Katalin Szili Urged to Keep Voivodina Violence on International Agenda
Washington, DC – Katalin Szili, President of the Hungarian Parliament, was a guest of the Hungarian American Coalition (HAC) in Washington, D.C., as part of her one-week visit to the United States. On September 22, Ms. Szili spoke to a gathering of Coalition leaders and Embassy officials, including Ambassador András Simonyi, at a forum organized by the Coalition at the Hungarian Reformed Federation’s Kossuth House.
Ms. Szili began the discussion by expressing her respect and appreciation for her compatriots in the U.S. who had to flee Hungary to escape political oppression. She then recounted the first meeting of the Forum of Hungarian Legislators. The Forum’s membership includes all ethnic Hungarian legislative representatives from the countries surrounding Hungary, including those elected to the European Parliament. The government of Hungary created this group as an important forum for dialogue among Hungarian leaders in the Carpathian basin, since it consists of freely elected officials with a mandate to speak on behalf of their communities. Ms. Szili supports the preparation of a Hungarian “national strategy,” independent of party politics, since not only Hungary, but also the entire Hungarian nation is in crisis from a demographic point of view. She asked for the support of the HAC in defining such a strategy. With respect to dual citizenship for ethnic Hungarians (i.e. granting Hungarian citizenship to citizens of surrounding countries), Ms. Szili said that it was a complex issue, and welcomes the input of the various Hungarian communities.
On the issue of U.S. visas for Hungarian citizens, Ms. Szili recounted her meeting with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitrage, who expressed hope that the process would be made significantly easier as early as next year, in light of Hungary’s status as a “reliable” ally of the United States. The roadblocks encountered by many Hungarian citizens in applying for U.S. visas have long been a sore point of U.S.-Hungarian relations.
In attendance at the Kossuth House forum were the following members of the HAC: Zsolt Szekeres, President; Maximilian Teleki, Executive Committee member and organizer of the meeting; Imre Lendvai-Lintner, President of the Hungarian Scout Association in Exteris; Frank Koszorus, Jr., President of the American Hungarian Federation of Metropolitan Washington, D.C.; Julius Várallyay, Secretary; Peter Soltész, Treasurer and András Virág. Also in attendance were: Ilona Teleki, Senior Fellow of the Center for Strategic and International Studies; László Horváth, President of Active Media Inc. and Anikó Gaal Schott, media specialist and Bulcsu Veress, a former staff member of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
In the ensuing discussion, Frank Koszorus, Jr. pointed out that the Hungarian American Coalition has consistently advocated the restoration of autonomy in Voivodina as the means for achieving peaceful coexistence among that region’s nationalities. Several members of the audience urged Hungary’s diplomatic corps to remain unflagging in its efforts to keep the situation in Voivodina on the international agenda. László Horváth recommended that the “national strategy” proposed by Ms. Szili should include a plan to bolster commercial ties with Hungary’s surrounding countries and improve the economic status of the ethnic Hungarian communities there. Ms. Szili responded positively to this suggestion.