Orbán’s attack on Angela Merkel and Germany

The big item in the Hungarian media today was an exchange between Chancellor Angela Merkel and Peer Steinbrück, her social democratic rival at the next German election. The scene was a yearly event called WDR Europaforum. WDR stands for Westdeutscher Rundfunk (West German Broadcasting), based in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. The program of this year’s forum is available on the Internet. In addition to Steinbrück and Merkel, such important European politicians as Guido Westervelle, German foreign minister; José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Union; and Wolfgang Schäuble, German minister of finance, attended.

It says a lot that Hungary came up at all at such a high-level gathering. But it did and in a country like Hungary, small and deeply divided politically, its very mention at such a forum brings immediate and sometimes violent reactions at home. Peer Steinbrück, who would like to have Angela Merkel’s job, criticized the chancellor for not being forceful enough regarding Hungary’s repeated violations of human rights and democratic principles. He urged a more aggressive policy instead of CDU’s shielding Viktor Orbán and Fidesz. He wouldn’t even exclude the possibility of Hungary’s exclusion from the European Union.

Merkel naturally defended her party’s handling of the Hungarian case and warned Steinbrück that “one shouldn’t send a whole cavalry to fight a war” that may end in exclusion because that way the European Union would have no influence whatsoever on Hungarian political developments. This way there is hope to persuade Viktor Orbán to change his ways. Foreign Minister Westervelle, a liberal, concurred.

Undersecretary Gergely Prőhle interpreted Merkel’s opinion as a sign that the German chancellor “rightly expects that Hungary will choose a European solution.”  On the other hand, Népszabadság emphasized that Merkel promised that her own party, CDU, will pay close attention to Hungarian politics and that “we must do everything to change the ways of our Hungarian friends.” The editors decided to give the following headline to the news about the Merkel-Steinbrück exchange: “Only because of the leash is Hungary not kicked out of the European Union,” which may not be the most accurate interpretation of what happened at the WDR Europaforum.

x-emborok.blog.hu

x-emborok.blog.hu

But let’s see what Viktor Orbán’s reaction was. This morning he had his customary weekly radio interview, if you can call the conversation between a subservient reporter and a dictatorial prime minister an interview. One would have thought that, like the spokesman for the Hungarian Foreign Ministry, Orbán would have been appreciative of Merkel’s defense of Hungary against her social democratic rival. But obviously Orbán’s interpretation was closer to that of Népszabadság. He read it as a threat to limit his government’s freedom of action. He most likely didn’t like the fact that Merkel, as chairman of the CDU, made a reference to her party’s insistence that Orbán not overstep the limits imposed on him by the country’s membership in the European Union.

Orbán decided to attack Merkel and Germany. He announced that “the Germans once sent the cavalry to Hungary in the form of tanks. So, our request is: don’t do it. It wasn’t a good idea then. It didn’t work out.”

Why was this attack necessary? After all, Merkel didn’t demand a cavalry attack on Hungary. Just the opposite. Moreover, why was it necessary to bring up the subject of Nazi German tanks? This was especially inappropriate from the prime minister of a country that was allied with Hitler’s Germany to the bitter end. The tanks came but there was no Hungarian resistance. All in all, it would have been better to have said nothing. I don’t know whether there will be any diplomatic fallout from this unfortunate couple of sentences, but I’m sure that the German embassy in Budapest already sent a note to Berlin reporting on Orbán’s interview.

For the edification of those who are not familiar with pro-Fidesz arguments and their tone, here is an excellent example of what Viktor Orbán has managed to achieve with his anti-European Union propaganda. The article appeared on the site of Civil Összefogás Fórum (CÖF), the so-called civic group that organized the peace marches and launched a vicious campaign against Gordon Bajnai. The author is Eszter Dunst, vice president of Women for the Hungarian Nation. Judging from its Facebook page, it’s not exactly a bustling organization.

