AHF and US Ambassador to Hungary Colleen Bradley Bell
American Hungarian Federation Submits Open Letter to Ambassador Bell- November 4, 2015
In the open letter AHF suggested that U.S. interests – promotion of democracy and human rights, strategic and economic -- may not always be served bypublic criticisms which are perceived by the man-on-the-street in Hungary, whether a supporter of the government or not, to be demeaning and humiliating.
November 4, 2015
Dear Madam Ambassador:
In the spirit of continuing our candid dialogue that we began at our meeting with you at the State Department before you assumed your post, we write on behalf of the American Hungarian Federation (“AHF”) in connection with your address in which you voiced serious criticism of Hungary’s policies at a lecture you gave at the Budapest Corvinus University on October 28.
The former Soviet Union and its satellites railed against the West and accused it of improperly interfering in their internal affairs whenever the West raised human rights concerns. They ignored the fact that questions of human rights and democracy had been internationalized and the duty that attaches to states to promote free, just and democratic societies. Without commenting on the substance of your public criticism, we surmise that you felt compelled by that duty to give the address that you did.
But could not the same message have been delivered to a strong NATO ally differently and in a manner that would ensure a greater likelihood of success of advancing U.S. strategic interests in the region, which is AHF’s paramount concern? As noted by Joseph S. Nye, Jr., in his book, The Paradox of American Power, “[the] key is to follow tactics [advancing democracy] that are likely to succeed over the long term without imposing inordinate costs on other foreign policy objectives [strategic and economic] in the near term.”
You properly recognized in your address that the United States has a strategic interest in Hungary: “I have said many times, our bilateral relationship has seen years of outstanding cooperation and collaboration in matters of security and defense. Hungary remains a strong NATO ally and partner… Hungary has also been a great partner in the fields of law enforcement and counterterrorism.”
We are confident that these are sincere sentiments rather than a platitude as suggested by some cynics.
Are U.S. interests – promotion of democracy and human rights, strategic and economic – best served when your public criticisms of Hungary’s domestic policies are perceived by the man-on-the-street in Hungary, whether a supporter of the government or not, to be demeaning and humiliating?
Would not Americans bristle if the French, German, British or Hungarian ambassadors to Washington were to publicly reproach Americans for our government’s immigration policies and the proposals made by some presidential candidates; publicly opine about the Black Lives Matter movement and the charges of racism spawning its birth; publicly discuss how widespread gerrymandering practices affects the composition of our political party representation in numerous congressional districts; or publicly point to the lack of a single Republican vote in the Congress approving the Affordable Care Act?
It, therefore, shouldn’t come as a surprise if critical public statements about Hungary’s policies humiliate and alienate many democratic-minded Hungarians who support NATO and its now more than ever critical mission. Exacerbating the effect of such public criticism is the U.S. silence toward some countries neighboring Hungary where the members of the Hungarian minority face various forms of discrimination and intolerance. This silence gives the appearance of a double standard.
The cumulative effect of these perceptions could have the unintended and detrimental consequence of undermining U.S. strategic interests in the region. Indeed, 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, terrorism and other crises.
Winning Hungarian public opinion, instead of alienating it with gratuitous remarks about internal matters, is critical to the advancement of key American goals. As we criticize, we believe it is important to step back and place today’s Hungary into the context of that country’s recent history, a context too often ignored. While some of the practices raised may not completely mirror U.S. ones or need to be addressed, they are a far cry from the harsh realities of 40 years of Soviet-imposed rule that still has a lingering and deleterious effect on a nation that is striving to overcome that history – a history which was not of its making and which it was left to confront by itself at great sacrifice, as in 1956.
It also appears that the timing of your remarks may have been premature. Some believe that the Parliament was going to consider enacting legislation that would have addressed some of the concerns you and your predecessors have previously raised. Such proposals unfortunately are sure to be dead on arrival in light of the Corvinus address.
The key question that we respectfully suggest warrants re-examination and introspection is whether there might be better means of communicating U.S. concerns than such constant public criticism that haven’t yielded very much in terms of concrete results while carrying the very real danger of alienating friends? For example, wouldn’t the restoration of a vibrant independent United States Information Agency more effectively serve U.S. goals and interests, including the promotion of democracy and democratic institutions, than what appears to many to be unwarranted and unproductive lecturing?
Thank you for considering our views, which we offer in a spirit of respect and constructive dialogue. We look forward to continue working with you in the interest of strengthening U.S-Hungarian relations and the foundations of those relations.
