Saturday, May 11, 2019
National Charter Schools Week, 2019 - A Proclamation By the President of the United States of America
May 10, 2019 President Donald J. Trump Announces Intent to Appoint Individuals to Key Administration Posts
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 10, 2019
President Donald J. Trump Announces Intent to Appoint Individuals to Key Administration Posts
Today, President Donald J. Trump today announced his intent to appoint the following individuals to key positions in his Administration:
Gary L. Bauer of Kentucky, to be a Member of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom for a two-year term, expiring May 14, 2021.
Daniel A. Reed of Utah, to be a Member of the National Science Board for the remainder of a six-year term, expiring May 10, 2024.
May 10, 2019 BACKGROUND PRESS CALL BY SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIALS ON THE VISIT OF THE PRIME MINISTER OF HUNGARY
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 10, 2019
BACKGROUND PRESS CALL
BY SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIALS
ON THE VISIT OF THE PRIME MINISTER OF HUNGARY
2:37 P.M. EDT
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us today. Just to start at the top, this is going to be on background, attributable to senior administration officials.
But for your knowledge, I have with me today [senior administration officials]. With that, I will turn to [senior administration official] who's going to give us some quick remarks here at the top.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, hi there. It's a pleasure to be speaking with you today. I just wanted to confirm again that the Prime Minister of Hungary is coming to visit on Monday. It will be the first visit of a Hungarian Prime Minister since 2005. And this again follows on the heels of Secretary Pompeo's visit to the region recently and is all part of, again, of our strategy of engagement in the region, or reengagement.
As I just said, it's been since 2005 -- 14 years -- since we have a had a visit of this level with our Hungarian counterparts, who, again, are NATO Allies as well. And we feel it was appropriate to have this frank and productive discussion on a range of topics between the Prime Minister and the President.
As we pointed out in our release, we'll be talking on a range of issues, particularly things like trade, energy diversification, and energy security will feature prominently, as well as security partnerships and how to expand those as, again, as NATO allies.
I'm happy to answer your questions. And if you have anything else that you'd like to add as well?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We also -- just again, to emphasize it in this context, as my colleague was saying, this is a strategy of reengagement with the broader region in Central and Eastern Europe. And I hope that you'll also note that over the course of the last two years of the administration, we've been steadily working through head-of-state visits from the region -- Poland obviously being the most notable -- who have really stepped up as excellent allies in the region.
We’ve also, most recently, been trying to focus again on the V4, the so-called Visegrád Four, which Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia are members of. And we have just, in the last month or so, also hosted the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic and the Prime Minister of Slovakia.
The V4, as many of you on the line will remember, are -- these have been very important countries from the NATO Alliance perspective. We've been trying to encourage them to (inaudible) their cooperation there. There's been some issues that they've had themselves internally --- you know, some difficulties in their own sets of relationships. And we've been trying to encourage them also to work together again as an important regional bloc to engage more broadly with some of their neighboring countries.
We also are in a situation right now within Europe and the European Union where we have one of the regional neighbors, Romania, that have the chairmanship right now with the European Union. Slovakia has the chairmanship of the OSCE. So we see this is a period for Eastern European and Central Eastern European countries to sort of step up and to do more to deal with regional crises, including (inaudible) with Ukraine and many of the other issues that we're all grappling with.
So we're hopeful that we can also make this a theme of the meetings with Prime Minister Orbán. As my colleague said, it's been 14 years since there was a visit by a Hungarian Prime Minister. Funny enough, in one those visits, it was Viktor Orbán himself, in a much younger guise, meeting with President Clinton. So it will be kind of an interesting time that -- you know, the last time he was here he was in this guise and in perhaps a very different time. Fourteen years is a long time.
So we're aware that there's quite a lot of questions about this. So without any further ado, we'd like to hear what the questions are and what you would be most interested in hearing more about. So thank you for joining us.
Q Hi, this is Andrew Feinberg with Breakfast Media. Thanks for doing this call. I was wondering if (inaudible) to Ambassador Cornstein's comments that the President would love to have the situation that Prime Minister Orbán has, namely his so-called illiberal democracy.
