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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Off-the-Cuff

Secretary-General's press conference after meeting President Pal Schmitt of Hungary

Budapest, Hungary, 18 April 2011

SG: Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen, Jonapot!

It is a great honour to visit this great country Hungary at this time.

Thank you, Mr. President, for your warm hospitality and very kind welcome. I am most impressed by the welcoming ceremony this morning and I regard this as a recognition of your Government for the United Nations.

I am visiting because Hungary is a dynamic member of the United Nations.

It serves on the Human Rights Council and on the board of our newest agency, UN Women.

Hungary is a generous and long-time contributor to UN peacekeeping in Cyprus, Lebanon, Western Sahara and other areas, like in Afghanistan. Above all, I am also here because Hungary is playing an important role in Europe during a period of immense challenge for the region and the world.

Hungary's historic presidency of the European Union symbolizes the deepening of European reunification.

It has also generated a major new initiative on environmental protection and water management -- the Danube Strategy, as President Pal Schmitt has just mentioned.

I commend Hungary for being a champion of this plan, involving eight nations.

I have had a good meeting with President Schmitt, and I look forward to my sessions later today with Prime Minister Orban and Foreign Minister Martonyi.

We discussed a wide range of critical issues, including the Millennium Development Goals, climate change and nuclear safety as well as the situation in Libya and across North Africa and the Middle East.

Hungary has undergone a remarkable transformation over the past two decades. It has travelled from communism to democracy, from the Warsaw Pact to modern Europe. But that transition has not been without major challenges.

Hungary's revolution has clear lessons for other countries where people are seeking freedom and change after decades of repression, and I am very encouraged to know that there have already been high-level contacts between Hungary, Egypt and Tunisia.

In that same spirit, as befits its role in the region and internationally, I hope the Hungarian Government will continue to promote its own reforms and uphold fundamental democratic principles.

Freedom of expression is among those bedrock principles.

As I told President Schmitt, the new laws regulating the media must be in line with the European mainstream and Hungary's own human rights obligations.

I am aware that there have been some concerns raised among Hungary's European neighbours and around the world and there are similar concerns about certain provisions of Hungary's new Constitution.

I would therefore welcome the Government's willingness to seek advice and recommendations on some of these issues from others in Hungary as well as from the Council of Europe and the United Nations.

On Libya, yesterday my special envoy, Mr. al-Khatib, visited Tripoli together with the UN Emergency Humanitarian Coordinator Valerie Amos.

I am encouraged to report that, as a result, the United Nations yesterday reached an agreement on a humanitarian presence in Tripoli.

Meanwhile, our talks on the political situation continue.

Once a ceasefire is eventually reached, Libya will require wide-ranging efforts in peacemaking, peacebuilding and reconstruction.

It is critical that the international community continue to act in concert and work in common cause on behalf of the Libyan people.

Thank you again, Mr. President, for your hospitality and for all that Hungary does to support the United Nations.

Köszönöm!

Q: The first question pertains to your position and your opinion on Hungary and of course Central Europe, Central Eastern Europe 20 years after the change of the political system. The second part of the question pertains to your position on the Hungarian constitution - media law - especially in light of the fact that your Special Rapporteur recently visited Budapest.

SG: On your first question, I admire the people of Hungary for your courage upholding and yearning for the principle of democracy when your people rose against oppression in 1956 and more strongly in 1989. Those two occasions I think have made a tremendous and historic transformation of your country where you are now enjoying genuine freedom and liberty and democracy.

I hope your experience and commitment to the fundamental principles of democracy will give inspiring lessons and messages to many people in the Arab world and North Africa who are really yearning for genuine and greater democracy.

On your second question, generally, the constitutional review process is an important and historic occasion for any country. It is usually carried out by a country without involvement of external actors unless such assistance or advice is specifically requested.

Hungary, like any State, is free to establish any laws or legal mechanism that are deemed fit by the country's legislature and government.

However, when such laws are adopted it is the responsibility of the country's government to ensure that they comply with all the relevant international agreements and conventions that the country is a party to including on the issue of the protection of media freedoms and human rights.

I have taken note of the recent concerns voiced by Mr. Frank La Rue, UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression.

I trust that the Government of Hungary will not waver in fully guaranteeing the right to freedom of expression.

Q: Secretary-General you mentioned this agreement on humanitarian presence in Tripoli can you please give some details of what this will entail, how do you see the humanitarian situation now in Libya and also is the departure of Mr. Muammar Qadhafi a necessary condition to resolve this conflict which seems to have developed into a stalemate in the past few days or weeks?

SG: Nearly half a million people have fled the country in recent weeks and there are tens of thousands of people whose basic human needs are not given, so we have very serious humanitarian problems here.

It is much more serious when the fighting has been intense, particularly in a city like Misrata. Last week the United Nations World Food Programme and the International Red Cross as well as the International Organization for Migration and the Government of Turkey, they have provided urgent humanitarian items and also evacuated some people who needed medical treatment.

As you know we have already established a humanitarian presence in Benghazi and with the visit of my Special Envoy and the Humanitarian Coordinator Under-Secretary-General Valerie Amos that helped us reach an agreement with Libyan authorities to establish a humanitarian presence in Tripoli and we will try to expand our humanitarian activities together with other international NGOs and humanitarian workers like the Red Cross and Red Crescent.

Considering the magnitude of this crisis as this fighting is still continuing, it is absolutely necessary that Libyan authorities stop fighting, stop killing people, that is why, in accordance with the relevant Security Council resolutions, particularly Security Council resolution 1973, the international community has taken very swift and decisive measures including this no-fly zone, including taking some military measures.

We have three objectives and challenges at the same time: first an immediate and effective ceasefire; second to expand our humanitarian assistance to those people in need; third we will continue to have political dialogue, to have a political resolution of this issue. I am very grateful to the European Union and Hungary in their capacity as President of the European Union for their very generous support and I count on the continuing support and commitment of the European Union.