February 21st, 2012

American Hungarian Federation defends Hungary against criticism

Hungary has recently been harshly and often unfairly criticised, the president of the American Hungarian Federation (AHF) said on Monday, in a letter briefing the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs ahead of its delegation’s visit to Hungary this week.

Frank Koszorus said in the letter that the AHF believes that much of the criticism Hungary has received was ether politically motivated or “not evenhanded or based on facts but on generalisations and speculation”. He cited a new law on religions, which has been criticised as being too restrictive, as an example.

He said parts of the law had been annulled by Hungary’s Constitutional Court last December. Lawmakers are set to extend the law to officially recognise additional religions to the original 14, which incidentally is the same as the number of official religions recognised in neighbouring Austria, Koszorus added.

The AHF, which has supported constitutional democracy and a rule of law in Hungary over the past few decades, asked Dan Burton, the head of the delegation and of the European subcommittee of the US House Committee, to consider the federation’s testimony on these issues before its pending visit to Hungary.

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  • Harvey

    Mr. Koszorus fails to aknowledge that the changes in the Constitution are being made under intense pressure from the EU as well as individual nations. That he cannot or will not recognize the potential for political abuse in inherent in these law doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Give a government a “power” and they will use it. I think the EU is absolutely correct in not letting Viktor getting away with institutionalizing the current autocracy.

    • Z

      If this is the way of your thinking, then similarly you can suspect the possibility of abuse in the legislation of ANY country.

      • Vidra

        Of course! Who thinks that the British National Health system is safe with Cameron, that Berlusconi will go to prison or that Greece will hit the rich tax-dodgers? That’s why you need a substantial effective parliamentary opposition and institutional checks and balances. In the absence of such in Hungary, we have to make do with outsiders (who may or may not be well-informed) shouting the odds.

  • Kristóf

    Yup, us overseas Hungarians have lived in the real world long enough to know a mugging when we see one! Go Frank, go!

  • George Dunn

    Good for them. Not sure why Politics.Hu excerpted the statement so much. Their Website has the statement in full, and I find it another well-written document that could have posted directly. It is moderate in tone, intelligent and nuanced (uncharacteristic of many Hungarians these days). It doesn’t take sides on any specific issues, but merely calls attention to what any outsider would see as pure politics at the expense of an entire nation’s reputation. More polarization, a lack of civil discourse and Hungarians don’t seem to notice this is wrong.

    I find Harvey’s comment interesting in that it seems he approves of an extra-national body dictating a country’s Constitution or other laws – laws made by a democratically elected government that is complying with changes dictated by its own Constutional Court. I guess Harvey was also OK when the dictating was coming from the other direction in the USSR and under an “edited” 1949 Communist Constitution. Hungary was a good girl then, always listening to daddy since he carried a thick whip. It’s about time she rise to the independence and prominence she deserves.

    This can go both ways, let’s remember. It shouldn’t matter who is in power. We should be focused on the issues and not the personalities. As I said in many previous posts, I am still very perplexed by the rabid criticisms absent ANY concrete examples of democracy at risk. The best I heard so far was judge retirement age!

    MOST INTERESTING is that the EU and media seem obsessed with innocuous internal Hungarian policies (like judge retirement age) while sayign nothing about Slovakia stripping Hungarians of citizenship. Down Under, we wouldn’t accept such a brazen slap in the face. Where are all the so-called “Hungarians” when it comes to these actions?

    This is called passive aggression. 50 years of Communism has emasculated Hungarians to the point that many resort to name-calling and lash out vehemently at their own family than face the real challenges. I am sure we’ll see such commentary here soon – we always do.

  • Curious George

    @GD – Surprise, surprise! You’re back with another post defending another yet another AHF article. Impartial observer, gimme a break!
    Just to address your previous post which I typed out, but didn’t have time to post previously.
    Unlike what you said, the AHF is not one organization but claims to be an umbrella group covering 71 American Hungarian organizations. It managed to raise the equivalent of about $0.10 from every American Hungarian. Their home page reveals more about living in the past, than in helping to solve any of Hungary’s present day issues. A quick search on the points you brought up shows their focus:
    Scholarship – mostly to Hungarians in greater Hungary
    Anti-semitism – yes, issues outside Hungary
    Minority issues – nothing on Roma in Hungary, but lots on Hungarians outside Hungary
    Farm co-operatives – nothing significant (examples, please if I’m wrong)
    Volunteerism in Hungary – ok, link for volunteers for Transylvania flood & but several links to 1956 & Trianon commemorations.
    Like I said, they are really irrelevant to developments in present day Hungary.

