The Orbán government’s favorite pastime: Crossing swords with everyone

Although I know that some of you have already discovered Kim Scheppele’s answer to Gergely Gulyás’s attacks on her scholarly credentials, those who haven’t should visit Paul Krugman’s blog on The New Times and read her rebuttal entitled: “Hungary, The Public Relations Offensive.” Her analysis of the public letter addressed to her highlights the way members of the Orbán government operate. And in case you didn’t see Gulyás’s letter to Scheppele, make sure that you read it now.

A couple of days ago I also wrote about the scandalous personal attack on George Kopits, this time by the new deputy governor of the Hungarian National Bank. This young and apparently unqualified upstart, who owes his position to his allegiance to Fidesz, Viktor Orbán and György Matolcsy, attacks a man with an impressive academic and professional background. I suggest taking a look at his curriculum vitae.

They like to fight

They like to fight

But the list doesn’t end here. The latest is an attack on Viviane Reding, Vice-President and Commissioner responsible for Justice, Fundamental Rights, and Citizenship, who happens to be a Christian Democrat. Just like Fidesz politicians in the European Parliament, she is affiliated with the European People’s Party (EPP). So her attackers can’t even claim that her criticism of the current Hungarian government derives from her left-liberal political leanings. One can read about Viviane Reding’s career here.

Regardless of how many degrees, prizes and distinctions she has received, the Hungarian minister of justice and administration, Tibor Navracsics, still thinks that she is unqualified for her job. Navracsics shouldn’t throw stones: his own legal background is minimal. After he graduated from law school he immediately switched to political science, which he taught at his alma mater until Viktor Orbán discovered him and made him the whip of the Fidesz caucus between 2006 and 2010.

It is obvious from the statements Navracsics’s ministry released lately that the minister of justice and administration either decided on his own or was instructed from above to launch an anti-European Union campaign. First, he came up with the bizarre explanation that the “renewed attacks” on Hungary have something to do with the German elections that will take place in five months and the EP elections more than a year from now. According to Navracsics, “the European left uses all means at its disposal to discredit the European right” through its attacks on Hungary. It seems that Navracsics, who is supposed to know something about political science and politics, considers Hungary a linchpin in the political war between right and left in Europe. Political commentators laughed at the very suggestion.

But why the renewed attack on Viviane Reding? She made the mistake of giving a lengthy interview to the Hungarian paper Népszava. In it she emphasized that she has no grudge against Hungary or the Hungarian government as Navracsics often claims. It is her duty to enforce the laws of the European Union. She expressed her disappointment that the Hungarian government didn’t heed José Manuel Barroso’s request for a postponement of the vote on the latest amendments to the constitution. She used some pretty strong words in connection with the Hungarian government’s lack of responsiveness when it comes to adjusting Hungarian law to conform to the laws of the Union. Here is one of the many statements she made during the interview that may indicate that the European Commission means business. “As President Barroso mentioned, if necessary we will not hesitate to use all means at our disposal–I repeat, all means at our disposal–if Hungary disregards the legal norms of the Union and those of the Council of Europe.” Reding repeated what she had said earlier: “a constitution is not a plaything that can be changed every few months. This is especially true when the independence of the judiciary is at stake.”

Finally, there seems to be a difference of opinion about the information flow between Reding and Navracsics. Navracsics complains that he finds out about Reding’s positions on certain issues only from the media. Naturally, Reding denies the charge, claiming that she and her staff are in constant touch with Navracsics’s ministry. As for the veracity of Navracsics, it is worth recalling his run-in with Nellie Kroes, European Commissioner for Digital Agenda in Brussels, about a year ago. Kroes and Navracsics had a long private talk after which there was a press conference during which Navracsics’s position suddenly changed. Kroes was furious and announced to Navracsics and all those present: “That is not what you told me half an hour ago.”

There are a couple of nasty international situations where Navracsics thinks that Reding is not sufficiently supportive of the Hungarian position. One is the so-called Tobin case. Tobin is an Irish national who caused the death of two Hungarian children. He was released on bail but left Hungary and went back to Ireland. For years Hungary has been trying to get Tobin extradicted to Hungary where he is supposed to serve his sentence. However, according to Irish law, Ireland extradites somebody only if the person actually escaped from the country asking for his extradition. Tobin didn’t, and therefore the Supreme Court of Ireland ruled in Tobin’s favor. As Reding explained, this is the law, whether we agree with the outcome or not. Under the circumstances she can do nothing.

