I would like to return to the draft report of the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) on Hungary. It is a 30-page document that shows a thorough understanding of every aspect of Hungarian politics, relating specifically to constitutional issues. Rui Tavares, who was one of the rapporteurs in charge of the document, seems to be fully conversant with the issues under discussion. It is a very thorough document and recommends tough sanctions. The sanctions mentioned in the document are not monetary. It suggests setting up a strict monitoring regime and calls on sanctions based on Article 7 that would take away Hungary’s voting rights. Therefore, I found it incomprehensible why MSZP immediately announced that its EU parliamentary members would not sign the document in this form. I understand that people in Brussels who have been working very hard at uncovering illegal legislative actions by the Orbán government were stunned. If the Hungarian socialists don’t support the LIBE report, it is hard to imagine that the members of the committee will.
The MSZP leadership happened to be in Brussels when the Tavares report was released. Attila Mesterházy told one of the reporters of Népszabadság that “the socialists are committed adherents of the European Union and European integration. However, we don’t support any measures that would be accompanied by a possible withholding of financial resources that would harm the Hungarian people.” At a press conference Mesterházy announced that the party leadership instructed the MSZP EP members not to vote for the report in its present form.
Why it was necessary to make this declaration is hard to fathom. In the first place, as I said, no financial sanction is mentioned in the Tavares document. Moreover, if I understand it correctly, this announcement was made in response to a question from one of the reporters present. I’m no politician but, if I had been Mesterházy, I would have avoided this trap. He could have said that he hadn’t had an opportunity to study the document or that the steering committee hadn’t had a chance to formulate the party’s official policy on the subject. This is a delicate question that needs thorough analysis, and the less one says about it the better.
The Hungarian opposition has been struggling with this issue for some time. On April 1 Gordon Bajnai gave an interview to Der Standard, an Austrian newspaper, where the reporter asked him the following question: “The European Commission has threatened Hungary with sanctions because of the idiosyncratic course its government follows. For example, with withdrawal of funds. Would you support such a move?” To which Bajnai answered: “No. One should not punish the people because they have a bad government. Hungary needs EU money to develop, and the country is … still a democracy.” He subsequently visited Brussels and approached EU officials with a request to spare the Hungarian people from financial hardship just because of the policies of the Orbán government.
Mesterházy did the same during one of his earlier visits to Brussels. Yes, the government is trampling on Hungarian democracy, but let’s keep financing the government that without support most likely would collapse. Let’s get billions and billions of euros that the Orbán government can pass on to its supporters and friends. Both Együtt 2014 and MSZP seem to be in a hopeless quandary because they are afraid that public opinion will turn against them if they support EU efforts to defend Hungarian democracy.
Ferenc Krémer wrote a couple of articles in Galamus in connection with the opposition’s dilemma, which in his opinion is no dilemma at all. In the first one he called MSZP “the fifth column” of Fidesz and continued: “We, all of us, even those who didn’t vote for Fidesz in 2010 must take responsibility for the current state of the country. Not one of us can avoid responsibility, especially not MSZP, for Viktor Orbán’s ability to begin ‘the country’s renewal,’ meaning the establishment of a dictatorship. We have no moral basis for demanding from the European Union not to defend its most basic values; we have no right to demand its financing the power of the Orbán clan, the enrichment of the Simicska clan and Hungary’s moral depravity.”
Soon enough came a correction by “nyüzsi” in HVG. (Nyüzsgés means swarming in Hungarian.) Krémer is wrong. MSZP is not a “fifth column” but a bunch of “useful idiots.” This is a term reserved for people perceived as propagandists for a cause whose goals they do not understand and who are used cynically by the leaders of the cause. “The leaders of the liberal-socialist opposition make asses of themselves right in front of our eyes and undermine their own credibility as critics of Fidesz. They fell into the trap of Viktor Orbán who claims that ‘criticism of Orbán = criticism of Hungary.’ They don’t want the average Joe to suffer, but the average Joe and everybody else is suffering because of the constitutional and economic running amuck of the Orbán government and not because of the dictum of the aristocrats in Brussels.”
Ferenc Krémer today continued his analysis of the situation that developed after the publication of the Tavares report. MSZP leaders deep down most likely realize the impasse they find themselves in, and therefore Zita Gurmai, MSZP MEP, in a radio interview on Thursday did her best not to answer the questions of János Dési who was substituting for György Bolgár that day. The MSZP politicians “are unable to bridge the precipice they perceive between the defense of democracy and the defense of their country. They should realize that there is no precipice between the two. All decisions must be based on that recognition. Therefore all steps the EU takes against the government of Viktor Orbán must be welcome. The responsibility lies with those who are guilty: Viktor Orbán, his government, and the whole of Fidesz.”
