Home > Uncategorized > The IMF and Hungary, the socialist swines, and Lázár’s faux pas

The IMF and Hungary, the socialist swines, and Lázár’s faux pas

August 31, 2012

The silly season, if there even was such a thing this year, is definitely over. There are so many topics that it is hard to choose.

Late yesterday afternoon MTI reported from Washington that although the IMF is keeping in touch with the Hungarian government and the European Commission, it hasn’t fixed a date for the continuation of the negotiations about a loan. Gerry Rice, director of IMF’s foreign relations, reminded his audience at a press conference that the negotiations that took place in July were “constructive,” but for an agreement certain requirements must be met by the Hungarian government.

It seems that the negotiating partners don’t see eye to eye on certain key issues. Rice specifically mentioned structural changes that must be introduced to ensure economic growth. It also looks as if the IMF is not entirely satisfied with the planned budget for the year 2013.

The well informed Internet paper Origo seems to know that the real sticking point is the transaction tax on the Hungarian National Bank. Although Viktor Orbán knows that without giving in on this issue there will be no negotiations, he is sticking to his guns. In fact, he is speeding up the process of the final reading of the budget which includes 300 billion forints to be received from the Hungarian National Bank. By the end of September the final vote on the bill will take place.

Mihály Varga obviously lost the battle with Viktor Orbán. Varga, right after the first round of negotiations with the IMF, indicated that the IMF insists on abandoning this madcap idea of György Matolcsy and Viktor Orbán because the negotiators considered it not in line with Union norms. This latest hurdle shows once again that there is only one person who has the final say in all matters, large or small. And that is Viktor Orbán.

Portfolio is even more pessimistic than Origo; they fear that the aid talks will not continue at all.  András Simor mentioned on Tuesday that the negotiating IMF-EU team left a letter with the Hungarian government, and whether or not the negotiations continue will depend on the response. According to rumor the Hungarian government hasn’t responded at all, at least until now.

According to Népszabadság, the  prime minister won’t budge on several issues. He is unwilling to create a larger reserve in the budget; he is sticking to the job protection action plan costing 300 billion nonexistent forints; as for the transaction tax he will wait until the European Commission passes judgment on it; and he rejects the IMF’s tax-related proposals. This last includes not imposing heavier levies on businesses, making changes in the flat tax he introduced earlier, and scrapping the family tax benefits.

Because the saga of the IMF negotiations is endless, I don’t think one ought to spend a whole post on the subject.

Népszava, August 31, 2012

So, on the lighter side here is a scandal that is so typical of “that bunch,” as Ádám Gere called the current Hungarian government. I don’t have to introduce Gyula Budai, commissioner in charge of corruption cases between 2002 and 2008. I wrote about the man often enough. Budai failed miserably in his task. The cases he dug up turned out to be mostly bogus, and after almost two years of madly searching for the big fish in the pond of corruption he didn’t get anywhere. A few months ago Budai was moved over to the Ministry of Agriculture as undersecretary.

János Lázár, the new chief in the prime minister’s office, joined Budai at a press conference in which he announced that Budai had been wildly successful in ferreting out bad eggs in the socialist-liberal administrations. He delicately described Budai’s change of jobs: “Now Mr. Budai is moving from swines to swines. It is a full circle.” The word ‘disznó’ applied to human beings is especially derogatory in Hungarian. And then there is the word ‘disznóság’, which can be translated as ‘big mess’ or even “atrocity.” Swines are people who commit such atrocities.

But that labeling which, I assume, applies even to such obviously innocent academics as Agnes Heller, was small potatoes in comparison to the faux pas that Lázár committed during the same press conference. A reporter inquired what happened to the famous Gyurcsány case. Why wasn’t he prosecuted? Lázár explained that there was serious pressure coming from the United States to spare Ferenc Gyurcsány and Gordon Bajnai. They only obliged.

It took only a couple of hours for Gyurcsány to wittily remark that Lázár had just admitted that the Hungarian judiciary is not independent. After all, if the government can influence the prosecutors to let guilty people off the hook then something is very wrong in Hungary.

The American Embassy didn’t find the story at all amusing. The U.S. Embassy immediately released a statement  that “as [they] often emphasized in the past the United States does not meddle in the internal affairs of Hungary.” Foreign Minister János Martonyi tried to salvage the situation by issuing a statement in which he wrote: “We have extensive contact with the Americans and it is well known that they at times they expressed their concerns in public. They were worried about our judiciary and the new election laws.” But he added that he knows nothing about any American pressure on “what should happen to X or Y in the court of law.”

