NATO expects swift resolution to Hungary radar location dispute
NATO expects Hungary to come to a decision soon on the building of a long delayed radar facility, Xinhua reported.
Admiral Giampaolo Di Paola, president of NATO's Military Committee, said on Friday in Budapest after meeting with leading Hungarian military officials and politicians, that he was "110 percent satisfied" Hungary would resolve the question of where the radar will be located.
Chief of Staff of the Hungarian military Tibor Benko said after meeting Di Paola that there was no question that Hungary needs such a radar. "Building radars is in our national interest", Benko said. "These radars are also used in peacetime for purposes such as support for civil aviation". Defense Minister Csaba Hende told Hungarian television on Thursday however that all options were still being considered.
The controversial plan to build the NATO radar has been stalled since 2001 but now looks to be finally close to being realized. The radar was originally destined for successive locations which were rejected on environmental grounds. A Budapest newspaper reported on Tuesday that Harmashegy in the Mecsek Hills in southern Hungary is now the most favored site citing a report by Hungary's environmental ombudsman. Another option being considered is to move the radar to Slovenia while Hungary would supply aircraft to patrol Slovenian airspace in exchange.
Preparations for building the radar were originally made in 2001 and the construction license was issued during the previous Fidesz government in 2002. But a plan to site the radar at Zengo Hill in southern Hungary was foiled after public protests on environmental grounds, and because local councils and residents were not consulted during the licensing procedure. Hungary's environmentally conscious president, Laszlo Solyom, also personally protested against the building of the radar on Zengo Hill.
After a review requested by then Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany, Tubes Hill, close to Pecs in southern Hungary, was selected as a new location in 2005. NATO approved the new site in May 2006 but the city of Pecs launched a successful appeal against the construction license issued by the Defense Ministry. The Supreme Court decided in March 2010 that the Defense Ministry must start a new licensing procedure.