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Vol 3, No 2
15 January 2001
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News from Hungary News from Hungary
All the important news
since 6 January 2001

Paul Nemes


FKGP turmoil continues

After Smallholder (FKGP) leader József Torgyán last Saturday confirmed the suspension of Katalin

View today's updated headlines from Hungary
Liebmann, who was locked out of her office, a number of party members resigned from their posts. Vice President Zsolt Lányi and Deputy Parliamentary leader Béla Pokol immediately quit the party. László Csúcs, one of the five Smallholders replaced by Torgyán, began collecting signatures in order to change the party's statutes with the aim of removing Torgyán from his post as chairman.

Later in the week, while Deputy General Secretary Róbert Molnár also handed in his resignation, Zsolt Lányi announced that he was ready to take over the party leadership until the next elections. He said a number of Smallholders had asked him to consider the post. From South America, Torgyán hit back, calling Lányi a self-appointed candidate, while defending his position by saying that he had been elected by more than 100,000 FKGP members.

On Thursday, László Csúcs also resigned. Parliamentary leader Attila Bank accepted the resignation, saying that the parliamentary caucus is united despite recent events. Csúcs, meanwhile, decided not to give up his seat in Parliament, because he did not want it given to someone who supports Torgyán. Csúcs and Molnár maintained that they are supported by county presidents, but admitted that many are stalling in order to see who will emerge victorious.

Hungarian Democratic Forum President Ibolya Dávid stated that the Smallholders' internal affairs would not affect co-operation within the governing coalition. FIDESZ-Hungarian Civic Party released similar statements, but Prime Minister Viktor Orbán did nevertheless meet with Zsolt Lányi. Népszabadság writes that the meeting is evidence that Orbán deems Lányi to be an acceptable successor to Torgyán.

Lányi, who is also chairman of Parliament's Defence Committee, was officially invited to discuss the Balkan syndrome. Torgyán said he would "reassert his control over the party" upon his return from South America.


Balkan syndrome: Milošević propaganda

László Bötz, head of the Military Intelligence Office, on Wednesday told Hungarian TV that claims that depleted uranium shells are radioactive was Milošević propaganda. Bötz said, "it is even possible that the Milošević-led army brought radioactive material into critical areas.

In the meantime, a survey on Hungarian soldiers who have served in the Balkan was being prepared. László Svéd, Armed Forces chief medical officer, said the survey would clarify whether Hungarian peacekeepers had come into contact with the uranium shells. By Wednesday, around half of the respondents had returned their forms and, according to Svéd, none of them linked illness to service in the Balkans. Svéd added that all Hungarians who had seen service in the Balkans would undergo medical tests.

Government spokesman Gábor Borókai equally dismissed fears that Hungarian soldiers may have been exposed to depleted uranium, saying that, according to the Ministry of Defence, "last November's health check-ups of soldiers who served with the Hungarian contingent in Kosovo found no disorders." Borókai said the Balkan syndrome issue had been put on the agenda because of "public interest."

In an interview with Magyar Hírlap last week, Svéd conceded that leukaemia was one of the diseases diagnosed for Sergeant Major István Körmendi, who died in September after serving in the Balkans. Svéd, however, asserted that the leukaemia was diagnosed before he left for the Balkans in 1998.


Launch of Transylvanian university put off

Slow approval from Romanian authorities have resulted a delay of the opening of the first Hungarian university in Transylvania since the merger of the Bolyai university with Babeş university. The opening of the Sapienta Foundation's private university, which had already been delayed to February, will now be postponed until September. According to the Transylvanian newspaper Krónika, an accreditation committee were due to inspect the university's facilities in Miercurea-Ciuc (Csíkszereda) on 10 January.

Commenting on a Hungarian university in Transylvania, Romania's new prime minister, Adrian Nastase, said last week on Romanian TV's Hungarian programme that the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (RMDSZ) is now an opposition party "and it would be strange were it to accomplish things now, in opposition, that it was unable to achieve while in a government position."

He stated, "I have no reservations in connection with learning the mother language, however, there are no European regulations that would make it compulsory to set up a higher educational institution teaching in the language of a given national minority." He did concede that minority affairs as a strictly internal affair "had lost its validity in Europe after 1989."


Charity leader assaulted in Romania

The Romanian Foreign Ministry has reacted with surprise to the assault of Father Imre Kozma, leader of the Hungarian Maltese Charity and member of the World Federation of Hungarians, at the Bors border station on Sunday. Kozma, whose travel documents were earlier stolen in Oradea (Nagyvárad) along with other documents and money for charity, said the assault had been planned.

The Hungarian Consul General in Cluj (Kolozsvár), László Alföldi, said he could not believe that Kozma could have been dragged out of his car and beaten without the border guards taking any action. Kozma, renowned for his charitable work, said the incident was especially distressing, as much of the Hungarian Maltese Charity's aid to Romania goes not only to Hungarians but to Romanians too. According to the Romanian Foreign Ministry, an investigation into the incident has been launched.


And in other news...

  • With an operation code-named "Balaton," Slovakia sought to hinder Hungary's EU and NATO accession, says István Nikolits, secret services minister from 1997 to 1998. Head of the Secret Services Minister's Office Gábor Szabó responded that information on the matter could not be made public, but added that if there was an "Operation Balaton," it was clearly unsuccessful.
  • French authorities will grant asylum to the Zámoly Roma who currently reside in Strasbourg. Csaba Hende, state secretary at the Hungarian Justice Ministry, said he was surprised about the news as he thinks the claim that the group's safety cannot be guaranteed in Hungary is false. János Báthory, head of the Office for National Minorities and Ethnic Affairs, told the French ambassador to Budapest that the Government expected the Roma to return. "The allegation that the Roma do not want to return to Hungary for fear of possible consequences against them is thus not true," Báthory stated.
  • The Prime Minister, addressing the 14th congress of the European People's Party—of which FIDESZ is now a member—stressed the importance of enlargement. He said that Conservative parties of Europe, united by a common vision, are working to reunite Europe. Reiterating that Hungary would be ready for accession in 2003, Orbán said, "I know that you have worked hard in the interest of Europe to be ready for enlargement in 2003. The time has now come for reaping in the first fruits of this work."
  • "Why here?" was all Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov answered a reporter who asked about the fate of Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, arrested by the Red Army in Hungary in 1945. Ivanov, last week on an official visit to Budapest, avoided questions about Wallenberg on the day Swedish Minister Göran Persson said a ten-year Swedish-Russian investigation gave no proof that the diplomat died in 1947. Both Soviet and Russian authorities have claimed that Wallenberg died in a Moscow prison.
  • The hair of Jimmy Zámbó, the deceased pop star, was stolen from the hospital where he died last week. Zámbó's hair was shaved off as doctors tried to save the singer after he had accidentally shot himself in the head. The reason behind the theft is that fans are willing to fork out many a forint for a piece of Jimmy's hair.

Paul Nemes, 12 January 2001

Moving on:


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

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