László Kovács, former foreign minister, wondered whom János Lázár wanted to discredit: the current government of the United States, MSZP, or the two former prime ministers? Whatever his goal was, Lázár managed to discredit himself and the government he represents.

Let me add to this that Péter Szijjártó led a whole delegation to the Republican National Convention held in Tampa, Florida. Four years ago Viktor Orbán himself attended the Republican Convention in the hopes of being invited by George H. Bush to his Maine retreat. Nothing came of the invitation to Kennebunkport, but Orbán loudly announced to his followers that John McCain will be the next president of the United States and how wonderful that will be for the country and personally for the next prime minister of Hungary (VO). And then it turned out differently.

It is not wise to commit oneself to one side or the other in the political life of another country. But Szijjártó didn’t seem to have learned from his boss’s faux pas of four years ago. He went on and on about how much better it will be for Hungary if the Republicans win the elections. Republican politicians are dissatisfied with the foreign policy of Barack Obama. When they are in power the American administration will pay much more attention to Central Europe and to Hungary.

But if Szijjártó thinks that a Republican administration will be more tolerant of all the anti-democratic steps the Orbán government is taking he will be sorely disappointed. And if Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate, does not win in November, Orbán will be stuck once again with Barack Obama, whose State Department will have already noted how happy the Hungarian government was at the prospect of Obama’s losing the election.

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  1. August 31, 2012 at 4:41 pm | #1

    Until now, I’ve been surprised at how resilient the Hungarian economy (and the people) has been. Each time we visit, I expect to see signs that things have started to get difficult, but each time I am surprised at how normal everything look and feels.

    OK, there are signs that money is tight – the odd shop closing down, etc – but the evidence is far more visible in the UK – one glance at our local high street back home is enough to tell you the economy is having a rough time. But, overall, things seemed to be going on much as before.

    But this year it has felt very different. It’s hard to put into words because it’s so many little things – people cutting back, others going to work abroad, the way people talk about the economic situation and the future, the general standard of maintenance, cleaning, etc – but there is definitely a feeling now that things are not only bad, but they’re going to get a lot worse soon.

    Until this year, I’ve always thought that Orbán might manage to pull the proverbial rabbit out of the hat, or just keep ducking and diving long enough to weather the storm, but now I fear the worst. The ‘phoney war’ is over and the bad times have begun. I fear the Hungarian economy doesn’t have much resilience at the best of times, and it has now used up what little capacity it had to absorb problems. From now on every daft stroke that OV or Matcolcsy pull is going to hit people directly.

  2. August 31, 2012 at 4:45 pm | #2

    “Lázár explained that there was serious pressure coming from the United States to spare Ferenc Gyurcsány and Gordon Bajnai. They only obliged.”

    This is exactly the Fisesz propaganda I’m already getting fed.

    Except, of course, it’s ‘obviously’ the Jews in the US who are behind this…

  3. tappanch
    August 31, 2012 at 5:07 pm | #3

    “The ‘phoney war’ is over ” – and Armenia just cut diplomatic relations with Hungary for releasing the Azeri murderer of an Armenian officer. Orban obviously wants to get some oil and/or money from Azerbayjan in return.

  4. CharlieH
    August 31, 2012 at 5:35 pm | #4

    London Calling!

    O/T Naughty! Naughty!

    Only 10% of you returned your questionnaires!

    Disgraceful!

    Still look on the bright side – The (VDSZ) union sold ten tons of paper from one million questionnaires to a recycling centre for Ft 200,000.

    And the money went to a disadvantaged-children’s kindergarten.

    http://www.politics.hu/20120831/less-than-10-of-hungarians-send-back-governments-national-consultation-questionnaire/

    Regards

    Charlie

  5. petofi
    August 31, 2012 at 5:38 pm | #5

    Budapest as Bucharest (1960s)

    The city lights in Budapest are now turned on at 8pm
    rather than at dusk (around 7pm), presumably as a saving. The dark streets after 7pm are ominous.
    The brains at Fidesz obviously don’t know that ‘dark’
    emboldens the criminal element. There will be a lot
    more attacks and street thefts between 7 and 8 pm.
    This is nothing new if we perceive Orban as quietly
    building a combustible situation that will require him
    to declare marshall law.

    In the meantime, the pathetic little illumination of the
    dark streets from private apartments give one an eerie sense of being in Bucharest in the times of Ceaucescu.

  6. Bowen
    August 31, 2012 at 5:53 pm | #6

    petofi :
    Budapest as Bucharest (1960s)
    The city lights in Budapest are now turned on at 8pm
    rather than at dusk (around 7pm), presumably as a saving. The dark streets after 7pm are ominous.
    The brains at Fidesz obviously don’t know that ‘dark’
    emboldens the criminal element. There will be a lot
    more attacks and street thefts between 7 and 8 pm.
    This is nothing new if we perceive Orban as quietly
    building a combustible situation that will require him
    to declare marshall law.
    In the meantime, the pathetic little illumination of the
    dark streets from private apartments give one an eerie sense of being in Bucharest in the times of Ceaucescu.

