Orbán in the US
Prime Minister Viktor Orbán spent a three-day visit in the United States this past week,
where he held talks with representatives in the new administration. During his stay, the Premier was awarded the Freedom Prize by Jeanne Kirkpatrick, former US ambassador to the UN, for his part in the restoration of freedom and democracy in Central and Eastern Europe while New York State Governor George Pataki thanked the PM for promoting US-Europe ties.
Talks on security
Prime Minister Orbán and Foreign Minister János Martonyi discussed Hungary's NATO membership, Trans-Atlantic relations and Central Europe, as well as Balkans issues, with US President George W Bush and Vice-President Richard Cheney in the White House on Tuesday.
Regarding the missile defence system, Orbán stated this was a sign of new thinking as it emphasised strong defence, rather than the annihilation of enemies. As he told reporters, "There is no longer a need to keep weapons suitable for mutual destruction; instead, there is a need for weapons providing appropriate defence."
However, as the costs of the system are still unknown, he said, it would not be possible to take a stance on this just yet. Orbán, nevertheless, believes this would be the main topic at the NATO summit in June.
The Premier stressed the importance of NATO "cohesion and unity," saying that Hungary's commitment to European defence is not an either/or issue. Hungary would seek to develop relations on both fronts. He called the visit a "great success" as Hungary had reinforced its alliance with the new administration.
An unresolved issue
Upon his return from the US, Orbán said he thinks the US visa requirements for Hungarian citizens are a thorn in the side. Currently, US citizens do not need visas to visit Hungary, while Hungarian citizens fall under strict visa-requirements when travelling to the United States. The Premier told reporters that he had brought this to the attention of US officials.
"It is a strange situation that Hungary is an ally of the United States, but its citizens wishing to visit the USA still have to submit themselves to humiliating procedures," the Prime Minister said, however, he believes this issue could be solved soon.
Pointing to the special corridor for EU citizens entering the US, Orbán called on US Immigration to set up a corridor also for "Atlantic citizens," which of course would include Hungary.
Martonyi visits the Baltics
After leaving Washington, János Martonyi continued on to the Baltic States. In Latvia, Martonyi met with President Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga and Speaker of Parliament Jānis Straume on Thursday.
Martonyi confirmed Hungary's support to Latvia and other Baltic states who wish to join NATO, saying that NATO enlargement would benefit both the Alliance and European security.
Following his visit to Latvia, Martonyi travelled to Lithuania, where he held talks with Foreign Minister Antanas Valionis.
Socialist Party (MSZP) leader László Kovács said in his May Day speech in Budapest's City Park that his party would replace the Government in the elections next year. Kovács said, "Those who are now in power believe that the winners of the elections are allowed to pillage the country. In turn, the Socialists say that those forces should come to power which can serve the country." "We will declare war against poverty," he said.
Also in the City Park, a crowd of 4000 backed an appeal—signed by six trade unions—against poverty and the lack of social dialogue.
Free Democrat (SZDSZ) Gábor Demszky meanwhile handed the mayor of Jánd, a village hit by this year's floods, a HUF (Hungarian forint) two million (USD 6860) donation collected during the party's three-day May Day programme.
In Hősök tere (Heroes' Square), where the non-parliamentary Hungarian Workers' Party held a rally, Party President Gyula Thürmer sharply criticised the current Government, saying that things were better under Kádár.
Meanwhile, MSZP Deputy Chairman told reporters on 3 May that only Chairman László Kovács and former Finance Minister Péter Medgyessy can hope to be nominated as the party's candidate for the post of prime minister.
Wait and see
Romanian Foreign Minister Mircea Geoană said that Hungarian-Romanian consultations on the Status Law begun on Wednesday in Bucharest, while, on the same day, Hungary's ambassador to Romania, István ĺjgyártó met with Mihai Dobre of the Romanian Foreign Ministry.
Magyar Nemzet writes that the Government-friendly Romanian press still criticises the Status Law, but also accuses the Romanian Foreign Ministry of not having done enough.
The paper refers to Alexandru Cistelecan from the latest issue of the Romanian publication Provincia that the Status Law would only confirm present-day realities. If the living standard of Hungarians in Transylvania is raised, this could benefit the Romanian economy, Cistelecan wrote.
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Martonyi last week told Romanian newspaper Adevarul that Hungary would be happy to begin consultations and give detailed answers to any Romanian queries.
And in other news...
- Anti-Hungarian attacks continued in Slovakia last week; the windows of a Hungarian school in Bratislava got smashed. The attack came only days after a Hungarian school in Košice (Kassa) had suffered a similar fate.
- Hungarian and Slovak officials are to discuss the Gabčíkovo (Bős) dam on 5 June. According to Danube Commissioner László Székely, the Slovak Republic may concede that a dam should not be built at Nagymaros. After having diverted the flow of Danube river, Slovakia says the current amount of water in the "old" Danube is enough, while Hungary argues that it is harming the area's ecology.
- Answering to the question whether he thought it inevitable that the Smallholders (FKGP) leave the coalition, party Chairman József Torgyán told Hungarian TV on 29 April that he believed a "situation" should be created in which the coalition agreement could be extended further. Imre Boros, who was expelled from the party by Torgyán, said the FKGP could only become a force to be reckoned with it "purifies." "Although FKGP Chairman József Torgyán verbally takes a stand for the governing coalition, he, in reality, seeks to destabilise it," Boros said.
- Népszabadság reports that there will be casualties among the management of TV channel RTL Klub after the broadcast of an interview on 23 April. In this, reporter Tamás Frei asked a Russian assassin how much he would charge to kill the Prime Minister. Frei has since apologised to Orbán. The fee, by the way, was USD one million.
- According to a Eurobarometer survey published in Népszava on 2 May, Hungary is the country most welcome in the European Union among the Central and East European hopefuls. 46 per cent of those asked said they were in favour of Hungarian membership.
Paul Nemes, 4 May 2001
Magyar Távirati Iroda
Central Europe Online
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