|AHF Letter to Wess Mitchell|
12/06/2017 - AHF writes letter to US Department of State to express its deep concern over the its Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor's (DRL) intent to take active measures to intervene in Hungary's political environment. AHF, founded 110 years ago, has long supported positive bilateral relations between the United States and Hungary as a means of advancing U.S. strategic interests in Central and Eastern Europe and feels such public criticism jeopardizes those interests.
The letter appears in full-text below and available for [download]
December 6, 2017
The Honorable A. Wess Mitchell,
Dear Mr. Mitchell:
The American Hungarian Federation (AHF), founded 110 years ago, has long supported positive bilateral relations between the United States and Hungary as a means of advancing U.S. strategic interests in Central and Eastern Europe.
We now write you to express our deep concern that these interests are in jeopardy, having been compromised by the Department of State’s policies under both Democrat and Republican administrations. These policies have culminated in a barrage of public criticism about Hungary even though that country is a strong and reliable U.S. and NATO ally with a proud history of resisting the tyranny of totalitarian communism.
The negative impact of such public criticism was exacerbated on November 7, 2017, when the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL) announced its intent to take active measures to intervene in Hungary's political environment. DRL did so by announcing a "funding opportunity" drawing on 700,000 U.S. tax dollars for the support of "objective media" in Hungary.
This unparalleled and inexplicable act directed at a NATO ally and democratic country (classified as such by the Department itself) unnecessarily alienates and demeans Hungarians.
While Hungary’s democracy may not be flawless, anyone familiar with the media landscape can see examples of unfettered criticism in the Hungarian media of government policies, including criticism of the prime minister himself.
In fact, Reporters Without Borders ranks Hungary’s press freedoms above that of Japan and Israel, both allies of the United States, but we don’t see any intention by the Department to support “objective media” in those countries.
But what is of greater concern is that the proposed DRL intervention is completely inconsistent with the Administration’s foreign policy goals and aspirations as articulated by President Trump in Saudi Arabia in May when he stated that:
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reiterated this theme recently when he said that we “recognize that our [European] allies are independent and democratic nations with their own history, perspective, and right to determine their future.”
Nonetheless, the State Department’s DRL is doing precisely what the Administration has warned against. As a result, there is a very real possibility of disturbing the important strategic relationship between the United States and Hungary. Winning over Hungarian public opinion, instead of alienating it by openly intervening in Hungary’s politics and media, is what is needed to not only preserve but strengthen this relationship and thereby advance U.S. strategic interests in the region.
Starting this process would require the DRL to suspend its media project for Hungary and other similar ones that may be in the pipeline. We hope that you will consider our views, which reflect the very objectives the Administration has enunciated. We would appreciate your meeting with us to explore ways we can work together to achieve our mutual goals.
Akos L. Nagy
Frank Koszorus, Jr.
Join and Support Us Online!
01/24/2017 - AHF submits letter to President Trump on improving American-Hungarian relations and urging his Administration to adopt a new approach to our bilateral relations with Hungary. The letter noted, "misunderstandings have resulted in flawed and self-defeating policies that tend to foster disillusionment with the U.S. among Hungarians and thereby damage U.S. strategic interests."
