Month: February 2012

A Hungarian Catholic archbishop looks at the “modern” world

David Baer, who teaches theology and philosophy at Texas Lutheran University, is interested in the fate of Hungary. He spent two longer periods in Hungary as a Fulbright scholar and is the author of a book entitled The Struggle of Hungarian Lutherans under Communism. He also has family connections that tie him to the country. His wife and two children are Hungarian citizens. He speaks Hungarian well.

On January 17 Baer decided to write an open letter to Hungarian churches in which he expressed his worries about the general state of Hungarian democracy as well as his specific concerns about the new law on churches that makes the recognition of churches as such the prerogative of politicians. He sent his Hungarian-language letter to the Hungarian Lutheran Church, which decided to make it available on the Internet.

It is a thoughtful letter. Baer is convinced that reviving the notion of the “third road” (the idea that Hungary’s future lies somewhere between modern capitalism and Soviet-type socialism) can only lead away from Europe. Baer’s sympathies used to lie with Fidesz, but today he is deeply disappointed in the Orbán government. He thinks very little of the new Hungarian constitution which “perhaps some consider to be the basis of Hungarian democracy, but then these people must realize that this specifically Hungarian democracy is contrary to basic concepts of western democracy.” In the West this “new kind of democracy is called Putinism.”

At the end of his letter Baer asks the people who pin their hopes on Orbán in the name of national interest to reconsider their opinion about Hungary’s true national interest.

The Lutherans made Baer’s letter public “in the hope of substantive and cultured discussion.” As far I could ascertain, Baer’s letter solicited only one answer: from Gyula Márfi, the Catholic archbishop of Veszprém, earlier Bishop of Eger.

Márfi was appointed to his post in 1997 by Pope John Paul II, a post József Mindszenty held in 1944-45 prior to his appointment as prince primate of the Hungarian Catholic Church and archbishop of Esztergom. Márfi spent two years (1976-1978) in Paris where he received his “diplome supérieur d’études oecuméniques.” So, Márfi doesn’t even have the excuse of being totally ignorant of Western Europe. Of course, it is possible that while in France he met only arch-conservative Catholic priests. In any case, a few years back–as Zsófia Mihancsik’s footnote to Márfi’s letter reminded me–he delivered a ringing speech on the thirty-second anniversary of Mindszenty’s death about “Hungary that is suffering from an overdose of freedom,” in fact “is in life threatening danger” because of too much liberty. In the audience was the American ambassador April H. Foley. One can only hope that she didn’t understand one blessed word of Márfi’s sermon, unless, of course, the Archbishopric provided an English translation of the speech ahead of the event. Of course, if this was the case, April Foley shouldn’t have attended.

Gyula Márfi, archbishop of Veszprém (magyarkurir.hu)

Márfi’s letter is very long and I will not be able to do justice to it. In keeping with the Hungarian custom of telling one’s adversary that he is ignorant, Márfi writes that, in complaining about taking the right to decide on the status of churches away from the judges, Baer doesn’t understand the Hungarian situation. Because, according to Márfi, the so-called independent Hungarian judiciary is full of judges who served the communist dictatorship and took part in the persecution of Hungarian church leaders. Naturally, this is the figment of Márfi’s imagination. In fact, by the 1970s and 1980s the Catholic Church had a very cozy relationship with the Kádár regime. Most of the church leaders served as informers for the Ministry of Interior.

Márfi also takes exception to Baer’s questioning of the current Hungarian government’s commitment to Europe. Again, he repeated, “as far as I can see, Mr. Professor, your knowledge of Europe is deficient and one-sided.” In Márfi’s opinion there is a “Christian Europe in hiding while there is a much louder, sharply anti-Christian and ultra-liberal Europe.” This Europe still recognizes “the Great Builder” but denies “the God of Jesus Christ and his Ten Commandments.” The leaders of this Europe are the ones who “overprescribe freedom which, similar to an overdose of medicine, doesn’t cure but poisons.” Europe today is a place where abortions are performed; it is the world of free love; a place of lesbians and homosexuals.

Márfi goes further. This left-wing, modern Europe is actually “the Europe of former communists who are now capitalists; the Europe of freedom fighters who were formerly dictators; the Europe of such ‘modern people’ whose morality has proved to be obsolete and incapable of survival in the last two thousand years; the Europe of people who seem to be worried about the freedom of religion when in fact they persecute the churches.”

After this outrageous description of today’s Europe, Márfi moves on to the defense of Viktor Orbán who is being shown as a martyr who was attacked in the European Parliament by “the followers of Mao Zedong” and “a pedophile who is trying to teach morals to a father of five.”

Baer’s third sin is that he ignores the influence of the evil United States “in the Orbán affair.” If Baer thinks that this is a purely European question, he is wrong. Viktor Orbán doesn’t really have problems with the European Union but “with international capital” whose “owners” must be found somewhere around New York’s Wall Street. These “owners of capital” want to make individual states their slaves through their loans. These people try to influence elections and through their loans they make smaller countries their colonies. These capitalists are very angry at Viktor Orbán because “he enacted several laws adversely affecting the international financiers.”

Veszpremi ersekseg

The Veszprém Archbishopric advertising Fidesz and the Orbán government’s New Széchenyi Plan

The leaders of the European Union know full well that international financial circles are endangering Europe yet they are still willing to cooperate with them for financial reasons, out of fear, or perhaps for ideological considerations. “The situation is well known. It was this way two thousand years ago when the Rabbinical Council cooperated with Pontius Pilate. Pilate is still being applauded by all scribblers and pharisees. And naturally there are the false witnesses whose whole life consists only of lies and because they own most of the media … they exclaim ‘Crucify him! Crucify Viktor Orbán.'” And in case we have any doubt whom Márfi has in mind, he mentions Ákos Kertész and Imre Kertész, both of whom happen to be Jewish.

This incredible description of the world by a Hungarian Catholic cleric ends with a quotation from David C. Korten’s 1995 book When Corporations Rule the World. It is a leftist critique of global capitalism, but I have noticed over the years that it is also a favorite book of the far right.

And the Orbán government is passing on school after school to a Catholic Church whose leaders think like Archbishop Gyula Márfi. I’m really worried about the kind of education these children are receiving now and will receive in even greater numbers in the future.

The new Hungarian schools and their products

I’m sure that most of you are familiar with early Soviet history when the regime’s aim was the creation of a superior Soviet man. Viktor Orbán’s regime is embarking on something similar, and naturally it will be the schools that will be responsible for educating this new patriotic, religious, moral Hungarian breed.

Today’s western culture is rotten to the core: secular and immoral. However, a few years of Hungarian schooling will produce an entirely different Hungarian population. These new Hungarians will be the perfect products of the newly introduced school system where children will have to take either religion or ethics classes in addition to classes on the traditional virtues of courtship, family life, rearing children, and learning to be faithful to one’s spouse “till death do us part.” In addition, the whole educational system will be permeated with “patriotism.”

That kind of education was the ideal of the Horthy regime, but it didn’t work then and it will not work now. Perhaps even less so. Today’s teenagers are a far cry from teenagers attending gymnasium in the 1920s or 1930s. In those days most of the high schools were in the hands of religious orders who imbued their charges with religious devotion and morality. Religious education was compulsory even in public schools and girls had to learn to darn socks, knit, crochet, and cook a little. Between the two world wars many boys had to take military training.

All this is coming back. There will be compulsory religion or ethics classes in grade seven and in grade eleven. The original suggestion promoted by Fidesz-KDNP politicians, among then László Kövér, even wanted to introduce ethics or religion in kindergarten. One can never start early enough! However, by high school students will be able to discuss such weighty questions as capital punishment and the difference between good and evil. They will be introduced to Aristotle’s Ethics. Origo reported that among other things pupils will also learn about such political concepts as liberalism and conservatism. Given the philosophical underpinnings of the Orbán regime, it’s pretty easy to imagine how these classes will be skewed.

But that is not all. For example, students will have learn about “courtship,” about the “relationship between man and woman” and apparently about “bringing up baby” including how to put diapers on. I can only hope that boys will be taught the art of diapering and girls “basic military skills,” which will be also compulsory.

