The statement of the Forum for Religious Freedom Europe on Hungary’s law on the churches

Every year the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) organizes the Human Dimension Implementation Meeting (HDIM). This year the meeting takes place in Warsaw. One of the participating organizations is the Forum for Religious Freedom Europe (FOREF). They prepared an “intervention” which they will present on September 30 at one of the working sessions entitled “Tolerance and non-discrimination II/Intolerance against Christians and members of other religions.”

This is the text of FOREF’s recommendations and intervention:

* * *

foref

Hungary: New Religious Law at Variance with OSCE Standards and
the European Convention on Human Rights

Recommendations:

That the Government of Hungary, and specifically the Minister of Human Capacities, place back on the official registry of incorporated churches included in the appendix of Act CCVI (206) of 2011 those churches deregistered unconstitutionally and in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights by Parliament in 2011. Hungary should honor its international legal commitment to the European Convention and abide by the Court’s decision.

That Hungary should modify its church law so that legal recognition of churches is not determined by 2/3 vote of Parliament, something criticized in both the European Court and the Hungarian Constitutional Court.

That participating States to assist Hungary to harmonize its laws in accordance with the Helsinki standards and international human rights law.

Intervention:

The Forum for Religious Freedom Europe (FOREF) is an independent, secular, civil society formation dedicated to defending the freedom of religion in accordance with international law.  We wish to express our deep concern about policies of the government of Hungary that violate Human Dimension commitments undertaken by the participating States in the Helsinki Final Act and in the Madrid, Vienna, Copenhagen, and Maastricht documents.  These policies have resulted in arbitrary discrimination against religious communities, and have given the state illegal and inappropriate power to interfere in religious life.

In 2011, the Hungarian Parliament passed a new law on “the Right to Freedom of Conscience and Religion, and on the Legal Status of Churches, Religious Denominations and Religious Communities.”  The law abolished the previous practices of treating religious communities equally and registering them through the courts, and instituted a tiered system that discriminates between “incorporated churches” and others that enjoy fewer rights and privileges, and which refers determination of “incorporated church” status to a 2/3-majority vote in Parliament. The law resulted in the de-registration of at least two hundred churches, including, inter alia Methodist, Pentecostal, Adventists and reform Jewish churches, as well as Buddhist and Hinduist congregations.  It has exposed religious organizations to bureaucratic harassment.
In February 2013, Hungary’s Constitutional Court ruled that 67 churches that had been deregistered unconstitutionally were therefore still churches.  According to point 217 of the Hungarian Court’s decision,

One of the requirements of possessing church status is that the minister must place religious communities that possess such status on the registry. Since, as a consequence of the Constitutional Court’s present decision, the provision is no longer in effect which stipulates the minister’s act of registration is tied exclusively to Parliament’s recognition of a church, there is no legal obstacle preventing religious communities, whose applications were rejected by the decision of Parliament, but who, as a result of the retroactive effect of this decision have not lost their church status … from reporting their data to the minister who can then register them.

Unfortunately, the government has deliberately disregarded the Court’s orders. The Ministry of Human Capacities has rejected the written requests of at least four deregistered churches to be placed on the registry of incorporated churches (Magyarországi Evangélium Testvérközösség, Budapesti Autonóm Gyülekezet, Isten Gyülekezete Pünkösdi Egyház, Fény és Szeretet Egyháza).   In a response worthy of a novel by Franz Kafka, the Ministry stated that it could not place the groups on the registry because according to the law, incorporated churches are already on the registry, and the churches making the request were not on the registry.  Of course, the reason they are not on the registry is because the government will not place them there. In yet an even more Kafkaesque twist, when these deregistered churches have turned to the Hungarian courts, the courts have consistently ruled that the Ministry should have placed them on the official registry. But because the courts can’t force the Ministry to register the churches, it has ordered that the churches should resubmit their request to the Hungarian Government, which can, of course, refuse again to comply with the written request ad infinitum.

