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Apr 08, 2019 - Zoltán Kovács

With this brazenly one-sided event, the Helsinki Commission goes all in

On Tuesday, the Commission for Security and Cooperation in Europe of the U.S. Congress, also known as the Helsinki Commission, will hold a briefing to “explore recent developments in Hungary, including issues related to the rule of law and corruption.”

We’ve grown accustomed to the Helsinki Commission’s odd fixation on Hungary’s internal affairs. Helsinki’s staff includes some long-standing, vocal critics of Viktor Orbán.

But the brazenness with which they’ve put together such a one-sided briefing surprised even me. Although it’s only a “briefing,” which is less formal than a hearing, this is, after all, a body of the Congress of the United States of America, and they haven’t even bothered to maintain the appearance of balance.

Consider this:

Among the organizers of the briefing, we find one Alex T. Johnson, a former senior advisor of Soros’s Open Society Foundation. Soros and his NGOs have spoken explicitly about their political opposition to the Orbán Government.

Panelists include Dalibor Rohac. Currently with the American Enterprise Institute, Rohac is well known for his close associations with the Hungarian opposition and opposition-affiliated institutions, like Political Capital. Rohac was the author in the spring of 2017 of the notorious open letter calling on the Orbán Government to stop the so-called “crackdown” on NGOs. That letter was a highly politicized attempt to paint legitimate regulation of foreign-funded NGOs as some kind of oppression of civil society. The Hungarian group that organized this open letter with Rohac, the Free Market Foundation, is closely affiliated with a former MP from the opposition.  He was also one of the authors of the article claiming that Hungary and Poland are no longer democracies and another on “How the United States can stop Hungary’s descent into authoritarianism”.

The panel also includes Susan Corke, director of the Transatlantic Democracy Working Group. She recently hosted a podcast entitled, “What’s the matter with Hungary?” which discussed “Hungarian President (sic) Viktor Orban’s standoff with the European People’s Party group.”

Also on the panel: Melissa Hooper, a director at Human Rights First and author of a slanted article on opposition-led protests, “Protesters in Hungary Call Out Labor Rights – and Rule of Law”. It includes plenty of lines from the opposition message machine about a “twisted process” – even manages to slip in a line about the prime minister’s “anti-Semitic rhetoric” by citing an article by – wait for it – her colleague at Human Rights First.

These figures have a right to express their opinion, of course, but they cannot claim to be nonpartisan or have an objective, expert view on Hungary.

And here we have an official commission within the U.S. Congress holding an official briefing that is so unashamedly one-sided, so unabashedly critical of a close ally of the United States. Not only is this deeply offensive to the voters of Hungary and the government they elected, this should be a source of shame to the Congress.

In any case, don’t expect to hear anything new at Tuesday’s briefing.