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Vol 3, No 8
26 February 2001
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News from Hungary News from Hungary
All the important news
since 17 February 2001

Paul Nemes


Black Angel of death kills up to 40

It is feared that 24-year-old nurse Tímea F, dubbed the Black Angel, may have carried out 40 mercy killings at Budapest's Gyula Nyírő hospital. Tímea says she started the killings in February 2000 in order to ease her victims' suffering. A psychiatric examination of Tímea begun last week, but she could face life in prison if found guilty, and sane.

View today's updated headlines from Hungary

Hospital officials blamed the poor state of the health service as the underlying reason. The hospital's director, Gábor Takács, said he could "not rule it out that the same is happening in other Hungarian hospitals." Takács said there had been no psychological screenings at the hospital and that there were no future plans for its introduction because of the shortage of nurses. "We are happy if somebody knocks on the door, looking for a job," he said.

Putting the blame back in the hands of the hospital, Health Minister István Mikola responded by saying that lack of funds or nurses was no explanation for what had happened. "I cannot accept that a 24-year-old nurse administers drugs to patients at nights without control," he told Hungarian radio.

He also said that his ministry would be ready to take over the running of the hospital if the Budapest City Council was "unable to organise adequate health care." Furthermore, Mikola has ordered an investigation into all of Hungary's hospitals. He discarded the claims that such mercy killings could happen in any hospital.


Torgyán and Bánk at loggerheads

The crisis in the Smallholders' Party (FKGP) continued last week with József Torgyán and Attila Bánk clashing over who should lead the FKGP parliamentary faction. The week started off by the party's parliamentary faction leader, Attila Bánk, being suspended by József Torgyán. However, party chairman Torgyán's position within the group weakened as he failed to get two-thirds of Smallholder MPs to show up for what he called a "general meeting" on Tuesday, hence no decision could be reached on Bánk's dismissal.

Bánk, who is also the party's chief prosecutor, has been trying to suspend Torgyán's party membership, while having launched disciplinary proceedings against him. Bánk also accused Torgyán of wanting to leave the government coalition. According to Bánk, Torgyán would, after taking over the parliamentary group, nominate a candidate for the post of agriculture minister that Prime Minister Viktor Orbán was certain to turn down, and then turn against the main ruling coalition party, FIDESZ.

Togyán's response is that the FKGP parliamentary faction "rejects all efforts and rumours aimed at misleading the public, designed to crush the civic coalition and thus disrupt the country's governability and stability."

Torgyán meanwhile produced a document, which he says is proof that he in fact is the parliamentary faction's leader, and he intends to see his own nominee, Péter Szentgyörgyvölgyi, succeed him on 1 March. In turn, Bánk proclaimed that, at the faction's meeting on 12 February, "József Torgyán said he would resign all his posts in the group and we noted this ... It follows that I am the leader of the Smallholders' group in Parliament."

In mid-week, Torgyán tried to remove Bánk by calling for an inspection of the FKGP parliamentary faction's finances. Bánk shrugged this off, saying it was a "political trick" and that the finances are in order. As the dispute took yet another twist, Torgyán on Thursday ordered the removal of the parliamentary group's documents, which he hoped would bring down Bánk, from Parliament to FKGP headquarters. However, Parliament's deputy financial director ordered Torgyán to return the documents.

Viktor Orbán admitted on Hungarian radio that he could no longer follow what was going on in the Smallholders' Party, whose parliamentary group he thought would split into two. The Premier said he would prefer if the Smallholders settled their disputes peacefully, although he saw that as unlikely.


Németh hopes for better relations

Foreign Ministry State Secretary Zsolt Németh last week visited Romania, where he expressed hope that, unlike the tragic 20th century, the 21st century would be one of co-operation between Hungarians and Romanians. Soon after arriving in Bucharest, Németh held talks with Béla Markó, president of the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (RMDSZ), who said the RMDSZ "situation report" would provide a basis for talks with Romanian representatives.