Instead of adhering to the rule of law and abiding with the highest court, the Hungarian Parliament amended Hungary’s Basic Law in a way that explicitly grants Parliament the right to render arbitrary decisions concerning church registration.   The procedure by which Parliament determines the legal status of individual churches was also criticized explicitly by the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) as incompatible with the standards of due process (Opinion 664/2012 par. 76-77).  According to the European Court of Human Rights the scheme of parliamentary recognition “inherently carries with it the disregard of neutrality” (Magyar Keresztény Mennonita Egyház and Others v. Hungary, par. 102).  The Basic Law is thus in blatant violation of a fundamental principle of religious freedom and human rights.  No legislative body should have the power to rule over religious freedom.

In April 2014, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that that Hungarian Parliament’s deregistration of legally recognized churches constituted an interference with those groups’ fundamental rights as secured by articles 9 and 11 of the European Convention (Magyar Keresztény Mennonita Egyház and Others v. Hungary). Hungary appealed the decision to the Grand Chamber.  The Grand Chamber rejected that appeal in September 2014, so the decision is now final and binding.
In light of the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights, as well as our common Helsinki principles that uphold the freedom of religious communities from discrimination, and given the ruling by Hungary’s own Constitutional Court, FOREF respectfully asks that the Government of Hungary, and specifically the Minister of Human Capacities, Zoltán Balog, place those churches deregistered unconstitutionally by Parliament in 2011, in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights, back on the official registry of incorporated churches included in the appendix of Act CCVI (206) of 2011. Hungary should honor its international legal commitment to the European Convention and abide by the Court’s decision.

Furthermore, Hungary should modify its church law so that legal recognition of churches is not determined by 2/3 vote of Parliament, something criticized in both the European Court and the Hungarian court.

We ask the support of participating States to assist Hungary to harmonize its laws in accordance with the Helsinki standards and international human rights law.  Thank you for your attention.

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36 comments

  1. “….participating states to assist Hungary…”

    That brings to mind a frequent scene in movies where two assailants beat the bejesus out of
    a third party behind some building, and then ‘assist’ him into their car as if he were drunk.

  2. I am sorry Eva, but Hungary’s non-compliance with 1, 2, 3, 4, 5…… just keeps happening. While Orban is doing his peacock dance he is so proud of, while Orban’s government is distributing the EU’s taxpayers money by illegal means (non-publicized government tenders for example), while Orban is walking around giving out sallers and kokis to the members of the EU, and forces any available watchdog organizations to spend more and more money on studies, and analysis that proves over and over again that he and his party undermines any western values, he and his band of thieves of any decency is being treated as an infantile child. They are sent to the corner where they promise to be good, and then they are out again to do what they do best. Once again, here is an other study that proves what we (and most intelligent people) knew for a long time.
    So, what?

  3. Lajos Bokros is a complete disaster. He is one of the most hated people in the country and much much worse than Ferenc Falus ever was. In every regard. Falus said some funny things but many people just HATE Bokros.

    In fact Bokros’s candidacy collapsed on the first day, when PM and MSZP party leadership announced that they do not support his candidacy.

    In fact they are against Bokros with full force. I bet they are still very angry about the “casting” that derailed Csaba Horvath the MSZP politician who was preparing for 8 years to become Lord Mayor of Budapest.

    When you steal 8 years from someone’s life like that for no good reason, it is no wonder you can make them into an enemy very easily.

    There will be no MSZP candidate. There will be no MSZP name on the ballot at all.

    This never happened ONCE in the past 70 years, MSZP or MSZMP was always on the ballot.

    Always. MSZP leadership is in a complete rage. Crushing Bokros might just be their first move.

  4. Well without MSZP and PM support I can’t imagine Bokros can win even second place.

    On MSZP being finished: they will have dozens of mayors in major cities, many people in parliament, they have hundreds of employees and tens of thousands of party members. It is not so easy for huge party like that to just be “finished”.

    In the long term anything is possible I guess. But as the quote says: “in the long term, we are all dead”.

