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Hamžík hints about creation of special bilateral panel

Continuing his travels through the region, new Slovak Foreign Minister Pavol Hamžík said in Budapest on September 18 that his talks with Hungarian officials were "very open and valuable," Slovak and Hungarian media reported. Hamžík and his Hungarian counterpart, László Kovács, discussed European integration in light of bilateral relations. "Both sides are interested in settling controversial issues," Hamžík said. "We know very well that the European Union welcomes any mutual progress." He also said Slovakia will consider setting up a Slovak-Hungarian intergovernmental committee to oversee the two countries' 1995 basic treaty. The creation of the committee, proposed by Hungary, "would further the implementation of the treaty...which is expected to be a long process," Kovács said.

A couple of sticking points in the pair's talks were not settled. Both Kovács and Hamžík continued to differ over the recent introduction of a Slovak law restricting the use of foreign national anthems, Hungarian media reported on September 19. To Hamžík's remark that Slovakia's treatment of flags and national anthems is in keeping with international customs, Kovács responded that there are no plans to restrict foreign national anthems or flags in Hungary. Kovács also criticized the virtual termination of state subsidies for minority papers and pressed for passage of a Slovak law governing the use of minority languages. Meanwhile, Hungarian Culture Minister Balint Magyar charged that existing Slovak legislation on the state language discriminates against minority languages and that cuts in state subsidies have caused major problems for Hungarian cultural activities in Slovakia, Hungarian media reported.

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