It was a busy day in Hungarian politics. The long-planned Orbán visit to Berlin finally took place, and after a lot of wrangling two of the opposition civic movements, Szolidaritás and Milla, agreed to hold their October 23 demonstrations together. This news gained added importance when it turned out that former prime minister, Gordon Bajnai, will be one of the speakers at the demonstration. Although we don’t know what Bajnai will say, those who believe that he is the only person who could gather the various groups and democratic parties into a common fold hope that he will announce his return to politics.
Initially I thought that I could squeeze both topics into today’s post, but after rereading my notes I came to the conclusion that this was an impossibility. So, let’s deal with international affairs today and continue tomorrow with the new domestic developments.
A growing number of people would like to see the whole Orbán regime disappear, and these people fervently hoped that “Merkel would tell Orbán off.” They are most likely very disappointed because it seems that all’s well between Angela Merkel and Viktor Orbán. At least this is what we could discern from the joint press conference held after a private luncheon, also attended by György Matolcsy and Zoltán Balog.
Let me start with an article by Mátyás Eörsi (earlier SZDSZ and now a DK politician) that appeared in Magyar Narancs. Eörsi, who has diplomatic experience (he served as undersecretary in the foreign ministry for a while), expressed his belief that although Angela Merkel most likely has a very bad opinion of Viktor Orbán she is not going to focus on Hungary’s foundering democracy because she needs allies for her EU policies. And, Eörsi added, Viktor Orbán will be a willing and “constructive partner” in this endeavor of hers.
Of course, we don’t know whether this is how the conversation went. My personal feeling is that Hungarian domestic affairs were discussed, at least in passing. That this discussion might have been less than congenial is also likely. I don’t know what German word Merkel used to describe the tone of the discussion, but the Hungarians translated it as “nyitott” (open). “Open” in this context means “candid.” When we hear the word “candid” attached to diplomatic negotiations we interpret the word to imply that the conversation was frank and outspoken.
The German Chancellery is fully aware of what is going on in Hungary. Only yesterday the spokesman for the German government sent a message to Orbán: “Someone with a two-thirds majority must know that with that majority goes great responsibility towards those who are in the minority.” The German media while preparing for the Orbán visit also published scathing articles about Orbán’s attitude toward democracy. The authors of one opinion piece predicted that Merkel most likely will “admonish” the Hungarian prime minister. Well, if she did we didn’t hear a thing about it. The Hungarians also anticipated a scolding from Angela Merkel. Otherwise why did Foreign Minister János Martonyi feel that he had to emphasize to the Deutsche Presse-Agentur that although the Hungarian government might have made some errors “during the enormous transformation that has occurred in the last two years,” the Orbán government is fully committed to democratic principles? The same message was delivered to the German public by Orbán himself in his interview with the German paper Handesblatt, where he described himself as “a zealous believer and supporter of democracy.”
Admittedly, Merkel went out of her way to be pleasant to Orbán, perhaps, goes one line of reasoning, because the usual diplomatic language of understatement has no effect on the Hungarian prime minister. Now, it seems, Merkel decided on a new strategy. To give the impression that she understands, partially at least, “the motives behind the reforms.” Hungarian observers think that Merkel went too far here. Because the Orbán government is currently in trouble with the European Court of Justice and the European Council, just to mention two of the most important institutions of the EU. Yes, in the past Orbán under pressure did make changes to some of the laws that the European Commission found most objectionable, but these changes were neither substantial nor fundamental.
So, what did Orbán promise to Merkel? We don’t know, but I’m almost certain that the soothing words of Angela Merkel came with a price tag, though probably more Wal-Mart than Neiman Marcus. László Lengyel, an economist and political commentator, thinks that perhaps Matolcsy’s latest austerity program may have something to do with the Merkel-Orbán meeting. After all, Matolcsy made a complete turnabout. The latest attempt to balance the 2012 and 2013 budgets contains no “unorthodox” items. It is also possible that for German support Orbán promised certain changes in the most controversial new laws on the judiciary, the media, and elections.
After the meeting with Merkel Orbán made a speech at the Konrad Adenauer Foundation. In the audience of 200 sat Imre Kertész, the only Hungarian Nobel Prize winner for literature and no friend of Viktor Orbán. His speech, which naturally had been written before his conversation with Angela Merkel, repeated all the clichés we’ve heard from him of late: nation building, self-pity as an obstacle to success, and that Hungarians shouldn’t feel that they belong to a small nation.
