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Orbán Speech Opens CPAC in Dallas

Viktor Orbán opened the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) with a speech in Dallas, Texas on Thursday. CPAC has been a major gathering for U.S. right-wing conservatives since 1974.

The main purpose of the Prime Minister’s half-hour-long English-language speech was to introduce himself and his policies to the American conservative audience, which may sympathize with him but does not know much about Hungary and its government.

Orbán touched on his well-worn themes: Christian values, migration, gender, and the importance of the fight against liberalism, but also didn’t leave out Barack Obama or George Soros.

He compared Hungary to Texas, the Lone Star State, where independence, freedom, and sovereignty are the three most important values in both places.

The Hungarian government made great efforts to get the Prime Minister a speaking slot at the conservative convention. The taxpayer-funded Center for Fundamental Rights, which also organized CPAC Hungary earlier this year, is one of the event’s sponsors.

As for how he felt about speaking at CPAC, Viktor Orbán said it was a dream come true. [444]

Viktor Orbán Meets With Donald Trump in New Jersey

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán held talks with Donald Trump at the former President’s estate in Bedminster, New Jersey, the Prime Minister’s press chief Bertalan Havasi told news agency MTI.

The Prime Minister posted a picture of himself together with Trump on social media, overlaid with text reading “In an Alliance for Peace!” Underneath the photo, a short statement read, “Meeting with American President Donald J. Trump.”

picture of Donald Trump and Viktor Orbán
(photo: Viktor Orbán / Facebook)

Accompanying the Prime Minister at the meeting were Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó, Balázs Orbán, the Prime Minister’s Political Director, and Zsolt Németh, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee in Parliament. Also present were Susie Wiles, CEO of the Save America Leadership PAC, consultant Brian Jack, and Taylor Budowich, Director of Communications for Save America.

As previously reported, Viktor Orbán left for the U.S. yesterday to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) event in Dallas this week. The Prime Minister has no plans to meet with U.S. President Joe Biden. [444]

David Pressman Hasn’t Even Arrived in Hungary, But Zsolt Bayer Has Already Told the New U.S. Ambassador to Leave

After the United States Senate confirmed David Pressman as the next U.S. Ambassador to Hungary last Thursday, pro-government pundit Zsolt Bayer expressed his extreme displeasure with the choice over the weekend in a blog post entitled, “Get the Hell Home!

Bayer, a staff writer for pro-government daily Magyar Nemzet, does not exactly indicate in his post the nature of his problem with David Pressman, writes 444, apart from the fact that the 45-year-old human rights lawyer and diplomat is not a conservative right-winger. However, this did not stop him from being foul-mouthed and insulting:

“Mr.” Ambassador should go home and consult with the dog-f***ing “Mr.” secretary for nuclear energy on the big questions of democracy and freedom. We are doing great here without guidance from idiots like you. Is that clear?

-wrote Bayer.

The reference to the “secretary for nuclear energy” likely refers to Sam Brinton, an assistant secretary for nuclear waste at the Department of Energy. The Hungarian right-wing press kicked up a big fuss about him a few weeks ago, since, in addition to being a qualified nuclear engineer, he reportedly spends his free time as a drag queen. But how this relates to Bayer’s ugly slur, or how Brinton is connected with the new ambassador, is not entirely clear.

At the end of his post, Bayer offers a bit more of an explanation as to why he has a problem with another country having the audacity to send an ambassador to Hungary:

For forty years, sausage-fingered, smelly-mouthed Soviet comrades wanted to tell us what the only path to salvation was. Now they have transformed into “woke,” cancel culture-loving neo-Marxist d**ckheads, and they continue where the Soviet comrades left off.

David Pressman previously represented the U.S. at the United Nations at an ambassadorial level between 2014 and 2017 under the presidency of Barack Obama, and also ran George and Amal Clooney’s foundation as executive director. According to HVG, Pressman spoke about the decline of democracy in Hungary at his Senate hearing, although he believes this phrasing obscures the intent behind the decline of democratic processes in the country. [444]

David Pressman Confirmed as U.S. Ambassador to Hungary

The United States Senate voted 61-30 on Thursday to confirm David Pressman as the next U.S. Ambassador to Hungary. Only Republican senators voted against confirming the diplomat and civil rights lawyer, although Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell voted in favor of him. Nine senators did not cast a vote.

The 45-year-old was nominated for the post by President Joe Biden in May. A Democrat, Pressman is the former director of George and Amal Clooney’s foundation, and worked as a human rights lawyer and aide to recently-deceased former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

Between 2014-2017, under President Barack Obama, Pressman served as the United States ambassador to the United Nations for Special Political Affairs. He is currently a partner at the New York office of law firm Jenner & Block. Pressman is still awaiting the swearing-in for his ambassadorial post in Budapest.

