Ambassador Szemerkényi responds to HFP: It is legally “unacceptable” to refuse meeting with Jobbik delegation

György Lázár of the Hungarian Free Press published an article about the unprecedented visit of a Jobbik delegation at the Hungarian Embassy in Washington DC where Ambassador Réka Szemerkényi received and briefed them. They also visited the Hungarian Consulate in New York, where they met Hungarian Consul General Mr. Ferenc Kumin.

We asked for feedback from the US State Department, US Ambassador to Hungary Ms. Colleen Bell and Hungarian Ambassador to Washington, Ms. Réka Szemerkényi.

Here is Ms. Réka Szemerkényi’s response.

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Dear Sir,

In reference to your blogpost of May 12, 2015 I wish to set the record straight.

Gabor Staudt was in Washington, D.C. on April 21 as a delegate of the Hungarian Parliament to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. It was the Hungarian parliament’s delegation to NATO Parliamentary Assembly’s Committee on Economic and Security that I received on that occasion for a brief courtesy visit.

I categorically reject any sensationalist accusations under any pretext of me „embracing” neo-Nazis. My personal values as well as the Hungarian government’s stance on strongly refusing anti-semitism and any trace of neo-Nazism have always been very clear.

There are very few things I agree on with the Hungarian Free Press blog, but rejecting neo-Nazis is certainly one of them. We can –and should – debate the best way of dealing with political extremism. As the Ambassador of Hungary however, I represent the Hungarian state including its democratic institutions. As such, it would be legally unacceptable for me to pick and choose between its representatives visiting the US as part of official delegations based on my political values.

Sincerely,

Dr. Réka Szemerkényi
Ambassador of Hungary

Ambassador Réka Szemerkényi.

Ambassador Réka Szemerkényi.

15 Comments

  1. Gyula Bognar, Jr. says:

    I am sure, Réka Szemerkényi would also gladly meet Ferenc Gyurcsány, Attila Mesterházy, Gábor Fodor, or Gordon Bajnai, if and when they are in Washington on official business? Perhaps the Ambassador would also greet the official representatives of the Betyár Sereg or the New Magyar Gárda if they come here for a visit to Washington to represent Hungary in an International convention of right wing, anti-Semitic ideologists. After all, the Government of Hungary must represent every Hungarian equally.
    I am so glad, she is so fair, when she stays in Washington, and I am sure she did the same for all these years in Hungary too. That is perhaps why she was appointed to be the Ambassador here.

    • Christopher Adam says:

      Gyula,

      I think you’re spot on. For example, I was trying to recall when any prominent Hungarian liberal or centre-left opposition leader was thrown a reception by a Hungarian consulate/embassy in the US/Canada and when they were last transported around and showcased in Hungarian communities. It seems that in this regard, Fidesz/Jobbik leaders outnumber MSZP/DK/Együtt leaders 10 to 0.

  2. Nice reply, it’s right up there with a Fukushima tsunami for sheer entertainment value. I think she’d better learn from Dame Edna. He makes more sense when talking and has a good sense of humor. (even has prettier and friendlier face)

    It’s fun to see when she addresses HFP and is talking to her boss back in Budapest. Yet, she could make sense debating the best way of dealing with political extremism, as she promised, by clarifying her stand concerning to H attempts to reintroduce capital punishment in the EU, her government’s messing up with immigrants, illiberal democracy – only to mention a few – when representing the Hungarian state.

    Mr. Orban; wind up your trade mark alarm clock and place it under your pillow. You’ve got to do something, the ball is in your field now. She does what you say but then she’s having hysterics and raving about your favorite pastime “political extremism” carelessly mixing unwanted words in her speech at a place where it would be wiser not to mention it at all.

  3. András Gollner says:

    Technically Hungary’s Ambassador to the US is perfectly right – Like it or not, the neo-fascist self-professedly anti-democratic Jobbik is a democratically elected member of the Hungarian Parliament. It has representatives in the EU Parliament as well. The cafeteria of Strassburg is open to them as are all the offices of the EU. Jobbik, after all, IS Hungary’s loyal opposition and the embassies of Hungary can not shut their doors when some of Jobbik’s deputies come to town.