Then there is another case in which Navracsics suddenly discovered that Reding didn’t do her best on Hungary’s behalf. A Hungarian woman in the middle of a divorce ended up with her husband and child in Bora Bora. The husband took her passport away and has been keeping her and her son captive. According to Navracsics, he wrote to Reding about the case on February 14 but has gotten no answer. By now it seems that Reding is really fed up with Navracsics and his ministry because she found it interesting that “these accusations surfaced only after the Commission announced that it is analyzing the legality of the constitutional amendments.” Reding claims that she answered Navracsics’s letter on March 19. Moreover, she got in touch with the French minister of justice and asked her to investigate the case. Reding sarcastically mentioned that perhaps Navracsics should check his mailbox because the Hungarian Embassy in Brussels acknowledged the receipt of her letter. And she added her final observation: “Such mistaken information surely doesn’t improve the relations between Budapest and Brussels.”

I doubt that Navracsics’s answer to Reding dated April 8 will mend the already strained relations between the commissioner and Navracsics. Here are a few choice sentences: “Your statements of late have plenty of factual errors.” He goes on to elaborate. He claims that he wrote a second reminder on March 17 to Reding which must have prompted her to write him on the 19th. He added that two of his letters have still been unanswered. The first he wrote on November 13 and second on November 16 about the Tobin case. In addition, Reding keeps talking about judicial independence in connection with the early retirement of judges when the European Court of Justice in its ruling wrote only of “discrimination on the basis of age”; the decision had nothing to do with the independence of the judiciary. And a final dig: “Madam, you asked me to check my mailbox. I ask you to check your facts.” So, relations between Brussels and Budapest are splendid!

I should mention that Hungary has problems not only with the European Commission but also with the European Parliament, which will discuss the Hungarian constitution on April 17. As far as we know Viktor Orbán was not invited, but Orbán is “theoretically ready to debate” with the MEPs. This weekend he will consult with József Szájer whether he should go. Meanwhile the European Parliamentary Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs prepared a document “on the situation of Fundamental Rights: standards and practices in Hungary (pursuant to the EP resolution of 16 February 2012)”–Rapporteur is Rui Tavares, Portuguese MP. Apparently even the European People’s Party members of the committee signed the report. Doesn’t sound too promising from the Hungarian point of view.



  1. Hungarian society has a ‘tumor of inferiority’ the size of Puskas stadium. How else to understand the public’s continued support of such clowns as the Fidesz politicians mentioned above? I know that in Canada actions like those produced by Orban and his retinue of followers would’ve received such scathing attacks that they would’ve resigned in shame, never to open a political paper or watch a political tv program ever again.

    But Orban knows his people– their balloon of self identity has continually to be inflated with false promises and tales of conflict and victory. What a sad-sack situation!

  2. Acouple of points on the Tobin case:

    First, the decision of the Irish Supreme Court not to extradite Tobin had nothing to do with whether he fled. That was a lower court’s decision before Ireland amended its law to remove that aspect and the same lower court then agreed to Tobin’s extradition.

    Second, the interview in Népszava has Viviane Reding saying something different from her interview a month earlier in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ). To FAZ she said that the changes by the Hungarian government to the Hungarian constitution in ways Brussels finds questionable made it understandable that Ireland had refused to extradite an Irish citizen convicted of killing two Hungarian children in a 2000 car accident. She spoke as though Tobin’s extradition was for him to face trial and made, what seem to me, uninformed and unhelpful remarks about the case. Here is a transcript of the relevant part:

    “FAZ: Can you now trust the legal system in Europe? Can the states trust each other also with regards to each other’s’ citizens?

    Reding: No, some courts have stated quite clearly that this is not always the case. An example: last year, the Hungarian Minister of Justice complained several times to me that the Irish Supreme Court refused to extradite an Irish citizen who had committed manslaughter in Hungary, to Hungary and to stand his trial in front of the Hungarian judiciary. Personally, I was not surprised – after all, this was precisely during the time when many decisions were taken in Hungary which raised serious questions about the independence of the Hungarian justice system. With all the measures that I am taking in the justice field I am trying to strengthen mutual trust in the justice systems. For this confidence to work, the legal system has to work in all its forms and in all the different areas. This is an evolution which takes time. There some things that you simply cannot decree via laws.”

    I hold no brief for the government and inaccurate and misleading reporting weakens the case against it.