The only opposition party that has a clearly formulated policy on possible EU sanctions is the Demokratikus Koalíció. Tamás Bauer wrote on that subject with the title: “Article seven and the Hungarian democrats.” DK is convinced that there is no gap between democracy and the defense of the country. On the contrary, the EU is defending Hungarian democracy and all Hungarian democrats must support Brussels in this effort.
And finally here is a document signed by the leading members of the Democratic Opposition of the late 1980s.
Us and them
Should Europe intervene in our affairs?
Memorandum of the former Anti-communist Opposition
The nation is the community into which we were born, whereas the European Union is the community which we chose for a democratic Hungary. Both are important and even indispensable for us. In the past decades we have struggled to have our innate community (the nation) and our chosen community (the Union) be imbued with the same set of values. We owe responsibility for both of them.
It is not by mere chance that when as opponents of the communist regime we were not yet a member state of the European community in a political sense and just hoped to join it one day, we claimed as a matter of course that the communist regime be confronted with the values of liberal democracy, so blatantly ignored or breached by that regime.
Nothing has changed since.
We reject the populist view that strives to divide and alienate along the “them” and “us” dimension. The anti-European, xenophobic populism of Fidesz is the ideology of an autocratic regime that under a national disguise labels any kind of external demand for maintaining democratic norms as an attempt of colonization.
At the same time, by publicly announcing that the Hungarian socialist members of the European Parliament refuse in its present form the Tavares report dated on 8th of May, which strongly criticizes the situation concerning the rule of law in Hungary, not only runs in the face of the commonly approved set of European values, but also serves to satisfy, instead of rejecting, a populist demand.
Just as we condemn “dirty solidarity” that turns a blind eye to the violation of democratic values under the pretext of party solidarity, we do not wish to be part of “hypocritical solidarity” either, which implies solidarity with an autocratic government. If the present Hungarian democratic opposition is determined to defeat Fidesz in this populist arena and challenge the ruling party that governs in collusion with Jobbik, then it is doomed to defeat itself as well as its own country.
9th of May 2013, Budapest
Attila Ara-Kovács, former diplomat
Gábor Demszky, former Mayor of Budapest
Miklós Haraszti, former OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media
Róza Hodosán, former MP
Gábor Iványi, pastor
János Kenedi, historian
György Konrád, author
Bálint Magyar, former Minister of Education
Imre Mécs, former MP
Sándor Radnóti, philosopher
László Rajk, architect
Sándor Szilágyi, art writer
My personal experience of the non-party and party political opposition in Hungary is that they are all so shit-scared of being tarred with the disloyalty brush that they *run* scared of any outreach to international allies. Instead of having the guts to tackle this issue head-on and draw a clear line between those who are harming Hungary internally and helping Hungary externally, they remain prisoners of the same thinking that powers Fidesz. Gene Sharp, apostle of non-violent liberation, declared that all liberation begins with self-liberation: most anti-Fideszites remain slaves in their hearts.
It’s a shame that Hungary has such an opposition. What do they think? The EU will shake their fingers at the Orban government and the government will collapse?
The Bottomless Carpathian Basement
I agree with Eva. With this kind of petty, self-serving myopia on the part of the opposition, democracy and Hungary are doomed. It looks like Fidesz-style, principle-free opportunism has metastasized. My heart goes out to the few decent people left there: they are the real victims of all this.
Totally OT but hard to resist: I read that the Felcsut soccer team qualified into the first soccer league in Hungary. Another unfortunate similarity to the former Romanian dictator, Ceausescu.
Read Mevius’ book: Agents of Moscow: The Hungarian Communist Party and the Origins of Socialist Patriotism 1941-1953. It explians how the communist party realised very quickly that they had to adopt nationalist rhetoric to stand any chance of turning from a small, minority organization supported by a foreign agent into a mass party. The did it very skillfully and its lesson the MSZP remember. If they are seen as acting as outside agents against Hungarian interests they might as well not bother fighting the next elections. The EU left is losing its botched and ill conceived confrontation with Hungary and has given Fidesz huge political capital. The MSZP know this and are hence not willing to shack up with a few Green MEPs whose cause is already lost and finish off their remaining credibility at home. That would be madness.
