Prime Minister of Hungary

Speech made to the Assembly

Wednesday, 26 April 1995

Mr President, honourable members of the Parliamentary Assembly, ladies and gentlemen, it is a great honour for myself and consequently for Hungary, to have this opportunity of explaining our position on the functioning of the Council of Europe. Thank you, Mr President, for your kind words about Hungary.

Let me say at once that I am firmly convinced that the Council of Europe is destined to play a paramount role in the process of integration. Of all the different organisations, this is the only international body that is capable of encompassing all European states. Its influence is also illustrated by the fact that the Council of Europe was among the first to offer real support to the true democracies and to the changes taking place in that part of the continent. That has helped to bring about the social conditions for this transformation in our region.

We must also be grateful to the Council of Europe for having recognised the various stages in the process of democratic change in those countries. It endeavours to integrate the aspirations and ambitions which characterise those various democracies.

The Council of Europe requires its member states to respect the fundamental principles of co-operation. As we see it, all the Council of Europe has achieved so far with regard to central and eastern Europe has been outstanding.

While on the subject of this region, allow me to underline three very important things.

Firstly, on the basis of the experience we have acquired and the changes which have taken place, I can honestly say that in both western and eastern Europe the system of parliamentary democracy, pluralism and the rule of law are in the process of spreading almost everywhere, although some differences remain from one country to another. We faithfully reflect the image which you have formed of central Europe: of course, there are serious dysfunctions within our countries, in the sense that the capacity to resolve the problems and conflicts of the region is limited. For that reason, the ongoing support of integrating bodies and of the Council of Europe is necessary. Our situation is more difficult still by reason of the lack of any democratic tradition. The transformation of central Europe is further complicated by the shortage of material resources and by the fact that growth has not yet reached a point at which we can move ahead more rapidly and carry the whole weight of change.

In this connection, central Europe calls for financial and economic co-operation with the developed countries, and with western Europe in particular, to be stepped up further. In Hungary and in central and eastern Europe, stability is emerging more and more clearly, and the resolve and determination needed to complete the change are visible.

Similarly, it is of crucial importance in our view to strengthen our links and increase our resources with the integration organisations, because that is the only process which can provide fresh resources for central and eastern Europe, give a real vision of the future, offer a concrete programme for the nations living in that region and create the basis of European stability and development.

Furthermore, the way in which the cause of the regions’ minorities can be promoted is a question of quite special importance. The standards laid down by the Council of Europe are fundamentally accepted in the region. I would underline in particular what the Council of Europe said in 1993: democratic security must also extend to the central and eastern European regions.

At the same time, where human rights are concerned, gross violations are occasionally perpetrated in the region. For this reason, it seems to us absolutely essential to strengthen the monitoring system and apply sanctions more strictly to those who violate these rights.

Let me also stress the role of the Council of Europe in the protection of minorities. We believe that the Council of Europe should play a monitoring role in the region.

We attach due importance to the start that has been made on applying in practice the principle of positive discrimination. In global terms, stronger protection for minorities is a key factor in European stability and indeed a paramount condition for it.

One of the particular features of the Council of Europe’s role, which sets it apart from the other organisations including the United Nations and the OSCE, is that it has defined standards for the protection of minorities which are internationally valid throughout Europe, particularly for the member states of the Council of Europe but also throughout the central and eastern part of Europe. This is in no way at variance with the fact that the UN, the OSCE and the Council of Europe formulate recommendations which ought to be dealt with as an organic whole.

In the matter of strengthening the protection afforded to minorities, the Council of Europe must continue to act as a driving force in relations between the Organisation and Hungary. We are pleased and proud that Hungary was the first country to join the Council of Europe, the first country to have made contact with the Organisation. In this connection allow me to quote what a former Secretary General of the Council of Europe said on a visit to Hungary, in 1987, when he was in Budapest. He said: “Eastern Europe is a mosaic, not a block. The Hungarians were among the first to recognise the importance of the new ideas through their historically intense attachment to Europe. Even when times were hardest, Hungary was eager to maintain relations with the Council of Europe. At present, it is the only country to manifest that intention, like the first swallow heralding imminent change.”

Those words were spoken in 1987, and while huge changes have come about during the intervening years, in relations between central and eastern Europe and the Council of Europe, that statement has lost none of its topical relevance. From 1988 onwards, relations were established between Hungary and the Council of Europe. Those contacts were of great value in laying the legal foundations for the spread of parliamentary democracy and the rule of law. In 1989, it was very gratifying to find that we had become full members of the organisations which, in our eyes, constituted recognition of effective and functioning democracy and democratic institutions. We are very heartened by the existence of a democratic parliamentary system, the separation of powers and their independence, as well as by the independence of the parliamentary system and of the local authorities too.

