Hungarian move toward the Arab world and a possible assault on the United States

It was only yesterday that I learned from Péter Szijjártó that the “Eastern Opening” also means Hungary’s move toward Africa. Very soon I think they will have to change the name “Eastern Opening” to “Opening to any country outside of the European Union.” Admittedly, it is cumbersome but apt.

You may recall that a few months ago one Hungarian delegation after another made pilgrimages to affluent Middle Eastern countries, targeting Saudi Arabia in particular. They made at least twenty official and semi-official trips to Riyad in the last year and a half, but, as Hetek, the publication of Faith Church, reported, until now with no great results. Prince Abdulaziz, son of King Abdullah, spent a few days last week in Budapest since he is the sponsor of an event called “Saudi Arabian Days” that showcased the culture and history of the Saudi Kingdom. Abdulaziz met Foreign Minister János Martonyi, who was especially eager to establish student exchange programs between the two countries.  From here the next step was to entice the Arab country to invest money in Hungary’s poverty stricken higher education.

Corvinus University was the first to offer the Saudis an opportunity to be generous. The university’s senate decided to establish a Center of Islamic Studies and an M.A. program to go with it. Apparently the suggestion was welcomed by the faculty because the university is so strapped for funds that “it will be a miracle if [they] survive the summer.”  The university also bestowed an honorary doctorate on Khalid bin Mohammed Al-Anqari, Saudi minister in charge of higher education.

The dean of Corvinus, László Csicsmann, is convinced that if Corvinus establishes an Islamic Center “one could speedily agree on a few million dollars of assistance to the university.” He used the expression “strike while the iron is hot.” After all, the minister received an honorary doctorate only recently, the university delegation just returned from Riyad, and here is the occasion of the Saudi Arabian Days in Budapest.

I suspect that Csicsmann is too optimistic about Corvinus’s chances of receiving a few million dollars with no strings attached.  How much say would the Saudi government have in setting up the Islamic Center and how much influence they would demand when it comes to the curriculum?  The dean was unable to give a clear answer, and why should he?After all, Saudi assistance cannot be taken for granted; discussions of the matter haven’t even begun.

According to the students, the new president, Zsolt Rostoványi, is very interested in developing close contacts with Arab countries. Since he took office there have been many conferences and the number of honorary doctorates to Arab officials has multiplied in the hope of some Saudi money coming to the university’s aid.

Corvinus is desperate in the wake of severe budgetary cuts. You may recall that about two years ago there were rumors that Corvinus might not survive a future reorganization of Hungarian higher education planned by the Orbán government. In the end, it seems, Viktor Orbán didn’t dare close or amalgamate into another institution one of the best universities in the country. But he doesn’t like the institution, which he considers to be a stronghold of liberal, “orthodox”  economics. Slowly starving it to death is a perhaps less obvious strategy.

As Hungary seeks alliances with countries in the “East,” it’s burning its bridges with those in the West. Viktor Orbán’s ill-fated words about the German tanks didn’t remain unanswered by the German foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, who considers Orbán’s statement “a regrettable derailment that [Germany] rejects.” The Hungarian Foreign Ministry is desperately trying to explain away Orbán’s remarks, but this time their job seems especially difficult. Undersecretary Gergely Prőhle, who is usually quite skillful at defending the government’s position, did a poor job today during an interview with György Bolgár on Klubrádió. He is normally diplomatic and can even be semi-convincing; today he was irritated and aggressive.

fight easyway1234.blogspotcom

But if the troubles with Germany weren’t enough, it seems that the Orbán government is taking on another “enemy,” the United States. On Friday Magyar Nemzet launched a frontal attack in a lead editorial. Magyar Nemzet has taken a consistently anti-American stance, but I’ve never seen such antagonistic writing as the piece by Gábor László Zord.