    • George Dunn

      @Curious – I went to their Website again. Looks like the left side is full of current activities. They also raised quarter million USD to help flood and toxic sludge victims in 2011. Maybe that’s .00000001 cents per Hungarian worldwide, but not insignificant. Petty of you to criticise such a thing. What surprises me is that they are volunteer. Interesting. We have a similar organizations in Australia, but not nearly as active. Again, its easy to criticise and harder to act – How much have you “helped?”

      In any case, this is all off topic – the point they are making is absolutely correct – and they make their point well, in front of decision makers and press. Ineffectual or not is your opinion.

    • Curious George

      I’m not disputing their effort, only the AHF’s overall effectiveness in making a visible & sustainable difference within Hungary. Lobbying is fine, but talk is cheap.
      How have I helped? I’m trying to help by imparting some skills to a small bunch of young people to cope with present & future challenges (teaching them to fish, so to speak).

  • George Dunn

    Past is prologue. I don’t really know or care about how AHF are organized. I just focus on the issues and have great distaste for partisan rancor. I like their statements, however. I also see plenty of current affairs, so I am not sure what you mean. Anyway…

    Why is speaking out against discrimination against Hungarians irrelevant or less worthy than any other ethnic group? That’s the point, I think. There are lots of anti-Hungarian acts going on out there, but few in Hungary with the balls to speak out. At least these guys do. You keep repeating, “outside Hungary.” Are these Hungarians any less Hungarian?

    I presume you agree there are acts of discrimination against Hungarians? No? If so, what is your proposal to stop it?

    • Curious George

      Glad you mentioned discrimination against Hungarians. Why not try to solve discrimination by Hungarians against other Hungarians within Hungary? Or do you think this sort of discrimination is imagined?

      “Are these Hungarians any less Hungarian?” That depends on who you ask.

      • justasking


        “Why not try to solve discrimination by Hungarians against other Hungarians within Hungary?”

        You just made his point by dismissing his question. Are we going to have a competition of discrimination or be selective about which one we condone?

        • Curious George

          @JA – No, discrimination is discrimination, regardless of who is the victim. The difference I see, is in who brings it up. The AHF is not a legal organization in Hungary (I think), let alone in Romania or Slovakia. As a diaspora organization of a (perceived?) oppressor, they have even less moral standing in either of the two countries. Hence, it would be better to leave such issues to groups who are impartial or neutral (eg human rights groups), or others with the legal standing (eg the EU).
          There are a lot to be done for Hungary’s development. So all things considered, I think the AHF would do better off proactively spending its effort on achieving a targeted objective in Hungary. So, far all their effort here seem to come across as particularly half-hearted or partisan. Given the resources at their disposal, and their experience of having lived in and adapted to countries with more different people, they can contribute a lot more in helping Hungarians adapt to modern day soceital changes.

          • justasking


            “No, discrimination is discrimination, regardless of who is the victim. The difference I see, is in who brings it up.”

            I don’t know if I agree with that last sentence.

            There is a higher level of discrimination against Muslims I would say…you don’t hear people getting all up in arms about that. To me it seems it all comes down to which group of people are more organized and when a situation arises…use it towards they’re own benefit for maximum impact.

            There is a level of condoned discrimination that we all participate in…it’s not right, but doesn’t make it less true.

          • Curious George

            @JA – I think the person/organization bringing up the issue loses credibility if he/she/org. is also tainted by ignoring the same issues at home. It would be different, if they are simultaneously trying to solve it while highlighting it to others. As I said to GD, the AHF can choose to talk ineffectually, or to contribute pro-actively with programs in Hungary.

            “To me it seems it all comes down to which group of people are more organized and when a situation arises…use it towards they’re own benefit for maximum impact.”

            So, are you saying it should be okay for well-organized international J*ewish organizations to bring up the discrimination of their kin in Hungary? Or file lawsuits against MAV in Chicago?

          • justasking


            “I think the person/organization bringing up the issue loses credibility if he/she/org. is also tainted by ignoring the same issues at home”

            Oh definitely, I agree…but keep in mind, the squeaky wheel always gets the grease.

