Viktor Orbán had a full schedule today: a lecture in Brussels and three important meetings with José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission; Herman Van Rompuy, president of the Council of Europe; and Martin Schulz, president of the European Parliament. A pretty exhausting schedule, especially since tomorrow the Hungarian prime minister is flying to Moscow to have a discussion with Vladimir Putin. The meeting will be brief, only half an hour, but the topics to be covered are weighty: setting natural gas prices for the next ten years and possible Russian involvement in the extension of the Paks Nuclear Plant.
In anticipation of the Orbán visit to Brussels, commentators differed in their assessment of what Viktor Orbán could expect in his negotiations. Some predicted difficult negotiations while others contended that after the two-year-long “freedom fight” it was time for Hungary to mend fences and normalize relations. Interestingly enough, Magyar Nemzet‘s commentator predicted a tough time, especially in light of the IMF-EU report released on January 28. The IMF officials predicted that in both 2013 and 2014 Hungary’s deficit will exceed 3%. If the European Commission takes the report seriously, their opinion might adversely influence Ecofin’s decision about lifting Hungary’s Excessive Deficit Procedure (EDP). And Viktor Orbán’s political future might depend on this decision. If the EDP is lifted, the Hungarian government could spend more freely in 2013 and early 2014 in anticipation of the election sometime in April of that year. Otherwise, further austerity measures must be introduced.
Viktor Orbán’s meeting with Herman Van Rompuy was also more than a courtesy visit. As it stands, the European Union is planning to reduce the subsidies to Hungary by 30% over the next seven years. Considering that the little investment there is in the country comes from the EU convergence program, a 30% reduction could be devastating to the Hungarian economy.
Orbán began his Brussels schedule with a lecture at the Bruegel Institute, a European think tank specializing in economics. HVG somewhat sarcastically entitled its article about Orbán’s appearance at Bruegel “Orbán teaches economics to his audience in Brussels.” The very idea of Viktor Orbán giving a lecture on “work-based economies” to a group of economists working for this think tank borders on the ludicrous. I also wondered what his listeners thought when he boasted about his government’s achievements and called his economic policies a “true success story.”
The meeting between Barroso and Orbán took place in the afternoon and lasted a little longer than expected. At the subsequent joint press conference Barroso told the reporters that they talked about the upcoming EU summit in early February, about the 2014-2020 EU budget, and naturally the present state of the Hungarian economy. For the time being the Commission has no definite opinion about the past performance of the Hungarian economy, but by February 22 their recommendations to Ecofin will be ready. There was one sentence here that I think needs more clarification: “We also discussed the quality of the economic adjustments.” To me this means that Barroso and the Commission are aware that the way the Hungarian government achieved the low deficit may not be optimal.
Viktor Orbán was more exuberant. “It was an excellent meeting,” he announced. They discussed matters that had created friction between the the Commission and Hungary in the past. He claimed that on the issue of the Hungarian National Bank they came to an agreement quickly. He admitted, though, that there are outstanding issues. Orbán indicated that he has no intention of backing down: the European Court of Justice will decide those issues he refuses to address himself. I might add here that cases the Commission sends to the Court usually go in the Commission’s favor.
Barroso sent a message to the Hungarians about the “rights and duties of the European Commission to insist that all national governments respect the laws of the Union.” The Commission tries to be impartial and objective. The Commission, like an umpire, must enforce the rules and regulations. This comment was most likely prompted by last year’s anti-European Union demonstrations instigated by the Orbán government.
Viktor Orbán might claim that the meeting was successful, but serious differences of opinion remain between the European Union and the Hungarian government over economic policies. The IMF-EU delegation predicted that further budget adjustments will be necessary to hold the deficit under 3%. Viktor Orbán disagrees, but I would be surprised if in the next few months, sometime before April, György Matolcsy didn’t announce another new tax in order to boost revenues.
All in all, at least on the surface, the meeting was friendly, or at least the two men pretended that it was. However, both Barroso and Orbán were careful in formulating their thoughts. In fact, Orbán opted to speak in Hungarian instead of his customary English, ostensibly because most of the reporters present were from Hungary. I suspect that the real reason was to avoid any imprecise formulation of his carefully worked out statement.