    Obviously Church and community halls of the Hungarian diaspora in the US should not throw their doors open to racist pan-handlers. Though at times they appear not to realize this, Hungarian community leaders in the US are not governed by the rules of the Hungarian foreign ministry. The HFP is perfectly within its right to object to embraces of the latter variety, and Mr Lázár has been rightly vigilant in drawing our attention to such flirtations with the enemies of democracy.

    To summarize: I most often agree with György Lázár – this time his case is pretty wobbly. If Mr Lázár would like to pick a fight with Ms Szemerkényi, he should choose his ground and his argument more thoughtfully. He is an able journalist – let’s hope he will learn from his mistake and not shoot from the hip next time. Let’s also hope that Ambassador Szemerkényi will read the HFP more frequently in the future – perhaps with some additional exposure she will come to see this paper in a more positive light and recognize that the publication of critical views about the policy errors of her boss may in fact be in the public interest of all Hungarians. I would like to invite her at this time to keep her eyes open to these pages for a piece I am working on, designed to please her and her hard working diplomatic colleagues. It’s title is RCA Viktor: His Master’s Voice.

  4. karl busch says:

    I disagree with Mr Gollner. The H ambassador is NOT required to meet parlamentarians from Budapest. There is NO such law or custom!
    She nor her predecessor never invited one opposition MP from the left.
    (Obama did not receive Netanyahu 2 months ago.)
    She whitewashes and deflects to answer typical of the current mafia government. The ambassador is a mameluk of Orban like all the rest. This is how a dictatorship operates.

  5. I think @karl busch is right. Gyorgy Lazar didn’t seem to me shooting from the hip.

    Gyorgy Lazar gave references enough to support his stand. Among others, Jobbik’s report on FB. They wrote in Hungarian language “udvariassági látogatáson fogadott bennünket”. “courtesy visit”. She mentioned it in her reply the same way. That isn’t mandatory, that’s exactly as Mr. Lazar wrote was an embrace, a word that was extremely irritating to Ms. Szemerkenyi, admittedly – not without any reason – as she specifically referred to this word in her reply. I found her reply rather hasty and although politically correct, somewhat hysterical especially devoting too much attention to her own personal and political values instead of getting to the point.

  6. Jobbik is a democratic party. It received 20% at the latest parliamentary elections. How about accepting a result of a democratic elections?
    Yes, democratic party, as democratic not necessarily means liberal & atlantist.

    Dr. Réka Szemerkényi just did her job.

  7. Gabriel Farkas says:

    I am afraid Mr. Gollner is right. And I would like to remind Mr. Busch that Netanyahu is not a member of the US Congress, the fact that the President did not see him during his visit has nothing to do with this topic.

    The sad fact is that Jobbik is in the Hungarian Parliament, elected to be there by a large part of the Hungarian electorate.

  8. Sandor Kerekes says:

    I emphatically disagree with all those who poo-poo the Jobbik and its so-called “legitimacy.” That goes for the commenters, but above all to Madame Ambassador, hiding behind the parliamentary veneer of the visitors.
    In fact, the very existence of Jobbik, wherever they may appear, is in contravention of the Paris Peace Treaty of 1947 and it is a testimonial to the entire spineless Hungarian establishment that they are not only tolerating, but outright pampering these bums.
    That will be the day when we are going to match “personal values” with diplomats of the illiberal state, kissing asses of nazis, while singing the praises of fairness and diplomatic even-handedness.
    The argument that the Jobbik is a democratic party, just because it was elected to parliament democratically, is an untenable nonsense, believed only by idiots, who have no idea what democracy is. Or should I enumerate all the vicious dictators from Hitler to Putin, whom were all elected “democratically?”
    Besides, it is simply not true that the ambassadorial position doesn’t afford distinctions whom she represents. It was her and Kumin’s choice to cosy up to the nazis and no amount of artificial indignation will sweeten the bitter aftertaste of this event.