What was interesting was that after the speech he got some hard questions. Keep in mind that at the Konrad Adenauer Foundation Orbán was among friends. However, he wasn’t fazed by such comments as that German firms don’t trust the Hungarian government because of its erratic and unpredictable attitude toward the business world. Yes, answered Orbán, the extra levies hit the service sector especially hard, but he “has bad news for the players in this sector”: their situation will not change in the future. There will be no higher profits.
When a German constitutional scholar said that Hungarian judges in the last year or so had rendered some very brave decisions and added that “in Germany a judge doesn’t have to be brave,” he just has to do his job, Orbán rather impertinently answered that in the minds of Hungarians the role of judges is different than it is in Germany. Moreover, he “doesn’t consider the German situation the standard” to which Hungary has to adjust.
All in all, if Merkel quietly achieved something during her talk with Orbán, it couldn’t have been a heck of a lot. The man seems to be feeling on top of the world.
Chancellor Merkel shows great charactor and poise in dealing with the PM. However, time will tell all.
Seem to me victor id doing just fine
your article is presuming. not based on facts
As much as I had hoped more from Merkel (more support of Hungarian democracy and less support of the Orban regime, that is), the “good” thing about Orban feeling confident is that when he feels (over)confident, that’s when he commits the biggest mistakes. So just sit back and watch him self-destruct. (It won’t be pretty though, as the country is being destroyed as well.)
Angela Merkel will not stand in front of the cameras and say: “This guy has been a right pain in the bum, we’re angry now and we’re sooo going to remove him if he doesn’t behave.” She is speaking to the rest of the world as well, and it is in the EU’s interest to understate the problems, to project the image that they are in control of Orban and everything is going fine.
What actually is said and what politicians agree to tell journalists are two different things.
It was an “open” discussion = we talked about the problems.
“I now understand the reason behind the laws” = I asked him why he did them and he told me his version. It doesn’t mean we “support him”.
“I welcome the fact that he has been complying with the EU regulations” = he must comply with EU regulations.
But two things are likely.
Orban wants Merkel not to reduce Hungary’s cohesion support in the EU budget for the following years.
The EU wants to go ahead with their “Economic and Monetary Union 2.0” for the euro area (fiscal union, taxing union, banking union, common banking supervision etc). They don’t want member states grumbling, blocking, vetoing, (PMs suddenly changing their minds at 4 am in Brussels…). That’s why Merkel said: Hungary doesn’t need to join the euro, it’s enough for us that Orban says he will support the euro area’s recovery process.
That’s the deal. You stop your freedom fight and you support EMU 2.0, then you get the money.
And in that context, I find it a bit worrying that at the press conference Orban went into the kuruc mode and said something like: “We will support the euro area’s efforts but it needs to be the right timing and the right quality.”
Is it just me? 🙂
An, of course Orban feels confident – he has been invited somewhere important for the first time in two years…an achievement indeed.
or Merkel is afraid from the time Hadik took Berlin
Cheshire cat is right:
Merkel told Orbán that the EU is watching Hungary and the courts are looking at Hungarian laws, but as long as Hungary isn’t part of the € community its economic problems are not really relevant outside of Hungary …
So Merkle is probably grateful that she doesn’t have to deal with Orbán too much/too often.
The media in general reiterated all the criticisms however – they are looking much more carefully at what’s going on here. If you read the SPIEGEL or SÜDDEUTSCHE you find scathing reports on the Hungarian government and its laws.
Business as usual – Hadik won one battle but he and the Austrians lost the war and Prussia went on to become Germany’s leader while Austria started its slide into obscurity …
And Hungary stayed a “second rate partner” of Austria – doing much of the dirty work for the Austrian emperors.
Let’s not be fooled by the ‘noblesse oblige’ of Merkel: she wasn’t going to stoop to reprimanding the Felcsutian in public.
Orban was called on the carpet to explain himself (privately) and to be forewarned that he’s being watched. The only thing Merkel
allowed him was not to embarrass him in public. For this contued ‘generosity’, Orban was required to make some appeasing sounds toward the EU and the euro.
