Hudson Institute Panel:
6/14/2007 - Enduring Strains of Communism in Central and Eastern Europe: A distinguished panel of experts convened by Hudson’s Center for European Studies offered their perspectives. With the dedication this week of the memorial to victims of communism in Washington, D.C., and recent friction between Russia and the United States over the placement of missile-defense systems in former Soviet satellites, the issue of communism’s enduring legacy in Central and Eastern Europe is one that has become a renewed focused of the world’s attention. With this as its context, Hudson Institute’s Center for European Studies convened a panel discussion on Russia’s continuing influence in the former Soviet satellites and republics as well as challenges domestically derived from the lingering effects of the communist system. Energy security, the rule of law, and the need to strengthen NATO will all feature as part of our discussion.
A distinguished panel of experts convened by Hudson’s Center for European Studies offered their perspectives. Panelists include The Honorable Dr. János Horváth, member of the Hungarian Parliament and Professor of Economics Emeritus at Indiana’s Butler University (and recipient of the American Hungarian Federation's Kovats Medal of Freedom); Keith Smith, senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, consultant on international energy affairs, and former diplomat to Europe for over thirteen years, including a final posting as U.S. ambassador to Lithuania; and Frank Koszorus Jr., former chairman of the private-sector NATO Enlargement Working Group’s steering committee and co-president of the American Hungarian Federation. The panel was moderated by Senior Fellow and Director of Hudson’s Center for European Studies John O’Sullivan. A question-and-answer period followed.
Frank Koszorus's remarks focused on the instability posed to NATO and the region not only from Russian intimidation over energy, but also from threats to popular sympathy to the US, American and Western policy toward Hungary and the region, the rise of illiberal democracy, and the unresolved situation of Hungarian minorities in the Carpathian Basin:
"I would like to share some thoughts with you from my perspective as an advocate and a student of Central and Eastern Europe and to touch on some issues for discussion this morning.
As a backdrop to my comments, I would suggest that the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, excluding Russia or the former Soviet Union of course, have often been neglected by the United States. My underlying theme will be that the United States must remain engaged in the region to help strengthen democratic institutions and the stability that derives from democracy. Why? Simply stated, a strong and stable NATO will also be in a better position to substantially contribute to the war against terrorists and resist Russia’s alarming and naked attempts to expand its influence in the region.
Central European sympathy toward the United States and its foreign policy goals stands in marked contrast to West European ambivalence about U.S. global leadership. Central European identification with the U.S. extends beyond elite opinion and is rooted strongly in the popular imagination. This reservoir of popular support is a precious commodity that has given U.S. foreign policy a competitive advantage in the region during the Cold-War and the years that have followed.
This instinctive popular support is at risk in Hungary and elsewhere throughout the region. Some, including Anne Applebaum in her June 5th column in The Washington Post, go so far as to say that “New Europe no longer exists.” Although damage (caused in part by the benign neglect referred to above) has been done, I’m not sure we’ve reached this point of no return. Nevertheless, growing skepticism cannot be denied.
Let us briefly examine some of the developments, besides Iraq, that
have contributed to the erosion of popular support toward the United States.
Despite great strides toward freedom and democracy, there is work to be done, as old impulses die hard. For example, we witnessed with great consternation the Hungarian Socialist government’s excessive use of force against demonstrators on October 23 – the fiftieth anniversary of the Hungarian 1956 Revolution.
Charles Fenyvesi, speaking from this platform last year went so far
as to note: “On this unhappy anniversary, the sobering fact is that
the October 23 revolution did not win, despite what the beneficiaries
of the November 4 Soviet invasion have been saying, and others repeat
because the quip sounds smart and it soothes many a guilty conscience.
It’s time to take a deep breath and acknowledge that the men of
November 4 won. At least for the moment.”
