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Vol 2, No 22
5 June 2000
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Hungary news News from Hungary
All the important news
since 27 May 2000

Paul Nemes

The new president of the World Federation of Hungarians (MVSZ), Miklós Patrubány, has stirred up a hornet's nest by mentioning the word Trianon. After the Trianon treaty was brought up during the MVSZ congress, an almighty row erupted within the MVSZ and with the Government. 13 members of the Federation suspended their membership. Among them was Miklós Duray, a prominent statesman from Slovakia, who meant that the MVSZ resolution might be interpreted as revisionist.

Foreign Minister János Martonyi immediately made it clear that Hungary's foreign policy would not change in any way, despite the MVSZ recommendation that the Trianon treaty be reviewed. Partubány meanwhile says that the recommendation does not mean that the VMSZ aims to change state borders. In a statement to MTI, he said that the MVSZ has systematically been following the resolution passed in 1996, according to which unity of the Hungarian nation can be realised through European integration. Patrubány further said that "the Trianon peace dictate is a cornerstone of 20th-century European history, the consequences of which still live in the souls of millions," and added that it is fair to scrutinise if the obligations the great powers took on by forcing millions to minority status had been realised.

Imre Borbély, president of the MVSZ Carpathian Basin excluding Hungary section, said the organisation would like to examine whether the provisions for minority self-determination in the treaty have been implemented. Otto Habsburg, speaking on Duna TV on 2 June, said that the Western states did not know the situation in Central and Eastern Europe in 1920 and are now, after the end of the Cold War, ashamed of what happened and do not even want to talk about it. Commenting on the issue, German Foreign Minister Joscka Fischer told Népszabadság that revision of the Trianon borders should not be part of Hungary's EU accession process. Meanwhile, István Szijártó, regional MVSZ president for Hungary, said that as delegates had failed to elect a new vice president or agree on a budget, the MVSZ had effectively ceased to function.

Viktor Orbán, speaking on 31 May, told Hungarian radio that the government is currently considering a solution which would fall somewhere between dual citizen and alien status for Hungarians beyond the country's borders. The idea of dual citizenship for Hungarians has met considerable resistance from Hungary's neighbouring states and it is thought that a mid-way solution, which could be implemented without consulting other states, would grant ethnic Hungarians special rights.

Viktor Orbán last week visited Estonia, the first visit by a Hungarian prime minister since the country gained independence. After meeting with Estonian Prime Minister Mart Laar in Tallinn on 1 June, Orbán said that the two countries had taken steps to advance bilateral relations. During his two-day visit, the Prime Minister made it known that the Estonian Parliament would approve a free trade agreement between the two countries this summer. Orbán also said that it is Hungary's "moral duty" to assist Estonia's bid to become a NATO member, and, according to Magyar Hírlap, the countries' foreign ministers will exchange NATO related information on a regular basis. He also spoke highly of the Estonian economy, saying, "If Hungary's progress is a success story, then that of Estonia should be considered a double success, as it started out from a much more difficult position."

In Tallinn, the Prime Minister also said that the EU's refusal to set a timetable for accession leads to uncertainty. Orbán also made it clear that he is against new members being admitted in groups as slower EU hopefuls should not be allowed to delay the process of enlargement for other, more advanced members. Orbán said, "All [applicant] nations must be evaluated on their own merit and I would support any country whose preparations are ahead of us. They should not have to wait for us."

In the meantime, Miklós Németh, the former Socialist prime minister, has called on the Government to seek accession through "modesty, patience and hard work." Németh said, "It will not accelerate our country's EU membership if we are acting as lecturers and try to change the set of rules of accession." He cautioned the Government that "we have our place in the world, and act accordingly." Németh's future position, after returning to Hungary from his post as vice president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in London, will be decided at the Socialist Party congress in November. Németh told reporters on Thursday, "I have not come home to become party president, as the Socialist Party already has a president; nor have I come home to stand at the end of the line. I will enter the fray for something else. If it is the prime minister's post, then for that."

Smallholder Attila Bánk has criticised FIDESZ, saying that "certain elements" of the Government should think about whether they foresee the two parties sharing duties in joint governance. Bánk said that although he had contacted FIDESZ parliamentary caucus leader József Szájer, he had received no answer and the Foreign Ministry had begun planning the budget for next year without consulting coalition partners. Szájer, on the other hand, said he had had no official request for consultations and also meant that coalition caucuses have already started talks with the Finance Ministry. The Cabinet is drafting a two-year budget, and both the Smallholders and the Hungarian Democratic Forum have suggested they will not vote for a two-year budget. Bánk said that if current practices continue in the future, he would recommend that the Finance Ministry draft a one-year budget, or turn to the Socialists for support.

Minister of the Economy György Matolcsy last week met with his Austrian counterpart, Martin Bartenstein, to discuss how to tackle increasing fuel prices. They both agreed that Hungary could not impose official pricing, with Bartenstein saying that fuel prices in Austria rose to even higher levels after a measure which allowed Austria to fix fuel prices for six months was introduced. Prime Minister Orbán later said that Austria's government can control oil prices more successfully than the Hungarian government because it owns a bigger share of the oil company OMV than the Hungarian government's share in MOL Rt. MOL President János Csák meanwhile promised that the company would not increase fuel prices for the duration of last week, and added that prices might come down in the next couple of weeks, should world oil prices continue to fall and the euro strengthen against the US Dollar.

Agriculture Minister József Torgyán earlier in the week attacked MOL, calling the company's price hikes "economy-wrecking, inflation-boosting" behaviour that must be stopped. Zoltán Nagy, president of the Office of Economic Competition, said on 1 June that the Office regularly monitors the price setting of MOL, and added that he saw no reason to start an investigation into unfair competition. The Government meanwhile has proposed a scheme for price equalisation and introducing price monitoring to reduce the price of fuel.

GDP growth for the first quarter of 2000 is 6.8 per cent, according to preliminary estimates by the Central Statistics Office (KSH). The figures are higher than the 6.4 per cent year-on-year predicted by analysts. Miklós Hegedűs, GKI Economics Research CEO, expects growth to slow until the end of the year, and predicts that the growth rate for 2000 will be around six per cent. National Bank of Hungary (MNB) President György Surányi said that the growth of foreign demand for Hungarian goods was behind the record figures, and did not think that the growth meant that the economy was overheating. Miklós Hegedűs also believes that concerns about the economy overheating are groundless and said that the figures reflect Hungary's "outstanding economic performance."

Tilos Rádió ("Forbidden Radio"), a private Hungarian station, will broadcast programs produced by the Yugoslav radio station B2-92, which was closed down by the Belgrade regime on 17 May. Zoltán Rozgonyi of Tilos Rádió said on 30 May that the station would broadcast the programs until B2-92 can transmit again. Foreign Minister Martonyi called the actions of Tilos Rádió "exemplary support" for the Yugoslav radio station, which since it was shut down only has been able to transmit on the Internet or via satellite.

Hungary's pavilion at the Hanover Expo 2000 was opened in a ceremony last Wednesday. Opinion polls in Germany show that the Hungarian pavilion at the Expo is among the finest buildings at the
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exhibition. The two Hungarian displays, on the European Avenue or the main street, show historical figures from six periods in the past 1000 years and host cultural, economic, scientific and other programmes. The fair will close on 31 October, but talks on the use of the wooden building after the Expo have already started with German companies.

After the design was accepted last week, it looks as if construction work on the new National Theatre may start next month, in order to open on 15 March 2002. György Vadász, who designed the Hungarian Expo 2000 pavilion, will head the team of architects.

Paul Nemes, 2 June 2000

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