After all, the Hungarian prime minister received a warning from Washington

A very interesting article appeared in today’s Magyar Narancs entitled “After all there was a démarche at the Orbán-Kounalakis meeting” signed by Paula Tamási, most likely a pseudonym.

It is clear from the article that the source of the information was Washington. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it came straight from the State Department whose officials are most likely fed up with the attitude of Eleni Tsakopoulos Kounalakis, the U.S. ambassador to Budapest. In the article the ambassador is described as someone whose activities in Budapest don’t serve the goals of the State Department. Someone whose behavior gives the false impression that the objections of the United States don’t have to be taken terribly seriously.

The article goes into the details of Undersecretary of State Gergely Prőhle’s visit to Washington shortly after Viktor Orbán finally met with the U.S. ambassador on October 18. I wrote about Prőhle’s visit on the basis of a brief report by MTI and came to the conclusion that Prőhle’s conversations in the State Department had something to do with U.S. concerns over the Orbán government’s disregard of the most basic democratic principles.

In the Magyar Narancs article we learn more about Prőhle’s visit. The author claims that Prőhle actually wanted to meet Philip H. Gordon who is the U.S. undersecretary in charge of Europe and Eurasia but in the end he had to be satisfied with meeting only Thomas O. Melia, his deputy in charge of human rights issues. I assume most of my readers remember Melia’s name in connection with Tamás Deutsch’s remark on Twitter about “Who the f…k is Melia?”

According to the article the meeting between Melia and Prőhle was less cordial than someone familiar with the language of diplomacy would expect. Melia apparently complained that the Hungarian right-wing media attacked the U.S. ambassador and that the prime minister’s spokesman, Péter Szijjártó, outright lied about the existence of the démarche Kounalakis delivered to Viktor Orbán. And here the author quoted Melia’s words verbatim: “In case the Hungarian government didn’t notice the importance of the démarche Washington is quite ready to repeat it without delay.” The author claims that Melia’s words to Prőhle were meant as a final warning.

That is by itself is quite interesting but the picture wouldn’t be complete without mentioning an interview with Gergely Prőhle that took place this afternoon on György Bolgár’s two-hour call-in program “Let’s talk it over” on KlubRádió.

First I must mention that Prőhle is a master of waffling.

 

For the benefit of those who can’t follow the interview in the original I tried to take copious notes throughout. The interview began with Bolgár announcing: “so, after all there was a démarche.” Prőhle’s answer was that although he is a good friend of the editor-in-chief of Magyar Narancs whom he considers to be knowledgeable in foreign affairs “this article is full of nonsense.” He is dismayed. Yes, he met with Thomas Melia but the meeting was most pleasant. The question of the Tamás Deutsch affair didn’t come up at all because he had already discussed the matter with Melia in Warsaw. Moreover, he didn’t go to Washington to explain anything. He was invited by the Hungarians of Cleveland for October 23 and he thought that as long as he was in the United States he might as well visit Washington and drop by the State Department.

Bolgár at this point asked Prőhle whether it is true that in fact he was hoping to meet Philip H. Gordon. The answer was that he and Gordon are not on the same level of the diplomatic hierarchy. I hope you notice that Prőhle again doesn’t address Bolgár’s question.

Bolgár pursued the “essence” of the article. Is it true that Melia told him that “in case the Hungarian government didn’t notice the importance of the démarche Washington is quite ready to repeat it without delay”? Prőhle denied that such a sentence had been uttered by Melia. They were having a pleasant conversation about Russia, among other things. The question of government financing of churches did come up, but he explained to Melia’s satisfaction that because the Hungarian churches had lost all their assets the practice of financing them is a form of compensation. Too bad that one has to explain that to the American diplomats.

Bolgár insisted. A journalist who puts text into quotation marks must have proof. Was this sentence uttered? Prőhle’s answer: “Not this way,” but a couple of sentences later he corrected himself and said that it was not uttered, period.

Bolgár then moved on to the “démarche.” Prőhle began with the question: “What is a démarche?” and he asked Bolgár to tell him what he means by “démarche.” After a good summary of the meaning of the word by Bolgár, Prőhle announced that he himself is very much interested in the question. After all, there can be a “verbal démarche” which is delivered in a written form. Diplomatic language can be quite peculiar. Perhaps two people just have a conversation. Is that a démarche?

