Hungary acts to avoid visa problems

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Címkék:  canada, Zoltan Balog
 3rd of November 2010   Source: Jennifer Campbell - The Ottawa Citizen

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Hungary has sent its first minister to Canada since its April parliamentary elections which brought Viktor Orban's conservative party to power.


Hungary has sent its first minister to Canada since its April parliamentary elections which brought Viktor Orban's conservative party to power.


Zoltan Balog, secretary of state for social inclusion, public administration and justice, was here Nov. 1 and 2 to see his Canadian counterparts and, in particular, to convince Citizenship and Immigration officials to keep the visa-free regime Canada and Hungary currently have.


Canada was slow to extend visa-free status to the 10 states, including Hungary and the Czech Republic, that entered the European Union in 2004 but eventually, after about four years, they all received it.


Then in 2009, Canada decided to reverse that decision with the Czech Republic, arguing that too many Czechs were unfairly claiming refugee status, only to withdraw their claims before Canada finished with their files.


Suggestions that too many Roma were making claims -- the number of refugee claimants did dramatically increase from five to 2,000 the year the visa requirement was lifted -- have concerned Hungary, also home to many Roma, to the point where Balog was doing pre-emptive damage control. He met with Neil Yeates, the deputy minister of Citizenship and Immigration Canada, and told him about plans to reform their refugee system.


"I spoke to him about our efforts," Balog said. "We have the evidence of crimes and we are ready to cooperate."


In addition to CIC meetings, the minister was meeting with officials at Heritage Canada and also with Alberta's aboriginal affairs officials because he thought there may be similarities in the way Canada deals with its Aboriginal people and Hungary deals with the Roma, who have lived in the country for 400 years.


CIC was busy this week with this issue as the Czech Republic's deputy minister of foreign affairs was also in town and this was high on his to-do list.


Estonian Cooperation


Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet's visit to Canada this week is a first -- it's the first time since the re-establishment of Estonia in 1991 that a person in his position has visited.


Speaking from his Estonian office last week, Paet said he was eager to meet with Lawrence Cannon, his Canadian counterpart, to discuss both countries' Afghanistan engagements, and the upcoming NATO summit. But of most interest to the minister was to hear Canada's views on Arctic issues.


"It is my first visit to Canada and it is quite short," Paet said. "I'm very interested in hearing Canadian views on Arctic issues."


His agenda includes meetings with Cannon, as well as Defence Minister Peter MacKay and Trade Minister Peter Van Loan, who has Estonian roots. He plans to speak with Van Loan about bilateral trade between Canada and Estonia, which, he diplomatically said, has room to grow. "There are some figures but at this stage, they're too modest."


They will also talk about the Canada-EU trade agreement currently being negotiated.


"We welcome this kind of agreement with third parties, especially Canada," Paet said. "Estonia has always had a very liberal trade policy."


He said EU membership, which his country received in 2004, has given it plenty of liberties and freedoms including free movement of labour and services, improved standard of living and better security, not to mention access to a market with 500 million people.


Bringing Banks Back


The journal of explorer Joseph Banks' 1766 voyage to Newfoundland resides where? Bet you didn't guess Adelaide, Australia. But that's exactly where the original has been for the last century.


As Australian High Commissioner Justin Brown says, "Banks is most well known in Australia and elsewhere for his role as chief botanist on Captain James Cook's voyage of discovery to Australia in 1770, but he actually met Cook during his brief stay in Newfoundland. And strangely enough, Banks' Newfoundland journal is in the State Library in Adelaide, South Australia, where it has been for over a century."


As part of celebrations to mark the 70th anniversary of Australia-Canada relations, Brown has produced a replica of the original and will unveil it in Ottawa Nov. 4. and will then take it to Newfoundland to present it either to the premier or the lieutenant governor.


Sean Cadigan, professor and head of the history department at Memorial University, will speak at the Ottawa event. "What I'll say about Banks is that he was a really important natural historian, early ethnographer, social commentator and architect of empire."


The links between the eastern coast of Canada and Australia go back a long time because of a shared imperial history and a maritime history, he added.


"People have reprinted a journal but the thing about a replica is that it's a symbol of a relationship that's often easy to forget," Cadigan said.


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