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[Go to ALL Ambassador Colleen Bell News]
12/08/14 - AHF submits letter to Sen. John McCain over his "neo-fascist, dictator" comments: "We agree that Hungary is an important country given the recent, alarming and unacceptable developments in Ukraine and otherwise. We fear that your critical characterization of Hungary last week was unjustified and unbalanced and your labeling its prime minister a neo-fascist dictator was just plain wrong. These gratuitous statements further confused, alienated and angered the Hungarian people. Unless appropriately and timely addressed, this, in turn, will undermine support for the security matters noted above to the detriment of American strategic goals." [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]
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.
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.
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."
3/29/2014 - Amerikában tiltakoznak a budapesti nagykövet kinevezése ellen A diplomáciai poszthoz szükséges minimális tudással sem rendelkeznek - fogalmaz a diplomatákat tömörítő szövetség. "Az Amerikai Magyar Szövetség - az AFSA nyilatkozatától függetlenül - bízik abban, hogy Colleen Bell konkrét intézkedéseket hoz annak érdekében, hogy a pártosság és a kettős mérce megszűnjön Magyarországgal szemben. [tovább]
01/17/2014 - „Problémás” mandátumra számít Budapesten az amerikai nagykövetjelölt [tovabb]
Pártatlanságot kérnek az amerikai magyarok Colleen Bell nagykövettől. „Magyarország elkötelezett szövetségese a NATO-nak és az Egyesült Államoknak, ez a külpolitika a magyar lakosság egyetértésével valósul meg. A magyar közvélemény kiállása sokat jelentett az Egyesült Államok közép-kelet európai politikájában mind a hidegháborúban, mind az azt követő években. Sajnálatosan ez a támogatás vészesen csökken a következő okok miatt" [tovább]
1/17/2014 - Amerikai magyar szervezetek Colleen Bell jelöléséről... Maximilian Teleki, az Amerikai Magyar Koalíció és Koszorús Ferenc, az Amerikai Magyar Szövetség elnöke is üdvözölte csütörtökön Colleen Bell budapesti amerikai nagyköveti jelölését. [tovább]
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."
Amerikai Magyar Szövetség: részrehajlás nélküli megítélést! - MTI [Szeged Ma]
American Hungarian Federation slams “unmerited criticism directed at Hungary” [more]
Magyarország amerikai mikroszkóp alatt: valós aggodalmak vagy elfogult politikai támadás? Az Egyesült Államok legnagyobb magyar emigráns szervezete, az Amerikai Magyar Szövetség közleményt bocsátott ki a Magyarországot ért politikailag motivált, érdemtelen amerikai kritikákra reagálva. Az írás különösen aktuális, hiszen februárban tényfeltáró amerikai kongresszusi delegáció utazik hazánkba. [tovább]
3/5/2012 - AHF has Follow-Up Capitol Hill Meeting on Recent Congressional Trip to Hungary and Slovakia. Prior to the delegation’s trip the Federation submitted background information on Hungary and Slovakia to the CODEL. “At a time when there is considerable misinformation being disseminated about Hungary and so little known about the discrimination against the Hungarian minority in Slovakia, we believe such fact-finding missions are most useful, welcome and greatly appreciated,” said Mr. Koszorus. [read more]
2/17/2012 - AHF briefs top professional staff advisor to Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Europe and Eurasia on the eve of congressional delegation (CODEL) trip to Hungary and Slovakia. The Federation submitted a letter to the Chairman and Ranking Member along with significant background materials on Hungary andSlovakia and called their attention to recent harsh and often politically motivated and unfair criticism of Hungary and the anti-Hungarian attitudes, policies and practices in Slovakia [read more] and join the discussion on Politics.hu!
1/11/2011 - AHF Issues its First Statement on Hungarian Media Law: "A Rush to Judgment: The Reaction to the Hungarian Media Law." It is our "unassailable and firm conviction that freedom of the press is a cornerstone of democracy and liberty." But the unprecedented rush to judgment and vitriolic media coverage of the Hungarian media law seems to have been based on a partial understanding of the law itself and, in some cases, appears to be motivated by bias or political considerations. [Read more]
7/12/2011 -- AHF Reacts to Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Co-Chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, who questioned democracy in Hungary and criticized expressions of concern for Hungarian minorities. AHF's letter expressed its steadfast conviction that judgments be "objective, fair, balanced and based on facts and not generalizations and speculation." It also urged the Helsinki Commission not to ignore the Hungarian minorities but to publicly and privately encourage Slovakia and Romania "to build tolerant societies by respecting the rights of their Hungarian and other minorities and the rule of law." [read more]
Levelet írt az egyik szenátornak az Amerikai Magyar Szövetség
Miért támadja Magyarországot az amerikai szenátor?
American-Hungarian federation strike back at US senator over critical comments, by MTI