  5. Journalist to Orban: “What is your opinion of [new foreign minister] Szijjarto’s palace [villa]?”

    Orban’s spokesman to journalist:
    “We are going to a celebration.
    There is no need to disturb people [with such questions] ”

  6. [video src="http://92.52.253.141/rtlhirek/hirado/2014/09_szeptember/29/eh_140929_szijjarto.mp4" /]

    The problem is that Szijjarto could not have possibly earned enough money to purchase the real estate. The Hungarian IRS will not investigate Orban’s minion.

  7. I read that Szijjarto’s house costs around 500k USD. That’s not that expensive for a house at all. Considering that when you buy a house you don’t simply lose the money. You make an investment which may even rise in value.

    Pretty much 500k is a middle class house. Or half a flat in a good location. I have some distant relatives who own a flat (not even a house) which is worth around 1.2 million. And they are not rich at all, they are middle class.

    Being rich is a different category altogether. Rich families have hundreds of millions of dollars. Like the Romney family or the Clintons who never worked in non-politics jobs and somehow accumulated hundreds of millions of dollars (that’s just their visible wealth they probably have billions tucked away in a few places).

    No matter how you look at it, 500k is not a huge sum for a house.

  8. @bob: And where do you live exactly? By the way in the Ukraine you can buy a whole village for that kind of money, so you must be right!

  9. Bob, a half a million USD for a house in Hungary _is_ expensive for Hungary (where the net average wage is 680 USD/month) and is impossible to finance with a Hungarian parliamentarian’s (which is 30% larger than the average wage) or minister’s salary.

  10. @Bob

    Only a moron or a Troll would write what you wrote. People don’t generally exhibit their ignorance so I guess you’re a Troll littering our blog with nonsense.

    By the way, who cleans up after you at home?

  11. Petofi apparently the blog is cluttered with trolls these days, oh I forgot you declared me a troll too the other day. Good god the’re everywhere.

  12. What do the big well established churches to defend the harassed denominations rights to freedom of religion? Virtually nothing. They are dependent on economic support from the government so they are tied up.

  13. As to Csaba Horvath, the guy may have been preparing but he was apparently one of those people like Zsolt Molnar (anybody remember the campaign chief of MSZP who was trying to kill, as opposed to spread media stories about fideszniks?), a bit too cozy with Fidesz, if you know what I mean.

    But why couldn’t come up MSZP with anybody on its own other than Horvath? Why did such a “grand” party have no one willing candidate who could answer simple questions and who had no skeletons in the closet like that district VII guy who was taped?

    Falus was an unbelievable disaster, bordering on insanity. Bokros is not a leftist, but doesn’t matter, he will anyway lose, and the Hungarian left is finished.

    Hopefully a new chapter will open, if not, Jobbik is here to take over the voter base. They “are young, clean and want good for Hungarians”. Pretty good image, if you think about it. And they don’t argue all the time like those lefties do. This image of debating and arguing is deadly in this age. Voters have zero tolerance for debates and stupidity, they want decisive action or at least a chance of it.

    Hopefully the age extinction has started, there is absolutely no use for these people.

    The tale about the stupid and the corrupt…That Fikelstein was pretty smart after all.

  14. Szijjarto’s house is not 400 (as we were told), but 700sqm or about 7,000 square feet in size. His utility bill is well over USD 2,000 a month. In Hungary, not in Westchester County or in the Hamptons.

  15. The gross debt of the central government was 24.4793 trillion forints on 09-26-2014, a 22.8% increase since Orban’s takeover (05-31-2010), or about a 36% increase with the nationalized and spent private retirement funds.

  16. @Bob, The cost was not 500,000 USD but 650,000. The house is not in Greenwich Village or an apartment in Manhattan but in Dunakeszi. And Hungarian salaries cannot be compared to those of rich American businessmen.

  17. @bob The point about Szijarto’s house is not how expensive it is, rather that he could not possibly afford it from his official earnings. And although Eva Balogh seems to think that he did indeed get the money from his parents, I don’t think anyone else seriously believes that.