Whether Viktor Orbán was hoping for a public promise of support with regard to the Excessive Deficit Procedure I don’t know, but he didn’t get it. Olli Rehn, the commissioner in charge of finance, will have to mull over the details of the IMF report as well as the 2012 economic data submitted by the Hungarian Statistical Office. In my opinion, the 2013 budget belongs in a Brothers Grimm collection. The question is what the experts in Brussels will think of it.
Here is the arrival at Van Rompuy’s office. Please note that in the beginning VO is doing exactly the same as Mihaly Varga at the start of the meeting with the IMF.
Here is the arrival at Barroso’s office and subsequent press conference.
Here is the arrival of Orban at Schulz office and subsequent press point with Schulz.
I wonder what you think of this press conference.
The “true success story”:
According to Orban’s right hand man (Mr Matolcsy), there are half a million “excellent” Hungarian workers in Western Europe. If we count the family members, this translates into the estimate that more than 10% of the population live abroad!
(Will the Statistics Office reveal that just 9 million people live inside Hungary when it finally discloses the delayed numbers of the 2011 census in March 2013?)
The emigration is much higher than the 200 thousand in 1956.
In the 1880-1913 period, a total of 2.019 million people emigrated from (the greater) Hungary to the US. (The population was 15.163 million in 1890 and 18.265 million in 1910).
There is only one period in Hungarian history with similar level of immigration as today, and it is the 1900-1914 period.
There is only one period in Hungarian history with a similar level of Emigration as today, and it is the 1900-1914 period.
According to the Ministry of Economy, 300,000 Hungarians work in the UK, 100,000 in Germany and 50,000 in Austria.
Why so many in the UK? Germany and Austria have much stronger historical connections, and are closer and wealthier.
Also, I wonder how meaningful these stats are. For instance, our family of four includes three Hungarian citizens, none of whom were born there, and only one of whom lived there for any length of time (and then only for 10 years). And yet presumably all three count as Hungarians who have emigrated.
Take into account all the people in our situation or similar and the stats become meaningless.
My impression is that the EU are preparing the ground for the 7-year budget talks. Whatever members states are asking for, is being traded in for making a budget agreement possible. Merkel also commented on Cameron’s EU speech by saying “we can negotiate on what the UK want, but we need a budget agreement.”
Orban clearly wanted to gain the support of everyone he saw to back his wish to get out of the EDP.
Orban’s body language is that of a nervous little boy pretending to be innocent.
Paul: the UK was one of the few EU member states who did no restrict the number of potential migrant workers from E-Eu after 2004. Germany and Austria did. Therefore, most potential post-enlargement immigrants ended up in the UK. (Not just from Hungary, about 600.000 from Poland, it seems.)
Stats: at least in the UK, E-Europeans with EU passports need to register if they want to work (that’s how they get an NI number). That is, not the ones who have British passports or spouse visas etc. That is one way of finding out how many Hungarians have arrived here recently, specifically to work.
These statistics always have a margin of error, of course. Like when they published how many “foreign born” mothers have had babies in Britain since the EU enlargement. “Foreign born” could mean British citizens, whose mothers were somewhere else at the time of birth etc.
Taking into account the current optimism regarding the European economic recovery and the formally correct Hungarian deficit numbers, the confidence can be easily anticipated to OV at the Ecofin’s EDP decision, like some confidence was given to Greece.
On one hand it is good news, on the other hand we can guess what money would be used for in an election year.
I haven’t seen a picture of Orban recently but he looks just awful; he has gained quite a lot of weight and he looks washed out and frazzled in the above videos. Has anybody else noticed this?
“The very idea of Viktor Orbán giving a lecture on “work-based economies” to a group of economists working for this think tank borders on the ludicrous.”
I read the article in HVG also, the photograph of Mr Trichet is quite telling of what the audience will have thought about the presentation of Viktor Orban. I wonder why Viktor Orban was chosen in the first place to contribute to a panel about potential ways out of the European crisis. Quite difficult to believe that people at Bruegel could have had any hope for a valuable contribution of Viktor Orban.
Egodyastole, if it makes sense in English…
We did restrict the latest ones (Bulgaria and Romania?), but I think that restrictions expires soon – it’s one of the anti-EU Luddites’ demands the the restrictions should be maintained (or even applied retrospectively to the earlierenlargement countries).
I am woefully ignorant of all this, but I think the restriction wasn’t on being able to work in the UK (I know both Bulgarians and Romanians who live and work here), but on being able to claim benefits.
