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Vol 3, No 21
11 June 2001
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News from Hungary News from Hungary
All the important news
since 2 June 2001

Paul Nemes


Torgyán claims he is hunted

Smallholder (FKGP) leader József Torgyán, recently excluded from the party's parliamentary group, has claimed that "underworld figures" connected with the party intend to assassinate him.

He did not, however, give any further details as to the identity of his alleged would-be assassins,
View today's updated headlines from Hungary

only that they are not the FKGP members who he expelled from the party. He did nevertheless say there was a letter "containing names and hints" which would be opened if he was killed.

To dramatise the situation even more, Torgyán nominated current General Secretary Géza Gyimóthy to succeed him, in the event that he himself is murdered. The Smallholder presidium agreed to Torgyán's proposal on Wednesday.

The police and the security services say they have no information about a possible assassination attempt on Torgyán. Police Communications Director László Garamvölgyi stated that the FKGP leader should inform the police chief if he indeed has any information, and added that Torgyán "has not asked for police protection. Should he have a request like this, he should turn to the police chief."

FIDESZ Chairman Zoltán Pokorni meanwhile said on Friday that he "cannot grasp" why Torgyán believes someone wants to assassinate him, while FKGP parliamentary faction leader Péter Szentgyörgyvölgyi said, "one can well imagine Torgyán's anguished state of mind."


No dam settlement

During talks on Tuesday, Hungary and Slovakia failed to come to an agreement on the Gabčíkovo (Bős)-Nagymaros dam issue. Hungarian Government Commissioner Zoltán Székely said Hungary would like the issue settled in an inter-governmental agreement by autumn or, should this prove to be impossible, "sign a separate agreement by autumn defining compromises on the water quantity to be let into the old Danube bed and the tributaries," MTI reports.

After having diverted the flow of the Danube River to provide power to its hydroelectric plant at Gabčíkovo (Bős) in 1992, it appears as if the Slovak side is still unwilling to re-divert water back into the original Danube river bed. Hungary wants 400 cubic metres per second redirected into the original Danube. Additionally, Hungary is willing to give up its share of electricity from the Slovak plant if Slovakia diverts additional water back into the Danube.

The next round of talks will be held in Budapest on 29 June.


Olympic subcommittee

On Wednesday, Parliament's Regional Development Committee established an Olympic subcommittee to study the conditions under which Budapest could make a successful bid for the 2012 Summer Games. Zsolt Becsó of FIDESZ is chairing the committee.

Economics Minister György Matolcsy said last week that he agreed fully with the government's plans to put in a bid for the 2012 Olympics. "Hosting the Olympics is good business. It would give a powerful thrust to economic development," Matolcsy told Népszabadság.

Matolcsy, who believes staging the Olympics would cost Hungary somewhere in the region of USD seven to ten billion, remarked that the business sector had covered one third of the Barcelona Games and half of the investments for the Sydney Olympics.


Euro approaching

A campaign aimed to raise the public's euro awareness will be launched by the National Bank of Hungary (MNB), the Banking Federation and commercial banks, ahead of the launch of Europe's new currency.

Ákos Radó of the MNB said, "Those who keep foreign currency [any of the 12 euro currencies] at home and fail to have it converted in time, until the end of the year, will lose money. During the subsequent overlap period, expected to last until mid-February 2002, they may convert it into euro at loss." Banks will automatically convert foreign currency accounts into euros.

In other related news, MNB Governor Zsigmond Járai and Finance Minister Mihály Varga on Tuesday made it known that the Forint will be fully convertible as of 15 June. Járai said the strength of the Hungarian economy and the Forint would allow all protective measures to be lifted, while Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said on Wednesday that this would grant Hungarians the financial freedoms enjoyed in Western Europe.


Csángó wrangle

At a Budapest news conference on the Csángó on 6 June, László Surján of FIDESZ told the press that it was "simply puzzling" that a number of organisations claiming that the group is of Romanian origin had appeared in the Csángó region of Moldavia following a recent recommendation by the Council of Europe, which backed Csángó demands and recognised that the group is of Hungarian origin.

Surján said Romanians should be proud that a group is living among them that has been able to preserve their culture after centuries of isolation from Hungarian-speakers.


And in other news...

  • Secret Services Minister Ervin Demeter on Wednesday said NATO had praised Hungary for ensuring that the Alliance's recent Budapest conference passed without any incidents. According to Demeter, "precautionary measures" by the Security Services was in part behind the success. Demeter said the National Security Office had begun locating potential protesters last year, and also contacted Hungarian protest groups, and convinced its leaders that it was in Hungary's interest that the summit elapsed without violent protests taking place.
  • Endre Juhász, Hungary's chief enlargement negotiator, deems the chances of closing the chapters on the free movement of persons and capital at next week's accession talks as 50 per cent "at most." He said Hungary would accept the EU's position—which restricts free movement for a minimum of two and a maximum of seven years—if two conditions were met: EU members affirm "what sort of national measures they wish to apply during the transitory period" and that Hungary should also be allowed to apply its own regulations during this period."
  • Hungary's Ambassador to Slovakia Miklós Boros said on Wednesday that Slovakia again had expressed concern over the Status Law. Slovakia will soon analyse the proposal and inform Budapest of its "formal opinion," a Slovak official said. According the Slovak Foreign Ministry, Slovakia has no interest in "over-dramatising" the issue and would use diplomatic channels rather than a media campaign.
  • Actual work on rebuilding the Mária Valéria bridge, linking Esztergom in Hungary and Štúrovo (Párkány) in Slovakia, has finally begun. The bridge was blown up by Germany forces in 1944, but failure to rebuild the bridge has kept Hungarians on both side of the Danube apart since then. The bridge is expected to open in October.
  • On Thursday, Hungary's 72nd National Book Week opened. In all, 196 new publications—144 from Hungary and 52 from Hungarian publishers in neighbouring states—will go on sale. In Budapest's Vörösmarty tér, the major publishers were out in force, while there are also programmes in other Hungarian towns.

Paul Nemes, 8 June 2001


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