Vol. 1, No. 20, 28 April 1997
HUNGARIAN ROUND-TABLE ON AGRICULTURAL CRISIS.
Prime Minister Gyula Horn has called for national unity to
promote progress in the agricultural sector, Hungarian media
reported. Horn was speaking at the opening of a 26 April
round-table on the country's current agricultural crisis, which
was attended by experts and representatives of the
government. He noted that while Hungary is adjusting its
agricultural policies to comply with those of the EU, it must
continue to "reasonably" defend its own interests. The
participants agreed on a15-point long-term agricultural
program calling for subsidies to agriculture to be at least 2.5%
of GDP and for an annual growth in agriculture of at least
3.5%. Agriculture Minister Frigyes Nagy said the round-table
will meet again in September.
THE MYSTERIOUS EXIT OF ROMANIA'S INTELLIGENCE CHIEF
by Michael Shafir
The resignation last week of Virgil Magureanu, the director of
the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI), is clouded in mystery.
Appropriately so, since the 56-year-old is an enigmatic figure with
many different allegiances. Along with former President Ion Iliescu,
the former party university lecturer belonged to the group that had
been planning to overthrow dictator Nicolae Ceausescu since the
1970s. The group's various schemes invariably failed, but when the
dictator was swept from power in a 1989 popular uprising, the
plotters were on hand to fill the power vacuum.
Magureanu was also among the handful of people who
attended the show-trial preceding the execution of Ceausescu and his
wife, Elena, on Christmas Day 1989. He became a member of Iliescu's
inner circle in the transitional Council of the National Salvation Front
(NSF) and in its successor, the National Unity Council. In April 1990,
he was appointed head of the SRI, which had been set up the
previous month; and, in the May 1990 elections, he was elected a
senator on the NSF's lists. He subsequently resigned as senator
because, under Romanian law, he could not hold both posts
But it was not only those two posts that were legally
incompatible. The post of intelligence chief would not have been
filled by someone with Magureanu's past if the letter of the law had
been respected in the first place. In late 1995, when he published his
own personal file to preempt its publication by a former friend
turned bitter foe (Corneliu Vadim Tudor, leader of the extreme
nationalist Greater Romania Party), it transpired that he had served
as a captain in the dreaded Securitate, Ceausescu's secret police,
which was disbanded at the outset of the post-communist regime.
The record of the SRI is no less tainted. In early 1990, it was
necessary to justify the setting up of a new secret service to replace
the Securitate. The occasion was provided by the March 1990 clashes
in Targu Mures between ethnic Hungarians and Romanians, in which
members of the former secret police took part as provocateurs on
either side. Although the SRI claimed to be largely free of Securitate
staff, evidence increasingly came to light refuting those claims.
Following the destruction of former secret police documents in 1991,
scandals involving illegal telephone tapping, and other "affairs" in
which the SRI seemed to be involved, Magureanu became a favorite
target of the democratic opposition.
But to everyone's surprise, he was one of the very few to
survive the post-election transition. Some even claim that he
prevented Iliescu's party from falsifying the election results.
Moreover, in Delphian style, Magureanu said in October 1996 that he
was voting for "change." But precisely what that meant was unclear,
since the word had figured in the election slogans of both Iliescu and
his rival Emil Constantinescu, who went on to win the race for
president. Magureanu also noted at the time that he might consider
resigning and would not rule out entering politics.
Earlier this month, attacks against Magureanu intensified just
as Bucharest's efforts to join NATO peaked with the arrival in
Washington of Foreign Minister Adrian Severin. Among those leading
the attacks were prominent Romanian emigres, including Gen. Ion
Mihai Pacepa, Ceausescu's former master spy who defected in the
1970s. Last week, Pacepa published an article in The Washington
Times claiming that Bucharest had no chance of joining NATO as long
as people with records like Magureanu's were heading the country's
intelligence service. The SRI responded by pointing to Pacepa's own
record before he defected. (Ironically, some of those attacking
Magureanu in the Romanian press were suggesting Pacepa as his
Magureanu's mandate was to have expired in September, and it
is unclear whether he will leave his post immediately. But it seems
that he was waiting for the right moment to change career and that
he deemed his career chances would be improved if he could avoid
being blamed for Romania's likely failure to be admitted to NATO in
the first wave. As in the past, Magureanu will be simultaneously
feared and courted--not least because of the information the former
intelligence chief has amassed on the country's politicians.