I also know quite a few Hungarians who have moved to Germany to get work, so presumably their restrictions no longer apply as well?
in Germany there are no longer any restrictions regarding work for Hungarians:
Wie zahlreiche andere Mitgliedsstaaten der EU hat jedoch auch Deutschland gegenüber den
Mitgliedsstaaten, die der Europäischen Union am 1. Mai 2004 beigetreten sind, von der in
den Beitrittsverträgen vorgesehenen Möglichkeit der Einschränkung der
Arbeitnehmerfreizügigkeit Gebrauch gemacht.
Seitdem Wegfall dieser Beschränkungen zum 1. Mai 2011 haben auch Angehörige der
Beitrittsländer freien Zugang zum deutschen Arbeitsmarkt. Demzufolge benötigen
ungarische Staatsangehörige für eine Arbeitstätigkeit in Deutschland keine Arbeitserlaubnis
oder Arbeitsberechtigung mehr. Dies gilt für alle Beschäftigten, unabhängig von der
Qualifikation, Beschäftigungsdauer und Branche.
Click to access Arbeiten_in_DE.pdf
BTW this “right to work” also means that any Hungarian company can offer their services in Germany, say a builder or electrician etc – though of course they must know the German laws and rules …
That’s why we hear from more and more people in Hévíz:
I’m going to work the winter season in Germany/Austria/Switzerland – it’s hard work, but well paid – like 1 300 € (net – plus food and a room …)
How could a cook or masseuse make that much money here in Hungary ?
Paul, Germany (Austria etc) restricted the numbers for 7 years, the restrictions were lifted in May 2011. The UK and the others restricted the number of Romanians and Bulgarians for 7 years, it will expire in January 2014.
I’m not sure what the restrictions meant: a quota perhaps? they had to apply for work permits and it wasn’t easy. That’s why most Eastern Europeans ended up in Britain.
I know there are a lot of Romanians and Bulgarians in Finland (they like it up there for some reason) and the Finns are not happy. Apparently a lot of them think begging is “having a job”, and they need to learn about laws and norms in Finland (eg noone can sleep in the streets, especially not children, for obvious climate-related reasons.)
Maybe Sentrooppa Santra can tell us more about how they ended up there, and how the restrictions have worked there.
In the UK, the Labour government (heavily criticised at the time) underestimated the number of potential workers in 2003, and thought there was a lack of skilled workers at the time in Britain anyway, the economy was booming, let them come… and they came, 10 times more than expected! It was a huge mistake and they admit it now. No they are desperate to stop the restrictions from being lifted, have you heard of the scandal?
There is surprisingly little noise about what this might mean for Hungary – it is difficult to estimate how many Romanian citizen would want to work in Hungary as a result.
Paul, this is the link.
Thanks cc, I always like a nice Guardian link!
The ‘problem’ we have (at least according to the people who say “we aren’t racists, it’s just that Britain is full up” – i.e. the racists) is that estimates for the number of Polish workers coming over was way under what happened.
So the anti-immigrant/anti-EU brigade (they tend to be the same people) completely ignore every other instance in the past where the real number has never matched the scare stories (e.g. we weren’t exactly “swamped” with Cantonese when Hong Kong transferred back to China), and concentrate solely on the Polish experience – thereby predicting vast swarms of Eastern Europeans stealing our jobs, raping our daughters, eating our swans and camping on our cricket fields.
They also conveniently ignore the fact that Britain, especially England, is a nation of immigrants, and that we wouldn’t be where we are today without the drive, talent and knowledge each wave of immigrants have brought with them.
And I think the Polish experience was a bit of a one-off anyway. We have a long history of ties with Poland, going back to at least WWII (there were Polish kids at my school in the 60s), so Britain to them is a far more natural place to go than (say) Germany. And, of course, unlike the real Eastern Europeans, they are physically nearer – only a ferry trip away.
I can’t see that many Bulgarians bothering to travel as far away as the UK and wanting to cope with what will seem a very alien culture to them. And Romanians have a traditional affinity with Italy and other Mediterranean countries, where the people and climate isn’t too different and the language is easy to learn.
Actually, I suspect racism IS very much at the root of all this – i.e. that ‘Romanians’ is this context is just a code word for ‘Gypsies’.