The whole curriculum will be imbued with “patriotism.” In plain language, it will be saturated with nationalism. This nationalism can take really bizarre forms in Viktor Orbán’s Hungary. A separate commissioner was appointed by the prime minister whose only job is the spread of “the culture of horses.” Since the early centuries of Hungarian history the horse was an important part of life and warfare. And because Hungarians were known in Europe to be excellent horsemen today’s nationalists are working very hard to make Hungary a “horse nation” again. This commissioner came up with the idea of introducing horsemanship in schools. The kids would learn not only how to ride but also how to take care of horses. As a former undersecretary of the ministry of education jokingly said, “Sure, the kids will be riding along on their horses on the “Nagykörút,” the outer “Ring” in Pest!

As we know, riding is an expensive hobby, but according to the commissioner it is not as expensive as all that. Moreover, European Union money will be spent on the project. The poor EU! Do people in Brussels know what the Hungarian government wants to spend their money on? The whole thing is outrageous especially since far too many Hungarians, for example, don’t know how to swim!

Military training and horsemanship in schools is enthusiastically supported by Csaba Hende, minister of defense. He is reinstating military high schools and according to plans high school students can even matriculate in the subject. As for the horses, he is all for it. Hence here is a cartoon about him and the horses.

My sweetheart is so handsome, not an officer just an infantryman, the soldier of Viktor Orbán

And the frightening thing in all this is that the far right’s harebrained ideas about horses and early Hungarian history coincide with the Fidesz government’s ideas about education. Three men belonging to the Eurasia Solidarity Foundation are setting out on horseback for Kazakhstan, looking for “relatives.” Here are our explorers:

Lovakkal Kazahsztanba

I’m a bit puzzled by that 1848 hussar uniform. What is it doing in Kazakhstan? There are other puzzling aspects of this trip. How will the horses cross the Black and Caspian Seas? Moreover, the three (and horses as well?) will fly from Astana, capital of Kazakhstan, to Tehran. The Iranian destination indicates that these three are linked to Jobbik, a party with close, perhaps even financial, ties to Iran. Here is their route:

Among the patrons and advisors of the Eurasia Solidarity Foundation one can find Sándor Lezsák (Fidesz, earlier MDF), deputy speaker of the house; Mihály Varga (Fidesz), finance minister in the first Orbán government and undersecretary in the prime minister’s office; and Sándor Fazekas (Fidesz), minister of agriculture. Jobbik and Fidesz are tied to each other in hundreds of ways. As I have often said, one never knows when Fidesz ends and Jobbik begins.

Fidesz, the tobacco monopoly, and the tobacco industry’s lobby

As soon as I read that Fidesz wants to make the sale of tobacco products a state monopoly I became suspicious. The legislation, about which naturally Magyar Nemzet learned first, was ostensibly designed to prevent young people under the age of eighteen from purchasing cigarettes. Because, as the story goes, some stores–especially supermarkets and hypermarkets owned by multinationals–are awfully lax. They don’t bother to check the IDs of young people. But, just wait! The new “tobacco shops,” naturally called “national tobacco shops,” will be much more vigilant. Moreover, there will be very few such shops. Towns with a population of fewer than 2,000 will be allowed to have only one such shop. One for every 2,000 inhabitants in larger towns. All told, there will be only 7,000 national tobacco shops in the country. The state will hold a monopoly on the product itself and will establish these national tobacco shops as concessions.

I immediately envisaged 7,000 pro-Fidesz Hungarians as the lucky recipients of these concessions, although some people claim that the profit margin on cigarettes is so low that the owners of the concessions will not make a decent living. But what about a couple, both receiving old-age pensions? Such a shop might be a bonanza for them.

Of course, the idea is not at all new. On the contrary, it is a very old idea. I’m not 100% sure of the date, but it might have been prior to 1950 that the sale of tobacco products was a state monopoly and there were specifically designated shops for that purpose called “trafiks.” They were given out as concessions to older women whose husbands had died in the wars. Naturally, one needed a friend in government service to promote one’s cause. As far as I know, these people made only a very modest living.

