Europe fights back: Viktor Orbán may be in real trouble this time

When on April 9 I wrote about the verbal duel between Tibor Navracsics, Hungarian minister in charge of administration and justice, and Viviane Reding, EU vice-president and commissioner responsible for justice, fundamental rights, and citizenship, I should have known that this would not be the end of the story. Members of the current Hungarian government don’t have much sense about when to stop. Just as they doggedly pursued their domestic opponents and used all sorts of unacceptable methods to destroy them, they are employing exactly the same methods on the international scene: personal insults, insinuations, blackmail, lies, half-truths, and the practice of “divide and rule.” The Fidesz government’s strategy worked well at home. Just think of the trade unions and the student associations. So why not try it with the European Commission? Perhaps setting José Manuel Barroso against his vice president, Vivien Reding, both members of the European People’s Party, would bear fruit as well.

First, Navracsics questioned the integrity and impartiality of Reding. Then he said that she was not qualified. A day later Magyar Nemzet came out with a new theory. Next year there will be a new European parliamentary election and perhaps a new president of the European Commission. Reding has a chance to replace Barroso, but in order to be elected she will need the help of the European liberals and socialists. That’s why she is so tough on Hungary. It’s a career move, according to Magyar Nemzet.

On April 10 an op/ed piece by Tibor Navracsics appeared in the European Voice. Up until then these distasteful and totally counterproductive exchanges had appeared only in the Hungarian media. But now they were spread far and wide via an English-language weekly dealing with the politics of the European Union. Navracsics leveled the same accusations against Reding in the European Voice as he had in the Hungarian media. He questioned her neutrality and predicted that any decision about Hungary in Brussels will not be fair. It will be a “purely political decision.” Moreover, Navracsics challenged Reding’s authority “to question the right of a democratically elected government majority to change its own constitution.” If we take this last sentence literally, we must conclude that the Hungarian government categorically refuses to abide by the laws of the European Union. But in this case why do they bother about the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe? After all, it was Foreign Minister János Martonyi who asked the Commission to render a legal opinion on the most recent amendments to the new Hungarian constitution.

Following Navracsics’s lead, Magyar Nemzet inquired “in whose name Reding speaks.” Surely, the implication is that whatever this woman is saying cannot possibly be the opinion of the European Commission. The answer came swiftly after the appearance of Navracsics’s article in the European Voice. Newspapers rushed to Pia-Ahrendkilde Hansen, spokeswoman for the European Commission, to ask her what the real situation was. They were told in no uncertain terms that “President Barroso and Vice President Reding are in complete agreement” over the amendments to the Hungarian Constitution. So that old trick didn’t work.

But the wheels of the Hungarian campaign to discredit Viviane Reding were already in motion. The decision was apparently made that next Tuesday the government will use its very large parliamentary majority to pass a resolution condemning Viviane Reding for her statement about the Tobin case, which involved a car accident that resulted in the death of two children in Hungary a few years back. As I mentioned in my earlier post, Francis Tobin returned to Ireland and refused to go back to Hungary to serve his sentence in a Hungarian jail and the Irish Supreme Court backed him by refusing his extradition. On this occasion, Reding in an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung said: “I’m personally not surprised [about the decision] because lately Hungary has enacted a number of  laws that cast doubt as to the independence of the Hungarian judiciary.” Although the Tobin case will be discussed in parliament on Tuesday, details on the planned resolution are still not available. Perhaps they never will be. The government may decide that passing such a resolution against Vice President Reding a day before the Hungarian question is discussed in the European Parliament might be counterproductive.

Barroso, in order to make clear that he backs Reding 100%, decided to write another letter to Orbán. In the letter Barroso reiterated that the Commission has serious concerns over the compatibility of the Fourth Amendment to the Hungarian Constitution with Union laws and with the principle of the rule of law in general. Barroso also indicated that once the ongoing legal analysis is carried out by the Commission, it will have “to take the necessary steps in order to start infringement procedures where relevant. I strongly appeal to you and to your government to address these concerns and to tackle them in a determined and unambiguous way.”

Orbán immediately answered Barroso‘s letter and assured Barroso that Hungary is committed to European norms and pledged full cooperation with Brussels. “I will certainly pay full attention to the points you raised and I should like to inform you that I have already initiated the necessary legislative steps to follow them up.” The same meaningless stuff Orbán reiterates every time he is trouble only to renege on it at the earliest opportunity. Navracsics weighed in later, saying that one doesn’t have to take Barroso’s letter very seriously; it’s simply an empty threat.

Meanwhile a six-member delegation arrived in Budapest from the Venice Commission. The members of the Commission are internationally renowned legal scholars. The Venice Commission already tackled the problems of the original constitution. Some of the criticized sections were very reluctantly rewritten by the Hungarians, but now the Venice Commission is confronted with an entirely different document that most experts consider to be unacceptable for a member country of the European Union.

Again, it was Magyar Nemzet that learned from government sources that the Venice Commission will meet József Szájer (Fidesz EP member and allegedly the author of the original new Fidesz constitution), Róbert Répássy, and Bence Rétvári (both undersecretaries in the Ministry of Administration and Justice). The members of the Commission also wanted to talk to the party leaders of the opposition parties represented in the Hungarian parliament. Attila Mesterházy insisted that other opposition parties–DK, LMP, and Együtt 2014-PM–also be present.

