The Hungarian government responded to a very tough letter from José Manuel Barroso by making a couple of new amendments to the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. The first states that the limitation on political advertisement on commercial electronic media will be restricted to national elections and will not apply to the European parliamentary elections. The second amendment prohibits the president of the National Judicial Office from moving cases from one court to another when the case raises an issue of European law.
According to legal experts, this was a shrewd move on the part of the Hungarian government. By removing amendments that would have been in direct violation of European laws, Hungary has made the European Union’s case against it much harder. Most non-legal types, of course, think that this move only highlights the Hungarian government’s cynical authoritarianism. The opposition will be unable to campaign effectively while the government, with its practically unlimited ways of advertising itself, will dominate campaign rhetoric. And sensitive (especially political) cases will still be referred to government-friendly judges.
But while the Orbán government put on its cooperative face (or mask) in order to avoid what seemed only a few days ago to be unavoidable armageddon in Brussels, it also launched an aggressive PR blitz. Just today three different Orbán interviews appeared: in the German Die Welt and Die Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and the Austrian Die Kurier. In all three he said that for the time being he has no interest in a dialogue with Brussels. “Once they read it … we can talk about the concrete issues.” For good measure he added that “we are democrats who believe in the force of reason.”
Die Welt entitled its interview “Orbán holzt gegen die EU” (Orbán plays rough against the EU). Orbán’s latest favorite expression is “We are not nice guys from the mainstream” (Wir sind keine netten Kerle vom Mainstream), something I don’t think he has to explain to the politicians of Western Europe. For good measure he added that he is a civilized man; after all, “he can eat with a knife and fork.”
So, it seems that Orbán is getting the idea that some of his colleagues abroad look down on him. It is these cultural differences that a Hungarian journalist explored when analyzing Barroso’s latest letter to Orbán. According to him, Barroso learned a lot in these last two years. He now knows that he cannot treat Orbán as he does the prime ministers of other European member countries. “It took the Roman emperor some time before he found out that the king of the Visigoths lies even when he poses a question and that it is much more effective to smash his head with an ax. But by then Roman civilization had had it.”
Orbán then began his usual tirade against the deficiencies of Europe. In our changed world the European model is no longer competitive. The current economic system that “allocates functions between market and state is simply false,” which is a roundabout way of saying that the solution to our current economic problems is greater state ownership. Later in the interview he was a bit more direct about the connection between market and state. “In the neo-liberalism of the past two decades the market had priority and the state was deprived of important areas.” Unfortunately, we can already see signs of his grandiose plans for nationalization in Hungary.
In the FAZ interview he talked at length about the importance and strength of the nation state. He went on and on about the European Union’s being too rigid and inflexible when it is perfectly clear that European politicians have no solution to Europe’s current problems. As for Die Kurier, he tooted his own horn as is his wont. He is a problem solver. Hungary is a success story. The trouble is that the figures don’t support his contention, but the spin sounds good and perhaps some people believe it. And that’s enough for him.
Orbán spent yesterday and this morning in Spain. Yesterday he delivered a lecture on Christian Europe and this morning he talked with Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy. From the descriptions of the meeting I gather that there was no joint press conference; it seems that Orbán talked only to Hungarian journalists after the meeting. He told them that he had made it clear to Rajoy that Hungary “insists on going on its own way as far as economic policy is concerned and as long as Hungary doesn’t belong to the eurozone.” In brief, the European Union should dole out the money and they should be able to do anything they want with it.
Finally, a few words about Orbán’s lecture at the conference on “Catholics in public life” held in Bilbaó. Orbán is not a Catholic; presumably he was baptized as a Calvinist. His wife is Catholic, but when they were married in the late 1980s they didn’t see the need to get married in a church. Moreover, their children were not baptized as infants. By now, however, he finds great support in the Hungarian Catholic Church and portrays himself as a religious man who wants to transform all those non-religious Hungarians into practicing Christians. Preferably Catholics, it seems. I suspect that his attachment to the Catholic Church is mere political calculation. After all, it is the largest religion in the country.
So, let’s see what he had to say about European society and religion in this lecture. Europe is the only continent in the world where a large part of the political elite thinks that they are able to organize their world without God and divine providence. “Today in Europe an aggressive secular political vision reigns” which is called progress, and in Brussels most of the politicians think that “this should be the future.” These people, wittingly or unwittingly, are building a society without God; they think that religion is only a supplement to individual lifestyle. “The European people can’t get rid of the Christianity in their heads and therefore there is no use forcing a new common European identity on them that doesn’t accept the fundamental fact that it is the Biblical story that is the moral foundation of European life.”