Here are a few choice sentences from her “Dear Madame Merkel!” opinion piece. First, she tried to figure out what Merkel actually said in German about the EU’s influence on Hungary. Perhaps “auf den richtigen Weg bringen,” to which she answers, “No, thank you! Hungarians don’t allow themselves to be directed or to be driven. The Bolshevik times are over. Do you understand? Not by anyone. Not even by the Germans…. How dare you lecture us on democracy when you must thank us, Hungarians, for the unification of your country…. It was we who destroyed the iron curtain. So, what are you talking about? It is Viktor Orbán who is right and not you. You are not even fit to carry Mr. Orbán’s umbrella. … You ruined Europe twice and still come out victorious in all things. … But enough! Just because you are 80 million strong it is not at all sure that you are right. You once made such a mistake and it wasn’t even such a long time ago.* But now we are right! Do you understand? Because we have a statesman that can be born in Europe only every hundred years. Someone who thinks about the long term. Someone who understands the situation thirty years ahead. Someone who thinks in terms of nation against internationalism. … We fought in defense of Europe, dear Madame Merkel, for almost a thousand years, and it is worth knowing that the bell at noon time is rung not only for us but for Europe.** … For us Hungarians only our national anthem and the ringing of the bell at noon time remained. What is important: you have no right to direct us. You have no moral authority. Do you understand?”

This is, I think, an excellent example of what a large proportion of Hungarians think of the European Union, of Germany and the Germans, and of their own infallible leader. Orbán succeeded in turning these people against everything outside of Hungary. It will be a very difficult task for any future government to undo the damage Orbán has inflicted on his own people. And if an attack on Germany weren’t enough, it seems that Orbán’s government is beginning another assault, this time against the United States. But more on this tomorrow.

—–

*Clearly a reference to Hitler starting World War II.

**It is an urban legend that the noontime ringing of bells in Catholic churches was ordered by Calixtus III to commemorate the Battle of Belgrade (Nándorfehérvár) in July 1456. Actually the papal decision to add to the morning and evening bell ringing a third at noon was made three weeks before the victory of an international army led by János Hunyadi against the Ottoman forces. But once news of the victory reached Rome, the pope decided that the custom be “rebranded” to commemorate the victory at Belgrade.

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81 comments

  1. Kirsten :
    Minusio, Czech and German, you can pick one

    German or English. Via Éva we can get our email addresses. She has my approval.

    Thomas

  2. To join Paul and Minusio and Kirsten, sorry this is going to be long.

    Hungary is not mature for democracy yet. What is happening now is part of the learning process. I believe.
    Many Hungarians still behave like children: they think two “Tsar Daddies” (car atyuska) are fighting with each other to tell them what to do so that the country could become prosperous and strong and rich. One of them is the EU, which is democratic, good-willed, clever and powerful, the other one is Orban, who is evil, stupid and backwards. Or the other way round: the EU is evil, Orban is the brave genius of the nation.
    Many expect the EU to get rid of Orban for them.

    Hungarians must understand that only THEY can get rid of anyone if they want to. The first thing they should do, I think, is to grow up and answer the questions of pollsters. The vast majority of Hungarians think the country is on the wrong path, but more than half of them will not say whom they would support in elections. The ones who say, support Orban. What consequences would you draw from this if you were the rest of the EU? That Hungarians need to be saved from Orban? No, you would think that the people agree with what he is doing.

    Second, everybody should make up their minds next spring, then go out and VOTE. Orban didn’t get his 2/3 because a lot of people voted for him. He won because so many people didn’t vote at all. (If you count the actual votes, fewer people voted for Fidesz in 2010 than voted for MSZP-SZDSZ in 2002. Just more people stayed away.)

    Hungarians need to understand that to vote is their right but it’s also their responsibility. It’s their responsibility if they don’t vote and someone they don’t want to win wins. I disagree that the EU only has problems with Orban’s government, not with Hungarians. Hungarians have voted for him, they are letting him get away with all this. The EU is Hungary + 27 other countries. They are expecting the other 27 to decide who is the prime minister of Hungary? That’s crazy.

    I predict that this semi-democracy will last for at least a decade in Hungary. It will be bad but not that bad that something radical would happen. More and more Hungarians will be leaving continuously (and many will be disappointed when they find out that the West don’t build fences around their houses from paprika sausages either), the economy will be bad but not too bad. The country will be eroding and degrading socially and politically. Then, when people will gradually understand their responsibility, they will slowly start to leave their primitive stands in this cold civil war. Then, but only THEN will they be able to work out how to rebuild the country. Hungary wasn’t very democratic before Orban either – why would it be if he is forced to go in 2014? Hungarians would still have the same unrealistic expectations of becoming a rich country within 2-4 years (or else!). They are not ready, most of them aren’t.