One such politician is Iliescu, currently chairman of the Party of
Social Democracy in Romania. At a recent PDSR meeting, Iliescu urged
the party to welcome Magureanu into its ranks if he decided to seek
membership. At the same time, he was wary of the possibility that
Magureanu might use the information he had collected "for political
purposes." Magureanu's mysterious exit from the secret service may
well herald his entry into politics. But that entry will doubtless be as
shadowy as many of his earlier comings and goings and will certainly
attract much attention among his detractors both at home and
Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc.
All rights reserved.
Vol. 1, No. 21, 29 April 1997
EU TO HOLD SEPARATE TALKS WITH POLAND, HUNGARY.
The EU foreign ministers have decided to hold separate
discussions today and tomorrow with Poland and Hungary on
issues related to those countries' possible admission to the
union, RFE/RL's Brussels correspondent reported. The way for
talks with Poland was cleared when the ministers decided
Poland had made sufficient concessions on citrus fruit
imports. EU officials have been pressing Poland for several
weeks to relax its tough import-tax regime against citrus fruit,
which the EU considers discriminatory. Trade issues such as
Poland's special arrangements with the South Korean
company Daewoo are expected to be dealt with. EU and
Hungarian representatives are to meet simultaneously to
discuss Budapest's decision to abolish tariffs against citrus
fruits as of the end of this year. The EU is also seeking
assurances that Hungary will phase out a general import
surcharge by 1 July.
CZECHS MAY EASE IMPORT RESTRICTIONS. Czech
Industry and Trade Minister Vladimir Dlouhy says the
government may grant a Hungarian request to ease import
deposit measures introduced last week. But he added that
there will be no major changes. Dlouhy was speaking to
journalists in Budapest on 28 April after meeting with
Industry and Trade Minister Szabolcs Fazakas and Gabor
Szeles, president of the National Confederation of Hungarian
Industrialists. Dlouhy said there is no economic crisis in the
Czech Republic but admitted that the country's trade balance
and current account have worsened, necessitating the
introduction of import restrictions. Fazakas said Hungary
wishes to review the list of the goods to which the restrictions
HUNGARIAN SOCIALIST FACTION WANTS TO BE RID OF
HORN. The Socialist Democratic Group, a faction within the
ruling party, says Prime Minister Gyula Horn must be
dismissed as prime minister and party chairman, Magyar
Hirlap reported today. The group says that although Horn's
merits are beyond doubt, the radical right-wing parties will
increase their electoral appeal if Horn remains in office. It
pointed out that the electorate is disappointed with the
mistakes of the leadership, whose methods, it said, are
incompatible with "moral norms." The group also commented
that the party lacks internal democracy. It urged the Socialists
to call an extraordinary congress for the fall and choose a new
candidate for the premiership.
POSITIVE ECONOMIC TRENDS CONTINUE IN HUNGARY.
The Ministry of Finance reported yesterday that exports grew
4.1% in dollar terms during the first two months of this year,
while imports increased by 2.1%, Hungarian media reported.
The ministry forecasts that GDP will grow 2-2.5% this year, as
compared with 1.5% in 1995 and 1% last year. It says real
wages grew by 6% in January and 4% in February and that
wage growth is expected to continue slowing down. Consumer
prices rose less than expected in the same period. But
unemployment was 11% at the end of March, up from 10.5%
in December 1996.
Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc.
All rights reserved.