When it comes to protecting national minorities, Hungary has not merely discharged the obligations it had set itself within the Council of Europe: it has achieved unprecedented and indeed unique programmes in this field.

Let me give you a few examples.

An act of parliament has been passed by the Hungarian Parliament on the subject: an unprecedented, unique event in the region and indeed anywhere in Europe. The law which we recently passed is concerned with a system of self-governing local authorities independent of each other.

I would not be boastful in saying that during Hungary’s five years as a member of the Council of Europe nobody has laid a complaint against us. We have fulfilled and will continue to fulfil all our obligations.

It is a great pleasure for me to note that the dignitaries, the Parliamentary Assembly and the members of the Council of Europe committees are satisfied with Hungary’s contribution to the proper functioning of the Organisation. We have acceded to 47 of the 150 conventions drawn up by the Council of Europe. I believe this is a record for a country of central and eastern Europe. Accession to a convention requires lengthy preparatory work; at national level we must take into account the conditions and requirements stated by the convention. The previous Hungarian governments deserve our deep gratitude for their work in preparing our accession to various Council of Europe conventions. At present the government is preparing Hungary’s accession to future conventions.

We consider the European Convention on Human Rights particularly important because of its long history; furthermore, it was among the conditions of our accession.

I should also like to stress the importance of Recommendation 1201 concerning a protocol on minorities. Following its adoption on 1 February 1993 the Parliamentary Assembly on 31 January 1995 confirmed and even increased the validity of this recommendation. The Committee of Ministers at its meeting on 21 February 1995 took note of the recommendation and drew the attention of governments to it. In this respect, it is important to observe that the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities does not render Recommendation 1201 inoperative. Indeed, it provides with regard to the internal affairs of states that the clauses concerning the rights of minorities in no way invalidate the relevant terms of national legislation. It is common knowledge that the adoption of legislative provisions on the rights and protection of national minorities by certain countries was a precondition for their accession to the Council of Europe. It was on this understanding that the Committee of Ministers decided in favour of their accession.

The European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages is the first such instrument to have binding force for the signatories. This is why, on acceding, Hungary made undertakings in respect of the German, Romanian, Slovakian, Slovenian and Serbian minorities to perpetuate the use of their minority languages.

The European Social Charter covers key issues closely linked with the social and economic transformation taking place in Hungary. We are in the process of drafting a new constitution because, in the market economy which is being established, it is essential to redefine social rights. The legal relationship and the standards applying between employees and employers must be determined; this is a fundamental aspect which needs to be redefined. Very many points of the European Social Charter are present in the legislation and the regulatory machinery and policy of the Hungarian Government.

The European Charter of Local Self-Government is of prime importance to us in that regional co-operation strengthens the bonds of government, legislation and local autonomy.

We hold that all the factors, standards and requirements embodied in the various charters and instruments should not only take precedence in national legislation but should also be regarded as important standards for the signature of bilateral co-operation agreements. I am most gratified by what Mr Martinez has said about Hungary’s active role in this respect. The commitments which we have been asked to meet, and have succeeded in honouring, with the Council of Europe have done much to strengthen our links with the Organisation.

The second European Youth Centre being built in Budapest will be operational as from this October.

I should now like to talk briefly about the policy pursued by the Government of the Republic of Hungary. We have two main aspirations, firstly, to establish good-neighbourly relations with the adjacent countries and, secondly, to take our place among the Euro-Atlantic organisations.

As to our relations with our neighbours, the new government which took office last summer proclaimed a historic reconciliation. We feel that in the central and eastern region of Europe most nations and all peoples have age-old grievances to express and that nobody has the right to challenge the legitimacy of these grievances. Nor is anybody entitled to claim that no remedies can be found in the present circumstances to certain grievances that have been harboured for decades or centuries. We must nonetheless establish good-neighbourly relations; Hungary has already signed fundamental agreements with Ukraine, Slovakia and Slovenia. When an agreement with Romania is signed, we are resolved to find a solution to matters in dispute, through compromise if necessary.

I also wish to stress that our accession to these organisations with a view to integration in the Euro-Atlantic system is a crucial concern for Hungary. Transformation of internal structures must take second place to the demands of European harmonisation.

