


34 Civitas Europica Centralis Foundation
Naturally, the opinions of the local residents vary in term of the bridge. The mayor of
Chľaba conducted a local public opinion survey a few years ago, within the framework of
which 76% of the respondents were for the development, and replied that they wanted a
bridge to be constructed. The rest, however, would like to maintain the peaceful atmosphere
of the village resulting from its cul-de-sac nature and, primarily as a result of the experience
shared by the residents of Salka, they are afraid of the potential negative impacts of any
increase in the transit vehicle and passenger traffic. No residential survey was conducted
in Ipolydamásd, but those who are against the bridge are driven mainly by the lack of interest.
The majority of the population of Ipolydamásd also have positive expectations about the
implementation of the project, as they have recognised that soon new opportunities will open
for the village and its residents, which is currently stuck in the Ipel valley.

If everything progresses according to the present plans, the new bridge can be
opened in the summer of 2019. With that not only the contact between the communities on
the two banks of the river will become easier, but new long-term opportunities will also open for
the villages on the river Ipel in terms of joint development and existing and new public services.
The bridge will interconnect the Danube bend in Hungary with the holiday resort of
Kováčov, which is situated in the picturesque Burda nature conservation area between
Chľaba and Kamenica nad Hronom (but belonging to Kamenica nad Hronom). That can
extend the services offered to tourists visiting the Danube bend as besides the Burda nature
conservation area they can also visit the Štúrovo baths, which already have 8-10 thousand
guests every day. With the new bridge the entire Danube bend will become more open
for exploration, because at the moment the Danube can only crossed with passenger cars
on Mária Valéria bridge between Esztergom and Štúrovo and on Megyeri bridge in Budapest,
without using any ferry service. With the construction of the bridge between Ipolydamásd and
Chľaba the position and situation of the lower-Ipel region, which is closely related to the Danube
bend, will also be upgraded.

Following the construction of the bridge major tourist development projects can
be planned. Almost each settlement in the region has an attraction. As an example,
Ipolydamásd has a hunting-castle that goes back to the 14th century (Charles Robert) and the
local government already submitted a project to the EU for its reconstruction. The construction
of the ‘Damásd castle’ began in the 13th century after the Mongol invasion and later the Turks
also raised another wall around it. In the 17th century it functioned as a customs duty collection
point and later became a church estate (owned by the Bishop of Vác)27.

The development of the ‘twilight economy’ is another potential break-through point
of the lower-Ipel region e.g., through the establishment of a cross-border network of old


Births of EU-topia along the Hungarian-Slovakian borders 35
people’s homes. Increased physical border crossing abilities is a pre-requisite of development
of cross border cooperation between social institutions. The potential partners already reached
a preliminary agreement in principle according to which day care would be developed in
Slovakia and the capacities and services of old people’s homes would be expanded in
Hungary. That would provide new job opportunities for the residents of the border regions.
The availability of the human resources is also a prerequisite of an improvement in the quality of
service. The ecclesiastical secondary school of Szob would provide the required background
by training social workers and ‘social assistants’ for such jobs.

If the Ipel valley becomes more ‘interoperable’, the development will also be favourable
for paddle tourism, which relies on the river, for backpackers hiking in the Börzsöny,
and cycle tourism. Consequently, there are also plans, and funds are being raised for a
project, as a result of which ports satisfying the needs of ‘paddling tourists’ would be created
from Szob to Ipolytölgyes. According to another regional plan, the ‘Eurovelo-6’ cycle path
connecting the Black Sea (Bulgaria) and the Atlantic Ocean (France) should cross the
new bridge.28 At the moment this international cycle route ends in Szob and cycling
may be continued on the other side of the Danube after crossing the river with a ferry at Szob.
The ferry service operates at a certain frequency and the large number of German, Dutch
and Scandinavian cyclists could also reach the Esztergom-Štúrovo bridge faster through the
Ipolydamásd-Chľaba bridge. A family business engaged in horse-riding and out-door buffalo
and grey cattle farming already operates in the suburban parts of Ipolydamásd (towards
Márianosztra and Szob)29.

With the expected increase in tourist potential and new long term and sustainable jobs
primarily in the health industry the real estate market of the region will also pick up significantly.
In Ipolydamásd there was already a wave of property purchases after the accession to the
EU in 2004, when 18 Dutch families bought properties in the village which are used
seasonally, mainly in the summer. They were relatively old people and many of them already
died. Their children are less receptive to the quality of life represented by the quiet embrace
of Ipel. So, these days only 4 Dutch families live seasonally in the village. At the moment
the property prices are similar at the two settlements, an average detached house with
land costs EUR 25-30 thousand. However, in recent years, in the Kováčov holiday district
a holiday home or weekend house costs EUR 40-50 thousand. Relatively many people,
living in Bratislava, Kremnica or even Hungary purchased properties there due to the beauty of
the landscape and the peace and quiet of the area. There is no availability of physicians on
duty in the holiday district and numerous other non-health services are also missing,
which somewhat reduces the overall attraction. The introduction of health, social and tourist


36 Civitas Europica Centralis Foundation
developments mentioned above that can create long term jobs for the local residents increasing
its attraction for young people looking for a quiet environment and local jobs can give a boost to
the property market in the future.

Apart from the health and social sectors and tourism development, there is also a great
deal of potential in the development of basic public services in Chľaba. Owing to the
embankment built during the construction of the Gabčíkovo-Nagymaros Dam the southern side
of the settlement is protected against floods However, the asphalt road by the river Danube
between Chľaba and Kamenica nad Hronom is flooded each year. When that happens,
the settlement is isolated from the external world for a number of days (in some years
even for two weeks), i.e. from its currently single transport connection between Kamenica nad
Hronom and Štúrovo. When that happens, only the basic food stuffs can be supplied by using
the railway. The new bridge therefore would literally be a way out for Chľaba from its current
isolation imposed by the Danube and Ipel. During any critical situation caused by a flood they
could rely on the health (medical duty, pharmacy), fire protection and other services of the good
neighbours (primarily Ipolydamásd and Szob).

3.2.2. Tésa – Vyškovce nad Ipľom

Tésa in Hungary is a tiny village in Pest county, Szob district. During the 2011 census only
73 residents were registered, reflecting a 30% decline from the figure registered in the census
conducted 10 years before. The population of the village is aging rapidly. In 2011 four times as
many old (aged over 65) people as children (aged less than 15) lived in the village. On the basis
of the population Vyškovce nad Ipľom, which belongs to Nitra county and Léva district in
Slovakia is almost 10 times larger. In 2011 appr. two-thirds of the population of the village
declared to be of Hungarian nationality. In Vyškovce nad Ipľom unemployment is higher that
the county and national average, yet in terms of the future and the long-term survival of the village
it is favourable that more young than old people were counted in 2011.

Tésa Vyškovce nad Ipľom
County, Pest county, Nitra region,
district Szob district Levice district
Population, 2011 (persons) 73 666
Population changes, 2001-2011 (%) - 30 -5
Population of Hungarian nationality, 2011 (persons) 67 445
Population of Slovak nationality, 2011 (persons) .. 167
Aging index, 2011 (%) 417 88
Unemployment ratio 2011 (%) 16 35

Births of EU-topia along the Hungarian-Slovakian borders 37
Tésa is the smallest settlement on the river Ipel. Written sources mentioned it first in
the 13th century, it lost its entire population during the Turkish rule and was re-inhabited in
the 18th century (slightly further away from the former village, on the other side of the stream).
In the first half of the 18th century the Foglár family was the local land owner, who provided a
castle and a church for the local community. Mór Jókai and Sándor Petőfi were both guests at
the Foglár-castle. In the 19th century it was owned by the Boronkay and then by the Jankovich
families. Descendants of the Jankovich family still live in the village. At the end of the 19th century
the population of the village was 180 people, almost 2.5 times the current population. The
majority of them were engaged in sheep farming and fruit growing. At that time a water mill also
operated on the river Ipel. After WW II the markets situated to the north of Tésa reflecting
the natural characteristics disappeared and many people left the village as employment
opportunities ceased or they married elsewhere.30

Tésa is a real one street village, accessible on a really bad quality road from Vámosmikola
and is perhaps the most isolated settlement in Pest county. There are only two bus services
from Vámosmikola during the week and there is no public transport at all at weekends. The
nearest railway station is 30 km away in Szob, while only 4-5 km away from Tésa the Šahy- Čata-
Štúrovo Slovakian secondary railway line, not used to its full potential, crosses Vyškovce
nad Ipľom. It only adds to the physical isolation that the road connecting Vámosmikola and Tésa
is in an extremely bad condition, i.e. in this case the planned project itself would not remedy
the bad quality of the north-south transport connection. However, the village is trying to turn
its isolation into a benefit by providing a liveable environment. The new residents who
arrived in the past few years were attracted by the peace and quiet. Most people moved
out here from Balassagyarmat and Budapest, but others also ‘return home’ from totally different
parts of the country after decades spent in employment. This village is not crossed by trucks
and there are no environmentally polluting industrial activities either. Apart from the passive
admiration of the lower-Ipel landscape and its beauty, the place is perfect for a self-sustaining
lifestyle and for growing herbs.

The newcomers have also created an extremely active civil society organisation known as
the Society-Association of the Friends of Tésa. The purpose of this organisation is to jointly
do something to promote the development of the tiny village and to make it great. As a result of
the close cooperation between the local residents and the local government, more specifically,
the mayor who is also working as the caretaker and ‘a jack of all trades’, the park was also
built from resources gained in a tender and now provides services to the local residents and
their guests that are important to improve the quality of life (playground, balling alley, brewing
houses). This association organises the events of the village which, due to lack of guests or
performing bands, resemble more a meeting of friends than the ‘usual’ rural, cultural events.


38 Civitas Europica Centralis Foundation
However, a cooking day is often attended by 200-300 people and food is cooked in dozens of
pots. It was also the civil society organisation that proposed the ‘bridge days’ that have been
organised annually since the opening of the Schengen borders with the involvement of the local
communities of Tésa and Vyškovce nad Ipľom. On the first Saturday of each August the
older and younger residents of the two villages gather in Vyškovce nad Ipľom, under the
Ipel bridge and celebrate their good neighbourly relations, which gained a new meaning
with the opening of the Schengen borders with a shared fish soup cooking contest.

The project planned in relation to the two settlements can further strengthen the friendly
relations between them. This project is not about the construction of an Ipel bridge but the
revitalisation of a public road connecting to the Ipel bridge which existed at Vyškovce
nad Ipľom for a long time. The road already exists, but it is in an extremely derelict condition and
is practically unsuitable for passenger cars (especially on rainy days). The Šahy- Čata-Štúrovo
secondary railway line was built parallel with the river Ipel, but to the south of the river in the Visk
curve. That means that ‘historically’ in this case Ipel did not become the border between the two
countries. That is why the border at Vyškovce nad Ipľom could gain ‘strategic importance’ during
the period of socialism and was strictly ‘secured and protected’ by the ‘gendarme’ barracks,
which were in charge of border protection. The settlement was an important hub in the previous
centuries too. In the 14th century it had a right to organise fairs and collect customs duties
because one of the important commercial routes connecting the northern line of the Danube
with important medieval mining towns (Selmecbánya, Körmöcbánya, Besztercebánya) crossed

Births of EU-topia along the Hungarian-Slovakian borders 39
it. In the 18th century it provided a venue for the assemblies of Hont county and in the 1970s
(prior to the Ipel regulation work) its population was more than twice as big as it is now, involving
appr. 1500 people.31

The road from Vyškovce nad Ipľom, which is a cul-de-sac settlement stuck in the curve
of the river Ipel with only one north-west transport connection to Hungary, leads across a
rather steep hill side. The Slovakian-Hungarian border, which is the north-south interconnection
point, is just ae stone’s throw away, appr. 400 m from the bridge. Travelling 4-5 km from that point,
we can reach Bernecebaráti by turning left towards the east and the centre of Tésa by turning right,
moving in south-west direction. The previous barrier disappeared after the opening of the Schengen
borders, but the happiness of the local communities soon stopped. When the electronic toll
was introduced in Slovakia in 2010, the trucks decided to cross the country borders on this
road (which was toll free) instead of crossing the border control point in Šahy, until Hungary
also introduced a toll in the middle of 2013 also on roads other than motorways. In addition to the
disturbance of the peace and quiet, which was characteristic of the border region, it also led to
the consequence in just a few years that the road leading to Tésa and Bernecebaráti and beyond,
i.e. side roads leading to main road number 2 in Hungary and main road 76, providing a
north-south connection in Slovakia (Levica and Štúrovo) were completely destroyed. The
idea of the reconstruction of the road already occurred in the 2007-2013 INTERREG programme,
when it should have taken place in one package with the construction of Ipolydamásd-Chľaba and
Vámosmikola-Ipeľský Sokolec bridges, but the project failed due to the reasons outlined in the
previous case study. On the Slovakian side the maintenance of the appr. 400 m long third
category road section falls in the competence of Nitra county. The local governments are
unable to provide funds for the project and in order to expand the track, properties by the
road also need to be expropriated.

Consequently, the relationship between the two settlements has become closer since the
opening of the Schengen borders. This relationship is not limited only to the bridge celebration
in Vyškovce nad Ipľom, but residents of Tésa visit Vyškovce nad Ipľom every day to do
shopping or to ‘have a drink’ as they do not have a local shop or catering facility in their
village. More and more friendships evolve but the interoperability of the border is also important
in order to maintain family relations. As an example, there is a family in Tésa who moved from
Vyškovce nad Ipľom. However, in order to stretch over the small-scale relations and think of real
regional development options, the appr. 20 km long road in Hungary leading from the country
border through Tésa and Vámosmikola to Nagybörzsöny also needs extensive reconstruction.
At the moment for the residents of Vyškovce nad Ipľom the diversion route through Šahy
is more convenient when they travel to Hungary.


40 Civitas Europica Centralis Foundation
The residents of Vyškovce nad Ipľom often feel that they are in the ‘deadly embrace’
of the Ipel river. The Lower-Ipel valley was not exempted from the gigantic concept of the
Danube-Ipel Dam and barrage system, (the so-called Hulinova-plan)32 which was created in the
second half of the 1970s: artificial regulation was applied on the river Ipel from Šahy to
the estuary into the river Danube at Chľaba. Two barrage systems were built at Vyškovce
nad Ipľom. Another objective of the regulation plan was to develop a grain growing area, similar
to the one in Žitný ostrov in this bend of the river Ipel. In the end Vyškovce nad Ipľom did not
become the pantry of the country but, ‘owing to’ the barrage systems, it remained the only
settlement by the river Ipel which is exposed to a major flood risk when it rains.

The employment options of the residents are also determined by the transport links.
Most of the residents of Tésa commute to work to Budapest, appr. 100 km away, Rétság industrial
park at 35 km, across Slovakia to Esztergom, which is also 35 km away, and to Ipolytölgyes,
which is within 15 km (where a Belgian owned automotive supply company operates). There are
some residents who travel in total 360 km every day between Tésa and Kecskemét. Most of
the people who commute daily on long distances were not born there but initially stayed
at the village only for weekends and then ‘stayed there’ as commuting by car was also an integral
part of their former lifestyle. There is also a young man who commutes to work to Šahy in
Slovakia every day. Most probably the wages payed in EUR may become attractive for
more people in the future. However, the project planned in the framework of the present
INTERREG programme and the implementation of the related road developments are
fundamental conditions of relevant strengthening of work force, which functions in two
directions in this border region.

There is no significant local economy in Tésa. In the surrounding larger settlement
of Kemence and Bernecebaráti, each of which is 7 km away, mostly agricultural large-scale
producers employ a few people. There are long traditions of forest fruit production, which
is very labour intensive, in the border region, especially in Bernecebaráti. Many began small
scale farming, growing red currents and its versions (red, black, white) to suit the current market
needs. The Currant Associatio was also formed in Bernecebaráti for the purpose of community
building in the area.33 A ‘knowledge transfer’ from the Hungarian farmers can already be
identified and found on both sides of the border. However, processing was never organised
and therefore small local processing plants, without a market and working capital they went
bankrupt one after the other and could not compete with the various imported artificial fruit juices
(primarily Chinese and Polish). These days, however, local products have become popular again
and more and more young farmers began to pursue this heavily weather-dependent activity.
Most local fruits and vegetables are still processed at home, on a small scale, into syrup, jam,


Births of EU-topia along the Hungarian-Slovakian borders 41
palinka or ‘lecsó’.34 Demand still consists of relatives, neighbours and occasional tourists. For
the time being, nobody is organising large-scale local processing or sales capacities,
but the planned infrastructure developments could also give a boost to the development
of the local farmers’ market.

There are no local jobs in Vyškovce nad Ipľom either. Contrary to the Hungarian side,
the agricultural cooperative is still active with a head office in Balog nad Ipľom, cultivating
in total approximately 8,000 hectares of land suitable for agricultural cultivation and animal
farming, in Balog nad Ipľom, Vyškovce nad Ipľom, Šahy, Tešmak and Preseľany nad Ipľom. The
principle of ‘economies of scale’ is becoming more and more important in agriculture. A family (two
generations) wishing to earn a living from agriculture must have hundreds of hectares of land owned
or leased by them. Farming requires a full person, farmers do not have weekends or summer
holidays. Even if EU resources are available, they support labour intensive activities only to
a lower extent and the evaluation of the submitted projects is a bureaucratic and lengthy
procedure. Even if farmers have a good year, they can only earn an income which is equivalent
to the income earned by employees in vehicle manufacturing plants and in other multinational
industrial manufacturing companies. Given these prospects, it is difficult to convince the young
people of Vyškovce nad Ipľom to continue the agricultural traditions. Fewer and fewer people are
engaged in animal farming and therefore it is not surprising that primarily as a result of the more
competitive Polish imported meat, the pig stock shrank significantly across Slovakia.

As there are no jobs in Vyškovce nad Ipľom, the people of active working age ‘go
after jobs’ and commute, primarily to the neighbouring towns or many of them have moved
elsewhere in increasing numbers. Vyškovce nad Ipľom is practically a ‘boundary settlement’
of Šahy, the centres of the two settlements are only 8 kms away. The population of the
settlement was still 8,500 at the beginning of the 1990s, but by the census in 2011 it shrank by
approximately one thousand and these days, according to estimates, less than 7,000 people
live there. The closing down of the concrete plants, some small machine industry manufacturing
companies also closely related to the construction industry (manufacturing loading machines
and sand grippers), one dairy plant, agricultural cooperatives and the weaving plant, which used
to have a key role in the employment of women in the small town, which was the primary labour
and purchasing market of the area also made a mark in the development of Vyškovce nad Ipľom.
However, recently the role of Šahy has become increasingly important again, primarily because
Budapest is geographically close and the main economic centres of Slovakia (Bratislava and
Košice regions) are now full (the price of industrial sites and wages have gone up there). An
automotive supplier, who has considerable manufacturing capacities both in Levice and
Vác in Hungary is likely to open a business in the industrial park of the town from 2018.
Apart from Šahy, relatively many residents of Vyškovce nad Ipľom work in the dynamically


42 Civitas Europica Centralis Foundation
developing industrial park of Levice35, but mainly since the opening of the Schengen borders,
many also commute to work to Hungary, mainly to Nagyoroszi (where a caravan factory
operates), which is 25 kms away and to Vác, which is 60 kms away (mainly to one of
its largest electronic industrial plants), generally using the bus service operated by the
‘multinational companies’. For the commuters using their own passenger cars every day,
it is absolutely natural that their children study in schools that are close to their workplaces.
Those who get used to an external environment in early childhood are unlikely to return to their
birth village as adults either, unless they go back to visit their parents at weekends. Besides the
commuters the young people with mainly vocational qualifications choose Nové Zámky, Nitra,
Banská Bystrica, Bratislava or Budapest, which are further away for jobs and for the place of
residence rather than staying in the area. There are relatively many who work in Austria and
Germany, more specifically on the West European motorways as truck drivers, which
also weakens family ties.

Šahy is not only the main point of attraction for Vyškovce nad Ipľom in terms of jobs or
education, it also provides the primary health care services. However, doctors on duty and
inpatient care are available only in Levice or Nové Zámky, which are approximately 70 kms
away. The hospital of Szob in Hungary, equipped with major capacities is approximately
50 kms away through Šahy, but if the road to Tésa and beyond were reconstructed, that
distance could be reduced to 35 kms. The importance of the road connecting Vyškovce
nad Ipľom and Tésa can only increase significantly if Šahy and the historic mining towns to the
north gain more importance again. It is not only Tésa, usually mentioned together with Vyškovce
nad Ipľom, which can benefit directly from the project. Tésa is not an actual border settlement,
because the road coming from Vyškovce nad Ipľom goes through Szeteharaszt, which is part of
Bernecebaráti, first. The Hungarian part of the border region beyond the hill is currently used as
arable land, and in the direction of Bernecebaráti as a ‘red current field’ and residential areas are
unlikely to stretch to the country border in the future either. On the contrary, at Vyškovce nad
Ipľom the rather poor residential houses, similar to those in slums, are already at the foot of the
ominous hill intended to be concurred with the planned project.

The current mayor of Vyškovce nad Ipľom dreams of some local patriotism, similar to one
that exists in Austria, with which the members of a village community recognise that local
cooperation brings benefits to everyone. The yards of agricultural farmers only boast tractors
and other machines assembled in the area. If anyone produces meat in the village, the locals
will purchase from them, if someone else produces palinka, the locals will buy palinka only from
them, and local pensioners do not cook at home either, but would go to the local and nearby
restaurants to have lunch, dinner, etc. So, any wages, pension and other income that ‘get’ into
the village will ‘also stay there’. It is rather difficult to attract external investors to this windy


Births of EU-topia along the Hungarian-Slovakian borders 43
region of Ipel, partly because it takes more than 40 minutes to get to the motorways and
partly because the locals are not really eager to accept industrial activities that do not
fit in the landscape. The main breakout point for local farms would be the exploitation of
any sales opportunities based on agricultural production (local markets) and ‘agro-tourism’.

The real estate market in Vyškovce nad Ipľom also has development potential. There
are still vacant residential and industrial sites and real estate prices are only approximately
two-thirds of the prices observed in Bernecebaráti and Tésa. Not only the intellectuals
escaping from the ‘suffocating’ capital cities, but also the architects of the future have begun to
recognise the astounding values of the Ipel bend.36 However, in Vyškovce nad Ipľom even
the sewage system has not yet been installed, and instead of ‘tendering opportunities’ the
local residents would like to see tangible results in this field too. In Tésa, the use as an old
people’s home of the Foglár castle, which was mentioned earlier and which, following its
nationalisation in the past, was used first as military barracks, then as a student hostel of a state
study farm and later as a reeling plant, but currently owned privately, could also add to the
attraction of the village. Both sides can rely on the bottom-up civil initiatives in order to
prevent the absolute abandonment of the Lower Ipel valley in the future and to make sure that
it can provide permanent jobs and places of residence for the local youth, who are still
considering migration.

3.3. Innovative mobility along the Middle-Ipel Valley

In the ‘middle’ section of the Ipel Valley spreading from Šahy to Kováčovce and Szécsény,
the economic-social development processes and future opportunities somewhat
different from the Lower-Ipel Valley can be observed. The artificial regulation of the river was
not implemented on this section of the Ipel, and that kind of ‘intactness’ provided more room
for the liberation of innovative and creative energies over the past decades.

Immediately after the two countries joined the Schengen area, people living in this part
could personally experience what the physical transparency of the borders between the two
countries actually meant. Not only labour became more mobile, but more and more
large companies around Budapest recognised the opportunities of innovation in
the geographical, cultural and other diversity that provided additional resources for
development as the borders were opened.

All Hungarian towns and villages in the following case studies are in the Balassagyarmat
district of Nógrád county, while their ‘counterpart’ in Slovakia belong to the Velky Krtiš
district of Banská Bystrica region.


44 Civitas Europica Centralis Foundation
3.3.1. Drégelypalánk – Ipeľské Predmostie

The population of Drégelypalánk - famous for the Fort of Drégely, which had been under the
command of György Szondi protecting the mining towns of the region as a forerunner of the border
forts there in the middle of the 16th century - was counted as 1,500 in the 2011 census. It meant
an almost 10% reduction compared to 2001, nevertheless, Drégelypalánk is still considered one
of the most populous settlements of the Ipel Valley. The population of Ipeľské Predmostie
in the ‘neighbourhood’ but accessible only by an approximately 20 km detour because of the
missing Ipel Bridge, crossing the villages of Hont and Šahy was lower in 2011, about 600 people.
The geographical location of both settlements is special. Drégelypalánk is located at the foot
of the Börzsöny Mountains, close to the border between Nógrád and Pest counties, wedged
into the Duna-Ipel National Park as a ‘promontory’. Looking at the inside area of Ipeľské
Predmostie from the air, which is mostly populated by Hungarians but currently – lacking a
bridge over the Ipel without a ‘bridge-head’ looks also like a ‘promontory’ in the bend of the
Ipel bordered by the nature reservation area Ipeľskéhony from the North-East. Compared to earlier
maps it can be seen that the river bend in this part of the river had been continuously changing in
history as a result of its light soil structure; the Ipel ‘wandered off’ from time to time.

Drégelypalánk Ipeľské Predmostie
County, Nógrád county, Banská Bystrica region,
district Balassagyarmat district Veľký Krtíš district
Population, 2011 (persons) 1516 633
Population changes, 2001-2011 (%) -9 -3
Population of Hungarian nationality, 2011 (persons) 1303 456
Population of Slovak nationality, 2011 (persons) 10 132
Aging index, 2011 (%) 149 119
Unemployment ratio 2011 (%) 17 26

Of all the Ipel Bridges, the bridge between the above two settlements can boast of the
oldest historical documentation: an engraving from 1617 (in the Turkish age) depicts the Fort of
Drégely and Fort of Nógrád from the perspective of Ipeľské Predmostie and both villages and
the wooden bridge between them are also visible in it. The wooden bridge was rebuilt in stone in
the first part of 19th century, which had been standing until the end of World War II. The bridge
was blown up in December 1944 (on the day of ‘Immaculate Conception’) by the retreating
German troops. Then, the ruins fallen into the river bed were also blown up to avoid a flood,
cutting in this way any direct link between the two villages37

A building with walls telling long tales about the history of the border is still standing on the
Slovak bank of the river and – following several reconstructions – currently functions as a

37 Bence Hajós: Ipel bridges. From Ipolytarnóc to Šahy. March 2001.

Births of EU-topia along the Hungarian-Slovakian borders 45
village administration office as well as housing several rented flats. The building was built
around 1920 with the purpose to guard the new country border as the ‘military barracks’ of
the Czechoslovak army, particularly the traffic across the Ipel Bridge still standing at the time.
Between 1939 and 1944 the building was used as an internment camp for disarmed
Polish officers following the second Vienna Resolution, which transferred the territory to
Hungary. Following the German then the Russian invasion of Poland in 1939, about 100-120
thousand Poles arrived in Hungary. One interned Polish officer kept a diary on the everyday
‘life of the camp’ at Ipeľské Predmostie. His diary is not only a report of catering problems but,
among others, it describes a training course for bee keeping, donations to civilians and a guest
performance in Budapest with a Bethlehem puppet show. According to a drawing in the diary,
the Polish officers could see the ruins of the Fort of Drégely on the other bank of the river.
Naturally, they did not wait until the bridge was blown up as the front had come closer; the
last entry in the diary is from February 1944.38 In 1948 the building was taken over by the
Czechoslovak Ministry of Interior to be used for functions of border protection until the
change of the political system, when the local government took control.

Although the two countries belonged to the same ‘camp’, not only the political connections
ceased for 3 years after the explosion of the bridge, but the local social and cultural relations also
declined. Already before the ‘velvet revolution’, there had been plans and ‘expectations’ by
the local residents to restore the bridge that had linked the two villages on the banks of the river
for several hundred years both economically, socially and culturally. However, they had to wait
for a real opportunity of the restoration until the mid-1990s. An ‘agreement in principle’
was made between the governments of the time, but no possible sources of implementation
could be envisaged then. In addition, there was a kind of ‘worry’ by the Slovakian village
leaders at the time, i.e., if the bridge is built, no labour will stay in place because everybody
will want to go to Hungary to work for higher wages there. We know that the differences in wages
have turned around to the benefit of Slovakia at national level by now, while they have become
more or less balanced in the border area in the Ipel Valley.

In 2002, prior to the elections in Hungary, the two villages were promised a restoration
of the bridge supported by the Hungarian government. In the year of opening the Schengen
borders in 2007 a wooden bridge for pedestrians and cyclists was built and consecrated
by the local priest as well, providing ‘touristic’ connections across the Ipel between the two
villages from spring till autumn.39 Taking into account that the part of Drégelypalánk where
the bridge to Ipeľské Predmostie can be built is part of the Duna-Ipel Natural Park under
the protection of ‘Natura 2000’, the environmental authorities only permitted building a
pedestrian-cyclist bridge at the time. This wooden bridge, which is still standing and is used


46 Civitas Europica Centralis Foundation
although it is fairly run-down due to the regular floods in the area, is not only useful for hikers in
the Ipel Valley but quite many people from Ipeľské Predmostie cross it on foot or by bike
to do their shopping because there is a better range of foodstuffs in Drégelypalánk.

No funds could be obtained in the period from 2007 to 2013 (funds provided by those deciding
about allocation), but now, under the Hungarian-Slovakian INTERREG programme between 2014
and 2020 the construction of a public road bridge has been put on the agenda again and enjoys
‘national economy priority’. Compared to the earlier plans, both the technical content and the goals
to be achieved via the investment have changed. An environmental impact study has already been
completed, and it envisages a bridge of about 50 metres along the track of the former bridge as well
as about 1.5 km approaching roads to be implemented at a cost of approximately EUR 3 million.40
As opposed to the earlier plans, no ‘flood area bridge’ is to be built due to the lack of resources. A
bridge suitable for public road transport is not simply ‘the goal’ but an absolutely necessary
‘means’ of the INTERREG project aiming to promote cross-border labour mobility. It satisfies
a really existing and stronger and stronger economic and social need, because a shortage of
labour hinders the development of more and more companies along the Hungarian side of
the border not only in Drégelypalánk but up to Vác and even Budapest, along road 2. The rate
of unemployment is still relatively high on the less industrialised Slovakian bank despite
investments at Šahy. The north to south commuting of labour is relatively significant in this border
region (in the district of Velky Krtiš, in Slovakia), and the planned bridge could reduce driving
time from Ipeľské Predmostie to Budapest by about half an hour, for instance.


Births of EU-topia along the Hungarian-Slovakian borders 47
Drégelypalánk has a considerable local economy and labour market. As a result of its
geographical characteristics, mainly the proximity of the Börzsöny Mountain and the River Ipel,
activities based on agriculture are of a decisive nature even today. In old times Drégely
lived on crops and animal farming while Palánk mostly relied on its vineyards and growing tobacco
(which was probably introduced by the Turks). The ‘Palánk tobacco’ was a good brand name
all over Hont county in the 19th century. Landless tenant farmers that were the majority found
jobs to supplement their earnings and keep their large families in Budapest as factory hands,
railway track workers or worked at the post and telegraph office. The development of the
railway in the 20th century basically changed the life of the residents of Drégelypalánk.
Residence and workplace got separated from each other for many, and more and more of
the landless tenant farmers commuted to Budapest, where they could find jobs as factory
hands or day-labourers. Local landowners, on the other hand, could take their produce to the
largest market of the country, Budapest. The capital can still be reached by rail to the very
day, although it takes 2 hours and you have to change at Vác. Due to the relatively good
transport connections to the south, the population in employment is divided at about half and
half between those employed locally and those commuting daily, mostly to the industrial
parks of Nagyoroszi, Rétság, Vác and Budapest (agglomeration).

Drégelypalánk used to be ‘famous far and wide’ for its production of berries (mainly strawberries
and raspberries). The juice plant set up as a side branch of the ‘Szondi György Agricultural
Cooperative’ employed 150 people at its height. The juice plant survived the economic change
of the system and following several changes of owners and profiles, it was acquired by a company
registered in Germany (holding in addition to Germany and Hungary enterprises in Poland,
Russia and America) in 2000. The company implemented a number of important technological
developments, for instance, it has been operating its own development laboratory since 2008.
However, the output of fruit processing is not the different juices but mainly different jams, ice-
cream concentrates and other fruit products. The fruit processing plant continues to be the
largest employer in the village; it pays the highest business tax and currently employs about
100 people.41 Processing, however, is not based on local production but on imports received in
the form of frozen goods. This is because the cooperative mentioned earlier wound up causing
agriculture to collapse, as – among other reasons – the vacant lands were not allocated as arable
land, but they were declared to become parts of the ‘national park’ as an ‘area of nature conservation
taken out of cultivation’. Therefore, agriculture completely collapsed at Drégelypalánk, and
no entrepreneurs appeared that could take up local traditions on a commercial basis. Young
people rather opted for leaving the village or finding employment in industry. This process of
decline, on the other hand, was not typical in the region, for instance, the ‘Pataki Kossuth Agricultural
Cooperative’ continues to operate to the very day in the neighbouring village of Patak.