02/08/2017 - AHF continues its outreach to the new administration, submits letter to Secretary of State Tillerson urging the United States to adopt a new approach to bilateral relations with Hungary. The letter urges the administration to "advance U.S. strategic interests and goals in the region as well as promote American values and hold out its accomplishments in a manner that will inspire positive reforms, including the treatment of Hungarian minorities in Hungary’s neighboring countries. [read more]
10/10/14 - AHF submits letter to President Obama: "...although we believe that vigilance is necessary to preclude backsliding when it comes to democracy, we are justifiably puzzled and deeply concerned that you lumped Hungary in with Egypt and some of the worst dictatorships of the world in assessing the state of civil society freedoms. We... respectfully call upon you to retract that part of your statement that unjustifiably places Hungary in the same category with Egypt and other such repressive countries. Doing so would help alleviate the concern, confusion and disbelief found in our community about the United States views of Hungary, a democratic ally. It would also serve to advance the goals of the United States in the region." [read more]
10/22/14 - AHF submits letter to US Asst. Secretary of State Victoria Nuland: "The appearance of selective enforcement and the use of anti-corruption measuresas a “big gun” for political purposes that are unrelated to corruption, coupled with the other issues noted in this letter merely befuddle and alienate the Hungarian people and undermine U.S. goals...Corruption cannot, must not be tolerated. It needs to be eradicated wherever found. If not halted, it will undermine democracy and the free market system. We, therefore, support U.S. anti-corruption initiatives. However, in order to be effective, selective prosecution should be meticulously avoided." [read more]
5/18/2016 - AHF and PAC address Bill Clinton's Hungary remarks: The Presidents of the American Hungarian Federation and the Polish American Congress issue a joint statement objecting to the collective characterization by former President Bill Clinton of the Hungarian and Polish people as tired of democracy and desirous of “authoritarian dictatorship.” [read more]
11/14/14 - AHF meets with National Security Council and State Department Officials - On Friday, November 14, 2014, Frank Koszorus, Jr., President of the American Hungarian Federation, and Paul Kamenar and Imre Nemeth, members of the Federation's International Relations Committee, met with Nathaniel Dean, Director for Central and North European Affairs at the National Security Council, Thomas O. Melia, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, and Ivan Weinstein, Desk Officer for Hungary at the Department of State. [read more]
1/20/2015 - Politics.hu publishes Op-Ed by AHF President, Frank Koszorus, "What is the endgame for U.S.-Hungarian relations? "In a Tweet on January 12, 2015, US Embassy Charge d’Affaires Andre Goodfriend quoted Stephen I, the first king of Hungary (975–1038), who urged his son Emeric to welcome foreigners.The Tweet...clearly made in response to the Hungarian Prime Minister's recent policy statement... that Hungary and Europeshould, with the exception of political asylum, curb economic immigration. [read more]
1/15/2015 - Federation leaders meet with new US Ambassador to Hungary Colleen Bell and Hungarian Desk Officer Ivan Weinstein. The meeting took place at the State Department and was intended to review American / Hungarian bilateral relations with Ambassador Bell as she prepares to take up her post in Budapest shortly.
12/17/14 - AHF Meets with Kathy Kavalec, Director, U.S. Department of State, Office of Russian Affairs: On December 17, AHF met with Kathy Kavalec, Director, U.S. Department of State, Office of Russian Affairs, to discuss Russia's policies and activities in Central Europe, including Hungary, and U.S. response thereto. "Our Federation believes that good bilateral relations between the United States and Hungary and a strong and united NATO are in the interest of both countries and necessary to meet the formidable challenges posed by Russia in the region," said the Federation's president Frank Koszorus, Jr. "Winning instead of alienating public opinion is critical to advance these goals," he added.
5/9/2014 - AHF Submits Letter to Secretary of State John Kerry expressing concern that the US Embassy's public (as opposed to private) statement about Hungary's history concerning the treacherous year of 1944 may have the unintended consequence of alienating Hungarians at a time when NATO needs to be unified and resolute in confronting the challenges posed by Ukraine and Russia. [more]
5/11/2012 - Budapest’s Central European University hosted a one-day conference to mark the 90th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Hungary and the United States on May 9th. The conference, co-organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the US Embassy in Budapest, was opened by Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi and US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Bay Fang. [more]
01/04/11 - AHF Issues its First Statement on Hungarian Media Law: "A Rush to Judgment: The Reaction to the Hungarian Media Law." [more]
5/11/2010 - "Meggyőzni Washingtont..." American Hungarian Federation president calls for even-handedness in media coverage on Hungary in Heti Válasz interview following Fidesz's landslide victory in recently held parliamentary elections. "Miben tudna segíteni az amerikai magyar emigráció az óhazának, amikor a jobbközép győzelmét ismét fanyalogva fogadja az amerikai sajtó?" [tovább]
6/11/2008 - Sen. Schumer suggests return of Russia's hegemony in Central and East Europe... AHF (and Central and East European Coalition) sends letter and calls on community to express its concern. On June 3, 2008, Senator Schumer (D-NY) published an article in The Wall Street Journal entitled "Russia Can Be Part of the Answer on Iran." In this article, Sen. Schumer suggests that stronger economic sanctions would help deter Iran from developing nuclear weapons. The effectiveness of the sanctions, according to Sen. Schumer, will require Russia's cooperation. [read more]
UPDATE: 7/25/2008 - American Hungarian Federation Participates in CEEC Meeting with Senator Schumer: Discusses Russia "Hegemony" statement.