And second, will the President be discussing press freedom, rights of ethnic minorities, LGBT rights, or any similar subjects with Prime Minister Orbán?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thanks, Andrew. We didn’t -- your question broke up a little bit. I heard that you are referring to some of the remarks that Ambassador Cornstein was at least cited as making, and it was at the recent Atlantic interview. Is that what you were referring to?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yeah. I mean, sorry, we couldn’t entirely hear. (Inaudible.)
Well, that was based on a much longer interview that Ambassador Cornstein made. You know, we've seen some of transcripts from that, and it looks like some of those citations were taken out of context.
So, I would just sort of say, you know, if you have an opportunity to talk to Ambassador Cornstein, I think that would be a really good thing to follow up, because it really does look like there was a juxtaposition (inaudible) things from, you know, what we saw from the longer transcript of what was a very extensive interview that they did.
In terms of things on the agenda, we have to also remember that the Secretary of State, Pompeo, now, was -- Mike Pompeo was recently in Budapest. He had a very lengthy meeting with Prime Minister Orbán. Many hours, in fact, of discussions with him. He covered the whole agenda of issues that we've been most concerned about with Hungary. These meetings with the President, specifically, (inaudible), actually quite short. And as is this case with all of these meetings with heads of state, we do an awful lot of preparation beforehand. We ourselves have lots of discussions with our Hungarian counterparts.
Prime Minister Szijjártó has been in and met with a number of individuals. Assistant Secretary Wess Mitchell -- before he left, he was also in Hungary. We've had visits from a whole variety of different officials.
So I can assure you that all these issues are being well covered with all of our Hungarian counterparts.
So the point of this meeting is simply just to reinforce the strategic relationship between allies, NATO allies of U.S. and Hungary -- not necessarily just thrash out every issue on the bilateral agenda, which we have been doing constantly for the last two years.
Q Hey guys, it's Margaret Talev over at Bloomberg. Thanks for doing the call. Can you talk a little bit about the status of weapon sales? Do you expect anything to be announced? What is on the table? What is the current status of that relationship? And are there any conditions for, you know, whatever Hungary is doing with Russia right now in connection with any weapons agreement? Thanks.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes. Weapons sales, again, are always a part of agendas, particularly with NATO Allies, as they're increasing defense spending. The President and others have been very clear in wanting to push that -- reaching 2 percent of the NATO defense spending, which Hungary has agreed to do by 2024. So there's a real market share there that we think we can -- that we can exploit, assuming that they are moving to increase their defense budgets.
There are some pending arms sales, but I would actually -- arms sales under discussion. But I would encourage you to reach out to DOD to confirm exactly what the status is of those particular systems. I'm not aware of any preconditions that we're putting on in a manner that we're putting on Russia to Hungary. Again, they're a NATO Ally and we are in full coordination on our partnership on that. So, no further comment on that.
Q Hi, this is Dan Friedman. I'm with Mother Jones. I wondered if the end of discussions that President Trump plans or in the preliminary discussions, including the conversation that Pompeo had, if the issue of the Central European University came up and their treatment of that institution?
In addition, are there any policies, including Orbán’s treatment of refugees -- Syrian refugees -- that the administration condemns or admires particularly? Does that fall in there? Thanks.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, I would say that we’re obviously monitoring all those situations. But I would defer you actually back to the State Department for that particular request.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: On the Syrian --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: On the Syrian -- yeah, on the Syrian refugees issue.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I mean, this is something that gets discussed about in all of the meetings and things that we have done. And on CU, I have to tell you that I have personally raised this with the Hungarians on multiple occasions, beginning, actually, in my very first week here at the NSC.
So I can assure you that has been well and thoroughly discussed with them -- all the different angles, including many of the points that were made in the Atlantic article about the huge blow that this will, frankly, have to Hungary’s standing as a center of intellectual and academic excellence. And we made the point very strongly to (inaudible) that this was something that would be a huge blow to their reputation in Europe.
