When is an ambassador not an ambassador?
Updated on 07 September 2022
Geza Jeszenszky, Hungary’s ambassador to Norway, has ticked off about 100 University teachers, students and researchers with text he used in a university text book which they think ‘stigmatises’ the Roma minority.
The textbook that is causing the ‘uproar’ was used at Budapest’s Corvinus University (BCE), but becasue of Jeszenszky’s posting in Oslo, the seminar has not been advertised for two years and the textbook is not available in bookstores.
Whether what was written is racist is the subject of a whole other blog. What has intrigued me is the Hungarian Foreign Ministry’s statement that Jeszenszky had written his remarks as a university teacher rather than as Hungary’s ambassador. Perhaps they forgot that Jeszenszky has been involved in politics for years and served as Hungary’s Minister for Foreign Affairs from 1990-1994. This reads to me as an excuse. I was under the impression that ambassadors were 24/7 representatives of their state. And although the Ministry may indicate that this text was not written in an official capacity, the core values of a democratic society don’t keep office hours.
Now, I’m well used to the murky pasts of politicians being spotlighted when they seek to advance in office – but then again, most of them have been involved in politics all their lives and so many would see nothing wrong with Joe Public standing in moral judgement over the personal lives of its elected representatives. But ambassadors… people who may have had other lives, other professions, before joining the Corps – where do they stand? Is their slate wiped clean once they accept the office of ambassador and are we, the public, to understand that while they may have said one thing when lecturing at a university, they would never say it while serving as an ambassador? Does the office change the core values of a (wo)man?
Another interesting note is that made by Anton Weiss-Wendt, Head of the Center for Studies of Holocaust and Religious Minorities who quoted Jeszenszky’s email to the centre, based in Norway, and said that these ‘comments are deemed uninformed, if not offensive, in this country’. Is it just me, or is there a very loud implication there that such comments are acceptable in Hungary? And if so, why didn’t the Ministry comment on that?
A final note of wonder is that had I not been idling away some time on Facebook, I’d never have seen this post on www.politics.hu and were it not for social media, I wouldn’t be doing my bit to draw attention to it now. Just a few short weeks to 21 December, to what the Mayan’s predict will be the end of the world as we know it, and I already feel it’s changed beyond recognition.