There is no question that Viktor Orbán is not exactly crazy about the United States. He has been snubbed too many times by successive American presidents ever since September 11, 2001. What did the young Hungarian prime minister do, or rather didn’t do, in 2001? He remained silent while the anti-Semitic István Csurka delivered a speech in parliament in which he stated that the U.S. deserved what it got on 9/11. Later, when there were attempts to make Orbán mend his way and at least belatedly express his sympathy with the United States, he neglected to do so. Subsequently, he tried to get an invitation to the White House but without success. I remember that János Martonyi was certain that Orbán would have an opportunity to make a state visit to Washington sometime in the fall of 2010. As we know, the doors of the White House seem to be closed to him. So it’s no wonder that Orbán carries a grudge against the United States and is irritated by what he considered “lectures” on democracy from Hillary Clinton and others. It seem that Magyar Nemzet’s reporters have a free hand to publish violently anti-American articles.

I don’t know what has happened in U.S.-Hungarian relations lately, but this latest attack on the United States is unprecedented. The reporter latches onto some of the problems currently facing the Obama administration to announce that “the United States doesn’t have the moral authority to tell the Hungarian government anything about democracy. If anyone is guilty of undemocratic acts it is the United States.” He offers a laundry list of sins, from the “murdered millions in pointless wars” to “doing business with representatives of dictatorship.” He is convinced that “if international law would work properly, masses of American officials and soldiers would be dragged to the Hague where they would receive the hospitality of the International Court of Justice.” But, says the reporter, sadly there is no justice in the world. “The truth lies with the powerful.” So, what can we do?

One thing Hungary can do, the reporter writes: “Keep up the list of their sins and always be ready to come back with our own answers. Don’t worry, we have a lot we can be proud of and they’d better huddle in some corner quietly.”

The Orbán government currently has enough problems with the country’s most important ally, Germany. I wouldn’t advise them to pick a new fight, this time with the United States.


  1. There is the smell of pure desperation here: Orban unleashing a madman’s fury at former friends and ideals? There seems to be a timetable here and Orban’s frantic actions signal its impending approach.

    Why is Orban so intent on antagonizing the leading Western nations?
    What is the timetable?
    Who’s is the timetable?

  2. The US cannot do anything and so it will not do anything. It has dozens of real issues from Syria to China to Iran to Russia on its hand, Hungary is less than a non-issue.

    Orbán is king and the US has no power to touch him.

  3. What is really incredible about the right wing press here is that both leading political dailies are still connected to the Kreml.

    Magyar Hírlap through its owner, Széles Gábor, and Magyar Nemzet through its editor-in- chief, Liszkay Gábor.

    Liszkay was THE lawyer in the 1990s of the most influential Russian oligarch in Hungary, Szemjon Mogiljevics (‘Szeva bácsi’), head of the ‘Red Mafia’.

  4. As a USA passport-holder: The criticism that in use of force of any sort — economic, military — one rule applies to the USA and another to other countries appears to me wholly justified. Quod licet Jovi non licet bovi, supporters of the USA’s politics may state. Indeed. But the cattle, looking up at Jove, may well consider themselves hard done by, and crave revenge.

  5. Wondercat :
    As a USA passport-holder: The criticism that in use of force of any sort — economic, military — one rule applies to the USA and another to other countries appears to me wholly justified. Quod licet Jovi non licet bovi, supporters of the USA’s politics may state. Indeed. But the cattle, looking up at Jove, may well consider themselves hard done by, and crave revenge.

    This is an interesting point. I recall an English saying which has something about: Those in glass houses shouldn’t be throwing stones about!” I tend to agree with Wondercat as there is a fair amount of truth in Magyar Nemzet’s points here. Currently the world’s policeman is the USA, no question about that. However, that criticism from Orban’s mouthpiece is pretty rich. Who are they to point fingers? Should their own morals be a bit whiter that criticism would carry more weight. “A plague on both your houses!” is another English saying that comes to mind.

    I firmly believe that this lot have all gome barmy. They keep pulling the lion’s whiskers and making friends with dodgy dictators and all will rebound on them for sure. As for him picking a new fight and whether the US will retaliate or not: when I remember that they didn’t help us in 1956 (for geopolitical or any other reasons), perhaps I shouldn’t hold out much hope.

