Hungary’s Citizens Debate NATO Membership on Eve of Referendum

The Hungarian American Coalition will sponsor “Hungary in an Expanded NATO: Benefits and Responsibilities,” a series of conferences designed to provide the citizens of Hungary an opportunity to discuss and debate the question of NATO membership.  The conference takes place on November 6, 8 and 10, less than a week before Hungarians vote in a national referendum on NATO membership.

President Árpád Göncz will open the first of three conferences on November 6 in the Parliament in Budapest.  From there, the project moves to the regional cities of Debrecen on November 8, and Miskolc on November 10.

Debrecen, an agricultural hub on Hungary’s Northern Plain, is a center of Hungarian Calvinism and was the site of debates over Hungary’s future in 1848-49 and 1944-45.  The Református Kollégium, one of the country’s foremost universities dating from the 16th century, will host the day-long conference.

Miskolc, Hungary’s second largest and highly industrialized city, is located in the country’s eastern region. The regional conference will be held in Lillafüred’s Hotel Palota in the hills overlooking Miskolc.

Speakers from government, parliamentary parties, business, military and academia from Hungary, the United States, and NATO will discuss the security, economic and political aspects of Hungary’s NATO membership.    Each regional conference will culminate in a town hall meeting with extensive regional, national and local media coverage.  Results of a straw poll conducted at each conference and will be published and distributed throughout the country.

“Our program’s balanced presentation of information and opinion about NATO reinforces the democratic principle that the governed have the final say in decisions affecting them,” notes Hungarian American Coalition President Edith Lauer.

“Hungary’s decision concerning NATO will be a defining moment for a nation which was dismembered at the beginning of this century and relegated to the status of a Soviet satellite some 25 years later,” added Frank Koszorus, Jr. of  the Coalition.

Prominent non-governmental organizations participating in the project include the Hungarian Atlantic Council, the Coalition’s primary in-country partner, as well as the 1945 Foundation, the Lajos Batthyány Foundation, Paul Forgács Foundation, Institute for the History of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, and the Democracy after Communism Foundation.

Ronald S. Lauder, The German Marshall Fund, Malév Airlines, the U.S. Embassy in Budapest and the Hungarian government have provided financial support.

“We are grateful to be part of this return to freedom as Hungarians share their views at this historic moment,” remarks Anne Bader, the project’s Coordinator.

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