  3. Just to clarify things. I also think that Tobin should spend his jail term in Hungary. My focus in this post was not Tobin . I brought up the case to demonstrate how bad the relationship between Navracsics and Reding is. It is really immaterial who is right and who is wrong. The low level of discourse Navracsics demonstrates in this letter–regardless whether he has reason to be upset or not–works against Hungarian interests.

  4. So NOW Hungary wants to prosecute Tobin. Why didn’t they do so at the time of the accident?

    Tobin was able to leave Hungary simply because he wasn’t prosecuted by anyone here. Almost certainly this was because Hungary didn’t want to provoke Ireland’s ire (ha) and prevent Hungary’s entry into the EU. (AFAIK any single EU member can block the entrance of any new members) I think the official reason was that the bureaucracy was slow or something ridiculous like that.

    So the two kids from Leányfalu were literally sacrificed for Hungary’s EU ambitions.

    Fun trivia question: which Hungarian party was in power on 9 April 2000???

  5. Trivia: which inferior hungarian leader could not win elections?
    Unfortunately, there is a weakness for stupid corrupt leaders.
    franz joseph, horthy, kadar, orban…..
    We have to cleanse the nation from all bad leaders, from st. istvan to st. orban.
    No one can survive the chemotherapy, to get rid of all cancer cells.
    After that, gently, we can introduce an intelligent dear leader.
    With term limits.
    4 years and out.

  6. I agree with your point but you weaken your case by overstating it or by being partial, not to mention encouraging anti-Hungarian, as opposed to anti-Orban, sentiment (and from the content of some of the other comments it would seem there are plenty of readers who welcome the opportunity to attack Hungary).

    For the sake of completeness, here is Navracsics’ letter in response to the FAZ interview. It is balanced and reasonable and, more importantly, seeks to maintain dialogue with the EU.

    Dear Madame Vice-President,

    Your interview of 9 March 2013 in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in which you attempt to establish a link between the Tobin case and the independence of the Hungarian judicial system cannot be left unanswered. However, since you chose not to reply to my official letters urging you to take action regarding the very same case, I take this opportunity to highlight certain points for your kind information in the form of an open letter.

    In my view, it does not seem appropriate for a Commissioner entrusted with safeguarding fundamental rights to confuse the need for executing a sentence passed in 2002 regarding a negligent driver causing the death of two children with present day political debates about the independence of the Hungarian judiciary or to go as far as to imply that the refusal by the Irish authorities to surrender the perpetrator to Hungary – and thus letting him go unpunished – was in fact understandable. On the contrary, I would expect the Commissioner responsible for creating an area of Freedom, Security and Justice within the EU to enhance judicial cooperation between the Member States including the mutual recognition and consequent execution of judicial decisions.

    I find it outrageous and absolutely unacceptable to bring the execution of a verdict in a specific case in correlation with the assessment of the independence of the judiciary in any way. Moreover, this direct link created by you, Madame Commissioner between the steps taken by Hungary – in your interpretation questioning the independence of the judiciary – and the decision of the Irish court undermines the values and mutual trust to be represented and safeguarded by the Commission. I am also wondering whether Irish courts and authorities would share your assessment of the case.

    Even though we have had complex debates with the Commission of the European Union that sometimes required considerable flexibility on both sides, Hungary has managed to carry on a constructive dialogue with the Commission which it values as one of the most important institutions in Europe. Therefore I would like to ask you, Madame Commissioner as well, to follow this spirit and kindly refrain from making public statements that lack sufficient grounds as well as general benevolence.

  7. anglawbp: “not to mention encouraging anti-Hungarian, as opposed to anti-Orban, sentiment”

    I understand your wish but it is not only the case that an innocent nation fell victim to one person. The “system” works already if people “tolerate” it and if people opposed to it cannot agree on a strategy what to do. Then you can ask why there are people who find it “tolerable”, why groups of people affected by the “system” prefer to act individually instead of collectively, and why the opposition cannot agree easily on what to do. This is not “anti-Hungarian”, for instance because similar situations have already been observed in other countries also and because this has to do less with nationality and more with the actual challenges and the “toolkit” available to people to deal with such situations.

  8. Apologies for bringing up something totally off topic, but I have just come across this on FB and realised that in spite of my protestations to the contrary this sorry crew can still bring in stuff that suprises, shocks and puzzles me. On this link there is the news item from that they are nationalising the weather forecast. Collective insanity rules!! Or is it that this way it will always be sunny on days the Freedom Marchers are out on the road?

  9. Navracsics also accused the British of hypocrisy over media regulation during the weekend. And he claims that the anti Hungarian sentiment in Germany is simply to distract German’s from the real problems in that country.