I could go on and on about Orbán’s vision for a Christian Europe, but most of it is not worth repeating. One sidenote, however. According to Orbán, “Europe needs a religious revival because otherwise it will not be able to be economically competitive again.” I wonder whether Orbán ever read Max Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. I doubt it, but if Weber’s theory has any foundation Orbán shouldn’t be looking for it in Catholic Spain.
One more interesting slip of the tongue by Orbán. He received a question about the new constitution. He admitted that the majority of the population didn’t want a Christian constitution, but eventually he was able to convince them to accept a constitution based on Christian values. He managed to achieve this through national consultations. In plain language, Hungarian society is secular and most Hungarians would have been quite happy with a secular constitution, but with its two-thirds majority Fidesz managed to push it through nonetheless. Well, yes. This is exactly what happened.
At a meeting of MEPs from the European People’s Party yesterday, Orban was reportedly applauded.
——Later in the interview he was a bit more direct about the connection between market and state. “In the neo-liberalism of the past two decades the market had priority and the state was deprived of important areas.” Unfortunately, we can already see signs of his grandiose plans for nationalization in Hungary.
Well, I’ll be damned if this isn’t the ‘Russian model’.
Orban only met Rajoy, because he was in the country for this Catholic conference. It is standard diplomatic practice to see your counterpart if you are in a country other than on private holiday. I doubt anything important was discussed.
It is standard Orban tactics to suddenly try to prevent some planned action against him by doing something radical in the last moment. Last winter, when the Commission had already decided to propose sanctions against Hungary because of its excessive deficit, and Rehn was about to announce it, Orban suddenly faxed Barroso a letter with some quick numbers like x billion cut from the medicine budget etc. Olli Rehn had none of it and went ahead anyway.
Let’s see whether the EP will get confused by these sudden amendments in the Constitution…
Interestingly, as Germany is becoming tough on Hungary, it is getting tough on Putin.
(OT but do the pro-Putin Russia commenters remind you of something?
“Putin was elected by the majority Russia people in transparent democratic election monitored not only by western observers but also by anyone due to web cams installed in the voting centers.
And he enjoys 62% popularity in his country, much higher than any of the brainless bunch western politicians in their broke and sinking western crapholes.
Your powerless whine is laughable and demonstrates that you are nothing but a sour looser angry to the fact that Russia implemented the US Foreign Agents Registration Acts and now uses the US-made law to expose the US-paid agents like yourself, heh, heh, heh”
“This is why the western idiots prefer to support the Russia COMMUNISTS as opposition to super leader Putin – they are pissed off to the fact that Putin Russia after Putin get rid of the western international companies who robbed Russia white grows prosperous and powerful while the west rots in US-made recession and huge debt, heh, heh, heh” )
Fidesz do not plan to modify the 4th amendment of the “Basic Law” an iota, they will just modify lower-level bills like T/10593.
So EU does not have to delay any judgment on the “Basic Law”, because the 4th amendment to it will not be amended.
Of course, the somnambulant Hungarians of the mustachio/Fidesz ilk would hardly take notice. They have no idea what’s coming. Here’s a little case of ‘deja vu all over again’…
When we were in Moscow real estate transactions were conducted in cash: the banks didn’t use cheques. So, regardless of the value–and many apartment sales were over $1 million in value–would be conducted at the bank. One such transaction was for over $3 million. Problem was, someone squealed to the boys with masks. Consequently, after the deal was consummated, and the seller was trying to make his getaway in one of those posh 4-wheelers with the darkened glass, he was stopped by an even bigger suv. Quickly some hooded fellas, brandishing machine-guns subdued the guards (who may, or may not, have been on the whole gig) and the hapless fellow had to surrender his $3 million cash. The getaway was effortless. Later, the police said that they couldn’t find them because of the traffic.
No cheques and the year was 2009!
Viktor, Viktor, whereto are thou leading us?
The journalists asked also about Viktor Orbáns good friend Zsolt Bayer.
Orbán admonished Bayer to revise his opinion that Roma are animals, which he did.
The Hungarian prime minister also said the anti-Semitism accusation against Bayer is not serious. “Antisemitische Einstufungen dieses Journalisten halte ich für unernst, wenn man sich die Schriften ansieht”
I wonder if the members of the WJC congegrating in May in Budapest will ask Orbán about Bayer’s publications.
The European Parliament devoted a grand total of one hour to the Hungarian issue today.
The video recording is embedded here:
Ms Reding’s speech today:
Eva: For good measure he added that he is a civilized man; after all, “he can eat with a knife and fork.”
Well we need to take his word for this. As far as I noticed; him was eating, nuts (in Brussels), sunflower seeds (him watching a game) and a sandwich (before speech somewhere in the country). None of them involved fork and knife.
