Budapest, January 31 (MTI) – US Senator John McCain had talks with Prime Minister Viktor Orban and opposition leaders in Budapest today, and discussed Hungary’s upcoming election and the issue of the monument planned to commemorate the victims of the German occupation, as well as the situation in Ukraine.
McCain, on a one-day visit to Hungary heading a bipartisan delegation composed of two senators and six congressmen, told a news conference he had assured Orban and opposition politicians that the United States would remain a committed ally and friend of Hungary.
He added that there were concerns over the state of democracy in Hungary, including serious ones, in the country and beyond. These problems should be resolved by Hungarians in a democratic way, he said. The country’s democratic institutions, its system of checks and balances and rule of law should be strong enough to support the process, the senator for Arizona added.
“The United States and the rest of the free world have an abiding interest in Hungary’s continued development as a strong, inclusive and tolerant democracy, with a free market economy, an independent judiciary and a free media,” he said.
He said there was no better way to affirm “the vibrancy, competitiveness and fairness” of its democracy than with the presence of respectable, objective international groups to observe the [upcoming] election.
McCain added that he had discussed shared interests between Hungary and the US with the prime minister and members of the opposition, which included “a commitment to consolidating democracy in the Balkans, integrating Ukraine into Europe, fostering a free and peaceful Afghanistan and deepening security cooperation in NATO, especially on counter-terrorism.”
The senator said that it is hoped Hungary would “address its energy security needs in ways that further diversify Europe’s supply of energy”. He said the issue of the “Snowden affair” had, at least temporarily, harmed relations with some of the US’s allies but at the same time if these capabilities had been available at the time, 9/11 could have been prevented. He said the US president aimed to find a balance between protecting people’s privacy and maintaining a level of security that prevents terrorism. He added that the issue of US eavesdropping had not come up during talks with Orban, because “the prime minister is on the same wavelength as we are”.
McCain said he and Orban had discussed the situation in Ukraine, where there was grave crisis, and they agreed that everything possible had to be done to stop the violence.
McCain was also asked to share his opinion regarding plans to set up a memorial in central Budapest to the WWII German invasion and whether this subject had come up during talks with Orban. He said his personal opinion was that “everything we do in life we have to be sure not only of what it is but what it appears to be”. He said if it appeared in any way that Germany’s “behaviour” in this country was validated, and the behaviour of those who collaborated with Germany, then people and especially Jewish people have every right to be resentful. He added that he had brought this up with Orban.
The prime minister’s press chief, Bertalan Havasi, told MTI that Orban had agreed with McCain that economic cooperation between the US and Hungary was excellent, as demonstrated by 9 billion dollars US investment in Hungary. Orban briefed McCain about the V4 summit held earlier this week about Ukraine, Havasi added.
Leaders of Hungary’s opposition Unity alliance met McCain in parliament and discussed current affairs, including the situation in Ukraine. Attila Mesterhazy, leader of the Socialist Party, Gordon Bajnai, the leader of the E14-PM opposition alliance, as well as several representatives of the Socialist Party, PM and Liberal Party attended the meeting.
Senator McCain thanked Hungary for the army’s peace-keeping efforts in Kosovo, Bosnia and Afghanistan, the Socialist party said in a statement. The government and the opposition are in agreement over matters concerning Ukraine, as the swiftest possible peaceful resolution is in everybody’s interest, the statement quoted Mesterhazy as saying. McCain and Mesterhazy agreed that Hungary’s pending elections and campaign should be conducted freely and fairly, the statement added.