Secretary Kerry’s Priorities for Hungary

Nancy G. Brinker (Ambassador to Hungary, 2001-2003; Ambassador and Chief of Protocol, 2007-2009)

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Although America’s diplomatic relations with Hungary date back to 1921, our ties deepened in the 1980s when Hungary pulled away from the Soviet orbit. We helped Hungary revise its constitution, establish a democracy and develop a free market economy. Hungary and the United States have been enjoying positive relations ever since. We are NATO allies, economic partners and friends. Hungary’s cultural contributions—from music to art to poetry—have enriched the world for centuries and a vibrant community of more than 1.5 million Hungarian-Americans continues to strengthen the United States.

In recent years, there has been considerable discussion in the international community about Hungary’s direction. Many have voiced concern about checks and balances, religious freedom, judicial independence and freedom of the press. It is very important for the United States to emphasize in its bilateral relationship with Hungary that we stand by and for these values. As one American diplomat wisely observed, the project of democratization in some ways never ends. Maintaining a vibrant democracy requires continual efforts to protect liberties, ensure a vibrant opposition and foster media freedom. This conversation can be uncomfortable for political leaders, but candor is also a sign of friendship.

Because of our close relationship with Hungary, I encourage Secretary Kerry to make a visit and spend time with Hungarians and political leaders. This would show a special interest in Hungary’s continuing effort to define and advance its democracy. It would show that we are committed to ensuring that Hungary is true to its democratic traditions. And championing democratic values would benefit not only Hungarians but also promote the transatlantic alliance, which continues to be vital to the U.S. and to Europe—and will only increase in its importance as new powers rise.

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