PM: U.S. memo a meaningless 'scrap of paper'

History

“If it was not in English I would think it was written by the opposition,” Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said this morning in reference to a memo that was reportedly given to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from the American Embassy.

The Hungarian government yesterday published a document containing a timeline of U.S. Embassy efforts to address corruption in Hungary. The timeline, which was said to be sent from the embassy to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade on November 6, describes U.S. complaints about corruption here as far back as February 2012.

Speaking this morning in his regular fortnightly interview on Kossuth Rádió, in which he also discussed the situation of the head of the tax office, the prime minister called the memo a “scrap of paper”, containing no evidence but all the accusations the government has already learned from the opposition parties. “There is no new information in it,” Orbán concluded.

The memo was related to growing tensions between Hungary and the United States since it was revealed last month that six Hungarians have been banned entry to the United States on suspicion of corruption. All six people are government employees or affiliated with the government, André Goodfriend, the charge d'affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Budapest has said, but he has refused Hungarian government entreaties to give details, citing U.S. privacy laws. While the Hungarian government says it cannot take action without more details, Goodfriend said they have sufficient information to act. Last week, Hungarian tax chief Ildikó Vida admitted that she was one of the six who was banned, but she has proclaimed her innocence and challenged the Americans to produce evidence against her.

This morning, Orbán said that every minute spent with the discussion of the case is “waste of time”. Vida could hand in her resignation, the prime minister said, but he added that “he would have to carefully consider” whether to accept it. He said that it is impossible that a country accuses the official of another country with no evidence, and then the official loses her position. Orbán said this would amount to an affront to Hungary's sovereignty.

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