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Hungary and US have 'value based alliance', says US ambassador

Following a wave of tensions in US-Hungary relations based on the democratic direction the country is taking, American ambassador published an article urging Hungary to perceive critical remarks as a sign of genuine friendship

Based on the achievements of the political transition 20 years ago the allies of Hungary, including the United States, look to the country to be a torch bearer, a champion of democracy, the US Ambassador wrote in Magyar Nemzet daily’s Wednesday edition.

In her opinion piece entitled “Values based alliance,” Eleni Tsakopoulos Kounalakis emphasised that Hungarians are proud, and they should be, of their transition from communism and what they achieved 20 years ago. They brought an end to dictatorship without violence and established a “vibrant democracy.”

She said that now Prime Minister Viktor Orban himself has been one of the outstanding leaders of that transition from the start.

“That is why Hungary’s allies, including the United States, look to this country to do more than simply be a democracy – we look to this country to be a torch bearer, a champion of democracy,” said the ambassador.

“This is why, over the last year, there has been a widespread call for the Fidesz government to be more vigilant, and respectful of its democratic institutions. These expressions of concern are not just for the sake of this country, but for the example that Hungary continues to set for the world,” Ambassador Kounalakis said.

In connection with criticisms concerning Hungary, she said that “for anyone to wave aside all criticism as politically motivated, or based on misinformation, is not fair to all those who have an interest in the continued strength and vibrancy of Hungary’s democracy.”

Reflecting on the opportunities and responsibilities that go with governing with a two-thirds majority, Ambassador Kounalakis said it “offers the opportunity to effect badly needed change, but also offers the temptation to overreach, [...] it can allow for important checks and balances to be swept aside, and valid objections from citizens be ignored.”

“That is why the United States and other friends are urging Hungary to take the time and effort to get it right when crafting the upcoming cardinal laws needed to implement the new constitution. The most important of these will pertain to an independent media and judiciary, and free and fair elections. The system cannot be permanently tilted to favor one party or another,” said the ambassador.

Making reference to the Budapest visit of US State Secretary in late June the ambassador noted the strong support Hillary Clinton expressed publicly for Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s commitment to rebuild and strengthen Hungary’s economy. But the ambassador noted the concern Secretary Clinton also expressed that with the many changes that the government is making with its historic two-thirds majority, Hungary will stay true to its own democratic traditions.

The ambassador referred in the article to President Roosevelt’s and President Lyndon Johnson’s tenure of office when their super majority allowed to enact their programs, such as Roosevelt’s “New Deal” and Johnson’s “Great Society.”