The meeting with the government officials took place in the morning and by noon it was all over. Clearly, the talks didn’t go well. Répássy announced that “the members of the delegation showed partiality”; “they arrived with preconceptions.” The government had a 50-page defense of the constitutional changes but “one could hear from members that they will read it but it is unlikely that they will change their minds.” Considering their very careful  prior analysis of the text, I don’t know what the Hungarian government expected.

In the afternoon the members of the Commission met with the opposition forces. According to Attila Mesterházy, the visitors seemed to be extremely well informed but they mostly listened. I’m sure that the members of the Commission didn’t hear anything from the opposition leaders that they didn’t already know.

Maybe it is a good idea that Viktor Orbán will not attend the session of the European Parliament Here he is after his debate in the European  parliament / Reuters Vincent Kessler

Maybe Viktor Orbán is wise not to attend the session of the European Parliament.
Here he is after his last debate in the European Parliament. / Reuters Vincent Kessler

A few days ago Orbán was still not sure whether he should attend the European Parliament’s Wednesday session on Hungary. By now the decision has been made. He will not. Instead he will attend the funeral of Margaret Thatcher on April 17. Looking through the list of  invitees I could find no non-British Commonwealth prime ministers on the list. For the most part countries will be represented by their ambassadors to the Court of St James’s. But I guess he had to come up with some “obligation” to justify his absence from the European Parliament.

He is, however, supposed to attend the meeting of the European People’s Party parliamentary caucus the day before, on April 16th. Even here we may find that Orbán has another urgent meeting somewhere else on the globe because if the information coming from Dubrovnik, Croatia is correct, support of the EPP caucus for Orbán and Fidesz has evaporated.

Here are the details. Currently, the EPP caucus is holding a meeting in Dubrovnik. No Fidesz EP member was in attendance. As it turned out, the caucus made a critical decision about Fidesz during a dinner meeting last night. A reporter from Új Magyar Szó, a Hungarian-language newspaper in Romania, learned from anonymous sources present at the meeting that EPP decided to give the Hungarian government party one week to accept the resolutions of the European Union. If it does not, Fidesz will be removed from the EPP caucus. Apparently the decision was made by an important trio: Joseph Daul, the leader of the caucus, Viviane Reding, and Antonio López-Istúriz White, secretary-general of EPP.

Poor Orbán. First it was all those foreign capitalists and speculators who conspired against Hungary. Then the left-wingers and their international allies went on the attack. And now Orbán’s own conservative EU caucus is threatening him. The noose is tightening.

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97 comments

  1. dediP: “People in Hungary are deep down anxious, disillusioned, lethargic, angry, ignorant (among others). Readers of this blog are not. Now these depressed, unsatisfied people want to believe and be enthusiastic once again, in/about whatever they can.”
    “But in times of crisis (continuing decline) you need to provide a hope that a profound change (a better life after a long continuous decline is a profound change) is possible (realistic).”

    This may sound provocative, but instead of a charismatic leader that makes people enthusiastic again, what is missing most in Hungary is some idea HOW life could be changed for the better. I am sure the problem is not missing enthusiasm but instead too conflicting ideas what should be achieved. Perhaps this does not seem so from Hungary but for an outsider this seems rather unavoidable: better lives understood as higher living standards for the broad public (not for OV and his buddies) CANNOT be achieved with “Matolcsy economics” in the economy or the Fidesz understanding of law as regards the legal system and control over state property (=fighting corruption). Given that real incomes have not grown much if at all for some years, I wonder what makes people BELIEVE that Viktor Orban is not only selling to them a vision but that he is also capable of actually making that reality. (What he does, easily visible, is robbing people’s wealth instead, be it their personal wealth or that of the Hungarian state.) Any person of some responsibility CANNOT tell people that in the blink of an eye he will turn Hungary into “Austria” (the living standards, of course) – and WITHOUT active participation of the Hungarians. They want only the care – even if the “care” of the Austrian “state” for its people is surprise surprise the outcome of active Austrians, working for the government or for private firms, it is not the outcome of how the government “cares”.

    The “enthusiasm” in a democracy stems from the possibility for people to participate, decide things on their own, to vote and to get elected, from the lowest to the highest parliaments. I read here that instead “democracy” is being understood as an impersonal structure dealing with dry topics such as trade policies or the tax system. Complete misunderstanding. Why do people believe that there is NO relation between their gas prices and the political system? That is the most complicated thing to understand in current circumstances. I hear: people do not care who rules, they want low gas prices. I am sure they are not approaching other areas in their lives equally carelessly: I do not care if it is green or red light on the traffic lights, I want only to cross! Most people will certainly make a connection between the traffic light and the likelihood that they will cross safely. So why exactly is it so difficult to sell the idea that “decent lives” are somehow related to the way the country is governed?
    The suggestion that people want to “dream” I take as a distraction from the incapacity to formulate realistic goals.

  2. Suzi, you are right about the Baltics. Their fear of falling back into Russia’s lap is much more intense (and justified), and it might partly explain their attitude.
    (Although I have been to Estonia several times and somewhat know the people and their history. There is more to it than just Russia. Also, Hungary is not as safe from Russianizing as Hungarians think.)

    But comparing Hungary to Poland is very much valid, in my opinion. They even went through a mini Orbanism under the Kaczynsky twins, and have very similar ideological tendencies. Some people say that Poland’s luck was simply that the Kaczynskis were not as charismatic as Orban. It might be just that – but most Poles sobered up, and a government of credible and talented politicians emerged.

    To say that Slovakia is superior to Hungary in terms of historic democratic maturity seems far-fetched to me. They also had their hell years with Meciar, remember. I don’t see their economic growth as healthy and stable as the Baltics’ (yet).

    On the whole, this new North-South EU divide is a bit simplified, + I’m not sure Hungary definitely has to belong to the South.

  3. CC: “I’m not sure Hungary definitely has to belong to the South.”

    It does not. And the share of people who could otherwise is still rather large. But these have to come together in some way, and stop being more suspicious of each other (and of politics) than of Viktor Orban.

  4. For the most part countries will be represented by their ambassadors to the Court of St James’s. But I guess he had to come up with some “obligation” to justify his absence from the European Parliament.

    I’m not sure that’s the only reason he’s attending Thatcher’s funeral. Since she died I’ve been wondering whether David Cameron isn’t in fact possessed by the spirit of Orbán; and repeatedly rubbed my eyes and asked myself whether I’m reading the UK news or Hungarian Spectrum. Her funeral is just the kind of kitsch, “uniting the nation”, overblown affair – in fact, a projection of a supposed hegemony of feeling over the nation, disguised in the drag of decency towards the dead and respect towards a woman who was an extraordinary politician – that I would expect from Orbán himself.

    Thanks to this blog I’ve had more vivid thoughts about the rewriting of history, and the abuse visited on the truth of the past for the sake of present power, than I can clearly express. It’s unexpected to now have to turn this critical eye on my own country! Because it’s not just Orbán coming to London this Wednesday – Orbánism has come to London since Thatcher died.

    And Thatcher is now conveniently dead. And – as someone who loathed her politics and loathe its legacy – I wish she was still alive (and with all her faculties). I’d relish her vocal resistance to being turned into a waxwork figure, to be sung over by nasty little power-grabbers.

    Orbán got his big start at a funeral. I have to defer to the Hungarian contributors to this blog to comment on that. But if Cameron wants to try the same trick…. (at least I hope)…. no chance!

  5. I think there is still a kind of feeling of superiority in Hungarians ie. that Hungary is 1100 years old, that Slovakia never existed before 1918 and so on. But the truth is Bratislava (Pozsony) is really just an outskirts of Vienna (one of the richest places on Earth), by car no more than 30 minutes. And they were very much integrated with the Czech Republic (same language) which has always been (already 150 years ago) much more industrialised than Hungary. Slovaks are morover “serranos”, I do believe that it makes a difference living in mountains (but more like the Alps than Himalaja) than in plainlands (partly becasue mountainous regions often provide raw materials on which industries could be built, though this is more true of the Czech Republic). Anyway, I think geography is a huge issue in development and Hungary’s location and georgraphy has not been ideal as it is farther away from the core and there has never ben signifciant raw materials to jumpstart and industry. There is nothing in any country which would makes it more inherently more “Western” or not, Hungary has no entitlement to be there. It is the people, the economy, politics, culture etc. which are important and if we cannot change to be more Western we will fail.

    Always remember Yugoslavia. Serbia (Yugo in local parlance) has been the quasi-West compared to Hungary. Now Serbia is behind Albania in many respects and it is a basket case, but certainly a very poor and strange place. They probably fell 30-70 places on various human development, economic indexes/lists. They “achieved” this in 20 years because for them nationalism and victory and triumph and power over Albanians or Bosnians meant more. It was for the people to decide and they did, reelected Slobo a number of times. There is no reason why Hungary should get closer to the West. (Interestingly, the industriual orders in March fell the most since statistics exist on this data (over 10%), so prepare for a huge GDP decrease this year, even with a bumper agriculture it may be 1-3%, so much about catching up).

    Also, it does not matter if there are millions in Hungary who feel and think like any Westerners, the issue is that if the majority (plurality) remains uneducated, ignorant, fearing/envying/hating the West they will decide the future — after all politics always have to accomodate the majority (sure, Orbán tries to shape the majority and rig the elections, but he answers to clear demands of the people, like cheap utilities, higher pensions and this is very much how he keeps power, gives them what they want no matter the economic costs, for in politcs there are only political costs, economic costs are irrelevant, they hinder only the weak, like MSZP and Bajnai – this is how Fidesz thinks).

  6. It seems that I’m not the only one who interpreted Tibor Navracsics’s interview in HírTV as a reference to Barroso’s letter as a document containing only empty threats. Here is a quotation from today’s Vasárnapi Hírek: “Navracsics Tibor közigazgatási és igazságügyi miniszter a Hír Tv-nek azt mondta, hogy üres fenyegetőzés Barroso levele, amely nem több tények nélküli aggályok kifejezésénél.”Üres fenyegetőzés” means “empty threat” in Hungarian.

