Deputy Assistant Secretary Thomas Melia Visit to Budapest, Hungary
During his March 1-2 visit to Budapest, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Deputy Assistant Secretary of State (DAS) Thomas O. Melia met with a range of Hungarian government officials, political analysts, representatives from civil society, and Hungarian opposition party representatives. He also visited the historic Dohány Street Synagogue. Deputy Assistant Secretary Melia thanked the Hungarian government for its welcome of newly arrived U.S. Ambassador Colleen Bell and conveyed in every meeting that the U.S. will continue to advocate for good governance, rule of law, and human rights in Hungary, as it does around the world.
DAS Melia’s visit highlighted the continuity in U.S. policy towards Hungary. He stressed that dialogue in the bilateral relationship with Hungary will continue to include the United States’ concern for fundamental freedoms, democratic procedures and rule of law, and the weakening of constitutional checks and balances. Referring to Russia’s occupation of Crimea and destabilizing activities in eastern Ukraine, Mr. Melia underscored the importance of sustained trans-Atlantic cooperation in maintaining effective targeted sanctions against Russia for its actions to undermine Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity.
During his meetings with Hungarian counterparts, DAS Melia encouraged the Hungarian government to enhance its anti-corruption efforts, noting that the U.S. government can be a key partner in these efforts. He also encouraged further cooperation with civil society organizations that focus on transparency and good governance. The Deputy Assistant Secretary stressed President Obama's strong support for an independent civil society, and reiterated U.S. concerns about harassment of human rights and advocacy NGOs by the Hungarian government. Mr. Melia praised a recent series of roundtable discussions between the Prime Minister’s Office and the Jewish community and cited this dialogue as an example of how increased government consultation with important community stakeholders can lead to positive outcomes. DAS Melia noted ongoing concerns regarding the Hungarian government's relationship with religious groups, specifically noting the need for the government to revise substantially a law concerning recognition of religions, as called for in recent decisions by both the Hungarian Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights. In discussions with government officials and civil society alike, Mr. Melia expressed the importance of equal citizenship for all in modern democracies, including for Roma and Sinti citizens.
DAS Melia also met with leading representatives from a variety of opposition parties to hear their views. He said that the United States government continues to advocate for implementation of OSCE election recommendations as part of ensuring a level playing field for all political parties in Hungarian elections.
DAS Melia also met with several Hungarian civil society leaders, who discussed their organizations’ activities advocating for the rights of vulnerable individuals, for human rights, and for transparency in government.
For further information, please contact Jennifer Rebecca Tarr at Tarrjr@state.gov or telephone her at 202-647-0984.