Today a special (and online) hearing was held in the US House of Representatives where Gergely Karácsony and the mayors of V4 provide information on emerging legal issues in Central European states.
While such inquiries are not uncommon, the head of a congressional subcommittee in Europe calls on representatives of the Association of Independent Cities, not the government, which is certainly a sign. According to preliminary information, Bill Keating, chairman of the subcommittee, is very interested in how local actors in the region will deal with the anti-democratic actions of national governments.
Hungary is a barrier
Already in his introduction, Keating in his latest statement, Freedom House only described Hungary as a “somewhat independent” country, which he called particularly concerned. Although Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic are classified as free, Hungary has serious problems with the rule of law and freedom of the press, highlighting the persecution of the CEU and the law against transgender people.
The first of the mayors officially heard as “witnesses” was Matúš Vallo of Bratislava, who said Central European nations were still seeking their identity, but it was not an easy task because even Western European democracies struggled with populism.
He sees V4 mayors working for democracy and setting an example for the whole country. The Federation of Free Cities was precisely established to work together for their purpose.
Gergely Karácsony began his five-minute speech in English with Victor Orban, using social discontent to create a mixed regime. The mayor adopted the new constitution, listing changes in the electoral law, the disintegration of civil society and the occupation of the media. But he also pointed out that alarming changes have begun in foreign policy, including the “opening up of the East” and the drastic increase in cooperation with Russia and China. He mentioned the Budapest-Belgrade railroad and the construction of the Box 2.
As for Christmas, the Fidesz government will use Vladimir Putin’s methods. He noted that Lszló Kövér’s recent leaked speech and that the Hungarian government had used the Pegasus spyware program against Hungarian journalists, businessmen and opposition politicians.
“I assure you that the actions of the Hungarian government do not reflect the values of the Hungarian community,” Christmas said, citing the example of municipal elections, to which the government responded with financial austerity.
Nevertheless, according to Christmas, the unification of the democratic opposition presents a unique opportunity to defeat Orban’s nationalist populism in April next year and to restore Hungary’s position in the Atlantic Alliance.
Taiwan, Belarus, China
Third, Prague Mayor Zdeněk Hřib stressed that there is a link between human rights and climate change and that helping them is one of their most important tasks. He spoke out against the rule of Alexander Lukashenko and discussed the importance of defending Taiwan.
According to Harip, even if the government of Andrzej Babis comes to an end, it does not mean that Prague will no longer play any role in the alliance of free cities and will have to support each other.
At the beginning of his speech, Warsaw Mayor Rafael Trusskovsky pointed out that thirty years after 1989, it was difficult to believe that democratic values could be compromised. He also spoke of Russian influence, but said that the Poles were not as pro-Russian as Hungary.
Trzaskowski said the Polish government has launched a campaign against the LGBTQ community, campaigning in the media and endangering even EU members in the country. He called on the United States to support Central European NGOs. It is feared that China and Russia will fill the vacuum.
After the five-minute introductory speeches, members of the subcommittee’s Democrats and Republicans can also ask questions. Czech Zdeněk Hřib, China’s business influence is often overestimated because billions of investments are promised to the Czech industry, but in reality only a fraction of this is realized through purchases, not investments. When they moved to Taiwan, he feared receiving economic threats from China, but Beijing eventually canceled only a small value deal.
Trojan horse in union
The Polish mayor described an issue of how he was attacked by the Polish public media who used full propaganda weapons in the campaign against him. According to Polish state television, he campaigns in the same way against homosexuals or refugees.
When asked what the mayors expected from Joe Biden’s summit on democracy, Gergely Karácsony noted that the non-invitation to Hungary was a clear signal from the United States.
“They want to talk to countries that do not destroy democracy,” he added.
According to Gergely Karácsony, Viktor Orbán always identifies himself with the nation and represents all Hungarians, but this is not the case and he asked everyone not to place an equal identity between Hungary and Orban. He also apologized for not being able to represent the EU as a whole by not inviting Hungary. It was also revealed that the mayor of Budapest will be at the peak of democracy, however he will not speak.
In another question, he categorized Christmas Urban’s policy with his previous statement, “Never look at what I say, but what I do”. The Hungarian Prime Minister believes in democracy, while at the same time exemplifying his actions against sexual minorities and believing that he is doing all he can to destroy it.
Christmas described the Russian and Chinese influence as worrying because the breakdown of democracy was accompanied by an increase in Russian and Chinese influence.
“It is important that we understand that the policy of destroying democracy and opening up to the East goes hand in hand. The Hungarian government relies heavily on Chinese and Russian investments in Hungary, which are made from taxpayers’ money but represent Chinese and Russian interests, ”he said.
“Hungary is the Trojan horse of the Chinese government within the European Union,” he said, adding that the United States should also focus on the western Balkans, where China’s growing influence is growing.
Later, the mayor also spoke about the financial exemption. Since becoming mayor, Budapest has lost 40 percent of its revenue, not because of an epidemic, but because of government decisions. According to Christmas, the Orbán government does not consider them a legitimate partner, they want to be in power, and they know that if local governments win, they will be weakened. That is why the next April election is so important to them.
“Without money, even the best mayor can do nothing for the development of the city,” he said.
President Bill Keating concluded the investigation by saying that there could be evidence that acts of aggression and dictatorship can never succeed if they work together to defend democracy.
“Your leadership, confidence and courage are important not only in the present, but also in future challenges,” President V4 told the mayors, adding that the two hours were one of the most important inquiries in recent times.
Watch the full broadcast here: