Cheesed off, the Hun­gar­ian tak­ing on EU brain drain

Ox­ford aca­demic who set up plant lends voice to cam­paign to halt ex­o­dus from eastern Europe

The Sunday Telegraph - - World news - By James Rothwell in Bu­dapest By Pa­trick Sawer

IN THE Hun­gar­ian vil­lage of Kisas­s­zond, Peter Róna’s gourmet cheese fac­tory is fer­ment­ing a quiet re­bel­lion against the Euro­pean Union.

Mr Róna, a se­nior fel­low in eco­nomics at Ox­ford Uni­ver­sity, hoped to put his the­o­ries into prac­tice by set­ting up the cheesery, which em­ploys 12 fam­i­lies in what he calls the “back­wa­ters” of Hun­gary.

The ec­cen­tric project, which has won in­ter­na­tional awards for its soft and smoked cheeses, has proven a roar­ing suc­cess. There is just one ma­jor prob­lem: Mr Róna’s prize cheese mak­ers keep leav­ing Hun­gary. “I had a very nice fel­low who I trained up to be a very com­pe­tent cheese maker, and now he’s leav­ing to make cheese in Switzer­land,” he told The Sun­day Tele­graph.

“I don’t mind, I can find some­body else. I can train them – but I know they will leave as well. That’s just how it is.”

Mr Róna, along with many Hun­gar­i­ans, bit­terly re­sents the EU’s free move­ment pol­icy, which they say has cre­ated a “brain drain” that leads to eastern Euro­pean work­ers head­ing west in search of higher wages.

The min­i­mum wage in Hun­gary is €400 (£360) per month, whereas in the UK or Ger­many the same jobs can fetch up to €1,400 (£1,256) per month.

The re­sult is a dire short­age of work­ers which has be­come so se­vere that, ac­cord­ing to some Hun­gar­ian politi­cians, the coun­try risks eco­nomic col­lapse within the next 10 years.

Anec­do­tally, Hun­gar­i­ans have com- plained that it can take up to a year for an electrician to come and re­wire their plugs.

“I set up [the fac­tory] partly be­cause I like cheese and cows, but the real rea­son was to see what it takes to build up a busi­ness in a se­ri­ously un­der­de­vel­oped, dis­ad­van­taged, back­wa­ter part of the coun­try from scratch,” said Mr Róna.

“The wage dis­par­ity is the sin­gle most im­por­tant threat to EU unity, as it jeop­ar­dises any sense of sol­i­dar­ity or co­he­sion. The av­er­age real wage of a Bul­gar­ian, for ex­am­ple, is 18 per cent of the EU av­er­age. And the real in­come of the rich­est district in the Euro­pean Union, in­ner-west Lon­don, is 600 times the in­come of the two poor­est ones, in Ro­ma­nia and Bul­garia. Those are shock­ing num­bers.”

The re­cent loss of his finest cheese maker to a Swiss ri­val was a turn­ing point for the aca­demic, who has now lent his voice to a pan-Euro­pean cam­paign to end wage in­equal­ity.

The EU Wage Union claims free move­ment has cre­ated a “com­mon tragedy” of mass em­i­gra­tion and a “so­cial drama” where fam­i­lies are torn apart.

The cam­paign is run by politi­cians and ac­tivists in eight cen­tral and eastern Euro­pean mem­ber states: Es­to­nia, Latvia, Poland, Slo­vakia, Hun­gary, Ro­ma­nia, Bul­garia and Croa­tia.

Ear­lier this year, they pre­sented a dec­la­ra­tion to the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion, which must con­sider adopt­ing the wage-match­ing pro­pos­als if the cam­paign col­lects at least one mil­lion sig­na­tures from EU cit­i­zens by May 2018.

At Deak Ferenc Square in Bu­dapest, Gabrielle, a 33-year-old of­fice man­ager, said: “I want to stay in Hun­gary, it is my coun­try. But it is tempt­ing to leave when you could earn and achieve so much more else­where.”

Ad­di­tional re­port­ing by Balazs Cseko CHOCK-FULL of mem­o­rable tunes and a dream pair­ing in Gene Kelly and Deb­bie Reynolds, Sin­gin’ In the Rain has long been one of the best loved Hol­ly­wood mu­si­cals.

Now the flap­per-style dress that Reynolds wore dur­ing the You Were Meant for Me duet with Kelly is up for sale. The laven­der silk chif­fon dress, which has an es­ti­mated price tag of $30,000 (£23,000), is part of a vast col­lec­tion of film mem­o­ra­bilia be­ing auc­tioned fol­low­ing the death of Reynolds at 84 and her daugh­ter Car­rie Fisher, 60, within a day of each other last De­cem­ber.

Reynolds and Fisher ac­cu­mu­lated hun­dreds of pieces from their ca­reers, in­clud­ing film posters, set cos­tumes and scripts.

Fisher, who starred as Princess Leia in Star Wars, even col­lected nov­elty ce- real boxes pro­mot­ingg the sci-fi ad­ven­ture.

Also be­ing sold is the orig­i­nal script Fisher used for her role in The Em­pire Strikes Back, in­clud­ing hand­writ­ten ad­just­ments to her di­a­logue in key scenes with Har­ri­son Ford’s char­ac­ter Han Solo, Sin­gin’ In The Rain,

Deb­bie Reynolds’ chif­fon dress, be­low, from the scene in left, is among the haul of mem­o­ra­bilia col­lected by the ac­tress and her daugh­ter Car­rie Fisher be­ing sold

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