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The Prospects of an Ambassadorship by Zsófia Tóth-Bíró

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The Prospects of an Ambassadorship

Mr. Szijjártó did not mince his words at the MCC Feszt held last week in Esztergom when asked to comment on what David Pressman, incoming US ambassador to Hungary, had told the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations at his hearing in June. The essence of what Mr. Pressman said was that democracy in Hungary is declining, the country is influenced by China and Russia, and the Hungarian government discriminates against Jews, the Roma and the LGBTQ community. 

The Hungarian government could have rejected his nomination, but obviously did not want to take such a hostile step, and has no intention of blocking his accreditation either, as Mr. Szijjártó confirmed at the conservative youth festival in Esztergom. The Hungarian foreign minister said he and his ministry would treat the ambassador with the respect he deserves as the representative of his country. 

When he sends ambassadors abroad, they are not expected to act as if they were ‘the governors of the provinces’

However, Mr. Szijjártó also sent an unambiguous message to Mr. Pressman by noting that when he sends ambassadors abroad, they are not expected to act as if they were ‘the governors of the provinces,’ who interfere in the domestic affairs and the political processes of the host state. ‘On the contrary, it is expressly prohibited for them to do so,’ Mr. Szijjártó declared. In an obvious reference to André Goodfriend (commonly known in Budapest as “Badfriend”), former blogging and anti-government-demonstrations-attending chargé d’affaires of the US Embassy in Budapest, he also said he explicitly ‘forbids’ Hungarian ambassadors to ‘attend demonstrations’ in their host countries. The minister stated: ‘We do not know any better what is good for a given country than the people who live there. And if they think what they have is bad, then they will make a clear choice in the next election.’

To make certain that his message got across, he recalled the Hungarian press reports that alleged that he had ‘covertly threatened’ the heads of foreign missions before the elections, telling them to refrain from interfering in the process or else… Mr. Szijjártó said he ‘rejects’ those allegations, because in fact he had ‘threatened the ambassadors absolutely openly,’ telling them that should they insert themselves in any way in Hungary’s election process, they would face the consequence of not being able to talk to ‘anyone in the Foreign Ministry above the rank of head of department.’ The minister added it was high time the practice of ‘taking Hungarians for an idiot’ stopped, and the country that has a one-thousand-year-old Christian statehood is given the respect it deserves. 

The nomination and appointment of Mr. Pressman, a former Obama official and ambassador who is a fierce advocate of LGBTQ rights, should not have come as a surprise. Joe Biden, or rather ‘those who handle Biden,’ as American comedian JP Sears says, seem to have made a habit of placing zealous activists in positions of power. Take Justice Ketanjee Jackson, the first Black woman to be appointed to the Supreme Court, who cannot define what a woman is. Or the US Secretary of Health who refuses to answer the question whether men can get pregnant, and if not, why are women referred to as ‘birthing persons’ in the department documents. Or Nina Jankowicz, head of the (not so sadly) prematurely defunct Ministry of Truth, aka Disinformation Governance Board (consider the acronym, DGB, which, as Greg Gutfeld pointed out, sounds pretty much like KGB) who said that the essential problem with Twitter is that it was built ‘with cisgender white men in mind.’ 

It is not only unusual, but also rather counterproductive to adopt the passive-aggressive tone the United States government is using now

Should Mr. Pressman decide to be ‘another André Goodfriend‘ as put it, his time in Budapest will not be a fun ride, but perhaps he will know better. It would not make much sense for neither the US nor Hungary to go back to the times when Hungarian government officials were banned from entering the United States for alleged corruption, and when instead of conducting a civilized dialogue, Victoria Nuland apparently engaged in a shouting match with Mr. Szijjártó. As I have already noted in an earlier article, it is not only unusual, but also rather counterproductive to adopt the passive-aggressive tone the United States government is using now versus a country that is allegedly “a friend and ally.” Especially under the current circumstances: the leader of the United States of America is the most unpopular president ever, according to recent polls, and the American administration is apparently unable to get a grip on the supply chain crisis, galloping inflation and rising crime in large cities that are plaguing the country. There is no baby formula on the shelves of supermarkets, American families are having trouble paying their mortgages, the government is unable or unwilling (or perhaps a combination of the two) to defend the country’s southern borders, but clearly the most urgent measure the US government needed to take was to terminate its tax treaty with Hungary and appoint an ambassador who set the tone for his whole tenure even before stepping on Hungarian soil. Well, I am sure he can hardly wait to engage in fruitful dialogue with his Hungarian counterparts in Budapest, although I am not sure who those will be – Mr. Szijjártó could be very, very busy over the next few years.

Zsófia Tóth-Bíró, Online Editor of Hungarian Conservative