Democratic Charter thanks President Obama for speaking out on Hungary

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20500
Washington, DC

October 10, 2014

Dear President Obama:

As Founders and Spokespersons of the Canadian civil rights organization, – The Canadian Hungarian Democratic Charter – we would like to take this opportunity to thank and to congratulate you and those in your Administration (in particular, Victoria Nuland, assistant undersecretary for European and Eurasian Affairs) for speaking out about the abuse, by some Central European governments, of the values that are the cornerstones of the trans-Atlantic community. Our civil-rights group, along with other politically non-partisan bodies in Hungary such as the Hungarian Europe Society and the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union, have frequently spoken out about the Orbán government’s abuse of the rule of law, and civil liberties in Hungary. (see for example, “Indictment” at www.hungariancharter.com) We applaud your leadership and attentiveness to what is an increasingly serious matter of concern to anyone who values civil liberties.

According to a recent proclamation of the European Commission, “The rule of law is the backbone of any modern constitutional democracy. It is one of the founding principles stemming from the common constitutional traditions of all the Member States of the EU and, as such, one of the main values upon which the Union is based… respect for the rule of law is a precondition for EU membership. Along with democracy and human rights, the rule of law is also one of the three pillars of the Council of Europe and is endorsed in the Preamble to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. The confidence of all EU citizens and national authorities in the legal systems of all other Member States is vital for the functioning of the whole EU as “an area of freedom, security and justice without internal frontiers.”

The abuse of the rule of law, by the Orbán government is well documented. His defiant “illiberal turn” away from our common values is deliberate, and premeditated. It is based on a „harmony ideology” that the internationally respected anthropologist, Laura Nader has labeled a “concerted assault on Democracy”. Mr. Orbán has surrounded himself with advisors, such as Imre Kerényi, who advocates that Hungarians should listen to Iran and the radical Islamists who are the enemies of the trans-Atlantic community. Another close associate of Mr. Orbán, Zsolt Bayer, one of his Party’s founding members, and a government decorated organizer of the pro-government “Peace Rallies” that aim to intimidate the democratic opposition in Hungary, is on public record with the following Anti-Semitic slur: “The mere existence of Jewish journalists in Budapest is grounds enough for our anti-Semitism.” Not long ago, the Orbán government decorated another of its key propagandists, András Bencsik, the editor of a weekly that still celebrates the Hungarian troops who fought on the side of the Nazis until the dying days of WWII. Bencsik is one of the founders of the notorious Hungarian Guard militia that specializes in harassing Hungary’s Roma population. According to Mr. Bencsik, the agreement linking Hungary to Europe is like a plate of excrement. Instead of firing these people from his Party, or removing them from any position of influence, Mr. Orbán embraces their views and promotes them into his inner circle, providing them with vast powers to spread their toxic, anti-democratic, anti-European, and anti-American philosophies.

Dear Mr. President: As you know, we are celebrating the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall this autumn. Yet there is a shadow hanging over the celebrations. There is a new, menacing specter haunting our cherished, hard won democracies. This time it’s not the specter of communism but the specter of predatory states and corrupt, self-serving rulers, who show no respect for the rule of law, for civil society, or for the dignity of their fellow human beings.

Mr. President: The Canadian Hungarian Democratic Charter applauds your leadership and courage in trying to help put the international democratic community’s house in order. It is tremendously encouraging to see you naming and shaming a rogue regime within Europe, a regime that willfully and systematically abuses values that are common to us all. While this is an excellent beginning, more needs to be done to maintain the confidence of Europe’s and North America’s citizens in the ability and will to sustain our democratic way of life. Rogue leaders like Mr. Orbán must be made to answer for their anti-democratic behavior. They should be kept at arms length, kept off the “guest list.” Their lobbyists in Washington, Ottawa and in Europe’s capitals should be carefully scrutinized. The financial and political privileges of member states that deliberately disregard their treaty obligations need to be curtailed. If they continue to violate the values that the democratic community has sworn to uphold, they should be sent packing. We encourage you to work with your other colleagues in the G8 community, with leaders of the EU, and with our own Prime Minister Stephen Harper, – to stamp out any and all efforts that threaten democratic governance and the rule of law within the trans-Atlantic community.

Yours sincerely,

Dr. András B. Göllner, Founder, International Spokesperson
Emeritus Associate Professor, Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec

Dr. Christopher Adam, Founder and Spokesperson.
Lecturer, Department of History, Carleton University,Ottawa, Ont.

Dr. Stevan Harnad. Founder and Spokesperson.
Canada Research Chair in Cognitive Science at Univerité du Quebec á Montreal. QC

Dr. Imre Szeman, Founder and Spokesperson.
Canada Research Chair in Cultural Studies and Professor of English, Film Studies, and Sociology, University of Alberta.

