Historians, politicians urge better legislation on Hungary’s secret-agent past

Budapest, May 10 (MTI) – Historians and politicians urged the creation of better legislation on Hungary’s secret-agent past at a roundtable held on Thursday.

Bence Retvari, the state secretary at the public administration ministry, said the issue is “a question of justice”. It is important that Hungarians should understand the past 40 years at all levels, he said. This must start from the highest level: how the system was conceived, how power operated and who were its beneficiaries under the communist state. “They should be named,” he added.


“There is an interest among voters and society on the agent issue, so we must deal with it,” Retvari said, adding that, using legal means, politicians must provide answers without exploiting the issue for votes.


He said the National Remembrance Committee, a new investigation committee to be set up by June, could be the mainstay in serving justice, and a related concept would be drafted before the end of May.


The committee would be given the task of identifying leaders of the communist dictatorship and determining the degree and nature of their responsibility for crimes committed, Fidesz parliamentary group leader Janos Lazar said earlier. This committee would be in charge of the 18 magnetic tapes restored in 2010, which contain information on some 50,000 people who once worked for the state security services, including agents and informants.


Historian Krisztian Ungvary, from the Documentation and Research Centre of the Hungarian Revolution, said Hungary’s current legislation was “deceptive and abominable”, and it undermined faith in democratic institutions. He underscored that no one had ever won a legal case against a (secret-service) agent in Hungary.


“This is not a historical, but a moral and political issue,” he said.


Peter Hack, a professor at the Lorand Eotvos University’s Law Faculty, said all solutions in Eastern European countries had created more openness than Hungary’s.


Katalin Kutrucz, deputy head of the Historic Archives of the State Security Services, said there was more to the issue than just secret agents; it was about understanding our past.


“People are in denial, families do not talk about the past,” she said.


Prime Minister Viktor Orban said in April that he supported efforts to ensure that everyone has the right to access and publish data that the communist-era secret-services held on them, but he also believed that the victims of dictatorship should be protected from becoming victims once again by having information disclosed about their private lives.

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