This is not an academic question because even before the fall of the Berlin Wall, many of these voters have been steadfast supporters of a Washington-led NATO, in contrast to former enemies of NATO. There is a chance, however, that if the U.S. fails to dispel the perception of favoritism, these disappointed long-time friends of America may adopt more cynical attitudes and thus weaken the alliance and affirm Anne Applebaum’s conclusion. Such a development would damage U.S. interests, as it is beyond dispute that a successful war against international terrorists requires steadfast and genuine friends.
I would also suggest that real security in the region, involves promoting group rights, the rule of law, and constitutional democracy, as opposed to illiberal democracy (characterized by the tyranny of the majority). As the tragic events in the nineties demonstrated, a primary cause of tensions and violence in the region is discrimination against and intolerance toward national, ethnic and religious minorities by the majority. A persistent problem in many parts of Central and Eastern Europe is the mistreatment of the Roma and conspicuous anti-Semitism.
A government that fails or refuses to respect minority rights can hardly be deemed to be genuinely democratic, even if it has come to power through the ballot. Moreover, granting legitimate group rights to historical groups would defuse tensions and engender political stability in the Carpathian Basin.
The issue of minority rights has nothing to do with borders as some erroneously contend or assert in order to ignore their international legal obligations. It has everything to do with meaningful and enduring stability in Central Europe, however. The Hungarian minorities who seek redress for their grievances strictly through democratic, i.e., non-violent, means themselves contribute substantially to sustainable stability in the region. The stability flowing from collective rights is not only of interest to Hungary, but it is also of interest to the U.S. and NATO.
A fundamental change in Western thinking and policy is urgently needed
and long overdue. There must be visible support for measures that are
intended to assist Hungarians living as minorities maintain their unique
culture in their ancient homeland and to overcome the effects of the various
forms of discrimination, persecution, and in some instances violence they
have faced. For instance, the U.S. ought to encourage Romania and Slovakia
to return communal properties, e.g., churches, that were confiscated by
the Communists, to their respective Hungarian minorities and to grant
minorities their legitimate demands for autonomy.
I would conclude by noting that another overriding and compelling reason for strengthening our ties with our genuine friends in Central and Eastern Europe is Russia. It is quite evident that Russia has not reconciled its loss of empire and is using other means, e.g., energy policies and intimidation as in Estonia, to expand its influence in the region and weaken NATO. Russia’s policies and willing partners in Central and Eastern Europe highlight the dangers of old impulses and broken but not totally eliminated old networks.
Just this week we participated in the dedication of the Victims of Communism memorial and recalled the 100 million victims of the scourge of Communism. The suffering has been too much, the sacrifices too great to let the “men of November 4,” to use Charley Fenyvesi’s phrase, prevail.
3/29/2004 - Supporting NATO Expansion and Minority Rights... AHF 1st Vice President Frank Koszorus and the Hungarian American Coalition's representative to the Central and East European Coalition (CEEC) joins US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and gives speech on NATO expansion on Capitol Hill re-iterating concerns over protection of Hungarians and other minorities in Rumania and the Carpathian Basin.
Two events took place in Washington, D.C. related to the latest round of NATO’s enlargement – a White House ceremony and a gala reception. AHF 1st Vice President Frank Koszorus, Jr. attended both events along with other Hungarian American leaders. [more]
10/27/2003 - AHF-DC and CHACR Urging Congress to Include Minority Rights as a basis for Rumanian accession to NATO...The U.S. Senate passed a resolution on October 27, 2003 on the occasion of Rumanian president Iliescu’s visit to Washington. The Senate expressed its appreciation for the “strong and vibrant relations between the United States and Romania.” The resolution also recognized “ the steps the Government of Romania has taken and continues to take in economic, political, and social reforms, including reforms to improve protections of the rights of minorities.”
In the House of Representatives, however, members of the Hungarian American congressional caucus echoed the concerns of the Hungarian American community when submitting a letter to President Bush on the eve of his meeting with President Iliescu. [more]
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