So, I mean, those points have been made very firmly, and they continue to be made by our other European allies, by NATO Allies, and by other counterparts. So they’ve certainly had the message delivered to them.
Q Yes, hello. This is Alexei (inaudible), RIA Novosti, Russian News Agency. My particular question whether Russia will discussed was already answered. But since we have [senior administration official] here -- and thank you for doing this -- maybe she would like to comment on her recent trip to Russia? And maybe giving us some comments without to be (inaudible) acknowledged with a name. Thank you.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yeah, we’re not here to discuss that on this particular call, but thanks for the question.
Q Hi, this is Shirish Dáte with HuffPost. Given the criticisms of Prime Minister Orbán as a white nationalist, as anti-Semitic, why is he being invited to the White House anyway, to start with? And is there a danger that the President might say things that are contrary to U.S. policy, as stated at least in the last few years? Thank you.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Just a quick point on those -- you know, that line of questioning here. I mean, if you look very carefully at what Prime Minister Orbán is stating, he very much focuses on Magyar and Hungarian nationalism, which is not perhaps the most universal approach, let’s put it that way.
So I think the appeal that he makes within his own domestic politics are not ones that resonate more broadly in the rest of Europe. He very much focuses on Hungary for Hungarians, and (inaudible) very specifically on Magyars. I think that's pretty well known and pretty well documented.
I think what we want to focus on with our Hungarian counterparts and with the Prime Minister, and as we actually have in many of the meetings, is how one tackles some of the broader issues. In terms of migration, we’ve certainly made very strong statements to them about making sure that you have proper policies. If you’re talking about border management and questions about how you handle legal migration, a lot of these discussions have been perfectly sensible, frankly, with our Hungarian counterparts.
And we have stressed many times our great concerns about anti-Semitic statements from a whole host of regional leaders -- European as well as many others. I mean, this is something that we raised as a government, as an administration, as the United States, frequently, with a lot of interlocutors.
And it’s not just specific to one particular individual leader; it’s -- something we’re extremely concerned about is about the uptick of anti-Semitic statements, anti-Semitic attacks, and overall policies that we see across Europe and across many other countries at this particular junction. I think we’ve spoken up very strongly against that.
Q Hi. Thank you. It's Roberta Rampton from Reuters. I wanted to go back to something you said earlier about working with countries in the region, including Hungary, on things like Ukraine. And I'm wondering if you could just explain to us a little bit about what you would like to see (inaudible) to sort of help with that situation there. Thanks.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yeah. Thanks. That's a great question, because, I mean, many of you are very well aware that the Hungarian government has some strong complaints at the moment about Ukraine's language laws, which, they're not actually the only ones that protested the recent language law that was passed by the Ukrainian government are very much focused on the -- enshrining the Ukrainian language at the expense of minority laws was something that was going to -- broadly sought to discriminate against a whole range of minorities -- not necessarily Russian speakers, which is presumed to be the main thrust of the law when it was first introduced.
We have been encouraging the Hungarians to actually adopt the position of many of their other regional countries who have also been concerned about the implications to their ethnic minorities within Ukraine -- Slovenia, Poland, Slovakia, Belarus. You know, there are others who have linguistic communities that are either officially recognized or, you know, certainly have a presence within Ukraine, who have been concerned about the implications for elementary school and other language instruction of those languages.
We have asked the Hungarians to adopt the same approach, which is to deal with those through regular diplomatic channels and not to try to leverage other institutional arrangements to keep this issue at the forefront of political discussions.
We're very concerned about Hungary's tendency to take this into NATO. We've made it very clear to the Hungarians that we do not want this language law to become a feature of Ukraine's overall general relationship with NATO or to have NATO used in some way as an instrument when Hungary is trying to resolve that dispute.
Of course, Ukraine is not a member of NATO, but Hungary has tried to use, at different points, NATO's partnership relationships that NATO has with many other countries in that context and has tried to get other countries to pile on this.
So, again, we would like Hungary to deal with this diplomatically through direct channels with the Ukrainian government. The European Union has been involved in this and trying to work with the Ukrainians to make sure that this law is not misapplied.
