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Q. The Hungarian economy now appears to be facing some problems familiar to the West, including a slowdown in growth, inflation and the threat of unemployment. How do you plan to deal with these problems?
A. In some respects, there are similarities. In the past few years we had to reduce our rate of growth temporarily, due to weakness in the world economy and the need to improve the stability of our own economy. But in the five- year plan that began this year, we would like to achieve an annual GNP growth rate of 3%. This rate would enable us to continue necessary restructuring of the economy, to upgrade technology, and to raise the living standard while reducing the rate of inflation. Unemployment, a serious problem for Western countries, is unknown in Hungary.
Q. How do you view relations between the U.S. and Hungary? In what areas is an improvement necessary and possible?
A. In the past two decades joint efforts have gradually removed the obstacles to good relations. Despite the differences in social systems and the great geographical distance, we can further strengthen the ties. A major contribution to this would be an end to all trade barriers between our two countries, and long-term assurance of most-favored-nation treatment.
Q. There have been indications that Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev wants to draw his East European allies economically and politically nearer to the Soviet Union. What is your reaction to this idea? What is the importance and the future of Hungary's close ties with the West?
A. As you know, Hungary is a member of the Warsaw Pact and Comecon, groups of independent socialist countries. For them the main issue is improving their existing cooperation, and not to set up the dilemma of "drawing nearer" or "increasing the distance." Mikhail Gorbachev spoke about our cooperation in that spirit at his 27th Party Congress and in other statements.
That cooperation, however, does not mean seclusion from the rest of the world. Hungary today exports to 143 and imports from 103 countries. Many years of observation indicate that the stronger the economic cooperation between socialist and capitalist countries, the firmer are the foundations for building their political relations. The converse is also true: when the political atmosphere is improving, economic cooperation is encouraged. This is obviously not a one-way street. Politicians of the capitalist countries have pointed out themselves the advantage of cooperating with socialist countries, including additional employment and marketing opportunities.
Q. Gorbachev's style of leadership has led to the replacement of many top party officials in the Soviet Union, especially of the older generation. How do you view this development?
A. That is an internal affair of the Soviet party and the Soviet Union. Of course, the personal factor always influences the making of a policy. For us Hungarians, it is the main political line of the Soviet Union that chiefly matters. The leadership of our party welcomed without reservations the important decisions made at the 27th Congress earlier this year because they point in the same direction as our own endeavors.