October 8th, 2010
03:04 PM GMT
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Within day of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill the question of who would pay for the clean up was clear - BP was legally responsible and said it would honor that commitment.

The same scenario seems to be the case in Hungary.

The firm, MAL Hungarian Aluminium appears to be liable for the clean up costs of the red sludge.

That's according to the European Commission. Environment spokesman Joe Hennon tells me that under normal EU laws, the operator "should be liable." He says MAL received a permit to operate the plant in 2006 and all the paperwork, on first glance, appears to be in order.

I could not reach the company to get a response. To be fair, the plant has been closed for the week and so no one is answering the phone.

MAL's website does have a statement apologizing to those who have been affected by this. It has also said that it will pay for funerals.

MAL's insurance company, Allianz Hungaria Biztosíto has been authorized to tell the media that MAL has an up to date insurance policy for "property and liability."

But spokespeople for Allianz say they don't have permission to reveal how much that insurance is for. The question many of us then had was what role would or could the EU play in this and is there a pot of money Hungary could tap into?

There is something called the "EU Civil Protection Mechanism" which coordinates disaster response among 31 European countries. It was used during last year's forest fires in central Europe but also tapped for things like the Haiti earthquake.

The 31 countries have been contacted, says the EU and those experts should be found quickly.

But the EU does not respond unless asked by the inflicted country. Hungary has now triggered the mechanism and has asked for a few experts in "handling toxic sludge, decontamination and mitigation of environmental damage."

It's not yet clear to me who pays for them and for any other use of the mechanism Hungary may require.

The Hungarian government said earlier this week the costs will be in the "tens of millions of dollars" but there will be homes that have to be knocked down, owners compensated and relocated. Then there are the health costs and any fines coming down the pipe. 

The EU says Hungary should recover its costs from the company. We are a long way from knowing that bill.


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soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. Fred Capio

    The European community was ready to help to deal with the disaster and help to contain the spreading of the pollution into neighbouring countries. To respect the sovereignty of Hungary, help could not be just sent without being asked for by the Hungarian government. Instead, the Hungarian government employed the childish and irresponsible attitude of "we can do it ourselves". They could not – and now the pollution has spilled into the Danube and all countries down-stream are effected. Maturity means to be able to ask for help and not seeing national pride as paramount.

    October 8, 2010 at 6:37 pm |
  2. Pat

    Seems normal that the company responsible for the accident should pay for the clean-up & compensation to the victims. Why should anybody else foot the bill??

    October 8, 2010 at 7:26 pm |
  3. Natalie Morris

    I am glad that MAL apologized and I hope that they admit liability for this environmental catastrophe.

    October 8, 2010 at 8:26 pm |
  4. enikő

    jó lenne ha minden kint élő magyar segítene amennyit tud bajbajutott magyar testvéreinken.
    thank You

    October 8, 2010 at 10:40 pm |
  5. enikő

    köszönet minden külföldinek, aki segít

    October 8, 2010 at 11:28 pm |
  6. Lori

    This is what one can expect when there is little or no government oversite, and companies regulate themselves. Pay attention all you tea party activists who want less government and no regulation of industry.

    October 9, 2010 at 12:04 am |
  7. 寰宇祥和


    October 9, 2010 at 12:55 am |
  8. Don Horton

    I am more concerned about the overall Industrial infastructure of the Europian Nations. If this kind of disaster can happen in Hungary, then I am sure there is a need, a serious need, for a complete investagation into the conditions that exist in other Chemical, Industrial as well as Nuclear facilities. The focus should be; 'are they up to date and safe, or in need of upgrade and repair'. Why do I think that the findings in such an inquirey will not be satisfying?

    October 9, 2010 at 4:09 pm |
  9. world weary

    Corporations have no responsibility, that should be apparent by now to objective observers. BP has done the bare minimum as required by American law and the corporation (s) doing the mining in Hungary will do the bare minimum as well. Civic responsibility is not their business but profit is. All costs not directly related to profit are externalized whenever possible.
    Apologies cost nothing and mean nothing.

    October 9, 2010 at 5:36 pm |
  10. Barbie


    Next sludge flood is ready to come next week. Just listen!
    Welcome to the real world!

    October 9, 2010 at 7:28 pm |
  11. rk-mate

    1. actually the pH-value of the Danube is within the normal values; and according the authorities of Serbia and Romania they do not see or await an effect of the Danube-water, which would need action. Please, do not forget that Budapest is the first capital, which would be affected.
    2. Hungary asked for experts and EU is going to provide them.
    3. Yes, the national government has to react first, and coordinate the help. Actually it is not a help that the catastrophy journalists void the closed Hungarian sky-zone, and Hungarian military has to force them out from the danger-zone.
    4. The Hungarian prime minister Imre Nagy begged for help in 1956, what Hungary got instead was extra 33 years communism.

    October 10, 2010 at 7:55 pm |
  12. LV_nonanon

    No worries, America will pay! The EU might pay up-front, then fine some more American companies.

    October 11, 2010 at 6:49 pm |
  13. Barbie

    Picture of the sludge, taken by the NASA satellite.

    October 12, 2010 at 6:44 pm |
  14. Rozika

    @enikő.... eddig meg sehol nem lattam hova kene kuldeni a segitseget... kerlek ird meg ha ilyen kommentart teszel

    October 12, 2010 at 9:56 pm |
  15. P

    Why does Greenpeace have so quickly an old photo, see: http://wwf.panda.org/?uNewsID=195542

    Who took this photo? Why?

    October 15, 2010 at 8:53 pm |
  16. Arnar


    Please write in a human language. It is after all an international place.

    October 19, 2010 at 10:14 pm |
  17. ziiip

    BP paid for the cleanup because they are big and have the money. This company is nothing like that when it comes to size.

    October 21, 2010 at 8:41 am |
  18. Istvan


    Thank you for your interest in this incident which is a small step for mankind but a big tragedy for the those people (i.e. human beings) who live there. Enikő wrote in their language, and asked for help from those more furtunate ones who understand that language, whether you consider it human or not.. If you are also interested in helping and not just making arrogant, unnecessary, stupid and offensive lecturing comments, you can find the bank account number of the International Red Cross in Hungary on their site.

    October 24, 2010 at 5:31 am |
  19. Glaser

    Nice one Istva!

    October 25, 2010 at 11:36 am |
  20. Clevelandben

    I agree. Just as with the B.P. Gulf Disaster and Exxon Valdez, the Hungarian company MAL MUST pay for the clean-up AND re-location of the village residents. Here in America, we heard pleas of "My pigs/chickens were killed, etc." In Hungary, as in many parts of Europe, small family crops and farms ARE the life blood of a family and the community. Villagers share their extra bounty with each other. This helps the villagers in getting through the winter.
    So, YES! MAL must pay recompense to ALL villagers and the ancillary cost of clean-up and retaining wall re-construction.

    November 10, 2010 at 4:23 pm |

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