  6. Fine, Eva and all respondents, appreciated. Now have you distributed a full translation of the article? Have you sent out Twitter alerts to make sure that it is picked up on by international commentators and the public? Considering the flak that any anti-American remark gets in online and social media, you could tie up the Fidesz public response machine so comprehensively that it would have no time to, for instance, fend off complaints about the tobacco tenders. That is, if you actually believe in doing something about the situation rather than just bemoaning it. Have you acted? Or just wrung your hands once again?

  7. Do you remember the recent conversation between Premier Orban and Mayor Tarlos on the bus?

    “Don’t be greedy. Just one bill” – said Orban.

    As it turned out Tarlos aimed at a much larger gift from Orban than the Portuguese-owned building on Andrassy ut.

    This one bill will take away the Margit island from the opposition-led district 13.
    It was submitted over the weekend, and will be made a law today.

    District 13 has had veto power in real estate deals on the island. No longer.

    Tarlos the tree exterminator has permitted the clear cutting of the park in Kossuth square, plans to cut 700 trees in Romai shore, and now will obtain the Central Park of Budapest, the Margit island.

    Imagine the real estate deals concocted in Fidesz circles and the number of trees to be felled to make room for those projects.

    The speed of the legislative action, as usual, left the opposition speechless.

  8. @ Max

    “…both leading political dailies are still connected to the Kreml.”

    You don’t say.
    Hmmm. And the two largest Russian banks have opened branches in Budapest just a little while ago…

    MOL is controlled by Gazprom..but the Hungarian government has stepped in to defend it against investigation by the Slovenians..

    What is going on here?

  9. An additional curiosity: the worst the Hungarian, international, political situation….the stronger the forint.
    What gives?
    It seems like some ‘power’ is interested in showing that fighting the EU and the West has economic benefits for Hungary…

  10. Breaching the European Union’s walls.
    Pure terror.
    Worst than 9 11.
    Twitter it.

    Let us follow the Balogh Eva twitter account?

    Eva S. Balogh (esbalogh) on Twitter‎
    The latest from Eva S. Balogh (@esbalogh). United States.

    Let us post a Balogh Eva youtube lecture?

  11. Eva, I hope you don’t mean to lump Africa with some dark alliance of anti-Western hatred.
    According to Gallup, “The image of U.S. leadership continued to be the strongest worldwide in Africa.” See

    If Orban is looking for anti-American countries, Africa is the last place to look. Their current initiative is geared toward the Middle East and the Maghreb, not Sub-Saharan Africa.

    I’m not saying that the status of democracy is great in Africa, but I hope you don’t throw around the word “Africa” as a vague insult.

  12. Wondercat :
    As a USA passport-holder: The criticism that in use of force of any sort — economic, military — one rule applies to the USA and another to other countries appears to me wholly justified. Quod licet Jovi non licet bovi, supporters of the USA’s politics may state. Indeed. But the cattle, looking up at Jove, may well consider themselves hard done by, and crave revenge.

    Wondercat :
    As a USA passport-holder: The criticism that in use of force of any sort — economic, military — one rule applies to the USA and another to other countries appears to me wholly justified. Quod licet Jovi non licet bovi, supporters of the USA’s politics may state. Indeed. But the cattle, looking up at Jove, may well consider themselves hard done by, and crave revenge.

    Ibrāhīm Lincoln’s free roaming Taliban fighters captured a woman in Wadiya.

    “Our honored, blessed and shiniest leader! She was seducing our horny brothers from Guantanamo with her bare elbows! She is carrying an evil US passport!”
    “Cat Wonder? Are you joking, evil feline person?”
    “She’s a spy …”
    “Most handsomest, brightest, beloved Overlord! I’m just carrying that thing. It’s easier to get through customs when I get back to the evil empire …”
    “Liar! Do her what Angelina Jolie did to herself and hang her! Wait! Don’t forget the rape thing …”
    “Wait! I have an other passport! It’s from Hungary!”
    “Hun … What?”
    “The land of The Beef Goulash. It’s in Europe. See? We are the good guys. We kill Jews …”
    “Cut her head off! Allah is great!”

