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Pompeo reiterates importance of ‘vibrant civil society’

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó met U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Washington on Wednesday. Statements released after the meeting indicated differing views on a number of current issues.

A week ago, A. Wess Mitchell, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, visited Hungary and met with Hungarian government officials, including Szijjártó. Statements released on both sides after that meeting already revealed a difference in emphasis on certain issues, particularly with regard to civil society and relations with Ukraine.

On Wednesday, after talks Szijjártó had in Washington with his American counterpart, new statements issued by both sides indicate that, despite Hungarian efforts to show support for American positions, the U.S. State Department continues to press forward on the issues that it considers relevant.

A statement posted on the Hungarian government website prior to the meeting cited Szijjártó as saying that "Hungary does not wish to join the European choir hysterically criticizing the United States." During the meeting, Szijjártó used somewhat softer wording in repeating the message, saying that "Hungary will not stand in line with the Europeans who are making a hobby of criticizing the United States," according to a Hungarian statement released after the talks.

Hungary will continue to adopt an attitude that is "balanced, lacking any criticism and comments" regarding U.S. domestic and foreign policy, said the foreign minister. The resemblance between the political approaches of the current American administration and the Hungarian government is "extremely high," he added, as both consider it very important to ensure the security of their citizens.

Hungary and the U.S. will continue to cooperate on highly important foreign policy issues such as reforming the United Nations organization and reaching a fair international position towards Israel, Szijjártó said. He also pointed to the issue of the Ukrainian education law and asked his American counterpart to clearly express to Ukraine the importance of the issue of ethnic minorities, and that everyone must comply with international regulations, the statement added.

A much briefer statement from the U.S. Department of State highlighted that Pompeo, similarly to Mitchell a week before, "underscored the importance of maintaining a vibrant civil society."

As for Ukraine, the statement noted that "the Secretary also emphasized the urgent need to help Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression, including the importance of facilitating and supporting Ukraine’s engagement with NATO, and the need to counter Russian malign influence in Central Europe."

The U.S. statement concluded by saying that both sides had agreed Europe should diversify its sources of energy, adding that the parties also discussed increasing U.S. investment in Hungary. The parties also committed to concluding a Defense Cooperation Agreement in the days ahead.