  7. From this week’s ECONOMIST — OT, but of interest, I trust — “Julia Kiraly, a deputy governor of the Naitonal Bank of Hungary, stepped down. her resignation was not unexpected but her very public attack on Gyorgy Matolcsy, the new governor of Hungary’s central bank and a close ally of the prime minister, Viktor Orban, has caused ripples at home and abroad.” Prof Balogh, you a few days ago touched on the ripples at home. Has word of those ripples abroad, aside from this squib in THE ECONOMIST, reached you? What implications might they have?

  8. Kirsten

    “The suggestion that people want to “dream” I take as a distraction from the incapacity to formulate realistic goals.”

    Absolutely.
    For example what is wrong with Hungarians economy and how it could be solved is not that complicated to understand.
    If people don’t believe the Hungarian experts, they could open the EU’s “country specific recommendation” for Hungary, which is written by the economic affairs commission and accepted by the council, and is available in Hungarian for anyone to read. It’s clear, logical and simple. For example.

    Instead, people live in an imaginary world where all European left parties are frightened because of Orban’s huge victory, so they set out to destroy the country.
    Or where foreign investors, if they are charged extra taxes, will not go and invest their money somewhere else, but, out of pure vengeance, they stir up Europe’s governments, press and all the EU institutions to destroy Hungary.
    This latest fairy tale about how the conservative Reding’s anger about Orban’s government is still somehow caused by the EU’s left is beyond me.

    People CHOOSE to live in the isolated world of slogans, conspiracy theories, because they desperately want to believe that Orban is right.

  9. Gewirz and Kirsten

    Yes, Hungary can slide back into the West Balkan.

    Some of it is only imagination but the EU does seem to be dividing itself into Nordic countries (hard-working, reliable, honest, responsible, democratic with high quality of life, economic growth etc) and Southern (lazy, corrupt, backward, poor).
    As the EU is redesigning itself and is on the road of stronger economic and political union, they will makes sure only the reliable member states join them and they will be sanctioned if they break rules. There would be a core EU (mainly west and north) and the backward periphery (east and south). This, of course, is simplified, but countries like Slovakia, the Baltics, Poland, who all used to be in the eastern part in the old divide, have a good chance of integrating into the strong North.
    The big question for Hungary’s future is whether it will get into the more economically and socially developed North or sinks into the South. Both could happen, but with Orban and all the scandals, isolation and anti-EU freedom fights, Hungary will be easily left behind.
    That’s one of the questions at the elections next year – do Hungarians want to be real Europeans and develop with the Baltics, Poland and Czechs etc? Or find themselves on the undeveloped side of the continent?
    This will be decided in the next few years.

  10. Kirsten, Cheshire Cat:” “The suggestion that people want to “dream” I take as a distraction from the incapacity to formulate realistic goals.”

    Absolutely.”

    Yes, yes. But you are sooo wrong.

    You mistakenly believe and assume that all people are educated, thoughful, weighing options, doing a thorough research, acting rationally, deliberating seriouly before arriving to a conclusion. (And that they should be like that and if not, than that is their fault and should suffer the consequences.)

    This is most emphatically not the case.

    It is perhaps true for a small section of society who are so educated (to deliberate and take responsibility) and who want to bring up their children this way. Nice. But the overwhelming majority of any society behaves completely and fundamentally differently. Sorry to say this (I know I play the smartass here and being arrogant), but you need to work on your approach to people and accept that most people are not and never will be college professors.

    The only difference is how much politicians use ‘populism’ (which is also a factor of how much they can get away with).

    In Hungary there are no contraints (Fidesz made sure of that). In the West there are. Western politicians are constrained by a number of cultural conventions (hence the ‘weakness’ of the EU burocrats). Fidesz is freed from these conventions, they don’t really care if they are hated or if they can’t talk to others at a Council meeting (well, they are much welcomed in the People’s Party whatever Brussels people say and do) or if they are treated as the primitive Eastern Europeans (they think they wil be treated thus anyway, so why not play on these stereotypes).

    But the people are equally susceptible to populism in Italy as well as in the US or Israel.

    Make no mistake, Hungary has already been seriously left behind by its peers (the Visegrad countries, although the question is are they really our peers, or it was a mistake from the beginning to assume that we can be their peers; our peers are more like Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldavia) and economic decline will continue will all its social consequences.

    But people will still want Fidesz (and Jobbik perhaps) and if that is what then they want they will get it.

  11. “MUTT

    . It’s not a verbatim quote, I think it was translated back to English from the Hungarian papers, but IMHO it is true. The spokeswoman said “they have very serious concerns” and “they are in full agreement about it”. In your clever skewing you forgot to mention the first part …