    Yeah right! Germany has real problems, with the highest rate of GDP growth in Europe, while in Hungary everything is doing great with GDP falling by 3% a year!

    What an idiot.

  10. The Orbán-loyal circles of intellectuals (mentioned yesterday: as they call themselves the “army of the CÖF”, ie. he ‘civilian’ organsiation of the government organsied to defend Hungary from those trying to – in their words – overthrow the government) are operating, like anglawbp. Thanks. And ths is the start. I am sure there will be people assigned specifically to WSJ, The Economist, FT (all conservatives papers, mind you), NYT, ARD etc.

    As it was told, they need space so they will copy in the letter of Navracsics (what about the Matolcsy letter to WSJ about Kopits?, another crazyiness), which nobody cares about.

    But – in Fidesz’s strategy – they need space and opportunity to spread their message, fill up the content.

    They literally own 90% of every segment of the Hungarian media and will own for ever, as they are just acquiring the regional internet newspages which will remain after the local newspapers – which are too independent but have no future. And the left of course has no media whatsoever (let alone a strategy).

  11. HUNGARY–the KGB test theater for DESTABILIZATION, DECONSTRUCTION, and NEUTERIZATION of minor, weak, European countries…

  12. anglawbp: “I agree with your point but you weaken your case by overstating it or by being partial, not to mention encouraging anti-Hungarian, as opposed to anti-Orban, sentiment (and from the content of some of the other comments it would seem there are plenty of readers who welcome the opportunity to attack Hungary).”

    I’m just curious. How can you distinguish between anti-Orbán and anti-Hungarian sentiments? When is the point when a critic of the present government becomes “anti-Hungarian”? What are the exact signs of this anti-Hungarianism? Anti-Semitism is hatred or prejudice toward Jews. So, you really think that Viviane Reding hates all Hungarians? Isn’t it possible that she is just sick and tired of Orbán and crew? Unfortunately one cannot separate the country and Orbán. After all, he and his government are the representatives of Hungary.

  13. London via Győr (still!) Calling!

    Eva, I had similar thoughts as I read anglawp – and I am not sure to whom he was responding.

    “I agree with your point but you weaken your case by overstating it or by being partial……”

    Attacking the messenger (but which one?) because the facts are indisputable?

    Subjective somewhat?

    As regards Tobin – the fact that he is prepared to serve a sentence, but in his home country has been all over the news in England.

    (And what about your own Ramil Safarov case? – Does this overstate it by mentioning it – and am I being partial? Partial to whom?)

    Presumably double standards are not double standards – when they are Orban’s double standards?

    “This thing we like best about you Mr Orban are your faces.”

    And it has been a very sad case.

    But I think Hungarians weaken their case by overstating it and being partial – especially in the media’s focus in Hungary – where only the death sentence will do.

    Explain please anglawp or are you, as your ‘name’ suggests an auto-contradiction-robot for Fidesz?

    Angla? England? – WP Word Processor?




  14. Orbán, as a person, – yes, dear: ad hominem! – simply unable to accept any other way of existence, he must confront with anyone and everyone all the time – because he can not do anything else. Think about it: without these battles he may even be forced to start actually governing the country, working on his workplace, plain and simple..!

    A horrible idea, let’s face it.
    Even the most devoted orange-brains would be able to figure out in no time, just how inadequate dear Viktor really is.
    After all, adapting the special “Felcsút” version of soccer-rules to politics has it’s flavours, goes home well in sector B, doubtless, but outside of that?
    Rabid dog attitude and pissing around the territory in place of negotiations and cooperation is a perfect way to get marginalised and frozen out from everywhere, demanding respect while showing none, result contempt and ill will – that’s the way life works, you know.

    So, poor Viktor has no choice, but attacking all the time in order to have something to defend from, – the only thing he knows, – cost what it cost to the people of the country…

    Sad, isn’t it?

  15. I suppose I distinguish dispassionate criticism of a policy of the government and saying, for example, “Hungarian society has a ‘tumor of inferiority’ the size of Puskas stadium,” as one of the comments does here. The fact is that there is an inclination on both sides of this debate to resort rather too quickly to ad hominem argument and it would be helpful if critics of the government set a better example, particularly if the subject of their criticism is such ad hominem attacks.

    My essential point is that criticism that goes beyond dispassionate analysis, that is demonstrable inaccurate (in Reding’s case, for example), that is selective, and that is ad hominem, is no better than what is criticised.