    The street where I live in *central Budapest*, about 1 minute walk from the National Museum had no lighting whatsover for 5 weeks last December/January. It hasn’t been cleaned for a very long time, either. It’s quite filthy. In the next street, there used to be two homeless guys who sat all day in their own excrement, but I think it’s now illegal for them to sit there. The excrement is still there.

    Sorry if I’m putting anyone off with this.

  7. petofi
    August 31, 2012 at 6:32 pm | #7

    Bowen :

    petofi :
    Budapest as Bucharest (1960s)
    The city lights in Budapest are now turned on at 8pm
    rather than at dusk (around 7pm), presumably as a saving. The dark streets after 7pm are ominous.
    The brains at Fidesz obviously don’t know that ‘dark’
    emboldens the criminal element. There will be a lot
    more attacks and street thefts between 7 and 8 pm

    .
    This is nothing new if we perceive Orban as quietly
    building a combustible situation that will require him
    to declare marshall law.
    In the meantime, the pathetic little illumination of the
    dark streets from private apartments give one an eerie sense of being in Bucharest in the times of Ceaucescu.

    The street where I live in *central Budapest*, about 1 minute walk from the National Museum had no lighting whatsover for 5 weeks last December/January. It hasn’t been cleaned for a very long time, either. It’s quite filthy. In the next street, there used to be two homeless guys who sat all day in their own excrement, but I think it’s now illegal for them to sit there. The excrement is still there.
    Sorry if I’m putting anyone off with this.

    Orban: “I know how to clean a pigsty.”

    Orban: Don’t listen to what I say…’listen to what I mean’

    Orban creates pigsties.

  8. August 31, 2012 at 6:56 pm | #8

    The Armenian-Azeri affair is really big. The U.S. State Department wants to hear more from Hungary. The Hungarian government must have known what would happen if they released this guy who murdered someone in his sleep with an ax.

  9. gdfxx
    August 31, 2012 at 7:04 pm | #9

    Paul :
    “Lázár explained that there was serious pressure coming from the United States to spare Ferenc Gyurcsány and Gordon Bajnai. They only obliged.”
    This is exactly the Fisesz propaganda I’m already getting fed.
    Except, of course, it’s ‘obviously’ the Jews in the US who are behind this…

    This is redundant, after all the US (and the whole world, including so far undiscovered planets with intelligent forms of life) is controlled by the Jews, isn’t it?

  10. Bowen
    August 31, 2012 at 7:09 pm | #10

    Eva S. Balogh :
    The Armenian-Azeri affair is really big. The U.S. State Department wants to hear more from Hungary. The Hungarian government must have known what would happen if they released this guy who murdered someone in his sleep with an ax.

    From the Washington Post: Laszlo Borbely, the deputy director of Hungary’s Government Debt Management Agency last week told daily newspaper Magyar Nemzet that talks between the two countries about a possible purchase by Azerbaijan of up to 3 billion euros ($3.77 billion) in Hungarian bonds were only at an “exploratory phase” for now.

  11. gdfxx
    August 31, 2012 at 7:09 pm | #11

    Eva S. Balogh :
    The Armenian-Azeri affair is really big. The U.S. State Department wants to hear more from Hungary. The Hungarian government must have known what would happen if they released this guy who murdered someone in his sleep with an ax.

    These are ugly affairs and unfortunately this one is not unique. It reminds me of the Scottish government’s release of the Libyan PanAm terrorist-murderer who was supposed to die within days and outlived his master. According to some observers oil was involved there too.

  12. tappanch
    August 31, 2012 at 7:27 pm | #12

    Eva S. Balogh :
    The Armenian-Azeri affair is really big. The U.S. State Department wants to hear more from Hungary. The Hungarian government must have known what would happen if they released this guy who murdered someone in his sleep with an ax.

    So I cannot conclude that Hungary just joined the Azeri-Turkish-American-Israeli axis against the Armenian-Russian-Iranian axis.

  13. August 31, 2012 at 8:53 pm | #13

    Anybody would buy Hungarian bonds the question is at what yield? So let’s assume the Azeris offered 2% less then the market. So the 2 percent of the 4b is 80 million dollars a year. Planet Hungary has 10 million inhabitants inside it’s present borders. Well, congratulations my fellow half-asians! We just let an axe murderer go for 8 bucks a year. Enjoy your two lattes at the Starbucks!