48 Civitas Europica Centralis Foundation
On the other bank of the river, at Ipeľské Predmostie agriculture continues to be the
number one local source of income. It had been the same prior to the change of the political
system, when the Czechoslovak economic policy ‘encouraged’ the regions in southern Slovakia
for an even more concentrated land use than in Hungary. For instance, 12 thousand pigs used to
be bred on a site at about 10 km from Ipeľské Predmostie. In the village, the ‘cooperative’ already
in private ownership continues to be the most important employer. Cattle farming has diminished
by now, crops (mainly wheat and sunflower) and vegetables are dominant. However, vegetables
have declined significantly over the past period. Although a modern irrigation system has been
set up as well as a local vegetable processing plant and an air-conditioned cooling house for the
local vegetables (carrots, beetroot, etc.) and fruit (apples, pears, etc.), which could provide jobs
for 70 people in ‘peak times’, no chain stores have been established for direct sales. So, the
local vegetable and fruit processing plant failed in the price competition against the multi-
national chains a multitude of which appeared after the accession to the EU forcing local
producers and processing enterprises to sell their goods at ‘depressed prices’.

The elimination of customs borders has offered new opportunities for the local farmers.
Today it is easier to purchase agricultural machines, equipment, seeds, fertilisers, etc.42 from other
EU countries, first of all from Hungary. Nevertheless, no institutionalised connections have
been established between the farmers in Hungary and ones in Slovakia doing business
around Šahy. In addition to the lack of direct transport connections, mainly the planned Ipel
Bridge, another reason is that the ‘written and unwritten’ business rules in effect in the other country
should be known very well if you want to be successful. Local crops production continued to be
significant and over the past years the production of oil seeds, particularly pumpkin seeds
has significantly developed mainly for export to Austria. Industrial jobs for the residents of
Ipeľské Predmostie are available at Šahy at a distance of 10 km or at Velky Krtiš at a distance
of 30 km on the Slovakian side. Nevertheless, about 20% of people commute farther, mainly
to Hungarian towns and villages close to the border (Nagyoroszi, Ipolytölgyes, Balassagyarmat),
typically using the bus lines operated by their employers. The number of people who visit their
home infrequently is also growing, because they have found suitable jobs in Budapest or in Austria
and Germany – many of them as truck drivers.

Both the export of pumpkin seed and in general the goods transport from the area of Šahy
towards Western Europe is characterised by the fact that goods move along the route Šahy-
Nitra-Trnava-Bratislava. The same route in the direction of Budapest is about 80 km longer and
much more winding. The planned Ipel Bridge will not change that because a weight restriction is
expected to be applied. On the other hand, according to current plans, a motorway marked
R7 (2x2 lanes)43 connecting Šahy to Bratislava is to be built until 2020. It is planned


Births of EU-topia along the Hungarian-Slovakian borders 49
to be connected to the Hungarian motorway network at the border point Šahy-Hont,
provided the motorway M2 currently ending at Vác and linked to road 2 reaches the border
according to also public plans.44 These developments will not only mean a new situation
for the settlements in Šahy (including Ipeľské Predmostie) and the villages in the west
of Nógrád county (including Drégelypalánk), but will also upgrade this border area
currently on the periphery in terms of strengthening north-south economic connections
along the ancient ‘Amber Route’.

A further boost could be given to this border area, which is one region in geographical sense,
with a relatively minor infrastructural investment, if a 6.5 km railway line between Drégelypalánk
and Šahy, pulled up in the 1960s on the initiative of the political leadership in Hungary at the
time - still difficult to understand -, would be rebuilt. With that, a direct link could be established
between Budapest and the ski resorts of the High Tatras in Slovakia (along the route Vác-
Drégelypalánk-Šahy-Zvolen), and the distance - currently burdened with a change at Košice45
- would be reduced to less than 400 km and 5-6 hours’ travel time. The two settlements could
make excellent use of the new touristic route by offering 2-3 days’ joint programmes.

Drégelypalánk can already boast of 10-15 thousand overnight stays annually, mainly
due to the Fort of Drégely that can be reached by a 3-km hiking route from the centre of
the village. The ‘Szondi Showroom and Touristic Centre’ established from about EUR 200
million EU investments also serves to extend the knowledge of tourists about the history of the
village and the region.46 In the medium-term economic development plans of the settlement
(from 2015 to 2019) the development of tourism continues to be in focus in addition to the
‘revival of agricultural production and activities’.47

There is no lack of development results and plans on the other side of the river, either. Some
families moved into new homes under a local project of building rental flats, the internal roads
have been refurbished in several places, an outdoors surveillance system has been established
to improve public safety and piped supply of water is provided. On the other hand, the area
still has no sewage system (due to the lack of resources). The plans include a leisure centre
(including a playground, a statutes park, a sports field, etc.), as well as the introduction of
selective waste collection. It is an outstandingly important local priority to have local jobs
operating on commercial bases (filled not by public workers), so that the flow of labour
across the planned bridge should not be one-way in the direction of Hungary only. But
Ipeľské Predmostie should also offer jobs that keep the young ones on the one hand, and
on the other hand can be attractive for people in Hungary as well.

50 Civitas Europica Centralis Foundation
Real estate prices are more or less balanced at present; you can buy an average
detached house (built in 1960s and having a small garden) for EUR 12-15 thousand. If the Ipel
bridge is built, you can expect a significant increase in real estate prices at both settlements. At
present what happens is that people living in Šahy buy a few houses at Drégelypalánk and Hont
(either for permanent residence or as a weekend house).

The connections of the local governments of the two settlements, which are ‘twin villages’,
- a tradition in other areas as well -, are limited to a few sports and cultural events a year.
In the future, mainly following the construction of the planned Ipel Bridge, new opportunities
would open up not only for the development of the local economy and tourism but also in the
field of flood protection and water management, if capacities, knowledge and networks are
shared. The two villages are also linked by numerous family connections, mainly because
it used to be customary in the past that the boys of ‘Palánk’ married the girls of ‘Hídvég’. And
elderly people at Ipeľské Predmostie who had already been living before World War II, still have
tears in the eyes if they recall the old and soon old- new bridge site, because new dimensions
used to open up for them by walking across it and then boarding the Pest train at the railway
station of Drégelypalánk. ‘Over there’ jobs and access to healthcare and educational public
services as well as leisure activities used to be available for them.

3.3.2. Balassagyarmat (Újkóvár) – Koláre

In common usage, Balassagyarmat which boasts of the title ‘the Capital of Paloc
Land’ as well as being ‘the Bravest City’ (Civitas Fortissima) due to ‘driving out the Czechs’
in 1919, became a border city after the World War I, and lost its county seat rank as a result
of the ‘1950 reallocation of the counties’. Its population declined by about 10% in the
first decade of the 2000s, to about 16 thousand by the 2011 census. The demographical
processes are unfavourable; in addition to migration that is typical for the whole of Northern
Hungary, the aging of the population which exceeds the national average forecasts a further
reduction of the population.

Balassagyarmat Koláre
County, Nógrád county, Banská Bystrica region,
district Balassagyarmat district Veľký Krtíš district
Population, 2011 (persons) 16397 272
Population changes, 2001-2011 (%) -8 - 13
Population of Hungarian nationality, 2011 (persons) 13757 190
Population of Slovak nationality, 2011 (persons) 64 70
Aging index, 2011 (%) 188 255
Unemployment ratio 2011 (%) 12 29

Births of EU-topia along the Hungarian-Slovakian borders 51
The Slovakian Koláre village at about 20 km from Velky Krtiš to the southwest had
been in the possession of the Kováry family from the beginning of the 14th century to the 18th
century and later was owned by the Murányi, Kubinyi and Prónay families. At the beginning
of the 20th century it had over 500 residents, mainly living on agriculture and wine-growing.
The Paris Peace Treaty in 1920 divided the settlement into two along the Ipel river, the part
remaining in Hungary became a settlement under the name Újkóvár and was attached to
Balassagyarmat in 1926. As a result of the decrees following World War II, half of the population
fled to Hungary carrying their belongings across the frozen Ipel. Many of them returned later but
one-fifth settled in the parent country for good.48 Koláre having lost a significant part of its
population in that way has been an independent village since 1991, previously it belonged
to Vel’ká Čalomija 4 km away. The population today is less than 300, the number 272 in the
2011 census represented a 13% reduction compared to 2001. At the last census a majority of
Hungarian nationalities was registered. In 2011 approximately 2.5 times as many old people as
youth lived in the village, and the rate of unemployment much exceeded the national average.

According to contemporary records (minutes of an assembly in 1804), a wooden bridge
might have been built across the Ipel river dividing Koláre at the beginning of the 19th century,
which played an important economic and social role. Mainly because it was not only used
by the residents of Koláre to reach the regional market of Balassagyarmat, but also
by people living in other settlements in the region. In 1847 designs were completed for a
bridge which was considered modern and good performance compared to the technological
level of the times. In 1919 the Czechoslovak forces built ‘concrete bunkers’ here to prepare their
attack on Balassagyarmat and to secure a retreat route later. The retreating German troops
at the time of World War II did not save the bridge either, it was blown up in December
1944. In 1945 the Soviet troops built a ‘provisory’ on the site of the destroyed bridge
for logistical purposes, so passage was almost undisturbed until the legal institution of
‘dual ownership’ was terminated on the bases of an agreement between the two socialist
countries.49 Balassagyarmat did not remain without an Ipel bridge for a long time, the ‘Gyarmati’
bridge connecting the district seat in Hungary with the Slovakian Slovenske Ďarmoty
– being a part of Balassagyarmat until the end of World War I – , was built and it was later
refurbished in the early of 1990s.

Ever since Hungary and Slovakia joined the European Union the issue of rebuilding the
‘kóvári’ Ipel Bridge has been on the agenda with varying intensity. 10-12 years ago, the
economic environment was much more favourable in Hungary, and the main motivation
to improve mobility across the border was the 35-40% unemployment hitting Koláre and
its neighbourhood, as well as the services offered by the educational and healthcare


52 Civitas Europica Centralis Foundation
institutions in Balassagyarmat also in Hungarian. In 2007, following an international conference
on the Duna and Ipel Bridges to be re-built, major technical preparations started to restore this
bridge as well. But those ideas could not be transformed into actual technical designs, the
drive before the Schengen admission was only sufficient for the implementation of the Middle Ipel
Valley bridges of Pösténypuszta and Rároš. It is public knowledge that the issue of bridges is in the
competence of the counties in Slovakia, and the county administration considered building a
new Ipel bridge only 5 km from Slovenske Ďarmoty less sensible (at least compared to other
bridges right from the beginning. Although at the beginning of the 2000s, when there used to be
border control between the two countries, it could happen at a weekend that several-kilometre
long lines of cars were queuing up from the bridge at Slovenske Ďarmoty to the downtown of
Balassagyarmat. It could have been much better even at that time if the traffic to Slovakia could have
been led also across the second bridge. In 2016 the Municipality of Nógrád County became
the technical coordinator for Hungary and the local governments of the two settlements have
been regularly informed about the status of preparations for the investment since then.

Paradoxically, when the Schengen borders were opened, the enthusiasm for building
the Koláre Bridge seems to have declined on the part of the locals directly affected. The
changed economic circumstances also played a part there. On the one hand, a number
of international companies appeared in this part of Slovakia, mostly at Šahy 25 km away and

Births of EU-topia along the Hungarian-Slovakian borders 53
in the district centre Velky Krtiš 25 km away, which can absorb job seekers in the region.
Following the introduction of the Euro in Slovakia in 2009 the business environment has
become more reliable and wages paid in EUR have become more attractive over there. So, the
motivation of finding a job in Hungary has declined in this context at least compared to the
time of the admission of the two countries into the European Union. On the other hand, following
the opening of the border, freight transport from north to south along the route Budapest-
Vác-Rétság-Balassagyarmat using road 22 which is the continuation of the main road 2 has
increased significantly. Neither the capacity of the main road 22, nor the settlements along the
road with no bypass roads have been prepared for that. New companies have appeared
in the industrial parks of Rétság and Balassagyarmat as they could not find vacant
industrial sites closer to Budapest.

The re-establishment of a ‘natural’ north to south division of labour also means that the
traffic of lorries, trucks and passenger cars across the border city has multiplied.
Balassagyarmat has had a road development plan since 1998. If it is implemented, the transit
traffic from Vác in the direction of Slovakia or Salgótarján could avoid the inner part of the city.
A tragedy at Rétság in 200150 was, however, not enough for the people with the necessary
decision-making competence to provide funds for the implementation of a road bypassing
the city from the south, which has had completed technical plans for a long time. In addition,
today the development of the road network has been taken out of the competence of
Hungarian local governments. There was an option earlier to lead the transit traffic towards
Slovakia by developing the road towards Koláre. But at that time (prior to 2007) a new border
station must have been set up for that. A ‘northern’ road bypassing the city had been partly built
(about 2 km) using local funds from a tender and was handed over in 2002. Drivers towards
Slovakia can already avoid the internal part of the city along it but connection to the main road
22 in the direction of the county centre Salgótarján is still missing. The ‘southern’ section –
although, a part of the village management plans for a long time – is still missing, although it has
become more and more urgent as the industrial area between the city and Szügy is spreading.51
From the perspective of our topic symbolic is the roundabout with a statue of Saint John
of Nepomuk in the middle, who is showing the direction to travellers, to the west in the
direction of Vác-Budapest, to the east to Salgótarján and to the north to Slovakia. Saint
John of Nepomuk is not only a martyr of the confession, but also the patron saint of rivers,
bridges, boatmen, millers on the floss and fishermen. His memory is preserved in the
form of several statues and other memorial sites not only in western Nógrád County but
in numerous places in the V4 countries (including the Charles Bridge in Prague).52


54 Civitas Europica Centralis Foundation
Balassagyarmat has undergone significant economic development over the past years.
More and more mostly multi-national companies appeared in the local industrial park with different
profiles engaged in machine production, car trading, meat processing or production of electronic
goods. The rate of unemployment is extremely low in Balassagyarmat today, also indicated by the
fact that the number in the public work project declined from 250-300 at the start (2-3 years ago) to
a third. You can say today that Balassagyarmat faces a shortage of skilled labour. The decision
of the companies settling there was also affected by the geographical closeness of Hungarian
speaking labour in Southern Slovakia. Quite many people commute across the border, using
the Slovenske Ďarmoty bridge in their cars or in ‘collection buses’ operated by the multi-national
companies. Those companies typically operate in the southern industrial area, so the Koláre bridge
to be built would not be a cost reducing factor for them, since the distance between residence and
workplace would be reduced to 2-3 km from certain Slovakian settlements by selecting the Koláre
instead of the Slovenske Ďarmoty bridge. According to the city management, the Koláre bridge
would gain more economic value if more companies settled in the western industrial area
(where only a ‘cable factory’ operates at present53). But you can think the other way around as well:
the attraction of the southern industrial area would increase if there were direct road communication
to Slovakia across the Koláre Ipel bridge to be built.

The city has significant income from business tax, which is sufficient to cover social
subsidies (e.g., maternity, large family) aiming to retain young people. In addition, as a result
of an administrative restructuring after 2010, the number of public administration tasks
covering which used up most of the sources of the local government prior to 2010 are
fewer and fewer. Following the financial ‘consolidation’ initiated by the government, the local
government is not obliged to maintain educational, healthcare and other institutions
carrying out public tasks. This, however, may reduce the attraction of the city in the
long run to a certain extent. As it was underlined in a city development concept prepared in
2016, Balassagyarmat influences – in addition to its attraction area in the district – half
of Nógrád county in terms of education, healthcare, fire protection, law enforcement,
public administration and justice. Its secondary schools attract the Rétság and Szécsény
districts, and the local government provides services for the whole of western Nógrád, its mental
institution even Heves county and part of Pest county.54 Following the centralisation of roles
and responsibilities (organising them under central administrate institutions, i.e., government
offices) those public service functions are not filled by the local government today.

The Hospital of Balassagyarmat (Dr. Kenessey Albert Hospital and Outpatients
Surgery) is famous far and wide about its relatively high-standard services. The idea comes
up from time to time that it could use its capacities to spread its operations across the border in


Births of EU-topia along the Hungarian-Slovakian borders 55
accordance with agreements to be concluded with state-owned and/or private health insurers.
The residents of neighbouring Koláre have smaller hospitals available to them at Velky Krtiš and
Šahy at a distance of 20-30 km, which are considered to be among the ‘worst’ in Slovakia.55 If
in need of ‘county’-standard hospital care, the residents of Koláre must travel to Banská Bystrica
100 km away, but you have to add that two out of ten of the best hospitals of Slovakia can be
found there according to a Slovak study in 2013. At present several Hungarian speaking
doctors born in Slovakia work at the Balassagyarmat Hospital. Despite the favourable
conditions, currently valid healthcare regulations in the two countries do not allow even
in an urgency to provide healthcare at the relatively well-equipped Balassagyarmat Hospital
for the residents living in Koláre, Slovenske Ďarmoty and other neighbouring settlements at
a distance of 5-10 km. Plans for a closer cooperation between the hospitals at Velky Krtiš
and Balassagyarmat were already envisaged in 200956, but little tangible results have been
implemented. In addition, cross-border small-region-level healthcare cooperation has been
taken off the agenda since the Balassagyarmat Hospital has come under state maintenance.

At present, 5-6 people commute daily from Koláre to Balassagyarmat for jobs. About
the same number of people work in the industrial parks in Velky Krtiš and Šahy. Locally, only
agriculture provides a modest source of income. Commuting of labour from the neighbouring
villages (Vinica, Vel’ká Čalomija, Malá Čalomija, Chrastince, Lesenice) is also strong in the
direction of Balassagyarmat. Their employment opportunities are mostly offered in the city’s
industrial park close to the Slovenske Ďarmoty bridge. On the other hand, the children of
commuters from Koláre and those working at home typically go to school in the other direction
– as there is no local school – to Balog nad Ipl’om to its Hungarian language school,
which is about 10 km. A well-known multi-national company decided to set up a hypermarket
immediately at the border a few hundred meters from the Slovenske Ďarmoty bridge based
on the mobility towards Hungary. It practically ‘strips’ the border region exploiting the fact that
people with a relatively high spending power – mostly Hungarian speakers – live on the other
side of the border 20-30 km away who typically receive their wages in EUR. It is estimated that
about half of the turnover of the hypermarket is due to Slovakian shoppers.

As Koláre is a small village it lacks not only a school but also a kindergarten, post office or even
a doctor’s surgery. The family doctor works at Vel’ká Čalomija 4 km away. Locals are quite divided
on the issue of building a bridge. Part of the population think it is necessary because it used to
provide villagers with direct crossing of the Ipel ‘for many centuries’. Others, however, ‘have heard’
from other settlements that since their bridge was built improving the physical transparency of the
border, crime ‘across the borders’ has also increased. At present the opponents are in majority,
so the local government assembly of Koláre has voted against the restoration of the bridge several


56 Civitas Europica Centralis Foundation
times. At Koláre the priority is the refurbishment of the local roads, bus stop and cultural centre
rather than a bypass road, although the short road leading up to the bridge could also be renewed
together with the bridge. What is more, the connections between Koláre and Balassagyarmat could
also become closer as a result of the bridge. At present – most probably due to the bridge built in
the 1960s - the city has closer connections with Slovenske Ďarmoty and they are not even twin with
Koláre. Koláre has a single twin village Becske, also in Nógrád county but about 30 km from the
border. There are no historical connections between the two settlements; they found each other by
accident at a ‘world meeting’ of Hungarian mayors organised at Gödöllő.

Regional connections in the Middle Ipel Valley could be revitalised through large-
scale infrastructure developments already mentioned in the case of Drégelypalánk-
Ipeľské Predmostie that would be organically linked to the construction of the Ipel
bridges. One should be to widen main road 2 from Vác to Rétság, continued in main road
22 to Balassagyarmat (and to Salgótarján) and connect it to the Slovakian highway network.
According to one version of Slovakian road development plans, north to south connections,
along the ancient Amber Road, would be provided by the Šahy-Zvolen-Banská Bystrica
route. You can also hear rumours that a motorway from Košice to Bratislava would pass by
Cebovce a mere 15 km from Balassagyarmat and Koláre, i.e. new dimensions would open
up for the capital of Paloc Land if the distance from both Bratislava and Košice were shorter both
for passenger and freight traffic.

Another major opportunity is to restore rail traffic in the Ipel Valley. We have already
mentioned with respect to Drégelypalánk, a section of less than 6 km, which has been sadly
missing for the residents of the region for many decades, because it could not only connect
the border area but also Budapest, Szeged etc., with the High Tatras via Šahy, making the
road to the ski resorts in Slovakia shorter by many hours.57 However, no actual steps
have been made for railway development across the border, which is organically connected to
the development of roads and bridges in Western Europe. Not only the improvement of social
relations, but also the increased freight transport justifies the development of rail transportation.
Using an example from the region: many drivers are dreading their drive every day because –
following the termination of rail cargo – huge several-thousand-kilo rocks are transported from the
quarry at Nógrádkövesd reopened a few years ago (to the south of Balassagyarmat at about 25
km) to construction sites in several parts of the country. Railway development, however, already
has some results: the restoration and renewal of the Vác-Drégelypalánk-Balassagyarmat line has
started and has been completed as far as Diósjenő. The Ipel Euroregion set up in 1999 and
chaired by the current mayor of Balassagyarmat in office since 2006 has been an indefatigable
‘warrior’ of developing the cross-border north to south communication corridor.58


Births of EU-topia along the Hungarian-Slovakian borders 57
To sum up, it can be said that the two settlements directly affected – at least their
current leaders – are less supportive of the rebuilding of the Ipel bridge, partly because
there are important infrastructure development priorities and partly due to the relatively
low economic-social benefit expected. It is a question how much that approach reflects
the will of the local communities, and whether you could argue in Budapest vis-à-vis residents
of Újlipótváros (District 13) to use the Petőfi bridge instead of the Margit bridge – just a few
kilometres away – if they have to regularly go to Buda, on the other bank of the River Danube
(with the purpose of employment, shopping, visiting relatives etc.)?

3.3.3. Őrhalom – Vrbovka

Moving along main road no. 22, Őrhalom is about half-way between Balassagyarmat
and Szécsény, two district centres. It stands out in the vicinity with its population of over 1,000,
which - nearly uniquely in the border region - may be characterised with a moderate decrease
(2% between 2001 and 2011). The origin of the village’s name (guard-post) goes back to the
medieval church hill or mound, symbolising the good view offered by it on movements in the Ipel
valley.59 The village hosts the centre of the ‘shared local government office’ operated
in common with the neighbouring villages of Hugyag, Csitár and Iliny, and children from
the vicinity typically attend the village’s elementary school. The population of Vrbovka on the
opposite side of the river is much lower and decreases strongly (by 17% between 2001 and
2011), and has a Hungarian majority as regards nationality links. The rate of ageing and of
unemployment are both higher there than in the case of Őrhalom.

Őrhalom Vrbovka
County, Nógrád county, Banská Bystrica region,
district Balassagyarmat district Veľký Krtíš district
Population, 2011 (persons) 1041 363
Population changes, 2001-2011 (%) -2 - 17
Population of Hungarian nationality, 2011 (persons) 951 304
Population of Slovak nationality, 2011 (persons) .. 55
Aging index, 2011 (%) 160 203
Unemployment ratio 2011 (%) 16 29

There is currently a wooden bridge over the Ipel between the two villages, providing
pedestrian and bicycle crossing when there are no floods. However, passenger cars and
buses need to add an extra cca. 25 km along road no. 22 in Hungary and road no. 2610
in Slovakia. The border may be crossed using the ‘Katalin Bridge’ connecting Pösténypuszta (a
suburb of Szécsény) with Petov (belonging to the village of Kovačovce, handed over in 2012.
Vrbovka is accessible by crossing Kiarov; it is a true ‘cul-de-sac’ village, with access only


58 Civitas Europica Centralis Foundation
via the pedestrian wooden bridge shared with Őrhalom towards the south. Before 2012,
the people of Őrhalom were able to drive to Vrbovka towards Balassagyarmat, using a road of
inferior quality that is 2-3 km longer, passing along the bridge at Slovenské Ďarmoty and the
Kiarov Mountain.

This is a ‘cuckoo egg’ in a number of respects when compared with the history and
planned future of other bridges over the Ipel. One particular feature is that, while the river
runs along residential buildings at the edge of Vrbovka, situated on a higher elevation, which
are rather dilapidated and are likely to be appropriated if the planned project goes through, the
residential area of Őrhalom is separated by about 1.5 km of floodplain from the Ipel.
Historically, this obstacle was overcome using various structures. On the Hungarian side, at least
according to figures of the military surveys of the age, there were altogether six floodplain
bridges here in 1910. The first (and longest) was a ditch-bridge (a wooden bridge with four
bays), followed by a shorter wooden bridge, and then by a bridge built with stone arches. This
was followed by two single-bay bridges (each bay with a length of 4-5 metres), and another
stone bridge. The last in line was a real river bridge.60 While in Vrbovka, a wooden bridge was
built, and travellers stepping off the bridge found and – as the pedestrian wooden bridge is
still located there – find themselves right at the entrance of the local church.

The bridge complex spanning the floodplains was a ‘miracle’ not only in respect of tourism.
Its load-bearing capacity can be illustrated by saying that they could be crossed by horse carriage as
well as by tank during wartime (unfortunately) in addition to on foot. Contrary to public belief, direct
road connection between the two villages was terminated not after World War I and not
even due to the German troops retreating during World War II. Although Czechoslovakian
internal security forces monitored the border from a guard post built in the Vrbovka
churchyard already between the two World Wars, local lore has it that they often would often
‘look aside’ when somebody crossed the bridge to visit relatives or for some other purpose.
There was a flood before the war that washed away the ditch bridge, but it was also rebuilt. Just
as the Russian troops built bridges for temporary purposes. Actually, the bridge was terminated
during the period of ‘frosty Socialism’, when, after a devastating flood in 1963 passed, both
parties ‘having good neighbourly relations’ ‘saw it fit’ to dismantle the remaining parts of
the bridge structure instead of restoring the damage caused by the flood.

Yet the two villages are literally ‘siblings’ of one another. While the bridge lasted, they
practically ‘lived together’: people regularly crossed the bridge to farm land on the other
bank of the river, married people from the other village, while the common roots are illustrated
by the nearly identical traditional folk clothes in the two villages. On the other hand, the
two villages are closely related in terms of religious history in addition to family, cultural and

60 Bence Hajós: Ipel bridges. From Ipolytarnóc to Šahy. March 2001.

Births of EU-topia along the Hungarian-Slovakian borders 59
economic relations. Early in the 20th century, only Vrbovka had a Catholic vicarage and church,
and birth and death certificates issued until the 1920’s can be found in Vrbovka even today. The
church of Őrhalom was built as late as in the 1930’s.61 Therefore, the parish centre of the border
region was Vrbovka for a long time, covering Hugyag as well as Őrhalom, and Kováčovce and
Kiarov still belong to that parish. It is no coincidence that the churches of Őrhalom and Hugyag
were positioned with their entrances offering the ecclesiastical centre of the Vrbovka parish,
which keeps up with the times; for instance, the local vicar writes a blog, in order to publish the
schedule for mass services, for instance.62

Vrbovka on the Slovakian side of the border, had played an important central role in
the micro-region already in Socialist times, as the post office and the local government
office were located there. Following the political regime change, Kiarov and Kováčovce became
independent villages (with their own mayors and budgets), while certain public services (such
as the post) remain available here. The registry office of the three villages is still operated
there today. Furthermore, Vrbovka continues to operate a Hungarian-language elementary
school, named after Hungarian author Kálmán Mikszáth, being close to Sklabina63 at a
distance of cca. 15 km. Vrbovka has the only Hungarian-language elementary school with all
grades from 1st to 9th within a vicinity of about 30 km, but has only 20 children attending the
school.64 There is currently no local kindergarten, but the local government plans to re-open
it in the autumn of 2017. The village office maintains and hosts the doctor’s office. However,
the village does not have its own doctor any more, as it was only able to arrange for three
visits per week by a physician, also of an advanced age, living in Vinica located cca. 35 km
away after the local doctor passed away. There is no public transport at all from the cul-de-
sac village of Vrbovka during the weekend. On the other hand, there are buses running from
Őrhalom to Balassagyarmat and from there, to Vác, Budapest or along the Ipel Valley, practically
every hour. For instance, one of the Vrbovka teachers also teaches in Drégelypalánk, and gets
to work by walking over the wooden bridge to take the bus to Drégelypalánk. This is
not really feasible during floods and the winter, but having at least a few of the regular
buses crossing Őrhalom reach at least the bridgehead would already be a great help. The two
local governments have neither the professional competence nor the funding nor the
organisational capacities to operate a regular bus route between the two sides of the

Getting back to the bridge, the possibility for rebuilding the wooden bridge dismantled
45 years earlier came when the two countries acceded to the Schengen zone together.
An innovative and even ‘subtle’ solution for spanning the Ipel between Őrhalom and Vrbovka

60 Civitas Europica Centralis Foundation
was found directly after accession to the European Union. The two governments in place at the
time agreed that in order to increase the touristic attraction of the border regions of Hungary
and Slovakia, it should be possible to cross the river by boat from spring to autumn. The locals
put on their thinking cap, and built a pier in each village for accessing the ‘boat’ and cross over
to the other country.65 This resourceful solution also demonstrates the great need of the local
communities for visiting each other. Eventually, after the Schengen accession, the wooden
bridge still in place today could be built. While it is not licensed, the authorities ‘tolerate’
it. The wooden bridge has restored pedestrian and (motor)bicycle connection between the
two villages for the past 10 years, even though the structure is worn by frost and floods from
time to time. The wooden bridge strengthened family relations, and Őrhalom youth now court
the girls of Vrbovka and vice versa. Vrbovka was able to catch its breath, and young people
studying in Budapest’s universities cross through on foot or by bicycle in order to catch a bus.

Plans have been made to build a bridge suitable for public road transport purposes
already during the previous planning period of 2007 to 2013. The stakeholders were able
to gain experience with the lengthy consultations with environmental protection authorities
already back then. However, in the absence of funds available on application, no substantial


Births of EU-topia along the Hungarian-Slovakian borders 61
steps have been taken to change plans into reality. In the current 2014-2020 INTERREG
programme, however, the opportunity was seized, and during the assessment period that
served as the basis of the case study, uniquely for the connections investigated, an elaborated
project plan waiting merely for the Intermediary Authority’s approval was available, along
with an elaborated (and revised compared to the original concepts) technical design for the
bridge. This also required the mayors of the two villages to endorse the troublesome coordination
and lobbying tasks that are inevitable for implementing this type of an infrastructure project
locally. Both mayors declared that the bridge over the Ipel was the priority development
task for the village they led. In order to facilitate the bridge, they maintain daily contact
and, having recognised they needed to build a ‘bridge’ from the local level to intergovernmental
levels, both of them established relations with people preparing and making decisions
and higher-level ‘sponsors’ of the bridge at county and central (ministry) levels. Presumably
due to this, Banská Bystrica County will provide pre-financing sources as well as technical, legal
and other expertise for the project, at least according to the ‘guarantee’ available. It could also
be said that the two mayors are doing no more than their jobs by implementing the 2014
interstate agreement on the implementation of the Ipel Bridge that has been confirmed
by a government decision in Hungary in 2016.

In this case, the bridge may be no more than a means for achieving the objective setting
out the development of tourism and nature conservation along the border, in line with
INTERREG. The bridge is also needed to enable the two villages to achieve tangible results
in the fields of tourism and nature conservation together that are sustainable in the long run.
According to the plans, a ‘living house of traditions’ is to be created in Vrbovka where
interested visitors may learn about the ‘tips and tricks’ for rural life (by feeding animals and taking
part in handcrafts, etc.), along with the history of bridges over the Ipel River demonstrated by
an exhibition. The main nature conservation elements will be composed of involving the Kiarov
marshlands66 offering unexploited opportunities in tourism, as well as the establishment of
birdwatching spots and ‘environmentally friendly’ landing ports along the Ipel. In
Őrhalom, a tourist centre employing a few persons and to be operated by the local government
and a not-for-profit company engaged in tourism development will be created, which will be the
starting point for organised tour routes also to Slovakia via the bridge to be built (on foot, by
canoe, horse, etc.), and the features of the land may be seen using state-of-the-art technology
(such as VR glasses).

