Hungarian unease about the future in Transylvania
Hungarian politicians in both Hungary and Transylvania have expressed deep concern over the turn of events in Romania.
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Speaking after the advance of former Communist Ion Iliescu of the Party for Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) and extreme nationalist Corneliu Vadim Tudor of the Greater Romania Party (PRM), Hungarian Democratic Forum (MDF) MP Miklós Csapody, an observer at Sunday's elections, expressed unease with the fact that two thirds of Romania's future political leaders represent an ideology that will seek to widen, rather than narrow, the gap between Romania and Europe.
Also commenting on Romania's giant leap backwards, László Borbély, deputy leader of the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (RMDSZ), said, "We must sound the alarm... about a party led by a chauvinistic character." Foreign Ministry State Secretary Zsolt Németh hoped that the advance of "an extremist, anti-Semitic and anti-Hungarian political force" in Romania would not adversely affect relations between the two states, stressing that both the Hungarian government and the RMDSZ wish for Hungarians to have a "lasting experience" in Transylvania.
Free Democrat István Szent-Iványi, the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee leader, did, however, manage to find something positive to say about the elections, stating that he was happy that the RMDSZ was the only government party that had managed to maintain the same level of support as in the last elections, around seven per cent of the vote for both chambers, gaining one extra senator and two additional MPs.
Following the success of Tudor—who incidentally won the largest number of votes in Timişoara (Temesvár), where Bishop László Tőkés sparked off the 1989 revolution that would see the downfall of Nicolae Ceauşescu—the RMDSZ is left with little choice but to back Iliescu in the presidential run-off between the two.
RMDSZ leader Béla Markó rejected a memorandum on parliamentary co-operation from Iliescu's party, but said his party would be prepared to provide "constructive opposition." Prime Minister Viktor Orbán stated that he would not make any premature statements before the RMDSZ had "evaluated the situation."
Tőkés on restitution, churches on status law
The Bucea (Királyhágó) bishop has declared that the PDSR mayor of Zalău (Zilah) has appealed the Romanian government decree on the return of church property. Tőkés believes that the PDSR will back those opposed to restitution of Hungarian church property and therefore jeopardise the return of some 300 buildings, he said.
Meeting in Budapest last week, Hungarian church leaders of Croatia, Slovakia, Subcarpathia and Vojvodina have backed the stance taken by the Hungarian churches of Transylvania on the status law, saying that the law—whereby Hungarians from beyond the borders would be entitled to certain privileges in Hungary—should be kept separate from the citizenship issue.
Tőkés commented that support from the mother country was even more justified now, after the Romanian elections. Minister of Culture Zoltán Rockenbauer said on Friday that the Government would submit a proposal to Parliament this month.
"Shameful" report adopted
The report on the investigation into the oil scandals was passed last week by the committee that is probing the scandals. The report was adopted with the support of the Socialists (MSZP), Free Democrats (SZDSZ) and Smallholders (FKGP), while the Hungarian Democratic Forum (MDF) and FIDESZ-Hungarian Civic Party voted against it.
The report was redrafted after being heavily criticized earlier in the week by both sides of the political spectrum and rejected by the members of the committee, who said, among other things, that facts revealed during committee hearings were not included in the report. The report, which effectively concludes the work of the committee, was a 52-page summary.
Commenting on an earlier draft during an appearance on Duna TV, Free Democrat Mária Kóródi said that the report was a "mistake and disappointment," concluding that László Pallag, the committee chairman, had given up.
After the report was passed, it again came in for criticism. László Balogh (MDF) labelled the proceedings unprecedented, as the committee only got through 19 of the report's 52 pages. Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIÉP) deputy Csaba Lentner refused to take part in the voting, stating that the report did not contain names, nor make known any links between the oil mafia, politicians and the courts, while Sándor Fazekas of FIDESZ called the report "shameful" and "unsuitable for parliamentary debate."
Trade conflict comes to an end
Agriculture and Regional Development Minister József Torgyán said on Tuesday that Hungary and the European Union had reached an agreement after Hungary had imposed a ban on maize exports. The Minister added that the ban on feed maize exports would remain, in accordance with the agreement. The EU has, however, asked Hungary to review the ban.
Speaking at the opening of Foodapest, an international food fair, Torgyán announced that Hungary and the EU had signed an agreement on 28 October on wine and spirit exports, which will save Hungarian exporters HUF (Hungarian forint) two billion (USD 6.64 million) in export duties.
And in other news...
- As was expected, the Central European Initiative (CEI) summit in Budapest last week re-admitted Yugoslavia into the organisation. Yugoslav President Vojislav Koštunica was unable to travel to Budapest because of the trouble on the Serb-Kosovan border. Italy will take over the CEI presidency from Hungary next year.
- Reacting to Viktor Orbán's comments that he would like Finance Minister Zsigmond Járai to replace György Surányi as head of National Bank of Hungary (MNB) at the end of his mandate in February, London analysts said that Járai was unlikely to make any radical changes to monetary policy. Charles Robertson of ING Barings said it would be interesting to see how Járai would work in the conditions he had himself created.
- The Socialist Party congress on Sunday 26 November re-elected László Kovács as chairman, while Ferenc Juhász was elected deputy chairman and Ildikó Lendvai deputy chairwoman. Kovács described the congress as one of "co-operation, solidarity and unity."
- Béla Turi-Kovács was sworn in as environment minister last week, while János Fónagy became the new transport and water management minister. The two new ministers replaced Ferenc Ligetvári and László Nógrádi, respectively, on 1 December. Meanwhile, Premier Orbán denied rumours on Monday that FIDESZ had discussed relieving MDF Chairwoman Ibolya Dávid from her post as justice minister.
- Government MPs adopted the main figures of the 2001-2002 budget on Tuesday, but the opposition MSZP refused to take part in the vote, saying a two-year budget is unlawful. Viktor Orbán said, after the budget had been passed, "We can concentrate on EU accession... with the possibility of reaching a serious breakthrough in legal harmonisation in 2001."
- Following FIDESZ Chairman László Kövér's comments that the Socialist Party has undermined Hungary abroad, FIDESZ Parliamentary leader József Szájer added fuel to the fire last week by saying that foreign officials often indicate that the MSZP depicts the country in a negative manner, giving Tibor Szanyi's address on the Roma to the European Parliament as an example.
- Alexander Yakovlev, chairman of the Russian presidential committee for the rehabilitation of the victims of Soviet repression, stated last week that Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg was shot dead in Moscow's Lubyanka prison. Wallenberg, who saved thousands of Jews during the Second World War, was charged with espionage and arrested by Soviet troops in Hungary. Soviet authorities had claimed that Wallenberg died of a heart attack in prison in 1947.
Paul Nemes, 1 December 2000
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Today's updated headlines from Hungary