    Bokros will be elevated or crushed by the voters, not by the squabbling parties. Calling him a “rightist” is pretty idiotic but par for the course in Hungary. He is a fiscal conservative, or rather, a pragmatist who understand that bills have to be paid. In social and other matters, he is clearly liberal. But what I think his candidature does achieve is that it gives a voice to someone who talks intelligently and articulately on important issues. And that is such a rarity in Hungary these days that it is to be strongly welcomed.

  18. Re: Angyan

    The case of Angyan illustrates the country in a nutshell: he is a man of learning, of intelligence,
    of dignity, of honesty…who wished only to right a criminal wrong. And so they cut off his professional life at the knees. Meanwhile, the good Christian laity care not a whit–they go on to pray for ‘our Viktor’ each Sunday.

    Has there ever been a dumber, more amoral society, in Europe?

    I imagine that Sodom and Gomorah must have been something like this…

  19. re Angyan

    As it was discussed retaliation must absolutely be inevitable if order is to be maintained. This is how the mafia works all over the world from the Camorra to Los Zetas. The problem is that the mafia is almost indestructible where it gains foothold. In a way, mafia is a symptom of deeper problems, for which apparently there exists no real cure.

  20. The mafia is angry – don’t know if this has been reported here yet:

    Hungary’s foreign ministry has summoned the US charge d’affaires, Andre Goodfriend, to discuss comments made recently by US President Barack Obama about the situation of civil society in Hungary.

    http://www.politics.hu/20140927/hungary-summons-top-us-diplomat-over-civil-society-remarks/

    I just hope that Mr. Goodfriend stays in Budapest – though I couldn’t be angry with him if he chooses an easier workplace. In any case he has already done a lot for democracy in Hungary, thank you, sir!

  21. Just so that I am 100% clearé the regime failing to *legally recognise* a religious group doesn’t mean that religious group can’t continue to practise their beliefs?

    So, to that extent there remains religious freedom.
    OK, so they then don’t get the state money that the corrupt pharisees of the catholic, reform and lutheran bodies qualify for but they do get to keep their morals and principles.

    I would also say that it is actually in those smaller, non-institutionalised churches we see real christianity in action.

    With one or two brave exceptions the representatives of the *mainline* churches don’t preach the Sermon on the Mount because of the fact that it obviously contradicts what is presently happening to the poor and outcasts in Hungary. If hell exists, then a particularly hot corner of it will be reserved for not only the Orban Junta but also their *religious* apologists

  22. @D7 Democrat
    In a strict sense, of course, there is religious freedom, they are not at the stage that physical persecution would follow some religious groups. However, without the state subsidy and without the tax breaks their existence is as good as finished. They are almost all very poor and what money they have usually goes on assisting poor and disadvantaged people. That is why it is absolutely criminal that they are persecuted this way, because you are absolutely correct, they are the ones that are really practicing christian good works and real assistance to the poor and disadvantaged. I personally believe that that is one of the reasons why they are being persecuted. Orban cannot bear anybody else to be giving anyone anything. If they cower and pay homage to him, then they can be well cared for. Otherwise they are cast out. Obviously, in the case of Ivanyi Gabor, his personal revenge is also playing a role. What a despicable human being. The first time in my life I feel ashamed of being Hungarian since this gangster and his cronies came to power.

  23. JGrant,

    The only point I would disagree with you on is this one:
    “However, without the state subsidy and without the tax breaks their existence is as good as finished”

    Orban and the thuggish scum who follow him believe that money is the only tool capable of motivating people.

    So….he believes he will kill off “inconvenient” faith groups (and indeed NGOs and charities generally) by cutting off their finances just as he has succeeded with almost every other layer of independence which existed in Hungarian societry.

    But he is incapable of conceiving of any kind of moral force guiding peoples’ action because he and the typical Fidesz supporter and apologist are completely lacking in even the most basic human decency. They (and I don’t just include Orban here but also his puppets in all the mainstream churches) are, as you say, truly despicable beings.

