Viktor Orbán the defiant

It was expected that Viktor Orbán would not change course and would continue his “war of independence” against the “incompetent bureaucrats in Brussels,” but the vehemence of his attacks surprised many. It was bad enough that he got his most trusted men to propose an anti-EU resolution, but at least he himself didn’t say much after he left Brussels. He let others do the talking. When he finally spoke, however, he only added fuel to the fire.

The Hungarian Parliament’s resolution was met with outrage, at least in certain circles in Brussels. Hannes Swoboda, president of the Socialists and Democrats Group in the European Parliament, announced that “the text the Fidesz majority in the Hungarian Parliament adopted today is an insult to the European Parliament. It proves yet again that Mr. Orbán does not understand the values – or the role of the institutions – of the European Union.” He added that the socialists “are expecting a statement from the leadership of the EPP Group, clarifying whether they accept that a member of their political family dismisses the role and adopted reports of the European Parliament.”

I wonder what Mr. Swoboda will think when he reads that Orbán, in his regular Friday morning talk with one of the reporters of the Hungarian public radio station, called the European Parliament a “worthless (hitvány) institution.” Or that he accused members of the European Parliament of being agents of multinational financiers. Or that he called them incompetent bureaucrats who cannot solve the problems of the European Union and stomp on the only country that found its way out of the crisis while other members are re-entering the crisis zone. I have the feeling that he will not be pleased.

The key message that Orbán is trying to hammer home at the moment is that the Tavares report is not really about Hungary. It is an attempt by the bureaucrats in Brussels to transform the European Union into an entity different from the one that Hungary joined in 2004. “This is a new phenomenon … that changes the very foundations of the fundamental laws of the Union.”

Taking this contention to its logical (admittedly, never a strong suit of the prime minister) conclusion and assuming that the suggestions of the Tavares report are accepted and a standing monitoring committee is created, we might see Hungary leave the European Union. After all, the Union broke its contract with Hungary and thus Hungary is free to go its own way.  In fact, Attila Mesterházy in his speech to Parliament yesterday asked the prime minister whether his insistence on a written condemnation of the Tavares report was a first move on the road to secession.

Another focal point of Orbán’s talk yesterday was the object of the European Parliament’s criticism. He must not allow his followers to be persuaded that the Tavares report is an indictment of his own government and has nothing to do with the Hungarian people. So, he spent considerable time and effort trying to prove that the real target is the nation itself. In trying to build his case he didn’t rehash the old argument that the two-thirds majority in parliament represents the true will of the Hungarian people. Instead he adopted a new tactic. He claimed that “one million people put into writing their desire to have this constitution.” I assume he means the phony questionnaires he sent out to eight million voters, out of which one million were returned. If you would like to have a good laugh over what Orbán thinks is an endorsement of the constitution, take a look at my discussion of the first and second questionnaires. I should note here that the second questionnaire was sent out two weeks before parliament voted on the new constitution. It is perhaps worth mentioning that, according to Orbán, “the Hungarian people didn’t authorize him to adopt a liberal leaning constitution.” On what basis did he make this claim? There was one question among the many in one of the questionnaires pertaining to the rights and duties of citizens. Normally constitutions concern themselves with rights and not duties. But not the new Hungarian constitution. He recalled that 80% of the people who returned the questionnaires said yes to this particular question. Truly pitiful.

Viktor Orbán's image of Hungary's oppression by the European Union

Viktor Orbán’s image of Hungary’s oppression by the European Union

The comparison of Brussels and Moscow is obviously a favorite of the Fidesz crew, and therefore it was not surprising that the topic came up again. Since Orbán is on slippery ground here, I will  quote from this part of his talk to give you a sense of his message. “Brussels is not Moscow and therefore it has no right to meddle in the lives of the member states. Hungary is a free country. We don’t want to live in a European Empire whose center is Brussels. From where they tell us how to live on the periphery or in the provinces. We want to have a community of free nations.  There is no need for such a center because it would limit the freedom of the member states.” In brief, Brussels is not Moscow yet, but if the Tavares recommendations are adopted, it will be nearly as bad. But Hungary will not be part of an empire. Orbán further emphasized the comparison between Moscow and Brussels when he called the Soviet Union “the Soviet Empire” and added that “since the collapse of the Soviet Empire no one has had the temerity to limit the independence of Hungarians.”

Finally, he promised the Hungarian nation a policy of resistance. The government will not watch helplessly as the European Union takes away the freedom of Hungarians. “Either we allow them to pull our country out from under our feet and pocket our money or we defend our own interests. This is the question, choose!” This last sentence is a paraphrase of two lines in the famous poem, National Song (Nemzeti dal) by Sándor Petőfi (1823-1849) in which the poet asks: “Shall we be slaves? Shall we be free? / This is the question. Choose!” (Rabok legyünk, vagy szabadok? / Ez a kérdés, válasszatok!) Keep in mind that this is the poem that heralded the 1848 revolution. Orbán means business. I hope the European Union does too.