With regard to our foreign policy, in our activities and in the formulation of the principles upheld we enjoy virtually complete and unqualified sovereignty and independence.

For the first time in its history, Hungary has had freedom of decision for several decades on the structure and internal transformation of its society and especially on basic foreign policy issues. We wish to take full advantage of the momentous opportunity available to us.

We therefore consider that Hungary’s accession, with other countries of central and eastern Europe, to the European Union and organisations such as Nato has become irreversible. The question is the nature of the conditions of accession and when it will become possible. Hungary for its part sees no alternative.

It is of the highest importance for us to preserve stability while proceeding with economic and social transformation in our country. Hungary, like the other countries of central and eastern Europe, faces difficulties in establishing democracy. However, it is heartening to realise that democracy exists. It must be safeguarded and strengthened. Yet no country in central and eastern Europe enjoys true wellbeing. Social tensions are extreme and there are numerous shortcomings and deficiencies in the economic and social field. It is therefore most important for the consolidation of political stability that all governments should refrain from pursuing a policy of discrimination towards their fellow-citizens, from interfering with public opinion and from discriminating between the various social groups. Furthermore we consider it essential, if the institutions are to function properly, that the government does not infringe the freedom of the press in any way.

It is our belief that all these questions inherent in social and economic transformation call for constant efforts not only by the government but also by the other agencies of power, and require more intensive co-operation with the developed countries.

In conclusion, I turn to certain issues outstanding before the Council of Europe.

It is in Hungary’s interest for all countries so desiring to be able to join the Council of Europe sooner or later. Where the accession of Russia and Ukraine is concerned, we consider that the principle of trust should be allowed to predominate in anticipation of their good resolution. This should be attended by more stringent supervision of the undertakings made. The accession of all countries should depend on the success achieved in honouring their commitments.

As to relations between the Council of Europe and the OSCE, where crisis management is concerned, we agree that resources should be increased for the purposes of humanitarian, monitoring and follow-up missions. More Council of Europe experts should take part in these missions. To make this possible, mutual information between the two organisations must be improved, seeking openings for joint initiatives.

In practical terms, I think that the OSCE and the Council of Europe should carry out a joint examination of the real situation regarding rule of law and human rights in the “lesser Yugoslavia”. The two organisations will need to consider what moves should be made towards the lifting of sanctions. Hungary observes some progress in this direction. If further progress along these lines is achieved it will have a beneficial effect and this state’s leadership will be able to take forceful measures against aggressive intentions so as to isolate the aggressors. We would be very glad if this question could be considered on both sides, both by the Council of Europe and by the OSCE, and an appropriate initiative taken.

As for relations between the European Union and the Council of Europe, we welcome the regular and structured political dialogue which has grown between the two organisations. We particularly appreciate any initiative relating to the countries in our region. The policy of the Council of Europe towards Hungary is bound to aid the process of its accession to the European Union. Our policies regarding the two organisations are indissociable.

Since the programmes can only be joint programmes, the European Union should consider the possibility of funding programmes put forward by the Council of Europe.

Rest assured that once it becomes a member of the European Union, Hungary will support the Council of Europe’s projects and opinions.

Ladies and gentlemen, I believe that the goal of all your endeavours and all our collective efforts is the constitution of a united Europe. This is the sole solution for the peoples living in Europe. Thank you for your attention. (Applause)


Thank you, Mr Horn. We expected a lot from your speech and you may be sure that we have not been disappointed. Your contribution was inspiring for all of us and comforting for the work that we are conducting and still have to conduct.

About ten colleagues wish to ask questions. If the questions are short and if you, Mr Horn, will try to respond as precisely as possible, colleagues may be given the opportunity to put supplementary questions. I call Sir Russell Johnston of the United Kingdom, leader of the Liberal Group, to put the first question.

Sir Russell JOHNSTON (United Kingdom)

Has the Hungarian Government made any estimate of the cost of maintaining sanctions against Serbia- Montenegro? Has it made any approaches to the richer countries and organisations – such as the European Union – to find out whether the costs could be more fairly allocated, and, if so, has it received any response?

Mr Horn, Prime Minister of Hungary (interpretation)

said that they found themselves in a dangerous situation because of the continuation of the war. Hungarian minorities in the former Yugoslavia were in a particularly dangerous situation. There were many refugees on Hungarian soil.

It was very important to stop the war in the former Yugoslavia. He wished to emphasise that in order to bring stability to this region one needed to be able to control the situation and to forecast future events. One needed to restrict the scope of the war and to bring about those conditions which would bring an end to conflict in the Bosnian region. This would be very important in the next weeks and months.

