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Departing US Ambassador Says Hungarian Government Overestimates George Soros’ Power

By Tamás Székely // 2017.01.19.

“I told my Hungarian government negotiation partners over and over again, they were overestimating George Soros’ capacity to influence the policies of the United States or elected US officials”, Colleen Bell, the departing US Ambassador to Budapest, said in a lengthy farewell interview with Hungarian news portal index.hu.

According to Bell, George Soros is a businessman, who is often accused of “villainous manipulations”, despite he has done “many great things” for Hungary, including supporting the Roma community, offering scholarship programs for talented Hungarians, and establishing successful institutions such as the Central European University in Budapest. In the interview, Colleen Bell also defended US assistant secretary of state Victoria Nuland, who was criticized by Hungarian government officials over attempting to influence Hungarian domestic politics.

Commenting on the Soros-backed civil organisations, which – what they say – are now assaulted by the government for the same reason, Bell said most of the NGOs are formed by country-loving citizens and these organisations are crucial to democracy. They should be cooperating with them rather then planning a crackdown on the sector, she noted.

Answering a question about Hungary’s radical nationalist Jobbik party, Colleen Bell ruled out any chance of future cooperation with the extremist party. She said she was aware of party leader Gábor Vona’s strategy of striking a more moderate tone recently, but insisted that “Jobbik’s history was full of discriminatory and antisemitic remarks”, which constitutes the exact opposite the Untied States represents through its Embassy in Budapest.

Colleen Bell, who has been awarded with a Hungarian state decoration, also said she has every reason to be satisfied with her achievements as US Ambassador to Budapest. “I put the focus of my work on the three main pillars of our cooperation: security, defense and economic relations”, she said. It was a very intense period packed with serious international events such as the refugee crisis, the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the Brexit or the failure of the Turkish coup d’état, she said, adding that despite all of these, she really enjoyed every minute of her time in Hungary.

via index.hu; cover photo: Tamás Sóki – MTI