RCA Viktor–His master’s voice in Canada (2): The rules of diplomatic conduct within the Transatlantic community

Before turning to the description of RCA Viktor’s Canadian sound system, a system in which Hungary’s diplomats in Canada play a commanding but not exclusive role, I want to make some general observations about the standards diplomatic representatives are expected to uphold in those countries that belong to the Transatlantic community (TAC). This is necessary in order to gauge whether Hungary’s diplomats in Canada are communicating on a communal wavelength or on some other bandwidth.

RCA Victor's Nipper in neon wonderland. The trademark of the Victor Talking Machine Company, in neon rendition. Source: The Reflecting Light blog,

RCA Victor’s Nipper in neon wonderland. The trademark of the Victor Talking Machine Company, in neon rendition. Source: The Reflecting Light blog.

It is conventional wisdom that the diplomats of TAC member states are expected to represent their country’s best interests abroad and in a manner that respects the written and unwritten rules of proper conduct within this community of parliamentary democracies. What does proper diplomatic conduct mean? It is not necessary to provide a lengthy or exhaustive answer to this question here. For the sake of brevity, I will only focus on those performance criteria that are germane to the discussion at hand. (I won’t be talking, for example, about the convention that forbids friends and allies from spying on each other.)

Members of the TAC expect that, above everything else, their diplomats respect the core values of these democracies. In concrete terms, this means respect for the rule of law, justice, constitutionalism, and pluralism. Respect for the rule of law is central and is encapsulated in the following statement issued recently by the European Union: “The rule of law is the backbone of any modern constitutional democracy… respect for the rule of law is a precondition for EU membership It is also a prerequisite for upholding all rights and obligations deriving from international law. 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.”(See: Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council: A new EU Framework to strengthen the Rule of Law. Brussels, 2014. March 19, p.1)

But what does the rule of law itself mean? This question has been hotly debated by thousands of legal experts over the years and immersion into the intricacies of that debate would take us far off course. One of the reasons why Hungary is a successful rule of law abuser is that it can play one side off against the other in this debate and thereby avoid punishment. (For a detailed discussion, see this author’s forthcoming in-depth study: “Portrait of an Abusive Relationship: Parliamentary Sovereignty vs. The Rule of Law in Hungary.”). The rule of law component, that is central to the subject matter of this article draws, on the principles of justice and constitutionalism. It is endorsed by the covenants of the European Union and by the entire TAC. It also serves as the cornerstone of Canada’s own Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This component of the rule of law requires constitutionally enforced guarantees for the fearless, equal and informed participation of citizens in the scrutiny of all activities undertaken by the State. The consensus within the TAC and in Canada is explicit and unequivocal: language and discourse by free and equal citizens is the force that propels us in the direction of a just society. The TAC’s take on the rule of law is, that a society is just when its citizens are empowered to discuss and evaluate fearlessly, rationally, and equally the validity of competing claims about who gets what, when, and how in a community. The central element of this process is rational communicative action with respect to how we govern ourselves, how we build a sustainable future for the generations that follow us. Where rational communicative action is thwarted, justice is thwarted. If citizens are unable to test freely, the competing validity claims of participants in the political arena, if they face repression or fear when voicing their views, if those in authority limit the opportunities for fearless speech, the rule of law, justice and constitutionalism are impaired.

For TAC member states, the rule of law, justice and constitutionalism are norms that all member state diplomats must uphold in their daily activities. It is inconceivable that a TAC diplomat should use his office as a partisan political instrument, and limit the competitive opportunities of anyone who is considered to be a legitimate participant in the democratic public arena. Though such partisan diplomatic activities may occur now and then, when they do, they usually elicit a public outcry. If, for example, it would become known that one of the members of the American Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee has been hired by the Hungarian government to whitewash the rule of law violations of Hungary’s ruling party, FIDESZ, he would be subject to a criminal investigation and would be expelled from his position. From that point onward, the reputation of the Hungarian diplomats who bought him off would also be ruined. Such diplomatic games do happen, but they are very rare and are very dangerous undertakings.

Mr. Balázs Fürjes (right) Hungarian Government Commissioner, Eugene F. Megyesy, Jr., Hungarian-American lawyer and advisor of Mr. Orbán, Ambassador Szapáry and Senator Menendez (left wearing striped tie) at the Rubik’s exhibition.