Németh and Markó discussed the setting up of further Hungarian consulates, a Hungarian-language state university—which Romanian President Ion Iliescu last week told Magyar Hírlap that he opposed—as well as the return of church and other property. Markó urged the Hungarian government to encourage business links with Hungarian-populated areas, with development of the infrastructure in Transylvania being a priority.

After several meetings with various Romanian ministers, Németh said he would like the "frozen" joint committee system to gather new momentum. Romanian Foreign Minister Mircea Geoană commented that the agreement between the RMDSZ and the Party of Social Democracy was a "sound basis for settling minority issues."

Meanwhile, in Cluj (Kolozsvár), Romanian nationalist Mayor Gheorghe Funar has been warned that signs put up in the city, which remind its inhabitants that Romanian is the official language, could be illegal. The US ambassador to Romania, Jim Rosapepe, visiting Transylvania last week, accused Funar of "inflammatory rhetoric" in his crusade against allowing Hungarians to use their mother tongue. The law, which would allow the use of a second language in areas where a national minority constitute at least 20 per cent of the population, awaits final approval.


Minority-run local schools

At a conference in Szolnok, Education Minister Zoltán Pokorni has expressed his support for the transfer of the control of schools from local authorities to minority self-governments. He promised the problem would be solved within a year.

At the same conference, National Roma Self-Government Chairman Flórián Farkas welcomed improvements in education and Roma legal protection, but stressed the poor state of Roma housing, employment and parliamentary representation, while expressing concern over recent emigration.

Also speaking on the situation of the Roma, President Ferenc Mádl last week said that the only solution is for the Roma to become "equal members of the nation and equal citizens of the society." On emigration, Mádl asked those who would consider going abroad to stay at home, and those who have been "seduced by the false hope" and emigrated he asked to return home. Flórián Farkas said he "had never heard ministry representatives speak in such a human tone."

In the meantime, Hungary has requested the extradition of two Zámoly Romany women currently seeking asylum in Strasbourg. The two women are wanted in connection with an investigation into the death of a man during a fight between Zámoly Roma and youths from Csákvár in 1999. József Krasznai, speaking on behalf of the Zámoly Roma, said the extradition was intended to discredit them


And in other news...

  • In the wake of József Torgyán's departure from the Ministry of Agriculture, temporary Agriculture Minister Imre Boros has commenced an investigation into companies operating under the Ministry.
  • Following the discovery of foot and mouth disease in Britain last week, Hungary has placed a ban on the import of British meat. No live cattle, goats, sheep, pigs, raw meat or dairy products from the UK will be allowed into Hungary.
  • Prime Minister Orbán on Thursday signed a free trade agreement with Croatian counterpart Ivica Račan in Zagreb. The agreement will come into force on 1 April of this year and will be applicable until Hungary joins the European Union. After signing the agreement, Orbán said, "I believe we have signed a good contract. We are definitely satisfied with its content. I believe we can mutually state this." The two premiers were not expected to formally discuss the planned Croatian hydroelectric plant on the Dráva river.
  • During a visit to Baia Mare (Nagybánya) last week, government commissioner János Gönczy said that Hungary is planning to sign an ecological agreement with Romania, Slovakia, Ukraine and Yugoslavia, and to establish a Tisza Ecological Centre, with the help of EU funds. He also told the Transylvanian newspaper Krónika that the government is continuing to seek damages against the Aurul mining company for last year's cyanide contamination of the Tisza and Szamos, but would prefer an out-of-court settlement.
  • President of the Czech Chamber of Deputies Václav Klaus and Estonian Prime Minister Mart Laar both sent letters to Orbán on 25 February, the Memorial Day for the Victims of Communism. Klaus pointed to Hungary's and the Czech Republic's painful shared experiences, while Laar wrote that "Communism can never again receive an opportunity ... The basic values of European civilisations demand the equal condemnation of fascism and Communism, as the most serious crimes committed against humanity in the 20th century."

Paul Nemes, 23 February 2001

Moving on:


Magyar Távirati Iroda
hvg online
Inside Hungary
Central Europe Online

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