Sir Russell JOHNSTON

Is anyone offering to help?

Mr Horn, Prime Minister of Hungary (interpretation)

said that Hungary had asked for compensation but had received no answer. This was not something within the mandate of the Council of Europe. However, if the Council of Europe and the Assembly suggested providing compensation to those who could make compensation, he would be very encouraged.

Mr SCHLOTEN (Germany) (translation)

Prime Minister, as part of your very constructive policy on minorities and your policy of good neighbourliness, both of which are, after all, closely connected with one another in your region of Europe, you have signed a remarkable treaty with Slovakia. As far as the treaty negotiations with Romania are concerned, the situation does not look so positive. Can you tell us precisely where the problems lie?

I should like to add a second, quite different question. May I not do so?


I must stop you. It is against the rules to ask two questions at the same time. I call Mr Horn.

Mr Horn, Prime Minister of Hungary (interpretation)

said that recent efforts had been made. There were at least six outstanding issues. However, it had been agreed at the Conference on Stability in Europe held in Paris that dialogue should be resumed, and some issues had been resolved since then. The key question was whether Council of Europe Recommendation 1201 should appear in the treaty. It was Hungary’s position that two principles should always be established in any such treaty: first, the inviolability of frontiers – as had been established in the treaties with Ukraine and Slovakia; and, secondly, the protection of the rights of minorities. Indeed, the treaty with Slovakia did both these things. He would like to sign the treaty with Romania and he thought it was possible.


Mr Schloten, do you wish to ask a supplementary question?

Mr SCHLOTEN (translation)

No, thank you, Mr President.

Mr GABRIELESCU (Romania) (translation)

Mr Prime Minister, I am a member of parliament from Romania, and I would like you to confirm whether, as you have already stated twice, you intend to sign the treaty of good-neighbourly relations with Romania. Romania is eager to sign it. The only outstanding point is Recommendation 1201, which you want to incorporate into the treaty and that we consider inoperative because this Assembly has since approved – and Romania and Hungary have ratified – the framework convention, which is the most recent document covering all the relevant principles. On the strength of this document we are ready to sign the treaty of good-neighbourly relations as soon as possible. My question is therefore: can you accept this solution?

Mr Horn, Prime Minister of Hungary (interpretation)

said that the basic treaty with Romania was very important and he was making all efforts to conclude it. However, such treaties were not the only way to develop relations with one’s neighbours, and good co-operation existed in other areas between Romania and Hungary. The treaty would be a good basis for this co-operation, but he noted that, as he had said in his speech earlier, the Council of Europe had confirmed that Recommendation 1201 was valid. Paragraph 22 of the framework convention was enclosed within it. The Assembly had adopted Recommendation 1201. He wondered why Romania was opposed to it. He was prepared to include all the requirements set out in Recommendation 1201 in the treaty. This was important so as to assure minority rights. He hoped that the position of the powers that be was positive to this.

Mr GABRIELESCU (translation)

Thank you, Mr Prime Minister. I believe we shall reach an agreement and sign our treaty as soon as possible.

Mr BINDIG (Germany) (translation)

Prime Minister, a discussion is taking place on the possibility of Hungary joining the European Union and Nato. I should like to ask whether you see either of these plans as taking priority and what timetable you have set yourself.

Mr Horn, Prime Minister of Hungary (interpretation)

said that membership of Nato was irreversible, as he had mentioned in his speech. He expected that by the end of the current year at latest, Nato would decide the date for starting negotiations. The fact that Nato applied different conditions to different applications was a matter for Nato. Hungary’s position was that it hoped that its neighbours would also join Nato. Hungary’s decision to join should not be seen as a decision against them. That said, one had to continue the dialogue with Russia. Indeed, Hungary has had recent discussions with President Yeltsin and other Russian leaders.

Agreement had been reached on two important issues. First, Hungary’s membership of the Union and of Nato was a matter for the sovereignty of Hungary alone. Secondly, if Hungary joined Nato, no consequence would follow for their relations with Russia. Hungarian membership of Nato would indirectly strengthen Russia by increasing stability in the region. It was important to include Russia in the processes of European integration. With regard to WEU, Hungary was prepared to join when conditions were right.

Mr RADULESCU BOTICA (Romania) (translation)

Mr Prime Minister, my question is very brief. Does Hungary want autonomy on ethnic grounds for the Hungarian minority living in Romania?