Balázs Fürjes (right) Hungarian Government Commissioner, Eugene F. Megyesy, Jr., Hungarian-American lawyer and advisor of Mr. Orbán, Ambassador Szapáry and Senator Menendez (left wearing striped tie) at the Rubik’s exhibition.

To summarize: The diplomats employed by TAC nations are expected to provide a clear, undistorted picture of their country`s commitment to the core values of the community and are not expected to act as partisan agents engaged in a battle to silence the dissenting voices of legitimate participants in the democratic process. It is inconceivable, for example, that the government of Stephen Harper, through its diplomatic representatives in Hungary, would only interact with groups or organizations in that country that promoted Harper`s Party and would engage in campaigns that defame Liberal or the NDP supporters as “un-Canadian”. The use of Canadian taxpayers` money for such blatantly party political purposes would create a scandal of massive proportions in Canada. As we shall demonstrate in the following sections of this article, that which is inconceivable for Canada`s PMO or External Affairs is routine for Hungary`s diplomatic representatives. Behaviour that is generally seen as out of order is a job requirement for the representatives of RCA Viktor in Canada.

It is inconceivable, that the Harper PMO, or the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development, would use Canadian taxpayers` money to work with religious and community leaders in Hungary, to blacken the reputation of those Hungarian Canadians who are critical of the Tories and are supporters of the Federal Liberal or New Democratic Party. If Harper`s diplomats were ever caught doing such a thing, there would be a major political scandal in Canada, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs would have to resign. RCA Viktor`s Canadian diplomats are routinely engaged in such activities in this country.

It is inconceivable for Stephen Harper`s PMO and External Affairs to commit Canadian taxpayers’ money to overseas interest groups whose mission is to enhance the electoral chances of the Federal Conservative Party. That would be seen as a gross misuse of public funds and again would result in major repercussions. In the case of Hungary, such purely partisan uses of public moneys are daily occurrence. The Hungarian government is actively engaged in financing Canadian-Hungarian community groups, through its PMO, to broaden FIDESZ`s offshore electoral base in Canada and to hinder the competitive opportunities of legitimate democratic participants in Hungary`s electoral process.

If a Hungarian university professor had organized a discussion at a Hungarian university about the politics of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives, to which he invited Canada’s local diplomats, it would be inconceivable, that they would not RSVP and choose instead to send a high level official, under the greatest of secrecy, to disrupt the proceedings by declaring that the speakers are liars, that the conference organizer is abusing his university’s rules of academic conduct and should not consider himself a suitable debating partner for Canada’s ambassador. If Canada’s ambassador to Hungary had arranged a circus, such as the one Hungary’s ambassador, Bálint Ódor, organized at Montreal’s Concordia University on March 3rd of this year, he would receive a serious reprimand from his superiors. Hungary’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs did no such thing. Instead of criticising the behaviour of its diplomats, it openly applauded them in a global press release. (For a view of the video that irrefutably documents the above and which went viral on You Tube, click here.)

Ambassador Bálint Ódor promoting Vinum Tokaj Canada Inc.'s wines at the Embassy of Hungary in Ottawa.

Ambassador Bálint Ódor promoting Vinum Tokaj Canada Inc.’s wines at the Embassy of Hungary in Ottawa.

As I will show, ever since Viktor Orbán came to power in Hungary, his diplomats, especially in Canada, have been consistently contravening the Transatlantic community’s conventions for proper diplomatic conduct. Rather than confirming the core values of the Transatlantic community, they show disdain, disrespect for them. In the case of Canada, these values are not taken lightly – they are constitutionally and legally protected by our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. While Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms cannot be enforced upon foreign nationals, especially those foreigners who are members of their country’s diplomatic corps, evidence of disrespect against Canada’s fundamental law is a serious matter and can undermine the credibility or respectability of those who are seen to behave in such manner.

In the installment previous to this one, I suggested that RCA Viktor’s sound-engineers have miscalculated the acoustics of the Canadian public arena. In this section I laid down the ethical norms that TAC member states are expected to uphold via their diplomatic representatives. I have suggested that Hungary is regularly in breach of these norms. In the next sections I will provide concrete examples of this breach. I will examine why Canada is a key test-market for RCA Viktor and will zero in on the design flaws of RCA Viktor’s new sound system. I will demonstrate the inappropriateness of the play-list spun by RCA Viktor`s DJs throughout Canada and will argue that RCA Viktor may run into serious problems with its new sound system in a cultural environment that is built on the principles of consumer satisfaction, on transparency and fair competition.

To be continued…

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