Fidesz politicians who concocted this latest brainstorm looked around in Europe to see whether they could find a similar setup, and they came to the conclusion that Austria offered a perfect model. But, reading a bit on the Austrian case, I came to the conclusion that, as usual, the Orbán government is on the wrong track. It is true that until 1998 tobacco was a state monopoly in Austria, but European Union requirements changed “the malign though seemingly cosy participation in government policy of Austria Tabak, the state monopoly that dominated the Austrian tobacco industry.” It was partially privatized. And that is not all. If Fidesz is so worried about the high number of smokers in Hungary, they shouldn’t look to Austria. “If Germany is the bad boy of western Europe, in tobacco control terms, it is high time to meet its little brother. Austria, with just a tenth of Germany’s population, possibly has an even worse record for lack of action to protect its citizens from tobacco.”

Trafik

An Austrian tobacco shop

So, surely, Fidesz’s eagerness to adopt the so-called Austrian model has mighty little to do with concern over the health of Hungarian youth. Moreover, handing out concessions to 7,000 party sympathizers is not a good enough reason to introduce such a vast change in the retail system. A third possibility, and this is the one I was originally guessing as the driving force, is that the state would like to receive even more money from the sale of tobacco over and above the fairly high excise tax on cigarettes. Well, that’s one of the reasons but there is another one, even more important it seems.Austria’s 8,000 tobacco shop owners are the leading lobbyists against any kind of anti-smoking legislation. The highest number of teenage smokers in all of Europe can be found in Austria. Tobacco shops or not. Worse statistics than in Hungary or Germany.

Although János Lázár, the man behind the proposed legislation, in public seemed to be very sure that the Hungarian law on state monopoly and tobacco shops conforms to European Union guidelines, deep down he must have had doubts because in the last minute the Hungarian government sent the proposal to the European Council asking for final approval. As soon as the text of the proposed law appeared on the European Council”s website, Napi Gazdaság noticed the name of János Sánta, a principal in a Hungarian-owned tobacco company called Continental Dohányipari Zrt. He was the last person who made changes in the proposed law.

It turns out that János Lázár relied heavily on the “advice” of Continental Zrt. all along. A division of Continental Zrt. is actually situated in Hódmezővásárhely where Lázár is the mayor. Apparently Lázár’s relations with the owners of the company are excellent. The piece of legislation was written with a view to giving an advantage to Continental in the Hungarian tobacco market over its competitors. The legislation most likely will result in discrimination against foreign companies like Philip Morris, the British American Tobacco (BAT), and Imperial Tobacco. Currently, these multinational companies account for about 85-90% of the Hungarian cigarette market. Continental’s share is therefore no more than 10-15%. If, however, tobacco became a state monopoly the Hungarian state could decide to which companies it would give purchasing preferences. Continental surely would greatly benefit from such an arrangement.

More and more government edicts and pieces of legislation are aimed at giving an unfair advantage to Hungarian companies over multinational companies, which is illegal under European Union rules. It is therefore unlikely that Brussels will accept this piece of legislation. Apparently, the government has a Plan B for such an eventuality. The government would allow cigarettes to be sold in supermarkets and gas stations, but these outlets would have to buy the cigarettes from the “national tobacco shops.” I don’t think that this modification will comfort the bureaucrats of Brussels.

Fidesz’s attitude toward the communist past

There is a lot of talk in Fidesz circles about the communist past and its sins. Only yesterday there was a day of remembrance for the victims of communism. In the large crowd in front of the House of Terror stood Hungary’s prime minister with his lighted candle which he placed on the sidewalk.

In his reply to Hillary Clinton that Hungarian Spectrum made public yesterday, Viktor Orbán wrote about the “lamentable” fact that “Hungary failed until now to conclude the post-communist era.” In fact, Viktor Orbán and Fidesz in the last twenty years have had plenty of opportunity to reveal some of the secrets of this hated communist past: to make public the list of those who belonged to a vast network of informers. However, Fidesz never had any inclination to do so. In fact, they steadfastly refused the demand by SZDSZ to reveal the identity of the informers. The only country to do so in the whole East European bloc.

There are 32,000 documents still not available, including the names of the agents

One cannot help wondering why these “young democrats” who theoretically shouldn’t have been involved in the spy apparatus of the Kádár regime are so adamant in shielding the former regime’s secrets. Unfortunately, there can be only one answer: too many leading members of Fidesz or the two Orbán governments are implicated.