  3. My favourite example about this subject is the following.

    A group of Hungarians were talking about democracy, politics etc. Some claimed all this Western-type democracy and equality propaganda is just mumbo-jumbo, “rice” (rizsa). One supported his opinion like this:

    “I was travelling on a train in Britain when the ticket inspector came. He was very rude with me, and claimed I didn’t have the right ticket. I had the right ticket and he did eventually admit it – but I know he was so nasty with me only because I was a foreigner. So what happened in this land of wonderful democracy where such discrimination is not allowed? Nothing. He got away with it – the only thing that happened was that I got very angry.”

    This guy expected the inspector to get punished – but how? Did he think that everything is being watched with CCTV cameras and someone will catch the inspector?
    He complained that he had discriminated against him – but he didn’t realize that for anything to happen, he would have to report the incident to someone!

    No wonder so many Hungarians don’t see the point of democracy… they have never seen it!

  4. Minusio: “The question is more like why so many people need that quasi-religion?” is the most important one.

    However, it is not asked, and liberal people do not dare to pose it because, I guess, somehow intuitively they fear that answering the question would result in a fundamental questioning of their worldview. They themselves may remain liberals but they may come to conclusions that the basic ideas and ideals of a liberal world view are just not there for many and for a host of reasons will never be there for many.

    It’s a bit like ‘sustainability’ in the US, people buy locally produced food and so on, but really to deal with it would mean an acceptance of the fact that the American (Western) way of life (consumption for consumption’s sake) is simply unsustainable as it is. There is no forever growth on a finite planet and so on. But you cannot do that, because being unpatriotic is the biggest sin a US citizen can commit.

  5. @ cheshire cat

    I agree: Hungarians don’t see the point of democracy.

    To them, power is privilege. Government is run by our betters. We citizens
    are not their equals. We are no more than their minions and can only hope they do right by us. And, if religion supports the government, well, it can hardly do wrong.

    The Middle Ages: serf mentality.

  6. Bunghee, yes, most of their support comes from those who don’t seem to vote out of self-interest, or through due consideration of economics etc, but out of some kind of patriotic duty. This is instilled now, and little can be done about this.

    But there is a minority who ARE open to other views. Only, they will never encounter them. Perhaps, therefore, the only hope of this changing is a defection from a respected person at high-level, someone who would actually be listened to. There are no signs of this, of course, but one never knows.

  7. As one of the creators of the picture in this article I want to make clear that this huszár is called “The Spirit of ’48” and it’s a mixed reference (or spoof if you will) to the american comic hero “Spirit of ’76”, since both nations had their wars for independence. As such, this character is a cultural and historical reference, it has nothing to do with present day’s politics and we don’t want it to represent any politicians or political agendas.

  8. cheshire cat :
    My favourite example about this subject is the following.
    A group of Hungarians were talking about democracy, politics etc. Some claimed all this Western-type democracy and equality propaganda is just mumbo-jumbo, “rice” (rizsa). One supported his opinion like this:
    “I was travelling on a train in Britain when the ticket inspector came. He was very rude with me, and claimed I didn’t have the right ticket. I had the right ticket and he did eventually admit it – but I know he was so nasty with me only because I was a foreigner. So what happened in this land of wonderful democracy where such discrimination is not allowed? Nothing. He got away with it – the only thing that happened was that I got very angry.”
    This guy expected the inspector to get punished – but how? Did he think that everything is being watched with CCTV cameras and someone will catch the inspector?
    He complained that he had discriminated against him – but he didn’t realize that for anything to happen, he would have to report the incident to someone!
    No wonder so many Hungarians don’t see the point of democracy… they have never seen it!

    I totally agree with your latest two posts. You just hit the nail on its head.- But the consequences are not promising for many years to come, or are they?

