- 5 Feb 2014 8:00 AM
Last week, János Lázár, the state secretary for the Prime Minister’s Office said that NSA data collection on Hungarian politicians could influence US-Hungarian relations. Mr. Lázár added that the Parliamentary Committee set up to investigate NSA spying on Hungary may want to request a hearing with Ms Colleen Bell, the future US ambassador to Budapest. Mr. Lázár’s comments were made a day prior to US Senator McCain’s visit to Budapest.
After meeting PM Orbán as well as the leaders of the left-wing opposition, Mr. McCain said that the US in the future would only collect data if the security of the US or its allies are under threat. In an aside, he added that the US is concerned about democratic institutions and the rule of law in Hungary. Senator McCain also noted that international observers should be invited to monitor the Parliamentary election in April. Commenting on the planned World War memorial (see BudaPost January 31) he said that if the monument appears to legitimize “German behavior” and the behavior of those collaborating with Nazi Germany, then Hungarian Jews have every right to be offended by the memorial.
In Népszava, Tamás Mészáros deems János Lázár’s idea to invite Colleen Bell for a Parliamentary Commission hearing ’a mere stunt’. Since the US would hardly agree to share any of the details of the NSA data collection project, and the ambassador would, no doubt, refuse to appear before the Committee, Mr. Lázár’s statement can only be interpreted as a resentful reaction to Colleen Bell’s earlier remarks on Hungary (see BudaPost, January 20 ). Mészáros calls the words of the State Secretary an act of pathetic symbolic revenge and believes that his comment was intended to remind Hungarian voters “of the government’s battle against the West”.
The US is our ally and friend, Gyula T. Máté writes in Magyar Hírlap. The pro-government columnist points out that Hungary as a member of NATO has cooperated with the US in several missions. We recognize, he continues, that the US should play a key role in global geopolitics, although Hungary has a somewhat different stance than the US Republicans on the extent to which democracy can be exported to other continents.
Commenting on the remarks made by Colleen Bell and by Senator McCain on the state of democracy in Hungary, Máté finds it unusual that the US expresses disapproval of the present government just a matter of weeks before the election, and asks whether the US would be less critical if a future left-wing government commissioned a US company rather than Russian ones to build new blocks at the Paks power plant (see BudaPost through January 16). Máté concludes by wishing that Hungary not be treated as a puppet theatre, “even if some of the puppets would not object to this”.
Magyar Nemzet‘s Tamás Fritz believes that Senator McCain’s factually wrong statements amount to a severe offense to Hungary. The pro-government commentator recalls that the Hungarian government amended the laws criticized by the Council of Europe, and thus Senator McCain’s fears over the weakening of democracy in the country only mirror unfounded accusations by the left-wing opposition.
Fritz finds it particularly insulting that Senator McCain proposed to send US observers to the parliamentary elections, as if Hungary was similar to Honduras, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Congo or Zimbabwe. (The Council of Europe will send its own observers as usual.) As for the comments on the World War II Memorial, Fritz finds the accusation that it might be intended to legitimize the Nazi occupiers outright ridiculous. Instead of all these issues, Senator McCain should have spoken about the NSA spying scandal, which makes Hungarians worry about the state of democracy in the US, Fritz concludes.
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