- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 9, 2009

RECKLESS DRIVING

The prime minister of Hungary compared the previous government to a teenager driving recklessly, as he described his country’s financial crisis at a dinner for Hungarian-Americans in Washington.

Gordon Bajnai said Hungary under the former prime minister, Ferenc Gyurcsany, took the nation on a “daredevil” ride toward the edge of a cliff. Mr. Bajnai and Mr. Gyurcsany are members of the Hungarian Socialist Party.

Mr. Bajnai, elected in April, told the Hungarian American Coalition that his austerity policies are producing results but will require more belt-tightening. On his Washington visit, Mr. Bajnai also announced that Hungary will send 200 more troops to Afghanistan, increasing its force to 500.

Janos Martonyi, former foreign minister and a member of the center-right Hungarian Civic Union, in his remarks to the coalition, discussed Hungary’s role in a post-Cold War world.

He noted that Hungary, with a population of about 10 million, is a small country but aspires to a large role in the European Union.

“The most important things in life - such as honor, integrity, courage, love or patriotism - cannot be quantified,” he said.

However, Mr. Martonyi added, Hungary must solve internal disputes, especially ethnic discrimination that often blames Roma, or gypsies, for crime and violence.

“If we can agree, and I think many of us do, that we must establish some degree of national consensus in Hungary, then we should agree to discuss issued and stop labeling each as we have done too often during our history,” he said.

Maximilian Teleki, the coalition president, noted that this year marks the 20th anniversary of the fall of communism but Hungary still faces a threat from Russia.

“For Hungary to solidify its future in the Western community of democratic nations, it must reject Russian aggression in all its forms - it’s expanding financial and energy interest - which ultimately threaten not only Hungary’s sovereignty but also its cultural and spiritual autonomy,” he said.

“Hungary must get beyond historic divisions that continue to play such a destructive role in Hungarian politics and society. In religious, social and cultural issues alike, Hungary can and must be scrupulous in embracing and defending individual civil liberties and the rule of law.”

LOSING SRI LANKA

A top U.S. diplomat arrived in Sri Lanka on Tuesday, after the Senate warned the Obama administration against alienating the strategic South Asian nation that defeated terrorist rebels after a 25-year civil war.

“The United States cannot afford to ‘lose’ Sri Lanka,” the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said in a report issued Monday.

Robert Blake, assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs, told reporters that he is satisfied with the pace of refugee resettlement by the Sri Lankan government, All India Radio reported. Mr. Blake was U.S. ambassador in Sri Lanka from 2006 to 2009.

More than 280,000 people fled the fighting between the army and the rebels of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. The army defeated the rebels in May.

After the victory, the United States and other Western nations criticized President Mahinda Rajapaksa for civilian deaths during the final days of the fighting. Mr. Rajapaksa blamed most of the civilian deaths on the rebels.

“The challenge for the United States will be to encourage Sri Lanka to embrace political reform without pushing the country towards Burma-like isolation,” the Senate committee said.

Mr. Rajapaksa visited Burma, now called Myanmar and run by a military dictatorship, earlier this year.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@ washingtontimes.com.


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