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US Ambassador’s remarks seen as mild

April 14th, 2023

A liberal analyst believes US-Hungary relations will become increasingly tense, although the Ambassador’s statements on Wednesday were significantly milder than expected. A pro-government pundit characterises Ambassador Pressman’s press briefing as utterly insignificant.

Contrary to previous speculation, US Ambassador David Pressman did not announce sanctions against Hungarian officials or other prominent public figures at his press conference on Wednesday. He criticised the Hungarian government for its relentless and intensive economic cooperation with Russia. Still, he only named one Hungarian target of US sanctions, namely the vice president of the Budapest-based and Russian-run International Investment Bank (IIB). The government did not comment on his announcement, but on Thursday, Hungary decided to withdraw from the International Investment Bank. On the other hand, the billboard campaign sponsored by the US Embassy, which expressed criticism of the government’s policy of urging an immediate and unconditional ceasefire in Ukraine, drew the government’s barbs. (See BudaPost, April 13.) Gergely Gulyás, the Minister in charge of the Prime Minister’s office, said Hungary ‘would not be deterred even by friendly pressure from its pro-peace stance’.

On Index, Zsolt Nagy, a political analyst at the liberal Republicon think tank says the Ambassador’s announcement will have no negative impact on the popularity of the Hungarian government at home, as most people are not even aware of the existence of the International Investment Bank. He does expect, however, that the two sides continue exchanging critical salvos, to the further detriment of their mutual relations. István Kiss, director of the conservative Danube Institute describes the Ambassador’s tone as milder than expected and notes that Márton Nagy, the cabinet Minister of Economic Development was not hit by US sanctions, despite the fact that he is on the board of the International Investment Bank.

In an ironical column in Magyar Nemzet, Zsolt Bayer expresses disappointment over the content of the Ambassador’s press conference, since based on left-liberal press speculation, he hoped he would be placed on the sanction list himself, and thus finally gain the attention of the US administration. ‘That was pretty poor, Mr Pressman,’ he writes.

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