Thus, the project will greatly increase the ‘eco-tourism’ attraction of the border region,
while its main social benefit lies in satisfying the needs of the local population. This is true
particularly for the Slovakian side, where Vrbovka and other villages in its immediate vicinity could
be ‘rescued’; the population of these places are extremely ageing and strive for survival. Having a


62 Civitas Europica Centralis Foundation
direct connection with main road no. 22 will bring them 15 to 20 km closer to Budapest,
which will open up new dimensions in respect of economic development as well. Cultural relations
between the two villages are already close. They hold joint ‘international youth meetings’ and
joint village days, visit each other’s state events, and the two vicars are also on good terms. The
local communities have ‘said goodbye’ to the bridge several times, but the two municipalities
have not let go of the idea. So, the project is now live again, considering that the application
under INTERREG was filed with a budget of over EUR 4 million in November 2016.67 This
means that out of the five bridges planned over the Ipel, the one connecting Őrhalom with
Vrbovka has progressed the most for the moment, at least in respect of securing funds.

In addition to increasing tourism potential, it is not likely that the planned road bridge
will bring about substantial direct economic promotion. Before 1990, there was a well-to-do
agricultural cooperative in Őrhalom, but it went bankrupt. The locals have bad memories of the
cooperative, several people ‘have died due to this’, so the chances for reviving it in a modernised
manner to meet today’s requirements are slight. Currently, most of the land lays idle, with no
one to farm it, and there is a single local family engaged in agricultural production. The land has
been bought up by ‘large entrepreneurs’ of Nógrád County instead of locals, primarily in order
to draw down territory-based EU aid available. Berry production, which used to flourish in
the area, has disappeared, having shifted towards the north. This region is famous also
for its potato-growing traditions, with several hundred families pursuing this occupation for a
long time, and Őrhalom was referred to as the ‘Mecca’ of potato growing even by the turn of the
millennium.68 During the 1980’s, there was a year when potato was harvested on 600 hectares,
but this is recalled only in photographs today.69 Naturally, the main purchasing market
was Budapest, the capital city nearby. Nowadays, however, there are only a few families
growing potatoes, with no large-scale production on several hectares taking place. On the other
hand, mostly in the autumn months, potatoes are still being sold in bags planted in front of
houses along main road no. 22, and buyers are expected to pay for them on ‘trust basis’.

Therefore, no significant local economic activity can be identified in Őrhalom.
A timber company based in Budapest has a site in Őrhalom, which is used for storage and
sales of products used in construction industry, manufactured by the company.70 Most
people employed work somewhere else, primarily in Balassagyarmat only 10 km away,
commuting daily instead of working locally. Local employment to a rather high number of
public employees is provided by the shared local government office, the local kindergarten
and school, as well as a few small shops. In terms of the labour market, Őrhalom is a kind of
fault line. Unemployment has been practically eliminated locally and to the west, in and around

Births of EU-topia along the Hungarian-Slovakian borders 63
Balassagyarmat, whereas the industrial parks of the district centre mentioned in the previous
case study are characterised by a lack of skilled labour. To the east, in the vicinity of Szécsény
and Salgótarján, unemployment is still in the two-digit range.

As regards all of Nógrád County, it may be said that given the existing transport
and economic features, the proximity of Budapest is more of a disadvantage. Budapest
is close enough to attract the young to study at universities there, and the Nógrád economy,
relying on inexpensive ‘subsistence’ wages is unable to offer adequate employment for them.
Employment available in a radius of cca. 50 km of the capital city is much more attractive
for the less skilled population. They typically choose to live in the outskirts of Budapest. It is
a well-known fact that a large part of the 4th district of Budapest comes from Nógrád County.
There was a wave of moving out of Budapest earlier, but only up to a distance of 50
to 70 km from Budapest, and this has not affected the area of Balassagyarmat-Őrhalom-
Szécsény-Salgótarján, which is located further away. The construction of residential parks at
the foothills of the Börzsöny Mountains was of no use; in recent years, several hundreds of
thousands moved from the Pest and Nógrád County agglomeration back to Budapest in
the absence of an infrastructure offering appropriate road (without daily traffic jams) and
railroad traffic, and of high-standard education, health care and other basic services.

A significant portion of Vrbovka’s population are retired, and local employment is
provided only by agriculture, as well as a local sewing shop owned privately but operated in
a property owned by the local government, employing 8-10 persons. The fact that young
people go to Bratislava, Trnava or other Slovakian towns or abroad (in increasing
numbers) to find employment and settle somewhere else projects the continuation of the
unfavourable ageing trends. Also, they work in jobs, e.g. truck driving, returning home every
two or three weeks, which causes families to fall apart in time. A few people commute daily
to Balassagyarmat’s industrial park. They use their own passenger cars, because the bus
route operated by the multinational companies does not enter the tiny cul-de-sac village
for the sake of 3-4 persons. The planned bridge would resolve a big part of this problem
as well. Some go to work to the fitness machine manufacturing company in U.S. ownership,
established as a greenfield investment in the industrial park of Vel’ky Krtis cca 20 km away.
Earnings in Balassagyarmat and Vel’ky Krtis are not very different any more. The employee’s
choice is determined primarily by their interests and skill level.

Foreign capital comes to both sides of the border primarily for the cheap labour. The
monthly pay for employees on both sides of the border is EUR 400-500 net per month, with a
‘bonus’ paid to those who manage to solicit co-workers. In Balassagyarmat, there are maybe
more opportunities to find employment due to the higher number of companies, whereas only
people with some special qualification (such as welding) are able to find employment in Vel’ky Krtis

64 Civitas Europica Centralis Foundation
as well. Currently, only people who have not found employment since the shutdown of the local
agricultural cooperative some 30 years ago are unemployed, many of whom have lost all hope.
There are two shops in the village, which close down between 12.00 and 2.00 p.m. in observation
of a particular local ‘siesta’. There is a local pub, but there is no restaurant. The kitchen and dining
room of Mikszáth School are used for local cook-ups (for cultural events for instance).

Building the bridge may perhaps attract smaller businesses to the two villages to
create jobs locally. There is to be no truck traffic due to the expected weight limit (3.5 tonnes),
as it would be hardly compatible with the eco-tourism development goals and not be feasible
due to the dilapidation of roads around Vrbovka, whereas this border region might be interesting
for companies engaged in activities with lesser transport needs. For instance, there is a meat
processing business operating on both sides of the border, which might realise a business
profit (or at least cost savings) with the construction of the bridge connecting the two villages. To
make use of natural features, there has been a suggestion to realise joint forest management
and timber industry cooperation. In a spirit of joint innovative thinking, the possibility for
cooperation in education has also been raised. Currently, the Őrhalom school is attended
almost exclusively by Roma children, and others are typically schooled in Balassagyarmat.
Construction of the bridge may make parents in Őrhalom opt for taking their children to school
in Vrbovka - travelling 2 km twice a day instead of 10 km twice a day - where children would
have an opportunity to learn at least the rudiments of the Slovak language in addition to
Hungarian. On the other hand, it may happen that the possibility of studying in Hungarian
would be provided by the Őrhalom school also for the children of Vrbovka, the number
of which keeps decreasing with the current demographic trends. However, the necessary
framework conditions are not in place for harmonising elementary education capacities. First
off, an intergovernmental agreement is needed, to be followed by the elaboration of the
legal conditions for funding.

In this case, the bridge may have a significant impact on the real estate market
as well, primarily in respect of Vrbovka. There are many vacant houses in Vrbovka, and the
implementation of the bridge might help to realise some increase in population. Good-quality
houses with gardens are available for cca. EUR 10,000, while this amount would only
buy land in Őrhalom. The differences in ‘size’ between the two villages determine a significant
difference between real estate prices. Currently, Vrbovka might be attractive for people
wishing to live in a ‘quiet and peaceful rural setting’. Earlier, the local government had an
initiative for acquiring and refurbishing vacant houses in order to use them as ‘social housing for
rent’, but this has not come true due to a lack of interest.

By today, Őrhalom has moved past this crisis in a number of respects. The previous term
(between 2010 and 2014) focused on the financial consolidation of the village - with help from

Births of EU-topia along the Hungarian-Slovakian borders 65
the central government -, putting an end to operational losses of nearly HUF 100 million per year
(which has ballooned into several hundreds of millions of HUF over the years) in the course of
a year. The number of local crimes has also been cut down considerably, with the elimination
of a gang spreading drugs nationwide, which had its distribution centre in Őrhalom, early
in 2017.71 There are several dilapidated houses in the ‘old’ part of the village, which are again
unattractive for those taking an interest in the village. There has been no new construction in the
village for nearly 20 years. The last time a whole street was built was in the 1980’s, which
was named ‘Youth Road’ to commemorate the new inhabitants and with a view to the future. In
earlier times, marrying a man in Hungary was a highly prestigious thing on the Slovakian side of the
border, and there are still 4-5 wives from the region living in the village. This trend has subsided,
and it is now not typical for Slovakian families to move to the Hungarian side in this region.

In addition to the opportunity for unfolding local innovative incentives, plans that strengthen
north-to-south transport connections and for the general economic development of the
Balassagyarmat-Szécsény-Salgótarján ‘axis’ need to be implemented in order to boost
Őrhalom. Building the public road bridge shared with Vrbovka represents one of the first
steps in this respect, which is particularly important in socio-cultural respects as well.

3.3.4. Hugyag – Kováčovce

The case of Hugyag and Kováčovce may well be the most interesting out of the pairs of
villages analysed in this study. Hugyag, a Hungarian village, is located cca. 100 km from Budapest,
about half way between Balassagyarmat and Szécsény, accessible by a rather dilapidated road of
cca. 1.5 km after Őrhalom, which may be reached by main road no. 22. It is currently a ‘cul-de-sac’
village with no exit towards the north (Kovačovce) in the absence of the planned bridge over the Ipel
River, and the only connection to the world outside the village is the side road connecting it to main road
no. 22, mentioned above. Visitors are confronted by poverty, the distress of the mostly Roma
population. Perhaps unique in the border region along the Ipel River, its population has stagnated
between the last two censuses. The rate of ageing is well below the county average, which might be
encouraging for the future, but only in the event that the extremely bad labour market situation -
characterised by a relatively high rate of unemployment - can be changed as well.

Hugyag Kováčovce
County, Nógrád county, Banská Bystrica region,
district Balassagyarmat district Veľký Krtíš district
Population, 2011 (persons) 904 375
Population changes, 2001-2011 (%) 0 -1
Population of Hungarian nationality, 2011 (persons) 715 251


66 Civitas Europica Centralis Foundation
Hugyag Kováčovce
Population of Slovak nationality, 2011 (persons) .. 119
Aging index, 2011 (%) 115 158
Unemployment ratio 2011 (%) 25 27

The population of Kováčovce, 20 km southeast of Vel’ky Krtis in Slovakia, a village that is
currently blocked from Hugyag by the Ipel is much less at about one-third of Hugyag’s population,
but census figures have not showed any shrinking of the population over the first decade of the
2000’s here, either. About two-thirds of the village (still) identify themselves as being of
Hungarian ethnicity. Ageing is worse in Kováčovce, while the level of unemployment is about
the same as measured in Hugyag. The geographic location of Kováčovce is also special: it
protrudes into Hungary like a ‘peninsula’, meaning it is located in a bend of the Ipel River,
with Hugyag in Hungary on the other side of the river in one side, while to the east, passing
through Petov, which also belongs to the village, there is a connection to the Pösténypuszta
section of Szécsény in Hungary via the ‘Katalin’ Bridge (to be presented later) spanning also
the Ipel. This means that Kováčovce is bordered by Hungary and the Ipel River on two sides. It
is closely linked to both Hungarian settlements as regards the history of its infrastructure; the
tome of the ‘Borovszky Series’ on Nógrád County, produced on the turn of the 19th and 20th
centuries, presents Kovačovce as a village with ‘the post office in Hugyag, and the telegram and
railway station in Szécsény’. No artificial regulation has taken place along this section of the Ipel.
Had the river been ‘cut through’ here, Kováčovce would certainly belong to the other side of the
river today, so that the Ipel would not function as a border river here.

Kovačovce has about ten years of experience in the planning, implementation and
harvesting of the socio-economic benefits of a bridge over the Ipel. The Hungarian and
Slovakian governments in place at the time have agreed to build a bridge spanning the Ipel to
connect Pösténypuszta, attached to Szécsény, and Petov, attached to Kováčovce, back
in 2005 (and renewed the agreement in 2007). Planning of the bridge and the roads leading
up to it started in 2006, and it took about five years to hand it over to traffic. The investment,
implemented with INTERREG funds of cca. EUR 7 million between 2007 and 2013, - and
the bridge over the Ipel River between Nógrádszakál (Ráróspuszta) - Raros implemented in
parallel with this project) demonstrated that the two countries and their central governments
(National Infrastructure Development Corporation) and county operators (Local government of
Banská Bystrica County) are able to build bridges together if they really want to.

The bridge opening ceremony took place in 2011, the memory of which is preserved by
several photographs and a piece of the ribbon cut through during the ceremony in the office of
Kováčovce’s mayor. With an unpredictably painful twist of human fate, the two people who have
done perhaps the most for building this bridge as co-chairs of the ‘Hungarian-Slovakian Committee

Births of EU-topia along the Hungarian-Slovakian borders 67
for Bridges over the Ipel River’ at least on the level of political lobbying could not be present in
the opening ceremony. Following the 2010 elections, András Serfőző (MP for Nógrád County
between 1994 and 2010, and at one time the senior counsellor to the Regional Administrative
Office of Northern Hungary), the main sponsor of the project in Hungary, often referred to as the
‘Bridge Man’, retired from public political life. His counterpart in Slovakia, of Hungarian extraction,
Katalin Molnár, founder of the civil society named Civil Society for the Reconstruction of Bridges
over the Ipel River, passed away tragically a few months before the opening ceremony. The
bridge was named ‘Katalin’ in her memory as a result of a civil initiative. She is commemorated
by a marble plaque on the bridge and in this volume of case studies.

The Pösténypuszta bridge opened up new horizons for Kovačovce. Apart from the
emotional significance, the most important thing is that the village ceased to be a cul-de-sac
as one of its exits was opened up towards Hungary. On the other hand, the town of Szécsény
also got closer to Slovakia, its importance in economic, tourism, social and cultural relations
between the two countries has increased, as there is no need to take a detour of cca. 50 km
towards Balassagyarmat or Ipolytarnóc from the district centre as a result of the bridge. Micro-
level relations have been boosted by the bridge implemented over the Ipel. For instance,
cooperation in the field of agriculture has strengthened. Some Slovakian and Hungarian
farmers working in the border region, rather than buying identical equipment, borrow it from
‘the neighbour’. One of them buys a combined harvester, while the other purchases a squash
processing machine line, etc. Without the bridge, this type of cooperation was not worthwhile
because the equipment could be moved across the river only by taking a detour of 70 km.

Mobility has picked up in a number of other areas, primarily from the direction of Szécsény.
Some purchased real estate primarily for weekend use, while Hungarian entrepreneurs have
registered companies in Kovačovce (primarily due to the more favourable taxation
conditions in Slovakia). They typically only established a registered office in Slovakia. The
exception is a car mechanic who set up a workshop in Kovácovce as well, increasing the
supply of local services along with his income. Beforehand, the supply of bread caused
problems - due to the physical isolation -, whereas a Hungarian business delivers bakery
goods on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays while another delivers Tuesdays, Thursdays and
Saturdays, and one of them is a regular supplier for village events as well. Hungarian demand
for real estate in Kováčovce has also increased somewhat, but the price level in the
village is still about one quarter of the average prices typical in the town of Szécsény. In
parallel with this, the flow of labour force to Hungary has increased, with 15-20 persons
commuting daily from Kovačovce on the bridge. Most of them work as employees in diverse
jobs (shop clerks, lathers, welders, etc.), with some teaching in kindergarten, elementary and
secondary school in the town of Szécsény. The latter is partly due to the fact that demand for
learning Slovakian has grown among the Hungarian ‘natives’ of Szécsény.

68 Civitas Europica Centralis Foundation
Ties between the municipalities of Kováčovce and Szécsény have been close already before
the construction of the bridge connecting Petov and Pösténypuszta, as they have cooperated
also in the planning period. Contact has become practically day-to-day after the bridge was
opened. They have implemented joint CBC projects for Hungary and Slovakia, and submitted
a joint economic development project plan as a result of which consultation centres
were opened offering information on cross-border regional business opportunities
(incubator houses) on both sides of the border in connection with Priority 1 of the current
INTERREG programme. The institutional collaboration prepared by the infrastructure
development and the professional connections (between municipalities, engineers and
other professionals) have exposed new dimensions for cross-border cooperation between
the partners. Today, a cooperation with tangible achievements has evolved between
Kovačovce and Szécsény in the field of social services, by successfully placing the elders
of Kovačovce in Szécsény’s homes for the elderly. The starting point of the collaboration is
that the services offered in homes for the elderly are ‘monolingual’ in both countries, and it is
inhumane to place an aged person speaking only their mother tongue in a home where
they cannot make themselves understood. In the absence of an agreement between the
two states on the matter, this problem may be solved only by ‘immigration’, that is, registering
Hungarians of Slovakia as residents at addresses in Hungary.

Births of EU-topia along the Hungarian-Slovakian borders 69
Naturally, many complain that the bridge built is a ‘phantom’ bridge - in economic terms
- with barely any trade of goods carried on and has not contributed to the economic realignment
of this peripheral border region so far, relying on reports in the press that are often superficial.
It is true for Szécsény’s economic agglomeration in Hungary and beyond the border, including
Kovačovce, that no local economic development entailing job creation has taken place over
the past decades, which has promoted a substantial development of the border region and
stopped the brain drain. This confirms that infrastructure development, namely the bridge over the
Ipel, is but one means of regional development, however important (necessary but not sufficient).

Why is another bridge needed on the other side of Kovačovce? This question is
answered partly by the geographic features already referred to, partly by economic history, and
partly by the new socio-economic demands that have arisen on the Hungarian side. This bend
of the Ipel River has always been a swampland, which the ancients got around by building two
bridges instead of draining the marsh. It offered a solution for connecting to main road no. 2
connecting Budapest with Košice through Kovačovce’s territory, offering an important shortcut
between the two major commercial centres as an alternative for the other route, which is typically
the Budapest-Miskolc-Košice route today. There has been a post carved of natural stone on the
perimeter of Hugyag, which informed travellers coming from Budapest that they have reached
about one-third of the road leading to Košice for a long time, which is deemed to be a monument
today. Written documentation proves that both bridges over the Ipel have existed already in
the 15th century, during the reign of King Mátyás. In addition, there were a number of bridges
with wooden structures in the area of Kovačovce that could be used by horse carriages. There are
written sources stating that the wooden bridges had to be renovated several times in the 1800’s.
The bridge leading to Hugyag was blown up by Artúr Görgey in 1849 and by the Germans in
1944, but it was always restored, sometimes by local decision, sometimes with Russian
cooperation. The bridge to be rebuilt, constructed with a steel structure by ‘people from faraway
lands’, was built sometime in the late 19th century. During the intensive railway constructions at
the time of the industrialisation of the region (e.g. development of the mill industry), there were
significant railway loading-unloading stations in nearby Őrhalom and Szécsény as well. For quite
a while, there was only a water mill on the Ipel here, until a more modern mill running on steam
was built in Petov, a part of Kováčovce, named for the owner Drexler family, which has been
operational for a long time but which is an industrial monument today.

There is a photograph dating back to 1943 taken from the window of a bus crossing the
bridge. After the bridge was blown up in December 1944, the war front froze for several weeks
between the two villages. The area was referred to as ‘Little Stalingrad’, where many lost their
lives. In the absence of a bridge, the two enemies tried to make use of all sorts of objects (such
as troughs or cupboards), whose task was encumbered by the flood passing along the Ipel River
at the time. Following the German retreat, the Russians built a temporary wooden bridge

70 Civitas Europica Centralis Foundation
here as well, which remained in place up to 1950, while the ‘dual ownership’ lasted.
However, arable lands were nationalised on both sides of the river in a strip of 15 km from the
river, so the bridge lost its economic importance.72 The bridge has not been rebuilt over the
nearly 70 years that have passed since then. An element of the bridge remained in place
on the Slovakian side up until 1996, but the mayor of Kováčovce had it removed, chopped up
and sold it. Fair enough, it was not much use anyway, because nobody was really interested
in rebuilding the bridge for about 50 years. The strict border control was slackened already
during the 1980’s, when even border guards were not bothered by pedestrian traffic in the area
in the summer (when there were no floods), for instance, when young men of Hugyag went to
see the girls of Kovačovce. In summary: it is true in this case as well that transport links
between the two villages broke off in the period of ‘frosty Socialism’ and not in the
wake of the rearrangement of borders after World War I. The bridge was still in place on
the memorable night when the forefathers of several families, typically of Roma origin, currently
living in Hugyag escaped to Hungary from Kovačovce in the matter of just a few hours and chose
to live in Hugyag from then on, having been frightened by rumours that they would be stripped of
all their belongings and transported to some other place when the Czech soldiers came.

The first more substantial plans for rebuilding the bridge were completed around 2005, but
the funds required for construction could not be raised in the period between 2007 and 2013.
Seeing the lack of attention by the ‘competent’ officials, the two mayors sat down in 2009
and designed a wooden bridge in about two hours, which they proceeded to build using
public labour in a matter of two weeks. The bridge was even painted in a proprietary spirit.
However, even though the height of the wooden bridge was planned to be one metre higher
than the highest level of flood measured earlier, the flood of the century (which exceeded
the previous high by 1.3 metres) raided the area in July 2013, practically ‘throwing away’
the bridge, along with dreams of having a bridge between the two villages. In the years
that followed, primarily as an aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, no plans surfaced for
implementing such a costly infrastructure project. Another design team appeared around 2011
to ‘well design’ the bridge ‘to be built in the future’. Then, crossing over the Ipel between the
villages became more restricted due to ‘public security’ problems. Between 2010 and 2016,
relations between the two local communities have grown somewhat cooler. Meanwhile,
all competences related to the bridge and the connecting road were shifted to the
government in Hungary. The two mayors continued to meet regularly, but have not discussed
the matter of building the bridge. Therefore, in a certain sense, they fell behind compared to the
other bridges planned to be implemented along the Ipel River by 2020.

However, an idea for economic investment raised in 2016 gave new meaning to the
bridge to be built over the Ipel River between Hugyag and Kovačovce. The mayor of Hugyag


Births of EU-topia along the Hungarian-Slovakian borders 71
was contacted by an investor group interested in animal food production with a proposal to
build a production (processing) plant in Hugyag, and a logistics and commercial centre
next door, making use of the more favourable taxation system and opportunities to sell
against payment in EUR. However, in order to provide a return on the investment that
creates jobs locally and relies greatly on the agricultural produce of the border region, there
is a need to have direct public road access between the two settlements, that is, a new
bridge over the Ipel as well. Thus, the two municipalities have been exerting great efforts to
secure the funding (INTERREG grant) necessary for the construction. As the bridge is an issue
for both of them, the two mayors have been attending all related consultations together ever
since. No matter that bridge construction is a government or county competence, they are both
aware that the local government has to play the driving role and carry out coordination tasks.
During the planning period for the ‘Katalin’ bridge shared by Szécsény and Kováčovce, there
have been over 70 political and/or expert consultations that were prepared and documented by
the municipalities involved directly.

In this case, therefore, the two municipalities plan to implement the common bridge
for clearly economic development purposes and in order to enhance cross-border
labour mobility. The fact that currently both countries support the establishment of industrial
parks in regions that are lagging behind and still have uncommitted and inexpensive labour force
is a favourable external condition.73 Selection of the animal food producer company appears
to be an innovative decision based on a number of aspects. Firstly, animal food production
is a prosperous industry, as an increasing number of people keep pets. Secondly, 95% of
the raw materials used in production are agricultural materials, offering great help for
the development of local agribusinesses, as they will be able to sell their produce locally,
within a narrower geographic region and not only far away. Thirdly, a significant part of the
labour force available on the spot is unskilled and made up of persons working typically in
agriculture who, however, are suitable for semi-skilled work. There may be up to 200 to 250
new jobs created, which cannot be serviced by the unemployed labour force available
in Kováčovce and Hugyag combined, meaning that this job-creating investment could
promote the development of the entire micro-region along the border. This also calls for
finding a solution to increase the 3.5 tonne restriction set out for the planned bridge in a bilateral
agreement - specified along the lines of tourism development priorities defined earlier - to a level
suitable for cargo traffic. Roads in the vicinity have been reconstructed over the past years,
making the border region accessible for cargo traffic as well.

Both villages are equally stricken by the migration of young and skilled labour. In a
good sense, this is the fault of the local government in the case of Kováčovce. The village has
been the scene of rather high-standard horse breeding for decades. The agricultural vocational


72 Civitas Europica Centralis Foundation
secondary school of neighbouring Szécsény in Hungary offers horse husbandry courses.
The Ipel Cup showjumping competition has been organised by the local government of
Kováčovce for 30 years.74 Therefore, the village and its vicinity have raised many local young
people experienced in horse breeding who went on to make a living in Austria, typically on
family farms near Vienna where they earn manifold the wages available locally over the past
20 to 30 years. They are not seasonal workers, many of them have been followed by their
families, and the chances of their return or for attracting Austrian investors through these people
are scarce for the time being. Currently, an obstacle to retaining the young population is the
lack of a kindergarten and a school in the village, and the low number of children allows for
sustaining a school for no more than the first four grades of elementary school, which closes the
vicious circle. In order to elevate the local standard of living, the roads in the village have been
reconstructed, the fire brigade barracks have been refurbished along with the reconstruction
of the main square and other public areas as well as the development of local public lighting
out of EU funds. However, local economic development is also needed to make a substantial
improvement to the local community’s living standards.

Hugyag has also seen better days, also in economic respects. Interestingly, it has
been a church property belonging to the Esztergom archbishopry up until the late
1800’s. This may also be due to the fact that the bridge toll related to the bridge over the Ipel
River produced income. Then, it was acquired by the Pekáry family, descendants of which are
still living, although in other parts of Hungary. The Pekáry family established an ‘exemplary
farm’ between the two World Wars locally, where tractors were used instead of horses
and French engineers took care of mechanisation. The location of the current kindergarten
was the venue of a well-equipped horse stable suitable for racing horses as well. The Pekáry
family, along with other landlords in the vicinity (such as the Majláth family) played an important
part in the creation of horseracing culture in Budapest. The rise from peasant to middle class
took place quickly in Hugyag, demonstrated by the fact that local people have cast off the
traditional clothes, so similar to those of Őrhalom and Vrbovka, well before the 1950’s. This may
have been due to the fact that many of them worked in Budapest. The train used to stop here as
well, so many of them commuted to the capital city on a daily or (bi-)weekly basis.

People with vocational qualification and knowledge also commute today, typically to
Balassagyarmat, 15 km away, while some work much farther away, in Aszód or Gödöllő, located
80 to 100 km from the village. However, the majority are much less mobile and more fixed
to the place. The traditional family model in which mothers and grandmothers worked
‘shifts’ so that they could take turns supervising the children has ceased to exist. With
no grandparents to provide a backdrop, commuting is not an option, and large employers of
the region do not take this into account at all. Given this, even though it may be more difficult,


Births of EU-topia along the Hungarian-Slovakian borders 73
bringing jobs to the village by way of the planned animal production facility pays off (at least
from the perspective of the village’s survival) in the longer run.

In addition to economic opportunities, the landscape offers additional interesting features
of natural and cultural history. There was a sour-water (csevice) spring where the Ipel ‘breaks’
between the two villages, up until it was flooded up by one of the floods running along the river.
The water was so famous that it was traded from Komárno up to Rimavská Sobota. The spring’s
attachment to Hugyag or to Kovácovce has been the subject of a debate back then. Documents
found in archives show there has even been litigation on the matter. The Krúdy family have close
ties with both sides of the river. Kováčovce also defines itself as the ‘ancient nest’ of the
Krúdy family75. The famous author used to spend long summer periods with his grandparents,
whose tomb can be found in the village. The family has no houses in the village any more,
the descendants moved away around the middle of the last century. In spite of this, the local
community still takes care of the tomb and holds regular commemorations on the writer’s
birthday, maintaining good relations with the Krúdy Gyula Group of Óbuda. The writer’s uncle
was an infamous ‘betyár’ (outlaw), who ultimately met his fate in Rétság, and there are written
documents on his flight through Hugyag: he was spotted crossing the bridge over the Ipel. It
was this very bridge that will hopefully connect the family and friendly relations in Hugyag and
Kováčovce again, while bringing about substantial job creation at regional level in connection
with the animal food production plant set to settle in the area.

3.4. Stillness of Gemer

Leaving the Ipel valley, reaching the borders of Hungary’s Nógrád and Borsod-Abaúj-
Zemplén counties it feels like we enter a different, less innovative world. Despite many and
many attempts, strategic guidance, the ‘Gemer region’ is unable to overcome the state of relative
economic underdevelopment. Even the joint accession to the EU and later to the Schengen
area of the two countries, has not started major development processes in this border region,
with the exception of a few settlements. According to the well-known legend King Matthias made
the nobility of Gemer ‘hoe’ the steep hillside, so that they would get to know and understand the
lives of those poor men (vineyard workers) to whom they owed their daily food and drink (the ‘good
wine’) to. ‘They promised that from then on they would also think of the people of the land. At least
they remembered while Matthias was the king, but soon after they forgot the Gemer lesson.’

3.4.1. Zabar – Petrovce

The Zabar settlement in Hungary is in the ‘vicinity of multiple borders’. From an administrative
point of view it belongs to Salgótarján district in Nógrád County, but it is actually located on the


74 Civitas Europica Centralis Foundation
intersecting point of Nógrád, Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén and Heves counties and is bordered by
Slovakia in the north. ‘Thanks’ to this unique geographical, clearly ‘peripheral’ location, the village
has no obvious attraction centre. Salgótarján and Ózd are 25-30 km away, and Eger is within a 50
km distance. During the 2011 census the population of Zabar was less than 500, reflecting a 10%
decrease since 2001. The ageing and the rate of unemployment more or less correspond with the
average of the North Hungarian settlements. The Slovakian Petrovce belongs to Rimavská Sobota
district of Banská Bystrica region. It is situated 30 km from the district centre and approximately
120 km from the region’s seat. At present only 250 live in the village, dominated by Hungarians,
which is ‘only’ 7% decline in the number of population since the turn of the millennium, but almost 60%
decline compared to the beginning of the 20th century (1910 census).

Zabar Petrovce
County, Nógrád county, Banská Bystrica region,
district Salgótarján district Rimavská Sobota district
Population, 2011 (persons) 490 250
Population changes, 2001-2011 (%) - 12 -7
Population of Hungarian nationality, 2011 (persons) 452 215
Population of Slovak nationality, 2011 (persons) .. 16
Aging index, 2011 (%) 147 295
Unemployment ratio 2011 (%) 26 31

The name of Zabar, which is known as the most eastern point of Nógrád county with the
coldest mean temperature in winter in Hungary comes from a Slavic language and means
‘a place behind a pine forest’.76 Petrovce is considered the centre and most typical settlement
in Barkóság.77

The village of Zabar is ‘stuck’ in Tarna valley, which separates the Mátra and Bükk
mountains, hence the special climate of Zabar, which is usually referred to in the news as the
‘coldest Hungarian village’.78 The special geographic situation was the result of ‘necessity’. The
oldest part of the village, currently known as External Zabar (German Zabar or Slovak Zabar) lay
on an important main trading route between Eger and Zvolen in the middle ages. However,
this economically important position almost led to the end of the settlement during the Turkish
occupation. Following the siege of Eger, the Turkish army marched through Ajnácskő, Fülek,
Losonc, all the way to the fort of Zvolen across External Zabar. However, the local residents did
not wait for the Turkish destruction, but withdrew into the Tarna valley and established part of
the settlement known as Internal Zabar amidst the mountains.


Births of EU-topia along the Hungarian-Slovakian borders 75
Zabar has always ‘swung’ in history belonging to Gemer and to Nógrád countries at
different times. During the socialist time the majority of the residents of Zabar worked
in Salgótarján, which was then considered a modern Central European town with more
than 50,000 residents (these days the population is just above 30,000). In those days 4 or
5 absolutely packed bus services carried workers from Zabar and the surrounding area
to Salgótarján every day. These days there is only one bus service a day used only by
4-5 people. After working a shift, people were able to deal with their administrative matters at
the County seat. Before the political change therefore the county border stopped the
movement of workers and set the direction for mobility. After the heavy industry had
collapsed in Ózd and Salgótarján, the Hungarian side of the Gemer border region also
began to decay. Jobs were axed on a mass scale and young people moved elsewhere in the
country to settle down where they completed their secondary or higher level studies.