The Hungarian press has commented on David Pressman’s advocacy work for LGBTQ rights and on the fact that he also led a working group that fought for the recognition of this community in U.S. foreign affairs. But HVG notes that he his area of competence extends far beyond this field.

The news outlet suggests that Pressman’s nomination by President Biden may be more related to the Russian-Ukrainian war than to the Hungarian government’s position on the LGBTQ movement. The newly-confirmed ambassador not only has expertise in minority rights, but also in the area of national security. Under two U.S. presidents, he worked directly for three cabinet members in positions connected to national security and law enforcement.

At his Senate hearing, the diplomat stated that current assessments of Hungary show a decline of democracy in the country, but that this decline is a euphemism, as it conceals the intentions behind the erosion of press freedom and the influence of the judiciary. This topic needs to be discussed with government officials, but civil organizations also have to be supported as much as possible so that they can take part in democratic processes. [HVG]

U.S. Embassy Responds to Orbán’s Tusványos Speech

In a short statement, the United States Embassy in Hungary issued a short statement that appeared to be a response to Viktor Orbán’s comments at Tusványos on “mixed races” a few days ago:

The U.S. Embassy condemns all ideologies, policies, and rhetoric that give oxygen to the doctrines of hate and division. We must never forget that what began as racist and xenophobic rhetoric by 20th century leaders escalated, ultimately ending in the genocide of millions. Human dignity and equality know no national boundaries and we affirm that the diversity of our human family is one of its greatest strengths.

In his speech on Saturday, the Hungarian Prime Minister said, “We are willing to mix with each other, but we do not want to become a mixed race.”

Since then, the speech has been subject to criticism from many areas within Hungary and abroad. One of Orbán’s chief advisers, Zsuzsa Hegedüs, tendered her resignation on Tuesday over the matter, describing the Prime Minister’s words as an “openly racist speech… which even [Nazi propagandist] Goebbels would have liked. [Magyar Hang]

Biden Taps Human-Rights Lawyer David Pressman as US Ambassador to Hungary

A new American ambassador is coming to Hungary a year and a half after former Ambassador David Cornstein left Budapest, reports Magyar Nemzet. The White House released a statement on Friday indicating that U.S. President Joe Biden had nominated David Pressman for the position.

The 45-year-old Pressman is the former director of George and Amal Clooney’s foundation and worked as a human rights lawyer for former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Between 2014-2017, under President Barack Obama, Pressman represented his country at the United Nations at an ambassadorial level. He currently works as a partner at the New York office of law firm Jenner & Block.

Pressman will have to be confirmed by the US Senate before he can begin working in Hungary, a process that typically takes months.

HVG suggests that David Pressman’s nomination may have symbolic significance: as an advocate of LMBTQ issues, he is coming to a country where the rights of the LMBTQ community have been restricted by the homophobic so-called “child protection” law.

Chargé d’affaires Marc Dillard has been heading the U.S. Embassy in Budapest since the departure of Donald Trump-nomiated David Cornstein in 2021. [HVG]

Fidesz Expresses Dissatisfaction With Kiev to U.S. Congress in Washington

picture of Zsolt Németh

Zsolt Németh (pictured) met with members of the U.S. Congress in Washington, where the topics discussed were security policy, economic cooperation, and political relations.

The Fidesz chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in Parliament told state news agency MTI that the United States is the most important international player in world politics, so it is crucial for Hungary to maintain a continuous, high-level dialogue with the country. Security policy plays a critical role in the bilateral relations between Washington and Budapest, he said, mentioning that the topic of stability in the Western Balkans was also discussed.

The United States is very appreciative of Hungary’s role in the Balkans, especially after a Hungarian general took over command of KFOR in the fall. Hungary has also significantly increased its proportion of contingents serving in the region.

During negotiations, Zsolt Németh affirmed Budapest’s commitment to Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty in regards to Ukraine’s possible accession to NATO, but also drew attention to the fact that respect for national minority rights, especially rights acquired by the Transcarpathian Hungarian minority, is a precondition for Hungary’s contribution to the effort. Budapest is dissatisfied with Kiev’s behavior in this area so far, the Hungarian side informed its American partners.

The chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee also said that the United States is Hungary’s most important trading partner outside Europe and the second largest investor in Hungary since the change of regime in 1989, creating more than 100,000 Hungarian jobs.

Zsolt Németh added that it is in Budapest’s interest for American-Hungarian economic relations to continue to develop and for Hungary to maintain an appropriate and predictable business environment.