Only yesterday I watched the video of a Zsolt Bayer program on Echo TV with two invited guests: László Bogár and Imre Boros. Both right-wing economists. László Bogár is a regular contributor to Magyar Hírlap, so it is easy to place him on the political spectrum. In August 2002 he was mentioned as one of the eleven members of the first Orbán government who had been implicated as part of the spy network. His companion on Bayer’s program, Imre Boros, was on the same list. The list of names was published in Magyar Hírlap, then a liberal paper. The article describing the results of the so-called Mécs Committee can still be read on Index.

Naturally, Bogár denied the allegation. Secret service officers tried to sign him up but he valiantly declined their invitation. He was such a fierce anti-communist that at the age of nineteen he joined the party. In 1988 he changed his colors and became one of the founding members of MDF. By 1998 he was undersecretary in the Office of the Prime Minister.

As for Imre Boros, the other participant who served as minister in the first Orbán government, his involvement has been documented in “Szigorúan titkos,”  a partial list of agents who as members of the secret police with military rank received a monthly salary over and above their normal salaries in civilian life. We can find out from the document that Boros didn’t relinquish his service until March 1990. The details of his activities can be found in the archives storing these crucial documents about the activities of the informers. He is described by those who knew him in his youth as a devoted communist party member.

So, what happened? Why was Fidesz called upon again to show the party’s true colors concerning the still secret list of informers? There is no more SZDSZ, the party that was keenest on revealing the secrets of the Kádár regime’s archives of the ministry of the interior, but LMP took up the cause. On December 1 the party demanded that the complete holdings of the still secret documents be made public. It was on Monday, February 20, that a vote took place on the issue. The result is telling. Out of the 386 members of parliament 320 voted: 120 “yes” (37.5%), 172 “no” (53.8%), 28 abstained (8.7%)

Of the 226 Fidesz members of parliament 154 voted against the resolution, including Viktor Orbán. From the Christian Democratic People’s Party seventeen, among them Zsolt Semjén, voted against it. Nobody in the MSZP, LMP, Jobbik and DK delegations voted against the proposal. There were several people who were present but didn’t vote: notably, János Lázár, Tibor Navracsics, and Mihály Varga from Fidesz, Péter Harrach from KDNP, and Attila Mesterházy and István Nyakó from MSZP. Mária Wittner, the fiercely anti-communist heroine of the 1956 revolution, interestingly enough abstained.

From the Fidesz delegation nineteen members voted for the proposal, including Gergely Gulyás. The breakdown of the votes can be seen on the Hungarian parliament’s webpage.

If there is something to be ashamed of, it is not the completely rewritten constitution that bore the date 1949 but that Hungary is the only former communist country that has not been able to deal with its communist past. In large measure because of Fidesz’s active opposition. In this respect Viktor Orbán is quite consistent. On the one hand he incites people against the communists who should all be punishable for criminal behavior while on the other he refuses to make public the secrets of that regime he finds so abhorrent. Just as he says one thing at home and something else abroad, so he verbally attacks the communists while in practice he shields them. How long can this go on? When will people become tired of this two-faced behavior? It seems that most people in the European Union find Orbán’s behavior distasteful. The question is when that will happen on his home turf.

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s answer to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s letter

You may recall that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sent a letter to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in which she expressed her and the Obama administration's worries about the state of democracy in Orbán's Hungary. On December 30 I published a facsimile of this letter. I described Viktor Orbán's policies as being on a collision course with practically the whole world. The signs of crisis may not look as grave as they did in late December, but I still maintain that the course that Viktor Orbán is navigating will lead to a full blown crisis sooner or later.

Below I'm making public Viktor Orbán's answer to Hillary Clinton's letter. But first let me refresh everybody's memory. Although Hillary Clinton wrote her letter to Viktor Orbán on December 23, it was only on December 27 that the Hungarian public learned about it through a report that appeared in Népszabadság. MTI, the official Hungarian news agency, at this point asked Péter Szijjártó, Orbán's personal spokesman, whether the prime minister had indeed received such a letter. Szijjártó said that he had. The only official who was ready to talk about the letter was János Lázár, leader of the Fidesz parliamentary delegation, who announced that the time for old-fashioned American democracy built on consensus is over. Hungary is building a different kind of democracy. The government spokesman, András Giró-Szász, claimed no knowledge of the contents of the letter.

