A breakthrough at last
On Tuesday, Hungary closed another three chapters in negotiations with the European Union. Now having closed 22 out of the 29 chapters, Hungary joins Cyprus in top spot. The EU and Hungary closed the chapters on the free movement of labour, foreign land ownership and taxation.
EU Commissioner for Enlargement Günter Verheugen branded the agreement "an exceptional result and a real breakthrough in negotiations," with Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh in full agreement. Verheugen further said that it now looks as if Hungary will complete negotiations by the end of 2002, and could join the EU in 2004.
Prime Minister Viktor Orbán appeared very pleased with the news, saying that the EU had accepted Hungary's position and not that of German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, who had proposed a seven-year restriction on the free movement of labour from new member states. The Premier said the breakthrough, what he believes to have been the most difficult task in negotiating the chapters, is "a success achieved by the entire nation."
Speaking before the closure of the chapters and after the Irish rejection of the Nice Treaty, Foreign Minister János Martonyi remained upbeat, saying that "some solution could be still worked out to keep the enlargement process on track." Foreign Ministry spokesman Gábor Horváth meanwhile said that there was "no way" the Irish referendum could slow down accession talks, and so it was: on 16 June, EU leaders in Gothenburg decided that negotiations should be completed by 2002, opening the way for accession in 2004.
Martonyi, Lindh and Verheugen all share the opinion that Hungary most likely would complete accession talks next year.
Budapest Mayor Gábor Demszky resigned from the post of Free Democrat (SZDSZ) president on 14 June. As for the reasons behind leaving, Demszky, speaking in Gothenburg, said that he believes in an "independent European liberal party," while some in the SZDSZ believe it necessary to form an alliance with the Socialist Party (MSZP) in order to oust the present government from power.
Demszky, who has failed in his promise to increase SZDSZ support in the polls, also said that being both Budapest mayor and SZDSZ president had taken its toll.
Demszky said he would fully support the next president, who might be former party president Gábor Kuncze. It was thought that party deputies gathering this weekend could elect Kuncze president as early as Sunday 17 June.
Medgyessy is MSZP PM contender
Former finance minister Péter Medgyessy was on 9 June elected the Socialist Party's candidate for prime minister, by 99 per cent of the MSZP conference delegates.
After being elected, Medgyessy spoke of forming an alliance within the party in order to form "an alliance with the nation to bring about a richer and more just Hungary."
Not surprisingly, the MSZP candidate said the party's goal is to oust FIDESZ from power in the next elections, promising to make prosperity, freedom and security political objectives that come true. Medgyessy also said he foresees tax cuts and a "new focus on rural problems" under a Socialist government.
The MSZP also outlined its programme for the 2002 elections, with Party statues being amended in order to enable Medgyessy, who is not a party member, to be a member of the MSZP's campaign committee. Speaking to Magyar Hírlap, Medgyessy said Gyula Horn would not be part of the campaign team for the next election, as his services would be of use elsewhere. Medgyessy also told the daily that he would not rule out discussing co-operation with the (now ex) Free Democrat President Gábor Demszky.
Lost in the translation
The Prime Minister last week denied having said that four million Hungarians from neighbouring states could be the solution to Hungary's population decrease and projected labour shortage.
Media reported Orbán as saying that Hungary could provide home to as many as 14 million, referring to the Hungarian population in the Carpathian Basin.
Béla Markó, leader of the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (RMDSZ) and Béla Bugár, chairman of the Hungarian Coalition Party (MKP) in Slovakia, were quick to condemn the alleged comments, saying that it could lead to large-scale re-settlement from historic Hungarian homelands.
Orbán told Parliament on Monday that the misunderstanding was down to a mistake in the translation.
And in other news...
- Magyar Nemzet wrote on 16 June that József Torgyán would remain President of the Independent Smallholder Party (FKGP), following a ruling by the Supreme Court. The Court rejected Zsolt Lányi's demand that he be named FKGP leader. After the Court's ruling, Lányi responded by saying that he believes the majority of Smallholders to be behind him.
- The president of the Romanian Senate's Foreign Affair Committee, Ghiorghi Prisacaru, said on Wednesday that the Romanian Foreign Ministry had sent a letter regarding the Status Law to their Hungarian colleagues. Whether there will be a need for measures to be taken would depend on the Hungarian answer, he added. The Romanian state wants to prevent discrimination among its citizens, Prisacaru argued.
- Charges have been filed against former Smallholder MP Zoltán Székely. Székely is charged with bribery and abuse of office for having accepted a bribe of HUF (Hungarian forint) 20 million (USD 70,000). According to Magyar Hírlap, Székely could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison.
- On Wednesday, Ombudsman for Human Rights Katalin Gönczöl was awarded UNICEF's "Bouquet of High Esteem" for her outstanding contribution in improving children's physical and mental development. The reward was also accompanied by a message from Special Representative Roger Moore.
[Read CER's interview with Katalin Gönczöl.]
- On 12 June, Péter Gothár's film Passport won the grand prize of the European Film Festival, in the Italian town of Lecce.
Paul Nemes, 15 June 2001
Magyar Távirati Iroda
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