Hungarian Leaders Gather for Historic Budapest Conference

Hungarian American Coalition members participated in the second meeting of the Hungarian Standing Conference, which was held in Budapest on November 13-14, 1999. In addition to Laszlo Papp, President of the Western region of the World Federation of Hungarians, U.S. participants included Executive Board Member Laszlo Hamos, who is also President of HHRF and an advisor to Prime Minister Orban. Coalition Chairman Edith Lauer also attended as an expert from the Western region. Hungarians from Romania, Slovakia, Carpatho-Ukraine, Slovenia, Croatia and the former Yugoslavia were represented by their elected political leaders. Representatives of the six Hungarian parliamentary parties also participated in the Conference, which was organized by the Hungarian Government.

The Standing Conference meets annually to address issues of common interest to all Hungarians — those who live within Hungary itself, and those who live outside Hungarian borders. In their speeches Prime Minister Orban and Foreign Minister Martonyi stressed the benefits of Hungary’s progress toward economic modernization and political integration, which will enable the country to provide greater moral and financial assistance to Hungarians abroad. Hungarian minority leaders reported on developments affecting their respective communities. Alarming reports from Vojvodina, former Yugoslavia, warned of the vulnerability of the 350,000-member Hungarian minority to expressions of Serbian extremism. The Conference expressed support for the draft autonomy plan of the Hungarians in Vojvodina.

To the disappointment of many participants, consensus was not reached about granting voting rights to Hungarian citizens living abroad, because two Hungarian parties, MSZP and SZDSZ, continue to oppose the concept. Although the Conference Closing Document lacked any reference to citizens’ voting rights, the governing coalition promised to propose such a law in the Hungarian Parliament.

After the conference, in an hour-long interview on Duna TV, Hungarian Prime Minister Orban reflected on the accomplishments of the conference and responded to questions regarding Duna TV’s broadcast in North America. The Prime Minister stated that Duna TV programming will be made available in North America in 2001. If the Prime Minister’s promise is fulfilled, the reception of Duna TV will answer the long-expressed wish of Hungarians in the U.S. and Canada to receive quality Hungarian language television.

Executive Board Member Zsolt Szekeres has spearheaded the Coalition’s two-year effort to secure the Hungarian government’s support to make Duna TV available in the U.S. and Canada by satellite broadcast. A marketing study jointly financed by Duna TV and the Coalition identified widespread interest among Hungarian Americans to subscribe to a satellite system that would broadcast Hungarian television programs.

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