The saga of the United States’ entry ban against six Hungarian officials continued this week with the Foreign Ministry state secretary saying the issue has impacted bilateral relations, the chief prosecutor calling for more information from the US, and the Prime Minister saying he will act if given evidence.
The Chargé d’affaires of the US Embassy in Budapest, André Goodfriend, further commented that the US has not barred Hungarian officials because of any measures by the Hungarian government, but because it has evidence that those affected have been involved in corruption. Goodfriend told a press conference that the US therefore does not expect the government to take any action in the case and this is not a sanction against the country.
“Rather than trying to find out who the US entry ban impacts personally, ways should be identified in which the two countries could work together to eliminate graft,” he said.
Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said in Brussels last Friday that Hungary is ready to act on evidence from the US. He said the ban is a charge, and Hungary’s authorities would launch proceedings with no delay once the US provides creditable information to support those charges.
“Since Hungary is a rule of law, no procedures can be initiated without presenting evidence,” Orbán said. Hungary applies the principle of zero tolerance for graft, and if there is a suspicion supported by evidence the authorities are obliged to respond.
He voiced incomprehension why “those who have the evidence” are reluctant to share it with the authorities or the public: “There are many of us who do not understand why it should not happen.” The Hungarian secret services could find out who has been banned, Orbán said, but insisted that it was a matter of principle that “anyone raising a charge should name whom it affects”. However, it was up to the US to decide who is allowed entry, and Hungary would acknowledge that decision.
Goodfriend said the US is ready to conduct an open dialogue and welcomes honest criticism because this is important in a democracy. This is also why they support civil organisations, which express exactly this criticism, he said. According to Goodfriend, the US not only watches Hungary but follows developments in all countries and takes steps if necessary.
He said that at the time of the political regime change Hungary was at the forefront of changes, showing an example to other countries. However, the current developments showed a kind of negative trend and the US did not want this to continue.
The opposition Democratic Coalition (DK) called on Minister for National Economy Mihály Varga and the LMP called on tax office head Ildikó Vida to state whether they are blacklisted from travelling to the US. DK board member Szabolcs Kerék-Bárczy said Varga should also reveal if he is aware of any officials in the organisations he oversees being affected by the US entry ban, including the tax office.
Kerék-Bárczy said Varga should remove the affected officials from these organisations and those who covered up for them. DK called on Orbán to initiate an investigation by the chief public prosecutor.
LMP deputy leader Bernadett Szél said Vida should make it clear if she is affected by the ban. In line with the law on Parliament, state bodies are obliged to provide all information to MPs necessary for fulfilling their tasks, she added.
Varga dismissed press reports that Vida may be on the corruption blacklist. He said he is supposed to receive all information affecting the work of the tax office head, and he had not been informed of any such restriction. Questioned at a press conference, Varga said he had not specifically asked Vida or any other tax office official if they were barred from the US. “If anyone is obliged to provide information in this issue, it is the American side,” he added.
Chief prosecutor Péter Polt appealed to his US counterpart and Goodfriend for information. Referring to a Hungary-US crime prevention agreement signed in 2008, Polt had asked for “all information which can be disclosed under relevant regulations”, the chief prosecutor’s office said. A statement asserted that the office would take appropriate steps with no delay if the US side provides additional information.
It noted that the request was not tendered in the form of an appeal for legal aid, as such assistance could only be requested in connection with an actual case. “The prosecutor’s office is not aware of any case which could be directly associated with the US ban,” the statement said, adding that Hungary’s public prosecutor will “consistently and with all available legal means fight all crimes, including corruption”.
Foreign Ministry state secretary Levente Magyar said in Parliament’s foreign affairs committee on Monday that the issue has impacted Hungarian-US relations but otherwise ties are outstanding.
Magyar noted that several success stories in security policy connect the two countries, and “there can be no complaints” regarding economic cooperation either. These facts should not be disregarded even in the current situation, he said.
Tamás Fellegi, a former development minister in the previous Orbán government, labelled Hungarian-US relations as at a low point. Fellegi, who now chairs the Hungary Initiatives Foundation, told daily Népszabadság “there is undeniably some kind of… I don’t know if the word crisis will cover it, in Hungarian-US relations […]. It’s more like a low point.” The foundation is a non-partisan organisation committed to strengthening cooperation between Hungary and the US.
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How can the Hungarians forget the barbarity, obscenity of Mongolian-russian hordes, who slaughtered thousands of Freedom Fighters during the Hungarian Revolution. How can ANYBODY civilized have anything to do with russia, which, by the way, is disintegrating in front of our eyes. Rassiya utonula v sobstviennym govnie dva raza v odnom stuleci – 1917 i 1991. Now it is the most humiliating, revolting and pathetic end of the ‘russkaya samoderzava’ ….Rossia eto ‘Mongolsko-Ruskaya Huynia’!!!!