    We just become the prostitutes of Europe. Thanks FIDESZ.

  14. petofi
    September 1, 2012 at 4:19 am | #14

    It is increasingly clear that Fidesz/Orban’s actions are ex-political
    considerations. In time, it will not be enough even for the most
    diehard Orban loyalist to overlook the self-evident destruction
    of the norms of civilized society. The question will be asked by
    more than the present few: why is Fidesz/Orban acting as if
    future politics were not a concern? And the ‘book-end’ consideration along with that is: why do these people act as if
    they have all the money they will ever need?

  15. Kirsten
    September 1, 2012 at 5:42 am | #15

    Paul :
    it’s so many little things – people cutting back, others going to work abroad, the way people talk about the economic situation and the future, the general standard of maintenance, cleaning, etc – but there is definitely a feeling now that things are not only bad, but they’re going to get a lot worse soon.

    I wanted to write something similar but did not know how to put it into a few words. Dark streets in Budapest, three to four people as ticket controls at the metro entrance (perhaps meant as job creation but this must be also minimum wage employment) but very much reminding me of pre-1989 times (although I do not know whether at that times tickes were controlled manually), people rather unenthusiastic about public affairs. The ten per cent return rate of the questionnaires sounds realistic and I would not be surprised to hear that it is even fewer people doing that. I believe that this state of affairs will break OV’s neck at some point (not too distant). (Which does not mean that his successors will be necessarily that much better on all fronts but most probably at least on some.)

  16. Bowen
    September 1, 2012 at 5:56 am | #16

    The news about Armenia is receiving widespread coverage internationally. But once again, comparatively little inside Hungary itself.

    http://magyarinfo.blog.hu/2012/09/01/a_bbc-nek_fontosabb_az_ormeny_konfliktus_mint_a_jobboldali_medianak

  17. petofi
    September 1, 2012 at 7:06 am | #17

    Kirsten :

    Paul :
    it’s so many little things – people cutting back, others going to work abroad, the way people talk about the economic situation and the future, the general standard of maintenance, cleaning, etc – but there is definitely a feeling now that things are not only bad, but they’re going to get a lot worse soon.

    I wanted to write something similar but did not know how to put it into a few words. Dark streets in Budapest, three to four people as ticket controls at the metro entrance (perhaps meant as job creation but this must be also minimum wage employment) but very much reminding me of pre-1989 times (although I do not know whether at that times tickes were controlled manually), people rather unenthusiastic about public affairs. The ten per cent return rate of the questionnaires sounds realistic and I would not be surprised to hear that it is even fewer people doing that. I believe that this state of affairs will break OV’s neck at some point (not too distant). (Which does not mean that his successors will be necessarily that much better on all fronts but most probably at least on some.)

    Not better?

    You’re joshing, surely…
    Bajnai would have things right inside of a year.

  18. godzilla1776
    September 1, 2012 at 7:28 am | #18

    Look for forces that can civilize the unruly reach, poor, leftwing and rightwing Hungarians.
    Most people are outside of the legal atmosphere in their thinking.
    Hungary is showing an amazing spread of the criminal thinking.
    There is very low immunity against extremism.
    Almost everybody is a hazard to its own independence and freedom.
    Hungarians are still far from the American 1776 in thinking and civility.

  19. Ron
    September 1, 2012 at 8:04 am | #19

    petofi:

    Not better?
    You’re joshing, surely…
    Bajnai would have things right inside of a year.

    Only when he has a super majority in Parliament. Otherwise it will be an Esztergom situation.

  20. CharlieH
    September 1, 2012 at 8:36 am | #20

    London Calling!

    Eva – Do you have an update on the Mayor v Fidesz shenanigans in Esztergom since your last Ezstergom-specific post?

    I remember they had a large debt due for payment at the end of 2012 with no – or little – prospect of any central government help – in a very poor county.

    For us English I can’t find any info on the situation. But I was intrigued!

    Regards

    Charlie

  21. Kirsten
    September 1, 2012 at 8:43 am | #21

    Ron :
    petofi:
    Not better?
    You’re joshing, surely…
    Bajnai would have things right inside of a year.
    Only when he has a super majority in Parliament. Otherwise it will be an Esztergom situation.

    I perhaps should have repeated my current working hypothesis that OV’s successor will also come from Fidesz. Therefore also “not too distant”. A “Bajnai solution”, however desirable, appears even less likely to me.

  22. September 1, 2012 at 10:45 am | #22

    Dr Balogh: “Lázár explained that there was serious pressure coming from the United States to spare Ferenc Gyurcsány and Gordon Bajnai.”