And, obviously, we've got a new government coming in Ukraine in the next (inaudible) -- the new President-elect. And there will be parliamentary elections in Ukraine in the next several months, which will give an opportunity for a new government and a new legislature to take a fresh look at this. And we would like the Hungarians to act as constructively as possible on this.
So I don't know if there's anything else that you want to add there.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think that sounds about right. And, again, I'd just hammer home the point that the more this drags out in NATO and the more NATO is not able to engage Ukraine, the less that NATO can do. And we really want NATO and the allies in the region to step up. So this is really a burden-sharing argument here -- for the White House as well.
Q Hi. This is (inaudible) with the German Press Agency. I just wanted to ask if there was any plans to, sort of, at some point perhaps invite Germany or some of the more liberal European countries to Washington, particularly given that Secretary Pompeo had to recently cancel on his meeting with Merkel. Thanks a lot.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, as you know, we have had Chancellor Merkel here several times here. We're actually just about to go on a state visit to the United Kingdom. We had a state visit with President Macron of France. We have constant interactions with the head-of-state level with all of our European counterparts.
We've been working our way, you know, as I said at the beginning, through as many of the European countries as we possibly can.
The very first visit here -- the head-of-state visits were actually Denmark and then the United Kingdom. And again, we've been certainly working through this. We've been, you know, at various points, trying to, again, arrange high-level visits -- not just at meetings like the G7 or G20, where, frankly, the President has ample opportunity to engage with all of his counterparts.
All of these things come down, frankly, to scheduling. But in the instance of Secretary Pompeo, he's trying to reschedule his visit right now to Germany. It was unfortunate that he had to pull away; that was a priority for him.
And we're going to be, I can assure you, constantly trying to get these meetings back on track. And to be honest, we get complaints all the time from our Eastern and Southeastern European, and other counterparts that we spend too much time focused on the traditional allies, the traditional partners, and not enough time on all of the others.
I mean, we haven’t been able to have the Western Balkans -- Albania, Bulgaria. There's a whole list of heads of state that we're still trying to schedule meetings with the President. And the President obviously has limited time on his schedule to be able to accommodate, particularly as we have global relationships, not just relationships confined to Europe.
Q Hi, thanks for doing this. Kristina Anderson, AWPS News. I just wanted to ask whether you might have some specifics to share that will be discussed about the energy situation, especially natural gas. Thank you.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I think, Kristina, that you've heard the President and Cabinet officials speak with many of you many times about the importance of energy security and energy diversity.
I mean, this has obviously been a constant theme. It was a theme when the Chancellor of Austria came, for example. It's a constant theme in the discussions with the German Chancellor, you know, trying to make sure that there is not a dependency of any one source of energy within Europe. This has been, frankly, a theme of U.S. engagement with Europe since the 1980s.
And it's something that Secretary Perry has been very actively engaged in and traveling around Europe. Secretary Perry has been to -- I mean, pretty much, I think at this point, to almost every one of our European allies and partner countries, talking to all of them about the importance of them diversifying their sources of energy.
You know, we're particularly concerned in the case of, as I said, Hungary, Austria, and Germany of too much dependence on Russia. We know that's not very popular with the Russians.
But our whole overall point is that countries should have the broader (inaudible) of supply and fuel mix, frankly. It's not just a question of gas or oil, but as many energy sources as possible. We're not just out there trying to tout U.S. LNG, but we do see that also as a new and important part of the European fuel mix.
We have a considerable amount, again, of attention devoted to this issue, so you can be certain that this will be on the agenda. And it will certainly be a feature of when we have, you know, the broader meeting with the Hungarians. It was on the agenda for Secretary Pompeo's discussions.
Q Hi, this is Jon Decker from Fox. As you know, the President has called on all member nations of NATO to increase their commitment of defense funding to NATO. Where does Hungary stand in that regard? Will the President be calling on the Prime Minister to increase the amount of defense spending for NATO? Thank you.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I can assure you that always comes up when in comes in the context of NATO Allies. And I'm fairly confident that the President will bring this up in the discussion.
