Entries RSS Feed Share Send to Facebook Tweet This Accessible version

Friendly (cease)fire

August 23rd, 2011

In an apparent attempt to calm the controversy over Hungarian-American relations, the state secretary responsible for foreign affairs, Zsolt Németh deems it fully acceptable that the US Ambassador to Budapest expressed her critical views in a newspaper article. Reacting in the same daily, Magyar Nemzet, Németh suggests that Washington is not always too well informed about Hungarian affairs, but says the two countries are staunch allies and the US Ambassador is a good friend of Hungary.

As Budapest reported earlier in its post Under friendly fire, the US Ambassador Eleni Tsakopoulos Kounalakis used an article in the main pro-government daily to warn that simply shrugging off criticism of the changes to the constitutional set-up “as politically motivated, or based on misinformation, is not fair to all those who have an interest in the continued strength and vibrancy of Hungary’s democracy.” In two successive articles, István Lovas, a passionate right-wing commentator and the newspaper’s correspondent in Brussels, rejected this criticism as interference in Hungarian internal affairs. He also suggested that most of the Hungarian staff at the American Embassy in Budapest “went through the filters” of the communist regime, meaning that they are negatively biased against the present right wing government.

The State Secretary has no problem with both sides expressing their opinions. But in his capacity as an official representative of the Hungarian Government, he supports the ambassador’s point that the government’s two thirds majority entails increased responsibility and must be used cautiously.

Zsolt Németh also contends, however, that “double standards are sometimes applied.” There was much less uproar, he suggests, when previous governments turned aside from the Transatlantic path (a reference to the former Socialist government’s support for a Russian gas pipeline project); or when a left wing party, LMP suggested an electoral alliance with the racist, extreme right-wing Jobbik party.

“The Ambassador may not be in an easy position, for many people in Washington only know Hungary from the international press.” Nowadays, he continues, there is a well-established misconception among some Western analysts, who “tend to believe that stability in our region is better served by post-communist forces than by parties resolutely standing up for national interests”.

State Secretary Zsolt Németh ends his analysis by asserting that Hungary’s national interests are best served through “Atlanticism”, which means an alliance with the United States, and calls the US Ambassador to Budapest “a partner in promoting that cause.”