4 Comments

  1. I don’t think Obama, more exactly the U.S. administration would allow themselves to get dragged and involved into any conflicts, except those they created for their own benefit. In most cases they are having difficulties to keep even those under control. Let alone the financing issues. They have problems enough on their own and Orban is just contemplating on the physical and financial end of the U.S. including the collapse of the US dollar that, telling the truth, wouldn’t be a big surprise.

    I personally don’t think Obama knows where Hungary is. I don’t think he reads letters. He does what Soros tells him to do. I don’t think that Bush knew where Hungary was. He got off his airplane, got in his armored presidential Limousin, gave a speech and went home. He was famous for confusing countries and for not knowing the map. Obama is the same.

    If you want to do something then write to Soros supposing you can tell him something that makes him change his mind. It’s definitely not Obama or the White House who will handle Orban. Unless Hungary is becoming a part of a greater plan of what to do with the EU.

  2. Dr. Habil. Fodor Andras says:

    Editor,

    With the permission of the senders, as a comment, let me add another letter sent to President Obama on the same day, 10th of October, 2014.

    It is signed by the National President (Frank Koszorus, Jr.) and the Co-President Bryan Dawson of the American Hungarian Federation, the legitimate organization of the American Hungarians since 1906.

    “To: The President
    The White House
    1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
    Washington, D.C. 20500

    Dear Mr. President:
    The American Hungarian Federation, founded as an umbrella organization in 1906, is a strong supporter of good American/Hungarian relations, democracy, human and minority rights and the rule of law. We write in connection with your remarks at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York on September 23, 2014, describing your new initiative promoting civil society and Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) around the world.

    Considering the Federation’s purposes and that many of our members have throughout their adult lives promoted civil society and NGOs (and some who took up arms against totalitarianisms), we applaud you for your principled stand and leadership. Civil society advocates are threatened, imprisoned and killed in many countries in the world. Hungary, we respectfully submit, is not one of them.

    Hungary is a member of the EU and NATO and a democratic state where thousands of NGOs operate freely and where dissent is extensive and vigorous.

    Since the fall of communism, Hungary has had seven internationally recognized free national elections.

    Demonstrators in Budapest, including opposition political parties, can freely gather, protest and air whatever grievances they may have against government policies and freely voice their assertions of alleged governmental interference with Norwegian-backed and funded NGOs.

    Fairness dictates that at a minimum, an impartial review of these matters be concluded before there is a rush to judgment, especially one that equates Hungary with proven repressive countries.

    Thus, although we believe that vigilance is necessary to preclude backsliding when it comes to democracy, we are justifiably puzzled and deeply concerned that you lumped Hungary in with Egypt and some of the worst dictatorships of the world in assessing the state of civil society freedoms.

    Indeed, in the latest Freedom House country rating report, Hungary scored 12 out of 12 points for protecting the associational and organizational rights of NGOs, which was better than the United States’ score of 11/12. Moreover, Hungary scored a perfect 12/12 for its electoral process, whereas the United States scored 11/12. Hungary scored 15/16 for freedom of expression and belief, the very same score as the United States.

    By sharp contrast, with respect to NGO freedoms, Egypt scored an abysmal 4/12, while Viet Nam, also mentioned in your address, scored a deplorable 1/12.

    We therefore respectfully call upon you to retract that part of your statement that unjustifiably places Hungary in the same category with Egypt and other such repressive countries.

    Doing so would help alleviate the concern, confusion and disbelief found in our community about the United States views of Hungary, a democratic ally.

    It would also serve to advance the goals of the United States in the region.

    We also respectfully urge you to consider the following two issues in connection with your new policies — partnering and protecting civil society groups, creating innovative centers, and increasing funding for the Community of Democracies:

    (1) When it comes to supporting civil society groups in established and working democracies such as Hungary, transparent and very specific guidelines should be adopted and thorough reviews conducted as to which NGOs are to receive U.S. support, if any. Such guidelines and scrutiny are necessary to guarantee that groups — conservative or liberal, pro- or anti-government — that are actually politically partisan entities not receive American support on a disproportionate or discriminatory basis. Even if Hungarian law does not prohibit foreign donations to political campaigns as U.S. laws and regulations do, the absence of such scrutiny and even handedness would be less than fortunate. It would alienate democratic Hungarians and give the unavoidable appearance that the U.S. is interfering in the democratic processes of that country and with the democratically expressed wishes of its people when they cast their ballots. In fact, it would appear to some, as erroneous as that perception might be, as if the U.S. is seeking to overturn a democratic result. We fear that this perception would play into the hands of anti-Western radicals by fostering disillusionment in a strong ally and damage U.S. interests by weakening the unity and solidarity that today is so needed to combat terrorists and the growing aggression of Russia; and

    (2) Attention should at long last be directed at countries neighboring Hungary which continue to discriminate against their Hungarian minorities.

