US State Department Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights Sarah Sewall delivered a speech in Budapest Wednesday afternoon titled “Democracy and Human Rights: Shared Challenges and Opportunities.”
- She indirectly made some downright tough statements about the Orbán regime but reassured everyone she still thinks Hungary is a democracy.
- Former foreign minister of Hungary János Martonyi also played a role in the event. They gave him a microphone after Sewall’s speech and he told members of the audience to ask some questions.
- Once the question and answer session ended, Martonyi said the session proved Hungary has “unlimited” free speech and a free press.
“Both of our countries have seen a rise in bigoted and xenophobic rhetoric,” Sewall said during her speech.
“In the United States, against Muslims and immigrants from Latin America. Here in Hungary, against religious and ethnic minorities, along with those fleeing violent extremism, civil war and political repression.”
She then spoke at length about the importance of civil society, human rights, fair elections, independent institutions, the rule of law, why a free press is so important, why corruption is bad, etc.
Sewall had been going at it for about 20 minutes before finally segueing to the conclusion of her speech.
“That’s why institutions like the European Union and NATO affirm that our collective strength is rooted not only in shared interests, but also in shared liberal democratic values,” she said.
The Hungarian government has been treading on thin ice with its allies in the West. Its memberships in the European Union and NATO are pretty much the only thing making sure that there exists at least a façade of democracy in Hungary. In other words, Sewall’s remarks about the importance of the EU and NATO and “shared liberal democratic values” can be interpreted as a veiled political reminder to the Hungarian government.
The audience applauded and Martonyi opened up the floor to questions.
The Beacon asked Sewall whether it’s true that “President Obama and George Soros are in cahoots to bring millions of Muslims into Europe.” To which Sewall responded: “As a representative of the government, I’m inclined to not honor such an inference. I think it’s a totally inappropriate inference. No.”
And then Martonyi patted himself on the back.
“I am personally glad to have had this opportunity because for me it was another demonstration that we have unlimited freedom of speech in this country and unlimited freedom of the press. We argue, we agree, we disagree. We probably disagree much more frequently than we agree. We are divided. We are not the only country which seems to be divided now,” he said at the end of the event.