(Disclamer: A bit off topic, my apologize.)
Poor old Hofi!
He warned Hungary and Europe what Fidesz, Viktor, and Kover was about a long time ago.
Orban has some useful idiots of his own for sure. Also some ‘diplomats’ trying to defend him as if they were not being paid to serve the country but only one of the political sides. This is called public service in Hungary. Very elegant indeed.
re ms. vadai about mr. bakondi http://444.hu/2013/05/11/rettegtem-a-tolerancia-klubban/
Fidesz is not equal to Hungary.
If you are against Orban & Fidesz, you are patriotic.
Flattering though it is for me to think that the MSzP is using my book as an instruction manual, this is highly unlikely, if simply for the fact that my book is not known in Hungary outside a small circle of scholars. I’d also hate to see what is a purely academic work of history exploited in a political argument, certainly not when, as in this case, the contents are misrepresented. I did not argue in my book that the MKP’s were very skillful at applying their “national policy”, later “socialist patriotism”. In fact, I argued the opposite: it was a failure, because the blend of loyalty to the Soviet Union and Hungarian nationalism seriously conflicted with common sense, and their ties to Moscow forced them to remain silent on, for instance, the border issue and national minorities, questions a lot of party members – perhaps surprisingly – did actually care about, as I found out in later research.
This shows two things:
(1) Despite all the hatred he is faced with, Ferenc Gyurcsány and his Demokratikus Koalíció are the only political element in Hungary that has a clue and takes a responsible stance – but without any chance of winning.
(2) Freed slaves will behave as freed slaves, not as responsible masters of their own destiny.
(3) There is still a small, but vocal intellectual elite in Hungary that adheres to democratic and European values. But it lacks a “critical mass”.
Yesterday while downtown we saw a small Fides booth with slogan, we won’t let them push Hungary around. If this is what MSzP is afriad of then… what a disappointing waste of an opportunity that could have been used to change the conversation from one of conflict and discourse to one of cooperation. Instead of “look, this where Fidesz policies and rehtoric has gotten us, do you really want more?” They look at this gift horse in the mouth. This Are they really this inept or just what does Fidesz have on these guys? Unbelievable! No wonder people are so disillusioned, there is nothing beyond Fidesz.
Hit send too soon. The only way the Hungarian MEPs can vote is no so that part isn’t a surprise. In fact, you would almost view Hungarian MEPs involvement in this type of vote to be a conflict of interest so it’s a bit surprising that they *can* vote. Even so, this is still a huge opportunity to change the dialog in the country.
Reblogged this on Thinking politics and commented:
A very sharp analysis of things which are wrong with Hungarian politics. The article by Eva S. Balogh is about a draft report “on the situation of fundamental rights: standards and practices in Hungary,” by Rui Tavares.
Both the governing Fidesz Party – of course -, and the MSZP (the Hungarian Socialist Party), criticised the report.
By the way, the official statement from the Prime Minister’s office: “The Hungarian Spokesperson emphasised that the Government is currently studying the report’s findings carefully and it is clear that the document is full of factual errors and misinterpretations. The Rapporteur has applied double standards since the disputed measures listed in the report can without exception also be found in other countries, against whom the EU has never acted. ”
If you are interested in Hungary beyond their sausages, cheap beers, and beautiful capital, read Balogh’s blog.
Actually, it showed three things… 🙂
So they try to control the dialog by focusing on the micro elements and not aggregate effects in the macro by cherry picking features from different countries. Sounds good to me!
Nothing new under the sun, when at the time SZDSZ MP György Gadó spoke up in the first Hungarian parliament after 1990 against racism and antisemitism in the conservative MDP, he was “stabbed” in the back by his party, especially by Miklos Gábor Tamás (TMG).
They thought if they will let Gadó the former editor of a Jewish samizdat paper fall, the right will see in them true Hungarian patriots. This did not happen.
Now they experience from the MSZP what Gadó received from SZDSZ. Not that it is going to help MSZP. Gyurcsány’s opinion, that Mesterházy who apologised for the position of MSZP at the referendum dual citizenship, was wrong is correct. It will not bring one vote to MSZP.
I can support most comments which follow this Balogh report.
Especially the words of Karl Pfeifer.
The miserable stand of the people who critized Gadó, was deplorable.
Gene Sharp in the spirit of Ferenc Deák advocates a movement for freedom.
Hungarian individuals of the sort of Csaba Fazekas, Zsófia Mihancsik….are ready for the free society.
