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Vol 2, No 32
25 September 2000
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News from Hungary
All the important news since
9 September

Paul Nemes

Hungarian success story

Günter Verheugen, European Union Commissioner for Enlargement, has called Hungary's accession talks a "success story," praising the country for the progress made so far and adding that no problems could now halt the process. Foreign Minister János Martonyi said that he was much more optimistic than a few months ago.

According to Martonyi, the speed of European Union (EU) accession talks is likely to increase in the next few months. After having met with European Commission officials in Brussels on Wednesday, Martonyi said, "We have stepped into a positive stage—there are several signs that this process is accelerating and there is a determination from the member states that this process will step up." The Foreign Minister further said that the EU would set a time-table for accession next year.

Meanwhile, French Foreign Minister Hubert Védrine has promised to increase the pace of accession talks during France's presidency. Overall, recent signs coming out of Brussels seem to be encouraging, with the EU also praising Hungary's economic performance.


Vojvodina Hungarians fear what future holds

József Kasza, the leader of the Alliance of Hungarians in Vojvodina (VMSZ), said on Thursday last week that the Milošević regime is fighting for its life and added that the current leadership is aware that it would have to answer for crimes committed during the past ten years if the democratic opposition should win the elections. Kasza further said that there is no freedom of the press in Vojvodina and added that the Hungarian radio and television in Novi Sad (Újvidék) was controlled by anti-democratic forces.

Kasza also highlighted the severe violations of minority as well as human rights in Vojvodina, noting that thousands have had to leave the country. He also said that it would not be beyond the current regime to rig the elections, and warned that this could result in civil war.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the left-wing Workers' Party (MP), Gyula Thurmer, has accused the Government of interfering in the Yugoslav elections. Thumer, who calls the actions of the Hungarian government an "overt intervention by the Hungarian state in the 24 September state elections in Yugoslavia," complains that the media in Hungary is carrying out propaganda in favour of Yugoslav opposition parties and condemns the Government for covering travel expenses for Yugoslav citizens in Hungary who want to go to vote in the elections.

An office to monitor the Yugoslav elections was set to open at Budapest University of Technology on 24 September. The office will monitor and process unofficial and official information from Yugoslavia on Sunday and Monday.


Roma eviction on hold

Local government in Budapest's VII district has decided to delay the eviction of Roma squatters living in an apartment building. After criticism from Roma rights groups as well as other organisations, the local government decided not the evict the 18 families—80 adults and 45 children—but promised to instead look for temporary shelter and then build news accommodation.

János Martonyi earlier said that he anticipates the Roma question to re-surface in the European Commission's annual report on 8 November, but was quoted as saying, "this is a very long, general economic and social process—but I would like to state very clearly that the government will pay special attention to this issue."

Justice Ministry State Secretary Csaba Hende said on Monday that the Government will spend HUF 7.2 billion (USD 30 million) to support Roma integration, and added that the proposed amendments to the Civil Code would much improve the situation as far as discrimination is concerned.


Yet another poisonous leak

There has been another outflow of cyanide and heavy metals into the Zazar river in the Maramureş (Máramaros) region of Romania, according to the country's environmental protection agency. The source is once again said to be the Aurul gold mining company in Baia Mare (Nagybánya). This was of course the mine responsible for the contamination of the Szamos and Tisza rivers earlier this year.

János Gönczy, the Government-appointed commissioner, said on 21 September that Hungary would not push for the closure of the mine. The EU working group has not recommended that the mine be closed, and Gönczy confirmed that Hungary would accept the working group's report on the cyanide leak.


Absolutely no border changes

Parliamentary State Secretary Zsolt Németh last week told Népszabadságthat under no circumstances would Hungary seek to rectify state borders in the Carpathian Basin. After Martonyi earlier had hinted that such arrangements may be considered if all states involved can come to an agreement (see previous news review), Németh said that while expressions of border revision are "marginal" in Hungary, political forces in neighbouring countries were keeping the issue on the agenda as an excuse to curb the rights of Hungarians in those countries.

In response to the question whether the basic treaties have had any effect in this respect, Németh answered that "the said circles do not let themselves be disturbed by the fact that [...] Hungary unambiguously recognises the existing borders.


Fuel price deal

Hungary appears to have avoided blockades like those recently seen in other parts of Europe, after the Government reached an agreement with haulage companies. The Government has promised not to raise excise tax on fuel until the word price of oil falls below USD 25. However, according to Magyar Hírlap, the agreement will not be enough as many companies are unhappy with the current arrangements.


Trading suspended

MOL (Hungarian Oil and Gas Company) and TVK (Tiszai Vegyi Kombinát), a Hungarian chemical company which purchases crude oil from MOL, were last week suspended from the Budapest Stock Exchange. Both MOL and Russian gas company Gazprom are trying to gain control of the chemical company. Gazprom has issued conflicting statements, but said it would consider legal action if it is shut out of the Hungarian market by unlawful means. According to analysts, the suspension has been extended because of "tough competition" between MOL and Gazprom.


Ági Kovács wins gold

Ágnes Kovács picked up Hungary's second gold medal in Sydney on Thursday, after winning the 200 metre women's breast stroke. Kovács, who was only fifth after 100 metres, just about edged out her opposition in a thrilling final. Her trainer, László Kiss, said he aged five years during those 200 metres.

Paul Nemes, 22 September 2000

Moving on:


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


Seán Hanley

Andrew Kotas
Steel Structures

Jan Čulík
Czech Depression

Andrew Stroehlein
Online Journalism

Mark Preskett
Moldova's Bad Luck

Gusztáv Kosztolányi
Fuelling Hungary

Mel Huang
Grave Diving

Sarah Whitmore
Ukraine's Constitution

Wojtek Kość
Jerzy Giedroyc (1906-2000)

Benjamin Halligan
Miloš Forman

Sam Vaknin
Dreamworld and Catastrophe

Press Reviews:
Oliver Craske
UK: Velvet Demonstrations?

Andrew Mrozek
Left Hanging

Culture Calendar:


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