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US accused of pressuring Hungary

October 29th, 2014

Right-wing columnists commenting on the Sunday anti-Fidesz protest accuse Washington of trying to pressurise and destabilise the Orbán government through non-democratic means. They disagree, however, on whether the Hungarian government should take up the gauntlet or seek reconciliation.

In Magyar Hírlap, István Lovas wonders if and when Andre Goodfriend, Chargé d’Affaires of the US Embassy in Budapest becomes persona non grata for the Hungarian government. Goodfriend attended the Sunday internet tax protest (see BudaPost October 28). In a response to Government Spokesman Zoltán Kovács’ tweet suggesting that Goodfriend had sided with the Hungarian Left, Goodfriend said that he had also participated in the pro-government Peace Marches. (Lovas was Magyar Nemzet’s leading columnist and Brussels correspondent until last summer when he was dismissed along with another 27 journalists, as the daily was losing public advertisers. At the time it was announced that he would continue to write for Magyar Nemzet on a freelance basis. See BudaPost, August 1Lovas maintains that Goodfriend’s decision to join the opposition demonstration brings US-Hungarian relations to a historic nadir. The pro-government pundit contends that US-Hungarian relations can from this point further worsen only if US diplomats and politicians directly pay protesters so that they launch a violent coup d’etat similar to the one staged on Maidan Square in Kiev. Lovas notes that US diplomats have been declared persona non grata in several countries around the world for being involved in corruption, spying and other illegal acts. In order to maintain friendly relations with its ally, the Hungarian government has so far been extremely polite towards US diplomats despite the fact that the US “wants to get rid of the democratically elected Orbán government”, Lovas comments and wonders why the Hungarian believes that “toleration of Goodfriend’s outrageous conduct” will shield it from any future attacks by the US.

In realpolitik, reconciliation is more important than making your case, Szabolcs Szerető writes in Magyar Nemzet. The pro-government columnist suspects that Andre Goodfriend’s presence at Sunday’s protest march shows that the US wants to use non-democratic means to destabilize the Orbán government. Szerető adds however that the US must be aware that Budapest is not Kiev, and it is highly unlikely that the government could be brought down through protests, and thus it tries to exert pressure through accusations of corruption. Despite all this, Szerető calls for caution and moderation. He hopes that the Hungarian government will use its two-thirds majority to consolidate its relations with the US, even at the price of toning down its rhetoric about a “freedom fight” and the defence of national sovereignty.

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