    Perhaps he was referring to the Spectrum…….

  23. September 1, 2012 at 11:11 am | #23

    petofi :
    Budapest as Bucharest (1960s)
    The city lights in Budapest are now turned on at 8pm
    rather than at dusk (around 7pm), presumably as a saving. The dark streets after 7pm are ominous.
    The brains at Fidesz obviously don’t know that ‘dark’
    emboldens the criminal element. There will be a lot
    more attacks and street thefts between 7 and 8 pm.
    This is nothing new if we perceive Orban as quietly
    building a combustible situation that will require him
    to declare marshall law.
    In the meantime, the pathetic little illumination of the
    dark streets from private apartments give one an eerie sense of being in Bucharest in the times of Ceaucescu.

    Riding back from the city centre the other day, rather later than I had expected to, I was surprised to discover the lights didn’t come on as it got dark.

    I had no lights on my bike and riding down the streets with heavy tree coverage I was effectively blind. It was far too dangerous to ride on the roads under those conditions, so I did most of the journey on the pavement, and, bearing in mind the state of the average pavement in Hungary, this was a stressful (and painful) journey. It was only as I approached home (in the Debrecen suburbs) that the street lights started to come on.

    This was the first time this year I’d ridden home at this time, so I just assumed this was normal, but now I wonder if some similar power-saving measures are in place here too?

  24. September 1, 2012 at 11:23 am | #24

    Kirsten :

    Paul :
    it’s so many little things – people cutting back, others going to work abroad, the way people talk about the economic situation and the future, the general standard of maintenance, cleaning, etc – but there is definitely a feeling now that things are not only bad, but they’re going to get a lot worse soon.

    I wanted to write something similar but did not know how to put it into a few words. Dark streets in Budapest, three to four people as ticket controls at the metro entrance (perhaps meant as job creation but this must be also minimum wage employment) but very much reminding me of pre-1989 times (although I do not know whether at that times tickes were controlled manually), people rather unenthusiastic about public affairs. The ten per cent return rate of the questionnaires sounds realistic and I would not be surprised to hear that it is even fewer people doing that. I believe that this state of affairs will break OV’s neck at some point (not too distant). (Which does not mean that his successors will be necessarily that much better on all fronts but most probably at least on some.)

    It was the first time It’s felt bleak, Kirsten. Until now the feeling was that people were muddling through.

    It’s far from all bad – building and infrastructure projects are still going on, the city centre still looks good, there are very few vacant shops in the poshest shopping mall, and the people with secure jobs are doing OK (although starting to tighten their belts). But, having lived through the 70s and 80s in Britain, I know the signs and I’m starting to see the same things in Hungary. Outside the centre and the properous areas, things are starting to slide. People have got used to tightening their belts, but now there isn’t much more belt to tighten.

    I’ve long feared for Hungary’s future in theory, but now It’s starting to feel real, and I’m wondering what we’re going to find on our visits over the next few years – and how my wife’s parents will survive. Not to mention what’s going to happen to the value of our flat – our only substatial ‘investment’..

  25. September 1, 2012 at 11:28 am | #25

    Louis Kovach :
    Dr Balogh: “Lázár explained that there was serious pressure coming from the United States to spare Ferenc Gyurcsány and Gordon Bajnai.”
    Perhaps he was referring to the Spectrum…….

    I much preferred our old trolls, they were much more on the button – and a lot funnier.

    Still, I suppose Fidesz have got a lot on their hands at the moment. I do miss ‘Johnny’ and the others though (remember how wound up he used to get and the crazy rants?!) . ‘Kovach’ just isn’t the same.

  26. September 1, 2012 at 11:29 am | #26

    Considering the devaluation of intelligence in Planet Hungary I wonder if this will get worse when the daylight savings period ends …

    When I was an electrician apprentice during college I was told by the boss once to adjust the automatic night light switches when the daylight savings start. I worked on it very hard for two hours …

  27. September 1, 2012 at 11:30 am | #27

    Ooops. I forgot to quote. The above was about the dark lights …

  28. CharlieH
    September 1, 2012 at 12:07 pm | #28

    London Calling!

    Mutt – just like the junior office worker during the times when all contracts had to be signed over a postage stamp to validate them:

    “Go to the post office and buy some stamps for a verbal contract”.

    And on another ‘stamp’ subject. I am amused when you buy something and it might have, for example, a two year guarantee.

    You then have to join another long queue – and receive a piece of unintelligible print which is then stamped with a minimum of five rubber stamps – with initials! Blue ink stamps – red ink stamps, green ink stamps. Real stampitis!

