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Hungary to Open Spy Files

DW staff/AFP (gb)December 9, 2004

Making an about-turn, Hungary's ruling Socialist party said on Wednesday that it now backed fully opening communist-era secret service files, in an attempt to confront the country's ghosts of the past.

More communist-era spies may be revealed when the files are openedImage: AP

Unlike other former Warsaw Pact countries, new EU member Hungary did not reveal the names of secret police collaborators and the huge amount of information the spying services accumulated on Hungarians, following the fall of communist regimes in eastern Europe in 1989.

"The MSZP (Socialist party) is working on a bill that would allow free access to the national security documents housed in the historical archives," party president Istvan Hiller told a news conference.

"The unfortunate and fruitless disputes must come to an end," added the party's new leader, in reference to leaks to the press implicating everyone from politicians to footballers of collaborating with the secret service. "We can only plan safely for the future if we face the past and have closure," he said.

The Socialist party, which counts among its ranks many former communists, had been against divulging the files from the Cold War era when spying on each other was commonplace. Its coalition partner, the Free Democrats, -- with many ex-dissident members -- was for opening them.

The bill foresees making available dossiers of the communist security apparatus which contain secrets on collaborators with the espionage, counter-espionage and the domestic intelligence services, Socialist parliamentarian Sandor Burany said.

High ranking officials had spy posts

Wahl Ungarn: Der Oppositionskandidat der sozialistischen Partei Peter Medgyessy
Peter MedgyessyImage: AP

Hungary was hit by a scandal in 2002 when then-Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy (photo) was forced to admit after a leak that he had served as a counter-espionage officer under the communist regime. Several other high ranking officials in both left-wing and right-wing administrations have since admitted having worked for the communist secret service.

Besides Medgyessy, who was forced out of power in a coalition row last September, a commission set up in 2002 found high-ranking officials with secret service pasts in each government administration since 1990. But it did not reveal any names.

Soccer spy

Soccer players, too, were spied uponImage: AP

Central bank President Zsigmond Jarai, finance minister under former conservative Prime Minister Viktor Orban, has also admitted he worked in the counter-espionage division when the communists were in power.

Recently, names of celebrities have been splashed across newspaper front pages linking them to their secret pasts. Former Hungary international soccer star Dezso Novak (65) was forced to admit he spied for the secret police in the 1960s and '70s when he regularly filed reports on his teammates. Novak won the Olympic title twice with Hungary and the UEFA Cup with local team Ferencvaros in 1965.