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U.S. Department of State
1997 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, March 1998

United States Department of State

Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs

Europe and Central Asia


I. Summary

Hungary remains a significant transit point for hashish (from southwest Asia) and cocaine (from South America) destined for western Europe. Marijuana seizures rose sharply during 1997. The steady increase in domestic drug consumption, especially of Ecstasy and LSD, as well as a rise in attendant drug-related crime is becoming a political issue in advance of 1998 legislative elections. In November 1997, the Government of Hungary (GOH) completed a nine-month policy review recommending stiffer anti-drug penalties, a revamped national drug strategy, and the appointment of a US-style National Drug "Czar." In March 1997, Hungary and the USG exchanged instruments of ratification for Mutual Legal Assistance and Extradition Treaties, and in November 1997, Hungary signed the Council of Europe Convention on Money Laundering. Hungary is party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention.

II. Status of Country

Hungary remains a significant transit point for heroin smuggled from southwest Asia via the Balkans to western Europe. Factors contributing to this are good road and rail links to both the Balkans and western Europe, continuing instability in former Yugoslav countries, and the rise of criminal groups in the Balkans financing their operations via drug smuggling. Dramatic drops in drug seizures are due to successful efforts by the Hungarian national police and border guards to strengthen border surveillance, as well as closer cooperation with neighboring countries. Cocaine traffickers have in the past taken advantage of Hungary's good air connections to smuggle cocaine through Budapest's Ferihegy Airport, but declining seizures indicate vigilant security is diverting the trade to softer routes.

Now that drug interdiction efforts at the border are bearing fruit, GOH officials increasingly focus on the worsening domestic drug problem. While heroin and cocaine consumption is low due to the high cost, use of the designer drug Ecstasy, LSD, and marijuana is rising, as are drug-related crimes. Marijuana seizures rose sharply compared to 1996; GOH officials cite as the cause foreigners who acquire agricultural land and conceal illicit plants among legitimate crops.

Although money laundering is illegal, the developing nature of bank sector regulatory agencies make money laundering a potential problem. Prior to OECD accession in 1996, Hungary significantly modified its bank secrecy laws to require disclosure of accounts suspected of links to drug trafficking, money laundering and organized crime. GOH officials have no statistical data on the extent, if any, of money laundering.

III. Country Actions Against Drugs in 1997

Widespread popular concern over climbing drug use and crime levels prompted Hungarian politicians from across the political spectrum to take a fresh look at national drug policy. An ad hoc Parliamentary committee presented its report in November 1997 for Parliamentary consideration. The report identified the lack of clear definitions of illicit drugs or amounts considered illegal as shortcomings in Hungarian narcotics legislation. The report recommends transfer of overall responsibility for anti-narcotics efforts from the Interministerial Drug Committee in the Welfare Ministry to an independent office within the Prime Minister's office; appointment of a National Drug "Czar;" tightening of legal penalties for drug possession; greater emphasis on prevention among youth and making treatment more widely available to the country's estimated 35,000 seriously addicted.

Law Enforcement Efforts. The GOH promotes international cooperation on law enforcement, including expanded cross-border anti-narcotics investigative cooperation with Austria. GOH officials participate actively in international law enforcement training programs.

Corruption. While there are no specific laws on narcotics-related corruption, there is no evidence that this is currently a significant problem in Hungary.

Agreements and Treaties. Hungary is a party to the 1961 UN Single Convention, and its 1972 Protocol, the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances, and the 1988 UN Drug Convention. Mutual Legal Assistance and Extradition Treaties between the USG and the GOH entered into force in early March 1997. The USG has concluded a Customs Mutual Assistance Agreement (CMAA) with the Government of Hungary.

Cultivation and Production. Some illicit production of marijuana continues, primarily in western Hungary. No major eradication efforts were taken by the GOH. While most of the Ecstasy and LSD is imported, there is some local production.

Demand Reduction. Hungary currently spends $60,000 for teacher training and curriculum development programs stressing demand reduction, in addition to funds provided by USG and other international donors.

IV. US Policy Initiatives and Programs

Bilateral Cooperation. USG supports Hungarian counternarcotics efforts through training and cooperation. The centerpiece of these efforts is the International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) in Budapest, established in 1995. In 1997, ILEA trained 160 Hungarians, as well as nationals throughout Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, in the principles and practice of law enforcement. The eight-week core curriculum includes a significant counternarcotics component. The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) maintains an office in Vienna, Austria which covers Hungary. Hungarian police officers have participated in training sponsored by the DEA in Europe and the US. USIA and USAID partially fund several programs stressing demand reduction and curriculum development targeted to junior high school students.

The Road Ahead. The USG will continue its encouragement of Hungary's counternarcotics efforts, and support moves to stiffen anti-drug penalties and adapt anti-drug legislation and practice to western European norms. In 1998, Hungarians will continue to participate in USG-sponsored law enforcement training programs in Hungary and abroad.


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