We also have a lot of “Hungarian speaking Romanian Gypsies” every summer in Germany, a few even stayed during this cold winter – some playing music on the street, some just sitting and begging …
For them places like Britain or Germany must look almost like paradise – even those people on the lowest rung of the ladder here live better than the “normal poor people” in a Romanian village …
I know, because we have Romanian friends of German and Hungarian descent .
So it’s no wonder that they try – just like those poor Africans in their boats on their way to Italy or Spain who have a high risk of drowning.
Of course it would be better to help them in their countries, but …
Orban proudly spent 875 million euros (256 billion forints) today on gas storage.
Will he sell them to the Russians?
As we move into a Kafakaesque reality of the future, we’ll do well do keep our eye on the Russians.
Sorry about not showing up in the last 24 hours but again we had no electricity.
As for the excellent emigration numbers compiled by Tappanch I might add that a fair number of the emigrant between 1890 and 1914 were Slovaks. In a western Pennsylvania town I was astonished to hear that the immigrants whom the locals called hunkies were actually Slovaks.
He is in bad shape and yes, we all noticed it.
Thanks Eva for checking in. I was just about to ask if everything is OK.
I did as soon as I could. At 5 a.m. we lost power. High winds but warm weather, thank God. Almost 60 degrees. Not far from the house (less than a mile) there was a wire lying on the road that, I assume, caused the trouble. Although a lot of people were without power but it was in the eastern part of the state, close to Rhode Island. This was a very local affair: only a few houses but the power company took its sweet time to fix it.
Orbán looks exactly as an average Hungarian close to fifity looks. Nothing special there, he is no fitness-maniac metrosexual. He-he.
But that fits his image as a susage maker, snpas drinker salt of the earth guy — as opposed to the effeminate urban liberals, yikes, hell-bent on returning to power. No, thank you very much.
Fred you’re a troll!
We were really commenting on not how he looks – but more how he has deteriorated – and only recently.
You use ‘Liberals’ as a derogatory term – and that reflects more on you than us.
‘Liberal’ in our context means a fairer, more equal society for ALL Hungarians – and we have the same male and female chromosomes as everyone else.
We immediately know your are ‘redneck homophobe, a racialist and anti-Semitic – and you probably have one of those ridiculous ‘Regent’ moustaches too – A true Fideszbikker.
So, welcome Fred, to Eva’s blog – read on and welcome to returning to the human race – if you do.
But I doubt it.
PS I can send you some fine English moustache wax if you would like some. In addition, some man mags? It is well known that many homophobes are latent homosexuals – let me know please?
Well, let’s hope he continue in that way – you don’t see too many Hungarian men over 60…
Sorry, I hoped it was clear that it was a joke and not ‘real’ trolling. He looks worse, but the basic statement is true, unfortunately this is how middle aged Hungarian look. I myself don’t see the big changed vs. 2 years ago.
Btw if you go to the pool or to the beach in the summer you see two distcint tremds: Hungarian people become fatter evfery year and the have bigger and crazier tattoos.
OT: What is János Martonyi, the foreign minister doing (was not in Moscow recently and Péter Szijjártó effectively took over his position, you have not seen him in a year in the media)? Why would not he resign? I am afraid that he is a bit like László Rajk (murdered in a 1950’s show trial) whose last words before hanging were: long live communism! Although Martonyi – after being very loyal to ‘popular democracy’ is only loyal to Orbán. Why, I wonder?
Yep! – You got me Fred! (Not difficult!)
But you can still have the wax and man mags!
I noticed that Fred 1’s logo is blue, while Fred 2’s is green. They must have different e-mail addresses…, am I right, Eva?
True, but they are the same Fred nevertheless, believe me.
Same address, I’m afraid.
It doesn’t seem to work quite as neatly as that – but I’ve never quite worked out how it does work! Some people seem to keep the same ‘logo’, others don’t.
Hence my ‘avatar’ Su-Su – no mistaking which ‘Paul’ is posting (although sometimes it insists on calling me Nyraipál!).
It has to do with the cookies saved on the computer. Once you removed it (for example cleaning the computer), WordPress select a new one for you. Than go to the picture (next to the e-mail address, and click on it till it has the proper one.
The name you want to have you need to fill out yourself. It is possible to have multiple names, my suggestion is to clean you computer from cookies, and repeat as mentioned above.
Cheers Ron – am now no longer Nyari Pál (hopefully!).
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