    I did not forget anything and am not skewing. Might be your style, not mine.. Here you have the quote of the spokeswomen. She starts with telling, that “…the European Comission has important legal concerns regarding recent decisions taken in Hungary … And we are currently assesing the next steps to take on the basis of an indepth legal analysis. Once we have that analysis we will decide which steps to take….” As far as the positions of Barroso and Reding are concerened, they are, according to the spokeswoman “in full agreement about the approach that we are taking to the situation in Hungary…” Wheras Hungarian Spectrum pretends that “President Barroso and Vice President Reding are in complete agreement’ over the amendments to the Hungarian Constitution.” No, we don’t know if they ar in full agreement about that. We know that Ms Reding says – according to news reports “that the the European Commission would take a close look at the amendments and examine possible sanctions, because ‘You don’t play around with the constitution'”. Wheras all we know about Barroso – according to the spokeswoman- is that the “European Comission (including Barroso) has important legal concerns regarding recent decisions taken in HUngary and that he “is in full agreement with Reding as far as the approach to the question is concrened (steps decided following legal analysis)… So nothing of Barroso and Reding in “full agreement” as far as the amendments are concerned. This might make no difference in your perception or in that of (biased) Hungarian Spectrum but it does in the minds of people who listen carefully to statements that might have legal consequenses. Just try to think about it. It is not so difficult as it may seem…

  12. @Lili: I’m pretty sure that Barroso and Reding have major concerns regarding the 4th amendment of the present Hungarian constitution. I’m also sure they are in full agreement on this. But you know what? Let’s watch the news. Let’s see what happens …

  13. dediP: You are raising an important point. It is my experience also that people in the West are not necessarily better informed, more rational etc. And still I believe that there must be a difference – because in these countries people are typically not saying that authoritarian rule is the best solution to that observation. It is also not considered widely acceptable to speak about a significant part of the society as “sheep”, “uninformed” people even if they ARE uninformed, the responsibility to better inform people is often seen as being part of the politicians’ job. Politicians, government institutions, media, the society as a whole. As a politician you should also try not to insult your voters by saying they are dull.

    And now turning to what I hear from the better educated Hungarians about their compatriots: dull, sheep, irrational people and so on. That it should be in their interest to arrive at a better educated and informed society by training people, creating circumstances that would allow “empowering” more people than before etc., is very seldom heard. Instead you get any type of explanation about why some part of the Hungarians is so dull that they cannot but vote for Fidesz etc. – if they are “able” to vote at all or spell their name. My impression is therefore that the “elite” (those better educated) feels either comfortable with the situation when the “educated club” is relatively small, or that it has not yet been explained enough that political education is a necessary part of a democratic society. To say that the solution to this problem of insufficient political skills (so to say) is that the “elite” has to provide the “care” for the “sheep” is paternalistic, in particular because it does not even consider “empowering” an objective. As a result, authoritarian solutions are not only preferred by Fidesz and the like, but implicitly or explicitly advocated also by those people with otherwise quite Western outlook.

    Because in the end, in the West people at least know that they have “rights”, among them the right to vote and the right to protest – in particular if they do not understand what politicians decide. And it does not matter whether they were unable to understand because of own limitations or because of the weird nature of the decisions.

  14. “MUTT

    @Lili: I’m pretty sure that Barroso and Reding have major concerns regarding the 4th amendment of the present Hungarian constitution. I’m also sure they are in full agreement on this. But you know what? Let’s watch the news. Let’s see what happens …

    Of course you may be pretty sure of it and you are not alone. They certainly share major concerns about the 4th amendment. This is what they say. But wereas Reding tends to have already conclusions (as far as her attitude and her statements show) to her concerns, Barroso seems to prefere to wait and then see (keeping up his concerns of course). This IS a considerable difference and this difference is emphasiszed or exagerated by the interpretion on the part of FIDESZ as to Barroso having a more “favorable” or tolerant oppinion towards Orbán versus Reding being “the watchdog of the EU”… On the other hand this diffrence is being eliminated by the opponents of Orbán (such as Hungarian Spectrum) in fully associating Barrosos opinion with that of the pretty harsh critisism of Reding towards Orban. These are the politically determined plays of interpretation. And they are at least as interesting and politically relevant as the result of the legal investigation into the 4th amendment which of course I am as courious to learn about as you are…

  15. dediP

    I know that everybody is not a college professor and most people use both their rational and irrational mind when they decide who they agree with and who they vote for.
    In every country.
    But.

    No country is immune to populism, and it is always a kind of thermometer that measures society’s unhappiness or dissatisfaction. Populism doesn’t really offer alternative solutions, it gains popularity by saying what people would like to hear, but their ideas don’t work in practice. How much populism penetrates society and how much power it gains on the political scene does though depend on the people themselves.
    One example – Orban gained a lot of votes by saying he won’t introduce austerities. I mentioned it to British “voters”, and not especially highly educated ones reacted by saying “Well, it won’t work, so good luck to who vote for that”.

    I’m not saying that British people are any better or any cleverer than the average Hungarian. It is perhaps unfair to compare them. That’s why I bring up Estonia, Poland etc.
    What I’m saying is that it does depend on the people to what extend they believe populists.

    You say Europeans are restrained by “cultural conventions” but Fidesz isn’t. Fidesz only go as far as people in Hungary, who vote for them, allow them to.

    I’m still of the opinion that this need to “dream” (about Trianon, about Orban rebuilding a good Hungary, about Orban keeping order, about Turul birds, about Western democracy and market capitalism dying, about the EU attacking Orban because they are somehow scared of his power etc) is distraction from facing reality, making realistic goals, based on facts. Hungarians do tend to have unrealistic expectations about the country’s possibilities. It is more pleasant to carry on dreaming than face the facts that it will have to get worse before it gets better, that it might still be quite a while before they can catch up with Austria.
    (I would even go as far as to say, that there are politicians who present the facts, eg Bajnai or even Bokros, are people ready to hear them?)