    I think your last points verge on reductio ad absurdum:

    It is certainly a straw man argument to say that I think that Viviane Reding hates all Hungarians, and to put me to proof of that is misguided, surely? Even by your own comparison (being anti-Hungarian is equivalent to being anti-semitic: anti-semitism is hatred and prejudice towards Jews) it should be allowed that she might be prejudiced, rather than hate-filled, though I do not make that claim, either. What I do say, and it is demonstrable from the evidence, is that her comments on the Tobin case in the interview with FAZ were ill-informed and wrong. Further, I say that criticism of the polices and actions of the government are weakened when such matters are minimised or ignored.

    As for the suggestion that it is not possible to separate the country and Orbán, that strikes me as an extraordinary statement, and a moments thought about how that would be applied to critical debates over, say, the policies of the state of Israel or the United States, shows how unproductive it is.

  16. anglawbp, your accusing people critical of the Orban government of being “anti-Hungarian” is not just wrong, it is profoundly wrong. All governments, being made up of fallible people, will necessarily and inevitably make errors. The Orban government is no exception, and criticizing it for its errors here and elsewhere is done out of goodwill: we are passionately interested in the welfare of Hungarians and so we want Hungary to be a country with real achievements, beginning with freedom, justice, and prosperity for all of its citizens. Anything less than that, including the suppression of constructive criticism is the real anti-Hungarianism. A country does not become great simply by calling itself so, it must actually achieve something, for all of its own people and that achievement must meet the measures of the rest of the world.

  17. Next year the people of Hungary can decide the fate of Orban. Eva is trying to resurrect Gyurcsany. Eva, you cannot do it, only Jesus could call Lazarus back from the dead. Gyurcany wants now to unite the democratic opposition, the one he fractured by starting a new party. So who is there to replace Orban?

  18. “…your accusing people critical of the Orban government of being “anti-Hungarian” is not just wrong, it is profoundly wrong.” and if that is what I had said you would be right.

  19. anglawbp: “As for the suggestion that it is not possible to separate the country and Orbán, that strikes me as an extraordinary statement,”

    Extraordinary? Why? Any punishment of the Hungarian government by the EU because of its transgression of EU laws is also punishment of Hungary and the Hungarian people. But this has nothing to do with anti-Hungarian feelings per se. Reding is right. She has to make sure that the Hungarian government acts in a lawful manner as all other EU countries must.

  20. My pen name, which is actually anglawbp, not anglawp, is nothing more sinister than a reflection of the fact that I am an English lawyer living in Budapest. I have no party allegiances or affiliations.

  21. Not much comment around these parts about the influence currently wielded through the newly-Fidesz Metro free newspaper, undoubtedly the most widely read paper in Budapest and all major Hungarian towns (though a ‘read’, even cover-to-cover, is a max of 5 minutes). This carries daily government full-page ads, either being economical with the truth about the current economic well-being of ordinary people, or choice photos drawing links between Gyurcsany and Bajnai. It has influence. I encountered a group of homeless people at the train station attacking Gyurcsany, through encountering one of these ads. They seemed unaware that it is actually Viktor who has criminalised them. And THIS is why there is no hope. The mis-information is both clever and absolute. And the opposition (the falsely and tragically discredited DK aside) do not have the instinctive radicalism or wit to counter it.

  22. Perhaps I misunderstood what you meant by “isn’t it possible that [Reding] is just sick and tired of Orbán and crew? Unfortunately one cannot separate the country and Orbán. After all, he and his government are the representatives of Hungary.” I agree that is quite possible that Reding is sick and tired of Orbán and crew – many of us are. From her official position that makes it even more important for her to make her criticisms accurate and free from apparent bias. And, if you mean that Orbán represents the state of Hungary, rather than all her people, then I agree with that, too.

  23. tappanch :
    First Fidesz mayor Papcsak, now minister Lazar prosecutes a commenter, whose comments he did not like.
    Lazar “behaved like an animal” when he killed a woman with his car on October 24, 2012. Remark: unlike Irishman Tobin, Fidesz sous-chef Lazar was not prosecuted for vehicular homicide.

    I was just about to post this here. It needs some clarification although. Lazar is not after the commenter but after the media that is published the comment. Lazar expects censorship on comments that affects him (not against Jews, gypsies, etc. but against HIM). The commenter was “only” brought in to the police as a witness. Lazar did not drive the car that killed the woman, it was his chauffeur who was driving, according to the police report.