These days however, Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén seems to be an attraction centre in the
labour market, primarily because the town of Ózd, which was not ‘liveable’ for many years, is now
showing signs of recovery. A multinational company known across the world is continuously
developing and expanding its Ózd factory, which also entails a growing demand for workers. The
company also regularly recruits physical workers in Zabar and the surrounding area with
the help of an employment agency and also arranges for their daily transportation. Many
people entered the opened labour market from public employment. It is also known to the locals
that public employment can be maintained in the ‘secondary labour market’ only as long as
the funding is provided for it from the ‘top’. If funding is deprived with the stroke of a pen,
then this opportunity to improve chances in life will also disappear locally.

The Roma population is constantly growing in Zabar, these days half of the residents
are of Roma origin. The Roma people arrive primarily from Heves and Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén
Counties, from the area of Ózd, Farkaslyuk. They come from places where the situation is
even worse and where even basic conditions of housing are not in place. As the guardianship
authority intervenes, many Roma families escape and move elsewhere. ‘Deportation’
also occurs which means that the local governments of other settlements purchase
properties in Zabar from public funds at a very low price and then re-sell them to Roma
families. The majority of the Roma people who moved to Zabar recently and often have conflicts
with the ‘native’ Roma cannot find jobs in the multinational companies, even where vocational
qualifications are not required. If one or two are accepted for simple assembly jobs, the majority
of them cannot cope with the ‘permanent engagement’ for more than 2-3 months. They prefer
collecting acacia or mushrooms and living on the social benefit provided by the state. The Roma
children attend school in the neighbouring village of Cered which is only 8 km away and
are taken there on a school bus which is provided as a regular service free of charge based on
an agreement between the Volán company and the school. In the past the Cered school had

76 Civitas Europica Centralis Foundation
200-210 students, but these days it teaches only approximately 140 pupils, who are all Roma
children almost without exception and of whom 40-45 children come from Zabar.

The natural conditions support agriculture and forestry activities. Earlier the local
government and the regional forestry company tried to implement a joint ‘firewood’ programme
but in the end local residents were banned from the site because they did not ‘collect’ wood
only for the fire. The local government does not own any forest or any land suitable for
agriculture. Before the political change the settlement had a state farm which was formed
with the conversion of the outbuildings of the building complex that previously functioned as a
castle. Before the political change the Salgótarján stove factory had an assembly plant
in Zabar.79 As a ‘result’ of the privatisation wave that took place at the beginning of the 1990s
the buildings were acquired by private investors. The new owner took a mortgage loan on it
and therefore the attempts of the local government to recover it and turn it into an industrial site
to establish a simple box assembly plant failed.

There is an agricultural entrepreneur, who has a goose farm not only in Cered, but also in
the ‘hamlet’ of Alsóutaspuszta which belongs to Cered and is situated by the road to be
reconstructed in cooperation with Petrovce. This farming has no traditions in the region,
where earlier sheep and small poultry breeding dominated. Perhaps that business would also
profit from the road to be reconstructed as Alsópuszta is also situated on it. At one time plum
and walnut production also flourished there. These days people generally purchase the
fruit mash for palinka distillation from the Eger wine region as the plums grown locally
are not enough for distilling palinka as well. The main factor preventing the reintroduction of
fruit farming is that frosts still occur in June.

The residents of Petrovce still live predominantly from agriculture. That is because local
production never stopped when the previous agricultural cooperative was transformed into
a business association. Of course, in the past the agricultural cooperative provided income
for a lot more families, but with the modernisation that followed the conversion (automation)
demand for manual labour is decreasing. At the moment there are 5-6 employees. They
grow plants, but only as much as required for cattle farming. The produce is not sold on the
market or supplied anywhere. However, the majority of the employees do not work locally, but
‘go away to work’, i.e. commute, primarily to Rimavská Sobota which is 30 km away. Not
many people commute to work to Hungary. Eger is far away, especially with the current
diversion to commute to daily. Salgótarján and Ózd are relatively close, accessible within 50
km, but these towns are in the same difficult economic position as Rimavská Sobota, which is
the economic centre of the Slovakian Gemer. However, a few Hungarian companies are present
in Petrovce, operating in various (e.g. food) trade and service sectors, and a company engaged


Births of EU-topia along the Hungarian-Slovakian borders 77
in the manufacturing and storage of construction materials, owned by a Hungarian entrepreneur,
was also registered there.

The reconstruction of the road connecting Zabar with Petrovce has been on
the ‘agenda’ for almost 15 years. Sometimes the thinking progress develops, at other
times enthusiasm and intentions slacken, depending on the current political power and
interest positions. The current situation is not too promising because Banska Bystrica
County is ‘excluded’ from EU assistance schemes and therefore there is no project owner
in Slovakia who would be able to provide the own funds required for the implementation of
the INTERREG project.

In this case an old but terminated road, already used in the middle ages, should be
reconstructed instead of building a completely new road. The border was closed after
World War II but the road was in use on the Slovakian side even by buses until the end
of the 1970s. The section connecting it to the neighbouring Dubno (Dobfenék) was built
then. Previously Petrovce was a cul-de-sac settlement and therefore even the buses operating
between the two settlements ran on the road leading to the border to Gemerský Jablonec
(Almágy) and then back to Dubno. However, when the internal road was constructed, the road
on the border lost that function too.

78 Civitas Europica Centralis Foundation
In relation to the cadaster of Petrovce the revitalisation of the road leading to Zabar and
to Domaháza also pops up from time to time. However, the road to Domaháza has never
been supported by anyone because it would have to be constructed across a nature
conservation area and not an existing track should be reconstructed. Expropriation would
also be more problematic, and the village would not ‘gain’ anything because being close to
Eger is more important for them. The road to Eger leads across Zabar, i.e. for Petrovce the
reconstruction of the Zabar road would clearly make more sense. The 1.5 km long section
on the Slovakian side is still relatively well maintained and is passable on foot, by motorcycle and
by all-terrain vehicles. However, on the Hungarian side it is fully overgrown by weeds in
Alsóutaspuszta which is part of the village of Zabar.

The topic was put back on the ‘agenda’ more or less simultaneously with the opening of
the Schengen borders. However, during the past 10 years no design or environmental
impact studies were made. So far, the concept was only ‘discussed’ and no project was
submitted for it in the previous, 2007-2013 INTERREG cycle. The request from the Hungarian
road construction engineers in 2015 was totally ‘unexpected’ even by the local governments
of the villages. Since then the mayors have been informed of the current status of the ‘lack of
preparations’ for the project at ‘higher level’ meetings.

In 2015 a residential public hearing was organised in Petrovce, where the local
citizens declared that they were ‘not against’ the reconstruction of the road. The local
residents were divided on the issue, because those who are against it believe that
even ‘undesirable’ people could cross the border. Similarly, the views of the residents
of Zabar are also divided. The locals on the Hungarian side responded to the opening of
Schengen borders totally differently to people in other border regions. There were some ‘fears’
that an influx of Slovakian workforce would push the locals out of the labour market.
In addition, there were arguments and counter arguments in relation to the increase in cross-
border crime. Over the past ten or fifteen years the views about the direct neighbourhood
have also changed. On the one hand, the Slovakian economy overcame the Hungarian
economy. On the other hand, a lot of old people already died who were primarily against the
development of the cross-border infrastructure. The new residents who settled down did not
really deal with the issue any more.

If the envisaged road is built from Petrovce, there would be no need any more to make a
detour to Tajti to cross into Hungary. This would bring Pétervására (25 km instead of 35 km),
Eger (55 km instead of 75 km) and Mezőkövesd (70 km instead of 85 km) closer. There would
be no need to travel an additional 20 km to Zabar either. In Slovakia 1.5 and on Zabar’s side
approximately 5 km road should be reconstructed for that.

Births of EU-topia along the Hungarian-Slovakian borders 79
There are also strong relations between Zabar and Petrovce, the locals regularly visit each
other’s events but due to the 20 km diversion there is no daily contact. The new road would
help bring relatives closer as they could visit each other either by car or by bicycle. In terms of the
economy, tourism could also pick up and new businesses engaged primarily in trade would
also be established by the new road. If the new road is built, the distance between Eger and
Losonc would be shorter by crossing Zabar instead of making a detour to Salgótarján (approx.
10 km). In addition, Zabar would be exactly half way, 45-45 km from the two regional centres.

The initiative was pushed back into the background a bit when the border between
the nearby Cered (8 km from Zabar) and Tajti (12 km from Petrovce) finally disappeared
after the opening of the Schengen border. There the road across the border was
constructed already in 1996, based on the initiative of the local residents. It was then used
as a border crossing point for restricted traffic, periodically, until 2007.80 The permanent border
crossing point was at Somoskőújfalu, 35 km from Zabar. There are still close family relationships
in Cered and Tajti, which is also indicated by the fact that many residents of Cered have Tajti
family names. When the border disappeared, daily contact developed between Cered and
Tajti and the two settlements practically grew into one another. The transit travellers do
not even notice that they are in a different country. The turnover of local shops and pharmacy
had also picked up.

The common ‘Gemer’ identity and the inter-dependence resulting from enclosure
would logically induce collaboration and cooperation. However, there are not many signs
indicating that in this border region. The geographically close settlements compete with
each other also in relation to the border crossing points. Social cohesion is also missing
between the residents of the old and new parts of Zabar. The organisational initiatives trying to
build the ‘culture of cooperation’ within the country border or across it in the form of e.g.,
‘European grouping for territorial cooperation’ (EGTC) are formed from time to time, but they
soon disappear. The division within the local society has already deprived Zabar from a
number of job creating opportunities. Discussions were held earlier about the establishment of
a wind power plant or a hazardous waste management plant, but those ‘informed’ always had
a greater ‘counter campaign’. It is unlikely that these opportunities will return to the village.
Without any businesses operating under market conditions the local government does not
have any considerable local business tax revenue. Consequently, there is no money to
develop public services. The village only has a kindergarten but no school. A primary medical
care centre operated only in Cered, doctor consultations are available twice a week and there is
only a branch pharmacy in Zabar. Given the bad quality living conditions, anybody who can
tries to escape from the village. Without a population capable of working and land that could
be designated to industrial development the village cannot attract job creating investments. And


80 Civitas Europica Centralis Foundation
that completes the vicious circle. The local government has a chance only in EU applications
where no own funds are required. However, apart from the energy modernisation of public
buildings there are no other opportunities. The ‘small and poor’ local governments cannot
compete with the larger ones, and whenever the winners in support schemes are announced
together with the ‘large ones’ it is difficult to find a company to implement the project.

Both settlements have excellent natural characteristics though. They could build on it
but only with opportunities based on the common road and the chances could only be exploited
with close cooperation. Zabar could generate some income and launch further developments
by focusing on forest excursions in the cooler climate or promoting hunting tourism.
Petrovce’s popular fishing lake, situated by the planned road could also be connected to
these initiatives.

3.4.2. Ózd (Susa) – Janice

With the Ózd - Janice connection we are still in Rimavská Sobota district of the County of
Banska Bystrica in Slovakia, but on the Hungarian side we now arrive in Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén
County. In terms of the size of population, the two settlements are by far ‘not in the same
category’. The population of Ózd, which is the second largest town of the County after Miskolc
and also functions as the district centre, is close to 35,000 despite the approximately 10%
decline since 2001. On the contrary, despite the approximately 15% increase in the population
since 2001, Janice is a village of 200 Hungarian residents.

Ózd Janice
County, Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén county, Banská Bystrica region,
district Ózd district Rimavská Sobota district
Population, 2011 (persons) 34481 211
Population changes, 2001-2011 (%) - 10 + 15
Population of Hungarian nationality, 2011 (persons) 29482 205
Population of Slovak nationality, 2011 (persons) 41 2
Aging index, 2011 (%) 141 34
Unemployment ratio 2011 (%) 22 73

The unemployment and ageing rates of Ózd measured in 2011 ‘reflected’ the long-lasting
consequences of the collapse of the heavy industry. The 34% ageing index (three times
as many young people as old) and 73% (!) unemployment rate of Janice however suggest
a very special local society. In this case therefore the current economic and social features
and potential breakthrough points of the two settlements should not be compared to each
other but analysed separately before moving on to the opportunities associated with the road
connecting them.

Births of EU-topia along the Hungarian-Slovakian borders 81
Ózd is a settlement that developed in the valleys of ‘Gemer-Heves hills’ and ‘experienced
better days’ in the past. It is also called the ‘town of seven hills’ because it may be approached
from 7 directions. It is approximately 160 km from Budapest, but it takes about 2.5 hours
to get there by car, first on main road No. 23 and then, after Pásztó on main road No. 21 and
finally on the M3 motorway from Hatvan. Another alternative is to join the motorway from main
road No. 25 at Füzesabony, 70 km away or to join the expressway on the Kazincbarcika-Miskolc
route, across the County seat which is approximately 60 km away.

At the time of the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867 it was a small village with a
few thousand residents, which shared the current territory of the town with seven other even
smaller villages. The iron foundry, which was a symbol of the industrial revolution reaching
Hungary, was already active in the second half of the 19th century. After World War II it
clearly became one of the ‘selected’ political, economic top sites and one of the ‘socialist
towns’ of the Hungarian economy. Within a good three decades after obtaining the title of
a town in 1949, the population grew from 25,000 to 49,000 between 1949 and 1981,
practically growing around the industrial plant. These days only the signs indicating the
historic monument of the iron foundry remind the visitors of the one-time heavy industry centre.
Poverty and the ‘hopelessness from breaking out from the valley’ are obvious in certain
parts of the town. According to estimates, approx. one third of the population are Roma.

When steel production collapsed in Hungary at the beginning of the 1990s, approximately
14,000 people lost their jobs from one day to the next. The town, which has been so largely
‘freed’ and was also attractive on a national scale, soon became attractive for ‘multinational’
companies. The local factory of the American electronics giant, which is still active but is
occasionally threatened to be shut down was established at the end of the 1990s.81 Later a
Swiss company settled down there establishing a motor industry supply subsidiary and then sold
it to a continuously developing and expanding company owned by a Chinese (Hong Kong) investor
that also has a logistics centre in Hatvan.82 It was also down to another ‘multinational’, a German
company that steel manufacturing was kept alive and that hundreds of people work again in the
foundry at Ózd.83 Ózd also has an industrial park, where each company is a micro, small or medium-
sized enterprise with 2-55 employees. In total less than 300 work at the industrial park.84

However, the reserves of local economic development relying on cheap labour are
slowly being depleted in Ózd and there are no sufficiently qualified workers suitable for skilled
work in Ózd or in its workforce catchment area. Over the past 25-30 years the number of
local residents dropped by approximately one third as people left the region. As those

82 Civitas Europica Centralis Foundation
who left did not always de-register, the official vital statistics data do not reflect the reality, and
the total population of the town may be less than 30,000. ‘Intellectual workers specialised
in technical sciences work in the capital city, electricians found jobs in Austria, welders are in
Germany and physical workers earn their income on the Kazakh oil fields.’85

What may be the way out according to the local town management? The primary objective
is to ease the transport isolation of Ózd, primarily by widening main roads No. 23 and 25,
which will bring the capital city closer to the town as well as main road No. 26, which helps
accessing the County seat. On the current roads at the moment the Transdanubia region
of Hungary could be reached faster by car from Ózd by driving in the southern part of
Slovakia, avoiding Budapest and then returning to Hungary across the Mária Valéria bridge
between Štúrovo and Esztergom. People also prefer travelling to Ózd through Slovakia from
Germany and Austria.

A number of consecutive governments promised to improve the accessibility of
Ózd and thereby to attract jobs to the town. The local residents think that the only way to
overcome the current situation would be to attract investors creating jobs in the town
with the government’s will and background support. Many transport development plans
have been prepared, but they have not yet been implemented based on the argument than there
is no point for the state to invest money into a new road when there is hardly any traffic on its
‘predecessor’ as well. If there is no road and there is no adequate workforce either, what is the
point of establishing jobs? What would be the perspective of a business operating under market

In the past few years attempts failed to establish Italian textile industry companies in
order to employ unqualified, primarily female workers. The developments in the electronics
sector have already brought some results, but the local companies generally operate in isolation
and not as members of ‘supplier networks’ tightly integrated into the Hungarian or Central and
Eastern European economy. The question arises: why cannot the companies supply to the large
multinational companies around Miskolc? A ‘clean coal’ development plan focusing on green
energy has also been developed, with very few tangible results. The ideas also included the
re-opening of the closed mine but, as there is no purchasing market, nothing came out of
this plan either. The latest plans are associated with the development of tourism, because the
town is situated in a wonderful natural environment. If Szilvásvárad, which is 20 km away or Eger
and Mezőkövesd, which are slightly further away, within 50-70 km, have managed to develop
their economies concentrating on tourism, why would Ózd not be able to do the same? Perhaps
the response relates to another question: why would the shabby centre of a clearly poverty
stricken Ózd be attractive to a tourist?


Births of EU-topia along the Hungarian-Slovakian borders 83
The generation in their 50s or even older will not go anywhere, they have (not) been
working in Ózd for 30 years and everything connects them to the town. Due to the property
prices both in national and regional comparison, there is a certain ‘21st-century stubbornness
coming from the soil’ in the area. When metallurgy collapsed, jobs disappeared quickly, and
no new positions were created soon enough to keep the young people, i.e. the clever
and ‘brainy’ youngsters in their home region. The locals share the idea that instead of the
workforce being attracted to a workplace with e.g. rent support, the process should be reversed,
i.e. 10 times 100 rather than 1 time 1000 jobs should be brought to the town.

Ózd is in a ‘valley’ in various aspects and it is also difficult to reach. The locals often feel that
it may be in the ‘interest of the state’ that these ‘non desirable’ people do not even leave
their town. The local government of Ózd and the local organisations almost always win support
in EU schemes dedicated to social ‘mood-lifting’ topics (human resource development). They
also receive everything required for operation and everyday life. At the same time, the calls for
job creation also contain some conditions, primarily the obligation to maintain the jobs after the
absorption of the EU funds, which they cannot accept.

The children and grandchildren of officers performing the operational tasks in the town
management work and live in Budapest or abroad almost without any exception. One of them
described the situation as: ‘they have got no moral grounds to ask their children to stay
in Ózd.’ They watch the prosperity of Eger and Kazincbarcika with jealousy and can also
see how much better Balassagyarmat, Esztergom, Komárom and Győr can exploit the
opportunities involved in the Hungarian-Slovakian cross border relations.

The accession of the two countries to the Schengen area did not trigger any new
mobility or innovation processes in Ózd. In fact, these days the only attraction that the
nearby Slovakia can offer is an excursion and a gastronomy option (e.g. eating knédli)
for an ‘average resident of Ózd’. While the border existed, certain goods subsidised better
by the state were cheaper on the ‘other side’ of the border (e.g. children’s shoes, nappies,
electric appliances). The opportunities of generating profit from ‘cross-border smuggling’ have
disappeared. Since Slovakia joined the Eurozone, the prices of fundamental consumer articles
have also gone up more in our northern neighbour country.

In this border region economic relations have not yet developed in the 21st century. Moving from
the east to the west, such type of integration ends around Košice, which is 120 km away and
then starts again somewhere around Balassagyarmat, which is 100 km away. At the moment
the surrounding Slovakian settlements, which are 30-60 km away can be accessed only
across the border crossing point in Bánréve, which is just 15 km away. Tornala, Rimavská
Sobota and Rožňava also face problems similar to Ózd and look for ways out of the situation.

84 Civitas Europica Centralis Foundation
There has been some development in workforce mobility in the north-south directions.
According to local observations, a few Hungarian-speaking Roma families moved from
Rimavská Seč in Slovakia to Ózd, where the head of the family found a job at the local
electronic manufacturing company. By becoming Hungarian citizens they became eligible
for home building subsidy in Hungary. In Sajóvárkony part of Ózd a 80-90 square meter
detached house with a garden is available for HUF 2-3 million. However, the relocation on
mass scale indicated in relation to Dunakiliti, Hidasnémeti and Hidvégardó did not take place. If
the accessibility of Ózd improved, most probably the number of tourists coming from Slovakia
would also increase. These days more Ózd residents visit Slovakia for tourist purposes; as an
example, the bath in Číž, just 20 km away is very popular.86

Both Rimavská Sobota and Tornala are founding members of the Sajó-Rima EGTC, the
operation of which has not yet brought any major breakthrough. In Hungary both Ózd and
Putnok are members of the group and the latter also provides its seat. For the time being the two
Slovakian settlements have only twin settlement links with Ózd. They visit each other’s events,
including the fairs organised every year. Earlier town’s ‘ceremonial council meeting’ was held
within the framework of the ‘Ózd days’ event series, which is currently known as ‘seven valleys
festival’. The mayors of Slovakian and Polish twin settlements are also invited to this meeting.87
In order to bring cooperation to a higher level and to jointly develop tourism, Ózd and Rimavská
Sobota entered into a ‘twin bath’ agreement in 2017 (‘for aquacultural cooperation and

The neighbouring Janice in Slovakia represents a completely different world. The village
is cut-off from almost all development options and could be described as a ‘third world
village’. Janice is accessible from Hungary across the Somoskőújfalu border crossing point
and then turning right after Fiľakovo, moving onto the relatively good quality secondary road No.
571, which is also considered the ‘Gemer main road’, towards Jesenské and Rimavská Seč.
Turning right approx. 2 km before Rimavská Seč and crossing the river Rima, the cul-de-sac
village of Janice is accessible after approx. 2.5 km drive on road No. 2797, which is its only
connection to the outside world. The houses deteriorate, the internal roads are in an extremely
bad condition and extreme poverty is obvious. Even the building of the local government
is in decay; the only well of the village providing drinking water is in the courtyard of the
local government. There is no doubt that the Gemer landscape is magnificent there too
but, due to lack of public facilities, the local infrastructure required for satisfying basic
human needs is non-existent.


Births of EU-topia along the Hungarian-Slovakian borders 85
There are no jobs locally at all, during the 2011 census more that 70% unemployment
was registered in the village. There is only one agricultural entrepreneur, who breeds sheep
locally. The majority of the residents of working age live on occasional jobs, as an example,
they even travel to Siófok in Hungary to find a job during the peach and apricot picking season. If
all else fails there is public employment, for which funding is available at the employment agency
based on application. The majority of the local residents are in ‘cumulative minority position’, as
90% of them are Roma individuals (also) speaking Hungarian.

The local government owns land (approx. 50 ha) and forests (approx. 70 ha) but it
does not cultivate them and they cannot cooperate with the state forestry company either.
There was an agricultural cooperative in the neighbouring village of Rimavská Seč in the past,
operating in agriculture, but it has been dissolved.

Primary school and a local practitioner service are only in Rimavská Seč. A Calvinist
priest also comes out from Rimavská Seč to operate a ‘Roma mission’ in the village. The
Hungarian primary school of the village was closed down when World War II broke out. To
understand the misery at present of Janice, which hopes for an external ‘saviour’,
but has been totally left alone, the entry on the last page of the remaining ‘chronicle of the
Calvinist elementary school of Janice’ of the academic year of 1938-1939 provides a very
clear illustration: ‘the 20 years of captivity, suffering and misery are over. Our hands are free of
handcuffs and, after 20 years of ordeal, we are now again part of the thousand-year old beautiful
Hungary. We are now free and this freedom is worth more than anything... God bless Hungary,
the Hungarian nation and its governor: ‘vitéz’ Miklós Horthy of Nagybánya.’ Freedom was also
brought to Janice under different conditions with the accession to the EU and Schengen, but
the ordeal of the village has not ended in almost 80 years.

The name of Janice comes from the name of Jenő tribe of Turkish origin, which means
‘confidence, advisor and minister’ and from the noble family of Jénei, which developed from that
tribe. In the past the Jénei family had an active role in the public life of Gemer County. However,
after the Turkish raids often the whole population fled, also for longer periods. After a devastating
fire the village had to be completely reconstructed. Later there were also times when almost only
descendants of different branches of the Jénei family worked in the village which soon developed
into an ‘estate’. The introduction of ‘portion’ later led to the escape of serfs on a mass scale. The
majority of the new population entered the village in the 18th century with the Koháry family.89
One of the affluent descendants of the Jénei family, who currently lives in Debrecen also visited
the family ‘home’ and attended the celebration of the 800 year anniversary of the village in 2016.
Nevertheless, there is still no individual who would possess the ‘Jenei qualities’ and who
would be able to put an end to the misery of this noble settlement, which had much better


86 Civitas Europica Centralis Foundation
days in the past. The implementation of a social housing construction programme has been
included in plans for years, but it has not passed the stage of visual designs yet. The activities
of a civil organisation formed recently under the title of ‘Let’s flourish Gemer together’ could
provide another chance for the village among the many attempts.90

The secondary road planned between Ózd and Janice would connect the Slovakian
village and part of Ózd, known as Susa. In the past Susa was a separate village. It
was attached to Ózd on 1 January 1979, during the period when the surrounding villages
were all attached to Ózd in order to make sure that the population reaches 50,000. However,
administratively Susa had not been an autonomous unit even before, as the ‘joint council’
operated in Uraj, which is 3 km away from the village and was also attached to Ózd at that time.
Consequently, these days Susa is part of the town of Ózd as one of its ‘peripheral districts’.
On the Slovakian side the plans include the continuation of road No. 2797, indicated above
which leads across a hill but is currently in a neglected condition and not really passable by
car. With the reconstruction of the border road leading to Ózd and by making it suitable for road
traffic, the cul-de-sac settlement status of Janice could also cease.

At the moment the Ózd-Susa-Janice secondary road project competes with the plan for
the Ózd-Susa-Rimavská Seč road. Whichever project is implemented, Ózd will have a direct


Births of EU-topia along the Hungarian-Slovakian borders 87
link to the E58 main road, which leads from Rimavská Sobota through Rožňava to Košice. The
two roads are included in the currently effective urban development plan91 of Ózd as each other’s
alternatives as ‘well-used’ roads on a historic scale. Both of them were used by people, horse-
drawn carriages and by workers commuting to the Ózd factories. Both Slovakian settlements are
separated from Ózd by a rather high hill.

A feasibility study was already prepared in 2012 within the framework of preparations
for the 2014-2020 INTERREG programme, which also supports road developments.92 The local
government of Ózd was involved only to the extent of the organisation a ‘residential public
hearing’ by the mayor’s office, as a mandatory component of the feasibility study, where those
directly affected could express their views on the planned road. Mainly those attended the
forum who were directly affected through their own properties. Among the approximately
50 members of the audience there were not only local residents but also residents of Janice
and Rimavská Seč. However, even though everyone talked about their ‘troubles and concerns’,
almost nothing was taken into account in the designs.

As a result of the technical and economic calculations and, according to the Hungarian
government resolution of January 2016, at least for the time being the 2 km long (instead of
3.5 km) Susa-Janice section including a much steeper hill seems to be the winner against the
Rimavská Seč project. The secondary road is part of a planned TEN-T transport corridor, and
therefore the project with the estimated cost of EUR 3-4 million could also be financed from non-
INTERREG sources. With the construction of the TEN-T corridor the border region could
become an important station on the ‘New Silk Road’, initiated by China to connect the
Black Sea and the Baltic region through the Hungarian-Slovakian border.

In Hungary all plans are ready, but on the Slovakian side not even a ‘stroke of a pen’ was
made. It should be clear that Ózd in fact wishes to connect to the future expressway between
Bratislava and Košice and not to Janice and that the investment ‘story’ is also about building
connections between Hungary and Slovakia, for example between Budapest and the
Slovakian ski resorts.

Susa belonged to Czechoslovakia for three years, but the local judge launched a
referendum, during which the local residents ‘voted to be returned’ to Hungary.93 Also there
were many family connections between Janice and Susa for a long time; as long as
movement was free, people visited each other and often the border guards helped them
in orientation. These days it happens rarely and in fact the people of Susa are often afraid


88 Civitas Europica Centralis Foundation
of going to the neighbouring village on the other side of the border. These days Susa has a
better relationship with Rimavská Seč on both a local government and residential level.
They celebrate the opening of the ‘forest path’, which used to be a pedestrian path but became
usable with the opening of the Schengen borders together each year and94 even a petition was
launched in the summer of 2017 for the reconstruction of the historic road.95

For the purposes of Janice, the road connecting it to Ózd would open new job
opportunities for its local residents who currently cannot accept the additional costs of 50 km
commuting a day involving a 25 km diversion to Bánréve. At the moment the Hungarian companies
operate regular bus services to Rimavská Seč, which do not enter Janice. The residents of
Janice would find it easier to work in Ózd factories or even commute to Miskolc. Furthermore,
with the help of the new road more children could also attend schools in Hungary, saving
them from being closed down. All in all: there would be much better vital opportunities
for many residents of the Hungarian village in Slovakia, which used to be a prosperous village
during the time of the Jenei family but is currently struggling on the ‘periphery of peripheries’.
Ózd would be able to exploit the advantages of a direct link to the Bratislava-Košice
main road, which is one of the main axes of development in Slovakia.

3.4.3. Gömörszőlős – Neporadza

Gömörszőlős is a ‘tiny village’ (less than 100 residents) in the Putnok district of Borsod-
Abaúj-Zemplén County. During the census conducted in Hungary in 2011 only 76 residents
were found in the village, reflecting 20% population decline since 2001 and 36% since 1990.
The ageing index of the village is extremely high, yet the rate of unemployment is lower than
the regional average. The neighbouring Neporadza is a village dominated by residents of
Hungarian nationality in the Rimavská Sobota district of the Region of Banská Bystrica in
Slovakia. Its population is almost 4 times as much as the population of Gömörszőlős. In 2011
the village had 277 residents, reflecting 5% decline since 2001 and 14% since 1991. The local
population is also ageing although to a lesser rate than in Gömörszőlős, while unemployment is
also relatively lower there.

Gömörszőlős Neporadza
County, Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén county, Banská Bystrica region,
district Putnok district Rimavská Sobota district
Population, 2011 (persons) 76 277
Population changes, 2001-2011 (%) - 20 -5
Population of Hungarian nationality, 2011 (persons) 69 201


Births of EU-topia along the Hungarian-Slovakian borders 89
Gömörszőlős Neporadza
Population of Slovak nationality, 2011 (persons) .. 47
Aging index, 2011 (%) 650 253
Unemployment ratio 2011 (%) 12 12

Gömörszőlős is accessible from Budapest through Miskolc, after an approx. 3-hour
drive. Main road No. 26 from Miskolc goes through Sajószentpéter, which is 40 km from the
destination, Kazincbarcika (30 km) and Putnok (15 km). Driving on main road No. 26, those
who travel to Gömörszőlős must turn right at Serényfalva (10 km) approx. 2 km before Bánréve
(10 km). Turning left at Kelemér (2 km) a very bad quality and narrow road known as Košice
road leads into the centre of the village. Although this is the only official street of the village,
Košice, through Aggtelek and then Turňa nad Bodvou, is rather far away by road, approximately
100 km. However, the locals occasionally visit Neporadza on foot, just crossing between ‘fields’.

Gömörszőlős therefore is a settlement which is slightly isolated from the ‘outside world’
yet exists in a fantastic natural environment. This isolation has always been a dominant factor
in the development history of the settlement. While there were many ‘noble’ settlements in the
neighbourhood (e.g. Szuhafő, Zádorfalva), Gömörszőlős was an exception where ‘everyone was
their own master’. In fact, not even an agricultural cooperative was established after World
War II. This explains why the ‘self-sufficiency’ based farming has remained for long. Certain
traditional farming equipment therefore not only remained for an extremely rich contemporary
local ‘ethnography collection’, but quite a few families still use them. However, the heavy industry
development in the region could also be felt in the village. Ózd and Kazincbarcika, 25-30 km
away, began to ‘absorb’ the male residents capable of working. Until the end of the 1980s many
pursued a rather ‘self exhausting’ lifestyle in ‘two places’: they commuted to an industrial town
during the day and then, after working a shift, continued with domestic farming at home.
The main tragedy of the Gemer region, the impacts of which can still be felt was that
the heavy industry and the domestic farming model collapsed simultaneously. As the
opportunities to earn a living disappeared from almost one day to the next, leaving the region
became the only ‘survival’ option for many. Thus local cattle farming totally disappeared and there
are only a few families that cultivate their own gardens and grow plants.

According to the latest tendency, which could not yet be captured in the last census data,
however, more and more young people ‘escaping’ from the suffocating large towns chose the
village as their place of residence. Their attraction did not stem from a ‘fortunate coincidence’
but was the result of a deliberate urban development ‘strategy’ accommodating the
changes of the external environment and building on the local natural characteristics
and traditions. The village has been led since the beginning of the 1990s by individuals (father
and daughter) who devote their commitment to the preservation of traditions and folk arts to the

90 Civitas Europica Centralis Foundation
development of the village.96 They have always been able to work with people with whom they
were able to shape the profile and image of the village also in reality. Thus Gömörszőlős has
become a ‘famous’ ‘eco-village’, which is also known as one of the ‘islands of peace’.

