Hungary's Foreign Minister Seeks West's Cooperation

INTERVIEW

AS Hungarian Foreign Minister Geza Jeszenszky contemplates the world from his office on the Danube River embankment, the view is a sobering one.

To the south, Yugoslavia disintegrates; to the east, Russia and Ukraine argue over who will control the Soviet Black Sea Fleet and the disposition of nuclear weapons; to the north, Czechoslovakian President Vaclav Havel struggles to keep his country together.

The sweeping changes in Europe have given impetus to post-communist Hungary's major foreign policy goal: the "reintegration," as Mr. Jeszenszky puts it, of Hungary "into the democratic community of nations."

The two-year-old center-right government aims "to be recognized as a Western nation in every sense," Jeszenszky says. "I think we have achieved it." He notes Hungary's admission to the Council of Europe and its signing of an association agreement with the European Community.

"Hungary fully supports all the aims of the EC from the ... Maastricht summit," Jeszenszky says. "Only economic obstacles remain: The present state of the Hungarian economy does not allow us to be full members."

Hungary, Poland, and Czechoslovakia have moved to coordinate policy toward the EC and Western aid, and the nations are working to create a free-trade zone, Jeszenszky notes. The three have cooperated in initiatives to the EC and the Group of Seven industrialized nations. They also participate in the Central European Initiative, or "Hexagonale," which includes Italy, Austria, and Yugoslavia. The troika "has limited aims," Jeszenszky says. "It is not going to be a bloc in any way."

Calling the Yugoslav crisis a "tragedy for Europe and for the people concerned," Jeszenszky laments that the Hungarian minorities in Serbia, Croatia, and Slovenia "are forced to take part in wars they don't want." Hungary has also been affected by the loss of its lucrative Yugoslav trade and the cutoff of the Adriatic oil pipeline that flows through Croatia. Budapest's only other oil and gas pipeline comes from the former Soviet Union. Western diplomats in Budapest say the Adriatic pipeline is scheduled to reopen soon.

While Hungary has kept good relations with Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Macedonia, Jeszenszky says, "the people running Serbia ... have taken unfortunately a very hostile attitude to Hungary." He blasted "preposterous accusations" that Hungary is supplying arms to Serbia's opponents or that Hungarian forces have intervened on the side of Croatia.

Serbian forces and Yugoslav federal aircraft have violated Hungary's borders several dozen times, Jeszenszky said, and have bombed and shelled Hungarian villages in the border region. Jeszenszky says there has been no air combat between the two countries.

"We want to keep tensions as low as possible," he says. "We made an agreement after these violations that each side would refrain from coming close to the frontier. For several weeks it was observed by the Yugoslav Air Force, but not always." He blamed the attacks on those in Serbia who want to create the image of Hungary as an enemy. The situation is made more difficult by the lack of clarity about who is really in charge in Belgrade, he says.

Discussing Western economic assistance, Jeszenszky notes the displeasure of voters in the United States with foreign-aid spending. "I think it would be very important for the US public to see that ... helping the former communist countries is not only sound policy from the political angle but even from the business angle.... Every US taxpayer will profit if these countries succeed in overcoming the legacy [of communism] and become good buyers of US products; and there is an insatiable demand."

What Hungary most needs now, Jeszenszky says, is investment more than "training, conferences, and teaching."

Above all, Jeszenszky says, he doesn't want Hungary to be forgotten in the concern over the future of the former Soviet republics and other world crises. "This region continues to be very important. This region has a better chance to accomplish this transition and become a prosperous market-economic region. The Commonwealth of Independent States can and will succeed very largely only once Central Europe is in order and with our collaboration."

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