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US State Department Official Launches Thinly-Veiled Criticism Against Hungarian Government In Budapest

By Ferenc Sullivan // 2016.05.27.

US State Department Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights Sarah Sewall delivered a speech in Budapest on Wednesday afternoon titled “Democracy and Human Rights: Shared Challenges and Opportunities.”

In her lecture, delivered in the head office of journalists’ union MÚOSZ in the presence of US Ambassador to Hungary Colleen Bell and János Martonyi, the country’s previous foreign minister, Ms. Sewall indirectly made some downright tough statements about the Orbán government but reassured the audience that she still thinks Hungary is a democracy.

“Both of our countries have seen a rise in bigoted and xenophobic rhetoric,” Sewall said during her speech. “In the United States, against Muslims and immigrants from Latin America. Here in Hungary, against religious and ethnic minorities, along with those fleeing violent extremism, civil war and political repression”, the said.

She then spoke at length about the importance of civil society, human rights, fair elections, independent institutions, the rule of law, why a free press is so important, why corruption is bad, etc.

“That’s why institutions like the European Union and NATO affirm that our collective strength is rooted not only in shared interests, but also in shared liberal democratic values,” she concluded.

Ms. Sewall’s remarks about the importance of the EU and NATO and “shared liberal democratic values” can be interpreted as a veiled political reminder to the Hungarian government, especially after a string of criticism which saw leading Hungarian cabinet members, including Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, claim that the Democratic Party is under the influence of the Budapest-born billionaire business mogul George Soros’s  progressive agenda and liberal pro-immigration policies. The Under Secretary dismissed Hungarian suggestions on a connection between George Soros, Barack Obama and the refugee influx as a “false conclusion”.

The accusations against the 86-year-old were made after former US President Bill Clinton criticised Hungary and Poland for “Putin-like leadership” at a recent campaign event in support of the presidential bid of her wife Hillary in New Jersey.

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photo: Money Sharma/AFP