Mr Horn, Prime Minister of Hungary (interpretation)

said that this was a vexed question in Hungarian/Romanian relations and some people, although not Mr Radulescu Botica, were creating problems by agitating. There was no question of any territorial autonomy or secession. Rather, what was hoped for \yas a cultural and linguistic autonomy, and representation where appropriate in local authorities. Hungary had the interests of Romania and also of Slovakia in mind.

Mr RADULESCU BOTICA (translation)

Thank you, Mr Prime Minister. I should just like to point out that the rights you mention are already fully established in Romania.

Mrs STIBOROVA (Czech Republic)

Hungary’s transition is progressive and satisfactory. Your country, Mr Horn, enjoys good co-operation with many other countries, including member states of the Council of Europe and the European Union. There are some agreements among countries that are members of the Visegrad Group – Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. What is your opinion on the co-operation within that group? What concrete steps do you propose to carry out to achieve greater and deeper co-operation between Hungary and the other three countries?

Mr Horn, Prime Minister of Hungary (interpretation)

said that the members of the group agreed on its importance. The fact that the group continued in existence showed that it was at the forefront of transition on the region. It was important for Hungary to recognise the different points of view represented. Many initiatives with regard to European integration were under way, and constant discussion of these in the group would continue. He did not wish for institutionalisation of such discussions, but contacts – for instance, the recent visit of the Polish Prime Minister to Hungary – were to be encouraged. Progress in creating a free trade area in central Europe was going well. From 1 January 1998 customs’ barriers between the countries would be dismantled. This was an important step towards becoming a member of the European Union. The Central European Free Trade Area would be progressively enlarged. Romania, Bulgaria and the Baltic states would be welcome.

Mr JANSSON (Finland)

As a former rapporteur to Hungary, I feel some satisfaction at the fact that your country considers its membership of the Council of Europe to be a success. That is good. As the country which holds the chairmanship of the OSCE, Hungary has shown great activity in several areas of crisis in member states and in other areas such as Chechnya. There are several organisations seeking a peaceful solution to the crisis in Chechnya by political means. Are these activities being co-ordinated sufficiently? If not, what should be done in your opinion.

Mr Horn, Prime Minister of Hungary (interpretation)

said that the OSCE had been the only organisation to have made an effective contribution to solving the crisis. It had recently sent a new mission to Chechnya. Without the work of the OSCE it would not be possible to reach a political solution. Such a solution was possible, but it remained to be seen whether there was enough political will. The mission allowed all parties to negotiate and Russia recognised the significance of the OSCE in this matter.

Mr SEVERIN (Romania)

You have had enough questions from Romanian parliamentarians today, and you have answered the two questions which I wanted to ask. I can only wish you all success in achieving the important project your government has undertaken.


With the efforts of all of us, we will succeed in that challenge. I call Mr Szymanski.


Hungary and Poland provide two examples of countries in east and central Europe which have historic significance as laboratories for political and economic experimentation in our region of Europe. What is your opinion of the role of Hungary and Poland in our region, taking into account the fact that those countries have been leaders in the transformation? Both countries applied for membership of the European Union and Nato at the same time. What is your opinion on the probable time for Hungary and Poland to enter the European Union with regard to the Visegrad Group?

Mr Horn, Prime Minister of Hungary (interpretation)

said that not all countries in the region were at the same economic level. The Visegrad Group was in the forefront of change and other countries would take account of the lessons of their experience. Each country, through, was entitled to pursue its own path.

The current year and the next year would be decisive in reaching agreement on the conditions under which Hungary would join the European Union. Further consultation would be necessary. He did not want the Union to create special conditions for Hungary but the country did have special features which ought to be recognised.

The intergovernmental conference would take a decision on the timing of negotiations. He expected them to start in 1996 or 1997. They might take three years, and therefore Hungary believed it might join the European Union by the turn of the century.


The Earl of Dundee has requested to ask a question, but I have not succeeded in locating him in the Chamber. The last question will be put by Mr Gjellerod.

Mr GJELLEROD (Denmark)

Thank you, Mr President. Mr Prime Minister, we have heard much about your relations with neighbouring countries in central and eastern Europe, so I will finish the questions by asking you a brief question. What are you able to offer the so-called developed countries in the European Union?

Mr Horn, Prime Minister of Hungary (interpretation)

said that Hungary could contribute to the European Union in many different ways. It had millions of skilled workers, which constituted a creative labour force. He could not, however, make any promises with respect to contributing to developed countries.

He thanked the President for allowing him to address the Assembly.