While protesters were tear-gassed by police, the U.S. Ambassador attended a soccer match with PM Viktor Orban

U.S. ambassador to Hungary David B. Cornstein watched a soccer match last Sunday in Székesfehérvár in the VIP section. One of the teams playing was Mol-Vidi, Hungarian PM Viktor Orban’s favorite, so it is no surprise that Orban was also present. Atlatszo was informed that Cornstein and Orban chatted for about five minutes.

Sunday night several thousands of Hungarians marched to the Parliament to protest the policies of the Orban government, including the recently passed overtime law. Later that night protesters walked several kilometers in the freezing cold to the state TV headquarters where police used tear gas on the demonstrators.

Protest and standoff continue at the public service media HQ – Opposition MPs removed from the building by force

Protesters are gathering in front of the public service media’s headquarters Monday evening. Five to ten thousand people demonstrated on Sunday against the Orban government, and the demonstration ended with a few thousand protesters walking to the public service channel’s headquarters in an industrial suburb.

On the very same night, Viktor Orban and U.S. ambassador to Hungary David B. Cornstein were watching a soccer match in the town of Székesfehérvár. Orban’s favorite team, Mol Vidi was playing against Ferencváros. According to our source, the two men chatted for about five minutes in the VIP section.

The press secretary of the U.S. Embassy in Budapest confirmed to Atlatszo that the ambassador attended the match in Székesfehérvár on Sunday.

PM Viktor Orban is a soccer fan and Hungarian media closely follows who is watching matches with him in the VIP sector.

When it comes to businessmen and oligarchs, being allowed to watch a match with the prime minister suggests (and ensures) business success.

Cornstein arrived in Budapest in the summer and vowed to improve U.S.-Hungarian relations. During the first months after his arrival, the issue of Central European University was at the forefront. The Hungarian government has been trying to push the American school out of the country for almost two years now.

Cornstein fought for the school – unsuccessfully. The Hungarian government did not sign the document that would have allowed CEU to stay in the country, thus the school announced at the beginning of December that it was moving its U.S. accredited programs to Vienna, Austria.

In a recent interview to Hungarian news weekly 168óra Cornstain said that he is ’heartbroken’ by what happened to CEU, but ’this is not a reason for me not to trust the Hungarian government.’

We also wanted to know the U.S. government’s view on the recent protests in Hungary. The U.S. State Department told Atlatszo that

the United States supports freedoms of speech, association and assembly. We call on all parties to avoid violence and intimidation.

Cover photo: Cornstein and Orban on September 10, 2018. Photo by the U.S. Embassy in Budapest

You can read the original, Hungarian language story here.