  16. Just want to state that I consider Lili Csokonay’s (oh, sure!) comments nitpicking. All articles I read about Navracsics’s comments on HírTV talk about “empty threats” and as far as his assumption of a difference of opinion between Reding and Barroso is also unfounded. We don’t know as much about Barroso’s attitude as we know about Redings. But the spokeswoman said that the two agree. Our “Lili” assumes that Barroso’s opinion is different from Reding’s. But on what basis?

  17. ” Eva S. Balogh (“oh, sure!” – is this by the way a new American expression showing the high consideration of somebody you are discussing with about serious issues?)

    If you carefully read and perhaps even read again my comments in our short polemic with “Mutt” you will find the basis on which I assume that Barroso’s attitude may be different from Reding’s. It is purely some closer textual analysis of the statement of the EU comission’s spokeswoman (and some previous statements of Ms Reding). All what I try to say is that if you take a closer look at these you may find indications on differences in the attitude of B and R as to the ammndments or at least as to what consequences might arise from their legal analysis. If you are interested in politics – and it seems you might be – then you might take a detached standing point and consider it as a some sort of intellectual challenge as far as to some spescific and fine details (that may have consequenses). This attitude lacks in most media dealing with politics for they are more or less biased, what of course does not exclude that they might be on the soemtimes on the right track as far as predictions or evaluations are concernded. But to be biased in the analysis of politically relevant events, statements etc. might be an obstacle to understand the dinamics of the game. Which on the other hand may not exclude that I am completely mistaken. But at least I have given it a try…. So, again, dear Eva S. Balogh (oh, sure!) the answer to your question is already there in my comments April 14, 2013 at 4:53 pm | #9 and April 14, 2013 at 5:24 pm | #12. Have a nice day!

  18. London Calling!

    And as if there is a difference in ‘Full’ or ‘Complete’?….This is a semantic analysis too far!

    As if Barroso and Reding considered their usage down to these fine nuances when they ‘spoke’ through their spokesperson!

    And remember English is not their mother tongue. (And I am not disparaging their English here either – as a useless speaker of Hungarian, I acknowledge their expert command of the language.)

    Lili Csokonay – This is not weasel worded say one-thing-at-home and another-abroad politics.

    It is two senior bureaucrats trying to come to terms with a miscreant democracy within their midst.

    And the are in full, complete, total, entire, absolute and unanimous agreement – on as much as any two people can be.

    Wait and see.

    The fact that the ‘story’ may not jig-saw in every fine detail – is a sign of truth. Not a carefully managed ‘verballed’ story agreed beforehand – like a communist fiat, where every nuance means something – even down to where someone is standing when it is issued!

    Oh sure!

    Regards

    Charlie

  19. btw ‘oh sure’ relates to the likelihood of your chosen name reflecting any accuracy of the bearer – whatever the perception.

  20. The last word from about Lili Csokonay. Naturally, you are not Lili Csokonay. You’re not even a woman. But I’m Eva S. Balogh. I’m for real with a real name. I hate people hiding behind phony names.

  21. Eva S. Balogh :
    The last word from about Lili Csokonay. Naturally, you are not Lili Csokonay. You’re not even a woman. But I’m Eva S. Balogh. I’m for real with a real name. I hate people hiding behind phony names.

    Confession
    I am hiding behind a phony name.
    Jean P

  22. Please don’t get sidetracked by those Fidesz trolls like Lili, Johnny or Joe …
    Their kind of “reasoning” is not much better than what you see on pol.hu – my favourite there is “let”s :

    But Barroso in his yoith was a Maoist!

    To which one might reply:

    And Orban was a Liberal once!

    Let’s concentrate on Hungary’s real problems of today – and tomorrow!

  23. ” Eva S. Balogh
    The last word from about Lili Csokonay. Naturally, you are not Lili Csokonay. You’re not even a woman. But I’m Eva S. Balogh. I’m for real with a real name. I hate people hiding behind phony names.

    I did’t expect you to arrive in such a short time to the end of your arguments and instead of dealing with the subject in question to attack your contrahent in his/her person and even to imply the word “hate” or even worse,the feeling of hate in a political discussion. You should seriously ponder on this and perheaps revise your attitude as far as polemics are concerned, otherwise you will be doomed to talk only to people who agree with you… Apparently this seems to be your practice…

  24. CharlieH
    ‘oh sure’ relates to the likelihood of your chosen name reflecting any accuracy of the bearer – whatever the perception.

    Thank you for the explanation. I very well understodd Ms Balogh’s allusion. But there is no point in looking for the likelihood of a chosen or genuine name in the context of a free internet forum. Or is this a forum where people are checked and dealt with according to the “likelihood” of their chosen names? Come on!

