Fidesz sweep means moment of truth for American policymakers
6/22/2010 - AHF editorial, "Fidesz sweep means moment of truth for American policymakers." AHF President Frank Koszorus continues call for even-handedness in US foreign policy. The full article appears below and also available on www.politics.hu.
[Editor's Note: The following is an op-ed piece by Frank Koszorus, Jr., a Washington, D.C. Attorney who currently serves as President of the American Hungarian Federation, was previously chair of the steering committee of the NATO Enlargement Working Group, and is a regular commentator and university lecturer on foreign policy, public diplomacy, human rights and minority rights issues. Politics.hu welcomes submissions for op-ed pieces pertaining to Hungary.]
President Obama has sought to reassure leaders from Central and Eastern Europe feeling neglected by the United States and fearful of growing Russian influence in the region. He used the occasion of the signing of the START Treaty in Prague this spring to meet with Washington's new European allies who had previously been dominated by the Soviet Union.
While this dinner meeting was an encouraging and promising step, it is too early to tell whether these newer NATO members will be assuaged. Much will depend on the Obama administration's approach toward the region, especially as it pursues its reset policies with Russia in the coming months.
Hungarian and other Central European sympathy toward the United States and its foreign policy goals stood in marked contrast to West European ambivalence about U.S. global leadership after the end of the Cold War. Central European identification with the U.S. extended beyond elite opinion and was rooted strongly in the popular imagination. This reservoir of popular support was a precious commodity that gave U.S. foreign policy a competitive advantage in the region during the Cold War and the years that have followed.
This instinctive popular support has been at risk in Hungary in recent years, mainly due to the perception of official U.S. bias favoring the Hungarian reform Communists, now known as the Socialist Party. In 2002, for instance, then-Prime Minister Orbán was not welcome at the Bush White House. One administration official commented that while he realized that Fidesz may be viewed as patriotic from a Hungarian perspective, the Socialists are "easier to deal with." The snubbing by previous administrations of Fidesz when it was in opposition or governing Hungary has contributed to the ongoing perception that there is a lack of even-handedness when it comes to U.S. policy towards Hungary.
The potential for disillusionment by Hungarians with the United States has not been fully appreciated or recognized by Washington, or even by some Hungarian American spokesmen. This disillusionment could have been avoided and can still be remedied.
It is imperative, however, that the U.S. now seek specific ways to address those democratic-minded Hungarians who overwhelmingly voted against radicals and Socialists, supported the center-right and remain bewildered by what they perceive as a series of snubs in the past. Many of these voters helped topple the Communist system at considerable cost and risk to themselves when the outcome of the late 1980s was far from certain. The democratic center, center-right's victory this spring demonstrates that their supporters represent more than half of the nation today and are in the ascendancy. This strength will enable them to easily oppose and defeat radical programs proposed by extremists.
But more than Hungarian domestic politics are at issue now. Even before the fall of the Berlin Wall, many of these voters were steadfast supporters of a Washington-led NATO, in contrast to former enemies of that alliance. There is a chance, however, that if the U.S. fails to dispel perceptions of favoritism, these disappointed long-time friends of America may adopt more cynical attitudes and thus weaken the alliance. Such a development would damage U.S. interests, as it is beyond dispute that a successful war against international terrorism requires steadfast and genuine friends.
The Obama administration must decisively move to dispel the notion of favoritism and move to reassure the new government of Hungary that the United States stands firmly with them. Specifically, the American embassy in Budapest as well as in Washington should take highly visible and concrete steps, on a sustained basis, to restore a balanced and even-handed policy and become better acquainted with the actual views of the democratic center, center-right, as opposed to what had been reported about them in the mass media by political opponents. If this is done skillfully and combined with policies that demonstrate continued and robust engagement with Central and Eastern Europe, the dinner in Prague will prove to have been a success for American diplomacy and security policy and a success for the countries of Central and Eastern Europe as well.
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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]
11/6/2008 - The American Hungarian Federation Submitted Questionnaire to Presidential Candidates -- The Federation submitted identical questionnaires to Sen. Obama and Sen. McCain. Barack Obama responds to Hungarian American Community acknowledging need to "continue strengthening democratic institutions throughout Central and Eastern Europe....[and] build respect for human and minority rights in that region and throughout the world." [read more]