[Index]

Karácsony Tells U.S. House Committee of Problems With Rule of Law in Hungary

picture of Gergely Karácsony

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán employs Putin-like methods, Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony told the Foreign Affairs Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday.

As reported by HVG, the online event dealt with the rule of law in Central Europe. Accordingly, the mayors of the capital cities of the V4 countries gave an accounting of problems with the rule of law in their respective countries.

In his five-minute opening speech delivered in English, Gergely Karácsony emphasized that Viktor Orbán had exploited the dissatisfaction of Hungarian society to build a “hybrid” regime.

The mayor addressed, among other things, the election law, the new constitution, attacks on civil society and the media, and foreign policy developments of concern, such as drastically-increased cooperation with Beijing and Moscow in cases like the Budapest-Belgrade railway line or the Paks 2 nuclear power plant.

Karácsony also mentioned László Kövér’s recently leaked speech to national security officials and the use of Pegasus surveillance software to spy on civilians. The actions of Hungary’s government do not reflect the values ​​of the country, he said, adding that the government imposed restrictions on municipal governments after the most recent municipal elections didn’t totally go their way.

The four mayors were asked questions following their speeches, with Karácsony stressing that Orbán should not be equated with the Hungarian people and that the Chinese government is acting as a Trojan Horse within the EU.

[444]

Szijjártó: U.S. Will Attempt to Intervene in Hungary’s Elections Next Year

picture of Péter Szijjártó

Hungary’s government believes that the United States will try to intervene in next year’s Parliamentary election and seek to replace Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s right-wing populist party, all because Washington is resentful that Budapest worked closely with former US President Donald Trump, writes the Financial Times.

Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó (pictured) told the newspaper that he expects the Magnitsky law to be enacted, which will allow the U.S. to impose sanctions on countries where corruption and human rights violations occur.

We are sure that there will be attempts [to interfere] from the United States. I assure the Hungarian people that all competent bodies will do their job to prevent external interference in the elections

-said Péter Szijjártó.

The United States did not invite Hungary to a democracy summit to be held with 110 other countries next month. Observers claims that Budapest’s dubious reputation is due to eroding democratic principles and human rights, and an inability to cope with rampant corruption.

Hungary is the only country in the European Union that was not invited to the democracy summit, which Péter Szijjártó called “disrespectful.”

[Index][Photo: Péter Szijjártó / Facebook]

Hungary Not Invited to Biden’s Democracy-Strengthening Summit

picture of Uzra Zeya

During the US Presidential campaign, Joe Biden promised to convene a summit after his election with governments and civilians to counter the decline of democracy and human rights. More than 100 countries are reportedly invited to the virtual event in December, but Politico has reported that Hungary is the only EU member state that is missing from the list of participants.

The list of invitees reportedly includes Poland and the Philippines, two countries frequently criticized for displaying anti-democratic policies and practices.

“The United States is inviting countries to the Democracy Summit in three weeks that will set the bar high for themselves and others in renewing democratic values, policies and institutions,” Uzra Zeya, the US Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights (pictured), answering questions from journalists by telephone before her European tour, told Népszava. The online event was convened by President Biden and will be held between December 9-10.

The newspaper asked the government official why Poland had been invited to the summit and not Hungary, despite serious concerns about the rule of law in both EU member states. However, Zeya was reluctant to respond to press reports about the guest list, stating instead that their intention was to involve all countries that are committed to supporting the summit’s three core goals: combating authoritarianism, battling corruption, and promoting respect for human rights at home and abroad.

Uzra Zeya avoided answering all questions about the guests invited to the online event in her telephone interview, explaining instead that the United States is inviting regionally-diverse, well-functioning and emerging democracies that are interested in creating a fairer and more peaceful world to the summit.

Meanwhile, it is also important to keep in mind that no democracy is perfect. “Our goal is for the summit to be as comprehensive as possible within the logistical constraints and to accommodate as many views as possible,” she said.

Commitments, reforms and initiatives determined at the summit will be announced in line with the three objectives of the meeting. This will be followed by consultations and another summit planned at the end of 2022, the diplomat said.

[Népszava]

US Recommends Against Travel to Hungary Due to High Level of Covid

picture of airport travellers

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a travel alert for Hungary, Czech Republic, and Iceland due to the growing number of coronavirus infections in those countries.

The CDC raised its travel advisory for these countries on Monday to Level 4, “very high,” and urged U.S. citizens to avoid travel there if possible.

An email recently sent to U.S. citizens by the American Embassy in Hungary also stated that “the U.S. Department of State currently recommends against travel to Hungary.”

[444, via MTI]