The Hungarian American Coalition (Coalition) during its meetings on December 6, 1997, discussed its 1998 priorities: the Coalition reiterated its strong support for NATO expansion, focused on Hungarian minority rights, and approved the establishment of a Scholarship Fund for Hungarian students to study in US colleges and universities.
The weekend’s Coalition-sponsored activities began Friday afternoon with a White House Briefing arranged for Coalition members by Christine Stanek, Associate Director, White House Office of Public Liaison. Administration officials in attendance were Jonathan Rickert, Director, North Central European Affairs, US Department of State; James Holmes, Coordinator for Eastern European Assistance, US Department of State; Stephen Flanagan, Senior Director, Central and East European Affairs, National Security Council; and Rebecca Joyce, Hungarian Desk Officer, US Department of State.
All three officials praised the Coalition’s NATO conference series as an outstanding effort to provide well-balanced information to Hungarians on NATO membership. Jonathan Rickert reviewed Administration policies to encourage transformation and reintegration of Central and East European countries with the West. James Holmes gave an overview of US assistance to Hungary since 1989 and outlined plans being made to channel future assistance, including the potential for developing a public-private partnership after Hungary and other countries are phased out of SEED assistance programs. Stephen Flanagan discussed the next steps Hungary will take toward NATO membership.
Coalition member Alfred Tóth raised the issue of the disappointingly slow action of the Romanian government to return church and individual property to the Hungarian minority. Other questions posed by Coalition members included the undetected and therefore ignored plight of Hungarians in Voivodina whose historic villages are being resettled by Serb refugees, often with Western assistance; the increasing difficulties caused by the failure of the Slovak government to legislate the long-promised minority language law; and the continued strong interest of the Coalition to participate in the delivery of US assistance programs in the region.
In their responses Administration officials stressed they were aware of the questions raised by Coalition members. Both Andrew Ludányi, who presented a special report prepared for the Coalition on the situation of Hungarians in Voivodina, and László Hámos asked that closer attention be paid to their growing difficulties. Administration officials promised to study the report and investigate the problem of “double displacement” of indigenous populations by Serb refugees.
On the evening of December 6, Coalition members and guests gathered for their traditional Mikulás Dinner at the elegant University Club International Center in downtown Washington.
Among the 70 dinner guests were US Ambassador to Romania and Mrs. James Rosapepe; Hungarian Ambassador and Mrs. György Bánlaki; Christine Stanek, Associate Director of the White House Office of Public Liaison; Dr. Daniel McDonald, President, Potomac Foundation; Thomas Albert, Director, Ethnic Outreach, Democratic National Committee; József Tóth, Deputy Chief of Mission of the Embassy of Hungary; and Honorary Hungarian Consuls László Böjtös, Eugene Megyesy, Jr., Helen Szablya and Eva E. Voisin.