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Meeting Benedict rather than Obama

June 5th, 2011

“If Hungary’s President is ever offered a chance to meet the President of the United States of America, he should under all circumstances avail himself of such an opportunity,” warns Tamás Mészáros in his regular editorial in 168 óra.

Last week President Barack Obama had dinner in Warsaw with the presidents of Central European countries who had just wound up their meeting in the Polish capital, and Mészáros is convinced that by leaving Warsaw before Mr Obama’s arrival, president Pál Schmitt of Hungary intended to express his displeasure at Washington’s role in having the meeting hosted by Poland, rather than Hungary, current chairman of the European Union.

As a matter of fact this was not the meeting that was originally planned to take place in Hungary. That one, which was postponed from Spring to Autumn, is the EU Eastern Partnership Conference, at which all EU member countries are scheduled to be represented at the highest level. It is only natural that it will be hosted by Poland, as the country which takes over the EU’s rotating presidency from Hungary on 1st July . The dinner in Warsaw was a meeting between Mr Obama and Central European state presidents, some of whom – including Mr Schmitt – have a largely figurehead role under their countries constitutions.

Mr Obama announced the timing of his arrival late and Mr Schmitt had to decide whether to be present at the Warsaw dinner or attend a concert in the Vatican which he himself had proposed and to which he had invited Pope Benedict XVI. He excused himself and left for Rome where he was the host of the concert held to mark the year of Ferenc Liszt..

In any case, Tamás Mészáros believes the government of the United States was behind the decision to move such an important international summit from Budapest to Warsaw. Washington, he asserts, wanted to express its disapproval of Hungary’s recently adopted Media Act “and the demolition of the framework of the rule of law in general…. While the President of Hungary’s gesture sent the message that a concert with the Pope was more important for him than meeting the leader of the number one world power. The question is whether or not (president) Schmitt can afford that.”

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