An ecology profile foundation, established in Miskolc has been cooperating with the local
government of the village since 1993.97 The members of staff of the foundation launched a
local village development programme under the title ‘Gömörszőlős - a sustainable village’.
Within the framework of the programme a number of old buildings were reconstructed. The
local ‘ecological centre’, which also has educational functions, offers organised ‘peasant
wellness’98 services in the form of educational and leisure programmes, dedicated to the
options of a traditional lifestyle, ecological thinking, folk crafts and other traditions. In addition,
a ‘wool carding’ workshop has also been established. The Slovakian ‘Blue trail’ also crosses
the village towards Aggtelek.99 A Calvinist church with a wooden coffered ceiling, built at the
beginning of the 19th century is an attraction of the village. Owing to the activities of the
local, cultural, civil organisation under the name of Mihály Tompa a large ethnography
and fine-arts collection is available and is operated with the active involvement of the local
government.100 This collection covers not only the settlement but also the whole Gemer region.
The village has also been granted the title of an official ‘landscape history exhibition site’.

The local guest houses can accommodate up to 40 persons simultaneously, which
occasionally increases the size of the population of the village by 50%. One guest house offers
breakfast, and the building run by the institute of ecology also has a kitchen which can serve
lunch and dinner to suit demand.101 The village can boast of approximately 2,000 registered
guests a year, generating approximately HUF 1-1.5 million local tourist tax revenues
for the local government, which are usually re-invested into new small-scale development
projects. The local wool processing workshop is now operated by a local resident. In the
past women were also engaged in weaving, but these days they only do embroidery. The raw
materials are not purchased from the area because the required ‘Merino wool’ is not available.
The majority of the sales are generated by a local ‘small grocery shop’. The residents attend
various fairs, also including the ‘Gemer Expo’, which has been held for years and the goods are
also advertised online. Experience shows though that ‘local goods sell best locally’.

Owing to the young families settling down in the village, the gardens around the
houses are cultivated again. These families generally wish to do something locally because


Births of EU-topia along the Hungarian-Slovakian borders 91
they have not moved out of the town to commute every day. Naturally, at least at the beginning,
many of them only ‘vegetate’ and end up in ‘public employment’ organised by the local
government that focuses on the production and sale of local goods. There are some who
produce horse hair jewellery, while others produce fruit preserves, only on a ‘small-scale’
for the time being, generally using fruit grown by them. Gömörszőlős regularly takes part in the
‘Gemer Fruit Festival’102, which was held in Aggtelek for the 9th time in 2017, where, one year,
it won the local preserve award (rose hip and quince preserve). Although the local government
owns approx. 300 ha of land, most of it represents small ‘belt size’ parcels which cannot
be used for anything. The local government uses the consecutive area of at least 1 hectare
as a ‘green land’, which is mowed and then the straw is sold if there is demand for it.
The straw is not sold locally because cattle farming stopped in the village. As long as it existed,
the milk purchased locally was delivered to a dairy plant around Miskolc. Those who do not
work locally but are still of working age generally commute to work to Kazincbarcika (primarily
to the large chemical company known across the country and owned by a Chinese investor),
Ózd, Putnok and Miskolc. There is also a small ‘coal brush’ manufacturing plant in the
neighbouring Kelemér, which produces for individual orders and where a few residents of the
village found employment.

Despite the direct road connection between the two villages, which will be reconstructed
in the planned project, these days it is still ‘better’ to travel from Gömörszőlős to Neporadza,
at least by car, with a 25 km detour crossing the border at Bánréve. The Slovakian village
is approx. 10 km away from the border crossing point in Bánréve and is accessible on a rather
bad quality road after a right turn at Štrkovec, which is 5 km away. Tornala, which is the district
centre, is 13 km away and is also accessible through Štrkovec. Rožňava is situated approx.
50 km to the north. However, the periphery of Košice begins at a long distance, more than
100 km away; Neporadza is still outside the economic and workforce catchment area
of the dynamically developing Košice. Neporadza is therefore a cul-de-sac village. There
is no road leaving the village to the east, i.e. towards Hungary, and whoever intends to travel
to Hungary or to any other part in Slovakia by car will always have to go back approx. 5 km on
the road connecting the village and Štrkovec. Apart from the poor house fronts, the relative
underdevelopment of the village is well indicated by the fact that there is not even any ‘signal’
(mobile coverage), telephone calls can only be made from the ‘fixed line’ network. At the
moment the village is not equipped with public utilities yet and clean drinking water supply
is also a problem. The rail transport options all disappeared in this border micro region
during the past 5-6 years. Previously though there was a train service almost every hour
accessible at the station of Štrkovec, primarily towards Košice. There are three bus services
a day, but only on weekdays, and the last bus leaves the village at 5pm. After that and at
weekends longer term mobility needs can only be satisfied by cars. That is another reason


92 Civitas Europica Centralis Foundation
that makes the improvement of the connection between the settlement and the road network
important, with the construction of primarily the road to Kelemér and/or Gömörszőlős.

Even though the ‘local gardens almost connect’ with those in Gömörszőlős, Hungary, it is a
completely different area, even poorer than the Borsod villages. There are just a few families in
the village where a member is employed. They usually commute to work to Tornala, which is
the nearest small town with a population of 7,000 and where there are a few small, already
privately-owned businesses, the majority of which belongs to the ‘Penta’ empire of companies
and are engaged in iron processing, manufacturing of seat covers and clothing industry
activities. There is a cattle farm on the periphery village, which is owned by investors from Nové
Zámky. The produced milk and meat are processed elsewhere. The Slovakian dairy industry
is also threatened by the more competitive Polish (or Brazilian) import dumping, but in this
area people still pay a lot of attention to consume local and Slovakian dairy products
whenever possible. The Rimavská Sobota dairy plant, 35 km away was shut down in
2009103, but the dairy plant of Zvolen which is further away at 120 km (owned by an American
investor since 2015) is still flourishing.104 Milk processing also stopped in Tornala and the
brewery, sugar factory, canning factory, tobacco factory and a machine industry plant in
Rimavská Sobota, the economic centre of Gemer, have also been shut down.105

In Neporadza most people are employed locally by the social care old people’s home
that grew into the largest service provider of the settlement over the past few years and has
become one of the symbols of the new opportunities on the border region. The facility, which
originally functioned as a ‘pensioners’ home’ was established in the converted building of
a former ‘finance’ guard barrack at the end of the 1970s. What is interesting is that the
‘telephone problems’ made the life of the locals more difficult even then. At the same time, with
the recruitment of the staff (nurses) from the village and the surrounding area, an agreement with
the ‘consumer cooperative’, and a hairdresser manicure and pedicure etc. service as well as
with organisation of excursions nearby they managed to care for the old people moving into the
home with services that fully complied with the standards of the time.106 When the social care
system changed in (Czecho)slovakia, its old people’s home function changed and the facility
became the institution of the disabled. It was operated by the local government of the County
of Banská Bystrica for a long time, but later it was suggested that it would be closed down or
merged with other homes within the framework of ‘rationalisation’ of the social care system. By
establishing a non-profit organisation in 2005 (‘civil association’) the organisation itself
and approximately 30 jobs (income for 30 families) were saved successfully.107


Births of EU-topia along the Hungarian-Slovakian borders 93
At the moment there are only male residents in the home, aged between 18 and 67, each
of whom have some (generally mental) disability. The majority of young people over the age of
18 are moved there from state-owned care homes and have practically no income. Medical services
are provided by ‘external’ doctors, while the civil association running the facility offers social services.
Individuals requiring care are transferred not only from the border region but from the entire Slovakia.
The financial assistance from the state is negligible, certain state agencies (e.g. public health)
often ‘criticise them’ but they receive a lot of help from the local government. As an example,
they also resolved the problem of waste water removal together. The building should be extended
but there are no funds for it, yet the civil organisation, in cooperation with the local government,
with the involvement of for example public employees, could organise the construction.
A further problem is that land belongs to the care home, the restitution (return) of which has
not taken place yet. These days the lawful land owners demand many times the actual (market)
value in exchange of the transfer of their ownership rights.

The border between the two settlements has never been really ‘strict’. Border guards
did patrol the area, but people also visited each other on foot. They visited each other’s village
days even ‘illegally’, using bad quality tractors able to use the bad quality connecting road to
drink a few ‘better quality Czech or Slovak beers’ or to visit the relatives, or simply to enjoy the
company of the residents of the neighbouring village. There are residents in both villages
whose ancestors came from the ‘other side’.

94 Civitas Europica Centralis Foundation
At the moment, the approx. 2.5 km road between the two villages is only suitable for
pedestrian traffic. Google Maps does not even show that path. At the same time, it offers the road
after Kelemér (paved with stone, but passable mostly by tractors) which would reduce the distance
between Gömörszőlős and Neporadza to 7 km only, but it is not recommended for passenger
cars either. The issue of whether the road from Neporadza to Hungary should lead across
Gömörszőlős or Kelemér has always been on the agenda. Although the neighbouring Kelemér is
a larger village (500 residents) it does not necessarily mean that is has a better ability to represent its
interests in the crossing point into Slovakia. That is primarily because at the moment the road leading
to Neporadza currently stretches across the periphery of Kelemér along privately-owned fields. There
are also land plots to be expropriated and land owned by the local government in Gömörszőlős too.
The previously completed construction plans also included the reconstruction of the low quality
approx. 2 km road section between Kelemér and Gömörszőlős. The first plans of the cross-border
road section were already prepared in 2007-2008 within the framework of an INTERREG project
of the then Hungarian national infrastructure development company.108 The plans however did not
even reach the stage of authorisation by the environmental authority. At that time even the preparation
of the plans on the Neporadza side was financed by the Hungarian state. Later the preparations on the
Slovakian side made more progress and the processes stopped in Hungary. Somehow the intentions
and actions in terms of this connection could never be synchronised in time or in space.

To ensure that something actually comes out of the plans that have existed for decades in the
present INTERREG cycle, at first the project concept should be elaborated then the application
should be prepared and submitted. However, the local government apparatus is so small
that their limited capacity does not even cover their everyday work and writing of other
applications. What is more important on both sides at the moment is to ensure that the road
leading to the village is at least ‘free of potholes’ on both sides. There is a question as to
the numerous organisations established in order to flourish the Gemer border region, including
the ‘Sajó-Rima EGTC’, established in Putnok would not be able to make the preparations for
a project of such a volume and undertake the management of its implementation. As there is
no better option, the residents of the two villages generally meet twice a year, on each
other’s village days. No common project has been implemented yet. A joint application
was already submitted in the framework of the ‘Europe for citizens’ programme but in the end, it
was not granted any assistance.

However, even in this case making the road connecting the two villages suitable for
cars would result in ‘invaluable’, social rather than economic benefits. Labour market
integration could be improved, only to a lesser extent than in other border regions, primarily by
enabling more people to commute to Hungary from Neporadza and its surrounding area and
work mainly in Kazincbarcika, Putnok and Ózd or even Miskolc. New dimensions would also open


Births of EU-topia along the Hungarian-Slovakian borders 95
in the coordination of social and related health public services. The wages are identical in these
sectors on the two sides of the border (similarly low) but until no road exists and people must cross
the border at Bánréve, residents from Hungary would not commute to Slovakia because the surplus
of higher wages earned in EUR in Neporadza would be consumed by the costs of commuting.

It would be possible not only to earn an income in Euro but also to exploit better the
opportunities to obtain professional experience and further practical training in the care home
in Neporadza. The care home can take in ‘anyone’, also including people from Hungary. There
are no obstacles preventing that and it does not require any state of county-government consent.
The Slovakian state supplements the modest pension of the residents with a ‘per-capita’ subsidy
and other amounts granted on applications (funds generated from gambling and allocated for social
assistance purposes). At the same time, the relatives of the residents must also pay for the services.
The care home maintains a good relationship with the crafts house of Kazincbarcika. If someone
could go over from there (or from Ózd or Putnok) for 2-3 hours a week, travelling a shortened distance
on the new road and work with the local children performing slightly different activities would already
be great assistance.109 However, the ‘lack of roads’ is currently such a great blow on Neporadza that
at weekends they must use their own vehicles to transport the employees of the care home.

The new road could also turn the relationship between the Calvinist church
communities of the two settlements, which recently also turned into a ‘twin’ relationship, into
a simple ‘everyday’ form of contact. The shared ‘fire observation’ service is already in place.
There are large green areas in Gömörszőlős, so if anyone lights a fire on the other side it gets
there within moments. It has happened on a number of occasions that the mayor of Neporadza
told the fire fighters coming from Kazincbarcika, Hungary, which valley they should go to on
the Slovakian side in order to prevent the spreading of the fire towards the border. Each fire in
the border region develops into a ‘case’, and therefore cooperation should be organised in this
respect especially because most fires in Hungary occur in this region.

‘At one time’ the fair route of Gemer county ran across the two villages. Tornala was
the closest fair site. With the Neporadza road the current approx. 25 km distance between
Gömörszőlős and Tornala could be shortened by approx. 10 km. By now of course the role of
Tornala has also changed. There are no more goods that are ‘ideal for a market’. However, by
building a road tourism could also be developed jointly and common tourist trails could be
created. If groups visit Gömörszőlős, it would also be easier to ‘send’ them to Slovakia on the
new road. Gömörszőlős is already visited by many tourist groups, not only students but also
adults and families for its eco-tourism attractions. Neporadza is also ‘trying hard’. The ‘Füleki
István country house’110, named after the local martyr of reformation was established recently


96 Civitas Europica Centralis Foundation
and a riding stable is also active in the outskirts of the village (as in Gömörszőlős). Gömörszőlős
also has a riding stable, the two villages could also cooperate with that. In addition, visits to
other Slovakian settlements, castles and natural attractions should also be recommended more
intensively to tourists visiting Gömörszőlős. Gömörszőlős already has some ‘reputation’ but
the landscape is equally as beautiful and the air is equally clean in Neporadza as anyone
who climbs the hill and looks down into the Száraz-valley will definitely ‘enjoy the view’.

3.5. The pull of Košice

The ‘west-east decline’ cited even at the beginning of the 2000s regarding the development
of certain regions of Hungary and Slovakia is no longer true. Making good use of the two
countries’ EU and then Schengen admission, Košice – unlike Miskolc – developed extremely
dynamically over the past years.

3.5.1. Hidvégardó – Chorvátý

Hidvégardó is the northernmost settlement of Hungary in Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén
County, 70 km from Miskolc, and 50-50 km from the district centre Edelény and Košice in
Slovakia. The 2011 census figures reflect a dramatic more than 20% reduction of the
population compared to 2001. The population currently slightly over 500 is ageing, while
the rate of unemployment is much lower than the county or the district average.
Neighbouring Chorvátý in Slovakia at 50 km from the county and district centre Košice is
gradually becoming a ‘dwarf village’ with fewer than 100 people. About three-quarters of
the population belong to the Hungarian national minority. Both the ageing index and the rate
of unemployment are extremely high and forecast the village will be totally devoid of people.

Hidvégardó Chorvátý
County, Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén county, Košice region,
district Edelény district Košice-okolie district
Population, 2011 (persons) 550 102
Population changes, 2001-2011 (%) – 21 – 11
Population of Hungarian nationality, 2011 (persons) 546 76
Population of Slovak nationality, 2011 (persons) .. 26
Aging index, 2011 (%) 178 457
Unemployment ratio 2011 (%) 10 42

Part of the name of Hidvégardó (hidvég) refers to the road (bridgehead) spanning the River
Bodvou coming from Turňa nad Bodvou in Slovakia, while its other part (ardó) can be traced
back to the word ‘erdő’ (forest), which reflects the traditional employment of its inhabitants, forest

Births of EU-topia along the Hungarian-Slovakian borders 97
management. The village was owned by the Eszterházy family in the 17th century.111 It is a neat
and clean settlement you can reach from Miskolc along road 26 followed by road 27 leaving
Sajószentpéter behind and finally after Edelény, along a poor-quality winding road passing by
dilapidated settlements of the ‘Bodvou Valley’ and finally crossing a narrow wooden bridge. The
(Hungarian) name of Chorvátý can be explained easier; its first part refers to the village of Turňa
nad Bodvou 6 km to the north, which had been the county seat until the end of the 19th century,
while the last part recalls the former Croatian settlers of the village. The village is located on
a small hill with wonderful views. On the other hand, the quality of its internal roads, the shabby
houses, the lack of full public utilities all reflect the utter poverty of the residents.

With respect to Hidvégardó and Chorvátý, the building of a road-section is on the agenda
that is a mere 1 km long, is in use today and used to connect Chorvátý to other Slovakian
settlements via Hungary till the 1970s. Until a bridge connecting Chorvátý to Hosťovce
was prepared, you could only reach Chorvátý from Turňa nad Bodvou in Slovakia by way of the
cadastre parcels of Hidvégardó using the wooden bridge mentioned above. There had been an
inter-government agreement according to which the Hungarian State was responsible for
the maintenance of the bridge at Hidasnémeti and the Czechoslovak State for the road
between the two settlements. In time, however, the road crossing the border were sand and
the Czechoslovak Government at that time did not decide to restore it but to have a Bodvou bridge
built on the Slovakian side north-west to the village to connect Chorvátý and Hosťovce. After this
decision, the shared road with Hidvégardó ‘lost its sense’ and was totally neglected. After
the Schengen-related opening of the border, it was repaired to a certain extent and covered
with gravel so now you can drive or walk along it on foot or by car.


98 Civitas Europica Centralis Foundation
A survey of the two settlements was made in around 2015 including estimations related to the
expected traffic.112 If the road were rebuilt, you could reach Moldava nad Bodvou - a former
district centre - from Hidvégardó along Chorvátý – Žarnov – Peder, although this would not reduce
the distance between Hidvégardó and Moldava nad Bodvou. A mere 260 m of the shared road
belongs to Slovakia, the own funds of 5% required for the INTERREG programme is ‘a pittance’
for the county, on the other hand, the required funds would equal several years of the local
government’s budget in Chorvátý. However, neither the Local Government of the Košice
Region nor the neighbouring large Slovakian settlements support fully the implementation
of the project. In the meantime, on the Hungarian side, a state-owned infrastructure development
company has already started planning and the Hungarian Government has offered ‘guarantee’
to provide government sources for the costs of design and implementation. Another adverse factor
is that while there is a loan scheme for local governments in Hungary to provide pre-financing for
project implementation, the same does not apply to Slovakia.

Another obstacle to be overcome is related to the commitments to be undertaken in order
to draw down the funds potentially available in the INTERREG programme. Understanding that
there is a quite significant ‘over-application’ to projects related to the development of tourism, the
leaders of the two settlements believe the implementation of an INTERREG project on economy
development is a realistic approach. In this case, however, an ‘indicator-level’ commitment
must also be made to create at least one new market-based job and maintain it for at
least 5 years. Since its partner-settlement has been left alone, Hidvégardó is trying to help
Chorvátý in some way but their possibilities are quite limited. It is another question whether the
local enterprises will be partners to create and maintain long-term new job(s).

If the planned road is built, significant economic and labour market effects can be
envisaged. Hidvégardó already has direct public road connection to Slovakia. At the end of road
27, there is a border crossing point officially called Tornanádaska-Host’ovce, which provides
connection to minor road 3299 near Host’ovce in Slovakia. Along the minor road, you can reach
Turňa nad Bodvou, the former attraction centre at 6 km, and then the main road E58 connecting
Bratislava and Košice. The border crossing point - as a minor border post - already existed
during the decades of socialism. To the very day, there is a railway connection to Slovakia,
but it’s totally unused. This railway line connects Miskolc and Košice, running parallel to
main road 27 in Hungary. It offers passenger transport as far as Tornanádaska at 10 km,
from there you must take a bus to get to Hidvégardó. There has been no rail freight traffic
since the limestone quarry at Tornaszentandrás was closed down.113 The remains of the
‘demolished’ Esztramos Mount can still be seen today.114 For a long time, the quarry produced


Births of EU-topia along the Hungarian-Slovakian borders 99
large quantities of limestone to Miskolc and Ózd as raw material for metallurgy. Becskeháza
neighbouring Hidvégardó, on the other hand, provided dolomite for glass factories.115 At a
time, the Hidvégardó railway station also operated as a re-loading place, however, rail freight
transport based on the mines of the region was terminated at the beginning of the 1960s due
to the poor interest enforcement abilities of the railways and the settlements involved.

The development of Chorvátý owned by the Horváti family in the past illustrates how the
senseless political decisions of the 1980s have an impact even today. Before that, the village
‘was developing quite well’, although it was deprived of its independence in the 1960s, being
attached to Hosťovce and Turnianska Nová Ves. Most of the development funds at that time
were concentrated in the administrative centre. As it was a ‘village on the border’, ‘a building
ban’ was ordered in the 1980s, and building permits from Košice were only issued for
constructions in the administrative centre. As a result, almost all young inhabitants have
left Chorvátý, which became independent in 1990. At present, it is becoming a ‘holiday
village’. Residents of Košice by most of the houses left vacant when their owners died, but
they do not use them for permanent residence but as a weekend house - an easy use for
property purchased at a pittance in Chorvátý. At present the village has no kindergarten or
school; they have lost their rationale when the young people have left. Nowadays only
10 children live in the village. The only local small shop has also closed down; it was not worth
operating due to low demand and poor spending power.

A part of the new permanent residents is Roma and have moved in from Hungary. They
work as local ‘public workers’ receiving about EUR 120 a month, but they still take their children to
schools in Hungary. Most of the working age residents are employed at Turňa nad Bodvou
(6 km away), Moldava nad Bodvou (15 km away) in Košice (with the steel works 30 km away),
in the cooperative of neighbouring Turnianska Nová Ves which is still prosperous or in the
cement factory of Dvorníky-Včeláre in the Zádiel-valley.116 With respect to religions, most belong
to the Greek Catholic Church. Their ancestors were the Ruthens, who were forced to learn first
Hungarian and then Slovak. So later generations have forgotten the Ruthenian language, but old
people still remember that the first masses were offered in Ruthenian. To the north of Chorvátý,
in the Háj-valley, there is a 200-man strong settlement named Hačava, where the residents continue
to speak Ruthenian and almost all of them have retained their Greek Catholic faith as well.117

The locals are in favour of the road shared with Hidvégardó, although they think
if the local government must become indebted, it should refurbish the internal roads
rather than a road across the border. The village applied for the refurbishment of the internal


100 Civitas Europica Centralis Foundation
roads but no decision has been made about it in Bratislava before this case study was closed
after more than 1.5 years. In addition, short and mid-term village development goals include
the renewal of the roof of the local cultural centre, and energy modernisation of other public
buildings. Although EU sources are available, the process of evaluation of the applications is
lengthy while the several-thousand-euro costs of writing the applications, project management,
energy audit required for an application, public procurement, etc. must be provided as own
funds or pre-financed by the small local government lacking funds anyway.

There is much more vitality at Hidvégardó that was given a new impetus by the Schengen
opening of the border. Slovakian enterprises operating in the construction industry and
agriculture contacted the Mayor of Hidvégardó – who has been leading the village for over 30 years
– during the holidays straight after the opening of the borders on 20 December 2007 and asked
him to recommend skilled workers. One of the most developed agricultural cooperative of
Slovakia is operating at Turnianska Nová Ves - the next village to the north-east of Chorvátý. Its
‘dairy farm’ operates at a high standard with over 600 cattle. Hungarian labour force is needed there
as well as on the lands to be worked to produce the feed necessary for the animals. In Hungary, the
‘Bódva-völgye MGTSZ’ used to operate with its centre at Bódvaszilas, but it was wound up at about
the same time as the Schengen borders opened. It was almost ‘natural’ for the employees including
skilled workers (e.g., machine operators) to use their skills in the future on the other side of the
border in the employment of the Turnianska Nová Ves cooperative.

About 60 people from the village work in Slovakia at present, 15-20 of them in the
agriculture and the rest in the construction industry, in metallurgy (in a large factory complex
in Košice) or in commerce. There is no public transport to serve daily cross-border
commuters. The Slovakian companies provide some with company cars while the rest use
their own cars, motorbikes or bicycles to go to work. Unlike the neighbouring settlements,
Hidvégardó - by ‘opening’ towards Slovakia in the north - could achieve that people
having lost their work locally should not be thrown out of the world of work. Miskolc is
80 km away, and due to the current status of the roads, it is unable to exert economic
attraction to Hidvégardó and its immediate neighbourhood. The village is not in the
attraction area of the district centre Edelény 50 km away. The small town of Szendrő at 30 km
is unable to find its way out; more than 600 of its 4 thousand inhabitants are public workers.

Despite significant cross-border commuting of the labour force, we can still say there is
a local market-based economy and employment at Hidvégardó. Despite adverse external
conditions, a bakery, a milk processing plant and a wood processing plant could be attracted
to the settlement.118 As cattle farming practically came to the end on the Hungarian side of the
border region, the local milk processing plant - operating as a branch of a company incorporated


Births of EU-topia along the Hungarian-Slovakian borders 101
at Encs - was threatened to be closed down. However, as the Schengen borders opened, cow
and ewe milk to be processed can be purchased from the cattle farms of the neighbouring
agricultural cooperatives in Slovakia. So, milk is carried to Hidvégardó from Turnianska Nová
Ves and Turňa nad Bodvou, they also have business relations with a Slovakian milk processing
plant that provides whew for further processing. The local milk processing plant sells wholesale,
it has no direct retail connections.119 To sum up, the flow of the labour force at Hidvégardó and its
direct neighbourhood is typically from Hungary to Slovakia, to the settlements around Košice, but
the agricultural integration of the two sides is also important.

The ratio of the Gypsy population is almost 20% at Hidvégardó. The village community
could somehow always achieve that the Gypsies could also find jobs and earn an income.
In the 1950s, the Gypsies typically worked alongside the farmers. They helped in the woods
or with the animals and usually received foodstuff in return for their work. As the cooperatives
were established in the 1960s, the chances of the farmers deteriorated, so they went to work in
the coal mines of Ormosbánya 50 km away. And they took with them the Gypsies who used to
work on their lands. They got fair wages for their fair work. Most of the local Roma are skilled
today. The successful ‘Roma integration’ of Hidvégardó is greatly due to the humane
approach of the local non-Roma community. There are a number of godfather-godmother
relations between the local Roma and non-Roma.

The Schengen-related opening of the border gave a boost to the real estate market
of Hidvégardó and new directions of mobility came into being similarly to Rajka, Dunakiliti and
Hidasnémeti. Over the past almost 10 years, 40 families - almost all of them Hungarian
minorities - moved here from Slovakia. About 80% of them are permanent residents at
Hidvégardó, while the others use the properties as weekend houses. It used to be typical
that elderly people lived in the houses and when their children moved them to their condominia
flats in some city to look after them, they sold the old houses at a relatively good price to buyers
from Slovakia. So, the drastic reduction of the population - mentioned in the introduction – may
not reflect reality. Most of the new inhabitants of Hidvégardó from across the border did not
register with the authorities as residents, because they were afraid to lose eligibility for health
care, educational and welfare benefits in Slovakia. The prices of local properties have practically
been doubled over the past years. You can buy an old construction average house and courtyard
for over HUF 10 million - an almost ‘unbelievable’ amount in the region - while it is still about one-
third of property prices around Košice (the city of Moldava nad Bodvou or the village of Mokrance).

Cross-border mobility may increase the demand for certain public services. At present,
there is only a ‘member-school’ at Hidvégardó while the centre of the primary school is at Bódvaszilas
(13 km away). The villages used to have their own schools, but the number of children declined so


102 Civitas Europica Centralis Foundation
much they were forced to become ‘member institutions’ as 50 children were not enough to operate
an 8-grade primary school.120 Thanks to the new residents, you might envisage an increasing
demand for local primary education. The building of the school is still there and the part formerly
used by the upper grades is vacant at present. To achieve this goal, the legislative background
should be created so that people with no permanent residence in Hungary could be eligible
for normative subsidies. Using the school bus of the village, 40-50 children could be picked up
from the other side of the border. The situation is similar with respect to the health and welfare
systems as well. Slovak language teaching would also be justified at Hidvégardó. Although
people move in whose mother tongue is Hungarian, it would be to their advantage if their
children also learnt Slovak, since most of the jobs are in Slovakia. Not to mention the fact that
the secondary schools of Košice are closer than those in Miskolc.

It is less expected that the two settlements would grow together physically as a result of the
new road. It is more likely that new opportunities open up for Chorvátý, since almost no basic
services are available there at the moment. Although Hidvégardó has only 600 inhabitants,
it is still the centre of a small region. Three even smaller villages (Bódvalenke, Becskeháza and
Tornaszentjakab) with populations of 30-200 are in its attraction area. There is an office to look
after administrative issues (a branch office of the Joint Local Government Office of Perkupa), a
doctor’s surgery, specialist consultations, a kindergarten, a social kitchen, a dentist’s surgery
and an ambulance station.121 So, Hidvégardó could provide a number of public services for
Chorvátý and some other smaller Slovakian settlements around it ensuring their survival.
In addition to the educational and healthcare basic services mentioned above, it could also provide
social services for the elderly. If the school cannot be restarted at all, the 4-classroom school of
this ‘quiet village’ could become an old people’s home in the future following some refurbishment.
The fire brigade could reach the village faster from Moldava nad Bodvou in Slovakia than
from Edelény or Kazincbarcika, as it already happened in the 1980s.

About one-third of people working in Slovakia (mostly in the Turnianska Nová Ves
and Peder agricultural cooperatives) use the road to be refurbished. In winter time, the
road is impassable, so they have to make at the tour of 5-10 km towards the ‘main road’.
Although it is not a big difference, it is considerable additional cost for daily commuters. In
addition to boosting the mobility of the labour force, the new road may be important for tourism
development by expanding leisure opportunities. Already quite many use a relatively good
quality asphalt road along Hosťovce-Chorvátý-Turnianska Nová Ves at the weekends for biking,
jogging or roller-skating. The planned road across the border could open up leisure
opportunities for Hidvégardó to offer local services. The neighbouring settlements already
have experience in the development of cross-border tourism mainly due to the INTERREG


Births of EU-topia along the Hungarian-Slovakian borders 103
project in 2007-2013 implemented by the ‘Association of the Towns and Villages of the Bodvou-
valley’ and the ‘Alliance of Settlements on the Cserehát’.

The case of Hidvégardó proves that there is a way out of a periphery situation if the local
community and the leaders of the village work hard and liberate creative local energies.
As long as the border was closed, this village and its micro-region were practically isolated from
everything, they were ‘at the end of the world’. You could only travel in the direction of the extremely
poor Cserehát between the Bükk and the Zemplén Mountains or in the direction of the Bodvou-
valley, but Aggtelek was already ‘far away’. After the Schengen admission and the opening of
the northern border, Hidvégardó ‘has become (one of the) centres of the world’.

3.5.2. Hidasnémeti – Perín-Chym

Hidasnémeti is in the Gönc district of Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén County. It is 60 km from the
county seat, 5 km from the district centre and 30 km from the downtown of Košice in Slovakia.
Its ‘counterpart’, Perín-Chym in Slovakia is directly next to the Slovakian-Hungarian border 25
km south of Košice, the centre of the agglomeration (county and district). The demographic
indicators of the two villages are similar. The number of inhabitants is higher than 1,000 at
both settlements, with Perín-Chym slightly larger (by about 300 people). The figures of the
2011 census indicated a 6-7% reduction of the population in both cases, since then however, a
dynamic growth has started mainly due to migration out of Košice. Hidasnémeti is one of
the Hungarian settlements that has become “Slovakised” as a result of the process starting
after the two countries joined the Schengen area together. Already in 2011, 5% of the inhabitants
were registered as of the Slovak national minority, since then it has increased to about
20% according to estimations. The ratio of Hungarians at Perín-Chym seems to be declining,
it was 28% in 2011. Both settlements are ageing but their ageing index is slightly lower than the
regional average. The rate of unemployment was quite different already in 2011. Following the
2009 crisis, the rate of unemployment at Perín-Chym was relatively low, on the other hand, the
dynamism of Košice could not yet exert a positive impact on the labour market of Hidasnémeti.

Hidasnémeti Perín-Chym
County, Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén county, Košice region,
district Gönc district Košice-okolie district
Population, 2011 (persons) 1141 1407
Population changes, 2001-2011 (%) –6 –7
Population of Hungarian nationality, 2011 (persons) 954 397
Population of Slovak nationality, 2011 (persons) 55 935
Aging index, 2011 (%) 111 145
Unemployment ratio 2011 (%) 23 13

104 Civitas Europica Centralis Foundation
The Slovakian administrative centre was established in 1948 when the villages Perín and
Chym merged. Perín is known as the ‘ancient nest’ of the Perényi family, which played an
outstanding part in the history of Hungary, while the word Chym indicates a local landowner family
Hímy.122 The origin of the name of Hidasnémeti is easy to explain: German settlers established
the village with a bridge spanning the river Hernád, which used to be an important point of
tax and tithes collection.123 Both settlements are closely connected to this logistics centre
controlling cargo traffic between Hungary and Slovakia. Hidasnémeti to the north is not a border
settlement; it is located 3 km from Tornyosnémeti with a border post along main road 3. The section
of the Slovakian motorway R4 (E71) is a few kilometres from Perín-Chym. In line with the efforts of the
region well-known for some time, that road will connect Košice and Miskolc, the two economic
(industrial) centres of regional significance when the main road M30 reaches the Hungarian
border. Hidasnémeti is important for rail traffic, it is still a railway border post to Slovakia.