            “So, are you saying it should be okay for well-organized international…”

            No, I never said that at all…but, that is a good example of well organized groups exploiting a situation for maximum benefit.

  • George Dunn

    Thanks, JustAsking. I often feel I am in the Land of Oz as a non-Hungarian trying to convince Hungarians that they should value other Hungarians. So surreal.

    @Curious – I have been involved with plenty of NGO’s; I can tell you no single organization can tackle all issues. I am also sure a volunteer ethnic organization has significant resource constraints. They too have to pick their battles. For example, there seem to be plenty of organizations fighting the battle to illuminate issues with Roma, but few organizations dare to tackle a thornier issue for the EU in Central Europe and the root cause of anti-Hungarian programs – TRIANON.

    To me, this lingering menace will continue to linger and the EU and related NGO’s will tackle the easy and obvious issues first. To ask you your own question: what aren’t the NGO’s or EU dealing with even the most glaring issues facing Hungarian communities? Slovakia is an easy example:

    Slovakia actually reaffirmed the Benes Decress, no outcry. Slovakia passes a ridiculous \Language Law,\ no outcry. Slovakia changes its citizenship rules to target Hungarians specifically, no outcry. These are NOT PARTISAN issues, but for political reasons are made so, further polarizing a nation trying to emerge from the trauma of 50 years of communist tyranny. The NGO’s and EU remain silent and Hungarians seem to care less. Why?

    Becuase Western Europe was responsible for Hungary’s fate, I am sure there is an element of discomfort as they would be forced to face the facts. But there’s more to it. Apartheid in South Africa is perhaps a good analogy. It was easy for the average, uneducated person to see the discrimination in there as it was, quite literally, black and white. Uganda, Darfour, Serbia, or other areas where there is ethnic cleansing and other atrocities against similarly colored people takes some deeper understanding of history – to understand the \grey\ area where divisions are deeper and more complex. As spineless Europe watched, it took the Americans to take action against Serbian ethnic cleansing savings tens of thousands of lives. It took the US to do the same in Libya.

    The Hungarians of the Carpathian Basin fall into this complicated category and they deserve your attention while others neglect them. Wouldn’t you agree?

    While NGO or EU neglect can be explained by these attitudes, I cannot fathom how a Hungarian can accept what is happening across their own border to their own people. Of course, the Communists in their endeavour to establish their \Socialist Brotherhood of Nations\ did all they could to brainwash the masses, eliminate any semblance of healthy Hungarian patriotism, and blur the lines between patriotism and nationalism – more so in Hungary than elsewhere. They were quite successful.

    I will never forget my visit to Hungary where I learned that Hungarians who fly the Hungarian flag in front of their own homes are considered nationalists! I also met a college kid who had no idea that the land across from a bombed out bridge in Esztergom was once Hungary – nor knew the reasons for not rebuilding it. This was 1990. I knew it would take many generations for Hungary to recover. I am now unsure it ever will.

  • Curious George

    @GD – My 24 year old niece rehabilitated 250 hookers in Zambia together with an Austrian friend, and retrained them to set up several small sustainable businesses over period of 2 years. An organization like the AHF has sufficient resources to make a visible difference in more than a few towns & villages.
    You need to spend more time here. I think the inability of Hungarians to deal with Trianon in a rationalized manner is a bigger issue. All the people involved on all sides are long gone, and there are avenues to address some bilateral issues by new players in a mature manner. The problem is the inexperienced of Hungarian politicians. Most seem to think they have the political skills to address Trianon without even being able to solve common, less contentious issues to build up bilateral relations to a level where Trianon can be highlighted. As an ex-diplomat, I think Hungary/Slovakia need at least 10 years of healthy political dialogue & trust before an issue like Trianon can even be brought up. Hungary’s actions (like the president’s visit & dual citizenship) have also not been helpful. If a new president/PM doesn’t even make a courtesy bilateral working visit, in the spirit of common EU membership, you’re dreaming if you think anything of substance can be resolved.
    There are no atrocities happening to Hungarians in same order of magnitude as the examples you describe, and any attempt to make us believe that the underlying basis of any discrimination would lead to that, is either pure exaggeration or total ignorance. I also think you met an exceptionally dumb college kid, or else he misunderstood you.
    How many Australians fly their flags? I’m just curious.

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