  9. petofi :
    @ cheshire cat
    I agree: Hungarians don’t see the point of democracy.
    To them, power is privilege. Government is run by our betters. We citizens
    are not their equals. We are no more than their minions and can only hope they do right by us. And, if religion supports the government, well, it can hardly do wrong.
    The Middle Ages: serf mentality.

    That’s what I said: Freed slaves burn down the houses of their masters. But that is the behaviour of freed slaves, not that of sovereign masters of their own destiny.

  10. Wow!
    A very interesting discussion as usual – but also a bit depressing …

    Now for something totally different – but not totally OT since it rflects some of the ideas about Hungarians:

    Yesterday we watched a Hungarian movie (made in 1992 afaik) about the early 60s:

    Csinibaba – it’s about young people who get the idea of partaking in a contest where the winners go to the International Youth Festival in Helsinki – which is in the WEST!

    So it would be a chance for one to be reunited with his girlfriend which went to Canada, for the other to eat as many bananas as he likes, to hear rock music without fear etc …

    In the end of course nothing comes out of it – the Party has determined beforehand who will win and go …

    It’s a similar story about losers like those other great films: Egéseges Erotika, Üvegtigris, Kalandorok etc

    Why is that ?

    The best Hungarian films are all about losers – as we say in a German proverb:

    You have no chance at all – but you’ve still got to take it!

  11. Eva S. Balogh :
    JGrant: “I enjoy your comments most of the time, but currently it is becoming a tad irritating how every idiotic and therefore totally predictable madness that OV puts out gets an amazed reaction from you.”
    Perhaps for you who knows the situation very well it might be boring or even irritating. However, I think it is important to chronicle of Viktor Orbán’s doings. Spectrum is partly for an audience that might not be so well informed than you.

    Fair comment. I take your criticism and hope that you and the other commenters will forgive me for the occasional burst of frustration. Yes, your role in advising the world that wants to know about what is going on in Hungary is invaluable. Only yesterday I had an e-mail from a lecturer friend in England whom I advised to read HS, and who thought how brilliant it was and what a shame that I haven’t told him about it sooner.

    By the way, I am still interested in your opinion in what you think is going to happen after Orban! 🙂

  12. LuisThe: “However, it is not asked, and liberal people do not dare to pose it because, I guess, somehow intuitively they fear that answering the question would result in a fundamental questioning of their worldview. They themselves may remain liberals but they may come to conclusions that the basic ideas and ideals of a liberal world view are just not there for many and for a host of reasons will never be there for many.”

    Even functioning liberal democracies are NOT some ideal and completely coherent political systems. People who live in such democracies need not have homogenous, but not even individually completely coherent, fully thought-through ideas about politics, the society, economics and everything else. You will find a spectrum of ideas, from direct democracy through liberalism to monarchism and the like. But there are some guiding principles that are shared by a majority of people, often more implicitly then explicitly. In very brief terms these include individual rights and freedoms, equality, rule of law, accountability of political leaders, adaptability to changing circumstances through the need to negotiate solutions that are broadly acceptable to a majority of citizens. And these principles, together with some acquired knowledge about how the political process has worked in the past, influence the set-up and functioning of state insititutions. The actual functioning of a state and a society is very difficult to describe in terms of ideals and pure principles even if these principles are applied, and reality is checked against the principle. So your point is suggesting a political arrangement that is far too idealist in the sense that it expects that principles are translated into political reality 1:1. And because this is rather impossible for democracy, the democratic or liberal principles are rejected – in favour of a system with autocratic solutions, where the perceived principle (one person cares for his own well-being on the back of an entire society) appears to be translated more easily into practice.

  13. Minusio :

    petofi :
    @ cheshire cat
    I agree: Hungarians don’t see the point of democracy.
    To them, power is privilege. Government is run by our betters. We citizens
    are not their equals. We are no more than their minions and can only hope they do right by us. And, if religion supports the government, well, it can hardly do wrong.
    The Middle Ages: serf mentality.

    That’s what I said: Freed slaves burn down the houses of their masters. But that is the behaviour of freed slaves, not that of sovereign masters of their own destiny.

    But perhaps…from freed slaves to sovereign masters…takes several intermediate steps…even in this ‘give-me-immediate-results’ kind of world,
    don’t you think?