Thanks for this link. I was looking for this.
I agree it is a total waste of time. In the link Tappanch provide it is depressing to hear Vivian Reding stating:
-We wrote a letter last year.
-Last year we stated,
-The Court of Justice made last year
What happened nothing, nada, semmi. If the Commission learned a lesson, it is not showing.
Orbán is necessary for the People’s Party, simple as that. Orbán will remain and will rule Hungary for years to come (as he did even from opposition with his weird, mafia-like, quasi-veto powers). Try not to underestimate the European Right’s hatred againts the Left. Orbán’s leave would upset the balance of power and move it towards the Left, so it is unlikely Orbán will be excluded. (At least this is what Orbán hopes).
I just read a good saying (supposedly paraphrasing Max Planck) that sience advances one funeral at a time. I guess politics is a similar.
Plus Reding realised ( I guess I read this in Origo) what has already been mentioned on this blog, that is that Art. 7 is the nuclear option.
Since failure to use it, that is not being able to get it approved or get it enforcement would eliminate its deterrent completely, it is so much better for the EU not even to initiate the using it. Unless there will be shooting and concentration camps, the EU will do nothing (although in Bosnia they failed even under such circumstances).
By the time the EU can get anything approved/done, after which it is appealed and then repealed and then get is approved again (procedure till death), Orbán (Áder, Kövér, Szájer, Lázár etc.) will be entrenched completely.
Hungary is truly Orbánistán now.
And Orbán is having so much fun. In fact, he is having the time of his life. Everybody is expressing dissatisfaction, tell him this and that, frown upon, threaten — but Orbán and his people including the younger generation Fidesz politicians know that nothing will ever happen to themfrom outside. You can take advantage of the EU and they will still be there and pouring money into Hungary. Meanwhile their power in Hungary is bigger than Merkel or Sarkosy or Rahoj ever dreamt of in their respective countries (in a way, Orbán knows that these Western politicians secretly envy his complete, unbridled power).
I suggest an area of research for political scientists re Eastern Europe. Post colonial development, World Bank and the like. Do you know how many times Kenya agreed in a written agreement to privatize its national railways, always as a condition to any new development loans? Eight times. It failed to deliver exactly eight times, yet it always got the next disbursement. That is because of two things. One, the burocrats in the EU (and elsewhere) need their jobs and if they suspend the funds or apply other sanctions, all of sudden a lot of people get un(under)employed. The ultimate interest of any institution is to keep its operation, no matter what. Second, there is a kind of colonists’ bad consciousness, in that rich Western countries will overlook these tricks by the ‘developing world’ because they somewhere deep down know that it is unjust that the West is so rich while others (like Hungary) is not, plus they need the small deals from time to time, so a good working relationship is useful.
So for all these reasons, Orbán has literally years until there will be any sanctions applied against him (i.e. for acts committed these days. For acts committed next year or later, any procedures will end even later). And the best thing: even the Hungarian left is furiously against the application of any sanctions against Hungary. Your very enemies are defending you. How cool is that?
Conscience. etc. Sorry, I write too fast.
I suggest that the EU is not powerless…that they are doing their level best not to give Orban his hoped for excuse, or excuses, to justify leaving the EU. Orban’s tactics were obviously directed at
having Hungary expelled. The EU will not give him his wish. Atleast, they seem to have decided to await the next election results. Surely, Bajnai and his opposition members will have the brains to make EU membership one of the focal points of the election. I don’t remember Orban promising, in 2010, to remove
Hungary from the EU. I believe Hungarians, in the main, are still
pro-Europ, regardless of the color of the patch on their ass.
Do you remember him promising to change the constitution?
I think they see EU membership as their saving grace!
Non-government jobs in Hungary – 1st quarter 2013 vs 1st quarter 2012, in thousands:
Budapest (39% of jobs) 996 vs 1,001
Pest county (12% of jobs) 309 vs 313
elsewhere (49% of jobs) 1,239 vs 1,261
Hungary total 2,544 vs 2,575 (1.2% decrease in the last year)
As one can see, although earnings of Hungarian employees are almost the smallest in the EU, the new jobs fail to appear.
The number of jobs may have remained about the same, but how many jobs changed hands? i.e.. to Fidesz supporters…
Hungary`s problems are daunting. Many people are nostalgic about the Kadar era. People feel the multi-national companies are ripping the country off. the EU offering no protection. Gyurcsany split the oppositiion. Who else is there but Orban.
If the multi-national companies are ripping the country off, I can’t understand, why Orbán is doing everything in his power to get those companies to invest again in Hungary?