    THe full comment goes like this:
    “Lázárt sem érdekli senki és semmi, engem sem érdekel Lázár. Nemhiába használt lézerblokkolót, és nyomták a közpénzt abba, hogy minél biztonságosabb autó védje a seggét, mert tudta, hogy állat módjára közlekedik. És igenis sajnálom, hogy nem ő maradt ott”
    “Lazar does not care about anything or anyone. It is not a coincidence that he used a laser-blocker [an equipment that blocks laser signals the police uses to measures the speed of a moving car], and pushed public money into getting the safest car that would protect his behind [not the exact word] because he knew that he commutes as an animal. And yes, I do feel sorry that it wasn’t him who died.”

    So Lazar feels that this is a libel.

  24. anglawbp :
    My pen name, which is actually anglawbp, not anglawp, is nothing more sinister than a reflection of the fact that I am an English lawyer living in Budapest. I have no party allegiances or affiliations.

    Practicing law in Budapest? Knowing what havoc Orban has wrought to the institutions, laws and courts of the country… you wish to maintain you English sang-froid? Really.

    It’s hard not to get emotional–ad hominem?–when one witnesses the rape of a country’s decency, integrity and well-being.

    Look, anglawbp, we have witnessed or read about what happens when a madman of Hitler’s ilk mesmerizes a country with fantasies of the uber mensch, and wish not to have to relive that catastrophe in Hungary.
    With the runaway train that is Orban’s government, are we not right to sound warnings as vehemently as possible? Are we not right to storm Kafka’s Kastle before it’s finished being built?

  25. @anglawbp

    Your resort to logic argument in the face of mindlessness reminds me of the many criticisms of the US and water-boarding of terrorists.

    I suppose that when the suitcase bomb finally goes off in London, or Paris, or Rome–and their will be 500,000 dead and 5,000,000 maimed–you will no doubt brush off your sang-froid and say, “Oh, perhaps we ought to have been a tad more strict….” Right?

  26. “I agree with your point but you weaken your case by overstating it or by being partial……”

    No lawyer would say that someone “weakens their case by being partial”.

    The Fidesz English Language PR machine have been oozing their slime all over The Economist comment section recently- they seem to migrating elsewhere at a very fast rate.

    Moving the discussion onto the peripheral (in this case Tobin) is classic diversion tactics but the fact that the blog has been targetted proves that Goebbels wing of the regime is upping its game.

  27. London via Győr (still!) Calling!

    Petofi! anglawpb doesn’t do ‘allegory’! – he only focusses on one particular aspect to discredit a case – as many lawyers have to do – and ignore the rest.

    He says he is an ‘English Lawyer’ working in Bp – surely they need Hungarian Lawyers in Bp? so does he mean he is Hungarian – practising English Law? Or an Englishman practising Hungarian law?

    Anyway – I suspect he has to be careful what he says – as the government is probably his paymaster.

    Anyway (2) – he seems to be an apologist of the Hungarian government despite claiming to have no party allegiances or affiliations.

    Yea, right.



  28. Jobbik is extremely strong in Szabolcs, BAZ, Hajdu and Szolnok counties, where in rural places the Gypsy minority is the single most important political issue and is intertwined with povery and economical issues. Like it or not this is fact. It is a failure of politics to lift up rural regions, but whatever the sitaution, it is a great opportunity to use Roma as the central tool for your politcis. And why would’nt somebody use them?

    In other words, Jobbik has a chance to win over Fidesz – remember that the election system has been set up so that the dominant party of the right is the one poised to win (unless the left has a 7-8% lead over the combned right, which is, let’s face it, impossible outside Budapest).

    Since it is not possible for even a unified left to win in Veszprém, Zala, Vas counties and in parts of Bács Kiskun – and eastern Hungarian rural regions are covered by Jobbik, the left at this time simply has no mathematical chance to win a majority (let alone a 2/3). They can win in Budapest, but Fidesz knows that it is the countryside what matters, not the liberal Budapest.

    Thus Fidesz will most likely govern together with Jobbik (which might of course be outside the govrenment proper, but still, will get a lot of – politically and financially – influential spots).

    This is all the more probable since really there are no policy differences between Fidesz and Jobbik.

    They think alike about education, economy, media, global politics, minorities, religion etc. I do believe that they are both national socialists (nationalist but with a strong leftist, etatist, corporativist bent) even though this is politically not correct to say (as nazims and fascism are now equated only with concentration camps and war). In Parliament they argue the same arguments and (continue to, in fact never miss and opportunity to) jointly attack the left. It’s not only in rural munuicialities where they work togehther in examplary fashion, but in the Parliament as well.