    Even when a yoghurt company was giving free fridge magnets – we had to line up for the office staff to complete a line control with our transaction information – and yes more rubber stamps. The fridge magnets were rubbish.

    I bet the rubber stamp companies do a roaring trade with stamps! – Is this how it was in communist times?

    Nothing like this occurs in England! (Even if Paul says it used to happen here 30years ago!)

    Regards

    Charlie

  29. petofi
    September 1, 2012 at 12:22 pm | #29

    Louis Kovach :
    Dr Balogh: “Lázár explained that there was serious pressure coming from the United States to spare Ferenc Gyurcsány and Gordon Bajnai.”
    Perhaps he was referring to the Spectrum…….

    Louis with a sense of humor….about as rare as a Fideszer with
    a sense of decency.

  30. September 1, 2012 at 1:34 pm | #30

    CharlieH :

    I bet the rubber stamp companies do a roaring trade with stamps! – Is this how it was in communist times?

    Nothing like this occurs in England! (Even if Paul says it used to happen here 30years ago!)

    I’m also in awe of Hungary’s stamp mania. I have never seen anything like that either in Canada or in the United States.

  31. petofi
    September 1, 2012 at 2:18 pm | #31

    Hungarian Desperation and Duplicity on the World Stage…

    Apparently, the background to the release of the Azeri was the Azeri government’s negotiation to buy 3.5 billion euros of
    Hungarian government paper. I’m not sure of the interest due.
    Obviously, Orban can take the credit for the present fiasco. It’s
    part and parcel of ‘turning to the East’. Well, the East has a few
    tricks for the Felcsutian Barn-Cleaner: one is that ‘we’ll faint
    interest in your bonds…but require a sign of goodwill on your
    part.’ Orban, the soccerist, fell for it hook, line, and sinker.

    Notice that the Azeri leader had no concern about the Hungarian
    government reputation as he, without the courtesy of a diplomatic
    ‘wait’, gave the axe murder immediate clemency.

    I once wrote that the respect of the world for Orban’s Hungary is
    at a level lower than a frog’s arse. It may now be lower than that.

  32. September 1, 2012 at 3:49 pm | #32

    Everyday is “dumb and dumber” over here… the govt. is like a train wreck in slow motion.

    Also, a new facebook page has been created https://www.facebook.com/SorryArmenia

  33. Ron
    September 1, 2012 at 3:50 pm | #33

    Eva S. Balogh :

    CharlieH :
    I bet the rubber stamp companies do a roaring trade with stamps! – Is this how it was in communist times?
    Nothing like this occurs in England! (Even if Paul says it used to happen here 30years ago!)

    I’m also in awe of Hungary’s stamp mania. I have never seen anything like that either in Canada or in the United States.

    It is a German thing. In 1990 Hungary followed the US and German law. The stamps are because of this German law.

  34. September 1, 2012 at 4:40 pm | #34

    After reading the Contrarian Hungarian’s latest post:

    http://thecontrarianhungarian.wordpress.com/2012/09/01/conflict-with-armenia-to-date-the-greatest-diplomatic-success-of-the-orban-government/

    I had to take a crash Wiki-course on the Armenia/Azerbaijan situation, as I knew virtually nothing about either country.

    In summary, one country is mostly Christian, wants to join the EU, is pretty much democratic (rated as the most democratic and free of the ex-Soviet republics), has an OK human rights record, and it’s elections are considered properly run and fair.

    The other country is none of the above, but has oil and gas. Lots and lots of it.

    I’m sure we can guess which one St Orbán decided to pal up to.

    I think from now on we can consider the word ‘unorthodox’, when used by Fidesz-Jobbik, to be freely translatable as just ‘wrong’.

  35. Bowen
    September 1, 2012 at 4:45 pm | #35

    Paul :

    I’m sure we can guess which one St Orbán decided to pal up to.
    I think from now on we can consider the word ‘unorthodox’, when used by Fidesz-Jobbik, to be freely translatable as just ‘wrong’.

    According to the news coming out of mno.hu and MTI today (although the state news agency isn’t much concerned with this trifling Armenian matter), Hungary did absolutely wrong, and behaved strictly according to international treaties. They trusted the Azeris, and the Azeris cheated. Shocking. Therefore, it’s all the Azeris fault.

  36. CharlieH
    September 1, 2012 at 5:10 pm | #36

    London Calling!

    O/T – This is how the BBC see the Racist troubles in Hungary:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-19439679

    Regards

    Charlie

  37. September 1, 2012 at 5:24 pm | #37

    Thanks for the link, Charlie. Note it’s not by their usual stringer, Nick Thorpe. Perhaps even the BBC have recognised his shortcomings.

