|Agriculture and countryside issues
Tolna is an agricultural county and the visitors were interested in using Eurolinks (which organises farmer exchanges in several countries) to arrange exchanges between farmers in Tolna and West Sussex. As a wine-producing county there was a lot of common interest in the viticulture department of Plumpton College.
Trevor Passmore, Deputy County Chairman for the National Farmers’ Union, explained that he farms on the South Downs, which is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and will probably become a National Park. As it a very sensitive area, he did not use chemicals or intensive farming techniques and has been rearing more traditional breeds like Sussex cattle.
Alajos Pogátsa, Vice-president of the Assembly of Tolna Megye, said that during the communist period in Hungary the tendency had been for big agricultural enterprises, but now there are many more small farms. They did not co-operate with each other, which could be a big problem, for example last year the farmers produced too much wheat and had to throw it away. The farmers are beginning to understand that collectively they are strong enough to demand reasonable prices. Nevertheless, they are reluctant to be part of big organisations as they tend not to trust them.
Tolna Megye has wanted to produce biomass as an energy source. Hungarian farmers, however, do not get much support from the EU and payment of their first subsidies had been delayed. 225 thousand farmers in Hungary are eligible for CAP subsidies. Hungarian agricultural land is not expensive because foreigners are currently not permitted to buy it. At the same time both food imports and competition have increased in Hungary since entry into the EU (particularly in the dairy sector), so that prices have fallen. The Hungarian population as a whole has a strong sympathy for farmers. In any conflict with the government they usually support them.
Anne-Marie Bur of Action in Rural Sussex described some of the problems facing people living in the British countryside. She explained that 80% of the food in the UK is bought in 5 supermarkets. Village shops have been closing down yet they were vital for the elderly or for people who do not have a car.Social services and education
Other groups from the delegation discussed strategic planning in social services, and co-operation on educational projects.
The Tolna delegation were very interested in the strong involvement of British people in volunteering and explained that in Hungary the government had created a scheme which doubled the donations made by Hungarian people if it represented 1% of their taxes. This money is then distributed to charities or public services.
On the education side there were discussions particularly on what might be possible between the University of Pécs and the University College of Chichester. Mária Bajner of the Szekszárd campus of Pécs Unversity was interested in getting students from Chichester to participate in short summer courses in art, dance, design, music and maybe even tourism management, and also to develop placement opportunities for Chichester students for teaching English, as Hungary has a shortage of TEFL teachers. The discussions about educational co-operation took place at Bognor Regis, Chichester and at Northbrook College, Worthing. The representatives of both counties hoped to continue developing ideas for successful co-operation, and hoped to take advantage of the EU Erasmus network.