197450 3/18/2009 9:33 09BUDAPEST206 Embassy Budapest CONFIDENTIAL 08BUDAPEST1216 VZCZCXYZ0001 PP RUEHWEB DE RUEHUP #0206 0770933 ZNY CCCCC ZZH P 180933Z MAR 09 FM AMEMBASSY BUDAPEST TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3990 INFO RUEHBW/AMEMBASSY BELGRADE PRIORITY 017 RUEHSL/AMEMBASSY BRATISLAVA PRIORITY 1051 RUEHBM/AMEMBASSY BUCHAREST PRIORITY 1444 RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO PRIORITY 0460 RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS PRIORITY C O N F I D E N T I A L BUDAPEST 000206
DEPARTMENT FOR EUR/CE JAMIE LAMORE
E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/15/2019 TAGS: PREL, RM, HU SUBJECT: TRAVEL PLANS GONE AWRY - PRESIDENT SOLYOM'S VISIT TO ROMANIA
REF: A. 08 BUDAPEST 1216 B. MARTINSON-LAMORE EMAIL MARCH 13
Classified By: Acting P/E Counselor Jon Martinson, reasons 1.4 (b,d)
1. (U) This is Embassy Budapest/Embassy Bucharest coordinated cable.
2. (U) Hungarian President Laszlo Solyom, a staunch advocate of ethnic Hungarians living in neighboring countries, faced significant diplomatic difficulties while searching for opportunities to commemorate Hungary's 1848 revolution and war of independence on March 15.
3. (U) Initially planning to celebrate this important Hungarian national holiday in Serbia's Voivojdina region, Solyom altered his schedule after Serbian President Tadic objected to the planned three-day visit and the Hungarian organization that had invited Solyom subsequently canceled the visit. Turning to Romania, Solyom then planned to fly via a Hungarian military aircraft to the Transylvania city of Targu Mures (Marosvasarhely) on March 15, to celebrate with the ethnic Hungarian community. However, on March 12, Romanian authorities expressed concern via a diplomatic note to the Hungarian Ambassador in Bucharest that "the visit would send a wrong signal for bilateral relations" and canceled flight clearance for the President's aircraft. (Note. Press reporting states Romanian authorities were afraid that Solyom would talk about autonomy for ethnic Hungarians in Transylvania and that "could have had an adverse impact on incumbent Romanian President Basescu's campaign for re-election later this year who wants to obtain the votes of extremists there." End note.) As a result of the Romanian Government's landing permit revocation, Solyom traveled to the Transylvania region by car on March 14, laid a wreath at a memorial site, and returned to Budapest the same day.
4. (U) While Solyom considered the Romanian's refusal to grant flight clearance an "unfriendly" action, on March 13, Hungarian MFA Senior State Secretary Marta Fekszi responded to a press inquiry, commenting that "it is inexplicable and we will seek an explanation from the Romanian Ambassador to Budapest." She stated that "there is no question in my mind that if a Hungarian citizen wants to visit Romania then he should be able to."
5. (C) Embassy Bucharest comment: It's unclear whether there actually was a dip note fro the Romanians to the Hungarians expressing concern about the visit. UDMR leader Marco Bela made that claim in press comments, but FM Diaconescu denied this, and challenged Bela "show me the note". The Romanian government line, including from Transportation Minister Berceanu, is that no/no official request for flight clearance for President Solyom's military aircraft was formally conveyed to the Romanian side. Media have deplored the incident as an example of politicians playing the Hungarian-bashing card to win over voters from the extreme-right Greater Romania Party (which recently lost its parliamentary representation in the November elections.)
6. (C) Embassy Budapest comment. During his three and a half year tenure, President Solyom has spared no effort to emphatically represent the rights of ethnic Hungarians during frequent visits to neighboring countries with ethnic Hungarian populations. Fidesz President Viktor Orban is also a frequent visitor to the Transylvania region, more recently in his role as the European Peoples' Party Vice President, to support the campaign of ethnic Hungarians in the upcoming European parliament elections later this spring. Since the political changes of 1990, successive Hungarian governments continue to wrestle with how best to address the concerns of ethnic Hungarians "beyond the borders." Most recently, Slovak/Hungarian relations have made the front pages (ref A), but the diplomatic fracas over Solyom's visit has the potential to turn up the heat on what has been relatively good Romanian/Hungarian cooperation. End Comment. Foley