Mr. Péter Szaló,
Deputy State Secretary
of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development
of Hungary

The Twenty-fifth Special Session of the General Assembly for
an Overall Review and Appraisal of the Implementation of the
Outcome of the United Nations Conference
on Human Settlements (Habitat II)


First of all, I would like to express my gratitude to those who participated in the preparation of the Special Session of the General Assembly which offers us an excellent opportunity to discuss human settlement issues in the new century.

Hungary, a country with a modern statehood of over 1000 years in Central- Europe, falls into the medium category of European countries with respect to its population and size. The urban population represents 63,5% of the 10.2 million inhabitants.

In full agreement with the statement delivered by Sweden on behalf of the EU Presidency, I would like to highlight some aspects of the Hungarian activities in the implementation of the Habitat Agenda.

Building a multi-party democratic constitutional state and a market economy in the 1990s brought about far-reaching changes to all levels of society. As a result of the comprehensive changes which took place over a short period of time, radical regroupings of the socio-economic spatial structure have taken place.

Hungary had already taken measures in the spirit of Habitat even before the Habitat Agenda was conceived, but the world-wide process which was launched in Vancouver in 1976 and strengthened in Istanbul in 1996 has undoubtedly had a great impact on regional and housing policy decisions in most of the countries of the world. Hungary has learnt a lot from Habitat Documents and has done its best to fulfil the goals and implement the policy measures which were discussed at a number of conferences organised by the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements.

Regional and local development

Hungary's intention to accede to the European Union also required the modernisation of its regional policy. The European Spatial Development Perspective is considered a guiding document for the future. The actual requirements of ESDP fully met the principles defined in the Istanbul Declaration, especially as regards sustainable development. The Habitat Agenda accelerated the transformation which consists of the regulation of the regional institutional system, and the modification of the legal background and financing system and it also strengthened international contacts and initiated the elaboration of a spatial information system.

On governmental level, several measures were taken to establish a decentralised institutional, financial, and decision-making system of regional and settlement development policy. The following objectives give the appropriate direction for the practical implementation of the regional and local policies:

These objectives have been adopted by the Parliament within the framework of the National Regional Development Perspective and will be implemented in the form of regional development programmes. In implementing the idea of sustainable development, the Parliament has regulated the land use system and the spatial structure of sensitive and urbanised areas.

At the millennium, the protection of the environment and the conservation of natural resources can be considered to be major challenges in Hungary. With special regard to the future accession to the European Union, Hungary has to take appropriate measures to improve environmental quality and has to eliminate existing deficiencies in legislation and implementation, while ensuring extension of social welfare and increased economic competitiveness. Although the Act on Nature Conservation and Environmental Protection is in conformity with European standards, the majority of practical measures are still ahead of us, especially in the fields of air quality, water quality, ground waters, waste water, soil, waste, noise and nature conservation and biological diversity.

Social development and the easing of poverty

In Hungary, the negative social consequences of the transformation toward market economy have resulted in the emergence of a social group which found itself outside the labour market. The poorest strata amount to 4-5% of the population, one third of them of Roma origin. People living in the countryside with a weak labour market position, people who are permanently unemployed, families with  handicapped members or families with three or more children, single parent families, single elderly women etc. are particularly vulnerable to increasing poverty. In order to ease the above social difficulties, new components of the social welfare system have been introduced  in the health care and pension system.

To protect families and children, the Hungarian Parliament adopted a law on the "Protection of children and on management of the system of guardianship." Equality of women with regard to education, employment or other kind of handicapped situation is regulated by law, too.

Housing policy

In 2000, the Hungarian Government worked out a comprehensive economic development Plan. The housing program of the Plan envisages the construction of 40 thousand new homes every year. The quality targets of the Plan are similarly important:

All the above mentioned development efforts are in close relationship with Habitat goals as defined in the Istanbul Declaration. Our experience is that the severe problems of a society cannot be solved separately. An integrated approach is needed in the fields of planning and implementation to find the solution of economic and infrastructural development questions, unemployment, social problems, poverty and crime.

Today, Hungary is a successful country with a growing economy. The local authorities which enjoy a large degree of autonomy have significantly contributed to economic development, the improvement of infrastructure and the implementation of environmental measures. They play a crucial role in regional policy to create a balanced spatial structure in partnership with state organisations.

Five years after the second United Nations Conference in 1996, Hungary is aware of the fact that the Conference has contributed essentially to the results produced by development measures of all countries in the world.