Coronavirus: Hungary opens another 5 checkpoints with Romania for seasonal farmworkers

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Hungary has opened another five border crossings with Romania to facilitate the movement of workers as the spring agricultural season begins, bringing the number of access points to eight, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó announced on his Facebook page.

In order to slow down the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, both Hungary and Romania restricted private cross-border traffic last month, as did all other countries neighboring Hungary. With the onset of the spring agricultural season this has already led to workforce shortages in both Hungary, whose eastern regions relies on Romanian workers and Austria, which, in turn, employs many Hungarian farmhands.

Szijjártó said that in light of the positive experiences after having recently have opened three border crossings with Romania, the two countries agreed to increase the number to eight to gradually restart the agricultural sector.

“In view of the positive experiences and in order to further facilitate the life of communities in the border areas, we have expanded the previous agreement [with Romania], meaning that commuters can now use eight checkpoints when going to tend their fields or other work across the border,” Szijjártó said.

On Tuesday the first flight from Romania carrying 90 seasonal workers from the western city of Temesvár has left for Germany, after the German government allowed the entry of a total 80,000 seasonal workers for the spring season, 40,000 in April and another 40,000 in May. This, however, still falls significantly short of falls short of the 300,000 workers sought by German farmers for the 2020 harvest.

Germany has launched a website to recruit its own citizens to work on farms after many of them became unemployed following the coronavirus outbreak.

While thousands of Germans signed up, it was still well short of what farms needed for a successful harvest. As a result, Germany has resorted to flying in Romanian seasonal workers to help fill in the shortage.

Title image: Border guards checking a driver entering Hungary. (MTI/György Varga)

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