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American influence in Hungary (4)

2022.10.29. 07:40 2022.10.29. 08:19
American influence in Hungary (4)

In our series of articles exploring the palpable layers of American influence in Hungary since the regime change, we have shown how the greenbacks have been aligned with leftist-liberal parties since the 1990s starting with the now-defunct SZDSZ, the Alliance of Free Democrats political party. Several examples showed how foreign entitires could gain business advantages as well as even political sway in exchange for funding. We detailed the establishment of an NGO network financed from America which, under the guise of civil efforts, engaged in political activities. In our upcoming article we will cite the most significant cases in which the United States Embassy in Hungary got involved in domestic political struggles.

András Schiffer, former co-president of green party, Politics can be Different (LMP) recently stated in the Hetek podcast: “I am not an experienced diplomatic expert, but in my humble opinion, it is rather unprecedented in international relations for an embassy to be publishing little videos on the host country’s statements... this amounts to interfering in the internal affairs of the other state and it is quite simply the gesture itself that is extremely unusual, that an embassy practically becomes part of the host country’s internal political debates.” 

The aforementioned gesture is indeed unusual, but not unprecedented. There is no doubt that until 2010 there were several occasions when it was absolutely clear which political party they were siding with. Around 1990, this was SZDSZ.  

In 2010, on the night before the first round of elections, US ambassador Eleni Tsakopoulos Kounalakis visited the LMP headquarters office. According to Index reports, the ambassador met with András Schiffer, other LMP leaders, and embassy workers in a closed room. 

American influence in Hungary (1)

During the regime change, SZDSZ (Alliance of Free Democrats political party) was the party with the strongest set of international connections.

We noted OVB badges on a few Americans, presumably election observers. Hanna Hámori, LMP press officer, stated that the ambassador wanted to personally visit the party headquarters on the night of the election given her strong relationship with LMP. At the same time, it is true that the US ambassador did also visit Fidesz and MSZP (Hungarian Socialist Party), but not Jobbik, as Mandiner reported. 

In a more direct and memorable manner, the US ambassador asked several government politicians in December to review the new Hungarian electoral law according to Magyar Nemzet’s report in 2012. Multiple leading politicians confirmed that the ambassador initiated the repeal of the electoral law along with the development of new legislation. Apparently Eleni Tsakopoulos Kounalakis also recommended to Fidesz leaders that they involve NGOs and opposition parties in the development of a new electoral law proposal. 

Memorably, this was the same month when several thousands participated in the first peace march against foreign intervention in Hungary. At this time Charles Gati, influential American diplomatic figure, declared that overthrowing Orbán could even be possible through a civil war. 

This was not the only time. On March 30, 2013, Népszava reported on their front page that “The way in which the constitution was amended as well as its content undermines confidence in the respect for the independence of the Constitutional Court – said United States ambassador in Budapest, Eleni Tsakopoulos Kounalakis, in connection with the fourth amendment to the Basic Law.” 

Eleni Tsakopoulos Kounalakis (Photo: MTI/Máthé Zoltán)

After her term as ambassador ended in the summer of 2013, there was no replacement for a year and a half. During this time, André Goodfriend directed the embassy as chargé d'affaires. After the left-liberals lost out in the 2014 elections, Goodfriend became much more active.  

After the 2014 October local elections, the so-called banning affair began. At the time, the USA denied entry to six unnamed Hungarian public servants. “A tax authority investigation is underway in Hungary against several institutions and companies belonging to American interests – Napi Gazdaság has learned. According to our information, the American side is preparing to ban the head of the authorities involved in the investigation from entering the United States,” wrote Napi Gazdaság on November 16, 2014. 

On December 10, the American embassy published an anticorruption “educational video”. In the end, the General Prosecutor’s Office requested legal assistance from the American authorities to which they received an answer in August 2016 stating that “the American authorities do not have any specific data, they obtained their information through the press and the internet, just as the media reports or Hungarian news would.” 

In the meantime, the administrator openly backed the opposition towards the end of 2014. On November 17th, ATV already reported that “in addition to left-wing, liberal intellectuals and opposition representatives, André Goodfriend – the US’ temporary charge d’affaires – also took part in the meeting organized at László Bitó's apartment on Saturday. Not only did he participate, but according to the unanimous statement from our sources, he also sang (with piano accompaniment, according to one source).” In 2014, the so-called Bitó salon was known to be such an influential place that it was here the first left-liberal candidate for mayor at the time, Ferenc Falus, decided to run.  