    Christians and true people of faith, like the NGOers and charity-workers will not lie down and eventually the regime will be left with the problem of how to silence them.

    But the important thing to remember is genuine churches and religious groups generally don’t prosper spiritually because of their financial resources; quite the contrary- look at what an empty shell, literally and metaphorically the RC, Reform and Lutheran churches presently are.

  24. Dear D7 Democrat! I obviously did not express myself precisely enough. I totally agree with you that the only churches doing real Christian good works among the needy layers are these small churches and I also agree that in moral terms they are way above the registered big churche. However, and this is something that you are probably not able to contemplate probably due to distance or lack of practical experience of the realities of current day Hungary. These good works DO depend on finance. They need transport, they need petrol, they need food, clothing etc. to take to the poor. In their schools they need teachers (not everybody can work for nothing) etc,, etc. Of course, Orban will not kill them off, not yet at least, but cutting off the finances does make a difference and it’s not just me who says that. They themselves were saying it. Also, lack of registration means that they cannot receive people;s offer of 1% of their taxes, which seems to be the only way charitable donations can be got in Hungary. It is not like in Western Europe or the US, where you can campaign hard and you will find rich donors for poor people, that is not very prevalent in Hungary. So, I agree that the Ivanyi Gabors of this world will carry on to the bitter end, but the effectiveness of what they can do in their ministrations to the poor, the downtrodden, the persecuted and discriminated against will suffer, whatever they do.

  25. Since the actual transcript of Goodfriend’s interview on ATV is relatively short I thought people would like to read it. It’s not long and certainly is relevant to Eva’s post.

    M. André Goodfriend on being a “good friend” to Hungary

    Transcript of ATV’s Olga Kálmán interview with acting US embassy spokesperson M. André Goodfriend on recent comments by former US President Bill Clinton and President Barack Obama critical of the Hungarian government.

    Olga Kálmán (OK): Within a short period of time two American presidents, one former and one current, have condemned the Hungarian government. Bill Clinton for the most part condemned the prime minister when stating in a manner that could not be misunderstood that he was only interested in power and money. Obama condemned the Hungarian government for attacks on civil society. The Hungarian government’s official response arrived soon thereafter: the former and current presidents are probably not informed, or even misinformed. Hungary’s new Foreign Minister, Peter Szijjártó, said Bill Clinton has not been to Hungary in a long time. Fidesz party deputy chairman Lajos Kósa said the president had been misled. Our guest tonight is acting spokesman for the US embassy Mr. André Goodfriend, which makes him the senior official at the US embassy.

    M. André Goodfriend (MAG): Good evening.

    OK: Were you the one who misled the former and current presidents?

    MAG: We like to think that we’re providing the best information possible to our government with regard to the situation. So it was us who provided, as well as others, the information to the administration.

    OK: How accurate and up to date is the American President’s knowledge about a given country?

    MAG: The purpose of a diplomatic mission is to understand the situation of the country where we are as well as to convey the US perspective in that country. The information we were providing back to our government we believe is accurate, it’s up to date, it’s as current as the conversation you and I are having now. And the situation I’ve seen in this studio and in the street is the situation that is in Hungary today. It’s accurate. We speak with people on the street. We speak with government members. We speak with members of civil society. We speak with different political parties whether on the right or on the left. We try to understand the full situation here. Not just based upon, pardon me, media reports, but based upon our expert observations of being here, of as I said seeing things with our own eyes and providing our own professional analysis back to our government.

    OK: Where is the report prepared on the basis of what you experience sent and how does it get to the President for him to include in a speech?