But, you know, Hungary does have much to be wanting in terms of their defense spending right now, which I think hovers around 1.2 percent. Although they have committed to reaching the 2 percent goal by 2024, we'll see how much they will follow through on that. But we hope that that is part of what we hope to be a robust discussion on their status as a NATO Ally and their ability to bring real capabilities to bear, especially through raising defense spending.
Q Hey guys, it's Margaret, again, at Bloomberg. I'm sorry, could we go over briefer number two's answer on Ukraine again? Because I did not understand what the answer was.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Okay, Margaret. I mean, basically, that was -- I mean, our point to Hungary is to basically not try to leverage its role in NATO to basically try to force Ukraine into changing its language laws. I mean, we could go a little bit into more detail on this, but anyway, [senior administration official, jump in here.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I mean, just to make it really, really simple: Every country -- if a NATO Ally -- it's a consensus-based organization. So if they don't -- if they can -- any country can essentially wield a veto on whatever issue it is. So they, you know --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yeah, we would -- I guess we're kind of trying to find out what it was that you didn’t understand. But basically, we're trying to encourage Hungary not to try to internationalize and to -- I mean, basically, instrumentalize other entities for the purposes of their disputes with Ukraine over their language law.
We’ve been very troubled by that. Hungary has tried to bring it into forums where this is just not relevant. And that’s an issue we want Hungary to step up and to start thinking about Ukraine as a European neighbor and as a partner.
And, again, to be very clear, Ukraine is not a member of NATO, but it has a partnership arrangement with NATO, just like it has a partnership arrangement with the European Union as part of the Eastern Partnership program. And obviously, we’re all concerned about having the Ukraine, in the future, as a stable European country -- a neighbor of Slovakia and Hungary and Poland and Belarus and the Baltic States, et cetera.
And what we’re worried about is that Hungary has again been trying to put undue pressure on Ukraine about the Hungarian -- the use of the Hungarian language in Ukraine, and trying to use other European countries to leverage that.
And, frankly, the Romanians, the Poles, and others have similar concerns about the Ukrainian language laws but did not take that approach. And we would like Hungary to basically act like a much more responsible ally and partner on this and to deal with these kinds of things diplomatically.
So this is one area where we’ve been really concerned about the stance that Hungary has taken on this because it leads to a lot of questions about what their intent is.
Q Hello, this is Sean Lyngaas from CyberScoop. A preview of the trip from the Press Secretary mentioned that cybersecurity would be raised in the meeting. I wonder if you could elaborate on that -- if it was going to be related to recent administration efforts to get European allies to ditch Huawei and other communications equipment, or if it was something else.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think what we have been most concerned about with all of our NATO Allies -- and, again, just stressing Hungary as a NATO Ally -- we need to ensure interoperability of all of our systems.
And, you know, the concern that we’ve been having is when we have (inaudible) secure military systems, but we all have to have trust in the telecommunication systems -- both civilian as well as military systems. We have to be able to engage in secure information sharing. And we've been making, you know, points to all of our NATO Allies about the importance of having the same systems in place that we can all rely on, that we can all -- that we can all be part of.
So that is likely to be the main thrust of that discussion. The other issue is, you know, obviously, we're very concerned about overall cyberattacks -- hacking; you know, all of the standard issues that we've been putting on all of our agendas with our allies and partners that we need to work together to, you know, make sure that we have the right procedures and systems in place to defend against this and to have the appropriate amount of resilience.
So, I mean, this will be kind of a high-level discussion to make sure we're all on the same page.
Q Hi. Kristina Anderson again with AWPS News. I just wanted to follow up a little bit on the energy question. Apparently, Hungary has been pushing the EU to consider a kind of consortium to provide more development for energy diversification in the south. And I'm wondering if the United States -- if that might be on the table for the United States to take a piece of that, if that's of any consideration in joining the kind of consortium there. Thank you.
Q This is a question I think would be better addressed to the Departments of State and Energy.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Okay. Thank you very much. Just to reiterate, this briefing was on background to senior administration officials.
END 3:07 P.M. EDT