  38. Kirsten
    September 1, 2012 at 5:29 pm | #38

    Paul, having been in Budapest for a week in August, I think I know exactly what you mean. I fully agree. But I draw different conclusions. I still cannot imagine that people really will just let slip this country back into “grey socialist times”. For that, the number of educated people well in their senses is too large. As I wrote earlier already, I expect that some kind of correction will be seen soon (by which I mean within a year’s time) and that Fidesz will perhaps continue in some nationalist folklore but combine that with a more pragmatic approach to the economy. Perhaps I lack imagination but also because of the experience of Slovakia and Croatia, where observers could have doubted their prospects some years ago, I believe that Hungary ultimately will not continue in this downward spiral.

  39. tappanch
    September 1, 2012 at 5:55 pm | #39

    ” I believe that Hungary ultimately will not continue in this downward spiral”.

    If a country is led by a sane person OR if it is a self-correcting system, i.e. democracy, then you are right.

    Unfortunately, the system of Hungary is no longer self-correcting, AND its absolute leader might not be sane.

  40. gdfxx
    September 1, 2012 at 5:59 pm | #40

    Paul :
    After reading the Contrarian Hungarian’s latest post:
    http://thecontrarianhungarian.wordpress.com/2012/09/01/conflict-with-armenia-to-date-the-greatest-diplomatic-success-of-the-orban-government/
    I had to take a crash Wiki-course on the Armenia/Azerbaijan situation, as I knew virtually nothing about either country.
    In summary, one country is mostly Christian, wants to join the EU, is pretty much democratic (rated as the most democratic and free of the ex-Soviet republics), has an OK human rights record, and it’s elections are considered properly run and fair.
    The other country is none of the above, but has oil and gas. Lots and lots of it.
    I’m sure we can guess which one St Orbán decided to pal up to.
    I think from now on we can consider the word ‘unorthodox’, when used by Fidesz-Jobbik, to be freely translatable as just ‘wrong’.

    If you dig further, you’ll see that war is traditional between the two, since 1905 until now. And further, if you check this link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nagorno-Karabakh_War , you’ll see that one of the allies of the azeris are the Afghan mujahideen. Orban is getting into bed with the murderers of NATO allies (including Hungary’s own soldiers)…

  41. LwiiH
    September 1, 2012 at 6:33 pm | #41

    Paul :

    Kirsten :

    Paul :
    I’ve long feared for Hungary’s future in theory, but now It’s starting to feel real, and I’m wondering what we’re going to find on our visits over the next few years – and how my wife’s parents will survive. Not to mention what’s going to happen to the value of our flat – our only substatial ‘investment’..

    We subsidize my wife’s parents monthly income. That said, the subsidy is modest but given the goofy cr@p that OV has threatened there were a few times when we thought that we were going to have to assist with a serious amount of cash. Example, my father-in-law received a modestly sized retirement incentive which OV threatened to claw back. There was no way he was going to be able to oblige without selling his home.

    As for the value of your flat.. what I’ve noticed is that things sit on the market for much longer but eventually they sell and without any real HUF loss/gain. The biggest gain/loss comes with changes in the rate of exchange. We have a very modest investment in an index fund that is tied to the central bank’s interest rate. As long as OV continues to meddle in the setting of interest rates… the rate of return is like free money! Since that money isn’t leaving the country I’m not so bothered by the flux in exchange rates. We’ve been flipping it between Euro/HUF for a while and we’ve so far have been lucky in that we’ve managed to benefit from the flux. In once case, the ministry of finance said something stupid which caused the currency to drop literally hours before the funds were converted from Euro to HUF. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect if we had planned it. This wasn’t a one off in that we had this happen one other time also.

  42. September 1, 2012 at 7:06 pm | #42

    Kirsten :
    Paul, having been in Budapest for a week in August, I think I know exactly what you mean. I fully agree. But I draw different conclusions. I still cannot imagine that people really will just let slip this country back into “grey socialist times”. For that, the number of educated people well in their senses is too large. As I wrote earlier already, I expect that some kind of correction will be seen soon (by which I mean within a year’s time) and that Fidesz will perhaps continue in some nationalist folklore but combine that with a more pragmatic approach to the economy. Perhaps I lack imagination but also because of the experience of Slovakia and Croatia, where observers could have doubted their prospects some years ago, I believe that Hungary ultimately will not continue in this downward spiral.

    I don’t mean to sound glib, Kirsten, but Bp isn’t Hungary. In fact the Budapest that visitors and ex-pats see isn’t even Budapest.

