"Among the first, yes! In 2003, fine!"
Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has reiterated that Hungary will be ready to join the European Union in 2003.
During Orbán's visit to Sweden, Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson seemed to be in agreement with his Hungarian counterpart, saying, "Hungary is well prepared and has already made progress. It is well ahead of the road map designed by the European Commission." Persson added that Hungary was "rather easy" to negotiate with.
The two also agreed that free movement of labour was the most likely sticking point because of the demand from a number of member states, Germany in particular, that a transition period should be imposed on Central European workers.
Speaking to the Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet, Orbán rejected the idea of a transition period. He further said, "If millions of people who live within the EU were denied free movement across the continent, the EU would end up with two populations, one of first-class and the other of second-class citizens."
Orbán also told the paper that the current problems Hungary faces are not caused by problems in the country itself but by "stronger than expected national interests coming from within the EU."
Head of the State Secretariat for Integration in the Foreign Ministry Péter Gottfried further emphasised this during the week, saying:
Hungary advocates that all EU citizens should enjoy equal freedom of movement. For this reason, it has put forward an informal proposal: the EU should only take restrictive measures if there was a massive influx of Hungarian labour in the first year after accession [...] It is generally the view that Hungary is a candidate country where this problem is virtually non-existent.
Upon his return to Budapest, Orbán said he had been encouraged by the talks in Sweden, and added that Hungary was trying hard to "turn its march toward EU membership into a gallop."
Yet more on the FKGP crisis...
László Csúcs, the former Smallholder (FKGP) deputy parliamentary caucus leader, was thrown out of the party's parliamentary faction. Zsolt Lányi, Katalin Kiszely, Róbert Molnár and Mihály Pápai immediately chose to follow Csúcs and join the independents instead, leaving the FIDESZ-Hungarian Civic Party, Hungarian Democratic Forum and Smallholder coalition with only a majority of six seats. Smallholder leader József Torgyán said afterwards that the party needed to be "cleansed of elements that do not belong." Csúcs meanwhile maintains that the party leadership under Torgyán is dictatorial.
On Wednesday, FIDESZ President László Kövér told Viktor Orbán that it would be "premature to enter into an electoral alliance [for the 2002 elections] with the Smallholders."
In the meantime, Orbán told Kossuth Radio that it is up to the Smallholders to decide whether the party is strong enough to organise itself for the 2002 elections. The Prime Minister also said that if anyone in the government is thought to be unsuitable for his or her post, that person must be replaced.
According to the Hungarian daily Népszabadság, FIDESZ contemplated last week whether it would be possible to keep the Smallholders in the government coalition should Orbán dismiss Torgyán from his post as head of the Agriculture Ministry.
The Russians return
Five out of seven board members and three supervisory board members of the petrochemical company BorsodChem have been replaced by representatives of Russian Gazprom and Yukos. Chief Executive László F Kovács, however, retained his post.
Imre Kremzer of Daewoo Bank said, "They have achieved what they wanted, gained control, and now they are free to act according to their own interests [...] The suspicions have been confirmed."
With Russian investors now owning around 60 per cent of the company, the new board would "better reflect the company's new ownership structure," said György Zdeborsky of Central European International Bank.
Funar fears percentage
Although Romania has passed a new law on the use of national minority languages, the arguements over who will be able to use their mother tongue in public life continue. As the new law specifies that a minority language can be used if a certain nationality make up more than 20 per cent of a locality, Gheorghe Funar, the Romanian nationalist mayor of Cluj (Kolozsvár), claims that the Hungarian population there is well below 20 per cent. However, according to the statistical office in Transylvania's old capital, Hungarians constitute around 23 per cent.
Funar has pledged that no Hungarian will be allowed to be spoken in the town hall or displayed on public signs as long as he is mayor.
According to Csaba Takács of the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (RMDSZ), Hungarian will—based on the 1992 census—become an official language in 1100 municipalities.
Meanwhile, in Slovakia, Deputy Prime Minister of Slovakia Pál Csáky commended the government's decision of last week to set up a Hungarian pedagogical faculty at Nitra (Nyitra) University, enabling Hungarian teachers-to-be to once again study in their mother tongue.
Also in Slovakia, a Euro region called Treble Danube has been established by the general assembly of Győr-Moson-Sopron County in Hungary and the regional association of Csallókőz-Mátyásföld in Slovakia. Pál Csáky said the Slovak and Hungarian sides would work towards regional co-operation in accordance with EU rules.
And in other news...
- It was announced on Tuesday 23 January that former premier Miklós Németh would not stand for any official position in the Socialist Party (MSZP). The announcement seemingly ends speculation about Németh standing for the post of prime minister in the next elections.
- In a statement sent to MTI (Hungarian news agency) on Wednesday 24 January, Hungary's ethnic minorities expressed "high dissatisfaction over the absence of the long-awaited positive changes in Hungary's policy towards its minorities." Speaking on Duna TV the following day, Flórián Farkas of the Roma Self-Government described it as "baffling" that the lowering of the parliamentary threshold in order for minorities to gain parliamentary representation is not even on the agenda.
- József Kasza, chairman of Alliance of Hungarians in Vojvodina (VMSZ) and mayor of Subotica (Szabadka) was named Deputy Prime Minister responsible for minority affairs in the new Serbian cabinet on Thursday 25 January.
- The Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIÉP) has hit back at the Socialist Party and the Federation of Jewish Communities in Hungary (MAZSIHISZ) who protested strongly to a MIÉP proposal to reopen the case of former premier László Bárdossy, sentenced to death by the People's Court in 1946. According to MIÉP Deputy Chairman Lóránt Hegedűs, the MSZP and MAZSIHISZ are trying to "put pressure on the chief prosecutor so that he would not dare to take this step [of reopening the case]."
- A report on foreign travel costs for senior government officials in 1999 has singled out the Ministry of Agriculture in its criticism of the big spenders. State Secretary Béla Szabadi went on four trips to Thailand, travelling first class. Agriculture Minister József Torgyán, the third highest spender, said his ministry spent "very little" on foreign travel. Perhaps not surprisingly, Foreign Minister János Martonyi was the highest spender, while Defence Minister János Szabó was second.
Paul Nemes, 26 January 2001
Magyar Távirati Iroda
Central Europe Online
The Budapest Sun
Today's updated headlines from Hungary
Powered by moreover.com
Read CER's review of
last week's news from Hungary
Read CER's review of
last week's news from Hungary
Return to CER front page