Two weeks went by and there was still no word about a reply. Not surprisingly, reporters were becoming restless and kept asking Giró-Szász when the prime minister would answer. On January 5, Thursday, they were told that the letter will be sent "this week." And indeed, judging from the date on Viktor Orbán's letter, it was sent the very next day.

Snail mail
Snail mail

I suggest that you first read Clinton's letter and then return to Orbán's reply. Here I would like to point out some passages that I found intriguing.

First, I didn't quite know what to do with the passage that described the post-communist era as one "without a truly free, competition based market economy." This from a man who has been doing nothing else but re-nationalizing everything in sight.

Second, I thought that a "dig" like "the word 'change' can win elections…." was truly unnecessary.

Third, claiming that they had been "in constant dialogue and close cooperation with all interested parties, especially the European Commission, religious groups and constituents, while continuously seeking consultations with opposition parties" was a brazen lie that presupposes total ignorance of Hungarian affairs and the current political situation on the part of Clinton's staff.  

Finally, I didn't quite know what to do with the claim that "several of my cabinet members and I myself have met with Ambassador Eleni Tsakopoulos Kounalakis in Budapest, to provide interpretations of our work that may not necessarily reach Washington."

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Orban letter to Clinton-1
Orban letter to Clinton-2
Orban letter Clinton-3
Orban letter to Clinton-4

New attacks on Klubrádió and György Bolgár

And while Magyar Nemzet was at it, the superb journalists working for the pro-government paper decided that they ought to finish off two other people who obviously irritate the Orbán government. So to speak, they wanted to kill three birds with one stone.

Let’s make one thing clear. Magyar Nemzet could never publish articles attacking Neelie Kroes and Hillary Clinton without specific permission from the government and, considering the hierarchical nature of Fidesz, that permission might come from Viktor Orbán himself.

Sure, attacking György Bolgár doesn’t need any permission. Attacks on Bolgár have been going on for years in the right-wing media. But this latest is different. The case of Klubrádió where Bolgár’s program is aired has become a cause célèbre, an international call for media freedom in Orbán’s new regime.

This latest attack began on February 17 when Tamás Pilhál, one of the more objectionable members of the staff of Magyar Nemzet, accused György Bolgár of amiably talking with a caller about “the liquidation” of President Pál Schmitt. I happened to listen to this conversation and I’m afraid that, as usual, Magyar Nemzet is not telling the truth. Anyone who’s interested in the topic should read Zsófia Mihancsik’s detailed analysis of both the article and the conversation that transpired on Bolgár’s program.

Magyar Nemzet immediately moved into high gear and phoned the office of Neelie Kroes in Brussels where they told Ryan Heath, Kroes’s spokesman, about a radio station where “death threats” are being discussed. According to the paper, Heath admitted that such threats are not part of democratic discussions but very prudently refused to comment on something about which he knew nothing, with the exception of Magyar Nemzet‘s dubious information.

But that wasn’t enough. Magyar Nemzet also phoned Ulrike Lunacek’s office and asked her opinion about what happened on the Bolgár program. Lunacek very rightly refused to comment, but the right-wing journalists were not discouraged. They were also curious what Martin Schulz thinks of the affair. They describe the paper’s efforts in an article entitled “To Kroes all that is not important.” In it one can read that “Neelie Kroes, who is so worried about the freedom of the press, not long ago welcomed György Bolgár in her office.” In the end Magyar Nemzet had to be satisfied with reporting Klubrádió and György Bolgár to the Media Authority, asking them to investigate.

Magyar Nemzet‘s staff had to be frustrated after getting nowhere in Brussels, so they decided to discredit the key players. Neelie Kroes was the prime target. And, voilà, yesterday W[underli] L[ászló] gleefully reported that he had found an article in European Voice that appeared sometime in 2010 from which he learned that Bram Peper, the former husband of Neelie Kroes, accused his wife of listening to fortune tellers and astrologists before making decisions. And if that weren’t enough, Kroes, according to Magyar Nemzet, rented office space in the mansion of Jan-Dirk Paarlberg, a wealthy Dutch real estate developer, who had spent four and a half years in jail for money laundering and blackmail. This, WL adds, is the woman who welcomed in her office András Arató and György Bolgár while she wasn’t interested in the opinion of the Hungarian authorities.