    For many Hungarians, life has already pretty much slipped back into the ‘grey socialist times’ – they have no more control over their lives than they did then, perhaps even less. Hungary is already no longer a functioning democracy or free society – add to that an economy which is gradually collapsing, and there isn’t much to be cheerful about. And once the sun goes and the strands close, there isn’t even the distraction of the climate. This winter is going to be pretty grim – and the winters (and years) to come.

    And, worse still, there is no alternative. For most people MSzP isn’t an option, Jobbik is the only ‘alternative’. And, even now, for most Hungarians, that isn’t an option.

    So, times are bad, there’s no real prospect of them improving, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

    Where’s the hope there?

  43. September 1, 2012 at 7:13 pm | #43

    LwiiH :

    Paul :

    Kirsten :

    Paul :
    I’ve long feared for Hungary’s future in theory, but now It’s starting to feel real, and I’m wondering what we’re going to find on our visits over the next few years – and how my wife’s parents will survive. Not to mention what’s going to happen to the value of our flat – our only substatial ‘investment’..

    We subsidize my wife’s parents monthly income. That said, the subsidy is modest but given the goofy cr@p that OV has threatened there were a few times when we thought that we were going to have to assist with a serious amount of cash. Example, my father-in-law received a modestly sized retirement incentive which OV threatened to claw back. There was no way he was going to be able to oblige without selling his home.
    As for the value of your flat.. what I’ve noticed is that things sit on the market for much longer but eventually they sell and without any real HUF loss/gain. The biggest gain/loss comes with changes in the rate of exchange. We have a very modest investment in an index fund that is tied to the central bank’s interest rate. As long as OV continues to meddle in the setting of interest rates… the rate of return is like free money! Since that money isn’t leaving the country I’m not so bothered by the flux in exchange rates. We’ve been flipping it between Euro/HUF for a while and we’ve so far have been lucky in that we’ve managed to benefit from the flux. In once case, the ministry of finance said something stupid which caused the currency to drop literally hours before the funds were converted from Euro to HUF. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect if we had planned it. This wasn’t a one off in that we had this happen one other time also.

    At an optimistic estimate, our flat is worth almost exactly what we paid for it 8 years ago. Given the rate of inflation over those 8 years, I daren’t even do the maths. And that’s assuming we could sell it – who out our way has got the funds, or prospects, to buy a flat these days?

    Luckily, the real value of the flat to us at the moment is that it gives us a proper home in Hungary. But it was also bought as an investment (using my redundancy payment), and one day we are going to need to that money back.

  44. September 1, 2012 at 7:14 pm | #44

    CharlieH :
    London Calling!
    O/T – This is how the BBC see the Racist troubles in Hungary:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-19439679
    Regards
    Charlie

    Compare and contrast:

    http://www.socialistworker.co.uk/art.php?id=29463

  45. Davit
    September 2, 2012 at 12:56 am | #45

    Recently when Ramil Safarov was set free i was extremely outraged as was every other Armenian, however i must admit that I am a little relived to see that at lease the people do not think that what the government did was correct. I urge you to press the government to at least ask Azerbaijan WHY he was released when they promised Hungary that he would continue to serve his time in prison. I want to see how Aliyev will try to answer that.

  46. CharlieH
    September 2, 2012 at 5:13 am | #46

    London Calling!

    Yes Paul.

    I hope everyone on here looks at your link – to show how a healthy democracy functions and deals with extremism – peacefully and determinedly – using like for like methods.

    In a balanced society evil organisations can be countered with the rational and good – with minimal intervention by the police.

    And the fascist organisations will think twice about parading their extreme views next time around. They have been shown to be pariahs of society with little support.

    I don’t know where Hungary should start to encourage this kind of action – but I think support for anti-fascist/nazi/racist groups from the top would be a good start.

    On the matter of ‘no lights’ in cities:

    Apparently – (I have found no figures for the phenomenon) – one of the reasons Orban cites for nationalising the energy companies is the enormous arrears for domestic energy bills that people have run up.

    They are at an all time high – and this situation must also be linked to the mortgage arrears situation. And possibly with the Forex redemption mortgage scheme. People are desperately looting all their resources to reduce their currency risk.

    Given too that many councils are in huge debt is it any wonder that everyone is trying to save energy – and buying time by delaying paying their bills?

    People and councils are skint!

    Lighting energy saving compared with heat energy saving is really nursing the purse – and if people are making such economies then they are probably being extremely frugal with their heating.

    It’s been a hot summer. My last winter visit to Hungary was bitterly cold with my eternal thermometer registering -14C. Even though we didn’t experience that temperature -8C was not unusual. Thank goodness for that eccentric Hungarian device called the ‘Tile Stove’ – a simply wonderful way for heating the Home.

    However this winter will be miserable for many Hungarians.

    Regards

    Charlie

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