INTEGRITY LESSON #1 FOR HUNGARIANS
Lawrence Ferlinghetti (age 93) has refused the 50,000 euro prize of the Hungarian PEN organization. Here’s the article (and Ferlinghetti’s letter of refusal) from the website of the University of Rochester:
After doing some research on the Pannonius Prize, Ferlinghetti discovered that a sizeable portion of the prize money had been provided by the Hungarian government, which has been widely accused of officially and unofficially stifling free speech. In light of this news, Ferlinghetti decided to decline the award, and sent this message to the President of the Hungarian PEN Club:
Dear Geza Szocs,
After careful research into the Pannonius Prize and its sponsors, including the present Hungarian government, I have come to the following conclusions: Since the Prize is partially funded by the present Hungarian government, and since the policies of this right-wing regime tend toward authoritarian rule and the consequent curtailing of freedom of expression and civil liberties, I find it impossible for me to accept the Prize in the United States. Thus I must refuse the Prize in its present terms.
However, assuming the total devotion of the Hungarian PEN Club and yourself to freedom of speech and social justice, I propose that the Prize money be used to set up a fund to be administered by the Hungarian PEN Club, said fund to be devoted solely to the publication of Hungarian authors whose writings support total freedom of speech, civil rights, and social justice. These are the only terms under which I can accept the Pannonius Prize.
In defense of individual freedom and democratic institutions, I am faithfully yours,
Merkel gaved Orban precisely what he had come for: A photograph where they are both smiling. It is woth at least +1.9% on the HUF exchange rate, 0.1% being deducted because of the color of his necktie.
He loves this hideous necktie. He wears it at every important occasion.
Yes, 1.9% gain on the exchange while the country continues to blow billions on raising government funds–a Hungarian deal if ever I saw one!
Presnet from his wife maybe?
Somehow off subject.
At this point many people who I have spoken to for the last few days are very sceptical of anything Orban does or tries to do. I think the turn out for October 23rd will be very large. There are a very few people who did not participate in any demonstartions but they lost their hope and will go on the street.
I am not sure if it has been mentioned here (as I was away from mz computer for a while) but two days ago the governemnet took out full page ads in every daily, including Nepszabdasag, to put in huge text about how the Hungarian government is declining the pressure and demand from the IMS that was discussed on this blog before. THis ad campaign that has no merit cost 200,000,000 Forints. All the demands listed are demands that only exist in the troubled, psychotic mind of Orban.
An other lie of Fidesz that older people are discussing even in the waiting rooms of doctors has to do with the pensions.Orban keep promising to keep the “shopping power of pensions”. Well,from November pensions will be raised above 1%, while the Hungaran inflation rate is above 6%. I guess everyone can do the math.
And I was already wondering whether I am the only one who noticed this ugly piece. It was best in the EP, when Matolcsy had the same tie, they looked like some comedian twins.
There’s really scathing comment on “Orbán the Betyár” on the site of German Public Radio WDR, written by Stephan Ozsvath:
“How is this possible” is the title. It describes how the Fidesz gang is plundering Hungary …
Yes, yes! It was a sight to behold.
Merkel is a procrastinator par excellence.
In the financial environment she has ‘kicked the can down the road’ many times before conceding the inevitable – as evidenced by the ECB only now underwriting EU countries debt with ‘unlimited’ bonds – a move which could have stopped the slide of many countries who now find themselves in very dire positions – Greece, Portugal, Ireland etc.
She is almost certainly procrastinating with Orban – even though Hillary Clinton has intervened and Hungary is getting a bad press in Germany.
As in the financial universe – she will let things drift in the Hungarian universe.
It is said of the Americans – they always do the right thing in the end – but usually only as a last resort.
Orban will have a relatively free hand still – until the EU problems become less pressing – or things deteriorate so much that the ‘American-last-resort’ solution kicks in.
The KSH has just announced inflation at 6.6% – and is a rising trend.
Orban’s Waterloo (Mohács?) is getting closer.
It is more like a 0.2% boost for HUF
October 11, 1:50 PM 281.9 EUR/HUF
October 12 1:50 PM 281.4
Let us examine the economic performance of the Orban government.
The probability of bankruptcy of the Hungarian State within 5 years as measured by the CDS:
2010. May 17%
2012. Jan max 40%
2012. Oct 12 20%
So the risk of state bankruptcy is about the same as two and a half years ago.
But most people are much worse off. To start with, their private pension funds have been taken away. Their real net income is less.
Seems to me that the “Peace March” is exceedingly ill-timed, celebrating, as it will seek to do, some sort of “victory” at not becoming a “colony” of the new recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.
The pro-Orban “March” will march a long way, from Hosok tere via Oktogon to Parliament.
The organizers of the Milla are not smart enough or are not allowed to march.