The third “bird” is U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Today another article appeared by L[óska] M[árton] headlined “Clinton tried to induce [Viktor Orbán] to commit a crime.” According to the journalist, “liberal interpretation of the law is not unknown in American diplomacy.” A recent example of such behavior is Hillary Clinton’s urging that Viktor Orbán interfere in Klubrádió’s frequency dispute. This is just another example of American diplomatic behavior that is manifest in the published documents of WikiLeaks. The article also mentions that the U.S. Embassy practically ordered Gyula Budai, the chief investigator of corruption cases, to report on the investigation of former prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsány. This was Budai’s first version of the encounter, which he has since substantially revised, but such corrections never bothered Magyar Nemzet very much.

Since I have on hand the facsimile of Hillary Clinton’s letter, which I published here earlier, let’s see what kind of criminal activity Hillary Clinton suggested to Viktor Orbán. Clinton had this to say about the whole Media Law issue. “As for the Media Law, we share concerns expressed by the OSCE, Freedom House, and a recent international mission of press experts that the law concentrates too much power in the hands of a politically-appointed Media Council. Also, the recent non-renewal of a popular talk radio station’s license raises concerns about the commitment to ensure diverse voices in the media realm.”

 

The question is why the Orbán government decided to launch a joint attack against a powerful member of the European Commission and the U.S. Secretary of State. One would think that the Hungarian government is in enough hot water without such ugly assaults on well-known international political figures. I’m sure that government spokesmen if pressed would invoke freedom of the press in Hungary which the government cannot influence. But both the politicians of the European Union and the diplomats of the United States must know full well that Magyar Nemzet is the mouthpiece of the current Hungarian government. If the government has some other domestic agenda, I can assure them that this is a very dangerous way of trying to influence domestic opinion or the court that is handling the case between Klubrádió and the Media Authority.

And finally, Klubrádió’s financial situation is really dire. András Arató, CEO of Klubrádió, will be appreciative of every penny they receive. And yes, Klubrádió uses PayPal.

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To Whom It May Concern:

Klubrádió continues its struggle for staying alive and fight for free press in Hungary. The battle goes on not only against the Hungarian media authority for the licence but against the financial blockade as well. Government offices and state-owned companies have been instructed to exclude Klubrádió from their entire advertising market. In addition a great part of the private participants of the market don’t have the courage to appear in the oppositional media.

These circumstances lead Klubrádió to a very critical financial situation. We have to turn to the citizens of the world for assistance. Even the smallest donation helps us to survive this difficult period.

I ask you to help to pass on our request to friends and acquaintances.

Yours sincerely

András Arató

CEO, Klubrádió

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The information on PayPal is unfortunately well hidden on Klubrádió’s website. So, here is the link:

http://www.klubradio.hu/fogadjonorokbe/index.php?page=tech_info

You will see the following: “Örökbefogadás online fizetéssel” and click on “Donate.”

 

 

Immediate government reactions to the European Commission’s recommendation

The Fidesz government is demanding the resignation of László Andor, commissioner for employment, social affairs and inclusion in the Barroso administration. He was nominated to his current post by the Bajnai government and Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz, then in opposition, fiercely opposed him due to his alleged Marxist views. Mind you, Viktor Orbán opposed everything under the sun. If Andor had not been the editor-in-chief of a “leftist” social science quarterly, Eszmélet (Consciousness), he would have found something else wrong with the candidate.

Andor’s sin is that he wasn’t present at the crucial meeting of the European Commission where the decision was made about possibly withholding cohesion funds to Hungary as of January 1, 2013. Andor claims that he submitted his opinions in writing ahead of the meeting and, in any case, he as a Hungarian national couldn’t have voted on an issue related to his home country. This argument, however, didn’t make a dent with the Hungarian government. László Kovács (MSZP), former commissioner in charge of taxation, didn’t help Andor’s case by arguing that Andor could have given a more detailed description of the Hungarian situation than most of the other commissioners and perhaps that could have helped Hungary’s case. Jobbik is demanding an investigation of Andor for treasonous behavior. Andor as of this morning is holding up pretty well. He in fact dared to say that he agrees with the European Commission’s decision.

