WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Jim Risch (R-Idaho), ranking member and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, along with Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), senior members of the committee, today sent a letter to President Trump to express their concern over Hungary's downward democratic trajectory and the implications for U.S. interests in Central Europe. President Trump is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán of Hungary next week.
The senators wrote, "In recent years, democracy in Hungary has significantly eroded. ...Under Orban, the election process has become less competitive and the judiciary is increasingly controlled by the state. Press freedom has declined as advertisers have been strongly discouraged from placing ads in independent outlets and ownership has been consolidated under a foundation that is exempt from antitrust regulation. ... We remain profoundly concerned about the close relationship between this NATO partner and Moscow. Hungary has failed to diversify its energy resources away from Moscow. Hungary has allowed Russia to exploit its "golden visa" system to evade U.S. sanctions. The relocation of the International Investment Bank (IIB, the successor to the Cold War institution known as Comecon) from Moscow to Budapest is an exercise in Russian power projection. Most disturbingly, despite an extradition request from the United States based on an existing and active bilateral treaty, Hungary rejected the request and sent two arms dealers to their freedom in Moscow."
In the letter, the senators ask President Trump to raise these concerns in his meeting with Prime Minister Orban, and to underscore American support for the Hungarian people, writing that "Americans proudly supported Hungarian freedom fighters against Soviet invaders in 1956 and the world was inspired 30 years ago this month when Hungarians tore down the fence between their country and Austria, a landmark event in 1989's remarkable democratic transitions across Europe. We hope that Hungary will return to these democratic roots and inspiring history. We stand in solidarity with the Hungarian people and urge you to remain true to these democratic values that have undergirded our relations with Central and Eastern Europe since the end of the Cold War."
Full text of the letter can be found here.