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Hungary recalls Bern ambassador

Hungary's ambassador in Bern, Pal Schmitt, believes his recall is politically motivated.

(www.hungemb.ch)

Hungary has recalled its ambassador to Bern, Pal Schmitt, because he has joined the race to become the mayor of Budapest.

The Hungarian foreign ministry said Schmitt was asked to step aside when he announced he would not be able to pursue his diplomatic mission because of his nomination as a candidate for the mayor's job.

"We found out about his political activities via the media," said Tamas Toth, a Hungarian foreign ministry spokesman. "The civil service law bars civil servants from all political activity."

Schmitt, who has served in Bern since 1999, is the candidate of the conservative opposition party, Fidesz, in October's municipal elections.

Political opponents

Schmitt, who had said on a number of occasions that he would give up his ambassadorship to campaign for Budapest city hall, was shocked by his removal.

"I think the foreign minister took his decision as the president of the Socialists, and not as a minister," said Schmitt. "It will cause great harm to the relations between Switzerland and Hungary."

"The recall of an ambassador also requires two months notice," added the diplomat.

The Hungarian foreign minister, Lazlo Kovacs, is also president of the country's governing Socialist Party.

Schmitt is one of the better-known ambassadors in Switzerland. He was a fencing gold medallist at the Olympics in 1968 and 1972 for Hungary, a vice-president of the International Olympic Committee and is currently president of the Hungarian Olympic Committee.

swissinfo with agencies


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