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French Ambassador to Budapest replaced after Pro-Orbán memo

July 18th, 2018

A conservative author thinks the French Foreign Ministry harmed itself by leaking a confidential note in which its ambassador to Budapest suggested a shift in France’s attitude toward the Hungarian Prime Minister.

In a confidential memo to his superiors in Paris, Ambassador Eric Fournier described Prime Minister Orbán as a proper conservative caught in the crosshairs of the international media, a target in a wave of ‘Hungarophobia’. Hungary, he wrote, is a model in dealing with illegal migrants, and accusations of populism against Orbán were media fabrications. Fournier also wrote that French media, by accusing Hungary of antisemitism, were distracting attention from the real antisemitismamong Muslims in France and Germany. He suggested that France should strike a more positive tone when speaking about and to the Hungarian leader. When the memo was leaked to the Mediapart news site, Fournier was replaced by President Macron and guests were received at the traditional garden party at his Budapest residence on July 14 (the anniversary of the 1789 revolution) by his successor who was promptly dispatched to Budapest but had not had the time to receive his accreditation by the Hungarian Foreign Ministry.

On Válasz, Gergely Pröhle sees the leak of a confidential note as an unprecedented incident in the history of legendary French diplomacy. He doesn’t take sides in the debate over Hungary’s migration policies or whether the replaced ambassador was right or wrong. His point is that discretion is elementary and indispensable in diplomacy. Pröhle (who served as Hungary’s ambassador to Berlin and then to Switzerland before spending a decade as a State Secretary in the Foreign Ministry) explains that foreigners will find it difficult to talk in all sincerity to French diplomats if they cannot be sure that what the Ambassador reports to the Quai d’Orsay (The French Foreign Ministry) will be kept confidential. He recalls that such doubts surfaced eight years ago when US diplomatic cables were posted on the Web by Wikileaks. But that time at least, it was not a deliberate leak by the State Department. Unlike this time. The French Foreign Office, Pröhle concludes, ‘has shot itself in the foot’.

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