    Meanwhile the left is weak, lethargic and hopeless. No vision, no nothing. The left can’t fight, they gave up everythig, not just their principles, everything.

    Buckle your seatbelts, because this government has so far been “restrained and professional”, in 2014 Jobbik will have even bigger influence.

  29. @ Anglawhatever
    (and from the content of some of the other comments it would seem there are plenty of readers who welcome the opportunity to attack Hungary).
    You can right away recognize the Fidesz approach.
    Nem, anti Hungarian.
    Igen, anti-Fidesz. Irted?
    Fidesz propaganda?…you never know how to react. Start laughing or praying…even though I am not religious.

  30. Jobbik/Fidesz coalition government has long seemed probable. So far, folks, it has only been the twenties. Here come the thirties. I suppose the EU might get around, at that point, a point just a year away, to declaring peace in our time.

  31. The Orban government “leased” (cca. gave away) 620 km^2 agricultural land so far, mostly to friends and family.(Thanks Fidesz MP Angyan for the partial data!)

    They plan to “lease” another 2000 km^2. In 2013, they will redistribute 20-year “usership”
    [haszonbérlet] (= EU money) of all land whose lease will expire before March 31, 2017!!

    Even if they lose the election in 2014, they will have re-established the agricultural landlord class by then.

    Approximate data:

    Private agricultural land in Hungary 34,000 km^2
    State agricultural land 4,000 km^2 (without national parks and forests)
    Public forests 9,000 km^2
    National Parks 6,000 km^2

  32. Who could find the EU payment / km^2 for

    1. fallow land
    2. wheat fields
    3. corn, i.e. maize fields
    4. cattle grazing area ?


  33. Tappanch, thank you for focusing attention on the issue of government land leases. There is very little transparency about the tenders and awards of these lease, and the few hints that we’ve received — for example, the anecdotal reports from small farmers throughout the country or what we know of the landholding pattern in Orban’s hometown — suggest corruption on a massive scale. And yes indeed, the re-establishment of a landed gentry class does seem to be the goal here, but that inevitably comes right along with the reduction of the actual workers of those agricultural lands to the status of tenant farmers or even knechts or serfs, very much a return to an earlier era.

  34. Yes now go and read the comments below Scheppele’s post in Krugman’s blog.
    Almost all are practically destroying Scheppele’s claims with the uncounterable argument that Hungarian domestic affairs are for Hungarians and them alone; no one asked for an elitist-looking (in fact, only violently assertive) ‘expert’ lecture on democracy from abroad.
    Yes you will probably label them as government paid commenters, do it if you wish, but you will only swindle yourself to protect your own stereotypic image of Hungary and you still won’t understand the probable results of the upcoming elections next year.

  35. @Johnny Boy

    Every dictatorship has this same argument.

    “Foreigners, do not interfere in our internal affairs.
    95% of Hungarians, do not interfere in our decision making either!”

    North Korea is worse than Hungary, of course. But North [and South] Korea was worse 60 years ago as well.

    What Fidesz prepares is a fraudulent and unfair election to perpetuate their Mafia-like rule.

  36. “In your opinion, things are heading in the right or the wrong direction?”
    2013.03; 2012.11; 2012.06; 2012.03

    right 25%; 18%; 13%; 18%
    wrong 69%; 75%; 80%; 73%
    don’t know 6%; 7%; 7%; 9%


    So after three years of relentless government propaganda, after the 10% utility rebate, the vast majority of people still think that Hungary is heading in the wrong direction.

    In the original election system, Fidesz would suffer a crushing defeat in 2014, since the votes for the anti-Fidesz parties would add up.

  37. kormos :
    BTW; who provides security for Ms. Scheppele while she is in Budapest?

    Kover’s Parliamentary doubt.

  38. “Yes now go and read the comments below Scheppele’s post in Krugman’s blog.”

    Comments in a blog have little to no effect in terms of affecting the opinion of the neutral.
    Not one opinion in Hungary will have been changed because of anything written in the comments section of the NYT, the Guardian or even here. Opinions in BRussels or washington may be enlightened by the original post or article and in that regard the regime fail miserably in presenting a “fact-based_ rebuttal. Compare the Orban propgandist, Tibor Fischer’s recent piece in the Guardian (one of the very few pro/Orban articles anywhere in the democratic world) with that of any number of pieces which have occured elesewhere, not least, Professor Scheppele’s/

    “Almost all are practically destroying Scheppele’s claims with the uncounterable argument that Hungarian domestic affairs are for Hungarians and them alone; no one asked for an elitist-looking (in fact, only violently assertive) ‘expert’ lecture on democracy from abroad”.

