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Vol 3, No 20
4 June 2001
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News from Hungary News from Hungary
All the important news
since 26 May 2001

Paul Nemes


NATO takes over Budapest

During a meeting with NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson, in Budapest for the meeting of NATO foreign ministers, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán on Monday said that Hungary would continue as a "stabilising
View today's updated headlines from Hungary

force" in the region and hopes that "its impact in Southeast Europe will be tangible."

Orbán said claims that Hungary is not meeting its obligations to NATO are "unjustified," while Lord Robertson noted that NATO would not penalise member states that do not fulfil their promises.

The United States will remain in the Balkans "indefinitely," US Secretary of State Colin Powell stated after arriving in Budapest. Powell, however, said he hoped the NATO foreign ministers would agree to reduce NATO forces in Bosnia-Hercegovina, and that he would propose US peacekeepers being gradually replaced by "ethnically mixed" troops.

After meeting with Powell on Wednesday, Orbán said that Hungary and the US were in complete agreement on strategic issues.


Martonyi talks to the guests

On Wednesday, as the NATO meeting closed and the first ever talks between NATO and EU foreign ministers began, Foreign Minister János Martonyi told the press that the NATO summit had been a success from "all points of view." "We have actually stood the test," he said.

He said that, as had been expected, NATO discussions had centred on Balkan issues. He thought Yugoslav Foreign Minister Goran Svilanović's presence a positive thing and a clear sign that change is underway in Yugoslavia.

Also on Wednesday, Martonyi met with EU Foreign and Security Policy Chief Javier Solana and Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov.

Martonyi told Ivanov that NATO enlargement would not in any way be a threat or challenge to Russia. Both said bilateral relations would have to intensify.

After the meeting with Solana, Martonyi said that the latter's mediation in Macedonia shows that the EU is "accepting a genuine role in resolving certain European crises." He also said that Hungary would like to contribute to the shaping of European security and defence, and mentioned that Hungary had made "concrete offers" for the European defence force. The EU wants a 60,000 strong rapid reaction force set up by 2003.

He also believed that progress had been made towards the creation of a European defence force. "Although the issue of NATO enlargement did not formally feature on the agenda, the atmosphere of the contributions made it clear that the process has not come to a halt," he said.


Áder tells Torgyán to sit among independents

Speaker of Parliament János Áder on Monday announced that Smallholder (FKGP) leader József Torgyán would remain among the independents.

The leader of the Smallholder parliamentary faction, Péter Szentgyörgyvölgyi, said the group's decision to expel Torgyán was "irrevocable."

Torgyán—not the least interested in moving to his new seat—hit back, saying that Áder had become "unworthy" of his post and should resign. He said he would consider notifying the President, the Prime Minister, the President of the Constitutional Court and the President of the Supreme Court, as well as parliamentary faction leaders.

While Áder said that the the faction's decision takes precedence over the Budapest Municipal Court's decision, Torgyán has appealed to the court to compel Parliament to abide by the ruling.

Szentgyörgyvölgyi responded by saying that the ruling is not binding, as the parliamentary faction was not involved in the lawsuit. He also claimed that a court order cannot "enforce its ruling against the legislature." Supreme Court General-Secretary Zoltán Lomnici, however, was quick to reply, saying that, under the law, a court ruling applies to everyone. He added that, as the court's ruling nullified the parliamentary group's decision to expel Torgyán, the faction must be "considered non-existent."


Another meeting of foreign ministers

Hungary and Romania still disagree over some aspects of the Status Law, Foreign Minister Martonyi said after meeting his Romanian counterpart Mircea GeoanĂŁ on 30 May. Some things have however been cleared up, he said. Martonyi suggested that the Romanian side inform Hungary about its reservations in a letter.

Meanwhile, President Ferenc Mádl, meeting with Hungarians from beyond the borders, said, "While our initiative has been received very positively in Yugoslavia, Croatia and Slovenia, this unfortunately cannot be said of Slovakia or Romania." He asked Hungarian leaders in neighbouring states to "help disperse aversions to the law among political circles and ordinary citizens of their countries' majority nations."

In related news, Zsolt Németh said on Wednesday that the Status Law proposal would be amended so that it does not apply to Hungarians in Austria. Hungarians who are citizens of Croatia, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Ukraine or Yugoslavia will be covered.


And in other news...

  • Budapest Mayor Gábor Demszky said on Thursday that he believes a referendum should be held on a potential bid for the 2012 Olympics, as the Games would burden Hungarians. He said that before any decision was made there would have to be "major studies and precise calculations," adding that taxes could not be raised for an Olympic bid.
  • Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson announced on 31 May that all current EU member states had agreed to restrict the free movement of labour for two years following the admittance into the EU of new member states.
  • On Tuesday, Parliament amended the law on the status of foreigners in Hungary, eliminating "immigrant" status. Under the new rules, an Interior Ministry body will be set up to process asylum, residence, settlement and citizenship applications.
  • The Prime Minister said on Tuesday that he believes it "degrading" to answer allegations against his father's business. "The allegations do not tally with the facts, but this is a matter for the court," Orbán said after a remark in Parliament that the management of state company Dunaferr was replaced in order for considerable orders to be placed to his father's mine.
  • As of 6 June, Julius Meinl will be no more. The 75 shops will instead be called Smatch. The change comes as a result of Delhaize of Belgium having bought the chain from Csemege Julius Meinl more than a year ago.

Paul Nemes, 1 June 2001


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