Bolgár at this point interjected: “Surely the ambassador didn’t just pay a courtesy visit.” Clearly, the State Department asked her to visit the Hungarian prime minister. Prőhle at this point went into a fairly detailed description of the role of the ambassador who in his opinion is “a sovereign person.” Diplomacy is a delicate game. What is an ambassador’s assignment? It is difficult to put into words. Therefore, he is in a quandary answering Bolgár’s question about the démarche.

But returning to the question of this particular démarche. Indeed, there are “questions that are posed by the Americans and we try to answer them truthfully. Do they have concerns? When they pose questions, they surely also have concerns as well.”

Almost twenty minutes went by and Bolgár still didn’t get a straight answer from Prőhle: Was there or wasn’t there a written note? No, there was no written note and no démarche either. Melia simply asked questions. But what about the U.S. ambassador? According to Prőhle, Bolgár should define what he considers to be a démarche. “The liberal media have excellent resources, their journalists should discuss the matter with the State Department. They should ask them.” Bolgár should not address further questions about this matter to him. And Prőhle is one of the more pleasant officials of the Orbán government.

And now you can all decide whether there was or there wasn’t a démarche given to Viktor Orbán on October 18, 2011!

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Gábor
Guest

It seems the State Departmetn officials have planty of leisure time, they can easily have lengthy conversations with surprise visitors. Éva, you, as a US citizen, certainly should make your government aware of this perplexing situation. 😉

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Gábor: “Éva, you, as a US citizen, certainly should make your government aware of this perplexing situation. ;)”
Well, I’m trying my best through this blog. I know that people at the State Department read it.

Member
Just to clarify… The Hungarian Government through Prőhle denies having received any kind of written or verbal disapproval via Thomas Melia or via Ambassador Kounalakis. There were only pleasant conversations and chit-chats that took place between the representatives of the USA Government and the representatives of the Hungarian Government from the moment Ambassador Kounalakis stepped through the doors to visit Orban. If I believe the official Embassy press release, it certainly sounds like there were some housekeeping issues, but it reads like a check list. I wonder if Kounalakis actually is on the same page with Orban or with the USA, because when I read “Prőhle at this point went into a fairly detailed description of the role of the ambassador who in his opinion is “a sovereign person.” It sounds to me that if Kounalakis raised some issues then it wasn’t from her personal perspective. Interesting. Now to the point that Prőhle just happened by the State Department and coincidentally was able to meet with Melia…. In busy Hungary, Orban could not make time to see the Ambassador of the USA for two months, but the USA, as laid back as it is with no real issues of importance,… Read more »
Paul
Guest

Of more interest to me, is not whether the US is interested in Hungary, but WHY the US would be interested in Hungary.
Democracy? The US hardly has a history of supporting democracy internationally, indeed it has quite a history of supporting, even creating, some pretty nasty regimes.
Hungary’s political and strategic importance? Apart from the fact that several European trade routes cross Hungary, it doesn’t really have any strategic importance. And politically, it isn’t likely to be seduced back into the Russian Empire.
EU/NATO? Hungary is a very minor member of both, and even Orbán at his maddest is unlikely to withdraw from either. And Hungary is not in the Euro Zone, so that isn’t a factor either.
Chinese influence? As the EU has been collectively licking China’s popsi in recent days in a desperate bid for money, I can’t see that OV’s minor Chinese relations are going to bother anyone.
So, why would the US be the least bothered that a minor European country of no strategic or political importance should be run by a nascent dictator, more famous for his incompetence than his political acumen?

HasonloMarTortent
Guest

under obama, it is a surprise that america is interested in the ultra-extremism of another country.
i am glad that usa warns the genocidal super-patriotic leadership of hungary, where people live in fear.
orban speaks like a mussolini, and probably will soon act like that caricature. only the orban inspired art will be less strong than the italian one.

Member

HasonloMarTortent: If you read my previous entries you must know that I am by no means supporter of Orban and any right wing movements, but I think your extreme post is no help. Even criticism must have some balances in place and saying that HUngary has a “genocidal super-patriotic leadership, where people live in fear.” is just not true. The current government is not genocidal. I am also not sure what super-patriotic means in your book, but I think what you meant to say is super-nationalistic. Most Hungarian who post in this blog are patriotic but not nationalistic, so I beg to differ.
I am also not clear what do you mean by “under obama”. PLease, do not bring in here your republican blurbs about American politics, as it undermines the Hungarian issues.

