- The Washington Times - Friday, November 27, 2009


Hungarian Ambassador Bela Szombati’s interview with The Washington Times is unique in its characterization of Hungary (“Ready for rebound,” Embassy Row, World, Nov. 18). Mr. Szombati’s optimistic prediction that Hungary is poised for an economic recovery must be welcome news for Hungarians. They deserve a more robust growth cycle following the mismanagement of the past several years, which exacerbated the effects of the global financial crisis in Hungary.

The ambassador’s reference to interethnic relations in Hungary, including the situation of the Roma, mentions only “hatred” and “a lot of prejudice,” thereby ignoring an exceedingly complex social problem that not even the government has been able to address effectively. While discussing prejudice, he also could have referred to the intolerance toward the Hungarian minorities throughout the region. The discriminatory language law in Slovakia that criminalizes the use of the Hungarian language is a prime example of such intolerance, and it is an issue that is not receiving the attention it deserves.

While Hungarians are learning how to live in their newly restored democracy, as stated by the ambassador, he neglected to mention that these problems can be traced directly to the 45 years of totalitarianism imposed on Hungary during the Cold War. He could have pointed out that the strong democratic vein running through Hungary’s modern history will ensure that his country’s political future will be bright, especially after the old impulses and lingering negative effects of the previous dictatorship disappear.

In support of this assertion, the ambassador could have mentioned the great Hungarian democrats: Louis Kossuth, who led the reform movement and war of independence against Austria in 1848 and whose bust is on display in the U.S. Capitol; the Smallholders of 1945 who won democratic elections despite Soviet occupation and interference; the freedom fighters of the 1956 revolution; or the democratic opposition in the late 1980s that helped topple communism.

Absent this historical context, the published interview left an erroneous impression about Hungary, an impression the ambassador clearly did not want to leave.



American Hungarian Federation

Great Falls

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