1/11/2013 - AHF again responds to Senator Ben Cardin, Co-Chair of the US Helsinki Commission. In his December 20, 2012 statement, the Senator was unfairly critical of Hungary. "...we are concerned that (1) your assertions concerning Hungary omit relevant facts; and (2) your statement fails to raise the discrimination and intolerant policies toward ethnic Hungarians in some of the countries bordering Hungary. The statement therefore leaves the impression... of bias, which could result in cynicism toward the Helsinki Commission and its valuable and necessary work." [read more]
7/22/2010 - AHF reacts to The Washington Post Editorial: "...the editorial, 'Hungary's Strongest Leader Targets the Media,' [July 19], seems to equate the prevailing sentiment in Hungary in support for minority rights and the new passport law with extremism. Nothing is farther from the truth." AHF letters reminded editors about the current extremism [see Slovak Language Law] in neighboring countries and explained that the legacy of Trianon continues to affect the lives of millions of ethnic Hungarians today. The letters also pointed out the fact that dual citizenship is a common and globally accepted practice even in those same countries that would discriminate against an ethnic Hungarian exercising his rights. AHF feels The Post missed the point and mixed unrelated issues. However, we appreciate the fact the The Post's editorial included a link to AHF's page on the Treaty of Trianon.
Letters included those from members Frank Koszorus, Jr., AHF President; Bryan Dawson, AHF Executive Chairman; and Geza Cseri, former Science and Technology Advisor to the Allied Supreme Commanders of NATO. The Post published a Letter to Editor from Geza Jeszenszky, former Ambassador to the United States and Foreign Minister.
All four letters appear in that order below:
Based on erroneous assumptions and a casual understanding of the challenges confronting Hungarians, the editorial, "Hungary's strongest leader targets the media," [July 19], seems to equate the prevailing sentiment in Hungary in support for minority rights and the new passport law with extremism. Nothing is farther from the truth. Consequently, the editorial appears biased and falls short of the high standard The Post sets for itself.
Remembering the Treaty of Trianon, which transferred over three million ethnic Hungarians to foreign rule, is neither polarizing nor a concern of only the right, as the editorial also suggests. Rather it is an issue today because some of Hungary's neighbors discriminate against their Hungarian minorities. Slovakia, which adopted a language law prohibiting the use of Hungarian in public, or Romania, which refuses to re-establish a former Hungarian university, are examples. If these countries respected minority rights, Trianon would be relegated to the history books.
Perhaps next time The Post will examine the facts a little more closely.
Frank Koszorus, Jr.
I was confused by the editorial, "Hungary's strongest leader targets the media," [July 19]. The merits (or lack thereof) of government media controls has little or nothing to do with passports or citizenship which are matters of national identity, not nationalism. Dual-citizenship is a common practice throughout the world as is autonomy and respect for local, historic communities. Is the U.S. nationalist for allowing Americans to live abroad and keep their passports? Is the US extreme for accepting dual citizenship with Britain, France or Mexico? Is Hungary extreme for accepting dual citizenship for ethnic Slovaks living in Hungary? Slovakia accepts dual citizenship for some, but will not extend the same rights to ethnic Hungarians who have lived in their own communities for over 1,100 years. As such, it is clearly discriminatory. Unfortunately, the law to rescind Slovak citizenship for ethnic Hungarians who exercise their right to apply for Hungarian citizenship on Saturday, July 17, 2010.