  14. Yes, it takes some time for freedom to be “verinnerlicht” (internalised ?) as we say in German!

    Even many East Germans who had much better conditions after 1989 and a lot of help (i e money e g …) from the West Germans haven’t arrived yet in their democracy.

    The proportion of Nazis is significantly higher than in the West – maybe you’ve heard of the NSU murders and the police scandal that followed.

    And the number of die-hard communists in the East also is astounding – at least for me!

    So in a way it seems logical that Hungarians still have problems with democracy – but on the other hand those members of my wife’s family that I can really have a discussion with (who speak either good German or even better English …) are indistinguishable from Western democrats !

    Especially my wife who spent more than 40 years of her life under the communists has often told me that her father raised her as a democrat/liberal – and he was just a baker …

  15. petofi :

    Minusio :

    petofi :
    @ cheshire cat
    I agree: Hungarians don’t see the point of democracy.
    To them, power is privilege. Government is run by our betters. We citizens
    are not their equals. We are no more than their minions and can only hope they do right by us. And, if religion supports the government, well, it can hardly do wrong.
    The Middle Ages: serf mentality.

    That’s what I said: Freed slaves burn down the houses of their masters. But that is the behaviour of freed slaves, not that of sovereign masters of their own destiny.

    But perhaps…from freed slaves to sovereign masters…takes several intermediate steps…even in this ‘give-me-immediate-results’ kind of world,
    don’t you think?

    @ petofi and wolfi.
    Perhaps it’s more difficult for a collective of slaves to become sovereign masters of their destiny. I read about several individual slaves in the US who could switch quite easily to becoming respected citizens in the North after they were freed. Also Roman history has some stories about Greek slaves who were freed and lived quite distinguished lives after being freed. But then they were often much better educated than their Roman masters.

    I don’t really understand this. Perhaps it’s this feeling of still being a collective rather than being free individuals who can claim and exercise their rights that hampers them? Basically they don’t want to know what a “res publica” is and they don’t dare to take responsibility for anything, not even their own lives.

  16. @ Illona. What’s that meant to mean? I’m not a socialist. So could you be more specific?

  17. Could some please full list of the alleged “human rights violation BY HUNGARY”
    Why is Orban a “dictatorial prime minister”? Could someone elaborate this?
    Yes, Orban has more than 2/3 in the parliament.
    Just a remainder: during the first round of the parliamentary elections in 2010, fidesz won 95% of the individual seats.
    If the Hungarian election laws would be the same as in UK, USA, Canada, Australia and many other countries Fidesz would have 95% majority in the parliament.
    That of course would not reflect the real political landscape and would not be good for Hungary.
    Thanks to the Hungarian election system that is MUCH MORE DEMOCRATIC than that of UK, USA, Canada the final result was more balanced.

    BTW Germany denies the basic citizen rights to millions of people who born there solely based on the ethnic origin as well to millions who have been living there for decaces. Germany’s racist cast system that is based on the ethnic origin is the biggest human rights violation on Europe.
    Not to mention France where the French Constitution explicitly denies even legal recognition even the legal existence of minorities.
    And what about England, where the upper house is not elected but nominated.
    Same in Canada, The Canadian Senate is not an elected body, the prime minister nominates the senators. What a shame! I have never heard from Frau Merkel that England or Canada are not democratic countries.

    Orban’s problem is that he does not behave as expected that is he does not humiliates himself. He talks back. That is allowed.

  18. Chesirecat: Obviously you never lived in Hungary, or even if you lived there you do not speak the language, or even if you speak the language you just do not get it.
    Hungary is not a Russian villiage in the 18 Century.
    Most hungarian fully understand the menaing of democracy in abstract and in pratical terms.
    Sorry, but your remarks are just not smart.

  19. It is a very good question “why was it necessary to bring up the subject of Nazi German tanks? ”
    Just because!

    Orban was right. Some second rate former DDR communist aparatchik like Merkel and some fourth rate leftist rat do not have better to do with their time than debating Hungary.
    Perhaps they should delat with their own nazis, and their owh discriminativ racist citizenship laws that denies basic citizen rights to millions of people born in Germany solely based on their ethnic origin.

  20. besmart :
    Some second rate former DDR communist aparatchik like Merkel and some fourth rate leftist rat do not have better to do with their time than debating Hungary.

