For the past few days, the pro-government press has been attacking judges Tamás Matusik and Csaba Vasvári, members of the National Judicial Council (OBT), for meeting with David Pressman, the U.S. ambassador recently appointed to Budapest. Government-friendly media and pundits argue that judges “cannot politicize,” suggesting that having a meeting with the American ambassador is politicizing.
Pressman himself wrote about the meeting on Twitter:
However, these media outlets did not have a problem when Tünde Handó, former head of the National Judiciary Office (OBH) and wife of former Fidesz MEP József Szájer, met with U.S. Ambassador David Cornstein in 2018. Cornstein, of course, was ambassador during a Repubican administration, while Pressman is representing his country while a Democrat is in the White House.
And yet, Curia President Péter Darák, elected by a Fidesz majority, also met with U.S. Ambassador Eleni Tsakopoulos Kounalakis in Budapest during President Obama’s term in 2012 without an outcry from the media.
OBT recently put out a statement reacting to “disturbing as well as propagandistic newspaper articles over the past few days.” The council points out that organizations composing Hungary’s judicial system have been in contact with ambassadors accredited to Budapest for decades, and that this practice is completely normal in democratic nations.
The judicial body additionally notes that it received the Dutch ambassador in November 2021, and maintains excellent relations with the U.S. Embassy. Several OBT members, including Tamás Matusik and Csaba Vasvári, even attended an Independence Day event at the U.S. Embassy in 2019.
Moreover, the OBT statement reads, Vasvári himself and other high-ranking Hungarian judicial officials took part in a meeting with David Cornstein that was similar to David Pressman’s at the former ambassador’s request.
In view of the inaccuracies appearing in the media, OBT offered a reminder to the press that:
An ambassador is not a politician but the head of a diplomatic mission who represents his own country in another country. It would be a serious mistake to confuse a politician with a political appointee. Judges often come into contact with the latter, and that the President of the Curia and OBH are those as well.
-the announcement states. [HVG]