    MAG: There are many ways that we communicate now. In fact, part of the challenge of modern diplomacy as opposed to diplomacy of 50 years ago is working in an environment where there are so many ways to communicate that is not just sitting with a member of the government in a closed room and discussing what our policies might be and expecting that the policies will be that we’ll have a conversation, that we agree, and everything changes because the government has agreed to implement the policy, and we report that back by letter to our government. Now the situation with email, with the internet, with social media, with so many different organizations here, when we talk with people we may communicate back by email, we’ll talk in a café, will talk in open fora. I like to talk to groups. I’ve spoken to schools. I’ve spoken with conservative salons, with salons on the left. I hear perspectives from political leaders. And I — not just me of course but our entire embassy — we try to synthesize our experience, we have to talk with each other as well. The embassy is composed of a political section, an economics section, a management section, a consular section, public affairs, commercial affairs, law enforcement. We work closely with the government. We work closely internally. We try to provide the best assessment possible back to our government. And we’re also very public about it. Perhaps that’s changed as well. We put out statements from the embassy. I have a blog. I post things on the blog. I write the blog myself. I use Twitter. Our official statements, reports and analyses come out every year on a range of topics with regards to human rights, with regards to religious freedom, trafficking in persons, a full range of our assessments. They cannot be kept private. They have to be made public so that the citizens where we are can see what we think, what our facts are.

    OK: What was the concrete situation, concrete event that caused Bill Clinton to mention but mainly Obama to mention Hungary among those countries whose current environment is not grounds for pride . Why now?

    MAG: With regard to former President Bill Clinton, I can’t speak for him. He’s no longer a member of the US administration. With regard to President Obama, the discussion is about civil society. This is an important time with regard to civil society. This is the one-year anniversary of the “Stand with Civil Society Initiative” President Obama launched last September. And for some months this has been the focus of discussions at the United Nations. With regards to why these things were mentioned now, if you look at the speech at the Clinton Global Initiative it was about civil society and the importance of standing with civil society for governments to support this very important aspect of democracy. His speech at the Clinton Global Initiative was on the 23rd. Just yesterday at the United Nations General Assembly he spoke again, and civil society was also a part of his speech yesterday. The importance of civil society as a security matter.

    OK: Okay. But how did we come to be associated with Venezuela, China and Russia?

    MAG: If you look at the situation with regards to civil society here and the situation with regard to civil society in the other countries that were mentioned, I think the relationship is clear. Our position, our concerns with regards to what is happening with civil society here have been expressed at the OSCE (Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe) as well. In June of this year we made a statement. It’s not just our representative to the OSCE who makes a statement. He speaks on behalf of the US government in this forum where we discuss our common values as members of this organization. In June he made a statement with regards to the intimidation of civil society and media in Hungary and laid out the reasons for our concerns. with regards to intimidation. The intimidation aspect was not something that the United States dreamed up.

    OK: You’re saying that is the concern of the White House.

    MAG: These are the concerns of the US government with regards to civil society. Again, it’s a positive concern. It’s a concern to support civil society wherever it is. This is the name of this initiative. Stand with civil society. We see civil society as something that is important in any democracy. It’s important for security. It’s important for the stability of society that the voices of people be heard by their government.

    OK: What do you think, what do you see, and what did you write in the report, the reason why in Hungary civil society and certain civil organizations within it are being criticized and attacked by the government?

    MAG: The “why” question has to be asked to the Hungarian government. I’m not a mind reader. That’s the question that we asked. Why is this happening? What we do see is that it is happening. And what we document are the facts of what is happening with regards to the audit that began in June. That’s a fact. No one disputes this. Audits began that the civil society organizations here felt intimidated—this is again what they said—that they felt that the space for them to engage in their important work was being narrowed by the actions of the government here. So our statement was about the fact of intimidation—this is what they felt by these audits. There is a discussion between the government of Hungary and the government of Norway with regards to what has happened and why it’s happening. The government of Norway has made their assessment clear. The government of Hungary has tried to explain its perspective with regards to what it is doing in a very legal sense of where the monies go and who they belong to, etc. But our focus has been on what the impact is on civil society itself; these important institutions, these important vehicles that hold governments accountable. We in the United States value the criticism that we get from civil society. We look at them as a way to keep us accountable to our people. And we hope that other democracies see things the same way.

