Under the law, Hungarians from beyond the borders would reap certain benefits in Hungary as well as have the right to employment for a limited period.
Foreign Ministry State Secretary Zsolt Németh of FIDESZ said late last week that the acceptance of the law would contribute to solving the nation's Trianon problem.
While there have been some fears that the law would be in breach of EU legislation, the Government says it would prevent mass immigration. Zsolt Németh was quoted as saying, "About a quarter of the three million ethnic Hungarians involved are currently thinking of leaving their homeland. The law would halve this figure." Németh also noted that the law "should of course be applied in harmony with the future [EU] accession document," while Foreign Minister János Martonyi said the law fully complies with international legislation and bilateral agreements with neighbouring states.
Although some reservations have been voiced, it is expected that the law will be comfortably passed. During Thursday's session, all parliamentary parties except the Free Democrats (SZDSZ) supported the bill. Free Democrat István Szent-Iványi said his party did not back the bill, but would support a proposal "based on genuine consensus." The opposition Socialists said the law would be a "major tool for nation building" but confirmed that the party had certain conditions for backing the law.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Orbán met Hungarian bishops from Transylvania on Wednesday. A private Hungarian university in Transylvania was the main topic for discussion. Zsolt Németh stated that institutions were being set up in four main Transylvanian towns, while Orbán confirmed Hungary's support for the return of church property from the Romanian state.
End of the line for Győri Keksz?
Győr Mayor József Balogh has joined an international campaign against French company Danone, urging people across Europe to boycott Danone products. French MPs originally called for a boycott of Danone products after the company on 29 May declared that six plants across Europe would be shut down, and now the mayor of Győr has pledged to turn the closure into an "international scandal."
Danone intends to close the Győr biscuit factory, which, with brands such as the Pilóta biscuit and Balaton chocolate bar, is the market leader in Hungary.
Balogh said last week, "We demand that the Danone group should withdraw its decision to close down the factory, because they are simply ignoring the interests of its 700 workers, the town of Győr and the Hungarian economy ... The town of Győr stands shocked and breathless by the company's actions, which remind us of the colonisation of the Middle Ages and not the ethics and manners of a country that is leading the way in European democracy in the 21st century."
Economics Minister György Matolcsy said on Thursday that the Government would use "all constitutional means" to thwart attempts by Danone to close the factory. "We won't let a more than 100-year-old factory with a great past to be closed," he said. On Tuesday, Matolcsy set up a working group to examine the Győr factory's privatisation and the intentions of Danone, who bought the plant from Britain's United Biscuits in August 2000.
No to delay of the free movement of labour
On Thursday, the Association of Manufacturers and Employers and the Chamber of Commerce voiced its disapproval of the European Commission to delay the full free movement of labour from Central Europe after enlargement.
It is feared that such a delay would favour the current EU market, while there would be a brain drain in the new member states.
The head of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, László Parragh said, "There could be a large migration of Hungary's workforce in professions such as software development, nursing or in the automotive industry ... This is very dangerous for the competitiveness of the Hungarian economy."
István Csurka, Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIÉP) leader, called comments made by European Commission President Romano Prodi during a visit to Budapest earlier this month that the delay of free movement of labour would be a "big slap in the face."
Péter Gottfried, Foreign Ministry's State Secretary for Integration, said after meeting Eneko Landaburu, EU enlargement director, that Hungary would take into account the "sensitivities" of Germany and Austria. Hungary continues to call for the free movement of labour but would be ready to negotiate "certain protective measures."
On Tuesday, Parliament and schools across the country held what was Hungary's first Holocaust remembrance day. Remembering Jews and Roma who Hungary, as Germany's ally, deported to German concentration camps during the Second World War, Speaker of Parliament János Áder said, "The dead of the Holocaust are our dead, the loss is our common loss and the mourning is our common mourning."
Meanwhile, the Government has presented a proposal to Parliament, which would proclaim a Memorial Day for Hungarian Heroes. The bill proposes to re-enact a 1924 Act, according to which the last Sunday in May was a remembrance day for those fallen in the First World War.
Retirement—a thing of the past?
Prime Minister Orbán said in an interview published in several newspapers on 14 April that the Government may abolish the mandatory retirement age as "everyone should have the right to decide when to retire."
Orbán said, "we welcome and even urge hundreds of thousands of people to return to the state-controlled system from the private pension schemes," but noted that those who retire early would receive a smaller pension than those "rewarded" for delaying retirement.
MP Tamás Bauer (Free Democrats) commented that the current government had always been opposed to the mixed pensions system and that it would like to destroy what it does not control.
And in other news...
- Smallholder (FKGP) President József Torgyán believes his re-election as party president at the upcoming FKGP convention on 5 May will only be a "formal matter." Torgyán also warned his opponents that those who attend the meeting (on the same day) of the party's reformers, who want to get rid of Torgyán, will be expelled from the party.
- Népszabadság reported on Wednesday that on the day before the deadline for MP's to hand in their asset statements expires, only 218 out of 386 MPs had done so. According to new regulations, MPs who fail to submit their statements to the Immunity Committee will not receive salaries or be able to address or vote in Parliament.
Paul Nemes, 20 April 2001
Magyar Távirati Iroda
Central Europe Online
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