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Vol 3, No 23
25 June 2001
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News from Hungary News from Hungary
All the important news
since 16 June 2001

Paul Nemes


The Status Law is born

On Tuesday, Parliament passed the Status Law on Hungarians beyond the borders with a majority of 92.4 per cent. 306 MPs voted for the law, 17 against and eights abstained. The Free Democrat (SZDSZ) faction was alone in voting against the proposal.

View today's updated headlines from Hungary

Csaba Tabajdi of the opposition Socialist Party (MSZP) said his party voted in favour of the bill partly because it "supports the principle of earning a living in people's home countries, and partly because it enforces the principle of free choice of identity."

Hungarian political leaders in neighbouring states welcomed the fact that the law, which will come into force on 1 January 2002, was passed with such a large majority. Béla Markó, chairman of the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (RMDSZ) said, "I am delighted that Hungary's Parliament adopted the law with a majority that verged on consensus, for that sends an important message to the Hungarian community of Transylvania."

Chairman of the Hungarian Coalition Party (MKP) in Slovakia Béla Bugár, quoted in Wednesday's Magyar Nemzet, said that the Law will on the one hand help people to stay in their land of birth, and on the other hand, those from beyond the borders who visit the mother country will no longer be only guests.

Deputy Chairman of the Alliance of Vojvodina Hungarians (VMSZ) László Józsa stated, "if the ethnic Hungarians living beyond Hungary's borders were to send a message to Hungary's political parties, it would say that we welcome the manifestation of national unity on this question," MTI reports.

Miklós Kovács, chairman of the Hungarian Cultural Federation of Subcarpathia (KMKSZ) said that the most important message of the Status Law is that the political wishes of Hungarians from beyond the borders have become natural and dominant in the mother country, Magyar Nemzet writes.


Romania to scrap bilateral treaties?

The response from governments in some neighbouring states was however less welcoming.

Romanian Prime Minister Adrian Năstase allegedly said on Thursday that Romania is prepared to annul all bilateral treaties with Hungary, except the 1996 Basic Treaty, Magyar Hírlap reported on Friday. According to the paper, he is also reported to have said that the Romanian government would choose "Romania's interests" before continued cooperation with the RMDSZ.

"I want to be very clear. Romania is not a colonial territory from which Hungary can import a workforce at will," Năstase told Rompres, Magyar Hírlap writes.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Gábor Horváth on Thursday declined to respond to "contradictory reports" on what is supposed to have been said by Năstase. He did however say that the Ministry would find out exactly what had been stated, but added that nothing like what is now reported to have been said had earlier come out of Bucharest. Romania asked for consultations and Hungary is ready to comply, he said. He again stressed that the Status Law has "absolutely no extra-territorial validity."

Furthermore, on Wednesday, Romanian media quoted Romanian Foreign Minister Mircea Geoană as saying that OSCE High Commissioner for National Minorities Max van der Stoel had sent a letter to Foreign Minister János Martonyi "expressing concern and reservations" about the Law. A Hungarian Foreign Ministry statement said that there were no such remarks in van der Stoel's letter. The High Commissioner merely asked Hungary to continue consulting neighbouring states.

As the storm was brewing, Prime Mister Viktor Orbán told Kossuth Radio that "it is not that Hungary or the Hungarian government are opposed to Slovakia or Romania, but that a way of thinking observed in Slovakia or Romania differs from the mentality of quite a few countries in the region, including our thinking and perhaps our set of values."

Slovakia, which as CER has reported before already has its own status law, "firmly protests" against the Hungarian Parliament's decision, Magyar Nemzet wrote on Thursday, while Slovak Foreign Ministry State Secretary Jan Figel' called the Law a "step backwards" and made it clear that only Slovak laws would apply in the Slovak Republic.


Szabadi detained

Former Ministry of Agriculture State Secretary Béla Szabadi, a supporter of Smallholder (FKGP) leader József Torgyán, was taken into custody on Thursday 21 June, after his parliamentary immunity was taken away from him on Tuesday.

Szabadi, an FKGP MP turned independent MP after being ousted from the party faction, was detained on suspicion of mismanagement and embezzlement, the Central Prosecution Investigations Office stated. According to Magyar Hírlap, the damages are estimated to amount to several hundred million forints.

József Torgyán claimed the judicial procedures leading up to the arrest are similar to methods used during Rákosi's Stalinist dictatorship in the 1950s.

In other news related to the Smallholders, the Reform Smallholders will hold its first meeting on 28 June. Zsolt Lányi said that after the decision by the Supreme Court last week that Torgyán remains Smallholder president there was "no alternative but to form a new party."

Lányi, who after failing to take control of the Smallholders is expected to be elected president of the new party, said they could win five to sever per cent of the vote in the next elections. He further said he hopes the Reform party's parliamentary group would be 14 to 15 members strong by autumn.


Koštunica in Budapest

After a one-day stay in Budapest at the invitation of President Ferenc Mádl, Yugoslav President Vojislav Koštunica said he expected economic cooperation between the two countries to increase. "History, culture and politics are bringing us closer to one another. The democratic changes which had taken place in both countries provided new chances for cooperation," he said.

József Kasza, VMSZ president and deputy prime minister of Serbia, described the visit as a "milestone" in bilateral relations. Kasza also said that Koštunica's "commitment to settling the minority issue would probably be manifest even more clearly in the future," MTI reports.


And in other news...

  • After a two-year trial, Győr-Moson-Sopron County Court on 19 June found István Dudás guilty of crimes against humanity. Dudás was found responsible for the Mosonmagyaróvár massacre during the 1956 Revolution, which resulted in the deaths of over 50 people, leaving another 200 or more wounded. Men under Dudás' command opened fire on an unarmed crowd seeking to remove the red star from the town's barracks. The court sentenced Dudás to three years in a penitentiary, taking into consideration the former Police Colonel's age and poor health as well as a general amnesty issued in 1993.
  • According to Napi Gazdaság, Saab, hoping to supply Hungary with JAS 39 Gripen fighters, is resigned to losing out to the US. The Pentagon on Tuesday informed the US Congress that Hungary may want to lease 24 F-16 fighters, as well as buying four others to be used a spare parts. Reuters quotes a senior Saab source as saying that "Hungary, as a new NATO member, is prepared to do everything to keep the United States happy."
  • Parliament on Tuesday voted to elect new ombudsmen, proposed by President Mádl after the parties represented in parliament failed to come to an agreement on whom to nominate. Baranbas Lenkovics replaces Katalin Gönczöl, whose term expires, as Human Rights ombudsman while Albert Takács becomes his deputy. Jenő Kaltenbach was elected ombudsman for National and Ethnic Minority Rights, while the Data Protection nominee, Mihály Maczonkai, did not get the required two-thirds majority.
  • A bomb in central Budapest on Monday evening killed one person and seriously injured another. The victims were a 48-year-old businessman and his girlfriend. Two years ago, the unnamed victim's Mercedes was blown up at the same address, but he then told the police that he could think of no one who might want to hurt him. Police have offered a HUF five million reward for information leading to those responsible.
  • Two of the 68 used trams bought from Hanover for HUF 7.1 billion (USD 24.7 million) arrived in Budapest on Tuesday. The 23-year-old trams will be put into traffic in September.

Paul Nemes, 22 June 2001

Moving on:


Magyar Távirati Iroda
hvg online
Inside Hungary

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