- The Washington Times - Monday, June 28, 2010

BORING COUNTRY?

Hungary produced glamorous actresses like Zsa Zsa Gabor, famous composers like Bela Bartok and legendary actors like Bela Lugosi, star of the iconic film “Dracula.”

Hungarians rose up in an ill-fated popular revolt against communism in 1956 and then embraced a somewhat deranged democracy after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Hungary was even declared the “sick man” of Europe in 2007 with high unemployment, inflation and government debt.

Hungary’s new center-right government hopes to calm the hysteria.

“We would like to become a very boring country,” Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi told reporters last week at breakfast at the residence of Hungarian Ambassador Bela Szombati.

Mr. Martonyi meant that his government desires stability and economic progress.

The Fidesz party government, which took power in April, is already on the path toward restoring economic stability, with a 16 percent flat tax on personal income, lower corporate taxes, government budget cuts and a temporary tax on bank profits.

Mr. Martonyi said his meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton “went very well.”

“I tell you, I feel safe, reassured by U.S. policy toward Central Europe,” he added.

Mr. Martonyi also met with Reps. Shelley Berkley, Nevada Democrat, and Jim Costa, California Democrat, who chair the Transatlantic Legislators’ Dialogue; Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, the senior Republican on the Foreign Affairs Committee; Alcee L. Hastings, Florida Democrat and co-chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe; and Dennis J. Kucinich, Ohio Democrat, and Steven C. LaTourette, Ohio Republican, who serve as co-chairmen of the Hungary Caucus.

Maximilian N. Teleki, president of the Hungarian American Coalition, praised Mr. Martonyi at ceremony for the dedication of a plaque at the Washington home of the late Swiss diplomat, Carl Lutz, who saved thousands of Hungarian Jews in World War II.

Mr. Martonyi is someone who has done great service to the advancement of Hungarian-American relations,” Mr. Teleki said. “He is someone who has been and will be committed to the strengthening of the trans-Atlantic ties.”

MISSILE DIALOGUE

Nine months after caving in to Russian demands to scrap a U.S. missile-defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic, President Obama is proposing to cooperate with Moscow on a global missile defense, according to the U.S. ambassador to Russia.

“We will continue this dialogue so that Russia and we can work together on the creation of a global missile-defense system,” Ambassador John Beyrle told an audience at a Moscow university on Monday.

Former President George W. Bush had proposed installing a radar system in the Czech Republic and stationing defensive missiles in Poland to protect Europe from a possible missile attack from Iran.

DIPLOMATIC TRAFFIC

The British government continues trying to shame the U.S. Embassy into paying a daily fee for its staff to drive in central London, where the streets are so crowded that the city is frequently gridlocked during rush hours.

On Monday, Foreign Secretary William Hague revealed that the U.S. Embassy tops the list of foreign diplomatic missions that owe the city $54 million in the disputed fee. The United States, alone, owes the city $5.75 million in overdue charges dating to 2003, when the fee was first imposed on London drivers.

U.S. Ambassador Louis Susman, backed strongly by the White House, insists that the $12-a-day charge is a tax from which foreign diplomats are exempt under international treaties.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.