Is the concern for the basic human rights of an ethnic minority an extremist, extreme right-wing position? Are Catalonians extreme for wanting to speak Catalan with the postman in Catalonia? How about speaking French in Quebec? Spanish in Miami? Italian in Switzerland? Slovakia, under a truly nationalist government that include Jan Slota who called Hungarians, “the cancer of the Slovak nation,” passed a law making it illegal to converse in Hungarian with a Hungarian postman in a post office in an 1100-year old Hungarian village.
For the 40 years of communist rule, it was taboo to discuss topics such as Trianon and asserting rights for ethnic minorities as to not disturb the “socialist brotherhood of nations.” Does the Post long for the brotherhood’s return? As the link you provided explained so well, any objective observer would see Trianon as a huge miscarriage of justice that continues to affect the lives of millions today. It is not a right-wing, extremist issue, it is an issue of human and minority rights that should transcend the political spectrum. The firm re-establishment of democracy in Hungary allows for a full examination of these topics, however uncomfortable for the West who bears the responsibility for creating these minorities and ethnic strife in the first place.
When it comes to the Treaty of Trianon, you are telling to the Hungarians to forget it. How can you forget that your arms and legs are cut off, and millions of your brothers are under foreign rule, because that is what happened at Trianon. The Treaty unjustly, with malice, deprived Hungary of 65% of her inhabitants and 72% of her territory, an area as large as Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio or Kentucky combined. The dismemberment also created 16 million ethnic minorities, including millions of Hungarians. This treaty totally altered the political balance of Central Europe which then led to the Balkanization of the area and created the political and economy hardships and turmoil to the country and the area. There are no extremists on this issue since practically the whole nation laments the injustice of Trianon.
If there is revisionalism in Hungary, it is fueled by Slovakia, Romania, Ukraine and Serbia because of their oppressive and discriminatory policies. Slovakia, by the Benes Decrees and its language law prohibiting the use of Hungarian in public, or Romania, which refuses to re-establish a Hungarian university, or the continuous physical beatings of ethnic Hungarians by the Serbs in Voivodina are examples.
I hope that in the future, The Post will be more mindful of the facts and reality.
An unfair portrayal of Hungarian politics - 7/24/2010
The July 19 editorial "Hungary's rightward lunge" was as inaccurate as it was unfair. It also revealed a superficial understanding of Hungary and Fidesz, the party that just won a landslide victory in the parliamentary elections this spring. A few examples:
In 2002, Hungary's prime minister, Viktor Orbán, did not cater to "Hungary's extreme right," as the editorial stated, but successfully opposed it and helped oust its representatives from parliament by defeating them during the elections.
Although Washington did not welcome Hungary's decision to purchase fourth-generation Swedish-British Gripen fighter planes rather than used American F-16s, it did not make Mr. Orbán persona non grata and a pariah, as the editorial suggested. In March 2002, President George W. Bush telephoned Mr. Orbán and invited him to visit the United States following the elections, which looked like an almost certain victory for Mr. Orbán's Fidesz Party.
As a staunch friend of the United States and an appreciative reader of The Post, I hope that the editorial policy relating to Hungary will be more balanced and factual in the future.
Géza Jeszenszky, Budapest
Key Dates in Hungarian-American Diplomatic Relations: Diplomatic relations between Hungary and the United States were formally established in 1922, although unofficial contacts have been present ever since the War of Independence. Colonel Commandant Michael Kováts, a Hungarian nobleman is regarded as the founder of the American Cavalry, and was one of the first heroes to lay down his life for American independence near Charleston, South Carolina. Friendly relations between the two nations were further enhanced through Lajos Kossuth’s visit to the United States in 1851 – whose bust is one of the few foreign nationals present in the Capitol Rotunda. Kossuth was the second foreign national – after the Marquis de LaFayette – ever to be given the honor of speaking before a joint session of Congress.