Central Europe Review The International OSI Policy Fellowships (IPF) program
Vol 2, No 27
10 July 2000
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News from Hungary News from Hungary
All the important news
since 2 July 2000

Paul Nemes

Two persons, aged 22 and 23, died and another two were seriously wounded after a man opened fire in a McDonald's fast food restaurant in Budapest's Oktogon on Tuesday night. A 25-year-old suspect, Zsolt B, was soon arrested by police and is currently being held in detention for up to 30 days, which can be extended if necessary. Although the man has admitted to the shooting, he has not given any explanation as to why he opened fire in the Teréz körút McDonald's, only saying "let them die rather than me." It is, however, thought that a previous dispute was the motive behind the bloodbath.

Police have ordered a psychiatric examination of the 25-year-old, now dubbed the "Teréz körút executioner." A 17-year-old youth remains in critical condition while a 24year-old is in stable condition. McDonald's has promised the families of the victims HUF (Hungarian forint) one million (USD 3642) each, and the fast food chain will observe a one-minute silence on those days that the funerals of the two persons killed take place.

According to Foreign Ministry spokesman Gábor Horváth, French President Jacques Chirac's model for EU enlargement boosts Hungarian hopes that enlargement will take on a new dimension during France's presidency, which began on 1 July. Chirac said on 4 July that France considers enlargement to be the "top priority" and that the present phase of accession talks would be maintained.

Meanwhile, Free Democrat István Szent-Iványi, the parliamentary foreign affairs committee chairman, believes that enlargement is losing its importance among the member countries of the European Union. After a meeting of applicant countries' foreign affairs committee chairmen in Paris last week, Szent-Iványi said, "in the past nine months the admission of new members has been out on the back burner."

Earlier in the week, Szent-Iványi told Italian Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini, on a one-day visit to Budapest, "We are not gripped by panic, but do feel that time has come to call attention to the major risks that threaten the success of the entire integration process." Dini cordially said that Italy supports enlargement as set down by the Helsinki summit, and added that he thought the EU would be ready to admit new members by 2003.

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said in a TV interview on 6 July that, despite what recently has been said, he is still hopeful that the EU summit in Nice will set accession dates for the candidate countries. The PM added, "Fixing a date would give us psychological assistance even if it would not influence the pace of concrete preparations as Hungary is pursuing a balanced foreign policy.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister also declared that he does not plan to change either the make-up of Cabinet or the Government programme during the present term in office. Orbán said that the Government has carried out half of the work it set out to do in its manifesto, and pointed to economic growth, the financial balance, the family care system and the enhancement of the middle class as successes.

On the governing coalition, Orbán feels that he has no reason to change its composition, and that no new decision on co-operation between the parties would be taken before the 2002 elections. Overall, Orbán said he thought that "the current government coalition has lived up to expectations, the government manifesto is being more than fulfilled, the country is progressing in the right direction, and it is worthwhile for us to continue."

Professor Gábor Szabó, deputy state secretary for education, has said that the government is committed to increasing spending on research and development from HUF 80 billion (USD 293 million) to HUF 116 billion (USD 425 million) in two years. Szabó made the comments at the second World Meeting of Hungarian Professors at Balatonföldvár. The meeting ended with the approval of a resolution, which recommends that the Government encourages research with tax allowances and that a network of distant learning is established in the Carpathian Basin. The resolution also stresses the importance of making it possible for foreigners to apply for research jobs in Hungary.

Further restrictions will not be placed on foreigners buying property in Hungary, the Interior Ministry proclaimed on 5 July. Regarding recent statements by the Budapest Public Administration Office (FKH) that restrictions indeed would be tightened, Under Secretary Pál Kara said that these were "unfortunate" and had led to "misunderstandings."

The head of the FKH, László Grespik, explained that his earlier statements had been misinterpreted, and that he only wants to make use of a Government decision, to only approve purchases of property that do not "harm the public interest." Demands by foreigners have increased the real estate property market significantly.
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Public administration offices have the right to consider the purchase of Hungarian property by foreign citizens, but do not have the right to set quotas.

Napi Gazdaság reports that the Hungarian Investment and Trade Development Agency (ITD Hungary) anticipates foreign investment in Hungary to increase significantly in the next two years. ITD Hungary forecasts that German direct investment will rise from USD seven billion to USD ten billion in two years' time, while British investment is expected to grow from USD 1.4 billion to USD 1.7 billion.

Hungary is still waiting for Romanian authorities to confirm that the Aurul plant responsible for the cyanide leak earlier this year is no longer a danger to the environment. Hungary was promised an inspection of safety measures before the plant reopened, but a licence to recommence operations was issued some time ago. Foreign Ministry spokesman Gábor Horváth said on 5 July that the Government has urged Romania to allow Government Commissioner János Gönczy to inspect the mine.

One person was killed and another two injured in an explosion at Dunaferr's coke manufacturing plant in Dunaújváros on 6 July. The persons injured by the blast were not seriously hurt and were not treated in hospital. The man who died, a fitter whose name has not been released, was on top of an ammonia tank that exploded due to reasons not yet known. A spokesman said that the explosion has not put the town or the public in any danger whatsoever.

In a week of tragic events, a fire broke out in the CBA supermarket next to Déli (Southern) railway station in Buda on Thursday. Fire fighters were, however, quickly on the scene and the roof over the station's waiting area, which it was feared would be damaged, was saved from the blaze. No one was injured in the fire.

Work on Budapest's fourth metro line, which will run between Keleti (Eastern) and Kelenföldi stations, could begin next year. The scheme will also include necessary road work, which is where the project will begin. According to Budapest Mayor Gábor Demszky, the first stage will include the building of underpasses, the reconstruction of roads, work on tram tracks and sidewalks, as well as installing equipment necessary for working on the metro line underground. Demszky also promises new green areas and more park benches. Even though the Government is refusing to accept a court ruling to make previously promised funds available for the project, Demszky is confident that Budapest will receive funding for the metro line from the State budget.

Prime Minister Orbán met with actor Arnold Schwarzenegger in Parliament on Wednesday last week to hold talks on the Hungarian economy, politics, the film industry and, above all, football. Orbán's tactics seem to have made quite an impression on Schwarzenegger, who said he was "impressed by the Prime Minister and his ideas."

Paul Nemes, 7 July 2000

Moving on:


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



Baltic Focus:
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Prekevičius & Clark
Lithuania's Looming Elections

Aet Annist
Estonia: Progress without Protest

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Military Brass Shuffling in Estonia

Artūras Račas
Calvin Klein and Communism

Mel Huang
Lithuania: A bananos respublika?

Teri Schultz
Reflections on a Revolution

Meelis Kitsing
Online in E-stonia

Arnis Gross
Latvia Logs On

Razeen Sally
Estonia and the EU

Hubert Jakobs
Livonian folk band Tulli Lum

Mel Huang
Baltic BeBop

Bernd Jahnke
Lithuanian Jazz

Artis Pabriks
Rīga's Revenge

Kurt Mortensen
Estonia's Art Music Scene

Mel Huang
Schizoid Lamb

Howard Jarvis
The Writings of Jurga Ivanauskaitė

President Vaira

Prime Minister
Mart Laar

Lithuanian Military Commander Jonas Kronkaitis

Oliver Craske
Lords Return Roma to Skinheads

Andrew Cave
Poland's Collapsing Right

Catherine Lovatt
Next Target: Montenegro

Sam Vaknin
Balkan Faith

Wolfgang Deckers
Germany in the Balkans

Culture Calendar: