Two days, two speeches: Viktor Orbán on a very wrong track

There are always a few people who phone into György Bolgár’s popular talk show on Klubrádió inquiring why he spends so much time on Viktor Orbán. The answer is simple. Orbán controls the country’s political, economic, and social agendas. Lately he has been busily promoting his ideas on topics ranging from religion to re-industrialization. Just in the last two days he made two speeches and gave his usual Friday morning interview to Magyar Rádió (which lately I’ve noticed French and German journalists correctly call state radio instead of public radio). And today the Spanish  El Mundo published an interview with Orbán on Christianity’s blessings for everyone, including nonbelievers.

Here I will tackle only the two speeches he delivered on April 18 and 19. The first was occasioned by an addition to the Stadler Rail Group’s plant near Szolnok. Stadler Rail is a Swiss company. The second also marked a plant expansion, this time by the Danish Lego Group at its Nyíregyháza facilities. There are practically no foreign companies that want to establish new factories in Hungary, so Orbán must be satisfied with even modest expansions of existing ones. Both Lego and Stadler have been operating in Hungary for a number of years. They came during the Gyurcsány and Bajnai governments.

Years ago, during his first premiership, Orbán made a since oft-quoted statement: “There is life outside the European Union.” In the last ten years or so he didn’t want to call attention to that much criticized sentence. At least not until two days ago when he said in his Szolnok speech: “I find it very important that the company that invests in Hungary is Swiss. Hungarians have always admired the Swiss and I am especially pleased that the Ambassador of Switzerland is also here. As school children we learned that Switzerland is a freedom loving country that has never given up its independence, horribile dictu didn’t even join the European Union. Switzerland is a good example that there is life outside the Union, so no one should be scared.” Well, that’s quite something although I doubt that Orbán actually wants to withdraw from the EU. He knows only too well that a financial collapse would follow secession.

There can be no better place to talk about the re-industrialization of the country than in a plant that manufactures railway vehicles and streetcars. The site gave Orbán an opportunity to repeat one of his favorite themes: that only industrial “production” constitutes real work. He will transform Hungary from a service-oriented society to one that is “work-based.” Any other kind of human activity is worthless. In fact, more than worthless. It leads straight to failure. Let’s see just what he has in mind. “Someone who works, produces will stay successful, the one who speculates on the financial market will fail; the one who is in the service industry cannot stand on his own feet.” I haven’t heard such stupidity for a very long time. Try to explain that to the Rothschilds or to Conrad Hilton. On the other hand, there is no guarantee whatsoever that someone producing industrial goods will succeed. Just think of all those companies that have died or that are struggling to keep their heads above water.

But wait, there’s more! According to Viktor Orbán, “we don’t live off others. We don’t live from the dole of the IMF or the European Union. The country is standing on its own feet because of  its economic accomplishments.” I can’t find words!

The next day it was time to visit Nyíregyháza where the Danish Lego Group is expanding its facilities. Here we found out from the Hungarian prime minister why Lego products are so popular. He has, he said, spent some time pondering over this puzzle and came up with the following hypothesis: “These toys are the expressions of the modern age, the world in which we live. In them we can find the greatest challenge of globalization. That challenge is how we can build separate worlds from almost practically identical components. … In 2010 we began exactly that kind of enterprise, which is not at all a game but which demands at least as much inventiveness and fantasy as building our own world from Lego comp0nents…. We Hungarians had to undertake the task of rebuilding a Hungary that is different from all other countries from components at our disposal in the twenty-first century…. We followed the spirit of Lego. We didn’t follow the well known path but started on our own, trying to remove the debris of the past.” And he went on and praised the inventiveness and creativity of Hungarians.

Let's build a country DecoJim's photostream / Flickr

Let’s build a country
DecoJim’s photostream / Flickr

Well, we know that the inventiveness and fantasy exhibited by György Matolcsy produced mighty few positive results. On the contrary, his unorthodox economic moves managed to send the Hungarian economy into recession. One mustn’t forget, although Orbán et al keep trying to rewrite history, that the Hungarian economy was on the rebound when he took office in 2010.

To build a separate Hungarian world today is impossible, and I suspect it was always impossible. Globalization is not a new phenomenon. I would also advise Orbán not to mix up Switzerland with Hungary.

Advertisements

25 comments

  1. “But wait, there’s more! According to Viktor Orbán, “we don’t live off others. We don’t live from the dole of the IMF or the European Union. The country is standing on its own feet because of its economic accomplishments.” I can’t find words!”

    Sure you can…you just won’t say them in polite company, at least, here on HS! 😉

  2. According to Viktor Orbán, “we don’t live off others”

    Net receipts of Hungary from EU
    in millions of euros; % of GNI

    2004= 193.4; 0.25%
    2005= 590.1; 0.70%
    2006= 1,115.0; 1.32%
    2007= 1,605.9; 1.74%
    2008= 1,111.7; 1.13%
    2009= 2,719.4; 3.11%
    2010= 2,748.4; 2.98%
    2011= 4,418.3; 4.67%

  3. “Brussels’ Kleptocratic Dictatorship’s Vendetta Against Hungarian Nation’s Freedom and Values”

    The following are some excerpts from an article by one Gerald Warner in The Scotsman that sounds like a paid advert for Fidesz:

    “Hungarians think debate is based on a sober, matter-of-fact, the-other-person-may-be-right logic, but the European Parliament is not a European place,” said Orbán. “Facts are secondary.” You could not ask for a more accurate description of the thieves’ kitchen that houses the Brussels kleptocracy, especially the culturally insightful statement that it “is not a ­European place”. The Hungarian prime minister was speaking ahead of an insulting debate in the European Parliament on the state of democracy in Hungary, the second such plenary session in two years. We shall wait in vain for a debate on the state of democracy in Brussels.

    The EU is now running a full-blown vendetta against Hungary; not, as it pretends, against Fidesz, the governing political party, but against the Hungarian nation, its freedoms and values. This is ­because those values are incompatible with the ambitions of the expanding dictatorship in Brussels. Hungarians are fighting the battle that the British government has shirked but which a majority of the British people now wants to see fought and won….

    …MEPs criticised Fidesz for using its “supermajority” in the Hungarian Parliament to amend the country’s constitution. It seems majorities are undemocratic, but “Troika” diktat is respectable…

    …The complaints of the Euro-federalist fanatics against Hungary ostensibly relate to the recent Fourth Amendment to its constitution. For example, they condemn Article 17 because, if they fine Hungary, the charge will be passed directly on to Hungarian taxpayers: “This could undermine the authority of the Court of ­Justice…” They would prefer a middleman to soften the blow. They also complain that judges retired early have not yet been reinstated: the EU believes reinstating Communist judges is the way to purify democracy in Hungary.

    This is a diversion. The EU was attacking Hungary before the Fourth Amendment was drawn up; its real target is the constitution itself. That document is exceptional today in its cultural and moral integrity. In splendidly Burkean terms it is declared to be “a contract between Hungarians past, present and future”, the critical dimension omitted in post-French Revolution constitutions. It recognises “the role of Christianity in preserving nationhood” and “professes that the family and the nation constitute the principal framework of our coexistence”, besides protecting human life from conception and defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

    No wonder the Robespierres in the Jacobin Convention at Brussels are spewing hate. If such a document is allowed to survive, then so will Hungarian nationhood – and other European nations besides. Christianity, family, nationhood are precisely the trinity that the European Union aspires to destroy. Hungary is fighting our battle too; it is shameful that we are not battling alongside her.

  4. You’ve gotta love the Danes.. and Lego. Lego has been operating for years without patent protections meaning anyone can start making Lego and… Lego is one of the few large success stories in eastern Hungary. They took over the plants abandoned by Flextronics after those guys threw in the towel. Aside from Lego, Michelin and Electrolux and a few very small shops, there’s not much foreign investment in Nyiregyhaza. And Michelin is down sizing and Electrolux never grew as expected. And no one talks about the numerous deals that keep falling through once companies sort out what they are up against. For example, Raiffeisen was to open a processing office. They were even taking applications for some positions but then all the banks got hit with Matolcsy’s unconventional policies and so….

    One of the biggest strike against Nyiregyhaza (aside from the highly unpredictable business environment) has to be transportation infrastructure. Sure, the M3 has made a huge difference but the nearest usable airport, Budpest, clocks in @ 250km. Unless you’re driving, getting to and from the airport is a PITA. And, public transportation is poorly integrated meaning using it makes things even more painful. The Intercity service last train is gone before 8pm meaning if you land in the evening you’re stuck in Budapest. Lets not talk about the lack of hotels in the area of the airport. And, I pity a foreigner traveling outside of Budapest that decides on public transit and then because of a delay arrives anytime after 9pm. The experience will either be very very dreadful or very very expensive.

    The Debrecen airport sports one commercial fight a day and that is to Luton and back. Trying to plan a business day in London from Debrecen requires that you add 2 days to your schedule which makes the service practically useless. Even if this weren’t a problem, the Debrecen airport is a converted military base and is not well integrated into public transit so again if you don’t drive, it’s a PITA. Even so, Debrecen feels like a much more positive climate for businesses.

    Last night I saw a government commercial where they asked the question; which is the only country in the EU to raise pensions, France, Germany or Hungary. It was hard to believe that these guys would be so bold as to use public funds to produce this thinly veiled political message. They must believe they are completely untouchable!!!

    SOT, news reports 15,000 fewer applications for Uni…..

  5. Ron :

    It is not only VO comment in these factories. According to portfolio.hu VO made also some statements opposite to what he said before to the EU during his “State” radio talk show.

    Originally I wanted to write about all three but then the post would have been too long. I’m going to talk about the radio interview today.

  6. My question: should the independent news outlets quote orban, or the words of Bajnai on orban’s crimes?

    The current blog entry is pointing to the right approach: orban is moving along the wrong tracks.

    It is even worse where the morvai/vona duo is heading. Genocide?

  7. Europe is in recession, countries much richer than Hungary are in serious trouble. Even the US, Canada, richest countries in the world, are just limping along. Hungary really has nothing by way of resources. Visit Diósgyőr, Ózd, Csepel, ‘rozsdatemetők’, crumbling infrastructure, the result of decades of socialism. Orbán is doing what a politician does: saying the glass is half full. What else can he do?

  8. Joe Simon :
    Europe is in recession, countries much richer than Hungary are in serious trouble. Even the US, Canada, richest countries in the world, are just limping along. Hungary really has nothing by way of resources. Visit Diósgyőr, Ózd, Csepel, ‘rozsdatemetők’, crumbling infrastructure, the result of decades of socialism. Orbán is doing what a politician does: saying the glass is half full. What else can he do?

    “crumbling infrastructure, the result of decades of socialism.”

    The result of decades of crony capitalism.

    “Orbán is doing what a politician does”.
    Wrong. Orban speaks, moreover acts as a third-rate tyrant.

  9. Joe Simon :
    Europe is in recession, countries much richer than Hungary are in serious trouble. Even the US, Canada, richest countries in the world, are just limping along. Hungary really has nothing by way of resources. Visit Diósgyőr, Ózd, Csepel, ‘rozsdatemetők’, crumbling infrastructure, the result of decades of socialism. Orbán is doing what a politician does: saying the glass is half full. What else can he do?

    I’m not sure you can say that the US and Canada are limping along. This is a banking recession and Canada didn’t feel the world wide recession as deeply as other countries did because it didn’t allow it’s banks to engage in the practices that eventually turned inward on everyone else. The US brought on policies that seem to have it digging out of it troubles where as the EU, yup, the can’t seem to get their act together in the light of cheap money to those that didn’t know how to act responsibly combined with a contraction.

  10. LwiiH: One of the biggest strike against Nyiregyhaza (aside from the highly unpredictable business environment) has to be transportation infrastructure. Sure, the M3 has made a huge difference but the nearest usable airport, Budpest, clocks in @ 250km.

    Nyireghaza has four airports within the 100 km radius (including Slovakia and Romania, excluding Ukraine). So there should be no real problem qua transport. As to the investment climate in Hungary, this has been thoroughly killed by VO and his cronies.

    However, Hungary is becoming know to potential investors as a potential country with cheap labor, but due to the non-predictability they are not coming to Hungary, but in stead choose another cheap location. (Anyhow are these the type of investors you want?)

  11. Off Topic?

    HUNGARIAN MEMORIAL TOUR TO THE GLORY OF HITLER (April 20 2013)

    Translated quote: “The light that penetrates the immeasurable filth cast at him spurs on and exhorts to a fight those souls who believe in a more noble and true world. The greater the hatred with which Satan’s earthly impersonators surround him, the greater his glory he had earned with his fight against them. Enough of all the filth unjustly heaped on him, for the embittered and enraged people betrayed, deceived, and disillusioned by the dirt of liberalism. His spirit remains a guiding star for the betrayed and fleeced in the struggle of the future.”

    http://kitartas.mozgalom.org/aktualis/emlektura-adolf-hitler-tiszteletere?page=109

  12. Ron hit the nail on the head when he asks whether these are the kinds of businesses that will improve the Hungarian economy. If Hungary continues to rely on foreign companies setting up factories in Hungary, then Hungary is destined to look more like Mexico than Switzerland. All the profits are flowing out to other countries. There is no value add in Hungary.

    And that Lego city in the photo looks a lot nicer than anything you’ll find in Hungary. Just this afternoon we went to a cukrazda in Dunakeszi, a few kilometers from here, for some ice cream. As we were walking around the area, I asked my companions when they were going to finish the apartment building we were circling. I was shocked when they told me it was finished. It reminded me of what an abandoned building looks like — no landscaping, weeds growing everywhere, including in the “sidewalks,” large areas and piles of dirt and gravel, and a generally unfinished look. Definitely not up to Western standards. And this is fairly “new” construction in an area that used to be farmland.

  13. Ron :
    Nyireghaza has four airports within the 100 km radius (including Slovakia and Romania, excluding Ukraine). So there should be no real problem qua transport.

    Aside from Debrecen, all take about 2 hours to get to and all are useless in terms of destinations. Satu Mare is good for Bucharest, Kosice, good for Prague and Bratislava. I’ve not clue as to what the other one might be but since I’ve not heard of it… it’s most likely of less significance that the 3 I’ve mentioned.

    As to the investment climate in Hungary, this has been thoroughly killed by VO and his cronies.

    Hungary certainly seems to be a victim of it’s own policies. As for investors.. I’m a computer specialist by trade. The problem with investing in startups in Hungary is the depth of the talent pool. You can get what you need to start but then once you need to scale out you’ll find that you can’t. Combine that with poor infrastructure and you’re either stuck to Budapest or …. Either way, without an educated workforce, nothing aside from factory work is going to happen. Thing is, factory need huge investments in physical plants etc.. which means OV cronies get a cut. They won’t get much from service based or IP based work. The only way they benefit from that is through higher taxes from higher salaries provided by higher valued work. But those people most likely won’t vote Fidesz…

  14. LwiiH: Oradea, Romania is the fouth one. It is actually 104 km from Nyireghaza. Via the matrix.itasoftware (thank you wolfie) I was checking out various flights to and from Nyireghaza, Copenhagen and its is anywhere from 4 to 18 hours flights some with two or more stops.

    This was just to see how Nyireghaza holds out to potential investors. Based upon the aforementioned and the fact (as you mentioned) there is no pool of high skilled workers with language skills it does not work out there.

    As to start-up companies there is some kind of guarantee in place, but the next level of growth most companies are killed by the government rigid tax collection practices and no proper finance by the banks and/or other institutions including factoring.

  15. Ron :
    LwiiH: Oradea, Romania is the fouth one. It is actually 104 km from Nyireghaza. Via the matrix.itasoftware (thank you wolfie) I was checking out various flights to and from Nyireghaza, Copenhagen and its is anywhere from 4 to 18 hours flights some with two or more stops.
    This was just to see how Nyireghaza holds out to potential investors. Based upon the aforementioned and the fact (as you mentioned) there is no pool of high skilled workers with language skills it does not work out there.
    As to start-up companies there is some kind of guarantee in place, but the next level of growth most companies are killed by the government rigid tax collection practices and no proper finance by the banks and/or other institutions including factoring.

    Oradea is new to me. I gave it a quick look and it holds out to be about 2 hours drive and just as useful as the others. My criteria is a major European hub in one hop. BTW, Budapest is not a major European hub though it qualifies as a strong regional. Simialr difference between SFO and Oakland or MIA and WPB.

    As for talent, there is non in Nyiregyhaza but there is a small amount in Debrecen. Enough to start but not enough to sustain.. plus the other stuff you mentioned is a big problem.

  16. “but the nearest usable airport, Budpest, clocks in @ 250km”

    As a Debreceni, I think Nyíregyháza is a dump, but I have to correct your less than accurate description of the ‘difficulties’ of getting there.

    Firstly, the M3 isn’t just a boon, it actually puts Nyíregyháza as close to Bp as Debrecen (as the motorway splits just after Polgár) – so, if Debrecen is regarded as well served by motorway these days (as it is), so equally is Nyíregyháza.

    Secondly, travel by busz (there is a regular service) or taxi from Debrecen airport to the train station is 15 minutes or less, and Intercity from there takes just 30 minutes to Nyíregyháza. Bearing in mind that the flight from London to Debrecen only takes 15 minutes longer than getting to Budapest, and that it’s a lot quicker getting through Debrecen than bigger airports, traveling via Debrecen is actually a pretty quick and easy way to get to Nyíregyháza.

    Thirdly, if you hire a car, or your company picks you up from the airport, you will be in Nyíregyháza within an hour, and although the journey isn’t motorway, it’s a reasonable standard ‘A’ road, so perfectly comfortable. That actually puts Nyíregyháza in a very competitive situation compared to most places in Hungary – how many other cities can you reach in a hour from the airport?

    And lastly, Wizz Air now fly to Debrecen from Holland and Germany, as well as London

  17. Very interesting (but also depressing) comments again – against the competition of other countries where wages are even lower Hungary has no chance at all as a “production site”.

    Re IT: I still remember an American guy who more than 30 years ago started a company with programmers in Budapest – but in the end they had to relocate to Austria …

    Totally OT @ Ron:

    I had to laugh – people often call me “Wolfie” – that’s the Jewish version of my name …

    Some time ago we talked about this – and the famous restaurant Wolfie’s in Miami Beach on pol.hu (yes, those were the good old days …). But sadly, Wolfie’s also had to close because its clientele of “rich old Jews” in Miami Beach died off – really sad, I enjoyed going there on my yearly Florida holidays …

  18. Mark: Hungary will never be like Switzerland or Austria for dozens of reasons. I doubt highly that Slovakia/Czecz Rapublic (or even Poland on the long term) are realistic targets.

    The Mexican average is a kind of a possibility at least.

    I guess given the lack of jobs and lowest level (in the EU) of economic activity of the potential Hungary workforce any job is useful and should be welcome. Any.

    Economically the Lego plant is useful, but never forget what Lego produces: non-recyclable junk. Lego toys are made entirely out of plastic which will have to be thrown away as the kid grows up. I sold my logos back in then, but I am not sure most toys get ‘recycled’ too many times before they end up in the rubbish bin.

    I am not sure Debrecen has a more sophisticated and market-ready economy than what Nyiregyhaza has. Nyíregyháza is a kind of local hub for Ukraine-related business (including, substantially, of course black markert dealings). Also, Nyíregyháza has a bigger pool of future cheap labor (given Szabolcs county’s relatively high birth rate, mostly of very poor Gipsies). Debrecen has the university which is nice, but other than that, I don’t see much difference, plus you have a local “boss” as a mayor who owns Debrecen, rules it exactly like a feudal lord used to rule his fiefdom received frm the king. Nyíregyháza is a tad more pragmati, I think.

  19. wolfi :
    Very interesting (but also depressing) comments again – against the competition of other countries where wages are even lower Hungary has no chance at all as a “production site”.
    Re IT: I still remember an American guy who more than 30 years ago started a company with programmers in Budapest – but in the end they had to relocate to Austria …
    Totally OT @ Ron:
    I had to laugh – people often call me “Wolfie” – that’s the Jewish version of my name …
    Some time ago we talked about this – and the famous restaurant Wolfie’s in Miami Beach on pol.hu (yes, those were the good old days …). But sadly, Wolfie’s also had to close because its clientele of “rich old Jews” in Miami Beach died off – really sad, I enjoyed going there on my yearly Florida holidays …

    There’s a Wolfie’s restaurant/diner in north Toronto on Sheppard west of Bathurst. It serves, by far, the best Corned Beef and Roast Beef sandwiches in the world.

    Let me hear what you have as the best sandwich place in Miami, will ya?

  20. “Orbán is doing what a politician does: saying the glass is half full. What else can he do?”