  25. CharlieH :
    London Calling!
    And as if there is a difference in ‘Full’ or ‘Complete’?….This is a semantic analysis too far!
    As if Barroso and Reding considered their usage down to these fine nuances when they ‘spoke’ through their spokesperson!
    And remember English is not their mother tongue. (And I am not disparaging their English here either – as a useless speaker of Hungarian, I acknowledge their expert command of the language.)
    Lili Csokonay – This is not weasel worded say one-thing-at-home and another-abroad politics.
    It is two senior bureaucrats trying to come to terms with a miscreant democracy within their midst.
    And the are in full, complete, total, entire, absolute and unanimous agreement – on as much as any two people can be.
    Wait and see.
    The fact that the ‘story’ may not jig-saw in every fine detail – is a sign of truth. Not a carefully managed ‘verballed’ story agreed beforehand – like a communist fiat, where every nuance means something – even down to where someone is standing when it is issued!
    Oh sure!
    Regards
    Charlie

    I will get back to this later…

  26. London Calling!

    Oh dear! ‘Contrahent’ – The Oxford English dictionary says this word is ‘obs’ – obsolete usage.

    Knowing words…and using them…well that’s a different matter.

    Regards

    Charlie

  27. CharlieH :
    London Calling!
    And as if there is a difference in ‘Full’ or ‘Complete’?….This is a semantic analysis too far!
    As if Barroso and Reding considered their usage down to these fine nuances when they ‘spoke’ through their spokesperson!
    And remember English is not their mother tongue. (And I am not disparaging their English here either – as a useless speaker of Hungarian, I acknowledge their expert command of the language.)
    Lili Csokonay – This is not weasel worded say one-thing-at-home and another-abroad politics.
    It is two senior bureaucrats trying to come to terms with a miscreant democracy within their midst.
    And the are in full, complete, total, entire, absolute and unanimous agreement – on as much as any two people can be.
    Wait and see.
    The fact that the ‘story’ may not jig-saw in every fine detail – is a sign of truth. Not a carefully managed ‘verballed’ story agreed beforehand – like a communist fiat, where every nuance means something – even down to where someone is standing when it is issued!
    Oh sure!
    Regards
    Charlie

    Nope, you don’t need two bureaucrats to sit together in order to elaborate miticulosly a carefully managed “verballed” story to speak thus throu the mouth of their spokeswoman like in communist times. It is enough that an intelligent spokeswoman knows the state of the affairs and she herself may weight her own words carefully as a completeley major, grown up personallity just like in a developed democracy. The fact that you formate your conviction in bold letters does not ad to your arguments, but there’s anyhow much ado going on about nothing. I only shared a feeling, an assumption if you like… not the truth. Like you apparantly presume with a lot of vehemency. But, yes, let’s wait and see….

  28. wolfi :
    Please don’t get sidetracked by those Fidesz trolls like Lili, Johnny or Joe …
    Their kind of “reasoning” is not much better than what you see on pol.hu – my favourite there is “let”s :
    But Barroso in his yoith was a Maoist!
    To which one might reply:
    And Orban was a Liberal once!
    Let’s concentrate on Hungary’s real problems of today – and tomorrow!

    I would be delighted if you explained me why an oppinon that differs perheaps from your’s involves immediately the presumption that the one who formulates it cannot be a genuine person with own views on whatever subject. Or do you consider yourself a “socialist” (or whatever) troll?

  29. CharlieH :
    …and I’m sure Lili Csokonai would have been more eloquent…..

    CharlieH :
    London Calling!
    Oh dear! ‘Contrahent’ – The Oxford English dictionary says this word is ‘obs’ – obsolete usage.
    Knowing words…and using them…well that’s a different matter.
    Regards
    Charlie

    So this is the level of discussion that goes on here? You are using my level of knowledge of Engish as to discredit my arguments? I have never lived in an English speaking country, I do my best to use this language as a means of communication and I assure you that I know some other languages that you perhaps don’t. But what’s the point? Come on, don’t be this is pathetic. Your mom would be ashamed of you.

  30. London Calling!

    Well that was worth waiting for – for sure!

    As disappointing as Johnny Boy.

    My bold bit was emphasising that I was in complete disagreement with your analysis – not as to whether we have arrived at the truth or not.

    Thank you anyway for ‘sharing a feeling’ – but my feeling is that Viviane Reding has been – till now – a lonely voice against a strong headwind.

    As has Guy Verhofstadt.

    But things are beginning to gel in the EU as things hot up. And I believe they want to at least reach the finishing tape in synch with Helsinki – if not before.

    Semantics apart – politicians are beginning to see that as Hungary’s democracy turns more rancid by the day – that other democracies, particularly in the CEE region, are beginning to get ideas too. ‘Orbanisation’ will have a special term all of its own – like ‘Thatcherism’.

    It was especially noteworthy that the chairman of the Helsinki committee dwelt on this point particularly.

    Yes. Let’s wait and see, certainly.

    But that doesn’t stop you telling us what you really think in the meantime.

    Just drop the semantics.