  13. Anti-Americanism was always selling well in Hungary even before Orban. And add the stupid stereotypes about Americans that they piece together from cheesy, lame TV shows and movies. Hungarians traditionally saw themselves as underdogs. They had always a tendency to hate the “überdogs”.

    Orban is just pushing the buttons for votes, bringing out the worst of the average Joe.

    The MNO article really sounds like the Pravda in the 70s but it’s different. In the 70s the communist ideologues presented the comparison as a fight between the good and the evil. There was no hint of relativity in the articles. “Four legs good, two legs bad.” Period.

    What these articles say in todays Hungary is this: “Leave us alone. You are no better than us!” It just screams insecurity.

    Who knows, we may try it the wrong way. It should be like “Mr Orban! How much do you want for reversing the damage on the Hungarian democracy? 10 billion US OK? Plus one for you!” Deal! Vive La Republique!

  14. @Mutt; I understand your patriotism toward U.S. of A, but to see things in a different light, you might want to read Joseph E. Stiglitz “The price of inequality”

  15. kormos :
    @Mutt; I understand your patriotism toward U.S. of A, but to see things in a different light, you might want to read Joseph E. Stiglitz “The price of inequality”

    I will definitely add it to the this will make you a believer list … until my Kindle fills up.

    But I had the impression that in this discussion we are evil because of our foreign policy not because the rich screws to poor in America.

  16. @ kormos

    A little question for kormos and his ilk: If you went to 100 immigrants and ask them if they’re satisfied with the US…or, indeed, how they felt returning from their homeland, be it Italy or South Vietnam…how many positives do you think you’d get?
    How many people would tell you that, as they got off the plane in the US, they kissed the ground? I’d guess a lot, just from the documentaries that I’ve seen (Canadian/English/French).

    Now, try that same little gig with people returning to Russia, or China, or Hungary (?!!). I’d bet that less than 5 of a 100 would be pleased to return. (Presently, I can make that a big fat zero as far as Hungarians returning…)

    By golly, the US is far from perfect and their many objectionable aspects (my pet peeve is special interest lobbies in Washington)

    So, Mr. Kormos, in any comparison, our first departure point is this: the US is of the 21st century whereas present-day Hungary
    belongs to the 19th (at best).

  17. I forgot to add, re ‘special committees’….in the US they’re bi-partisan, not one-party flunkies like in Hungary or Russia.

  18. Regarding all these new ‘initiatives’ and moves eastward and to Africa….there’s no bi-lateral activity without embassies. Those are expensive. Orban will have to open a slew of them. But that’s just another means to siphon off money to friends, on the one hand; and hurry on the bankrupting of the country on the other.

  19. About Margit Is.

    Wasn’t there a story a couple of days ago that district 13 didn’t want the island…that it was too expensive too maintain? Or was that just a ‘plant’ of a story?

  20. Viktator parcelling out Margit Sziget:

    “Let me see…the Interior Ministry will get these plots over here; the Foreign Ministry will get a couple just for shutting up; I suppose I’ll have to give a smidgen of lakefront to Lazar and Rogan; and oh yes, a nice little 15 meter frontage for my boy Szijarto; who have we got left? Kover, Ader and the radio/newspaper boys…they’ll have to go over to the other island. I really can’t mix with the hoi polloi!”

  21. @kormos –

    Thanks for the great argument against the Orban administration. Stiglitz really is a great way to show that Hungary under Orban has become more American than America. I’m sure if you’re concerned with the issues that Stiglitz raises, you’ve probably already organized anti-flat tax rallies.

    Here’s what the NY Times says in its review of “The Price of Inequality:”

    “It is not uncontrollable technological and social change that has produced a two-tier society, Stiglitz argues, but the exercise of political power by moneyed interests over legislative and regulatory processes.”

