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Vol 3, No 12
26 March 2001
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News from Hungary News from Hungary
All the important news
since 17 March 2001

Paul Nemes


Torgyán yields to the PM

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán on Thursday refused to dismiss PHARE Funds Minister Imre Boros. Although this decision contradicted the advice of Smallholder (FKGP) leader József Torgyán, Orbán simply said, "I have no intention of dismissing Mr
View today's updated headlines from Hungary

Boros, and don't think my decision runs contrary to the coalition agreement."

Torgyán had earlier in the week pushed the party steering board to make a "unanimous decision" to remove Boros from his post. Torgyán then told reporters that a letter had been sent to Orbán explaining that the Prime Minister had no choice but to dismiss Boros.

A party statement read, "the FKGP does not intervene in the way its coalition partner, the FIDESZ-Hungarian Civic Party, delegates or recalls its ministers, and it expects to be able to fully exercise its own indisputable right as laid down in the coalition agreement."

Later, after accepting the Prime Minister's decision not to dismiss Boros, Torgyán said that "differences of opinion" continue to exist between him and Orbán, but added that this would not affect the coalition's survival. The Prime Minister, however, was not as forthcoming, reportedly saying that the Smallholders would have to decide whether they could remain an "invaluable member of the coalition" and that farmers deserve better political representation.


Government approves Status Bill

The Government on Tuesday approved the Status Bill on Hungarians beyond the borders. It is hoped that Parliament will pass the bill this spring in order for the new law to come into force on 1 January 2002.

According to Foreign Ministry State Secretary Zsolt Németh, it is estimated that the law will cost around HUF (Hungarian forint) eight billion (USD 27 million) over the next two years. During this period, Németh predicts that around 800,000 "ethnic" Hungarians will apply for an ID certificate, which would allow them to work in Hungary if they promise not to take up permanent residence. This supports the Government's policy that Hungarians should prosper in their land of birth, yet the bill will also provide social, education, transport and health benefits to individuals eligible for work in Hungary.

As the law would guarantee the right of employment for Hungarians from neighbouring states, according to Magyar Nemzet, the Status Law could alleviate Hungary's projected labour shortage in the next 50 years.

Speaking on Duna TV, László Józsa, deputy chairman of the Alliance of Hungarians in Vojvodina (VMSZ), called the bill "a significant initiative in legal history," saying that "A few illusions will now become clear, that today it is not really possible to talk about dual citizenship in Central Europe. However, it is possible for the Hungarian state and the Hungarian government to exercise its constitutional responsibility to take care of Hungarians beyond the borders."


Counting the cost of flooding

On Tuesday, Government spokesman Gábor Borókai told the press in Budapest that all buildings and roads damaged by the floods will be subject to full compensation. Borókai said the Government would be willing to allocate additional money to replace old sub-standard buildings with modern ones.

Prime Minister Orbán said on Wednesday that the floods on the Tisza had caused damage worth HUF 10 to 15 billion. However, since the Government wants to take the opportunity to boost development in the area, the final bill will amount to HUF 20 to 25 billion.

Rain along the upper stretches of the Tisza caused minor flooding last week. At the same time, a flood alert was sounded on the river's central section between Tiszafüred and Csongrád. To help drain water from the floods in Subcarpathia, the Upper Tisza Water Authority sent 20 pumps to Beregovo (Beregszász), Ukraine.


Aurul won't pay

The spokeswoman of Government Commissioner János Gönczy, Éva Montskó, on Wednesday confirmed that Hungary intends to sue Aurul—the Romanian-Australian company responsible for the cyanide leak at Baia Mare (Nagybánya) and subsequent pollution of the Tisza, Szamos and Danube rivers last year. Legal action will move forward unless the company pays the HUF 28.6 billion (USD 95 million) requested for damages before the 15 working day deadline expires. "As Aurul directly caused the damage, it has to take responsibility," Montskó said.

Aurul responded by saying that an out-of-court settlement was out of the question as Hungary's HUF 28.6 billion claim, based on a report by the independent Water Research Centre in London, was an "exaggeration." Aurul Production Manager Ben Munteanu told Népszabadság that the company would assess the damages caused to Hungary's rivers based on a report by Romanian and foreign experts.

Éva Montskó replied, "This number [the HUF 28.6 billion] is supported by credible figures ... if Aurul says 'no,' the game will start, a lawsuit will be filed and we will have to prepare for a lengthy legal procedure."

Amazingly, the gold and silver exploration at the mine continues, with the production manager outright refusing Hungary's demand that production should cease until safety-measures to prevent a future disaster have been put in place. Munteanu said that would mean building a number of safety facilities, which the company cannot afford.


Anti-Hungarian feeling in Slovakia

Only days after having marked 15 March, Hungarians in Slovakia woke up to the consequences of remembering. The Sándor Márai school, the Hungarian Consulate, the Thália Theatre and other Hungarian institutions in Košice (Kassa) were vandalised on Thursday by unknown perpetrators. The attacks came only days after the same school was sprayed with anti-Hungarian slogans.

Consul General György Varga told MTI that the incidents confirmed there was a link between the latest attacks and events in the Slovak capital—where the Petőfi statue was again defaced and the windows of a Hungarian school smashed—as well as other anti-Hungarian attacks in the Slovak Republic earlier in the week. Someone is "pulling the strings," he said.

Varga stated, "The incidents take place in a period when Slovak-Hungarian relations are developing successfully both within Slovakia and on an inter-state level. This process seems to be displeasing someone."

The Party of the Hungarian Coalition (MK) on Wednesday called on senior Slovak officials to disassociate themselves from the incidents. In a letter to Consul General Varga, Košice Mayor Zdenko Trabula on 23 March expressed his regret about what had occurred, writing that such or similar incidents only rarely happen in the multi-national town.


And in other news...

  • Foreign Minister János Martonyi and Polish Agriculture Minister Artur Balazs on 22 March ended a two-year trade dispute between the two countries. Martonyi said that both countries' restrictions on agricultural produce would be eased on 15 March and completely lifted on 15 November.
  • Two of the Zámoly Roma, currently residing in Strasbourg, were refused refugee status last week. No explanation was provided by the French authorities. Speaking on behalf of the group, József Krasznai said they would appeal the decision. 15 members of the group have already been granted refugee status.
  • Only one Hungarian has been nominated to the Oscar award at this year's Academy Awards on 25 March. Cameraman Lajos Koltai received a nomination for his work in the Italian-American film Malena.

Paul Nemes, 23 March 2001

Moving on:


Magyar Távirati Iroda
hvg online
Inside Hungary
Central Europe Online

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