Transport and Water Management Minister János Fónagy on Thursday declared a state of emergency on the Tisza, Túr and Szamos rivers.
Fónagy said the current floods were breaking all records, outdoing the 1998 floods, and had not the riverbank been reinforced and a primarily Hungarian-funded monitoring system set up in the area, the consequences would have been unpredictable. Even more unpredictable, that is. At Tivadar, the Tisza reached record levels last week, exceeding the ten-metre mark, while breaking its banks in two places for the first time in more than 20 years.
Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who on Tuesday flew by helicopter to Nyíregyháza with Interior Minister Sándor Pintér, said that if the HUF 800 million (USD 2.8 million) allocated for flood defence proves to be insufficient, budget reserves would be made available.
László Helmeczy, who heads the Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg County Flood Prevention Committee, said the Premier had given his consent to the use of all possible means to prevent a major disaster. Thousands soldiers, border guard and rescue workers spent the week trying to hold back the rivers by reinforcing riverbanks.
In Subcarpathia, where the floods last week claimed the lives of seven people, the Hungarian general consulate in the region's capital, Užhorod (Ungvár), reported a burst Tisza dyke already on Monday, while the county asked Hungary to send helicopters to rescue people trapped in the flooded areas, some of whom had taken refuge on rooftops. Hungary later opened its state borders for villagers in Subcarpathia fleeing the floods.
Tibor Szabó, head of the Government Office for Hungarian Minorities Abroad, visited Hungarian-inhabited villages in Subcarpathia to gather information about the state of the villages as well as flood defences on the Ukrainian side. By Thursday 8 March, 13,000 people in Subcarpathia had been evacuated.
President Ferenc Mádl, visiting the upper Tisza region on 7 March, called for Hungarians to pull together, both by giving donations and volunteering for flood fighting, in order to fight the floods and help those affected. According to Népszabadság, 30,000 people in Hungary had been evacuated from 20 villages by Wednesday evening.
Magyar Nemzet on 8 January reported Orbán saying on Hungarian radio that work that should have been done during the last 30 to 40 years could not be put right in one or two years. While the Prime Minister said the only way to prevent similar floods in the future would be if Romania and Ukraine restored forests that had been cut down, he promised that the Government in the next ten years would allocate HUF 60 billion in order to make at least 75 per cent of embankments secure.
Torgyán prevails, for now
Speaker of Parliament János Áder on Monday accepted Péter Szentgyörgyvölgyi as leader of the Smallholders' (FKGP) parliamentary group. According to Áder, documents from the Smallholders' meeting last week confirm that Attila Bánk's leadership had been retracted and that Szentgyörgyvölgyi was elected to replace him, deputised by Torgyán and Lajos Danka.
Bánk, who had claimed he was the party's parliamentary leader, said he accepted the decision, although he did not agree with it. He also said he would continue to bolster the FKGP's "civic section."
Meanwhile, Deputy Minister of Agriculture Imre Boros has filed a complaint with the Chief Prosecutor against former Ministry State Secretary Béla Szabadi on charges of suspected criminal activities. He also said that the activities of Torgyán could be questioned. Torgyán responded by saying that "Gestapo methods" are being used to find wrongdoings.
Zámoly Roma granted asylum
Magyar Hírlap reported last week that eight of the 39 Zámoly Roma currently residing in Strasbourg have been granted political asylum by French authorities. Among those granted asylum was András Krasznai, son of Zámoly Roma spokesman József Krasznai.
On Thursday, the Parliamentary National Security Committee heard Secret Services Minister Ervin Demeter, who had been called upon to answer to a report made by Jane's Intelligence Digest, that the Zámoly Roma had applied for asylum with the help of the Russian Secret Service.
According to the magazine, the Roma were encouraged to apply for political asylum in order to damage Hungary's reputation and its EU accession.
The magazine's editor, Alex Standish, said that Demeter, who recently visited London, had nothing to do with the article, thereby dismissing claims made by József Krasznai that Hungary had paid Jane's to publish the article.
On Tuesday, Fejér County Court rejected a Zámoly Roma lawsuit against Székesfehérvár. The Roma, who had asked for a public apology and HUF three million in compensation for each family, will take their case to the Supreme Court.
Storm in a teacup
Romanian Prime Minister Adrian Năstase last week joined Minister for Public Administration Octav Cozmâncă in criticising Hungarian Justice Minister Ibolya Dávid's visit to Arad in February and Foreign Ministry State Secretary Zsolt Németh for visiting Transylvania's Székelyföld. Cozmâncă said the visit by the two Hungarian officials were "unacceptable" as they included talks with local officials, and were not private.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Gábor Horváth stated, "Hungary's ambassador to Bucharest had officially informed the Romanian Foreign Ministry about both visits during program coordination."
The Romanian Foreign Ministry later denied that Romanian Foreign Ministry General Director for Bilateral Relations Mihai Dobre—who later confirmed that Romania had been informed about Németh's visit—had visited Hungary's ambassador to Bucharest, István Ijgyártó, for an explanation. Instead, it was said that the two mainly discussed an upcoming meeting—an official meeting one presumes—between the two countries' foreign ministers, on 26 March.
The Hungarian Foreign Ministry commented that it was "unfortunate" that the Romanian press had published "unfounded allegations."
And in other news...
- Hungary has banned the import of all European Union cloven-hoofed animals, as well as unprocessed meat and milk products, in order to prevent foot-and-mouth disease spreading into the country. At border stations, trucks and visitors to the country are being disinfected. The Ministry of Agriculture said it was hard to estimate how much the imposed ban will cost Hungary, but vaccination of Hungary's livestock—not vaccinated against foot-and-mouth disease for ten years—would surely cause havoc as there is a two-year ban on exports of vaccinated animals.
- Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Vojvodina (VMSZ) President and Deputy Prime Minister of Serbia József Kasza said during talks held in Budapest with Free Democrat István Szent-Iványi, Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee chairman, that he counted on Hungarian assistance for agriculture, transport and energy. Kasza also said the VMSZ had not abandoned its "autonomy concept."
- The nurse thought to have killed up to 40 persons by lethal injection, Tímea F, also called the Black Angel, has withdrawn her statements from questioning, but not her confession. Consequently, defence lawyer József Szőgyényi is contemplating whether to refuse defending the nurse, as this change of heart has made his situation considerably more difficult.
Paul Nemes, 12 March 2001
Magyar Távirati Iroda
Central Europe Online
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