The Mesterházy, Bajnai …..types are not. They are afraid to be labelled anti-Hungarian by the fake crooked sleazy prophets of the FIDESZ and Jobbik.
@tappanach My point is that the MSZP has nothing to gain politically by supporting a Green MEP who’s produced a report that is going no where. If the promised grand EU coalition against the Hungarian government had materialized it might be a different matter. The fact is it hasn’t. The enormous criticism of the fourth ammendment has turned into a request for three little adjustments to the legislation that make no difference at all. The truth is the MSZP need to win Fidesz voters next year and to do that they need to be more like Fidesz. They need to fight Hungary’s corner in the EU. That’s why they distanced themselves from that report.
@Dan, I bet MSZP will not get one more vote from Fidesz supporters because of this move.
If you look at the undecided count it’s clear they don’t need a single Fidesz supporter to vote for them. From the EU’s perspective it would be a *lot* better if Hungary could solve their own problems without them having to interfere so one has to look at this report as gift from the EU. Now only if there were someone aside from OV that had the political intelligence to know how to use it.
@ Dan. One should not underrate the growing power of the European Parliament and its influence on the European media.
In the discussion about whether the opposition has to become more like Fidesz and Jobbik to win any votes, I side with the ones that see this as an absolutely useless endeavour. Moreover this move would make corruption and a denial of democratic values the norm in Hungary. Can you seriously wish for that? You cannot “suspend” values. Either you have them or you don’t.
Zsolt Bayer, (close friend of Viktor)
11th of May 2013, article in Magyar Hirlap.
Among a pile of deep insults,
is calling the EU…corrrupt!!!
Without a shred of evidence.
Will mrs.Orban-Bayer be convicted for slander?
And why oh why should the EU spend even one forint on this corrupt Orban clan or the enrichment of the Simicska maffia?
It’s not because of the Fidesz (or its voters), it’s simply the EU vs Hungary.
Politically a party cannot side with the EU against Hungary. Otherwise you would look unpatriotic, which is already the left’s image.
I don’t think any politician anywhere in the EU could afford to side with the EU in a duel between the EU and that country.
And of course in the US, if you look unpatriotic in any way, you are finished politically. Same in the EU just somewhat less so.
It seems to me the MSZP need to win back all the former MSZP voters that voted for Fidesz and even Jobbik in the last election. There may be a lot of undecided voters and as @Humbert points out it might be hard for the MSZP to win them over if they support a few Green MEPs in calling for Hungary’s voting rights to be suspended. Most of the undecided probably voted Fidesz in the last election.
No one is saying that the opposition should vote “against” Hungary but this is an opportunity to ask the question, how did we (Hungarians) get here and is this really how we want to be seen by the rest of Europe? Alais I fear with the media now heavily controlled by Fidesz the message will not get any airtime. The only political news this evening was about how bad GB is mixed in with fluffy interest stories. That is about the state of hirlap in todays always under threat environment.
This is how you do it. Fidesz, that is Ferenc Papcsák, probably one of the most arrogant and repulsive Fidesz party commissioners (now mayor of Zugló) deals with MSZP, who, true to their reputation would sell their own mothers, even to Fidesz.
In this case, only a huge piece of real estate is the subject of the deal.
It is the now usual sport association deal: take over the public sport association somehow, privatize the land plots used by the association, organise (from loans supplied by state owned banks) the buiding of whatever can be built there (the bigger the project the better) and syphon off the money from the huge budget and when it’s ready it’s there, it does not matter any more, someone will take care of it (lke the unused swimming pools etc. they are making a loss for the municipality company which had take over the operation of the pools and the like).
MSZP of course wants a piece of the pie. I am not sure they will last too long even if the get to power.
Mesterhazy in Brussels: “However, we don’t support any measures that would be accompanied by a possible withholding of financial resources that would harm the Hungarian people.”
Mesterhazy is a flake and a fake.
The above statement is as good as saying: “Well, regardless of the correctness and the legality of your finding, Hungarians ought not to be punished”….thereby buying into the Orban nonsense where punishment is not against the government but against the people.
Let the people, the Hungarian electorate, grow up.
They’ve picked this government, and whatever punishment is meted out due to the government’s misdoings should be not only tolerated but accepted.
Oh no, that’s not for Hungarians. They’re little 10 year olds who get to keep their rattles no matter who they aggravate or hit over the head with.
Mesterhazy has underpinned Orban’s indefensible stance.
Europe must think that all Hungarians are mad.
