On Wednesday March 9, 1994 Hungarian American Coalition Board members Zsolt Szekeres, Frank Koszorus Jr. and László Hámos (president, Hungarian Human Rights Foundation) participated in a lunch meeting hosted by the Bretton Woods Committee for Mr. Jacques de Larosiere, President of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). Others in attendance were Ronald Freeman, EBRD First Vice President for Merchant Banking, Congressman James Scheuer (EBRD U.S. Executive Director), former Congressman Charles Vanik, U.S. Treasury Department officials and leaders of American ethnic organizations. Other Hungarian-Americans included Gyula Várallyay representing the World Federation of Hungarians and Leslie Megyeri, Assistant Counsel to the House Judiciary Committee.
The purpose of the meeting was to establish contact with leaders of grassroots American ethnic communities in order to assist the work of securing from the U.S. Congress the funds pledged to EBRD for 1994. Mr. de Larosiere opened the discussion by outlining the Bank’s important work in transforming the economies of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. He emphasized the importance of continued U.S. support for EBRD’s admittedly little-known undertakings and pledged responsiveness to the needs expressed by the ethnic groups represented at the meeting.
Introduced by Bretton Woods Committee Chairman Henry Owen as the “second man at EBRD,” Mr. Freeman described the bank’s unique mandate not only to foster economic growth, but also to lend directly to the emerging private sectors, to nurture the democratic process and to help repair the ravaged environments of some of the recipient countries. Since its creation in 1991, the EBRD has supported 177 projects, lending over $2.6 Billion directly to the private sector, and another $1.6 Billion for other projects and technical assistance. These funds have catalyzed over $12.6 Billion in private capital flow. In a country-by-country review, Mr. Freeman highlighted EBRD support for the Rába-General Motors manufacturing facility, which resulted from the American company’s exhaustive search for the most suitable environment in all of Europe, only to find Hungary the winner.
Responding to questions, Mr. de Larosiere stated the bank’s future intention to place greater emphasis on small and medium-sized entrepreneurial efforts, to increase the levels of technical assistance, to rely more heavily on local consultants and to expand the preparation and dissemination of information about the Bank’s activities. Privately, he also expressed interest in supporting projects involving trans-frontier and regional cooperation which could promote the economic revival of national minority communities as well.