Why is it important? The subjective estimate of a moving crowd is always bigger than a standing one. And only these subjective numbers count, since Orban makes sure that the elections will not.
If your crowd marches, it looks much more numerous than when it is squeezed in a small area like the Pest side of the Erzsebet bridge.
They should add the “We won’t be Nobel Price Winners” banner … Especially now, when the government television called Imre Kertesz, the nobel price winning author, non-Hungarian because he lives in Berlin. Is this going to happen to all of our nobel price winners who emmigrated? Don’t take my national pride away …
Prize not price …
Orban is a Felcsutian of the first water–nothing he says is to be believed on face value.
I kid you not, folks, I can’t for the life of me understand how Orban’s ass hasn’t been kicked from here to Beijing, by now. I can imagine what would happen to a Canadian politician who sets up a “Puskas Academy” for $500 and then has the gall to ‘grant’ it almost $30,000,000 from government coffers (albeit, in a roundabout manner). And, of course, the ‘Academy’ is adjoining the family holdings in the royal county of Felcsut!
Where but in Hungary…?????
What on earth is the matter with people here?
Good science project for tech savvy high schoolers. Put up a camera on the Andrassy street and run the footage through a face recognition software to count to faces.
Ooops. I hope the TEK is not reading this …
Search for a new life outside Hungary as represented in Google Trends
Click to access migracio_2012_google_elemzes_121012.pdf
The peak seemed to be in March 2012.
If I understand it right, after the elections there were fewer job seekers but then their numbers began to grow.
There is one more , don’t you think?aspect of the Merkel-Orban meeting – the little weasel may have tried to use a leverage in order to avoid public denouncement – the German investments in Hungary.
Remember, If Hungary goes belly up, the one hurts most – outside of the country – is Germany, due to the long time cooperation and the number of established companies and all that.
So, as I see it, there must have been more behind those smiles than mutual disgust, dont you think?
The first line should be:
There is one more aspect of the Merkel-Orban meeting
I don’t believe that Orbán could blackmail Mrs Merkel there. If German companies like Audi, Mecedes and Opel (not to mention the smaller ones) would leave Hungary and transfer their production to Slovakia or Romania it would hurt Hungary much more – surely Orbán knows this.
Anyway it has happened a lot in the last years. I just heard from a textile company (Speidel underwear is a quality brand in Germany, my wife likes to shop at their factory outlet near our German home town) that they have still some production in Hungary but more now in Romania – decided on the cost and the qualifications …
Every week three trucks (and that’s a lot of bras …) kind of commute between the production facilities and Germany.
So it would just be a one time cost for the German companies to go elsewhere – of course they like to minimize risks and maximize opportunities so a really big company like Volkswagen/Audi/Porsche has production facilities all over Europe.
What I read from the media reports is that Mrs Merkel told Orbán that he has to comply with the EU rules – or else and he tries to minimise that.
One word about the recent “no-name austerity measures” by Matolcsy. We have been speculating here that coming up with that so suddenly might have had something to do with Orban’s visit to Berlin.
But now it seems it also had a lot to do with Olli Rehn’s letter to Orban, last Wednesday. This morning Orban said that Brussels had told him Hungary’s budget deficit will exceed 3%, and if they don’t change the budget, they WILL suspend the cohesion funds. (I think I mentioned this a few days ago here, that Hungary’s is still in the excessive deficit procedure and Rehn will probably go ahead with the sanctions if needed.)
You have to love the way Orban puts it – “Brussels are wrong, their numbers are different, but they would take millions away from us and they are so powerful that we have to bow our heads before them… erm…I mean, get out of the way of such power…”
In other words, in May, Orban handed a plan to Rehn in which he promised everything to wriggle out of the sanctions and he thought that that was that. Brussels waited to see if the budget plans really are in order, and because they don’t seem to be, we are back to where we were in February.
I agree with your assessment in case these big German companies would consider to leave Hungary.
However, the picture entirely different, if Hungary defaults as is, from one day to another.
Just read the last days news – the EU to blame for everything, and anyway, the presidential system much more suitable for damage control…
Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if he tried to stress this point.
Otherwise, give me one good reason, why he hasn’t got an explicit warning? I don’t think, that the Chancellor that shy if it comes to that.
I may be too strictly pragmatist, but I think it’s time that the gloves comes off – otherwise there is no chance to stop this madness later on.