Only in the sub-juvenile mentality of the average Hungarian is this true. There is something called international standards….let’s say, the eternal verities.
God knows, few Hungarians would know what the hell I’m talking about. But ‘eternal verities’ are the same regardless of time or place. “Really?” says the bunko Hungarian, “Not for US!”
There are eternal truths and then there are Hungarian truths (somewhat rancid). Never the twain shall meet.
Take that little supposition to any university in Hungary and see how many students can tell the difference.
It is time to admit that most of the intellectually noble Hungarians were born and educated under the socialist rule.
They have to phrase a smart leadership message to the public and come back to the political stage.
The incompetent current leaders must be replaced by some of smart ones.
How many of the current politicians have a Brit or American degree?
I should’ve added: everyone knows that a Hungarian degree isn’t worth the toilet paper it is written on. Ahem.
Petofi: I guess there is a reason why you are not a politician. One of the most time honored politicing is to create a warlike situation, an imagined siege in which you can appeal to nationalistic (we against us) feelings.
I guess Cicero and Marcus Aurelius alteady wrote abou this, not to mention Machiavelli.
You simply cannot side with the Others if such Others are out to hurt us (take away money or votes).
This is a fundamental rule of politics anywhere and has nothing specifically to do with Fidesz (well, they forced HUngary and MSZP in this situation, but in any similar situation a politician must show that it sees the interest of the Nation). A tiny fraction of the people would get the situation, true, but as a politician you would have to care about what the majority thinks.
Using the EC against either the majority or the opposition is rather common in many EU countries. It’s only a matter of issues. In France a couple of years ago, the whole Left (then the opposition) sided with Ms Reding against the French Government about the treatment of Bulgarian and Romanian Roma. And now that the Right is the opposition, it won’t take long before they too side with the Commission should they admonish – or more – the Government for its budgetary policy…
But it only works where the bulk of the political spectrum is pro-EU. The situation in Hungary today seems the exact opposite… which might explain why the EC and EP are not in a hurry.
Although Hungarian-born, my background is Canadian. We had only one ‘nationalist’ aberration that I can remember–Quebec–instigated by an old goat named De Gaulle,who was, can you believe it, invited to the country by the federal government in the 1960’s.
Most civilized countries in the 21st century have left ‘nationalism’ behind. (Only crackpot places like Russia and Hungary still resort to it.)
except for the US of A.
Patriotism is an euphemism for nationalism.
In addition, it is not the people who left it behind, but most Western politicians.
But in any case, it does not look as though the EU member (nation) states will be eliminted in the big post-nationalistic EU any time soon (the UK against the EU now, the French and the Italians against the Germans and I could go on and on).
It’s the global intellectual/financial elite that is post-nationalistic with multiple passports and no fixed residency, for most people, I would venture, national identity is still an issue (even if their politicians deem it politicaly incorrect to appeal to it).
One would’ve thought that after National Socialism, the notions of nationalism would be buried once and for all.
Not likely. I contend that it is precisely the politicians in these sub-democratic states (such as Russia and Hungary) that keep this particular flame burning, in order to distract and inflame the populace. In this, Orban has no equal. In the name of ‘nationalism’, the people are called on to make all sorts of sacrifices that would be deemed ridiculous under normal circumstances–as pretty a trap as one can imagine.
Indeed, you see it in places where there is significant mixing of different national/ethnic/any other word describing a tribe
It’s the global intellectual/financial elite that is post-nationalistic with multiple passports and no fixed residency, for most people, I would venture, national identity is still an issue (even if their politicians deem it politicaly incorrect to appeal to it).
This is an interesting observation. I do see in the computer industry that there certainly is an (intellectual??) elite that is certainly in demand internationally and they are highly mobile. Many no longer live in their home countries as they’ve moved to some important center and that often brings with it multiple passports. But I’m not sure that this has made them any less nationalistic or have less of a national identity. They are still, who they are nationalistically because early life experiences that cannot be erased. And, the constant exposure to the *outsiders* means they don’t tend to be xenophobic. But, what is cause and what is effect?
“Patriotism is loving your country. Nationalism is hating the other guy’s.” – that one is from an ‘old goat’ not dear to petofi ;).
Considering what immigration has been in the EU15 for the last fifty years, there are today far more people in the lower class with multiple passports and/or ties to many different places in the world. So at least in North & Western Europe, you can’t rely on the old “people against the elites” trick.
just leave the basin and start doing relevant stuff.
EU is basically an illegal entity.
Eva, I think it’s time to throw this idiot out!
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