Central Europe Review The International OSI Policy Fellowships (IPF) program
Vol 2, No 26
3 July 2000
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News from Hungary News from Hungary
All the important news
since 24 June 2000

Paul Nemes

Police are adamant that the car bomb explosion in central Budapest's Galamb utca in the early hours of 24 June is not connected to the bomb that killed four people in nearby Aranykéz utca two years ago. Budapest Police spokesman Attila Samu said, "There is no connection whatsoever between the two cases," but added "we do not yet know what the composition of the explosive was, neither its quality nor of the purpose of the explosion." The Mazda under which the bomb was placed belonged to a woman who partly owns the next-door Tropical Bar.

Demonstrations organised by the Democratic Union of Health Workers (EDDSZ) were held on 30 June in Budapest's Hősök tere, where 8000 to 10,000 people turned out, and in 50 other towns throughout the country. On 28 June, Health Minister Árpád Gógl allotted a special HUF 15 billion (USD 55.3 million) bonus for healthcare workers and pronounced that import and producer prices of medicine would be frozen.

Despite the bonuses, EDDSZ President Ágnes Cser announced that two more demonstrations would be staged in a bid to have more funds allocated to the health sector. The EDDSZ is urging the Government to spend another HUF 40 billion (USD 147 million) to 50 billion (USD 184.5 million) on health care this year.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan arrived in Budapest for an official visit on 28 June. Before Annan's arrival, Foreign Ministry spokesman Gábor Horváth said Hungary wants to take an active role in the UN, and pointed out that Hungarian troops are taking part in six peacekeeping missions. After having met with Annan on Thursday, János Martonyi said that the visit coincides with a "decision for the country to play a greater role in world affairs."

In an address on 29 June, Annan said, "In just over ten short years, your country's democratic rebirth has been followed by considerable economic progress. Democracy is truly beginning to bear fruit and Hungary is now being courted by allies and alliances eager to include it as a partner, and thereby reward its progress," and added "Your country's achievements make you well prepared for European Union membership without delay." However, the Secretary-General also warned of the danger of a new division in Europe if "those further behind" are forgotten.

Speaking at the opening of the Hungarian national day at Expo 2000 in Hanover, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said that Hungary expects to make up for 50 lost years in only 15 years. He also remarked that, for Hungary, this year marks not only the 1000th anniversary of Hungarian statehood but also the end of a century of loss. The Prime Minister was optimistic when looking to the future, saying, "Germany has for long been a positive example for Hungary. The World Expo provides a hope for us, Hungarians, that nations disprivileged by history are able to rise through hard work."

Meanwhile, Orbán told journalists at the Expo that the Government has put in an offer to buy the natural gas unit of MOL (Hungarian Oil and Gas Company), but that it was now up to MOL to set a price. Orbán was quoted as saying, "There is a price at which MOL formerly purchased the [natural gas] division from the state. Of course, the world has changed since then, and this is where the discussion should start. Péter Hónig, deputy state secretary of the Economics Ministry, told MTI on June 26 that buying the division could solve the problem of reducing MOL's costs, and added that a purchase would not be in conflict with the liberalisation of the gas market, which would require the partition of MOL's divisions.

Hungary will deploy more customs and border guards following the Czech Republic's and Slovakia's introduction of visa requirements for Ukrainian citizens from 28 June. Illegal trafficking is now expected to increase on Hungary's border to Ukraine. Border Guards spokesman Attila Kirsán said this would mean a shift of some of the illegal migration and human smuggling from the Czech Republic and Slovakia to Hungary. With Ukrainian fuel costing HUF 80 to 100 less per litre, it is also thought that illegal imports to Hungary will increase.

At an international conference on human trafficking that opened in Budapest on Thursday, Interior Minister Sándor Pintér said that now that alien smuggling has become part of organised crime it has to be combated with cooperation between states. According to Pintér, Hungary turned back around 60,000 persons seeking to enter the country illegally last year alone.

A conference on Roma and minority education, "Opportunities for Gypsies in Education," was held in Budapest last week. A project connected to PHARE aims to reduce dropouts from primary education and encourage Roma students to continue to higher education. Ron Korver, the EU delegation's Roma programme manager, confirmed the EU's support, "The European Union wishes to provide euro five million, the Hungarian Ministry of Education euro 3.6 million, the Hungarian Ministry of Social and Family Affairs euro one million to support the programme aimed at assisting young people in a disadvantageous situation, and particularly at raising the level of Roma minority education."

Speaking at the third World Meeting of Hungarian Mayors in Gödöllő on Wednesday, the Prime Minister expressed hope that the second decade of democracy in Central Europe could be one of progress for Hungarians in the Carpathian Basin, but underlined the importance of not making mistakes, expanding infrastructure and building homes. Orbán also emphasised that Parliament should ask the opinions of Hungarians throughout the Carpathian Basin when making decisions.

After the recent wave of anti-Hungarian outbursts in Transylvania, the Hungarian Foreign Ministry has urged the Romanian authorities to act. In Tîrgu Mureş (Marosvásárhely), which last week received the EU's special flag in recognition of local tolerance, a yet-to-be-unveiled statue of the city's former chief judge was set on fire. Meanwhile, Előd Kincses, former chairman of the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romanian (RMDSZ) Mureş (Maros) County branch, has demanded the appointment of a Hungarian prefect as a member of the Peasants' Party (PNŢCD), which formerly held the position of prefect, now has been elected major, previously held by the RMDSZ. In short, Kincses wants the roles reversed.

The mayor of Barcaföldvár in Braşov (Brassó) County, Ioan Cioaca (PNŢCD), has been caught on film vandalising a memorial stone to Hungarian soldiers who died in a Soviet death camp after the Second World War. Cioaca later tried to confiscate the videotape, made by reform priest András Ungvári Barna, but was unsuccessful. Lajos Sylvester, writing for the Transylvanian daily Háromszék, asks what the difference is between the mayor and the commander of the death camp. Sylvester also predicts that Cioaca is set for world fame if the film is shown to a wider audience.

To happier news. László Zsalay, a US resident who left Hungary in 1959, won the jackpot while on holiday
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in Las Vegas
. Zsalay was not surprisingly a little taken by it all and the manager of the Sahara hotel casino had to explain that Mr Zsalay had won USD 4.2 million on the Wheel of Fortune. Zsalay initially believed that he had won "only" 4.2 million times 25 cents, and had to be convinced that he in fact had won four times as much.

A Hungarian chicken farmer, Tibor Duró, is bringing up a four-legged chicken, born amongst 18,000 other chickens. The bird, now four weeks old, is developing satisfactory and has been accepted by the other animals. Last year, Duró had a three-legged chicken, but it perished after only two weeks. Duró says he would like to give away this very special specimen to somebody who has an interest in the unusual.

Paul Nemes, 30 June 2000

Moving on:


Magyar Távirati Iroda
hvg online
Inside Hungary
Central Europe Online
The Budapest Sun


Wolfgang Deckers
Twin Souls,
Two Realities

Fatmir Zajmi
Defending NATO

Mel Huang
Done Deal

Focus: Cities
Wojtek Kość
After the Reform

Sam Vaknin
Time in a Bottle

Gusztáv Kosztolányi
More Than Salami

Brian J Požun
Second to One

and Analysis:

Oliver Craske
of the East

Židas Daskalovski
A New Kosovo

Jan Čulík
Mafioso Capitalism

Sam Vaknin
The Political Economy of
Post-Soviet Russia

Diane Strickland
Traveling Angels

Culture Calendar:


Mixed Nuts