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Austria cynical over foaming river

Hungary’s president criticized Austria yesterday for showing „cynism” over pollution of one its rivers.

Hungary’s government has called on Austria to revoke the operating license of a leather factory that it says is polluting the Rába River, covering its surface with white foam. Nonetheless, Austria has refused. „This behavior is intolerable, this cynicism, how they have been delaying the solution for six years,” László Sólyom said in a speech in Kőszeg in western Hungary.

„They are seeking excuses in a sometimes shameless way... this behavior cannot be continued,” Sólyom was quoted as saying by Hungarian national news agency MTI. The river is called the Raab in Austria and flows into western Hungary. The environmental ministry in Vienna said on Tuesday the factory’s water-cleaning facilities were state of the art and the river’s water quality met standards. „As long as we can’t prove that the company is violating rules, we are restricted by law in what we can do,” said ministry spokesman Daniel Kapp.

Austria has asked the European Commission to mediate in the conflict, he added. Sólyom, an environmentalist who campaigned against a controversial communist-era Danube dam planned by Hungary and Slovakia, occupies a largely ceremonial post. No Hungarian president since communism ended in 1989 has made such strong comments about a fellow European country. (