  9. As I am not a diplomat it’s hard for me decide whether it was mandatory for Ms. Szemerkenyi to receive the delegation or not, but there is one thing that was not mentioned here in the comments, a thing that makes me appreciate Mr. Lazar Gyorgy piece, as he wrote:
    ” I find it disturbing that pro-Putin Hungarian fascists are parading at the Washington Embassy, and I also wonder if the time has come for the State Department to take a closer look at Ms. Szemerkényi’s and Mr. Kumin’s activities and accreditation.”

    And Mr.Lazar in that piece of him printed out a photo picture of Ms. Szemerkenyi and her family enjoying president Obama’s hospitality at the White House. One day she does that and she promises to open a new chapter in US-Hungarian relations, next day she receives the Jobbik delegation.

    That’s Mr. Lazar point that makes a lot of sense to me. It’s not just about the Jobbik and Szemerkenyi it’s about Washington, too!!! That’s the point. The trend that the Jobbik is building their political power by parading at the Washington Embassy and Ms. Szemerkenyi is assisting to them. That’s the point and it makes sense to me.

    And that’s what Ms. Full of Personal and Political Values Szemerkenyi fails to clarify in her response to HFP together with real with political extremism practiced by Orban. Yet, she ventures to mention ” political extremism ” in her letter. That’s why Ms. Szemerkenyi got that bad classification from me for her response in my first comment.

  10. Correctly: together with actual political extremism practiced by Orban.

  11. Pingback: Jobbik names organizer for New York City

  12. Dr. Habil. Andras Fodor says:

    Independently of this action of her, Mrs. Szemerkényi is the person who should be the Ambassador of Hungary in the United State. Sending her was a wrong decision.

    But she had been working to get this position for a long time, dated back to the years of the first Orbán government.

    By using professionally the toolkit of Bieberach or Falstaff, she managed to destroy the reputation of only person who could be the right Ambassador, – who was then the Ambassador – of Hungary in the USA – in the eyes of Victor Orbán.

    The confidence of the Prime Mister was withdrawn from his first, extremely successful, wildly accepted and respected Ambassador in Washington. You know whom I am speaking about.

    And finally she got the job.

    Look at the eyes of this Lady in the picture: she knows what she wants and she have reached, and will always reach whatever she decided to reach. Noone could stop her.

    Her appointment is a classical example of counter-selection.

  13. Charlie London says:

    “As such, it would be legally unacceptable for me to pick and choose between its representatives…..”

    She is wrong. Ambassadors have freedom of action as in most democracies – by refusing to meet them she would be sending a message that most right thinking people would want to hear.

    Conversely meeting them sends the wrong message – but as we all know the Hungarian foreign ministry is now full of amateurs – very knowledgeable on matters football, but little else under Szijjarto.

    “My personal values as well as the Hungarian government’s stance on strongly refusing anti-semitism and any trace of neo-Nazism have always been very clear.”

    Yea, right. As clear and as unequivocal as a certain Orban Victor.

    “There are very few things I agree on with the Hungarian Free Press blog,……..”

    Says it all.

    (I’ve been away for the last month visiting hideous statues in freedom square; poignant memorials in freedom square; cast-iron shoes alongside the Danube – very moving; how dare they desecrate this sculpture?; visiting friends in Hungary; enjoying the food and fighting lack of internet efficiency, and loosing. Watching the hideous (2) statue of Gyula Andrassy being reinstated in Kossuth square to complete the ‘1944 look’ and asking an official whether they are going to rename Kardoly Korond back to Hitler Adolf Ter under the same principal. But most of all enjoying my partner’s house by the Danube in rural Hungary!)

  14. Charlie London says:

    Oh dear!

    I’ve just noticed she’s a ‘Dr’……………..

    Allegedly.

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