April 6, 2000
Ambassador Géza Jeszenszky,
Ambassador of Hungary to the U.S.
Géza Jeszenszky gave a historical overview
of the emergence of Eastern Europe from the yoke of
Communism for our ELF members, invited university
students and faculty, and members of the Mississippi
Department of Economic and Community Development.
His lecture helped all of us to understand why, in the
post-Communist era, and in the world at large, humans
still inflict atrocities on one another under the
pretext of ethnic and religious reason. The
disintegration of the Communist empire was accompanied
by the atrocities in Bosnia, Kosova and now Chechnya.
However, other captive nations, such as Poland,
Hungary, Czechoslovakia, the Baltic States, and the
Central Asian Republics, regained their freedom and
independence, and have emerged with new economic
Integration, emphasized Ambassador Jeszenszky, must
come through a democracy of self government, including
the responsibility for one's own affairs. Democracy
at the local level, as in the U.S., is a key element
in allowing ethnic enclaves to run their own affairs
without undue influence from the outside. The
ambassador believes that the emerging nations should
keep their customs, languages, and educational systems
which Communism tried to destroy. The Central and
East European countries are making progress. Poland,
the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia have not
only "seen the light at the end of the tunnel," but
are already out of the tunnel. Romania, Bulgaria,
Serbia and Ukraine still need to achieve political as
well as economic stability.
As far as Hungary is concerned, Ambassador Jeszenszky
remarked that his country increased its GDP by 5% and
was able to push down inflation and unemployment to
one-digit numbers, better than the EU average. So
far, Hungary has attracted more than $21 billion in
foreign investment, of which the United States is
responsible for one-third. Hungary's entrance into
NATO and eventual adherence to the European Union are
both promising signs.
Through question and answer, the
ambassador commented on Russia's new president, Putin.
He underlined that probably Putin himself is not yet
sure of what kind of policies he will pursue. It is a
big question mark what sort of foreign policy Putin
will introduce, and how the United States might
influence his policies.