Budapest on end to sanctions
Hungary has welcomed the lifting of the European Union's sanctions against its western neighbour. Foreign Ministry State Secretary Zsolt Németh said that the EU's decision last Tuesday to lift sanctions against Austria was based on principles which have governed Hungarian foreign policy since the sanctions were introduced.
Németh said, "Every political force can be judged only on the basis of its deeds... This is important because only this can ensure the effectiveness and unity of European politics." He did, however, spell out that the Austrian Freedom Party should be watched also in the future, with concern.
Németh has also commented on suggestions that a new, US-backed grouping of Central European states may take form. Németh said that the proposed regional group, which would include Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and Slovenia, should not be seen to an alternative to the European Union, but merely as an Austrian attempt to elevate the region. This, he said, is in accordance with Hungarian foreign policy. BBC Monitoring also reports that the State Secretary said that such a group would not hinder Hungary's EU accession.
Fuel prices go up
Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said on Wednesday that the Government would not support an increase of the fuel price—which, he added, would lead to financial ruin for many families—despite the lawsuit filed by MOL (Hungarian Oil and Gas Company). Orbán made clear the six per cent per annum set as the maximum increase of the price on fuel did not breach any agreement, but added that the Government was looking for a mutually acceptable solution.
The Prime Minister verified that excise tax on fuel would be increased by six per cent—in line with the inflation rate. On 13 September, MOL announced that the price of petrol—which, according to MOL, is HUF [Hungarian Forint] ten per (USD 0.03) litre under the world market price—would increase by HUF six per litre (USD 0.02) on Friday, while the price of diesel would rise by HUF 11 (USD 0.04) per litre.
In the meantime, the National Road Hauliers' Association (MKFE) on Thursday urged Prime Minister Orbán to meet with its representatives to discuss the rising prices as well as compensation. Although re-directed by Orbán to the Ministry of Transport, haulage companies were hopeful that a solution could be found without protests similar to those seen in other European states.
A group of international experts have found 42 environmentally dangerous industrial plants in the Tisza catchment area. Népszava reports that the working group of Baia Mare (Nagybánya) has listed 24 plants in Romania, 11 in Hungary, six in Ukraine and one in Slovakia that are a danger to the environment. According to the report, the states concerned have failed to mention sources of pollution.
Domestic agreement on EU accession
Six parliamentary parties have signed a national consensus document on EU accession drawn up by the Government, with additions by the Socialist Party. According to Foreign Minister János Martonyi, the document is not intended to demonstrate "internal unity," but was "prompted by domestic policy considerations." The six parties are prepared to adopt laws needed for EU harmonisation, including laws which will need a two-thirds majority or a constitutional amendment.
According to the document, Hungary will be ready for accession by 2002. It also says that progress should be based on the performance of each individual applicant country. Martonyi told Népszabadság that 1 January 2005 is the most likely accession date.
Well done, but not quite
The European Parliament's committees on Foreign Affairs, Human Rights and Security Policy in a report approved last week praised Hungary for its achievements in the fields of democratisation and the rule of law, but at the same time criticised the court system, Hungary's treatment of the Roma and called on all parties to resolve the state TV steering board problem.
The report does, however, show Hungary in a favourable light as far as meeting the political and economic criteria for EU accession are concerned.
Air force base turn-around
According to Magyar Hírlap, Viktor Orbán has reversed the decision by the Armed Forces to close the air base at Pápa. It is expected that, after its MIG-21s are taken out of service, instead of closing the airport, the base will be used as a reserve base and may be taken over by the National Guard. See last week's news review for more on the base at Pápa and the Armed Forces reorganisation row.
Frunda for president
Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (RMDSZ) Chairman Béla Markó has explained his party's decision to field a presidential candidate for the Romanian elections. Speaking on Duna TV, Markó said that by fielding an own candidate the RMDSZ could get the party's message across in the media without causing friction with coalition partners.
Markó pointed out that the RMDSZ Council of Representatives' vote for György Frunda, the chosen candidate, was a vote for current RMDSZ policy, and a vote against Honorary Chairman László Tőkés. Tőkés, meanwhile, has said that Frunda's election would "set in stone the wrong political line for a long time." Minority questions should, he said, be presented "according to their full weight," and not be swept under the carpet.
Meanwhile, on other news concerning Hungarians beyond the borders—Budapest has reacted with horror to Slovak plans to again re-draw the administrative boundaries. State Secretary Németh told Slovak Ambassador Stefan Markus that the division goes against the Slovak-Hungarian basic treaty as well as international agreements signed by Slovakia. Ambassador Markus responded by saying the plan is still only in the "draft phase" and that the Government is looking at ways to meet the demands of Hungarians in Slovakia. Jaroslav Chlebo, Németh's Slovak counterpart, has advised Hungary not to interfere.
Out for lunch—bank robbers welcome
A thief in Budapest last Thursday decided not to be courteous enough to even respect the lunch break, and robbed the OTP bank's Iskola utca branch while the security guard was away having lunch. Police would not comment on the amount the robber walked away with, but said it could be several hundred thousand forints.
Paul Nemes, 15 September 2000
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