In his weekly broadcast to The Sheep this morning he came out with a classic (translation Portfolio.hu):
“”He stressed that while Budapest will now do as Brussels requests, as the Hungarian economy will be in a better shape next year than what the EU thinks “it will turn out that we will carry out a lot of things that Brussels has had cancelled or wants to be dropped, only we don’t have to announce these now, but in the first half (of 2013).””
But hasn’t he, by implication, just announced it then?
Of course, the EU weren’t listening, so that’s OK then.
There’s a point that Mutt D always makes about dictatorship-building actually requiring more work and competence than the Orban Regime is prepared to undertake or, more pertinently is capable of.
When you read something moronic like this from Orban you do tend to breathe a sigh of relief.
Petrovics: “INTEGRITY LESSON #1 FOR HUNGARIANS
Lawrence Ferlinghetti (age 93) has refused the 50,000 euro prize of the Hungarian PEN organization. Here’s the article (and Ferlinghetti’s letter of refusal) from the website of the University of Rochester”
It is surprising that the (here so hated) Orban government participated in the offer of a perstigous prize to someone who is basically a communist, supported Castro both in the past and now and besides he is part Jewish. Maybe the Orban government is not as antisemite or antileftist as it is made out on this blog.
Two buttons on his jacket done up and no signs of strain – either Orbán has a superb tailor or he’s wearing a corset.
I hope you never get banned for your stupidities because, quite frankly, you make one feel superior.
You don’t have to be ‘communist’ to have supported Castro. Canada ‘supported’ Castro (if by ‘support’ you mean that the country’s citizens were allowed to travel there..) and it’s not communist. Canada is socialist but there’s nothing wrong with that and it’s a whole different kettle of fish of which you’re well aware (right, Kovacs?).
Orban is part Jewish,too, yet he’s an anti-semite by what he allows to take place in Hungary–Horthy statues; Garda actions; anti-semite writers taught in schools.
By the way, ‘hate’ for Orban would be more widespread in the country if the people would know how to think objectively, and the balls to do so.
I doubt that the Hungarian government had anything to do with choosing Lawrence Ferlinghetti for the PEN prize. I am a life-long fan of Ferlinghetti’s and am delighted that he was chosen for the prize and also refused the money, giving it back to Hungarian PEN for the support of free speech in Hungary. I hope that Hungarians hear of this.
Come on, Louis, you know quite well, that the Hungarian government only participated by (partly) sponsoring the prize, and – as Gretchen pointed out – has nothing to do with choosing!
Otherwise, according to your best knowledge, just what Orban’s alleged ethnic- racial- or religious background supposed to do with his governance – or the lack of it, thereof – in a democratic country in the year 2012?
Should he relate differently to some issues as a Hungarian Premier Minister, based on his – whatever – origin?
Louis, you don’t really want to go there, believe me.
I hope so, that is.
About the choosing…I’m not sure Orban was not asked for his seal of approval.
And the Viktator probably thought: Felinghetti…Italian…the Pope should be pleased…hmm, maybe I can get another pic him.
Isn’t that how it works in the ‘Presidential System’?
“dictatorship-building actually requiring more work and competence than the Orban Regime is prepared to undertake or, more pertinently is capable of.”
I totally agree.
I hope you never get banned for your stupidities because, quite frankly, you make one feel superior.
You don’t have to be ‘communist’ to have supported Castro. Canada ‘supported’ Castro (if by ‘support’ you mean that the country’s citizens were allowed to travel there..) and it’s not communist. Canada is socialist but there’s nothing wrong with that and it’s a whole different kettle of fish of which you’re well aware (right, Kovacs?)”
No, I do not mean the type of support that you claim Canada did. Not having the US type boycott of Cuba is not autmatically a support of Castro and his activities. Dig into Ferlinghetti’s politics and find out how far you are from being correct.
Gretchen: “I doubt that the Hungarian government had anything to do with choosing Lawrence Ferlinghetti for the PEN prize. I am a life-long fan of Ferlinghetti’s and am delighted that he was chosen for the prize and also refused the money, giving it back to Hungarian PEN for the support of free speech in Hungary. I hope that Hungarians hear of this.”
The Hungarians have heard of this, the PEN folks even offered to cut the percentage of the prize supplied by the government, but no deal that way either. However, it appears that one of local Hungarian opposition groups asked Ferlinghetti not accept the prize…….
Whoa! This blog looks exactly like my old one!
It’s on a completely different subject but it has pretty much the same layout and design. Superb choice of colors!
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