Joseph Simon
Guest

An interesting ‘demarché’ given by Einstein of the US. Of Princeton: ‘a quaint and ceremonious lttle village of puny demigods on stilts. Here, people enjoy even less freedom than their counterparts in Europe.’ He regretted to the end of his days having emigrated to the US. He found it as regimented and militaristic as Germany.
You see Some 1, it is always helpful to compare. It gives you a better and truer perspective.

Member
Jospeph Simon: I have no idea what you are talking about. I have no idea what this has to do wit Hungary either, but let me say one thing, the USA and Europe are all free. With the right education or good business ideas you are free to move one country to another. I am not sure what is stopping you to move back to Hungary either. You took Einstein’s quote and freely altered it. THe whole quote is about the society at Princeton. Please next time quote the whole text, so least that would make sense. Einstein fought against racism which at the time was also part of American society. He never regretted to get away from Germany, so if you would be kindly let me know where this information came from, I would be very grateful. “While visiting American universities in April, 1933, he learned that the new German government had passed a law barring Jews from holding any official positions, including teaching at universities. A month later, the Nazi book burnings occurred, with Einstein’s works being among those burnt, and Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels proclaimed, “Jewish intellectualism is dead.” Einstein also learned that his name was… Read more »
Mio
Guest

Is there any way to get the State Department or the US Embassy to reveal whether there indeed was a formal demarche? I wrote a letter to the Embassy right after the Orban-Kounalakis meeting, in my quality as a taxpayer in the US and a Hungarian citizen, but have not received a reply since. I find it quite ironic that the US should attempt to defend Hungarian democracy only clandestinely…
BTW, you can (and Bolgar should have) read all about US demarche policies here, pp. 6-9: http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/89308.pdf

Jim
Guest

Joseph Simon: The original Einstein quote reads:
““is a wonderful little spot, a quaint and ceremonious village of puny demigods on stilts. Yet, by ignoring certain social conventions, I have been able to create for myself an atmosphere conducive to study and free from distraction.”
Not sure where you got that other stuff.
Carry on, soldier!

Guest

Maybe OT:
Although Einstein urged the President in his famous letter to build the “Atomic Bomb” because he feared the Nazis were also working on it, he really was somehow attached to his “fatherland” Germany.
Some years ago I was in New York and saw the Einstein exhibition in the Museum of Natural History (If I remember correctly …) and they had a copy of that letter on display and also some other letters he had written in his later years at the Princeton institute.
The point that moved me most was the fact that he wrote all these important letters in German (!) and had them translated into English by his secretary after which he signed them …
PS: Right now we’re watching a documentary on the bomb with very fascinating pictures on the Hungarian National Geographic tv channel – what a coincidence …
Seeing that “Little Boy” and what it did to the Japanese people …

An
Guest

@Wolfi: Very OT…. you know who urged Einstein to write that letter to President Roosevelt? Szilard Leo, a Hungarian born physicist. He left Hungary in 1919 because of growing antisemitism in Hungary under Horthy.
“Szilárd was directly responsible for the creation of the Manhattan Project. He drafted a confidential letter to Franklin D. Roosevelt explaining the possibility of nuclear weapons, warning of Nazi work on such weapons and encouraging the development of a program which could result in their creation. During August 1939 he approached his old friend and collaborator Albert Einstein and convinced him to sign the letter, lending his fame to the proposal.[9] The Einstein–Szilárd letter resulted in the establishment of research into nuclear fission by the U.S. government and ultimately to the creation of the Manhattan Project; FDR gave the letter to an aide, General Edwin M. “Pa” Watson with the instruction: “Pa, this requires action!””
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Le%C3%B3_Szil%C3%A1rd

Member

So, back to Hungary, I hope that the USA does understand that the perception about the USA’s relationship to Hungary is that Orban and his fellow HUngarians told Obama and Clinton off. The Fidesz new “concert tour” across Hungary (its been announced recently) will not help to clarify these issues any further. The goal of Kover and Orban with the tour is more so to cement their lies and their supremacy, not to tell the truth about the USA’s and the EU’s concerns.

