BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungary’s new center-right government will seek a new deal with international lenders and plans to make it easier for ethnic Hungarians in neighboring countries to obtain dual citizenship, foreign minister-designate Janos Martonyi told Reuters.
The Fidesz party, which named Martonyi as its candidate for the top job in Hungarian diplomacy, won elections by a landslide on Sunday and could end up with a two-thirds majority in the next parliament after a run-off vote on April 25.
“Well, I think we have to sit down as soon as possible (with the IMF and EU),” Martonyi said in an interview late on Wednesday.
“We have to talk about the present agreement and the exact situation about that agreement, and given the fact that the present agreement will expire in October this year, we also have to discuss a possible extension under amended terms, perhaps, or about making a new agreement. We are completely open.”
Hungary was rescued by emergency financing from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the EU in October 2008 when it narrowly escaped financial meltdown.
Martonyi said the new or extended agreement should take into account Fidesz’s goals to boost the recession-hit economy.
He also said the issue of granting easier access to citizenship to ethnic Hungarians beyond the borders would be on the next government’s agenda.
Dual citizenship for some 1.5 million ethnic Hungarians in Romania, half a million in Slovakia and more in Serbia and Ukraine, was derailed by a failed 2004 referendum.
Fidesz has a good chance to get a two-thirds majority in parliament, necessary to modify the existing citizenship laws.
“Hungarians living in the neighboring countries... can (now) only obtain citizenship if they settle down in this country... for a given period of time,” Martonyi said. “This will be simplified by amending the existing legislation.”
For now, ethnic Hungarians can only obtain citizenship if they fulfill a set of legal criteria and pass certain tests.
Martonyi said he believed granting them easier access should not lead to tensions with Hungary’s neighbors.
Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico said the citizenship issue had the potential to sour relations between Hungary and Slovakia.
“There is some misunderstanding that this could be a kind of ‘en masse’ automatic granting of citizenship. This is not the case,” Martonyi said. “Obtaining the citizenship (would be) always done on an individual basis.”
Martonyi said granting these new citizens the right to vote was also a possibility, but stressed the voting right was a separate issue and was not part of the planned legislation.
Martonyi said Hungary needed both the Nabucco gas pipeline project, aimed at tapping gas sources other than Russia for the European Union, and also Russia’s own South Stream, which would bring Russian gas on a new route, skipping Ukraine.
“From an economic perspective it is very clear that we give priority to the diversification of sources,” he said. “This does not mean that we do not want to diversify routes as well. To put it quite simply, we need both Nabucco and South Stream.”
He also said he hoped that Hungarian oil group MOL and Russia’s Surgut could settle their dispute over a 21 percent stake which Surgut bought in MOL last year, angering both MOL and the Socialist government.
Martonyi said the new government would oppose the takeover of companies like MOL by any foreign firm, not only Russians.
“There are some companies, so-called Hungary-based regional multinationals... where Hungarian management and Hungarian influence will have to be maintained,” he said.
Hungary will hold the EU’s rotating presidency in the first half of 2011.
Reporting by Sandor Peto and Marton Dunai; Editing by Michael Roddy