    Regards

    Charlie

  31. CharlieH :
    London Calling!
    Well that was worth waiting for – for sure!
    As disappointing as Johnny Boy.
    My bold bit was emphasising that I was in complete disagreement with your analysis – not as to whether we have arrived at the truth or not.
    Thank you anyway for ‘sharing a feeling’ – but my feeling is that Viviane Reding has been – till now – a lonely voice against a strong headwind.
    As has Guy Verhofstadt.
    But things are beginning to gel in the EU as things hot up. And I believe they want to at least reach the finishing tape in synch with Helsinki – if not before.
    Semantics apart – politicians are beginning to see that as Hungary’s democracy turns more rancid by the day – that other democracies, particularly in the CEE region, are beginning to get ideas too. ‘Orbanisation’ will have a special term all of its own – like ‘Thatcherism’.
    It was especially noteworthy that the chairman of the Helsinki committee dwelt on this point particularly.
    Yes. Let’s wait and see, certainly.
    But that doesn’t stop you telling us what you really think in the meantime.
    Just drop the semantics.
    Regards
    Charlie

    I will continue to tell what I think in case I think something on a given matter. But I won’t drop semantics as semantics are a very important part of politics, just consult N. Chomsky for that matter. Have a nice evening over there in London.

  32. Ok…thanks – but I just want to put your hat on straight on one last (semantic) point.

    …where you have even got semantics wrong.

    When Eva says she ‘hates’ people hiding under a false name – she is speaking idiomatically.

    There is no way that she is introducing ‘hate’ in any way whatsoever into her discourse.

    That you should infer that she does requires an apology in my opinion.

    In all her blogs – which she so generously shares with us – ‘hate’ is not in her lexicon.

    Understand well.

    Regards

    Charlie

  33. Our lil’ troll has now concentrated on some minor points for days – it’s becoming more than ridiculous …
    As I said before, let’s return to discuss the real problems!

    @Lil:

    Do you have anything to say on the topics themselves that have been discussed here – not on what someone wrote here/you think he/she wrote or the way you interpret it ?

  34. London Calling!

    Wolfi – I did try (painfully) to bring it back on topic!

    But I think I’m pissing in the wind!

    (Lots of semantic analysis options there!)

    Regards

    Charlie

  35. CharlieH :
    Ok…thanks – but I just want to put your hat on straight on one last (semantic) point.
    …where you have even got semantics wrong.
    When Eva says she ‘hates’ people hiding under a false name – she is speaking idiomatically.
    There is no way that she is introducing ‘hate’ in any way whatsoever into her discourse.
    That you should infer that she does requires an apology in my opinion.
    In all her blogs – which she so generously shares with us – ‘hate’ is not in her lexicon.
    Understand well.
    Regards
    Charlie

    Oh I see, she hates “idiomatically”! What an intellectual luxury of hers… and she “hates” people “hiding under false names” … she does this on an internet forum (!) . But do you know what? Sie kann mich mal… and I mean it idiomatically 😉

  36. wolfi :
    Our lil’ troll has now concentrated on some minor points for days – it’s becoming more than ridiculous …
    As I said before, let’s return to discuss the real problems!
    @Lil:
    Do you have anything to say on the topics themselves that have been discussed here – not on what someone wrote here/you think he/she wrote or the way you interpret it ?

    Not as far as you are concerned…wolfi…and not for the moment. But time may come…

  37. London Calling!

    btw Eva – I think you may have the wrong month here? – I’d be very interested when it is. I’ve abjectly failed to find it myself!

    “He is, however, supposed to attend the meeting of the European People’s Party parliamentary caucus the day before, on March 16th………..”

    ..or have I misunderstood completely?

    Regards

    Charlie

  38. Our Lili might be able to read and write in English but that’s not enough to understand idiomatic English. The word “to hate” has two meanings: “To feel hostility or animosity toward” and “to feel dislike or distaste for.” If you tell an English speaker that you took my sentence literally he will laugh into your face.

  39. Prof Balogh, it may be time to restrict Ms Csokonay from further posting. Let’s move along.

  40. Note. All media always edit the op-ed sections (most recently and most famously WSJ cut 90% of Adam Balogh’s, currently deputy governor of National Bank of Hungary, crazy letter in which he was effectively denouncing György Kopits who wrote a critical op-ed).

    It is not a censorship to deny certain people the opportunity to comment and/or to edit comments. Freedom of speech only means that the commenter is also entitled to set up his/her own blog and say there whatever he/she wants. But nobody has a right to say it at one particular site (like this one).

    Fidesz paid trolls (yes trolls, because these people never ever want to debate anything, they only want to stir up sentiment and engage in psychologic games – for which, I am afraid, many of our regular commenters, fall) became pretty active lately.

  41. ..then I suggest you drop back again…. but on your way read Eva’s latest blog.

    Your contribution is now contrahent (obs.) (always was..) to the debate.

    and Lili Csokonay is now obsolete to HS

    Adieu.

  42. CharlieH :
    ..then I suggest you drop back again…. but on your way read Eva’s latest blog.
    Your contribution is now contrahent (obs.) (always was..) to the debate.
    and Lili Csokonay is now obsolete to HS
    Adieu.

    Is it really that difficult to answer normally a question concerning a topic that has been discussed? Is it that so important to desperately to try to ridicule somebody instead of talking like a decent grown up person? Is this a forum where you discuss topics or is this a resonating chamber where members of a group share the same views and are delighted when they here their own opninion echoing from the others? You are really pathetic. Have you ever participated in anything that resambled a debate? I don’t think so. You are a bunch of scouts, a secte who sings in a choir the same song lead by the cheer leader. Very dull. I leave you to your petty destiny, Charleeeey… Adieu, mon tres pauvre Loutré de lulquesse! 😉

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