The Székely affair goes on
After Parliament lifted Smallholder (FKGP) MP Zoltán Székely's immunity last Tuesday, Prosecutor General Péter Polt said that criminal proceedings would immediately be set in motion. Székely has accused several people of being involved in corrupt dealings—including Dániel Balla (executive manager of Pest County Water and Sewerage Construction Kft) and fellow FKGP MPs, Gábor Kuncze and András Várhegyi—but András Turi of the Prosecutors Office stated that there are no further suspects.
Dániel Balla who handed over the HUF 20 million (USD 66,000) case to Székely (see last week's news review), claims the MP told him that that he "collected" money for the Party as well as for FTC sports club (Ferencvárosi Torna Club). This claim has been denied by FKGP President József Torgyán, who is also president of FTC.
Meanwhile, Balla will be "exempted from prosecution for providing information and evidence," HVG reports. Balla first informed the police about Székely in September, and planned Thursday's operation with the Prosecutor's Office.
According to a recent TeleDirect poll, 38 per cent of those asked fully agree and 28 per cent mostly agree that this case is only the tip of the iceberg as far as the corruptness of MPs is concerned.
Croatian president in Budapest
At the beginning of his two-day visit to Budapest, Stipe Mesić, president of Croatia, was given a red-carpet reception by President Ferenc Mádl on Wednesday . After talks with Mádl, Mesić predicted that the planned Rijeka (Fiume)-Zagreb-Budapest highway, as well as the reconstruction of the Rijeka to Budapest railway line would very much encourage bilateral co-operation between Hungary and Croatia. Moreover, Mesić promised that all Hungarian homes in Croatia destroyed during the Yugoslav wars would be rebuilt by late 2001.
Mesić also met with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán on the same day. The two, who regard bilateral relations as "free of problems" and said that "the common historical roots of the two countries are manifest in an identity of interests," focused their discussion on developments in Yugoslavia. They both said that, after the recent turn of events, it is now time to focus on "concrete problems."
Accompanying Croatian Foreign Minister Tonino Picula, who held talks with his Hungarian counterpart János Martonyi on Thursday, expressed hope that a conclusion to the Hungarian-Croatian free trade agreement could be reached before the end of the year as he deems this to be of extreme importance with regard to developing a Central European identity in Croatia.
Official visit to Yugoslavia
Visiting Yugoslavia last week, Iván Bába, administrative state secretary of foreign affairs, pushed for amnesty for conscripts in the Yugoslav Army who had fled to Hungary, the opening of a Hungarian consulate in Subotica (Szabadka), the clearing of the Danube and the elimination of the fee for border crossings. Upon his return to Budapest, Bába said that the Yugoslav side had promised amnesty to Hungarian and non-Hungarian Yugoslav citizens who had been found guilty of desertion by the Milošević regime.
Bába further said that Vojvodina had been an ever-present issue during talks, and added that the Hungarian government supports the Vojvodina Hungarians' plans for autonomy. Bába met with Alliance of Hungarians in Vojvodina (VMSZ) Chairman József Kasza, who asked Hungary to provide fuel and energy aid before the winter.
Reactions to budget draft
Government Accounting Office Chairman Árpád Kovács, first to contribute to the parliamentary debate on the 2001-2002 draft budget after its presentation by Finance Minister Zsigmond Járai, said there would be "risks" in meeting the budget's income requirements, but described this year's revenue plan as being "on safer ground" than last year.
FIDESZ-Hungarian Civic Party speaker László Domokos said the draft "would allow economic players to calculate and plan in advance under stable conditions," while Smallholder speaker Béla Túri-Kovács said more or less the same thing. The Socialist Party's (MSZP) Sándor Burány criticised the draft for being based on an unrealistic situation, holding unrealistic assumptions as well as an underrating of inflation.
Gábor Kuncze of the Free Democrats (SZDSZ) was even more critical and branded the budget draft a scam, while István Balsai of the government coalition partner Hungarian Democratic Forum (MDF) said his party could not accept a two-year budget if it was regarded as an experiment. Unsurprisingly, Viktor Orbán said he would like Parliament to pass the draft budget without any alterations being made.
Hungarians released in Prague
On 18 and 19 October, Czech authorities released seven Hungarian citizens who had been arrested during the September anti-IMF and World Bank demonstrations in the Czech capital. According to the Hungarian Foreign Ministry, the charges against one of those arrested were dropped, but criminal proceedings against the other six continue. All seven were, however, allowed to leave the country.
Foreign Minister Martonyi said every effort had been made for the youths to be released at the earliest possible date. A Foreign Ministry statement said that the excellent Hungarian-Czech relations and official international contacts had made it possible for Hungary "to take a stand for its citizens on all possible levels through diplomatic channels." Earlier in the week, the Hungarian ambassador to the Czech Republic, Kristóf Forrai, had to fend off criticism that Hungarian authorities were not doing everything in their power to secure the return of the seven Hungarians.
And in other news...
- The Prime Minister met Romanian counterpart Mugur Isârescu in Cenad (Csanád) on 20 October, where a border station linking the village to Kiszombor in Hungary will be opened. The two were also expected to fly up north to the soon-to-be-opened border station between Valea liu Mihai (Érmihályfalva) and Nyírábrány.
- Government spokesman Gábor Borókai on Thursday refuted a report saying that Health Minister Árpád Gógl and Sports Minister Tamás Deutsch are to be replaced. Speaking to MTI, Borókai said, "there is no personnel question whatsoever on the agenda."
- The ongoing story of András Toma, the Hungarian Prisoner of War who was returned to Hungary from Russia in August, seems to have come to a close. Toma was formally and ceremonially discharged from the Hungarian Army on Tuesday. Before being discharged, private Toma was promoted to sergeant major and awarded USD 9900 in recognition of "56 years of perseverance" in Russia.
- Ferenc Puskás, formerly of the Hungarian "Golden Team," was last week visited by former Real Madrid team-mate Alfredo Di Stefano (and a Spanish TV team) following his hospitalisation for a "thorough check-up." Rumours about the nature of Puskás' illness circulated all week, but hospital staff declined to disclose specific information.
- On 23 October, a national holiday marking the outbreak of the 1956 Revolution, Hungary is to hold 1956 commemorations across the country. On Friday, 169 Freedom Fighters from 1956 received distinctions in Parliament. Among them were former Interior Ministry employees treated badly by the Kádár regime after the Revolution, some of whom were now promoted to a higher rank.
Paul Nemes, 20 October 2000
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