U.S. Ambassador to Hungary made a verbal complaint to Orbán
Thursday, 17 November 2011 10:07
The government of Mr. Orbán has gotten mixed up in one of the most inconvenient – and virtually humiliating – diplomatic affairs of the past one and a half years, with the U.S. ambassador accredited to Budapest having to resort to the Hungarian daily Népszava to publish an article gainsaying the statements of the Hungarian government on the meeting between Ambassador Tsakopoulos Kunalakis and the Hungarian premier. Such a move is unusual in diplomatic affairs, and generally, diplomats have recourse to such means in the most serious cases only.
Eleni Tsakopoulos Kounalakis, the U.S. Ambassador accredited to Hungary told Népszava that when she had conducted negotiations with Viktor Orbán, she had made a verbal note emphasizing the U.S. government's concerns – reported the article published by the daily newspaper Népszava in its Saturday issue. “During that meeting I voiced concerns, inter alia, over the so called 'cardinal laws' that had been in preparation at the time, especially over those dealing with the independence of the judiciary, and electoral reform” – said Eleni Tsakopoulos Kounalakis over the telephone when asked by Népszava. According to the article, the ambassador added that they had also been discussing the strong and lively co-operation between the United States and Hungary. In response to the question whether that note served as a démarche (a formal protest in diplomatic affairs), the Ambassador answered positively, but added that “however, I did not hand over any written documents to the prime minister”– Népszava reported.
The Hungarian political weekly Magyar Narancs – with reference to diplomatic circles – formerly reported that, contrary to the statement made by Mr. Péter Szijjártó, the prime minister's spokesperson, there was a verbal note of protest (a démarche) at the meeting of PM Viktor Orbán and the ambassador at their meeting in October. Magyar Narancs also noted that not long after the Hungarian PM's meeting with Ms. Tsakopoulos Kounalakis, Mr. Gergely Prőhle, deputy state secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs flew to Washington in order to conduct further negotiations. During this time, he met with deputy secretary of state Thomas O. Melia – and, according to the information of Magyar Narancs, Mr. Melia discussed at that meeting the puzzlement of Washington over the fact that the Hungarian government had tried to understate the U.S. Ambassador's diplomatic note. “Should the Hungarian government remain unaware of the importance of this démarche, then Washington is ready to repeat it in short order” – the political weekly newspaper wrote. On top of that Mr. Prőhle called the allegations made by Magyar Narancs “an enormous blunder” in an interview with the private radio channel Klubrádió. He also denied that he would have had an inconvenient discussion with Mr. Thomas O. Melia.
Fidesz MEP Tamás Deutsch's earlier strong statement concerning Mr. Thomas O. Melia can be accessed here: http://www.freehungary.hu/archives-new/376-mep-tamas-deutsch-verbally-abused-one-of-the-officials-of-the-usa.html
The issue is certainly not over yet, given that it is very unusual in diplomatic affairs that a U.S. ambassador has take recourse to the media in order to refute allegations made by the host nation's foreign ministry. Diplomats – who represent the issuing nations' governments – resort to such steps only in the most serious cases. Based on these, Washington deemed the situation to be so serious as to warrant the use of such means.
The case also involves the creditworthiness of PM Viktor Orbán (dubbed into Hungarian by Mr. Péter Szijjártó) and the Hungarian MoFA (and Mr. Gergely Prőhle). As regards the explanation that the Hungarian premier as well as the present framers of Hungarian foreign policy did not understand diplomatic language and diplomatic gestures; It is better not to think about that being the case.
Mr. Csaba Molnár, faction leader-elect of the Democratic Coalition (abbreviation: DK; led by former PM Mr. Ferenc Gyurcsány) addressed a written question to prime minister Viktor Orbán. Mr. Molnár enlisted the DK's questions to the PM in a transcript sent to speaker of the house Mr. László Kövér, with the following headline: “Why did the Government lie about the U.S. diplomatic note?” On the one hand, he also expected a reasonable answer to the question why Hungarian diplomacy as well as Orbán's spokesperson tried “to deny the fact” that the U.S. ambassador had protested in a verbal diplomatic note (in a démarche); but also to the question what the PM thinks, how strongly the future course of U.S.–Hungarian relations would be affected by the fact that “leading government politicians had been misleading the public for several days in connection with what had happened at the meeting of the ambassador and the prime minister”.
Mr. Molnár also wants to know whether the PM ordered Mr. Szijjártó and Mr. Prőhle “to make false allegations”, and whether he would fire the prime ministerial spokesperson as well as the deputy state secretary after having been “caught in a lie”. „If the PM does not fire these government officials who have been caught misleading the public, then cand that be construed as if you were actually accusing the U.S. ambassador of intentionally making false allegations?” – asked Csaba Molnár in his sixth question.
Source: Népszava, Magyar Narancs, 168ora.hu