Member

Back one more second to Einstein:
Jim, actually the original quote is from Einstein letter to Queen Elisabeth of Bavaria (Red Queen) reads like this: “Princeton is a wonderful little spot, a quaint and ceremonious village of puny demigods on stilts… Here the people who compose what is called “society” enjoy even less freedom than their counterparts in Europe. Yet they seem unaware of this restriction, since their way of life tends to inhibit personality development from childhood.”

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

In the Einstein quote the word “freedom” is most likely about societal norms and restrictions. Otherwise the last sentence about their personality development from childhood on makes no sense.
We mustn’t forget that the United States was a much more insular place in the 1930s than it is now. Moreover, for Einstein Princeton was most likely a provincial little place with boring little parties at faculty members’ houses.

Member

Hi Joe! My name is Jakob Leiter …
The word Einstein uses, “stelzbeinig”, means stiff-legged, as if the legs were wooden stilts. It has nothing to do with height. Instead, it evokes the gait of a peacock.

Kave
Guest

Let’s see. Joseph Simon is busy slagging off Einstein. Johnny Boy is busy worrying about some right-wing racist’s suicide. It seems the FIDESZ troll brigade has a lot to do these days since FIDESZ government internet troll “Robin Masters” (Böszörményi-Nagy Gergely) got his cover blown. As always, they use a false “Anglo-Saxon” name… The quality of pro-government FIDRESZ trolls has definitely gone down in the last few months. Are you guys paying taxes on your per-post freelance work?

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

So, there was démarche! Of course, there was but it is nice to hear it from the US Ambassador herself. See http://www.nepszava.hu/articles/article.php?id=490350
She read the démarche to Orbán.

Ron
Guest

About Einstein and his famous letter.
Here a website dedicated to Einstein. Please note, that he visited Princeton at least three times before settling there. So he knew what he was getting into.
http://www.einstein-website.de/z_biography/princeton-e.html
Here the famous letter.
http://www.dannen.com/ae-fdr.html

Member
Eva: “So, there was démarche! Of course, there was but it is nice to hear it from the US Ambassador herself.” Johnny Boy (Fidesz): On November 7 regarding tHe Speaker of the House lies about his tortured times under the commnist reagime (that he just served fine, as facts prove) ” Some politicians talk seriously, they genuinely stand behind their views.” So far a few lies by the Orban Government: – Education Minister Rozsa Hoffman lied about the content of the new Education Law. She denied lay-offs and other facts that were integral part of the new law on a forty pages attachment kept away from the educators and the general public. Her initials were found on the pages of the document. – Laszlo Kover the Speaker of the House lied at several occasions, not only for Hungarians but for foreign dignitaries. He has claimed that Slovakia changed the border between the two countries when building the Gabcikovo dam, which would formally entitle Hungary to make a military strike on Slovakia. He recently claimed that he was not allowed to visit western countries until 1984. (It is a well known fact that it was relatively easy to cross into Vienna… Read more »
Jano
Guest

Kave: ” “Robin Masters” (Böszörményi-Nagy Gergely) got his cover blown. As always, they use a false “Anglo-Saxon” name… ”
Just a note. Actually, this is more than just an Anglo-Saxon name. It’s the name of the mysterious character from the TV show Magnum PI (with Tom Selleck) which was very popular in Hungary.

Th. G.
Guest
dear Eva, a little off-topic but I read several weeks ago your entry about the scandal in the Hungarian Church and as I don’t know whom I shall inform so I decide to write you a note here. While I was looking for somebody in the Webpage of Hungarian Church, I found a certain Fr. Timothy McCarthy, who is at this moment working at the University of Szeged for the ministry of English speaking students. I googled him and what I found is very appalling: here is an extract from a report of Diocese of Cleverland: “The Diocese of Allentown has reason to believe that one of its former seminarians, Timothy J. McCarthy, was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Szeged-Csanad, Hungary in December 2007. Father McCarthy was dismissed as a seminarian for the Diocese of Allentown in 1986, after he was arrested on criminal charges arising from allegations of multiple attempts to corrupt the morals of teenage boys. The arrest was publicized in the local Diocesan Memorandum 2010 Page 157 media. According to the Diocese’s records, Mr. McCarthy pled guilty to a charge of disorderly conduct. Given Father McCarthy’s status as an American citizen, it is possible that… Read more »
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