Otherwise, the Hungarian government simply doesn’t understand the decision. Late last night Gergely Prőhle, undersecretary in the Foreign Ministry, pointed out that the deficit for 2011 will be about 2.4%, which is a great deal better than the results of many countries in the European Union. However, when he was pressed for details, the only “structural” reform he could come up with was reducing the size of the parliament by 50%. Surely, not a serious item in the budget. In addition, he forgot to mention the crucial fact that without the one-time injection of nationalized pension funds, the so-called “structural deficit” would have been close to 7%. As for the strained relations between the Hungarian government and the European Union, Prőhle refused to contemplate the possibility that Viktor Orbán’s behavior may have been an added irritant in Brussels. One can have a debate about “political style,” he said, but “the Hungarian government’s activities in the last year and a half leave no doubt about Hungary’s strong commitment to Europe.” Well, that’s exactly what people not serving the Orbán government very much doubt.

Other government officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity think that the reason for the Commission’s decision is that “they simply detest us” (egész egyszerűen utálnak bennünket). As usual, in such cases one doesn’t quite know who the “us” are. The Hungarian people? The Orbán government? Or perhaps Viktor Orbán himself. Reading on, I am inclined to believe that the gentleman was talking about the Hungarian people. Those officials in Brussels detest the Hungarian people. Doesn’t make much sense, does it?

The government officials who were willing to talk kept emphasizing that the Hungarian government is in constant touch with the appropriate organizations of the European Union concerning the Commission’s objections to the new Hungarian constitution and some of the cardinal laws. The Hungarian media, at least the ones that are not in the service of the government, got the distinct impression that although there might have been talks about some of the details, there is still no agreement concerning the large questions. Nobody in government circles thinks that the tug of war between Brussels and Budapest will come to an end any time soon.

Most of the government officials who talked with journalists are convinced that the Orbán government is the target of some kind of liberal conspiracy. To this end they are even ready to twist the truth. For example, they label Olli Rehn, Neelie Kroes, and Viviane Reding liberal politicians who united against the right-of-center Orbán government. Of course, this is simply not true. All three politicians are actually conservative politicians. Rehn was a member of the Finnish Center Party, Kroes of the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (a conservative political group in the Netherlands), and Viviane Reding of the Christian Social People’s Party of Luxembourg. The organizers of the “Peace March,” the far-right representatives of Fidesz, are talking about an outright “Marxist counterrevolution” that is sweeping western Europe.

Some Hungarians think: The specter is of communism is haunting Europe 

According to members of the Orbán government, another reason for the European Union’s dislike of the Orbán government is that it no longer serves the interests of Brussels as the Gyurcsány and Bajnai governments slavishly did. Lajos Kósa this afternoon talked about “brown nosing,” except he used a less delicate description. He made it clear that the Orbán government will not change its stance. After all, the Fidesz government serves the Hungarian people and they are the only ones the government has to please. Not Hillary Clinton or José Manuel Barroso.

Members of the opposition as well as ordinary people with good memories recall the days of October 2006 when, after the street disturbances which most likely received quite a bit of encouragement from Fidesz, Viktor Orbán travelled to Brussels. There he urged the members of the European People’s Party’s parliamentary delegation to vote for the suspension of all union subsidies to Hungary. Not just the cohesion subsidies but everything, including all monies going to regional development, to Hungarian companies, and to municipal governments. This money amounted to one trillion forints. (And at this point one euro was worth about 260 forints.) Orbán accused the Hungarian government of giving false data to Brussels. He proposed withholding all subsidies already allocated for the period between 2007 and 2013. The reaction in Hungary was not exactly favorable to that “treasonous” suggestion. Kinga Gál, a Fidesz EP member, immediately tried to explain the event away. According to her, Orbán’s words were misunderstood, but she refused to elaborate on the details. The story can be read in the October 25, 2006 issue of Figyelőnet.

The Orbán government finds both criticism from abroad and Hungarian nationals saying anything critical in foreign publications galling. For example, in 2001 the first Orbán government put together a blacklist of foreign journalists and hunted Hungarian commentators who dared to utter any criticism of the government to foreigners. This habit has prevailed. Now they are searching for traitors, conspirators, and label all criticism the result of liberal intrigues. I hate to tell them: it won’t work.