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64 comments

  1. spectator :
    Did anyone considered – Orbán supporters and EU haters in particular – that in case of leaving the EU Hungary would once more raise boundaries between mainland Hungary and the rest of the nation residing in the surrounding countries?
    Queuing for visa just to go to see friends in Slovakia or relatives in Transylvania could be a long sought after experience among the Fidesz supporters, obviously…

    If it’s only about visiting relatives, it would depend upon Hungary leaving the Schengen space or not. If Hungary leaves Schengen, then yes even with a visa exemption it would mean changes; otherwise none, practically. The weirdest situation would be Hungary leaving both the EU and Schengen, and Romania joining Schengen. :))

    That’s one thing about eurosceptics: they are very keen on agitating the B. word (B for Brussels), but only a handful have a comprehensive alternate proposition.

  2. Peter Hoppal, FIDESZ spokesman said this today:

    “The FIDESZ is extremely sorry, that the left is attacking the 5000 small buseniss owners,
    who will make their living from running tobacco shops. The left is spreading lies about
    the execution of an open and lawful tender. The filthy charges of corruption by the left
    were crushed when in the beginning of June the Chief Prosecutors Office [Peter Polt]
    rejected their petition.”

    This is something like this:


    “Congressman. You stole my candy.”
    “There is no candy.”
    “But congressman, I see it sticking out of you back pocket …”
    “Bajnai Gordon.”
    “What???”
    “Bajnai Gordon.”

    (c) 444.hu

  3. London Calling!

    I love the surreal, Mutt!!

    How many surrealists does it take to screw in a light bulb?

    Deck chair!

    Regards

    Charlie

  4. Charlie, Mutt, LwiiH: Orbán and the US survaillance (police) state as a hot topic are very much related. I think one makes a fundamental mistake if one misses the connections.

    The West (whether the EU or the US or individual states) can only influence states like Hungary if the West acted in line with what they preach about democracy and the rule of law. Or about human rights.

    Since they themselves don’t do so and in fact they clearly do the opposite (which is not a current development, remember the Cold War, when the US or France or UK supported crazy dictators all over the world in the name oof fightin the the even worse evil, communism) any criticism coming from supposedly authoritative countries or international organisations will be naturally discounted.

    And in fact this is what happens on the Hungarian right within Fidesz or Jobbik (or among my personal relatives supporting Fidesz, they hatred towards the US or the EU were made so much more easier by these double standards, these developments will not change them, but they got new ammunition to base their hatred on).

    You can’t be critical about the laws allowing the wholsale wiretapping of the phones of the state employees in Hungary and at the same time carry out a more comprehensive indiscriminate system of survaillance.

    Of course in the name of preventing terroism, but if we wiretap the EU Commission’s own (or Brazil’s entire) commuincations, well, then its useful too. It seems to me that the goals are pretty flexible.

    You cannot criticize the gerrymendeared, restrictive Hungarian election law and the packed Hungarian Constitutional Court, and the abuse of the Fidesz 2/3s in Hungary when you have a vast, secret body of constitutional law.

    Non-public laws and decrees were the par-excellance features of the dictatorship under communism. In extreme cases you got taken away to the Gulag (err Guantanamo or to a Supermax) because your actions were contrary to a secret piece of “legislation”. (Ok it’s still not legislation in the US, but the ambit of the secret decisons of the FISA courts increased vastly, just as once expects with such organisations, you start with a small jurisdiction and then its will get much-much bigger, no suprise here). Even in Hungary there were such secret decrees applying to you (us) still in the 1980’s.

    I am suprized how educated people do not see the potential (and actuality) of abuse in what is happening. I am pretty sure Kim Lane Scheppele and her colleagues do (although not the supposedly liberal journalists who in pretty spooky fashion went against Greenwald and Snowdn).

    I was educated after 1990 and I can tell you the revelations and more so the actual reactions of the politicians involved (or your reactions) go absolutely contrary to the values taught by the schools. But you almost suggest that I should give up these values and accept that life has changed.

    Orbán and his cohort just got fantastic new arguments. After 1990 until 9/11 it seemed for a short period that the West was acting in line with its proffered ideals. Then came Guantanamo, the Patriot Act, the survaillance state and now its clear again that the West is not superior in any legal or moral sense and has minimal standing to criticize Orbán’s quasi-dictatorship.

    It’s bad for Hungarians living in Hungary (us), but again this is only history repeating itself. Only Hungarians in Hungary can change Hungarian politics.