    1. The whole of Europe is not in recession. Some member states are in serious economic crisis, all for various reasons. The eurozone crisis has actually eased quite a bit since last summer.
    Hungary IS in recession.

    2. He could actually do a lot more: for a start, a good politician doesn’t only talk, but tries to remedy the situation. Orban is actively making it worse by worsening the country’s credit rating, reducing investment and borrowing at high costs from the financial markets etc.

  21. I find it quite alarming that more and more Hungarians believe that “Europe” is gone down the drain. (By Europe, they mean the West, of course.) Democracy, market economy, “excessive liberalism”, welfare states, Western culture, secularism etc. have failed, the West is looking for new directions economically, socially and politically.
    This, for Hungarians. also means that the model they wanted to take over, the West they wanted to catch up with has failed, and there is no point trying any more. Best thing is to get independent, get our sovereignity back, chase the Western “colonizers” out of the country, get rid of the financial vultures, let’s just support ourselves.
    Orban of course feeds this, because it justifies his freedom fight and “unorthodoxy”.
    But the average Hungarians need to realize that “democracy” and “market capitalism” has not failed. There is a global financial crisis, yes, quite severe in some countries – but the “West” has had economic crises before and sooner or later they recovered. And they were rarely caused by “excessive democracy”…
    At the beginning of 2000s, Germany was the “sick man” of Europe economically. In the early 1990s, Finland and Sweden nearly went bust. All three countries are doing very well at the moment, and they did NOT have to give up democracy in order to do recover.

    In fact, there are people who think that welfare systems in many countries have in fact performed very well, and have been able to stop masses of people becoming hopelessly poor. Some reckon that without the EU some countries might even already be at war.

    I’m worried that Hungarians are being totally mislead. They are frustrated because 20 years after communism failed and almost 10 years after they joined the EU they are still not there where the Austrian and the Germans (economically, socially and politically).
    I understand the frustration – but I’m afraid the failure partly comes from not doing it well enough, and this needs to be recognized. Otherwise all this is going to end in tragedy: they could turn into a terribly isolated, “angry and ridiculous country”, as Bokros has recently put it.

    (Deep down, many Hungarians know that Western culture hasn’t failed – otherwise they wouldn’t try to send their kids to the West to work, to university, they wouldn’t like to find work and settle there themselves. But people seem to be very confused.)

  22. Paul :
    “but the nearest usable airport, Budpest, clocks in @ 250km”
    As a Debreceni, I think Nyíregyháza is a dump, but I have to correct your less than accurate description of the ‘difficulties’ of getting there.

    With all due respect, I do my fair share of flying so I completely understand the difficulties of getting about in Hungary. I’ve already said the M3 was needed but you have to know that this represents a very minimal investment in transport. Hungary has completely under invested in a solid transportation network in the eastern part of the country. It’s 50km between Nyiregyhaza and Debrecen yet you have to schedule 1 hour to travel that distance, train or car. You could do it in less time more reliably on the M3 but there is no exit from the east to allow you to take that nice branch to Debrecen when traveling from the east nor to go east when traveling from Debrecen. As for Wizz, QoS is so low… well, you get what you pay for. Speaking of which, the security checks at the Debrecen airport are pretty amusing given that they are all only a few feet apart. In any other small airport I’ve been in, check-in and security are all typically managed in 1 step, not 4.

  23. petofi :

    wolfi :
    Very interesting (but also depressing) comments again – against the competition of other countries where wages are even lower Hungary has no chance at all as a “production site”.
    There’s a Wolfie’s restaurant/diner in north Toronto on Sheppard west of Bathurst. It serves, by far, the best Corned Beef and Roast Beef sandwiches in the world.
    Let me hear what you have as the best sandwich place in Miami, will ya?

    Los Olas Cafe, South Beach.. very good Cubano.

    Wages are only half the picture. The other half is what it costs the company to keep the employee and that is more than what the employee gets. One of the managers at Flextronic told me that the per employee cost in Hungary put it in line with many other EU countries.

    Nyíregyháza is a tad more pragmati, I think.

    Goto10, from what I understand, instead of just 1 person, it’s a small group from Fidesz and MSzP. I’ve not keep track but I’m sure that not all MSzPers got cut off from the public pie.

Comments are closed.