    So meeting her fact-based criticism with undisputable facts didn’t work, so it was back to the old personal insults and “nationalist hogwash” as a defence then?

    With hindsight, German “domestic” affairs in the 30s shouldn’t have been regarded by the west for Germans alone; if the free world had been more pro-active then perhaps there would have been no Auschwitz or Belsen. But even leaving that aside, Hungary is a member of the EU, the EU has rules which even tinpot fascists like Orban and his crew must obey if they want to keep receiving the funds which keeps their corrupt cronies in the very extravagent life-style to which they have become accustomed. Simple equation, drop your fledging dictatorship and you and your buddies remain very rich men indeed. That’s all the Eurocrats are saying.

  39. @anglawbp

    When such a PM “and his government are the representatives of Hungary” as Orbán, his personality inevitably tainting the whole government’s attitude. Since we all know, that he is the one and only decision-maker, I dare to say that one should have a hard time if tried to separate him from the members of his government, consequently from the fate of Hungary.

    Unfortunately so.

    As we are at it:
    Just as well unfortunate, that his decision making hardly ever involve reason or common sense, only his oversized ego what matters, even if it hurts the interest of the country, as often the case. So, please, tell me, why the critics should avoid involving his personality issues, particularly when exactly his personality the problem most of the time?

    As you may have figured out so far, I have no sympathy toward bullies and megalomaniac autocrats – regardless of their political colorisation – life is hard, as we all know.

  40. kormos :
    BTW; who provides security for Ms. Scheppele while she is in Budapest?

    I think it is more important to know who’s responibility is to make sure our visitors are safe.

  41. Johnny Boy :
    Yes now go and read the comments below Scheppele’s post in Krugman’s blog.
    Almost all are practically destroying Scheppele’s claims with the uncounterable argument that Hungarian domestic affairs are for Hungarians and them alone; no one asked for an elitist-looking (in fact, only violently assertive) ‘expert’ lecture on democracy from abroad.

    How many of those comments are you? Just kidding … you know me.

    That’s the problem with quantity vs. quality. They all keep parroting the same thing. That is Professor Scheppele has no right to give an opinion and nobody asked her.

    She gave a testimony to her own government (in the Senate). We probably should not tell a US citizen what to tell their own government? Right?

    What makes you think nobody asked her? I did and I’m sure at least half of the country did or at least agrees with her. The Fidesz has about 30-40% support after all.

  42. Mutt wrote: “I think it is more important to know who’s responibility is to make sure our visitors are safe.”

    Yep. Given the precedent that a visitor — and a Nato partnership guest at that — can get axe-murdered in Hungary only to have the Orban government release the murderer to his home country, where he received a hero’s welcome and a complete nullification of the trial sentence, certainly gives would-be visitors confidence. How’s this for a message to boost tourism: “Visit Hungary, get axe-murdered, and your murderer will go scott free”

  43. It’s really funny to read our trolls’ statements (including our English lawyer …). Don’t they see what kind of impression they make on the regular readers/contributors by picking on maybe one little detail or as Johnny Boy did bringing up the old Communist ‘s complaint:

    ou’re meddling in our internal affairs …

    All that Fidesz PR might work on (some part of) the Hungarian public – but internationally ? Do they really believe that people/diplomats/journalists in the EU and the USA are so naive to be swayed by letters like that silly whining complaint by Navracsics to Mrs. Reding with its Kindergarten-logic ?

  44. Johnny Boy,

    “The European Parliament will discuss the Hungarian constitution on April 17. Meanwhile the European Parliamentary Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs prepared a document “on the situation of Fundamental Rights: standards and practices in Hungary”

    Rapporteur is Rui Tavares, Portuguese MP.

    Even the European People’s Party members of the committee signed the report.

    Whatever the efforts of Fidesz paid trolls on websites of the Guardian, The New
    York Times, etc. etc…..whatever the efforts of Navracsics, Ferenc Kumin,
    Gergely Gulyás etc…to practice their distortions, it didn’t work!
    It backfired more than ever. Me thinks, from an international point of view….Fidesz, by now is a dead birdy.

    Johnny whatever….you lost your battle. Find another job!

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