This week’s biggest story has been US senator John McCain’s remarks on Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and on the Hungarian-Russian relations. McCain’s words have been stirring great controversy in Hungary, and generating reactions all across the world press. In today’s HT blog post we have collected some of the international reactions. Most of the journals simply convey McCain’s criticism and the well-know clichés on Viktor Orbán’s government and Hungary. At the same time they tend to forget answering the question: are those comments appropriate from a high-ranking US senator dealing with foreign affairs?
The Republican senator had been unimpressed with Ms Bell this year when he questioned her during her confirmation hearing about what she planned to do differently from her predecessor as ambassador to Budapest. […] However, it was his next comments that most riled the Hungarian government and prompted Foreign Minister Peter Szijjártó to summon US charge d’affaires Andre Goodfriend.
Last month, AFP reported Orban as saying that Hungary’s relations with Russia have become “entangled in geopolitical and military and security policy issues.” The PM said that the US was retaliating for Budapest’s willingness to endorse the South Stream gas pipeline, as well as a deal that would see Russian firm Rosatom develop Hungary’s nuclear power.
Senator John McCain’s campaign against President Barack Obama’s unqualified ambassador picks suffered a major blow Tuesday when the Senate confirmed political bundlers to positions in Hungary and Argentina.
The U.S. State Department distanced the U.S. administration from the remarks. “I think it’s no surprise that there are a number of views Senator McCain has espoused that we don’t share,” Spokeswoman Marie Harf told a regular news briefing.
The United States has become increasingly critical of Orban’s government, accusing him of getting too close to Russia since east-west tensions rose over Ukraine. […] The United States, as well as European Union partners, has also criticised Orban for what they see as weakening democratic checks and balances and attacking non-governmental organisations.
The Washington Post
But McCain’s comments aren’t out of left field. As we noted three years ago, the United States has been concerned about Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s “anti-democratic antics.” Even then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave Orban a talking-to, warning him against letting “democracy anywhere backslide.”
South China Morning Post
Since mid-October, Hungarians have waged a string of street rallies in Budapest and other cities to protest a range of alleged misdeeds by Orban, including a violation of democratic norms, suspected tolerance to corruption and an increasingly pro-Russian stance that is harming ties with the West. US criticism has played a strong supporting role, with the latest salvo coming this week from Senator John McCain, who called Orban a “neofascist dictator”.
McCain, a former US presidential contender, later said he was not concerned about how his remarks were being taken by the Hungarian government, and that he urged Orban to change during a trip to Hungary last January.
photo: PM Viktor Orbán’s official Facebook page (Budapest, 31 January 2014)