    OK: What can be the consequence of the United States warning Hungary not to intimidate civil society or cut off its funds? What can be the concrete consequences of the warning issued by the two presidents? Can the relationship between Hungary and the United States change? Might there be some kind of sanctions?

    MAG: The discussion with regards to civil society and our relationship with Hungary is as an ally, as a friend. We do believe that we hold common values. Our membership in the OSCE indicates that we accept these values of human rights, the right to assembly, the importance of free speech, all of these are values that we say we respect. What we are doing now is highlighting how this appears to us, and expressing to an ally, a friend, what this looks like to us, what this looks like to the world. Just as if you are going with your friend and are about to step out and you ask, “how do I look? Be honest with me. Do I look all right? I don’t want to have something on my face. I want to make sure that I’m dressed right”. You expect your friend to tell you honestly. It’s the person who is not your friend, who smiles behind your back, and doesn’t say “you need to button up, you need to … ” (gesturing). And we expect others will tell us this. As President Obama said yesterday in the General Assembly we recognize, too, that there are things that happen in the United States that cause international concern. He mentioned Ferguson, Missouri. We know that there are things that we need to work out. And we expect others to tell us about this. And this is what we are doing with friends now. We are having a conversation publicly with a friend.

    OK: If a friend doesn’t accept the good advice, then what is the next step?

    MAG: Referring to my earlier analogy, if a friend doesn’t listen to the other friend about how they look when they step out in public, the consequences for the person who chooses to step out in public in that way – the perception of Hungary, how other countries perceive the situation in Hungary is damaged because of what is happening here. And we’re trying to convey through these discussions that this is what this looks like. Within the OSCE we’re similarly expressing the concern that this is what this looks like to your friends. When I meet with members of government I also say this is how we perceive this. These are the facts that we have seen. This is how this looks. It’s up to you to explain how this might be acceptable within a democratic society. But you have to understand that this is how this looks. With regards to what will happen next, again what our focus is, it’s not on trying to penalize an ally but on trying to strengthen civil society wherever it might be. The points that President Obama made at the United Nations or in his speech to the Clinton Global Initiatives were about the things the United States is doing. We’re trying to support and strengthen civil society around the world. And that is what we will continue to do. To try to work harder with civil society organizations so that they can stand more effectively on their feet and represent their own societies more effectively.

    OK: Certainly you have heard that Norway is also our friend. At first Norway said that our collar was crooked, the broach (gesturing), and our rouge is in the wrong place. And then things reached the level when our friend’s Minister for Europe called for sanctions if the government doesn’t see things better. Is the Obama administration contemplating calling for any sanctions of any kind against Hungary?

    MAG: Our goal is never sanctions. Our goal is to strengthen civil society. Our goal is to have democratic institutions be accepted as the normal way of governance around the world. This is the way that we try to work.

    OK: And if they don’t accept our advice?

    MAG: Well then in a democratic society this is a matter for the people here to decide. We don’t imagine that we are just speaking to a government. We’re speaking in a public forum. That this is how this looks. This is a democracy. People here can decide whether to shape their government with the vision they have for their future. I have spoken to many people now in the past month or so about what the Hungarian vision is for its future. How can we work together with our democratic partner to try and achieve this common vision. Frankly, I don’t have an answer yet for that. About what Hungary’s vision for its future is. Because we would like to help.

    OK: Was Obama’s criticism directed at the Hungarian government or the Hungarian people?

    MAG: Again, I’m avoiding using the word “criticism”. We are having a discussion. . . .If my shirt is unbuttoned it is not criticism. It’s discussing what the situation is. We’re working as friends to have that situation be one that is better for both. It’s a discussion where we are seeing things that we both hope we agree can be improved. And we ask our friends to tell us about the situation with us in the United States and share this information.

    OK: Well, now we’ve told each other. Thank you.

    MAG: Thank you. It was my pleasure.

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