Endre Juhász, Hungary's ambassador to Brussels, said that Hungary was given a derogation on the free flow of services until 2007. Regarding the free movement of labour, Juhász said he expects the EU to find solutions for each and every candidate country. 17 of Hungary's negotiating chapters have so far been closed.
Following the meeting of the European Integration Council on Thursday, Foreign Minister János Martonyi requested that the EU guarantees freedom of movement for workers from the new member states, imposing only "limited restrictions" if necessary. "This is not the same as the Schröder plan, which we cannot accept ... as a main principle, the free movement of persons must be ensured and, as a part of this, the free movement of labour also has to be ensured," the Foreign Minister said. He added that Hungary could soon be confronted with a labour shortage.
FKGP still in disarray, leader in hospital
As a certain amount of mystery last week surrounded the health of Smallholder (FKGP) President József Torgyán, who was admitted to hospital, 26 of the remaining 42 Smallholder MPs voted to convene a party congress in April. Several MPs were hoping that a party congress could remove Torgyán from the post of party president and change the FKGP statues.
However, Party Vice-President Géza Gyimóthy was quick to counter any suggestions of a party congress. Gyimóthy said that the Party board had decided there would be no meeting of the FKGP's grand council and that he himself would make statements to the media after "consulting the governing board." He also stated that if Torgyán should be incapacitated, he can be replaced by the general secretary, Balázs Bernáth Varga.
As for Torgyán's health, his wife, Mária Cseh, said on Wednesday that he had no internal disorder but needed rest after suffering from food poisoning.
Dzurinda is concerned
Slovak Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda has voiced his "extreme anxiety" over the recent attacks on Hungarian institutions in Slovakia. On Wednesday, he said, "I am worried by such phenomena as they contradict the otherwise well-developing official Slovak-Hungarian relations and the good coexistence of Slovaks and Hungarians," and added that he could not say if the attacks were "merely an ill-considered minor provocation."
Dzurinda, however, criticised Hungarian politicians from the Slovak Republic who attended a parliamentary session in Budapest marking the 100th anniversary of János Esterházy's birth, the only MP of the wartime Slovak Parliament to reject the bill on deportation of Jews. (See News Review in Issue 11)
The Slovak opposition on Thursday proposed a bill aimed at removing the Party of the Hungarian Coalition's (MKP) Pál Csáky, who was among those attending the Budapest session, from the post of deputy prime minister of Slovakia. According to the opposition, Csáky had, by attending the ceremony and accepting a commemorative medal, supported Esterházy's alleged wish for southern Slovakia's return to Hungary and thereby violated his oath of allegiance to the Slovak state. The Slovak Parliament rejected the bill on 29 March.
Meanwhile, a group called the Radical Action Group has taken responsibility for an anti-Slovak graffiti that appeared in Békéscsaba last week. In a letter to local newspapers, the group wrote, "We do not demand gallows for the Slovaks but for those Nazis living in Slovakia who sprayed Hungarian institutions with racist, anti-Hungarian inscriptions." Békés County police has offered a HUF (Hungarian forint) 100,000 (USD 330) reward to anyone that comes forward with information about the group.
MSZP leader in Scandinavia
Socialist Party Chairman (MSZP) László Kovács said during a visit to Finland last week that Finnish officials support the speeding up of the enlargement process, but noted that candidate countries would need to look seriously at criticism in the last EU Country Report.
Kovács, who held talks with President Tarja Halonen and Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen, has stressed the need for candidates to be judged on individual performance, as well as the need to speed up the entire process.
Earlier in the week, Kovács had also held talks with Swedish Prime Minister and current President of the EU Göran Persson in Stockholm. Persson also believed that the process should be accelerated, while he added that the new members should not be treated as second-class.
Roma threaten to leave
Around 400 Roma have threatened to leave Hungary unless their housing problems are solved. The Roma are from Jánd, a village in an area severely affected by this year's floods that have forced many to leave their homes. Jánd was one of the villages evacuated by authorities after the Tisza flooded.
Deputy Mayor Gábor Koncz confirmed that the Roma's houses had been damaged beyond repair. Prime Minister Orbán has promised funds to rebuild houses destroyed by the floods, but the Roma want to meet the Prime Minister in person in order to secure immediate aid. A spokesman of the Roma, Sándor Dacsó, said, "If the problem of our accommodation is not solved, we, all 400 of us, are ready to emigrate." The threat is unlikely go to down well with EU officials, after French authorities recently granted refugee status to several Roma from Zámoly.
Csaba Hende, Justice Ministry state secretary, said on Tuesday that Hungary had asked France to extradite two Zámoly Roma, who now have been granted refugee status, as they are suspected of being involved in a homicide.
Foreign Minister János Martonyi called the decision to grant refugee status in the first place "unfounded, unfair and unjust," and pointed out that it had been stressed in French foreign policy circles that the decision would not have a bearing on Hungary's accession.
Meanwhile, on Thursday, Justice Minister Ibolya Dávid set up an Anti-discrimination Committee to investigate whether a bill on discrimination is needed, or if current laws conform to EU requirements.
And in other news...
- Foreign Minister Martonyi, while attending a UN Human Rights Committee session in Geneva last week, urged the UN to create a document on the protection of minority rights. President Ferenc Mádl initially proposed the document at the UN's Millennium Summit.
- Amnesty International (AI) has apologised to Hungary after AI again had launched an ad campaign against Hungary, this time slamming alleged police brutality in a Slovene TV ad. AI's regional director Anne Burley, however, does not believe an apology was necessary, as the ad is based on reality. Gábor Horváth, Foreign Ministry spokesman, said that the Ministry was "shocked to hear that AI had again pursued an unfounded ad campaign against Hungary, after a regrettable newspaper ad was published in Holland last year."
- Cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond, who holds an Oscar for his work on Close Encounters of the Third Kind, will work on a film based on Ferenc Erkel's opera, Bánk Bán. The Ministry of Culture will provide financial support for the project.
Paul Nemes, 30 March 2001
Magyar Távirati Iroda
Central Europe Online
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