The image, function and future development plans of both settlements are mainly defined
by the dynamic economic development of Košice and Kechnec that has almost merged
into the city. Kechnec is close to both settlements a mere 7 km away by public road. The
Kechnec industrial park was established in 2003 directly preceding our admission into the
EU. Multinational companies relying on cheap labour locally and tax reliefs settled there
one after the other. As an indirect result, the number of inhabitants doubled at the settlement in
a few years’ time and the assets of the local government also multiplied. Perceiving this fast and
spectacular development, more and more people have been mentioning a ‘economic miracle
at Kechnec’.124 The establishment of a ‘European Integrated School’ and a thermal spa -
important for the quality of life there - is still a plan (already more than 10 years old), but the fact
that 3.5 thousand people work at the large-scale and modern European-standard industrial
park is a major achievement in itself.125 The companies having settled there have different
profiles and operate more or less independent of each other, so there are no fears that if one of
them defaults, the others would also go bust in a domino effect.

At the beginning, Kechnec and Košice only exerted significant economic-labour
market impact on Perín-Chym. At the beginning, it was a major criterion that workers should
speak Slovak, and companies could only enjoy salary-related subsidies on Slovakian labour
force. This resulted in a situation when workers were ‘transported’ from as far away as 100
km after some time to the mushrooming enterprises of the Kechnec Industrial Park rather than
from Hidasnémeti and neighbouring (Abaúj) villages on the other side of the border and hit by a
high rate of unemployment. However, the world and the direction of mobility have turned


Births of EU-topia along the Hungarian-Slovakian borders 105
around completely over the past 10 years. Several factors have contributed to that. With the
Schengen admission, border crossing has become easy. Slovakia joined the Euro-zone and its
economy has become more competitive than that of Hungary. In and around Košice, companies
have run out accessible labour force, so knowledge of the Slovak language could not be
regarded a basic skill after some time. Finally, at last but not at least from the perspective of
our topic, a bridge over the Hernád was completed in 2015 – together with the connecting
roads –, and in that way the travel distance and time between Abaújvár (and neighbourhood) in
Hungary and Kechnec was significantly reduced.126 As a combined effect of the above, more
and more people started to commute from the Abaúj region of Hungary to Slovakia, first
of all to Kechnec and Košice as the burden of daily commuting has been eased.127

Commuting is less characteristics of the ‘natives’ of Hidasnémeti. Only a few of them work
in Slovakia, mainly because they do not speak Slovak. On the other hand, more and more
people - both Slovaks and Hungarian minorities - born in Košice and the neighbourhood
purchase properties in Hidasnémeti. Their primary goal is not to acquire a weekend house
for leisure but partly to make profit on the boom at the Košice real estate market, and partly – in
proportion to their salaries - to enjoy the cheaper costs of living in Hungary. The average price
of real estates has increased about tenfold at Hidasnémeti over the past 10 years, but it is still
cheaper than across the border. The price of a 1.5-room block flat in Košice would buy a good
quality detached house with several rooms at Hidasnémeti. An average house (including the lot)
in neighbouring Perín-Chym costs EUR 150-170 thousand, and is typically sold within a week.

The locals are afraid that Hidasnémeti is becoming a ‘dormitory place’, where people
do not know each other at all, they only come home to sleep, at most they make a quit visit
to the local shop on their way home from work or school. The cultural and sports life of the
village is still vivid, which used to make it outstanding among other settlements of the region.
Settlers from Slovakia typically do not register as permanent residents due to well-known
reasons, although the local government was trying to ‘encourage’ registration by imposing local
‘land taxes’. They do not register their enterprises at Hidasnémeti or send their children
to the local kindergarten or school. As a result, the local educational institutions are
slowly vacated. The local government is proactive in seeking connections with the new
residents; they regularly get special invitations to the local cultural events. Although everyday life
has become multi-lingual, access to certain public services (e.g., education, administrative
processes) is not offered in Slovakian.

What can the two settlements in such a relatively favourable economic environment win by
revitalising the shared section of the road?


106 Civitas Europica Centralis Foundation
The ‘Szada Agreement’ did not yet include the road investment, but it appeared in
the government decree of Hungary in January 2016, which was the starting point of this study.
Previously, the local governments were trying to refurbish and maintain the road section
in question from own funds. A local gravel quarry is also available. A few years ago, the area
was so much overgrown that you could not see the road at all. Today you can also pass in a car,
but it is rather dusty or muddy in rainy weather, so a 12 km detour between Hidasnémeti
and Perín-Chym is still better.

A road of about 4.5 km should be asphalted, and both local governments have been
trying to find funding (application) for it. They already applied for building a bicycle road under
the INTERREG programme in the previous cycle between 2007 and 2013. It was an investment
of HUF 150 million, and they passed the first round. In the end, however, they did not apply in
the second round, so the costs related to the preparation of the project got lost. The reason
of their withdrawal was that the village management of Perín-Chym at the time did not
want any thoroughfare, although the Parties had agreed in advance to block the road from
vehicle traffic.

They submitted a new tender since they had not been included in the 2014 agreement
concluded between the governments of the two countries, but it turned out an application for

Births of EU-topia along the Hungarian-Slovakian borders 107
the development of bicycle roads under the Hungarian-Slovakian INTERREG programme had
opened at the end of 2016. Hidasnémeti is the leading partner, neighbouring Abaújvár and
Telkibánya from Hungary and Kechnec in addition to Perín-Chym on the other side are included
in the application to implement an investment of HUF 60-70 million to build a strengthened „grit”
road. They learnt they were included in the list in the government decree of January
2016 after their application to the INTERREG project had been submitted.

Discussions have started with the Hungarian government-controlled infrastructure developer
(NIF), and chances are good to receive funds for the implementation of a public road investment
worth over HUF 1 billion under another priority of INTERREG. At the same time, it would not be
fair if Hidasnémeti withdrew the application for the bicycle road because its partners would not
be funded either. However, both projects cannot be implemented at the same time. It would be
best of course if both a public road and parallel to it a bicycle road was built, but a much
larger area of land should be appropriated in that case. In addition, both projects would be
implemented within the framework of the EU programme INTERREG 2014-2020.

According to the present concept, a vegetable and fruit processing plant would also
be established under the INTERREG project aiming at road building. In addition, the project
proposal could be linked to the flow of labour force to the Kechnec Industrial Park. The
local government of Hidasnémeti is trying to implement investments to stop youth from
leaving the village. Over the past years, many people have left the settlement to move to the
Transdanubian area (e.g., Székesfehérvár), Budapest, Debrecen or Western Europe.

The shared road does not mean the two settlements would be physically merged,
because there are woods, arable land and vineyards next to the border on both sides.
On the other hand, the road connecting Hidasnémeti to Perín-Chym is part of a lovely touristic
route. Hidasnémeti could be a good starting point for trips made into the Zemplén, Cserehát
or the sights of Slovakia. It already has bus connection with Gönc, Telkibánya, Sátoraljaújhely,
Kéked and Hollóháza. The EuroVelo international bicycle road crosses the village.
A bicycle road is already built from Alsóregmec to Pálháza. The planned bicycle road could
be connected to that creating in that way a cross-border bicycle route in Abaúj-Zemplén.
Adventure trips could also be arranged for paddlers on the romantic and wild river of Hernád.128

Hidasnémeti is a twin settlement to Buzita having a border post shared with the settlement
of Szemere since the end of 2006 but not with Perín-Chym. The road there is 20 km using the
border post at Tornyosnémeti, which would be shortened to 6 km along the new road shared
with Perín-Chym. Hidasnémeti and Buzita have already implemented an INTERREG project


108 Civitas Europica Centralis Foundation
by establishing a shared ‘sun cell park’.129 Interpreting opportunities in a larger geographical
context, the new road could get the border region of Hidasnémeti and surroundings to
Moldava nad Boudvou, Turna nad Boudvou and their surroundings.

In 2017 Perín-Chym became a twin settlement of Háromhuta about 40 km away, because
of their involvement in the ‘swap of the population’ following World War II.130 A significant
part of the local residents are quite dissatisfied now because through traffic from west to
east has increased in the village mainly due to the proximity of the Kechnec Industrial
Park. Because of this, they would not be happy with a track of the road shared with Hidasnémeti
that would lead into the centre of the village from the south-east increasing thoroughfare. It is a
priority for the local community that the new section shared with Hidasnémeti - whether
it is a bicycle road or a vehicle road - should avoid the village.

The settlement of Perín-Chym does not have a budget to provide own funds and pre-
financing required for the investment. Still, their situation is slightly better, because tax income
on the local properties is quite significant. Over 5 thousand hectares of woods and
arable land belong to the settlement and the inhabitants pay tax on their houses. According
to the ideas of the village management, it is not an objective for Perín-Chym to trigger the
establishment of local industries as a result of the new road. They would rather like to have a
bypass and a bicycle road towards Kechnec. It is important that freight transport should
not cross the village but it should be connected to the main road leading to Košice and
linking the border to the highway M3 in Hungary. They want to remain a ‘lovely and quiet
place’ in the agglomeration of Košice that is a partner to Kechnec and makes use of the positive
impact of its industrial development.

There is a fishpond but the local public services should be improved to attract more
residents to the village. Foreign managers working at the Kechnec Industrial Park rather
rent houses in Košice and send their children to kindergarten and school there. There is
only a primary school for grades 1-4 at Perín-Chym. The local cultural centre was refurbished
and a conference centre established under the EGTC project ‘Abaúj-Abaújban’.131

3.5.3. Felsőregmec – Michaľany

The relative vicinity of the dynamically developing Košice (50-60 km) may be felt
much less in Felsőregmec and Michaľany, which are situated in the Szalánci Mountains
(‘Hegyköz’) constituting a rather sharp borderline in terms of economic and social development


Births of EU-topia along the Hungarian-Slovakian borders 109
and have also been directly connected with each other through a rather degraded road
since 2007. Felsőregmec is in Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén County, Sátoraljaújhely district,
approximately 100 km from the county seat and just 10 km from the district centre.
According to the 2011 census data, it had more than 300 residents, reflecting an almost 60%
increase since 2001. By age composition, the population is clearly getting younger, as in
2011, almost 5 times as many individuals aged less than 15 as aged over 65 lived in the village.
However, unemployment is outstandingly high, much higher than the county average.
Michaľany in Slovakia is approximately 50 km from Košice and more or less 20 km to the south
of Trebišov. Compared to Felsőregmec, Michaľany is approximately 6 times larger and its
population grew by approximately 10% between 2001 and 2011. The composition of the
population is also rather young, but the unemployment ratio is also relatively high. In the village,
the Slovakian residents are clearly in majority. The number of Hungarians is negligible,
although during the last census, more than 300 people did not reveal their nationality.

Felsőregmec Michaľany
County, Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén county, Košice region,
district Sátoraljaújhely district Trebišov district
Population, 2011 (persons) 324 1918
Population changes, 2001-2011 (%) + 59 + 10
Population of Hungarian nationality, 2011 (persons) 324 24
Population of Slovak nationality, 2011 (persons) .. 1512
Aging index, 2011 (%) 18 56
Unemployment ratio 2011 (%) 24 20

However, in Felsőregmec, the majority of the local residents have a ‘dual identity’,
because in 2011, 324 individuals declared themselves Hungarians and 252 (also) claimed to
be Roma. Felsőregmec is one of Hungary’s villages ‘with dominant Roma majority’. The
process began approximately 10 years ago, when the majority of the non-Roma young people
moved to the ‘town’ (Sátoraljaújhely, Miskolc), more and more old people died, and families,
the members of which were declared ‘undesirable’ individuals elsewhere were relocated
and ‘moved’ into the vacant houses within the framework of an organised scheme. No such
migration took place from Slovakia. At the beginning there was a great deal of tension between the
endogenous population and those recently moved in, frequently drinking and drug using Roma
people, which would only be resolved with the involvement of the police. Approximately 100 of
the local residents, with mostly lower than primary qualifications work, but almost all of
them are employed as public workers. Of them, approximately 60 work locally, but people are
also ‘lent’ to the neighbouring Alsóregmec and Mikóháza, which is 5 km away.

The local public employment programme offers a ‘value adding’ job to people and
could also be exemplary for other settlements. They grow vegetables (primarily cucumber,

110 Civitas Europica Centralis Foundation
paprika, tomato, carrot, broccoli) on 2.5 hectares land, including approximately 900 m2
poly-tunnels at two sites owned by the local government. For the time being, the plants are
only grown for domestic use as they are distributed in the village. The organisation of the
sale of the products is a plan for the future. They plan to sell primarily to the local green
grocers and also at ‘stands’ to be established by the road shared with Michaľany. The local
government hopes to earn some additional income from growing vegetables this way. Apart from
the funding of public employment, at the moment the local government has no other sources of
income. The only ‘local business’ is a food store which, however, due to lack of solvent demand,
earns very modest sales revenues and therefore pays very little local business tax.

The village caretaker breeds Shaolin cattle, which are sold abroad (primarily to Greece
and Turkey). The local government also considered breeding cattle, but it would require much
greater land (used as a grazing land and pasture. The biggest impediment preventing the
village to break out of its miserable situation is that the local production land has been
acquired by large agricultural entrepreneurs from other counties, who were motivated
mainly by the opportunity of claiming land-based subsidies from the EU but who generally
left the land ‘lie fallow’. They purchased the land for 20% of the current ‘market price’, yet
some former land owners were simply ‘deceived’ as they bought their land for less than HUF
100,000 per hectare. The local property prices are also in line with the standard of living, which
makes mobility almost impossible. An ‘average house with land’ costs approximately HUF
2 million, while the same costs approximately HUF 6 million in the neighbouring village
of Alsóregmec. Any property purchase price over HUF 3 million is ‘very good’ at local level. As
there are no educational and training institutions in the village, the children attend school and
kindergarten in Mikóháza, which is just 5 km away, where they commute in a regular school bus.
The shared office of the local government operated in Mikóháza for a long time, but a few years
ago Felsőregmec ‘was transferred’ to the Pálháza district clerk office, which is 12 km away.

In Slovakia, Michaľany, situated to the east from Eperjes-Tokaj hills on the left side
of Stream Ronyva is an important micro-regional centre, not only due to its relatively large
population. It is likely that it will also be able to exert a major ‘driving force’ on Felsőregmec if
the road development project planned for the future is implemented. It contains one of the
stations of the railway line that connects Košice and the town of Čop of Ukraine on the
south Slovakian tracks. The local railway station is large and orderly, contrary to the conditions
generally prevailing in the border region.132 There are no large companies employing hundreds
of people locally, yet there are relatively many active, privately owned small businesses.
The most important ones are engaged in the construction of roof structures and insulation of
buildings. In addition, the boom in the construction industry provides market opportunities not
only for the local Slovak-owned businesses, but also for a growing number of Hungarian roof


Births of EU-topia along the Hungarian-Slovakian borders 111
tiling companies (‘crossing’ over from Hungary to work). There are also metal processing and
timber industry companies in the village, but quite a few people work in the local agricultural
businesses. In addition, there are some local trading and service providing companies (food
stores, cosmetics, hair dressers, pizzeria). The employees commuting elsewhere, mainly to
Košice, represent approximately one-third of the employees. In the recent times relatively
many moved to Western Europe, mostly to Germany, U.K. and Belgium to find jobs, and
for many of them it seems a final choice. The number of Roma residents is estimated
around 300-350.

Another factor indicating the central role of Michaľany is that it has considerable health
and social service capacities. It operates a privately-owned old people’s home nursing,
caring and providing for old people133. The local health centre offers local practitioner,
paediatrician and dental services, but soon an internal medicine practice will also open.134 The
village has its own kindergarten, which is currently attended by approximately 60 children.
In addition, there is a primary school (1-9 years) teaching in Slovak. Although educational
services were also available in Hungarian from a Roman Catholic and a Calvinist primary school
prior to World War II, such services are no longer available. Michaľany joined the cross-border
‘Szalánci hills regional cluster’ registered with a seat in Herľany in 2015.135 The geographic
scope of the activities of the association covers Szalánci hills and the Hungarian ‘Hegyköz’
(between hills) micro-region which is part of it, with the objective of raising the tourism potential
of the border region. One of their first actions bringing tangible results is to establish a tourist
information centre in each member village, where not only information signs but also employees
(at least one person everywhere) are available to provide information to tourists about the
attractions of the village and the micro-region (e.g., castles, other historic monuments, cycle
paths, hiking trails, etc.).

Consequently, the management of the village of Michaľany sees the local breakthrough
opportunities primarily in regional tourism development. The nearby village Veľaty operates
a holiday centre136, which offers a thermal spa, restaurant, a wine cellar, wellness
and sports complex, a camp site and motel, tourist huts and hiking trails and cycling
routes to the slopes of the wine region of Tokaj (Vinohradníckaoblast’ Tokaj) as well as hunting
opportunities. The village of Byšta lies less than 10 km from Michaľany in the other direction.
The village contains a ‘sour-water’ (csevice) spring, a spa and a holiday resort. The resort has
been known since 1867. In the 19th century, it was used as a ‘barons’ bath’, treating primarily
rheumatic patients. Near the resort and by the stream Byšta, a fishpond is situated, which offers
boats, water sports and fishing.

112 Civitas Europica Centralis Foundation
Summary: Michaľany and Felsőregmec are situated between two cross-border small
regions that have excellent geographic characteristics and tourist potential: the Szalánci
hills (and Hegyköz, which is part of it), and the widely reputable Tokaj wine region. However,
these specificities are not very well exploited locally at present.

During the 2007-2013 EU development period, in Michaľany primarily roads, pavements
and public squares were reconstructed (e.g., a local playground was established). The plans included
the construction of a local tourist rest point, a small information centre and a car park by the cycle path
leading to Mikóháza with a connection to Felsőregmec, built from INTERREG resources. However,
due to lack of funds, the plan could not be implemented in the framework of the ominous project.
The main local projects implemented during the recent years are illustrated in a gallery displayed
on the website of the village (paving the road of the railway station, cleaning of the Izra stream bed,
cleaning of the local cemetery, establishment of a car park next to the pharmacy, refurbishment of
the roof structure of the kindergarten and the health centre, construction of a gymnasium and a
playground, establishment of parks by the mayor’s office and the railway station, refurbishment and
insulation of the dining room of the kindergarten).137 The development priorities of the 2014 -
2020 period still focus on the refurbishment of local roads, establishment of new parks (green areas)
extension of the water pipe system and the widening of the secondary road connecting the village and
Hungary through Felsőregmec and related local road development. External funds are also required
for implementation, but in the current period, the village has not yet received any EU assistance.


Births of EU-topia along the Hungarian-Slovakian borders 113
At the moment, a narrow, approximately 3 km long road, suitable also for passenger
cars, connects the two villages. Originally it was built as a cross-border cycle path,
opened after the opening of the Schengen border within the framework of a Hungarian-Slovakian
INTERREG project implemented between 2007 and 2013.138 Later it was classified as an
agricultural road with 3.5 tonnes weight limit, in order to allow agricultural machines to use it.
Nevertheless, at the moment, the narrow road carries primarily passenger traffic. Visitors
coming from Slovakia primarily to visit the Füzér Fortress 20 km away or the Végardó
Baths in Sárospatak 25 km away, arriving in relatively large numbers in summer, use this road
to shorten the distance a bit. An increasing number of Hungarians and Slovaks living in Hungary
also use the road to commute to work to Košice. In addition, this cross-border section is
also part of the international cycling competition, which has been organised annually by
Michaľany in the last week of September since 2012.

However, as two cars cannot pass next to each other, the current plan includes the
widening of the road, and making it suitable for more intensive 2-way car traffic. Felsőregmec
hopes that more intensive traffic from Slovakia will increase solvent demand for the locally
produced agricultural products planned to be sold by the road, thus contributing to the
development of a local market. In addition, some local tourism boosting effect can also be
expected because most probably more people will also visit the Calvinist Church from Árpád
times, built on a hill, which is at the moment the only attraction and ‘pearl’ of Felsőregmec.

The secondary road coming from Felsőregmec at present practically ends at the country
border. To reach Michaľany, a less than 200-m long road section, currently unsuitable for
car traffic, will have to be reconstructed. A bridge across Stream Izra also belongs to this road.
The bridge needs reconstruction and the plans also include cleaning up the stream bed. The joint
project was initiated by the Slovak Party, the previous mayor of Michaľany, around 2008 and 2009
and the Slovak partner also prepared the initial parts of the project documentation. The Hungarian
track has already been completed in the form of a cycle path from the INTERREG resources referred
to above. At the moment, therefore, on the Hungarian side, the track needs to be widened,
while on the Slovakian side, a few hundred-metre long section of the missing road needs to
be constructed and a bridge should be reconstructed. The tasks will also include the cleaning
of the area of Izra Stream. 2015 the Local Government of Košice County still promised to provide the
funds required for the works around Michaľany, but in 2017, the village was removed from the
list of road development projects by the border to be supported. Neither the representatives of
Michaľany nor those of Felsőregmec are invited anymore to the political and expert consultation on
cross-border infrastructure developments. In the meantime though the Mayor of Michaľany currently
in office has consulted with the competent land fund and water management company about the
related expropriation and bridge and stream bed development activities.


114 Civitas Europica Centralis Foundation
Consequently, the investment project is currently ‘stagnating’ and its actual status
is not known to the direct stakeholders. Even in this case, a lot of significant economic
development potential and social impact may be projected. On the one hand, the turnover
of the currently important tourist centres of the border region (Füzér, Sárospatak, Sátoraljaújhely
and Veľaty, Byšta) could increase and, on the other hand, cross-border shopping tourism from
Slovakia aiming at the shopping centres and market of Sátoraljaújhely could also pick up.
At present, the people from Michaľany and from its north-west region, as well as those coming
from the settlements of the Szalánci hills can reach the Hungarian district centre only with a small
diversion, crossing Čerhov instead of cutting across towards Felsőregmec. Apart from the
improved mobility options of the local communities, the project would have a major boost to the
economy as well. It would have favourable impact on the currently ‘depressed’ prices and local
properties are likely to be appreciated in both settlements. On the other hand, new opportunities
could open up for Slovak-Hungarian-owned companies operating in the construction industry
(roof structure manufacturing) referred to above. More and more Slovakian companies are
preparing for the entry into the Hungarian market, which provides a need for an increasing
number of people speaking Hungarian and possessing local knowledge.

Becoming ‘multilingual’ is extremely important for long-term cooperation. In this case
family relations are less relevant. Primarily due to language obstacles, the residents of
the two villages have not really visited each other’s cultural events so far. Nevertheless, the
language problems have not been the ‘main bottleneck’ in communication because Hungarian-
Slovak interpretation could always be arranged whenever it was needed. Among the mayors the
Mayor of Alsóregmec, which is the neighbouring village to Felsőregmec, speaks both Hungarian
and Slovak and acts as an intermediary between Michaľany and its region as well as the local
governments and local communities of the Hungarian settlements of the ‘Hegyköz’ sub-region.

3.5.4. Alsóregmec – Čerhov

Even though only a few hundred metres separate the signs indicating the boundaries of the two
settlements, coming from Felsőregmec, a visitor arriving in Alsóregmec finds ‘a completely
different world’. The number of residents of Alsóregmec, which also belongs to the Sátoraljaújhely
district of Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén County, as well as to Hegyköz139, which is Hungary’s small
region furthest in the north was lower than 200 in 2011, reflecting almost 20% decline since
2001. The ‘special nationality aspect’ of this village is that during the 2011 census, approximately
25% of the respondents also declared themselves as of Slovak nationality, i.e., the village
is (may be) an important ‘link’ also in the cross-border relations of Hungarians and Slovaks.
Contrary to Felsőregmec, it does not have a large Roma population, yet the ageing index and the
relatively high unemployment indicate that the village will slowly ‘be vacated’.


Births of EU-topia along the Hungarian-Slovakian borders 115
Alsóregmec Čerhov
County, Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén county, Košice region,
district Sátoraljaújhely district Trebišov district
Population, 2011 (persons) 183 819
Population changes, 2001-2011 (%) - 18 -1
Population of Hungarian nationality, 2011 (persons) 176 8
Population of Slovak nationality, 2011 (persons) 65 764
Aging index, 2011 (%) 258 68
Unemployment ratio 2011 (%) 23 28

Čerhov, which is only a stone throw away on the other side of Ronyva, which functions
as the border stream, belongs to the Trebišov district of Košice County and has much more
favourable demographic indicators. The size of its population is more than 4 times that of
Alsóregmec and stagnated between the last two censuses. It is clear that Slovak residents
are in the majority in the village, the ratio of residents of Hungarian nationality is lower than 1%.
Unemployment is also outstandingly high but, contrary to Alsóregmec, the population here
is becoming younger rather than getting older.140
The economic and social development history of Alsóregmec is closely connected
with the development of the surrounding larger settlements, initially of Hollóháza, which
is 20 km away, but during the recent decades clearly of Sátoraljaújhely, which is only
10 km away. Hegyköz is a region rich in agricultural traditions. The local Alsóregmec
cooperative was established at the beginning of the 1960s, and employed 30-40% of the local
residents of working age. At that time, more and more young people ‘plucked up courage’ to
look for a job in the developing industry. The factories or the nearby Sátoraljaújhely provided
jobs only ‘to residents of Bodrog Alley’ for a long time, while the ‘residents of Hegyköz’,
including those of Alsóregmec, initially worked as trained workers at the world-famous porcelain
factory of Hollóháza, which employed more than 1,000 people at a time, but currently gives
jobs only to just a hundred.141 As the number of Sátoraljaújhely factories increased and the
businesses grew, there was more demand for the work force of Hegyköz. The ‘local train’,
which carried industrial workers from the region to Sátoraljaújhely every day stopped at
approximately 2 km from Alsóregmec. The railway track still stretches to Cigánd, which is 45 km
away, parallel with the built cycle path, but it is no longer in use.

In the ‘glorious’ days of the North-Hungarian industry, a meat plant (slaughter house), a furniture
sheet factory, two shipyard suppliers, supplying primarily to Budapest, an iron industry factory, a
metal industry factory, precision mechanical works and a tobacco factory operated at the district

140 In the case of Čerhov, only publicly available information could be used because, despite multiple requests, the local
mayor did not agree to an interview and ‘did not wish to provide any information’.

116 Civitas Europica Centralis Foundation
seat. These days only the metal industry and tobacco factory, acquired by foreigners142, operate,
with much lower capacity and fewer employees. The place of the large socialist factories was
taken over by smaller, mainly multinational companies.143 The German-owned foundry
stands out from the multinational companies, to which workers are transported from Slovakia
and even from the Ukraine in order to satisfy the dynamically growing production demand.144
Consequently, at the moment Sátoraljaújhely is more the economic centre of attraction
of the Hungarian Hegyköz and Slovak Tokaj-hegyalja border region. On the Slovakian side,
industry begins at Košice, which is further away from Alsóregmec, at about 50 km along the
winding roads, an approximately one-hour drive from the Hollóháza-Eszkáros border crossing
point in the picturesque environment of Eperjes-Tokaj hills.

Consequently, most residents of Alsóregmec commute to the district centre and go
home only ‘to sleep’ during the week. There are also mainly iron industry small businesses,
each employing 15-20 people which are registered in Alsóregmec for more favourable tax
conditions, but pursue their actual activities at their sites in Sátoraljaújhely. Due to lack
of local educational and training institutions, as well as meaningful leisure time options, many
also moved to Sátoraljaújhely. Their number is so high that if suddenly all of them returned to
the village, ‘they would not even find a foothold’. However, contrary movements, i.e., people
moving out from the town to Alsóregmec, now fully equipped with public utilities, could
also be observed in the past few years. A few years ago the local properties were still
relatively cheap; a house with three bedrooms and all comforts cost HUF 4-5 million. However,
recently, the property prices have also slightly picked up there. Usually young families with
children moved out from Sátoraljaújhely, but there are also examples of ‘Hungarian families from
Košice’ buying a house. Many people are still deterred by the huge, even 2,000-3,000 m2
land belonging to the houses, which must be cultivated somehow. These days keeping
animals in the yard ‘is no longer a fashionable activity’. It is more important for young
people to be able to organise trips for the weekends, or have holidays far away from home in
the summer and there would be nobody who would substitute them in the animal farming tasks.
As people get older, they eat less and less meat. Despite its shrinking ratio, agriculture
still exists but these days the agricultural site in the boundary of the village is used by
an agricultural business registered in Mikóháza.145 Locally there is only public employment
organised by the local government, which gives an opportunity for those to start again who were
completely excluded from the primary labour market.

There is relatively little public information available about the economic characteristics of
Čerhov, which is 20 km from Trebišov. It is known that, just like Michaľany, it is situated

Births of EU-topia along the Hungarian-Slovakian borders 117
on the Košice-Čop railway line. It also has a famous wine cellar and the village defines
itself as the ‘gateway to the Tokaj wine region’.146 It has excellent natural geographic
characteristics. The ‘Latorica’ nature conservation unit, formed in 1990 on more than 15,000
hectares as Slovakia’s second largest consecutive protective park of flatland is situated
nearby. The Latorica nature conservation unit includes the lower sections of the rivers Latorica,
Laborc, Ondava, the dead branches and the related flood plain forests and meadows. The flood
plain forests, the wetland and marsh biota, the flood plains of Latorica and its tributaries as well
as the sand hills of Bodrog Alley provide a unique and individual image to the nature conservation
area. The district contains seven smaller protected natural areas, of which the most significant
are Hosszú-Tice and Nagy-tó. The central role of Čerhov in the micro-region is clearly
indicated by the fact that the primary school (1-9 years) providing education in Slovak
and operating with a kindergarten has almost 200 pupils. Children attend kindergarten
and school there not only from the village but also from further 4 surrounding villages. 20
teachers and 8 other employees work at the institution. The school consists of 2 buildings. One
of them is an older building, a castle from the 19th century and a new expanded part of the
building, which contains the majority of the classrooms.

The relationship between Alsóregmec and Čerhov has a history of approximately 30 years
and has been based primarily on cooperation in culture and sports so far. As an example, in
the ‘council’ system, which existed prior to the political change, people travelled from Alsóregmec
to the fair in Čerhov on a truck. The border guards and the finance guards did not really ‘mark the
border’ in those times and when the president of the local council indicated how many people
would travel, they did not even need a passport. Despite the relatively close cultural relations and
the fact that Alsóregmec is one of the main centres of the Slovak people living in Hungary,
establishing a direct road connection between Alsóregmec and Čerhov had not yet been
on the agenda until the governments of the two countries signed an agreement in 2014.
The local communities ‘were satisfied’ with establishing direct contact with each other by using
the border crossing point in Sátoraljaújhely and making approximately 12 km diversion. However,
taking into account the wider regional correlations and opportunities, the establishment of this
border crossing point has also become an important and ‘timely’ issue.

At a meeting in Košice, held approximately 3 years ago with the involvement of the local
governments directly involved in the joint Hungarian-Slovakian cross border transport infrastructure,
the two mayors marked two points where the state borders would be ‘crossed’ between
Alsóregmec and Čerhov. For Alsóregmec, the better solution would be to bring the road from
the direction of the local cemetery instead of the currently marked track because the areas to be
expropriated there belong to a meadow and not to a privately own land, and therefore acquisition by
the state would also be cheaper. However, with that solution the distance would be approximately


118 Civitas Europica Centralis Foundation
1 km longer on the other side than the currently marked route. It is also interesting that the ditch
by the road section on the Alsóregmec side used to be called a ‘tank trap’ because it was built
to stop the tanks off in World War I and World War II. At the moment, Stream Ronyva means
the country border between the two settlements. There is hardly any water in the stream
in the summers, but occasionally it floods, i.e., a bridge will also need to be constructed for
the road above the flood plain of Ronyva. At the moment there is no bridge on this section of the
stream which could be crossed either on foot or on a bicycle.

In Hungary, the total cost of the investment would be financed by the state because
the local government of a village of less than 200 residents without any local business tax
revenues does not have enough income to provide the own funds and pre-financing for such
large-scale developments or to cover the costs of expropriation. However, in Slovakia, there
is still no decision as to who will pick up the bills (in advance). It seems clear that even
though Čerhov is larger, it will still not be able to do so because the local government there does
not have enough income to finance the costs of the investment and the related expropriation.