On November 21, 2014, conservative news platform Pesti Srácok reported that “the American charge d’affaires, André Goodfriend’s wife, Frances Goodfriend, also participated in Monday’s anti-government demonstration. We looked into it and it turned out that Mrs. Goodfriend posted several pictures of the day of public outrage on her social media page and she wrote about her participation in the demonstration as “merely an observer”. It is rather unorthodox though that Goodfriend’s wife posted a photo from the protest with a sign writing “Down with the government, Orbán and NAV”.” 

American influence in Hungary (2)

In our current article it becomes clear that the appearance of foreign financial entities in party funding entailed a level of influence in domestic Hungarian policy.

In December 2014, Goodfriend also became particularly interested in Hungarian energy policy, criticizing the South Stream which delivers, to this day, natural gas to Hungary. “The fact that you are planning to build another pipeline from Russia and increase nuclear energy production, this is what threatens Hungary’s energy independence,” the temporary US embassy director told Népszava. 

In January 2015, Goodfriend again felt it his mission to answer to Viktor Orbán’s warning against migration after the Charlie Hebdo attack. “Over lunch, among other things, we discussed the admonitions of St Stephen regarding the benefits of diversity,” wrote the charge d’affairs. 

After Colleen Bell took over the Budapest US embassy in January 2015, there came a positive turn in the two countries’ relations. Though Bell also formulated criticisms, she did not regularly get involved with opposition circles. Moreover, there was nowhere near as much pressure as in the fall of 2014.  

Another fact was revealed though in the fall of 2015: Goodfriend handed over an unofficial wish list to the Hungarian government. The document – which Viktor Orbán labeled scrap – entailed requests including amending several things: the constitution, the two thirds legal powers, electoral regulations, the judiciary, and media regulations. Naturally, the so-called civil organizations were highlighted first and foremost which liberals associate with George Soros’ foreign-financed NGOs. This measure was meant to strengthen the role of the formal and informal opposition at the expense of the governing majority elected for a second time with a two-thirds majority. 

André Goodfriend (Photo: MTI/Kovács Tamás)

Then in 2016, Viktor Orbán was the first to come out and support presidential candidate Donald Trump in his speech at Tusnádfürdő and thereby, the relationship between the two leaders was relatively conflict-free during his presidency, especially with ambassador David B. Cornstein’s term (2018-2020). 

However the need for American intervention on behalf of domestic leftists emerged in connection with the 2022 election. Gábor Bruck, in Klára Dobrev’s circle, said in early January in the Klubradio show that “we do not know whether America will intervene or not… Although, the FBI and CIA are America in this case, so we do not know. In surrounding countries however they’re managing pretty efficiently. My suspicion is that – though I have no idea – if the opposition is strong enough, they will intervene. Certain information will become public that those in charge will not be happy about. I think they know a lot about this, the question is whether they use it or not.” Another interesting question is why a background actor so close to the old socialist nomenclature is discussing the possibility of secret service interventions… 

American influence in Hungary (3)

In this article we will expose the other pillar of foreign influence: the establishment of the non-governmental-organization network and its funding from the US.

Open pressure started up once more after the 2022 election. David Pressman, President Biden’s ambassador nominee said at the June senate hearing that he feels democracy is threatened and he sees worrying signs in Hungary. He also said that among other things, he has concerns regarding media freedom and LGBTQ rights. He promised to take a stand against the Hungarian government as well as consult with representatives of “NGOs”. 

Upon arriving to Hungary, Pressman continued his discussion from June.  In fact, he heightened the tone. In October he covertly threatened Hungary because our country – alongside Turkey – had not yet ratified the NATO accession of Sweden and Finland. Pressman explained: he hopes there will be no need for further pressure in this matter. 

After this, a video was posted on the embassy’s website with the following text: “In recent weeks, some leading Hungarian government figures and government-funded commentators have made harsh anti-Western and anti-American statements. Hungary and the United States are allies. Russian aggression threatens us all, we must stick together not tear each other apart!” Then a quiz is shown asking “Who said it: László Kövér or Vladimir Putin? András Bencsik or Vladimir Putin? Sámuel Ágoston Mráz or Vladimir Putin? Zsolt Semjén or Vladimir Putin?” 

In the next part of our series we will show, based on available information, that that the Hungarian left received more support for the 2022 campaign from the Americans than ever before. This came in the form of enormous sums of money, billions of forints, as well as a team of experts who had already achieved considerable success overseas along with the most advanced IT technology. The gravity of what occurred is clearly demonstrated by the Hungarian secret services’ ongoing investigation of the unprecedented foreign intervention which could have clearly violated Hungary’s sovereignty. 

Photo: André Goodfriend (Photo: MTI/Kovács Tamás)

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