This is not gutlessness but patience: the EU must allow Orban to hang himself. It seems fairly obvious that
Orban is trying to goad the EU in kicking Hungary out. They won’t oblige. Good for them: never do what the opponent wants.
Karl, silent producers who export are good, service providers who are in direct contact with voters are bad.
This is pure nonsense: what split the opposition was the ‘sacrilege’ of Gyurcsany trying to reform MSZP.
That brought the ‘Et tu” crowd out. They served up Gyurcsany and Orban did the rest.
Decency and integrity are rare commodities in Hungary
and hardly useful in the corrupt waters of its political life.
“suggest that the EU is not powerless…that they are doing their level best not to give Orban his hoped for excuse, or excuses, to justify leaving the EU. Orban’s tactics were obviously directed at having Hungary expelled.”
I disagree on both counts. The EUcracy is so dysfunctional that it is incapable of coming up with a unified strategy in situations like this. Admitedly, the EU has never been faced with the creation of a potential dictatorship from within an existing memberstate but still…
Secondly, Orban needs EU money to feed the corrupt business scumbags that are the true basis of his power (forget the electorate, he could inform them money will be growing on the trees on the Varosliget in the event of a Fidesz victory and enough sheep would believe him to cause a stampede on Dozsa Gyorgy Ut). No EU and Orban is yesterday’s toast. He knows that and really, by now, the EUcracy should as well.
Cut the fascist dwarf’s only reliable money supply and he will be begging to Brussels on his knees
“…begging to Brussels”–No, the only time you’ll find Orban on his knees is one of those Catholic pilgrimages, in Viktator’s attempt to impress the new Pope.
I think there’s something dark and dastardly in the background that we no little about. It’s hard to understand why the forint hasn’t sunk when it had countless opportunities. My theory (or suspicion) is that there’s Russian money behind the Orbaner, and that, folks, is limitless.
Semion: “And the best thing: even the Hungarian left is furiously against the application of any sanctions against Hungary. Your very enemies are defending you. How cool is that?”
I completely understand this interest. Being excluded from the EU means that Orban can indeed take decisive action on his opponents.
“(in a way, Orbán knows that these Western politicians secretly envy his complete, unbridled power).” “Orbán is necessary for the People’s Party, simple as that.”
For me the best thing for OV is that Hungarians even with OV (or perhaps because of OV and his “great power play”) believe that Hungary is of such importance for Europe.
In deed Hungary is important to the EU. Hungary is the first nation that puts the EU’s capabilities on trial. Hungary’s doing will set a precedent on how much, what, when, and how the EU can do as a union in unison. THe EU has no means to stop one of its member’s undemocratic actions. As much as Hungary is “insignificant”, it is still a member. What the Jobbik is for Hungary, Fidesz is for the EU. Accepting that Hungary is insignificant is like accepting the Jobbik has no bearing on Hungary.
Well, he should work a bit on those rural manners, no doubt. Not to mention his questionable advancements in civilized interactiion with food…
After all, he is the Peime Minister of Hungary, its about time to learn adequate table manners, don’t uou think?
Otherwise who will ever believe, that he really knows, how to use the cutlery..?
What I meant is that OV appears to make too much of an impression even on people who may dislike his policies. OV is an annoyance for Europe but most likely not a source of envy.
Hungary is perhaps the first country that violates EU principles so bluntly but there is no lack of precedents that show that principles have been violated frequently. The EU is a political project, with all its flaws and complications. Hungarians are EU citizens, so they are also asked to shape how it functions. Specifically welcome would of course be suggestions on how to get the country back on track for democracy.
Guess how many suppporters Fidesz could have sent to an event like this (see link below).
500? 1000? If Orbán wanted it, Fidesz could send 100.000 supporters within two days to the moon. Meanwhile at MSZP:
MSZP is just hopeless. Without a national network of proud, assertive and active supporters MSZP (or any party) is non-existent. Their national network is in ssuch a bad shape that a couple of days ago HVG wrote that lately former MSZP activists refuse to talk to the party and say thay will vote for Fidesz instead and that MSZP should stop bothering them, for good.
Meanwhile the right wing is defending Orbán and visciously attacking anybody who is not deemed a hardliner Fidesznik. They don’t care if they look crazy or weird. They have one goal and one goal only: defend Orbán at any cost.
They are not joking, but instead fighting until the very last bullet. And that way they are winning. (See report on crazy East-European night at the Danish Embassy in Budapest).
“Hungarians are EU citizens, so they are also asked to shape how it functions.”
Nobody says the EU is perfect, far from it.