The establishment of a traffic connection is important not only for the two settlements,
but also for joining the Slovakian ‘cul-de-sac’ villages (Veľká Tŕňa and Malá Tŕňa), which
are part of the Tokaj-hegyalja wine region (Vinohradníckaoblast’ Tokaj) starting from the

Births of EU-topia along the Hungarian-Slovakian borders 119
neighbourhood of Čerhov ‘into the circulation’. However, it also requires the reconstruction
of the secondary roads leading east from Čerhov. On the one hand, the tourism cooperation
between the Hungarian and Slovakian sides of the geographically uniform Tokaj wine
region could become stronger and the ‘marketing’ opportunities of the local small
producers could also improve. Having recognised that, the local government of Alsóregmec
developed the project concept by designing an open-air theatre behind the local cultural centre for
‘producer market days’ to be organised for small producers of the village and the cross-border
settlements selling the main agricultural produce of the border region (vegetable, fruit, wine).

With the new road, Alsóregmec can have new breakthrough opportunities which
can stop the process of ‘vacation’ of the settlement. Before a road was built between
the neighbouring Felsőregmec and Michaľany in Slovakia, Alsóregmec was also a cul-de-sac
settlement. Since the ‘border opened’ there after the joint access of the Schengen area,
new dimensions opened up for Alsóregmec too. A lot more people arrived from Slovakia
on the new road. There is hardly anybody who stays at home at the weekends. People target
primarily Végardó Bath in Sárospatak, 20 km from Alsóregmec147, go shopping in the
hypermarket in Sátoraljaújhely or use the good quality cycle path built on the Hungarian
side.148 The catering units in Hegyköz also generate a great deal of profit from the increased
cross border traffic. The regular passenger traffic between the two countries will also grow with
the new road, adding value to the local properties and ensures the survival of the village in the
long-term and ‘prevents it from dying off’. However, careful preparations must be made for the
project because by expropriating the land, the local government will make some local residents
angry, who will be even less satisfied if in the end the road is not constructed.

In this case a further increase in the border crossing points will also contribute to the
strengthening of the relationships between Hungarian and Slovak nationalities. Similarly
to other villages in Hegyköz, in the first half of the 18th century Alsóregmec lost almost the
whole of its population as a result of the Rákóczi Revolution. During the ‘re-population’
period, Ruthenian and Slovak families were added to the population, but Hungarians of Calvinist
religion also lived there.149 The signs in Cyrillic letters at a number of places in the area, including
Filkeháza 12 km away remind of the Ruthenian origin. There is also a Ruthenian minority self-
government in Mikóháza, which is only 3 km away and is the district clerk centre.150 During the
last census, approximately one-third of the local residents declared themselves to be of Slovak
nationality. Many have ‘dual identity’ which means that they are of ‘Hungarian nationality’
but consider themselves ‘to be Slovak by their native language. The local mayor, who has
Slovak ancestors and who learnt Slovak in the then active local primary school is also one of

120 Civitas Europica Centralis Foundation
them. His Slovak language skills provide great assistance not only to the village, but also to the
other settlements of the region in maintaining contact with Slovakia. He also provided a very useful
service when he intermediated in the dispute that developed when the mayor of Slovenské Nové
Mesto in Slovakia simply blocked the border crossing point shared with Sátoraljaújhely from the
car traffic with a flower bed immediately after the opening of the Schengen borders.

The local old people speak ‘hutorácki’, i.e., a half Hungarian half Slovak language.
These days there is no local school anymore, but children can still attend a school in
Sátoraljaújhely, where subjects are taught in Slovak, more specifically in ‘multiple
languages’.151 The Slovak minority self-government still functions locally, and, using support
received from the Hungarian State, pursues cultural and religious activities and organises
language courses in order to promote the preservation of Slovak identity and language. When
a Slovak language course is organised in Alsóregmec, the members of the Slovak minority
self-governments of the neighbouring villages can attend it free of charge. The Alsóregmec
‘Sztrapacska (Festival’ was held for the 10th time in 2016.152 At the same time, Alsóregmec
is only one of the ‘Slovak cultural centres’ in Zemplén. Rudabányácska, Kishuta,
Nagyhuta and Vágáshuta are also ‘still considered Slovak villages in Hungary’, but there is also
a considerable Slovak minority in Pálháza and Füzér. The Slovak population of Hollóháza
has grown significantly, but the situation is different there. Most of those people were not born
locally but, similarly to Dunakiliti and Hidasnémeti, ‘moved in’ and go back to work, mainly to
Košice after the accession to Schengen. These days there is one street in Hollóháza where all
the residents are Slovaks, recently moved across from Slovakia.153

Naturally, numerous examples may be brought for contrary movements of the population
from the south to the north. In Čerhov, Luhyňa and Michaľany villages, directly situated next to
each other there are a considerable number of Slovaks born in Hungary, and Slovaks who got
married and moved there. Alsóregmec has the closest cross border family relations with those
villages. The revitalisation of these relationships began in the 1960s. That was when the
borders began to ‘ease’, when the local minority self-government visited the neighbours and
performed a dance, when the Czechoslovak border guard let them cross the border without
any control as soon as he saw the sign Alsóregmec on the bus. They were, therefore, positively
discriminated for being Slovak, but of course there were other cases when they ‘proceeded
against’ each other. Given the Ruthenian roots, the majority of the people of Alsóregmec are
of Greek-Catholic religion (the village has a Greek-Catholic church), but in Čerhov, the Roman
Catholics are in majority. They organise joint alternating ‘Mary day celebrations’ in Alsóregmec
one year and in Čerhov the next.


Births of EU-topia along the Hungarian-Slovakian borders 121
Finally, Ferenc Kazinczy, who is primarily known as the ‘Hungarian linguistic innovator’
should also be mentioned from a number of aspects primarily because ‘his memorial park’
in Alsóregmec is the greatest attraction of the village at the moment. The poet-writer
came from the noble Kazinczy family that had extensive land in Abaúj and Zemplén and the most
famous of them, Kazinczy’s father, József Kazinczy made Alsóregmec the centre of the family
estate by building a mansion and a court. Presumably that is why the linguistic innovator spent
his most receptive young years in Alsóregmec and returned there from time to time after
visiting numerous places during his very ‘mobile’ life. He moved to Széphalom, which is just a
few kilometres away from Alsóregmec and which used to be a separate village but nowadays is
part of Sátoraljaújhely, at the age of 47 and lived there until he died at the age of 71. The name
Széphalom meaning ‘a nice hill’, where the memory of Kazinczy and the linguistic innovation
are kept in a ‘linguistic museum’ is associated with the name of the poet and writer in general
public knowledge. However, as time goes on, Alsóregmec can also reach its well-deserved
place in the increasingly stronger ‘Kazinczy cult’, e.g., as a result of the appreciation of the
region following the investment project planned jointly with Čerhov. In relation to challenges
of the movement of workers of our days it should be mentioned that our linguistic innovator
accepted the sacrifices of daily ‘commuting’ because ‘Kazinczy as a student attended ‘the
school of muses’ for ten years from 1769, on horse driven carts from Alsóregmec and that was
when he also noticed the nice hill in Kisbányácska, where he later built his house providing
him with an adequate residential environment for his work dedicated to the innovation of the
Hungarian language’.154

3.6. Springboards in the Bodrog Alley

Leaving the Košice - Miskolc ‘axis’ to the east in the direction of the triple border region
of Hungary, Slovakia and the Ukraine the social-economic development opportunities are
getting more and more hopeless. The river called ‘Bodrog’ both in Hungarian and in Slovak,
which originates at Latorica in Slovakia, then crosses the border at Felsőberecki and joining the
River Tisza at Tokaj155 identifies its own ‘living space’. The ‘Bodrog Alley’, a geographical
small region between the Rivers Bodrog and Tisza being a part of the Upper-Tisza area, is
considered one of the most arid regions in the Carpathian Basin. On the other hand, it has
unparalleled natural beauty with the river and its already dead branches, as well as varied
flora and fauna. It was an important trade route controlled by landowners’ centres for
many centuries. Visiting the region in 1847, Petőfi described the Bodrog Alley as ‘a beautiful
and rich country’ although the infrastructural shortcomings were obvious in his time too: ‘there is
no carriageway; we were just walking from village to village’.156


122 Civitas Europica Centralis Foundation
Towards the end of the second decade of the 21st century, you look in vain for the macro-
economic phenomena in the Bodrog Alley resulting from the economic upswing of the
two countries. No traces of prosperity can be felt outside an approximately 50 km attraction
area of Košice. On the contrary, the cross-border impact of the miserable situation in the
Zakarpatska Oblast region across the Ukrainian border is much stronger. In such a situation
any innovation including the planned cross-border public road developments represent
possible ‘springboards’ offering a way out of the ‘vicious circle’ of underdevelopment.

3.6.1. Pácin – Stražne

Pácin is located in Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén County about 100 km from the county seat (one
and half hours’ drive). The nearest city the county seat Cigánd is 13 km to the south-east, the next
being Sátoraljaújhely and Sárospatak less than 25 km to the west. In 2011, 6% of the population
had registered as belonging to the Roma ethnic minority. The approximately 1,500 population is
more or less stable and less aging compared to the national figures, the rate of unemployment is
close to the county and district average. Stražne in Slovakia belongs to the Trebišov district of the
Košice region. The village is relatively far both from Košice (approximately 80 km) and the district
centre (approximately 50 km); the nearest attraction centre at 12 km is Kral’ovský Chlmec to the
north-east, which is the most important settlement in the Bodrog Alley. The population of
Stražne is much lower than that of Pácin; the rate of the reduction of the population is higher,
while the ageing index is lower than in its Hungarian ‘counterpart’. The ratio of Hungarian national
minorities is over 90% and the rate of unemployment is extremely high: more than one-third of
the active population were unemployed at the time of the 2011 census.

Pácin Stražne
County, Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén county, Košice region,
district Cigánd district Trebišov district
Population, 2011 (persons) 1448 653
Population changes, 2001-2011 (%) -3 -6
Population of Hungarian nationality, 2011 (persons) 1325 596
Population of Slovak nationality, 2011 (persons) .. 51
Aging index, 2011 (%) 133 113
Unemployment ratio 2011 (%) 22 36

The name of Pácin sounds familiar for the history of the Hungarian-Slovakian cross-border
infrastructure development. Its mayor Attila Barati leading the local community from 1990 till his
death in September 2012 had been on a hunger strike for almost 2 weeks in July 1993 jointly
with the mayor of Vel’ký Kamenec in Slovakia to have a border post opened between the two Bodrog
Alley settlements divided by the border.157 Their campaign had been successful, so Pácin has had


Births of EU-topia along the Hungarian-Slovakian borders 123
direct public road connection to the Slovakian settlements of the Bodrog Alley via Vel’ký
Kamenec. However, there is no road to the north-east, towards Stražne, so the residents of the
two settlements can only reach their ‘neighbours’ via a 7-8 km detour through Vel’ký Kamenec.

Setting up direct public road connections between Pácin and Stražne had already been
on the agenda following the Schengen admission but before 2010. The first plans were
about a bicycle road to promote tourism in the Bodrog Alley, but it has not been implemented
due to the lack of money to the very day. New hope arose when the Prime Ministers of the two
countries concluded an agreement in 2014. The agreement was not about a bicycle road but
an approximately 6-meter wide, two-lane public road also suitable for small vans up to 3.5
tonnes. The municipality of Stražne – shouldering the costs – had its regional development
plan redesigned. Engineering and project management-level negotiations started. The plans also
included a small bridge, since the surroundings of the village Stražne are dominated by the Karcsa
‘stream’ – a remnant of the former bed of the River Tisza. It used to be a navigable stream in the
18th century (salt transports), but its bed has become fully silted up by now.158 The initial momentum,
however, seems to be slowing down. Although, several technical discussions took place (first at
Vel’ký Kamenec and then in Sátoraljaújhely and Košice), it seems now that ‘big policy’ backed out
of the initiative. The story is similar to what we have already mentioned in other aspects: while the
Hungarian government ‘made a commitment’ to cover its part of the costs required to implement
the INTERREG project, in Slovakia the competence has been delegated to county level, and now it
seems the municipality of the Košice region will not provide the necessary funding – despite several
rounds of negotiations – to build the side-road of about 2 km on the Slovakian and 0.5 km on the
Hungarian side. The 2014-2020 Hungarian-Slovakian INTERREG tender concepts to provide the
funding for further design and implementation has not been fully outlined yet.


124 Civitas Europica Centralis Foundation
Considering the current economic capabilities and public service capacities of the two
settlements, the Bodrog Alley will be deprived of another development opportunity in
tourism if the byway is not built. At Pácin the local government is currently the largest
employer due to an ‘expanded public works scheme’ with 70-80 people working as public
workers currently. Agriculture is dominant in the local private sector; there is one among
the agricultural entrepreneurs that employs a significant number of people. In addition, local
residents work at a sewing plant. However, more than half of those employed commute
daily primarily to Sátoraljaújhely and Sárospatak at 25-25 km each. Employment in other
countries either in Slovakia or in Western Europe is not typical at Pácin; the labour force is more
stationary tied to the settlement or the small region. On the other hand, the migration of
the labour force is more important at Stražne. At present, 15-20 people are known to travel
abroad every week/month to work, while it was only characteristic of 1-2 people 10 years ago.
What is more, mostly women travel, most of them to Austria, either to care for the sick
or elderly or to work in the catering industry. Men mostly find foreign employment at wood
processing plants in Slovenia or in Hungary.

The local economy at Stražne is based partly on a still functioning agricultural cooperative
employing about 20 and partly on a modern computer controlled (precision 2D) laser cutting
company employing 8-10 people.159 The latter has many orders from across the border, so
the byway in question would mean significant cost saving in terms of travel. The local
government can provide 14 people with jobs requiring different competencies including 4
people working at the kindergarten, while about 40 work as public workers. In addition, there
are a few small entrepreneurs in the village but they can only employ 1-2 people.

Building the byway would give a boost to the local real estate market in both settlements
which have been left out of the national boom of the past few years. You can buy a house
at Pácin from HUF 500 thousand to 6 million depending on the status of the property. Some new
buyers (fewer than 10) continue to live in the neighbouring Slovakia but spend their weekends
in their new houses at Pácin. Real estate prices are lower at Stražne, because the settlement is
relatively far both from the main road and the railway. You can get a detached house of
4-5 rooms for EUR 15 thousand; however, an investment of such size is unrealistic for many
people due to the high overhead costs compared to average incomes. There is no significant
demand from Hungary, so the average price of residential properties has been stagnant at
Stražne over the past years. On the other hand, the price of arable land has increased, to as
high as EUR 1,500 per hectare.

The difference in the capacity of basic public services is another factor to define the
trends in real estate prices and mobility. At Pácin there is a doctor’s surgery, a pharmacy,


Births of EU-topia along the Hungarian-Slovakian borders 125
an old people’s home, a kindergarten, a primary school160, a post office and several food
shops (in the building of the local government). Compared to that, there is only a kindergarten
at Stražne; there is even not even a primary school. Building a health centre and an old people’s
home is at the moment a plan for the future.

Both settlements can finance developments from tender sources, but minor innovation
only can be expected due to the required own funds and pre-financing. There were local
developments of the kindergarten (replacement of the boiler, refurbishment of the facade,
modernisation with solar cells) at Pácin from 2007 to 2013. At Stražne EU (and other external)
funds have been used over the past years to eliminate an illegal waste dump, to renew the local
kindergarten, to develop the ‘mortuary’, to set up an outdoors surveillance system and to renew
the local public park. Both settlements have experience with cross-border (INTERREG) projects
– although, not jointly. The local government of Pácin played an active part in a complex
water management project built on the Karcsa ‘stream’. Stražne - jointly with its Hungarian
twin settlement Sajóörs whose name can also be traced back to the Hungarian name Örs at the
time of the Hungarian conquest but which is over 100 km - set out a project concept aiming
at the utilisation of the Karcsa backwater by setting up a park for outdoor events. In
addition, they have plans for the period 2014-2020 to build a multi-functional playground, the
refurbishment of the building of the former customs office to be used by the local community,
to sell the former building of the border guard to an owner that would operate an old
people’s home in the future, as well as the elimination of further illegal waste dumps, building
pavements and refurbishing the village hall.

The planned byway may become an important but far not sufficient means to develop both
local and cross-border tourism. It will certainly have an impact on shopping tourism along
the border that is currently mostly from the direction of Slovakia. With respect of Stražne, the
mean drive is the slightly higher wages (at least in calculated in HUF), the higher prices due
to ‘rounding’ when the Euro was introduced, and the relatively moderate local supply (fewer
food shops). Due to the above factors, quite many people come to Hungary for their ‘big
shopping’ mainly to Sátoraljaújhely that is at a distance of 25 km using the border post
at Slovenske Nove Mesto; or to Sárospatak at 35 km using the Vel’ký Kamenec - Pácin
border post or turning into another direction to Kisvárda at 40 km. Local residents typically visit
Pácin and Nagyrozvágy to buy apples. The volume of shopping tourism in the opposite direction
is lower. From Hungary relatively many travel across Stražne to taste and buy the wines in the
wine cellars of Malý Horeš less than 10 km away.

In the future, tourism based on leisure opportunities may have a more important part to
play in developing the local economy and retaining the population in that way. The touristic


126 Civitas Europica Centralis Foundation
utilisation of the Karcsa Lake created from a backwater of the river Tisa, and the development
of cross-border tourism built on ‘water and wine’ has been on the agenda since 2000.161
If the planned byway is built, the distance between Cigánd and Kral’ovský Chlmec can be
reduced by approximately 10 km, and – according to the plans of the local government –
bird watching, as well as boarding and bathing can be built on the new ‘junction’. More people
would be trying to find an over 200-year-old stone well one-third of the village used to get
water from until the piped water network was built, which also gave the local folk song choir its
name (established in 2007).162

The current touristic offer of Pácin is partly built on the Karcsa Lake163, and partly on the
local castle. The building known as Mágochy Castle has been considered one of the most
significant buildings of the late renaissance in Hungary since 1987 and it is one of the
best historic buildings of the Bodrog Alley. András Mágochy, local landlord had it built in 1581,
in a period when the gentry had a high demand for residences that were at a safe distance from
the part of the country under Turkish rule (with their ‘blood-soaked battle fields’) but could also
satisfy the demands of comfort.164 Today the building hosts the Bodrog Alley Castle Museum
surrounded by a wooded park (‘Bárókert’) of about 20 hectares with a guesthouse for visitors.165

3.6.2. Nagyrozvágy – Vel’ký Horeš

Nagyrozvágy is a settlement from the ‘Árpád Age’ in Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén County, about
105 km northeast of Miskolc and about 15 km east of the district centre, Cigánd, which used
to be an ‘attachment’ to the Fort of Zemplén. It had become depopulated at the time of the Mongol
invasion, then large landowners had it re-settled and it burned down twice in the 19th century.166

Nagyrozvágy Vel’ký Horeš
County, Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén county, Košice region,
district Cigánd district Trebišov district
Population, 2011 (persons) 637 1048
Population changes, 2001-2011 (%) - 14 +4
Population of Hungarian nationality, 2011 (persons) 627 789
Population of Slovak nationality, 2011 (persons) .. 202
Aging index, 2011 (%) 191 85
Unemployment ratio 2011 (%) 26 36


Births of EU-topia along the Hungarian-Slovakian borders 127
Vel’ký Horeš is 80 km from the regional centre Košice, 50 km from the district centre
Trebišov and 5 km from Kral’ovský Chlmec. Most of its residents belong to the Hungarian minority
and to the Reformed Church; their ancestors traditionally dealt with farming and viticulture.167

The major demographic processes of the two settlements are quite different. The
population of Nagyrozvágy declined by 14% from 2001 to 2011 (by 26% from 1990), and almost
twice as many old as young residents were registered in 2011. On the other hand, the number of
the population at Vel’ký Horeš increased by 4% compared to 2001 (by 10% compared to 1990),
and its age composition shows the population getting younger. The rate of unemployment is
extremely high at both villages, particularly at Vel’ký Horeš.

In the past the two settlements were connected by a pedestrian road, but currently a
ditch along the borderline is a ‘natural barrier’, so the section is not passable with passenger
car or on a bike and it is difficult for pedestrians as well. Revitalisation was first mentioned
in 2006, when permit plans were prepared on both sides, and implementation of the
investment was included in the regional management plan of Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén County.
However, it failed because the Hungarian party backed out of the project before submitting


128 Civitas Europica Centralis Foundation
the application required for financing.168 In the following 4-5 years the new mayors of both
settlements (from 2010-2011) actively lobbied for the implementation of the completed plans,
but their efforts have not been successful yet.

If a way could be found out of the present ‘deadlock’, the resulting economic-social benefits
would go beyond the two villages. For instance, a large-scale health centre development has
been carried out in Cigánd, the Hungarian district centre. The new Bodrog Alley Small Region
Outpatients’ Surgery169 identifying itself as the ‘Health Centre of Bodrog Alley’ explicitly relies
on and expects to offer services to the residents in the Slovakian villages of the Bodrog Alley,
including Vel’ký Horeš, for whom a shorter travel distance – even by a few kilometres -
counts. Rails passengers along the border could also benefit. Vel’ký Horeš, unlike the
neighbouring Stražne and Malý Horeš (Malý Horeš) has its own railway station from where
Košice can be reached in one and a half, and the High Tatras (e.g., Poprád) in 3 hours.
Neighbouring Malý Horeš is mainly known for its line of wine cellars170, and the annual event
named ‘Acacia Fragrances – day of open cellars’.171 An ‘archaeological park’ from the Age of
Árpád is located on 15 hectares near Kisrozvágy next to Nagyrozvágy, where visitors can study
the way of life, personal effects and trades of their ancestors from the age of the Hungarian
conquest and the establishment of the Hungarian state.172

At the same time, the two settlements directly affected by the planned investment have
interesting sights. At Vel’ký Horeš a monument commemorating the local victims of World
War I erected originally in 1939 was restored in 2015 from local government funds.173 The
local Reformed Church is another historical site. Vel’ký Horeš has been the start and finish
of an international cycling race since 2015 that passes through several villages of the
Bodrog Alley, with competitors and visitors not only from Slovakia but also from Hungary and
Poland.174 At Nagyrozvágy there is another memorial erected in 1993 by the local residents
to commemorate the heroes and victims fallen in World War II.175 However, both villages
function more as ‘passage ways’ with no links to each other. There are not enough tourist
attractions and the local boarding capacities are insufficient. Shoppers from Slovakia do not
stop at the food shops in Nagyrozvágy, they rather continue their way along road 381 to
Cigánd or Kisvárda. If the planned shared byway is built, however, more people are expected
to stop at both villages to spend their leisure time or to do shopping.


Births of EU-topia along the Hungarian-Slovakian borders 129
Most residents of Vel’ký Horeš were gentry in old times whose houses looked different from
those of the serfs. They were more decorated and the courtyards were laid out in a special
way clearly indicating that ‘privileged’ families lived in them. Today the doorposts and the old
mansions may remind you of the past, but the residents feel noble only ‘in their soul’.176
These days welfare benefits are the only source of income for many people. Agriculture has
lost its income producing and population retaining role. The cooperative went bankrupt in
2003, and you cannot live on your backyard farms either due to low purchase prices, which
upset the residents. The situation is not much better at Kral’ovský Chlmec, which used to offer
industrial jobs, or at Čierna nad Tisou 20 km from Vel’ký Horeš near the Ukrainian border. The
village municipality is almost the only employer locally. There is a Hungarian and a Slovak
language primary school, a kindergarten and an old people’s home at the settlement. On
the other hand, the settlement joined an employment programme launched by the Slovak
government offering jobs for local residents in agriculture, which follows traditions and
matches the natural characteristics. At present 70-80 people are public workers. There are
only a few private enterprises employing typically a few people mostly in temporary arrangements
(‘day labourers’). Unlike other villages in the region (Bodrog Alley), daily commuting is not
typical. That would require quite high income from a job to cover a commuter’s additional costs
(clothes, travel, etc.). Many people rather struggle to survive at EUR 60-100 a month.

The more ambitious work in the flourishing construction industry. Quite many Hungarian
companies undertake minor repair or refurbishment (for instance insulation) jobs locally. On
the other hand, many have become fed up with not finding long-term jobs offering an
acceptable standard of life either locally or in the close region. Men typically accepted
farm jobs in Italy, while the women went to Austria and Great Britain to care for the sick
and the elderly. Young people in higher education typically try to find a job in the cities
(primarily Mihalovce, Košice or Bratislava where they studied, and they do not intend to
return home. Such type of mobility within Slovakia is hindered for others by the extremely low
real estate prices which have continued to decline over the past period. There are more and
more vacant houses and a major boom of the local real estate market is not expected
even if the planned byway is built.

It is of great value that two primary schools can be found locally with children from Malý
Horeš, Stražne, Vel’ký Kamenec or even Kral’ovský Chlmec and Slovenske Nové Mesto. The
village has not been allocated any EU sources over the past years, but it implemented small-scale
developments from lower amount government and Hungarian subsidies, such as the refurbishment of
the sports field, a community centre, the memorial sites mentioned and the local Reformed Church.
With respect to developing the local economy, the current mayor envisages opportunities in bio-
production, planting orchards and processing and drying the produce built on it.


130 Civitas Europica Centralis Foundation
At Nagyrozvágy, the lady-mayor returning to her parent village after spending years of
scientific research at Miskolc University is striving to liberate ‘local creative energies’. The
local government struggled with heavy debts in 2010, several service providers suspended
gas and power supplies to the public institutions due to their insolvency. Taking office, the new
mayor spent the first 2 years with ‘crisis management’; the village did not even have enough
funds to submit applications. Following consolidation by the central government, they
could start developments. A public works scheme was launched under which the local
government started plant growing on 5 hectares. This, on the one hand, provided raw
materials for the public kitchen and they also produced feed for the newly erected pig farm.
In another part of the programme, as the local sewing plant had wound up, they started to
produce flags and then overalls to provide jobs for the unemployed women. A little later, the
community of local craftsmen was transformed into a ‘social cooperative’ as a result of an EU
application. The range of products was expanded by pillow cases filled with lavender purchased
from Tihany. Market was also found for the products. Under another public works scheme, a
mill and a pasta plant were established processing wheat and flour produced locally.177 The
social cooperative has proved so successful that Nagyrozvágy became the venue of a two-day
conference on the topic with almost a hundred participants in 2015.178

The public works scheme and the social cooperative means that at present the local
government is the largest or almost the single local employer offering jobs to approximately
80 people. In addition, there are a few smaller, typically agricultural enterprises in the village. About
one-fifth of all people in employment do not work locally, but commute west to neighbouring
settlements in Hungary within 10-30 km, primarily to Pácin, Karcsa or Sátoraljaújhely that can
be reached along road 381, i.e. the direction of commuters is not towards the district centre
(Cigánd) in the south. A kindergarten, a primary school, a post office and a family doctor’s
surgery as well as an old people’s home are also available locally. Real estate prices have
increased slightly over the past years but no mass settlement has taken place from Slovakia
although the village is fully supplied with public utilities thanks to the developments of the past
years utilising Hungarian and/or EU funding. The largest investment (implemented from about
HUF 350 million) has been the establishment a sewage system for rainwater. The kindergarten,
the cultural centre and the village hall as well as the playground have been refurbished. A new
bus stop was erected, a memorial park of World War II was renewed to attract tourists, a water
wheel was built on the attached garden lake and the local football field received new lawn.179

Similarly to the Ipel Valley, a relatively high number of regional cooperation initiatives have
come into being over the past years – partly ‘coming from outside’ – trying to give a new impetus


Births of EU-topia along the Hungarian-Slovakian borders 131
to the Bodrog Alley that deserves a better lot. One of them is the Bodrog Alley Limited Liability
European Grouping Territorial Cooperation (EGTC) established in Miskolc in 2012, but
neither Vel’ký Horeš, nor Nagyrozvágy are members of it. In 2015 a ‘new interest protection and
interest enforcement organisation’ was formed with solely Slovakian members, the Association
for the Bodrog Alley with its seat at Kral’ovský Chlmec and Vel’ký Horeš also joined that.180

3.6.3. Dámóc – Biel

The Hungarian Dámóc is located on the ‘periphery of the periphery’, in the north-
eastern corner or the Lower-Bodrog Alley. It belongs to the Cigánd district of Borsod-
Abaúj-Zemplén County, the county centre is about 120 km (2 hours by car), while the district
centre is about 25 km away. The nearest city Záhony is about 20 km, but this important
traffic junction can only be reached from Dámóc via the Tisza ferry providing access from
Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén County (Zemplénagárd) and Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg County (Tuzsér).
The demographic and labour market indicators of Dámóc are tragic; they are almost the worst
among the settlements studied in our research. The number of population was only 362 in
2011, a decline of 17 compared to 2001 (and 23 compared to 1991). The population is ageing,
although their ageing index lags behind the average typical in the villages of the Bodrog Alley.
The rate of unemployment, however, is extremely high even by Bodrog Alley standards:
more than 50% of the active population was unemployed in 2011, less than one-fifth of
working age people were employed.

Dámóc Biel
County, Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén county, Košice region,
district Cigánd district Trebišov district
Population, 2011 (persons) 362 1474
Population changes, 2001-2011 (%) - 17 +9
Population of Hungarian nationality, 2011 (persons) 343 1036
Population of Slovak nationality, 2011 (persons) .. 366
Aging index, 2011 (%) 138 213
Unemployment ratio 2011 (%) 53 27

The major indicators of neighbouring Biel in the Trebišov district of the Košice region
in Slovakia are indications of a larger and more vital community. At the 2011 census
almost 1,500 people were registered and the population increased by 9 compared to 2001
(and by 17 compared to 1990). This increase of the population, however, cannot be maintained
due to ageing as there were twice as many elderly as young residents in 2011. The rate of
unemployment in Biel is more or less the same as the average in East-Slovakia.


132 Civitas Europica Centralis Foundation
At present, Dámóc and Biel are connected by a ‘dirt road’ which is practically
impassable by car. The first plans of improving public roads can be dated back to the time
when the two countries joined the Schengen area and enjoyed a high level of political
priority for some time. In Hungary, a government decree published in 2007 is still in effect.
It included two projects relating to Dámóc, a canal bridge in the external area of Pribeník and
the implementation of an approximately 1.5 km public road section confirmed in a ‘government
commitment’.181 To support inter-state plans at regional level, the investments were included in
the regional development plans of both counties in 2009, however, Biel was named as the
Slovakian ‘counterpart’ of Dámóc instead of Pribeník. The high-level technical designs and cost
estimations were completed in around 2015 thanks to the efforts of the Transport Development
Coordination Centre in Hungary, which has ceased to exist since, but no further steps were
taken.182 In a certain sense, the available plans have become obsolete by now. The initial
idea was to introduce a weight restriction of 3.5 tonnes, that is, a public road connection for
passenger traffic (passenger cars, bicycles and pedestrians). The significance of the concept,
however, was greatly undermined when in 2007 a public road border post was opened
between Zemplénagárd (5 km from Dámóc) and Vel’ké Trakany (4 km from Biel), that was
suitable for passenger traffic, reducing the distance between Dámóc and Biel to 10 km.


Births of EU-topia along the Hungarian-Slovakian borders 133
The real sense of the planned investment is its potential economic impact on the Hungarian
section of the Bodrog Alley. A truck terminal at the village of Dobrá 3 km from Biel, is closely
connected to the rail reloading station of Čierna nad Tisou, a building complex operated by
a rail transport company in majority government ownership183 with about 80% share of the rail
transport market of Slovakia. The planned road would join this terminal from the south, i.e., it would
bypass Biel. It would only exercise an economy boosting effect if it could also manage
cargo traffic, i.e., if there was no 3.5-tonne weight restriction. In this way, the infrastructure
conditions to combine public road and rail transport are given at Dobrá: goods transported
in lorries/truck from Záhony via Dámóc can be loaded to trains at Dobrá and the goods can
continue travelling from the Čierna nad Tisou railway station either to the west (Košice
- Bratislava), or to the east as far as Poland and back. Increased cargo traffic requires a
higher number of people, i.e., an important effect can be expected on the labour market. On the
other hand, there is not enough funding under the current SKHU INTERREG-programme
to build such a large capacity byway. So, the project is currently ‘dormant’, there are no
discussions by the local governments relating to the duties to be implemented.

