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Embassy Row: Mission accomplished
Question of the Day
The deputy prime minister of Hungary left Washington this week confident that he made progress is dispelling charges that his country hates minorities, represses journalists and manipulates the judicial system.
Tibor Navracsics met with Supreme Court Associate Justice Anthony M. Kennedy and Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, Maryland Democrat and chairman of the Commission for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
Mr. Navracsics held talks with Philip H. Gordon, assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs.
He addressed the German Marshall Fund of the United States, the Heritage Foundation and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Mr. Navracsics invited American journalists to breakfast at the residence of Hungarian Ambassador Gyorgy Szapary and ended his U.S. visit with a trip to New York to meet with American-Jewish leaders.
“I’m here to say that Hungary is a stable country that obeys the rule of law and enjoys representative democracy,” he told reporters in Washington.
Hungary has been battling charges from human rights advocates who accuse the country of discriminating against Jews and Gypsies. They cite the rise of the extremist Jobbik political party and blame the governing Fidesz party for fostering what they see as a climate of intolerance toward minorities and the European Union.
Mr. Navracsics noted that Jobbik continues to decline in popularity, drawing less than 14 percent approval in recent public opinion polls. It is the third-largest party in the 386-member parliament, but holds only 47 seats.
Fidesz, a traditional conservative and free-market party, holds two-thirds of the seats and is expected to retain a smaller majority in parliamentary elections next year.
“Jobbik is very good at presenting easy solutions,” Mr. Navracsics said, referring to the party’s vilification of Jews as national security risks and Gypsies as criminals.
“They are in decline. Traditionally Hungarians are not attracted to radical parties,” he added.
Mr. Navracsics’ visit to Washington was buoyed when Thorbjoern Jagland, secretary-general of the Council of Europe, announced in Brussels on Tuesday that Hungary has made “significant progress” in addressing many of the objections that some European nations had to its media and judiciary laws.
He also said that the Hungarian government will continue to “further improve the legislation” in future meetings with the council, which promotes human rights and democracy among its 47 member nations in Europe.
Also this week, the last Holocaust survivor in the Hungarian parliament dismissed the Jobbik party, saying “fear in their political capital” and defended Hungary against charges of anti-Semitism.
“Hungarian society is no worse than the rest of Europe,” Janos Fonagy, a Fidesz party member, told the Times of Israel in a report from Budapest.
Mr. Navracsics also defended Prime Minister Victor Orban’s handling of the Hungarian economy, which is recovering from the severe shock of the financial collapse in 2008.
Mr. Orban has cut income taxes but increased some corporate taxes. He has cut the budget deficit, and hopes to get borrowing down to 3 percent of GDP this year.
However, the International Monetary Fund remains unimpressed and has criticized Mr. Orban for interfering in the market and for “unpredictable tax policy changes.”
Mr. Navracsics pointed out that Hungarians make on average less than $1,000 a month. Unemployment was about 11 percent and inflation 5.6 percent last year.
“There is no place for financial orthodoxy,” he said.
• Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or email email@example.com. The column is published on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
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About the Author
James Morrison joined the The Washington Times in 1983 as a local reporter covering Alexandria, Va. A year later, he was assigned to open a Times bureau in Canada. From 1987 to 1989, Mr. Morrison was The Washington Times reporter in London, covering Britain, Western Europe and NATO issues. After returning to Washington, he served as an assistant foreign editor ...
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