    So, Stiglitz is saying about America what most people are saying about Fidesz: It is failing to represent all of Hungary in favor of their cronies. Using Stiglitz’s analysis, it’s easy to see how Hungary makes the US look good in comparison.

    But if you’re just trying to blow our minds away with the shocking idea that the USA is flawed, I think you have no idea who you are talking to. Being critical of the USA is one of the most important parts of American patriotism, in my view.

  22. Vitator again: “Ooops, Tarlos. Hmmm. I’ll put him beside the Palatinus…he can upkeep the grounds to augment his pension!”

  23. Tappach:

    no, they will not “sell”. Only the privatizing Socialists would do that, who, we know, sold out the country for peanuts.

    Fidesz likes to lease (note the legal difference) the area for long term, keeping nominal ownership in public hands! (Of course the leasing fee is usually paid in one installment at the start of the transaction, but hey, it is only a lease not a sales contract). No to privatisations!! No!!

    Then they build a new hotel (or stadium, pool) from state-owned Takarékbank or MFB loans (project value 3-10 Mrd HUF), because we need more thermal bath hotels (even if in the countryside they are all bankrupt, originally financed mostly from municipality guaranteed loans).

    But the project is always, always to build something, introduce a huge project from which Fidesz (Közgép and friends) can syphon off half the budget.

    And if the hotel is loss-making, it does not matter for the deal is never to own or manage the business, but only to build (that is the big budget and the easy transaction, management is complicated and risky).

    Fidesz did that in district XII (huge sports/pool project now operated by the municpality, heavily loss-making of course), they are doing it in Balatonfüred (where they used the above structure), they will do it via dr. Mitnyán (he did the district XII. project and will use the know how again) who is now using the Városmajor lands of BSE sports club for a similar project and dr. Papcsák with BVSC sports club lands in disctrict XIV. and so on. It is clear, and its a pattern. But who cares, right? I mean It’s only a bunch of lefties complaining, it doesn’t matter, they always complain, just can’t be satisfied.

  24. Here is the potential Achilles’ heel of the 4th amendment: President Ader signed it too late.

    Then Ader’s office claimed they had signed it in time, but has proof to the contrary.
    Ader now sued

    [Go back to March in this blog. In the comments I indicated that Ader signed it too late]

  25. Hungary is not moving away from the West because the West moved towards the East, a.k.a. the Muslim Nation, already about four decades ago. Many domestic and international policies of the EU are subject to agreements signed with the OIC (Organization if Islamic Cooperation) under the code name Euro-Arab Dialogue. That includes anti-Americanism, anti-Israelism and pro-Palestinianism.
    See Bat Ye’Or: “Europe, Globalization and the Coming Universal Caliphate” published in 2011. The author lays out chronologically the whole process of Islamization of Europe and what the UN has in store for the world under the Agenda 21.

  26. @Frog:
    Very interesting remarks, thanks!
    Maybe you also know something about the big spa complex (the name is myilus or something like that) in Körmend that we pass on our way to Austria and back ?

    It has been closed for two years now – nothing moves there.


    Lovely example of a “constipation theory” – I really had to laugh at this!

  27. Wolfi: Huge spas and pools simply cannot be operated profitably. There is none among all the projects of the last ten years which is profitable.

    All these projects make loss and will have to be closed sooner of later or paid for by taxpayers.

    It is simply too much money to keep the water and the air warm enough, renovate everything every year due to depreciation (given the moist air), clean the water and nobody goes to pools and spas on a weekday etc.

    End of story.

    These projects exist solely to build stuff. Same with the Museum Projekt in the Városliget, to name just one.

    It does not matter what we need, they have to build. And then if you have a concrete monster somewhere, well, we better spend on that, otherwise it’s ugly. (We talked about the National Theatre, Palace of Music which were dreamed up by construction oligarch Demján who is professional is concrete structures and luckily had the land plots).

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