The development of the Čierna nad Tisou logistics centre basically determines the
development of Hungarian or Ukrainian villages along the border including Biel. In the
village – similarly to other villages of the Bodrog Alley, agriculture used to be the traditional
source of income until the end of World War II. When the new Czechoslovak-Soviet border
was drawn up in 1946, neighbouring Čierna nad Tisou – upgraded to the rank of a town in
1969 - became the largest railway border crossing point of Slovakia.184 According to 1990
census figures, about one fourth of the population of Biel (about 300 people) worked in the
transportation and telecommunication industry; the ratio increased to 28%, about 400 people
by 2001. Naturally, the decline of rail freight enforced a ‘reorganisation’ of the Slovakian rail
freight company. Following a decision in 2013, goods transport continued to be under state
control but a number of related activities were outsourced to new subsidiary companies set
up by private investors.185 This partial privatisation had a negative impact on the labour
market of Čierna nad Tisou and its attraction area, but the railway company continues
to be the largest employer in the region. According to 2011 census figures, ‘warehousing
and transportation support activities’ (148 people) and ‘road and pipeline transportation’ (87
people) continue to be the most important employers of Biel residents at Čierna nad Tisou. They
are followed by ‘education’ (54 people) thanks to local capacities. Another company employing
Biel residents in high numbers is also involved in railway transportation (reshipment). It has
been present in the area since 2007 and has been developing dynamically.186 Applying
most modern technology in international respect it moves about 2.5 million tonnes of iron ore in

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its Čierna nad Tisou plant. In 2012 it was awarded the title ‘Second most dynamic company
in the East-Slovakian region’.

Some people, typically employees of small businesses, work at Kral’ovský Chlmec 10 km
away in the other direction, where the establishment of an industrial park is currently on
the agenda. The number of people working abroad long-term has somewhat increased
over the past years. The main target countries are Austria for people employed in the care
of the elderly and Great Britain for others who move together with their families. Biel
residents only work in Hungary infrequently and temporarily; commuters from Hungary
are not typical either. There are only a few small enterprises linked to agriculture and the food
industry to provide market-based jobs locally. The best known of them is a company referred to
as ‘the blueberry people’, employing local people seasonally on its land of about 3 hectares
producing apples and plums in addition to blueberries.187 The company also sell their blueberries
and apples in Hungary. In addition, there is one more local employer worth mentioning, it is a
pasta factory currently distributing in Slovakia only. The largest local employer at Biel is the
local government. At present 70-80 people work as public workers on jobs financed partly
from central government subsidies and (to a minor part) from applications.

In the period 2007 to 2013, the revitalisation of the village centre was implemented
from EU sources (building pavements, drainage ditches, etc.). The local government did not take
part in the previous INTERREG programme, but its sources were used for the restoration of the
Sennyei Castle and the surrounding ‘English park’, which was built in the 18th century by the
local landowner László Sennyei and is considered the number one attraction in the village.188 A
document available on the website of the local government offers details of the main components
of the economic and social development programme of the village for the period 2016 to 2022.
It lists improvement of local roads, new pavements, building a parking lot, improving the quality
of public roads, development of tourism, a bicycle road, building an amphitheatre, improving the
educational infrastructure by the insulation of the local primary school and the building of the local
government, building a school gym and a multi-functional playground, etc.189

The Biel management is planning expansion of the sewage network (at present about
70% of the residents are connected). Discharging rainwater is to be solved and designing a
bicycle road across several settlements is also planned. Biel is a member of the ‘Leader MAS’
programme set up to develop the small regions of the Bodrog Alley, which also includes the
town of Čierna nad Tisou in addition to 7 Bodrog Alley villages. The group can apply jointly
to implement different plans; currently they collaborate to build a bicycle road. Another group


Births of EU-topia along the Hungarian-Slovakian borders 135
termed ‘LATISA’ coined from the names of the rivers Latorica and Tisza was formed as part of the
Leader MAS group. It manages the bicycle road project as a result of which Biel, Čierna nad
Tisou, Tárkány and Zemplénagárd in Hungary would be connected by a bicycle road
and the same bicycle road would be linked to the byway shared with Dámóc allowing
access to the river Tisa by bikers. The development of the Sennyei Castle Park is intended
to be continued under a cross-border application by setting out walkways and planting trees.

There is a doctor’s surgery at Biel in the building shared with the local government, where
the doctor has hours once a week. On the other hand, the second largest Hungarian
language primary school of the Bodrog Alley with almost 200 children is located here. In
addition to different cultural and sports events, a fishpond attracts visitors from Hungary mainly
when anglers’ competitions are arranged. Quite many Biel residents go to Hungary to do their
shopping. Shopping tourism is greatly influenced by the current Forint-Euro rate, there are
always a high number of shoppers in Hungary on ‘market days’. In summer, people are willing
to travel to Kisvárda 40 km away, because they can combine shopping with bathing. For a
similar reason, Sátoraljaújhely and Sárospatak 40-50 km in the other direction are also popular
target cities as they are on the way back from the Végardó Spa of Sárospatak. The byway
shared with Dámóc and planned to be used for cargo traffic will have a beneficial effect on
local real estate prices, mainly because carrier companies will have to set up sites and
the increasing rate of employment may drive up prices. The investment has a potential
impact on the creation of jobs and reducing unemployment and the related investments
(e.g., development of bicycle road, restoration of the castle) forecast increased tourism on the
Slovakian side.

Still, the planned project is more important for Dámóc than for Biel by terminating the
decades-long economic-social deprivation of the settlement and the resulting impoverishment
and migration.

At Dámóc the local government is almost the only employer locally, there are fewer
than 20 people who do not work for it, and only 5 of them commute elsewhere daily. At
present about two-third of the active age population, about 60 people, work as public
workers. The rate of the Roma population increased to 35-40% from 8-10% 10-15 years
ago. You can buy houses very cheap at present, for instance a detached house of 70
square meters with water and gas supplies can be purchased for 500-600 thousand.
Building the new road could significantly drive real estate prices up in Dámóc. At present, there
are two ‘foreign’ families who own properties locally – they are from the Ukraine. One family
resides in the village, while the other purchased a property for investment and for the purpose
of ‘travelling abroad’.

136 Civitas Europica Centralis Foundation
There is an old people’s daytime centre (Old People’s Club) at Dámóc, where 4 nurses
work. The doctor has hours twice a week locally, while you have to travel to the neighbouring
Lácacséke (4 km away) – where the shared local government office is also located – to visit
the doctor. On the other hand, there is a stand-by and emergency service at Dámóc, as well
as a district nurse’s service. The willingness to migrate is increased by the fact that no primary
school operates in the village, local children attend kindergarten at Ricse, 10 km away and
Cigánd, while they go to school to the district centre.

The local government has no local tax income and the central grants (normative)
are insufficient even for the operation of welfare institutions. The local government
is unable to implement development projects lacking own funds or pre-financing. In the EU
development cycle until 2020 the only realistic priority might be the refurbishment of local public
buildings, modernisation of heating or the improvement of the ‘image of the village’. The largest
development of the previous period from 2007 to 2013 was the renewal of internal area roads
at a cost of about HUF 13 million.

Despite its miserable situation and hopeless outlook, Dámóc is a ‘good place’ of Europe,
the European Union. Its ‘Church of the Visitation’ looks more like a family house than the
house of God.190 You can visit its Israelite cemetery along a well-kept path if you want to see
the 38 tombs the locals take good care of. The part termed ‘Őrhegy farm’ is a fine place if you
want to rest, spend your leisure time sensibly or experience the atmosphere of the triple frontier
of Hungary-Slovakia-the Ukraine.191


Births of EU-topia along the Hungarian-Slovakian borders 137
4. Utopian forecasts
What can be concluded from case studies of Hungarian-Slovakian border-settlement pairs
on the development of transport connections described in Chapter 3? If ‘bottom-up’ initiatives
based on individual and community needs ‘meet with’ political (policy) goals and realities,
in what areas can the living conditions be better in those settlements and their immediate area
where Hungary and Slovakia, with EU assistance, jointly plan to construct and renovate
bridges, roads, ferries?

Given the diversity and variety of social needs, these opportunities cannot be considered
‘generally’, but individually in the cases of settlements directly affected. Using an
‘innovation approach’, instead of ‘going back to the past’ (‘these bridges, roads are necessary,
because centuries ago it happened that…’) one should look into the future. However, the
future limited by a number of ‘framework conditions’ is uncertain, consequently forecasts are
always ‘speculative’ and often ‘utopian’. Yet, from a ‘what if ...’ aspects, using a declaring
statement mode instead of conditional one, future-oriented ‘forecasts being utopian’ under
present circumstances are being formulated by settlements.

The Danube Bridge, opened to pedestrian and bicycle traffic between Dunakiliti and
Dobrohošť, plays an important role in the free movements of labour and services within the
‘golden economic triangle’ of Vienna-Bratislava-Győr. It strengthens the relationship between
Bratislava and Győr agglomerations. The bridge has got mainly a tourism function, but in the case
of Dobrohošť it has eliminated the settlement’s former isolation from the outside world. It contributes
to the strengthening of the economic, social and cultural relations between the Szigetköz and the
Žitný ostrov in Slovakia. As a consequence of this, a totally ‘mixed’ population, mainly of Hungarian
and Slovakian nationalities and native-speakers, live in the border region, but with its appreciation,
it is also increasingly attractive for Austrian Germans. Thus, bi- or trilingualism is absolutely
natural ‘on a day to day basis’ (in schools, healthcare institutions, offices, shops). The bridge
is a symbol of deepening ‘division of labour’ between Bratislava and Győr. There are more
industrial jobs in Bratislava and its surroundings, while at the Hungarian side of the bridge the
quality level and labour demand of market services are higher. The management of cross-border
education, health and disaster services is mainly done from Győr.

The newly established ferry line between Neszmély and Radvaň nad Dunajom plays a
significant role in the tourism along the Danube, and relieves the cargo traffic between the two
countries with complementing the Danube bridges between Komárom and Komárno as
well as Esztergom and Štúrovo. The two settlements jointly offer tourism opportunities: the
‘aquapark’ and related services in Radvaň nad Dunajom located in one of the most beautiful
parts of the Danube, while in Neszmély, the wine-cellars having become world-famous and the

138 Civitas Europica Centralis Foundation
‘ferry folk museum’ symbolizing the closeness of the two settlements are attracting more and
more visitors. the Eurovelo-6 international bicycle route reaches Neszmély and also leads to
the ferry terminal. Thanks to the services (further) developed on the basis of the joint ferry line,
the ‘bathing places’ of the Tatabánya Basin, which had been completely demolished by
the meaningless industrialization of the second half of the 20th century, are once again

With the connection of settlements along the Ipel River with new bridges and their
associated by-ways unprecedented opportunities have been made possible. The Ipel
bridge between Ipolydamásd and Chľaba, led by ‘engine-driver-coordinator’ mayors,
belonging to the ‘Lower-Ipel’, not only friendships and family relations formerly limited to
common carnival celebrations were restored, but it could be managed to stop the entire
depopulation, ‘depletion’ of the border region. After all, the bridge has created a chance for
the two settlements and their immediate neighbourhood to play an important role in tourism
development of the Danube Bend. In this section of the Danube, during the whole year
one can ride by car, by bike, not only through the Megyeri bridge in Budapest and the
Mária Valéria bridge of Esztergom-Štúrovo but also through the bridge between Ipolydamásd
and Chľaba. With the bridge, the Eurovelo-6 international bicycle route now does not stop
at Szob. However, the role of the two settlements did not grow in ‘transit-tourism’ only. More
and more people are exploring the renovated ‘Damásd Castle’, and the guest turnover of
the Kováčov recreation area located in the picturesque ‘Burda’ natural reserve area,
directly adjacent to Chľaba and being only ‘an arm’s length away’ from the Štúrovo thermal
bath and the basilica of Esztergom has also increased. As spillover effects, the local economies,
namely the viticulture, vineyards (built also on ‘hole cellars’ being local curiosities) and related
hospitality services in Chľaba are developing, furthermore, in Ipolydamásd, cultivation and
sales of oyster mushrooms ‘grown out’ (made into ‘market-based’ from) public employment
program provide more and more people for local livelihood. The new ‘gateway’ made it
easier to get to workplaces in Esztergom, Ipolytölgyes and Štúrovo, as well.

Overall, however, new cooperation and population-retaining opportunities have been
opened in public services. With the joint development of ‘twilight economy’ based on the
silence and natural features of the Lower Ipel, a ‘cross-border network of elderly people’s
homes’ has been created. On the Slovakian side, day-time care is more advanced, while
on the Hungarian side the capacity and service-level of residential institutions are
higher. The supply base of specialists is mainly provided by the ‘social services’ trainings
of the secondary school in Szob. In Kováčov holiday resort the availability of medical and
other non-medical services (e.g hairdresser, manicure-pedicure, massage) has been solved
by Hungarian service providers. Chľaba located at the mouth of the Danube and Ipel rivers, is
never again blocked from the outside world during floods, its residents can surely rely on

Births of EU-topia along the Hungarian-Slovakian borders 139
flood protection assistance coming through the joint bridge with Ipolydamasd, as well
as on health care, fire protection and other public services managed from the other
side of the bank. At the bridgehead in Chľaba there is still a kindergarten where children
learn both Hungarian and Slovakian rhymes, and in good weather they cross the bridge to play
together with their mates educated in the kindergarten in Ipolydamásd.

Between Tésa and Vyškovce nad Ipľom, the renovation of a secondary road connected
with an already existing Ipel bridge but that had become unusable due to the growing traffic flow
between the two countries following the joint Schengen accession. The revitalization of the
common road brought the two settlements into the whole development of the Lower-
Ipel region. Tésa village has remained an island of ‘peace and tranquility’, providing a
shelter for people escaping from the ‘harmful side-effects of urbanization’. Vyškovce nad Ipľom
could permanently get out of the ‘deadly embrace’ of the Ipel that had resulted from the
earlier artificial regulation of the river. The new secondary road has appreciated its role, in
conjunction with the resurgence of the nearby town of Šahy. More and more young families
from Hungary are buying local real estates and starting to engage in such agricultural,
service or commercial activities that can also meet the needs of daily passengers commuting
from the neighbouring Tésa to Vyškovce nad Ipľom.

The bridges built along the Middle-Ipel have initiated or reinforced innovative processes that
have helped to foster mobility and deep economic division of labour based on mobility,
between settlements and areas located on the two sides of the river. The common bridge of
Drégelypalánk and Ipeľské Predmostie contributes to that the workforce from the Slovakian
settlements more affected by unemployment in the border region, as daily commuters, can
reach more easily the industrial plants in Drégelypalánk, Vác and around Budapest.
Nevertheless, the ‘movement’ is not one-way: more and more agribusinesses in Hungary
recognize the opportunities for cooperation opened up by the new bridge. On the one hand, the
‘sharing’ of mean of production and know-how (‘sharing agro-economy’) is strengthening and,
on the other hand, by acquiring the local ‘unwritten rules’, more and more Hungarian agricultural
entrepreneurs have established agricultural firms in Ipeľské Predmostie and its surrounding area,
and these firms employ agro-workers commuting from Hungary, and takes part in the day-to-
day food supply of the border region. In Drégelypalánk the ‘berry’ fruit production, while in
Ipeľské Predmostie the vegetable especially pumpkin cultivation, live their renaissance. As
an indirect effect of the bridge, aligned with a wider regional transport development concept, the
railway transport connection on a 6.5 km stretch between Drégelypalánk and Šahy was restored,
resulting that the distance between Budapest and the ski paradises of the Slovakian High Tatras
can be also done in 5 hours. The building at the Slovakian head of the common bridge, which was
formerly functioned as ‘barracks’, has not got a border guard function anymore, but now it also
hosts an exhibition of togetherness and common memories of the two settlements.

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The Ipel bridge, reconstructed between Újkóvár being settlement part of Balassagyarmat
and Koláre in Slovakia, has further strengthened the economic, health and educational
role of Balassagyarmat in the border region. On the one hand, it relieves the common
bridge of the city with Slovenské Ďarmoty, which had been already existed and being in the
direction shown by a statue of Saint John of Nepomuk in a roundabout. On the other hand, it
has greatly appreciated the Western ‘industrial area’ of Balassagyarmat, where settling
companies have created jobs that are attractive also to people living in the Kóvár and its
surroundings, mainly to ethnic Hungarians living in Slovakia, who were previously poorly
living, and who finally have not opted for emigration.

The restoration of the Ipel bridge of Őrhalom and Vrbovka has realized the social
‘necessity of togetherness’, which is perhaps the strongest among the examined relationships.
Today already not a wooden bridge, but a bridge being suitable for pedestrian, bicycle and car
traffic as well and being usable the whole year (even during the ‘winter season’) connects the
local communities that has celebrated the bridge-warming event dressed in a very similar folk
costume, and that are led by ‘innovative-autonomous’ mayors. In connection with the bridge
investment, in Vrbovka a country-house was created that, in a close cooperation with the
‘tourism center’ of Őrhalom, presents, using modern technologies, the natural, cultural and
historical memories of the entire Ipel Valley. With the common bridge, the ‘cul-de-sac’ nature
of Vrbovka has been permanently eliminated. It has been succeeded to keep numerous local,
mostly Hungarian-speaking residents in their motherland. Most of them are more likely to
commute to workplaces in Hungary than to move away ‘leaving everything behind’. The
schools of both villages have been remained, and some of the non-Romani children born
in Őrhalom go to school no longer to Balassagyarmat and Szécsény, but to Vrbovka where
they can learn not only Hungarian but also basic Slovak language. At the same time, the
‘segregated’ nature of the school in Őrhalom was also eliminated, where Romani and
non-Romani children, including an increasing number of them born in Slovakia, study together.
The growth of tourism potential and the Hungarian-Slovakian integration in elementary
school education have done a good turn for the ‘settlement marketing’ of Őrhalom, which
was heavily abolished by the previous wave of criminal activities. As a result, an entrepreneur
from Budapest has seen an interest in re-launching traditional potato cultivation in the
region. Owing to the co-operation between the two parishioners, the congregations of the
two settlements have also been ‘locked together’, the Catholics get together for a common
mass in Őrhalom on one of the Sundays, while on the other Sundays they do it in Vrbovka.

There has been a direct local economic development and job-creating effect of the
implementation of the bridge across the Ipel at Hugyag and Kováčovce. Utilizing the favourable
infrastructural conditions created by the bridge as well as other advantageous pre-existing features,
a pet food company appeared in both settlements. First, the enterprise mainly manufactures

Births of EU-topia along the Hungarian-Slovakian borders 141
agricultural products produced in the border region, second, it employs local people, mainly
of gypsy minorities, who had been ‘bound to the clods of the cul-de-sac settlement’ of Hugyag
before the reconstruction of the bridge, and third, it exploits the more favourable trading and
tax conditions offered by Slovakia. Kováčovce in Slovakia now has already got two Ipel bridges.
The ‘Katalin Bridge’ remembering Katalin Molnár, which had previously been handed over,
connects the village with the town of Szécsény in Hungary. The common bridge with Hugyag,
however, perfoms other functions; it mainly dissolves Hugyag’s closure with ‘northern opening’,
and realizes the mentioned economic development effects. Nevertheless, the new bridge has
opened not only a new ‘gateway’ on the traditional Budapest-Košice trade route, but has
also directed public attention to the horse breeding traditions of Kováčovce and its region.
In the village there is a ‘horse breeding and equestrian-tourism complex’, which was established
by ‘homecoming’ entrepreneurs who had been learning the cricks of the service development
as former employees in Austria, and who can also rely on the basis of professionals provided
by the agricultural secondary school in Szécsény. Young people gather at the joint bridge at
weekends, and after decades again they go to the neighbourhood to ‘set up babies’ and
to ‘get fellows’. The two settlements play an important role in the maintenance of the Krúdy
family’s cult, through the regular exhibition space, readers’ evenings held in literature memorial
house operated jointly by the two local governments and inaugurated by the local ‘innovative-
autonomous’ mayors, and summer literature camps.

The economic and social development of the settlements belonging to the Gemer region
was also promoted by new joint crossings between the Hungarian and the Slovakian borders,
in which it has also played a significant role that most of the settlement leaders ‘gave up’ their
previous ‘accepting-resigning’ attitude and ‘took the leads’. With the reconstruction of the joint
by-way between Zabar known as the ‘coldest settlement’ of Hungary and the Slovakian
Petrovce, the route between Eger and Zvolen has been shortened, which has provided new
impulses for the cross-border, two-way labour flows, as well as the development of tourism
based on advantages of colder climate. The road between Susa settlement-part of
Ózd and the Slovakian Janice has contributed to the growth in the north of the economic
and labour catchment area of ​​Ózd living its heyday again. From Janice that could be
formerly characterized by ‘third-world’ states, extremely deep poverty and doubtfulness,
many people go to work in factories in Oz on the new road; it has been succeeded to stop
the process of ‘ghettoization’, and to create the basic ‘humane’ living conditions for some
families living in Janice. In the case of Gömörszőlős and Neporadza, the two villages can
complement each other’s abilities and capacities with the common road. Gömörszőlős
had already been a forerunner in ‘ecological tourism’, the physical boundaries of which
have been further expanded in the north. At the same time in Neporadza, symbolically
in the building of former border guard barracks, there is a social home, the accessibility
of which, and the improvement of services also used by people born in Hungary were

142 Civitas Europica Centralis Foundation
also affected positively by the development of infrastructural features of the village and the
increased permeability of the border.

The economic and labour market pulling effect of the town of Košice in Slovakia on
Hungarian settlements has been further strengthened thanks to the reconstructed transport
connections. For Hidvégardó being (one of) the ‘middle of the world’ since the Schengen
accession in 2007 and led by an engine-driver-coordinator’’ type of mayor a ‘labour-gateway’
has been opened via Chorvátý, for day-to-day commuters going from Hungary to Slovakian
workplaces offered by prosperous agricultural cooperatives. The renewal and expansion to
Slovakia of the railway line that had been terminated at Tornanádaska have also increased
the regional role of Hidvégardó. Chorvátý is still a small settlement, functioning mainly as a
‘holiday village’, where, however, not only the joint by-way with Hidvégardó but also the internal
roads of the settlement have been renovated. Mainly in the weekends the common road with
Hidvégardó is quite ‘noisy’, thanks to the youngsters cycling and roller skating in the area. In
addition to the ‘social benefits’, the results of economic ‘micro-integration’ are not negligible
either; especially the competitiveness of the dairy milk and bakery in Hidvégardó have
increased as a result of the development of cross-border transport infrastructure. Hidvégardó
provides basic (health, social) public services for people living in Chorvátý; and even
children born in Slovakia can be educated in the re-opened, already bilingual primary
school of Hidvégardó.

The common road in the case of Hidasnémeti and Perín-Chym, the latter led by an
’innovative-autonomous’ mayor, did not primarily have economic-labour market effects. Indeed,
both settlements (Hidasnémeti through the border crossing of Tornyosnémeti) were closely
linked even before to the Kechnec industrial park and the economy of Košice. The main
achievement of the joint investment is that it has called local and regional decision-makers’
attention to the need to create the human and material conditions of ‘bilingual everyday
life’ (education, health, local government services). Finally, the road connecting the two
settlements has been only opened for pedestrian and bicycle traffic, with the latter these two
settlements have been linked to the ‘border crossing bicycle network’ of Abauj-Zemplen.
The boundaries of the villages of Felsőregmec and Michaľany, stucked between the Hegyköz
and the Tokaj wine-region, had been already inter-twined with a narrow road. By extending it
and by continuing it to Michaľany with the necessary investment, it has been possible to create
the basic chances of life for people living in Felsőregmec who had been formerly living in
extremely deep poverty. Based on vegetables produced under the local public employment
program, it has been succeeded in creating a ‘local product market’ that provides income for
many families for maintaining a ‘human’ living environment. Michaľany’s role has continued to
grow in international bicycle race tourism. The common road of Alsóregmec and Čerhov, at the
same time, mainly links the Slovakian ’cul-de-sac’ villages of the Tokaj wine-region to the

Births of EU-topia along the Hungarian-Slovakian borders 143
increasingly vital cross-border economic circulation. In addition, Alsóregmec is now playing a daily
role in strengthening Slovakian-Slovakian relations, mainly through significant Slovakian ethnic
minorities living in Alsóregmec. The joint investment further focused public attention on the role of
Alsóregmec led an ‘engine-driver-coordinator’ in maintenance of the ‘Kazinczy cult’.

Also in the Bodrog Alley, the two sides of the borders have successfully ‘lobbyed’ for the
establishment of common transport links to meet the real social needs of ‘coalescence’
without borders. The new common road between Pácin and Stražne has primarily launched
the realization of tourism development opportunities based on common natural geographic
features of Lake Karcsa, meaning the symbiosis of wine and water, and has launched the joint
exploitation of different capacities in basic public (health, education, social) services. In the
case of the road between Nagyrozvágy and Vel’ký Horeš, the effects can be defined in a
wider geographic area, in strengthening the role of the Cigánd district center and in the
possibility of easier connection to the Slovakian railway network. In the relation of Dámóc
and Biel, the positive effects of the common road can be felt mainly on the Hungarian side.
Dámóc, which had been formerly almost completely enclosed and its surroundings are directly
linked to the logistic node at Čierna nad Tisou, which has greatly appreciated the previously
depressed border area in the Eastern (in relation with Ukraine) and Northern (towards Poland)
foreign economic relations.

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5. Inspirations
According to the related article of the Wikipedia, ‘utopia means a human society that
is mainly a future entity being at a near-perfect development level, and literary work
describing such a society. ... The origin of the word is Greek. The term ‘utopia’ comes from
combining two Greek words, “no” (ou - ου) and ‘earth / locality’ (toposz - τόπος), meaning ‘no-
land’ or ‘nowhere place’. The word was made in such a way that it can be similar to eutopia
(meaning: good place). In the original context, the word had both meanings.’192

The Hungarian-Slovakian settlement pairs examined during the research are such
‘EU-topia’, i.e ‘good places’ of the European Union where, after decades of isolation,
with exploitation of the legal and institutional-financial framework provided by the European
Union, the two governments of the countries have decided to implement joint transport
infrastructure development projects the realization of which will result that the directly
affected settlements

•  will be even better places for living, working, hiking;
•  are on ‘some-day’ important north-south direction of trade routes;
•  where the physical possibilities for human relationships had been ceased not as
a consequence of world wars but during the decades of socialism or even after
the millennium.

The potential impacts that could be derived from colourful, micro-level ‘development
stories’ are, however, small, because they are not about common highways, railways or
airports. At the same time, the economic and social benefits can be interpreted not only in
the settlements directly concerned, but also at micro-regional, district levels. The increase
in demand for ‘public services’ (education, health, disaster management, public transport,
etc.) is mainly manifested at the administrative units of the district centres. In an even wider
interpretation space-framework, new transportation connections have appreciated not only
Southern Slovakia and Northern Hungary, but, with the creation of win-win situations, the
capitals (Bratislava, Budapest) as well as further economic-tourism centres (High Tatras,
Szeged) that are also interested in boosting north-south European relations. Consequently,
urban, county and regional level decision-makers having greater political and lobbying
power also have the interest in building transport links between these small settlements.

As a non-exhaustive list, with the selection of some settlement (pairs), by the following
typology, the participants of the research make some ‘recommendations’ for organising some
possible local public services.


Births of EU-topia along the Hungarian-Slovakian borders 145
Functional area Recommended areas, actions of development of public services
Dunakiliti, Balassagyarmat, Ózd, Hidvégardó, Hidasnémeti -> ensuring the availability of local (municipal,
General public services
governmental local office) administration services in Slovak language.
Dunakiliti, Dobrohošt’, Ipolydamásd, Chl’aba, Tésa, Vyškovce nad Ipl’om, Drégelypalánk, Ipel’ské Predmos-
Public order and safety tie, Őrhalom, Vrbovka, Hugyag, Kováčovce, Ózd, Janice, Gömörszőlős, Neporadza, Hidvégardó, Chorvátý,
Nagyrozvágy, Vel’ký Horeš -> construction of a common disaster prevention (flood and fire) alarm system.
Neszmély, Radvaň nad Dunajom, Ipolydamásd, Chl’aba, Drégelypalánk, Ipel’ské Predmostie, Őrhalom,
Vrbovka, Hugyag, Kováčovce, Nagyrozvágy, Vel’ký Horeš -> joint operation of public transport;
Economic affairs (exclu- Tésa, Vyškovce nad Ipl’om, Drégelypalánk, Ipel’ské Predmostie, Őrhalom, Vrbovka, Zabar, Petrovce, Gö-
ded: agriculture…) mörszőlős, Neporadza, Felsőregmec, Michal’any, Alsóregmec, Čerhov -> building and operating local
product markets;
Hugyag, Kováčovce, Dámóc, Biel -> common economic development
Agriculture, forestry, Tésa, Vyškovce nad Ipl’om, Drégelypalánk, Ipel’ské Predmostie -> agricultural integration (e.g joint asset
fishing & hunting use)
Ipolydamásd, Chl’aba, Balassagyarmat, Pácin, Strážne, Ózd, Hidvégardó -> creating opportunities for
getting health services (general practice, specialist practicw, hospitals, pharmacy)
Dunakiliti, Dobrohošt’, Neszmély, Radvaň nad Dunajom, Őrhalom, Vrbovka, Pácin, Strážne ->joint tourism
Recreation, culture, and
Alsóregmec -> cultivation of traditions of Slovaks living in Hungary
Pre-primary, primary and Dunakiliti, Dobrohošt’, Ipolydamásd, Chl’aba, Őrhalom, Vrbovka, Pácin, Strážne, -> strengthening multilin-
secondary education gualism and capacity-sharing of primary schools
Ipolydamásd, Chl’aba, Gömörszőlős, Neporadza, Pácin, Strážne -> developing and maintaining residential
Social protection
institutions of those in need

‘Coordination’ of planned investments, the organization of new public services requires ‘local
forces’ to increase the competencies and resources of local government, and the restoration
of local and professional ‘autonomies’.

Although the Interreg V-A Slovakia-Hungary Cooperation Program 2014-2020 is still in
its mid-term, but it is already apparent that its funding sources are limited, and are not enough
to realize all the planned transport infrastructure development projects. Thus, it is proposed to
create the necessary funding at intergovernmental level, for example by widening the
intervention areas and project funding resources of the International Visegrad Fund.

The investments have, of course, political risks too, mainly related to land acquisition,
environment and nature protection, individual / family aspects. But remember those ‘ancient’
families who gave ‘innovators” to the examined border regions who had ensured not only
‘money, horse and weapons’, but also made decisions resulted in local conflicts in order
to promote the development of their ‘possessions’. After the Foglári, Jankovich, Kóváry,
Drexler, Pekáry, Jénei, Eszterházy, Perényi, Krúdy and Kazinczy, who will be ‘21. century local
heroes’, whose posterity will be thankful?

146 Civitas Europica Centralis Foundation
A Civitas Europica Centralis (CEC) Alapítvány 1996-ban alakult közhasznú szervezet. A közép-ke-
let-európai térségben élő kisebbségek helyzetét vizsgálja, különös tekintettel az európai integráció
adta lehetőségekre. A CEC projekteket szervez, és részt vesz olyan kutatásokban, melyek célja annak
vizsgálata, hogy miként lehet meghaladni a 20. század azon traumáit, melyek a közép-kelet-európai
térség modernizációját megszakították, illetve, hogy miként lehet integrált, modern társadalmak kialaku-
lását elősegíteni. Mindezek érdekében:

– nemzetközi összehasonlító kutatást folytat a történelmi egyházak szerepének vizsgálatára, elsősorban
a két világháború közötti antiszemitizmusban, valamint a Holocaustban, különös tekintettel az erősödő
etnicizmusra, nacionalizmusokra, a Holocaust tagadás feléledő jelenségére;
– közre kíván működni a határmenti régiók együttműködésében, revitalizálásában (European Grouping of
Territorial Cooperation), roma felzárkóztatási programokban;
– vizsgálja az iszlám hatását a magyarországi politikára Magyarországon;
– napi rendszerességgel sajtófigyelő szolgálatot lát el kisebbségi kérdéskörben.

A CEC az Európai Összehasonlító Kisebbségkutatások Közalapítvány szellemi örökösének, tevékenysé-
ge, kutatási projektjei folytatójának tekinti magát.

The Civitas Europica Centralis (CEC) Foundation is a public benefit organization founded in 1996. It exam-
ines the situation of minorities living in the Central and Eastern European region, having regard to the pos-
sibilities mainly offered by the EU integration. The CEC organizes and participates in research projects
aiming at the examination of the possibilities for coping with the traumas of the 20th century which had
interrupted the Central and Eastern European region’s modernization, and the possibilities for creating
integrated and modern societies. For these:

– it carries out an international comparative research examining the role of the historical churches in the
anti-Semitism, mainly between the two world wars and in the Holocaust, paying special attention to
growing ethicise and nationalisms, and intensifying phenomena of Holocaust denial;
– it wishes to contribute to cooperation and revitalization of border regions (European Grouping of Territo-
rial Cooperation), and to development programs of the Roma population;
– it examines the effects of the Islam on the politics in Hungary;
– it observes daily press in the topic of minorities.

The CEC defines itself as the intellectual successor of the Public Foundation for European Comparative
Minority Research, and continues its activities and research projects.

© Civitas Europica Centralis Foundation, 2017

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