But the solution is not to start a freedom fight against it, or use them as punchbags, or threaten to leave (UK style).
Hungarians, government members (!) are there, sitting at the negotiating tables, in the parliament etc, they can initiate changes, reforms, have a debate and vote. That’s what democracy is.
I find it amazing how Orban, Fidesz and their supporters, who used to celebrate the Western media and politicians when they stood up for the Eastern Block’s free press, free elections and so on, now, when the same Western media and politicians do it because Fidesz morphed into a quasi-MSZMP/Nyilas Part/Maffia combination, they use Ceausescu’s slogan of non-intervention into a country’s internal affairs.
“Today in Europe an aggressive secular political vision reigns … The European people can’t get rid of the Christianity in their heads and therefore there is no use forcing a new common European identity on them that doesn’t accept the fundamental fact that it is the Biblical story that is the moral foundation of European life … Europe needs a religious revival because otherwise it will not be able to be economically competitive again.”
All this constant talk of Christianity/Catholicism being pre-eminent and fundamental is sailing very close to ‘hate speech’, in my opinion, though cleverly staying just within limits. It is worrying how acceptable such speech has become now, though it is all most confusing for ‘outsiders’: Hungary has only existed for 1000 years, while for much of that time it was part of the Ottoman empire, and for a great deal of that time it has had one of the world’s most important and most vibrant Jewish populations (all Hungarians). Meanwhile, as part of the EU and various other international bodies, it has a duty to subscribe to absolute freedom of religion for its subjects and immigrants. Constant denigration of alternative choices of worship, by political authority, questions that freedom.
Christianity has been around in Europe for less than 2000 years. Modern European man has been around for about 50000 years. Moreover, Fidesz/Jobbik appear to be repeatedly contradicting themselves – with all their convictions of Iranian links, erection of false-idol turul birds, and the PM’s insistence that “we are all born in the bird”, a most heretical remark.
Most worryingly, as ever, these new attitudes are unquestioningly reflected in everyday discourse. Our (highly educated) neighbour told us that, if we wish to become part of the community then we should attend Catholic church. He finds being non-Catholic inexplicable and jokingly asked if we were “Pakistanis” (this ‘nationality’ being the only ‘religious’ alternative he could think of to Catholicism)!
Ivan Yes! – When I read this I blinked:
…..Europe needs a religious revival because otherwise it will not be able to be economically competitive again.
Apart from the fact that this will REALLY get up the EU’s noses.
We now know where Matolcsy gets his ideas from – not children’s fairytale books – but the bible!
And a couple of miracles are active currently as we speak!
In 32 days’ time the Hungarian economy will ‘soar’ (like the Turul bird?) – and will surprise everyone in Europe (well he said 2nd half of 2013!).
And there will be a million jobs created by 2020. (Only 125,000 per year – a doddle for a miracle.)
(There’s a slight inconvenient truth that (real) job totals have fallen since he said it – but hey now it’s miracle and not just a fairytale.)
So how does a ‘religious revival’ improve competitiveness?
We need to know In England because we are rapidly dropping religion like hot potatoes. I wonder if Richard (Dawkins) can help us?
Actually Matocsy and Orban are copying England – despite the many claims that ‘The whole of Europe are copying Hungary’s methods”.
Matolcsy’s ‘Lending for Growth’ strategy – the raid on the MNB’s reserves – is a close copy of the Bank of England’s ‘Funding for Lending’ strategy.
I’ve done an online search on a bible website and there are no hits for ‘Lending for Growth’ or ‘Funding for Lending’.
(Matolcsy also wants to merge the PSZAF – your Financial Services Regulator with the MNB, just as we have done with our FSA and the Bank of England.
Coincidence or Biblical…
I’m just going to that bible web site again!……
“Matolcsy’s ‘Lending for Growth’ strategy – the raid on the MNB’s reserves – is a close copy of the Bank of England’s ‘Funding for Lending’ strategy.”
Charlie, you still appear to be an amateur in Hungarianism. 🙂 The plan will have been set up by a Catholic (I mean what else…) Hungarian who happens to work for or advises the Bank of England !
The idea could have also been stolen from Hungary – where the MNB could not put it into practive because of the renitent Mr Simor. You told us how tea was brought to England – it is easy to imagine how you seized “funding for lending”!
London calling, posting #34…Obviously can’t count (the half year ends with June not with May!). Has difficulty with reading…re the “Lending for growth”..See
New King James Version (NKJV)
otherwise just more arrogance…
Wow! Kirsten! thanks for the compliment – an amateur nevertheless – I was beginning to think I had not got past first base.
And yes – of course a Financial Catholic of the worst kind.
(But don’t get me started on tea!)
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