    For example, Romania still fails to return communal and religious properties that had been confiscated by the previous communist regime and fails to investigate, prosecute or even condemn vandals who commit hate crimes by defacing Hungarian monuments with anti-Hungarian graffiti.

    Another example is Slovakia which has adopted discriminatory language and citizenship laws.

    Failure to address these and other well-documented violations of minority rights, acts of discrimination and instances of intolerance give the appearance of a double standard and would erode the effectiveness of your new policies.

    Thank you for considering these important issues which we believe, if appropriately addressed, will substantially contribute to the success of your policies, promote and strengthen civil society, and advance good bi-lateral relations with Hungary — all interests of the United States. We stand ready to assist you in these endeavors.

    Most respectfully:

    Frank Koszorus, Jr.
    Bryan Dawson National President Co-President
    Public Member of the U.S. Delegation of the 1989 Chair,
    Information Committee Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe on the Human Dimension”.

    This is the “another” letter. Let me leave it to the Reader, what he / she concluedes.

    We shall also see, if the President of the United States would accept the arguments for the Orbán “rezsim” expressed by the legitimate and creditable Hungarian Organization in the USA, or those against the democratic Hungarian government selected by the wast majority of the Hungarian People expressed by a questionable Canadian organization call themselves “Democratic Charta.”

  3. Off topic: Interesting to see that for somebody it is the prestige what matters the most when it comes to the conclusion. For me it is one of the least important. Nice the fact we are all different. 😉

    On topic: The American letter is (for me) sounds like a gesture towards the American presidential system and a reminder to its values. It has very few things to do with my Orban’s goverment and its behavior. Another reminder is there – Shut up! Stop teaching Hungary from the other side of the Globe how to behave, where were you when ’56 have happened, and there are other Eastern European countries with also corruption. 3 pretty false excuse to me. Non of these are untrue or cannot be a sting in the toe for many. I am also a Hungarian and as it happens to be I am living in the UK since realising that our return trip to here will be much longer (I am cutting my story short here). I have become an immigrant. I am aware of most of the news and I am focusing only on actions/reactions, motivations, and the goverment’s explanations and comments. It is clear for me WE ARE as Hungarians using our clever language to misguide or hide the real intention or thoughts until we have to come to numbers or facts (or need to talk in another language). The Hungarian language is flexible and has many layers which can deliver exactly opposite meanings. Orban is using this tactics for a long time and he’s popularity and words are more important than he’s actions (for a million people not more). When a politician can tell you that in a joke that He is OK with that “only those cities and towns will be ‘financially fortunate’ which ones are governed by he’s party, and how would those expect any money to come who were the Fidesz party’s criticists or the system’s or went to civil rights activist asking for help? – so come people and vote! And the people have come and vote. (Hungarian Local Elections 2014.)

    The Canadian letter on the other hand it a harsh criticism and asking the US President for action. I doubt that any action will lead to a friendly debate – other than giving a taste of those evidences what the US may hold about corrupt Hungarian politicians, and it does it openly for the public. Clear Water Operation or something like it. 🙂 Maybe the EU can hold some cards in founding most of the corrupted projects. I am afraid as many other pressure coming from outside is being recognised as ‘not letting us deal with our own politics’ for many.

    We have to make a move, maybe. Waking up – definitely.

  4. Regarding the Koszorus/Dawson letter:

    1. The question is not whether Hungary is as bad as Egypt — yet — but whether it’s more like Egypt than it is like other EU countries.

    2. Asking other countries for more transparency in NGO support in Hungary is rather ironic, when it is Hungary that so prominently lacks transparency in so many essential economic, political and legal functions today.

    3. The claim that support for anything critical of the Hungarian government is support for opposition political parties is as arbitrary as it is familiar (being a signature plaint of the current Hungarian government).

    4. More relevant to democratic concerns than Hungarians’ closet irredentism is conferring voting rights on non-citizens who have never set foot in Hungary, let alone paid taxes, just so they can bolster the current government’s gerrymendered supermajority.

    5. Instead of selecting the (few) instances where Hungary did not earn lower scores in the (rather dated) Freedom House rankings, why not compare it with its EU neighbors? Only Romania scores worse (and it certainly deserves censure too): http://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/freedom-world-2014?gclid=CJKLgpuSycECFSZo7AodHwgAKQ#.VExMkL7P5bl

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