    You mean, like Orban, the third grade Communist Hungary apparatchik, KISZ secretary, fifth rate right wing rat.

    Are you comparing this street smart pimp to Dr. Merkel with a degree in quantum chemistry, your Grõfaz can’t even spell?

    How about the impressive list of ex-commies in the Fidesz? Do you want to see the list?

    What’s the big deal with German occupation by the way? What kind of occupation is that, when there was no resistance? Sorry, honey! If you liked, it wasn’t rape …

  21. besmart, I would like to warn you that this kind of language is not tolerated on this blog. I mean, such language as “some second rate former DDR communist aparatchik like Merkel and some fourth rate leftist rat.” If you don’t know how to debate in a civilized manner you don’t belong here.

  22. besmart :
    Chesirecat: Obviously you never lived in Hungary, or even if you lived there you do not speak the language, or even if you speak the language you just do not get it.
    Hungary is not a Russian villiage in the 18 Century.
    Most hungarian fully understand the menaing of democracy in abstract and in pratical terms.
    Sorry, but your remarks are just not smart.

    wrong, wrong, wrong, true, wrong, wrong
    Stop guessing people’s background to degrade their opinions.

    You don’t understand the meaning of democracy either, otherwise you wouldn’t write things like “Orban’s problem is that he doesn’t humiliate himself and talks back” and “Merkel is a former DDR communist”.

    Merkel doesn’t complain about the House of Lords in England because they have no legislative power and their contribution is mainly expert advice.

  23. Eva S. Balogh :
    besmart, I would like to warn you that this kind of language is not tolerated on this blog. I mean, such language as “some second rate former DDR communist aparatchik like Merkel and some fourth rate leftist rat.” If you don’t know how to debate in a civilized manner you don’t belong here.

    exactly

  24. Dr. Balogh: “**It is an urban legend that the noontime ringing of bells in Catholic churches was ordered by Calixtus III to commemorate the Battle of Belgrade (Nándorfehérvár) in July 1456. Actually the papal decision to add to the morning and evening bell ringing a third at noon was made three weeks before the victory of an international army led by János Hunyadi against the Ottoman forces. But once news of the victory reached Rome, the pope decided that the custom be “rebranded” to commemorate the victory at Belgrade.”

    Urban legend or simple anti-Hungarian tirade. Dr. Balogh claimed that the noon ringing of the bells in memory of the Hunyadi victory at Nandorfehervar is an urban legend. Here is one definition of “urban legend”: “An apocryphal, secondhand story told as true and just plausible enough to be believed, about some horrific, embarrassing, ironic, or exasperating series of events that supposedly happened to a real person.”

    Now, the tolling of the bells was initially ordered by Pope Calixtus III in hope of victory over the Turks. When the news of Hunyadi’s victory reached Rome the papal order was modified to claim the actual victory. To many locations, the actual news of the victory preceded the papal request for the noon bell tolling and it was automatically used to commemorate the victory. This set of events does not qualify as an “urban legend”, and claiming it as such shows plain anti-Hungarian bias.
    Perusing Dr. Balogh’s blogs there are many urban legends created by her, but in this case, she missed the point.

  25. Louis Kovach :
    Here is one definition of “urban legend”: “An apocryphal, secondhand story told as true and just plausible enough to be believed, about some horrific, embarrassing, ironic, or exasperating series of events that supposedly happened to a real person.”

    Here is another definition, Lujza:

    “A myth or story whose propagators would have you beleive is actually true.”

    I’m not telling either where is it from, so I can look smarter.

    You know what is anti-Hungarian? When your idiotic, nitpicking tirade makes all Hungarians look stupid.

  26. The mutt expounds: “Here is another definition, Lujza:

    “A myth or story whose propagators would have you beleive is actually true.”

    I’m not telling either where is it from, so I can look smarter.

    You know what is anti-Hungarian? When your idiotic, nitpicking tirade makes all Hungarians look stupid.”

    Well, I do not mind making you look stupid! Regardless of what you drivel, the story is not an urban legend by any definition.
    Whether it was renamed or original, it became a celebration of the Hungarian victory. here are countries that do have history!.

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