    In fact, I posit that in a technologically relatively backward country like Hungary, which also has an inefficient state adminsitration, the level of survaillance and the level of Western-type quasi “police state-ness” cannot ever be so complete as it is in the West.

  5. London Calling!

    Remy

    I accept that there is a certain ‘pragmatism’ here – things have necessarily changed in a terrorist world where suicide bombers will bomb anything in sight for their 72 virgins – and double pairs of underwear.

    ‘Due process’ is no longer sufficient on its own.

    In England everything is done under parliament’s watch – Mutt’s phrase: ‘oversight is the key’ – in a responsible democracy.

    There have been a few cases of overstepping the mark – but in essence it is all legal.

    And that is why the constitution is so integral – to protect the individual.

    If your constitution is iffy – then its protection is iffy too.

    I am not one for USA bashing – we are lucky that they are as benign as they are.

    Would I trust Hungary’s constitution to protect the individual? Not yet.

    Would I trust Hungary’s government to use surveillance responsibly to protect the individual? No.

    (USA ? Yes, probably. UK? Yes.)

    Regards

    Charlie

  6. and btw nothing is new under the sun!

    ‘Ultra’ was the name Churchill gave to the decrypts of most of Hitler’s sig int. from the code breakers in Bletchley Park.

    He shared it with the USA – but not with Stalin.

    Unfortunately he had a spy in Bletchley – John Cairncross- so he got a lot anyway.

    But it’s all down to trusted democracies.

    And oversight.

    Regards

    Charlie

  7. @Remy: Of course, the West’s failings to adhere to its democratic standards give powerful ammunition to regimes like Orban’s to justify while they trump on democratic values. But to equate the two “deficiencies” is very misleading, and only plays into the hands of the likes of Orban.

    In the case of the US, we are talking about surveillance done by the foreign intelligence services, with aiming at terrorism-related cases. I agree, it is very alarming that by trying to save the country from terrorists, millions of Americans data routinely get spied on, and it is similarly alarming that any suspicion of terrorism seem to overwrite civil rights of citizens. I do find this outrageous and I do think that the citizens are right to protest and demand explanations and democratic oversight.

    Such practices are alarming because they open up the door to political abuse of the powers of the state (as the government has such a wide-ranging ability to spy on its citizens, what is the guarantee it is not going to use for its own political purposes and not for the common good, as it claims?). But that is not what’s happening right now and that is not the intention of the government either…. However, it does open the door to such abuse, and that is very disconcerting.

    In Hungary, however, if you look beyond the rhetoric, laws and regulations have been systematically changed to grant the state more power with the intention of using it for political purposes (to stump out the opposition and dissent). Quite a different animal.

  8. Rémy :
    Charlie, Mutt, LwiiH: Orbán and the US survaillance (police) state as a hot topic are very much related. I think one makes a fundamental mistake if one misses the connections.
    The West (whether the EU or the US or individual states) can only influence states like Hungary if the West acted in line with what they preach about democracy and the rule of law. Or about human rights.
    Since they themselves don’t do so and in fact they clearly do the opposite (which is not a current development, remember the Cold War, when the US or France or UK supported crazy dictators all over the world in the name oof fightin the the even worse evil, communism) any criticism coming from supposedly authoritative countries or international organisations will be naturally discounted.
    And in fact this is what happens on the Hungarian right within Fidesz or Jobbik (or among my personal relatives supporting Fidesz, they hatred towards the US or the EU were made so much more easier by these double standards, these developments will not change them, but they got new ammunition to base their hatred on).
    You can’t be critical about the laws allowing the wholsale wiretapping of the phones of the state employees in Hungary and at the same time carry out a more comprehensive indiscriminate system of survaillance.
    Of course in the name of preventing terroism, but if we wiretap the EU Commission’s own (or Brazil’s entire) commuincations, well, then its useful too. It seems to me that the goals are pretty flexible.
    You cannot criticize the gerrymendeared, restrictive Hungarian election law and the packed Hungarian Constitutional Court, and the abuse of the Fidesz 2/3s in Hungary when you have a vast, secret body of constitutional law.
    Non-public laws and decrees were the par-excellance features of the dictatorship under communism. In extreme cases you got taken away to the Gulag (err Guantanamo or to a Supermax) because your actions were contrary to a secret piece of “legislation”. (Ok it’s still not legislation in the US, but the ambit of the secret decisons of the FISA courts increased vastly, just as once expects with such organisations, you start with a small jurisdiction and then its will get much-much bigger, no suprise here). Even in Hungary there were such secret decrees applying to you (us) still in the 1980′s.
    I am suprized how educated people do not see the potential (and actuality) of abuse in what is happening. I am pretty sure Kim Lane Scheppele and her colleagues do (although not the supposedly liberal journalists who in pretty spooky fashion went against Greenwald and Snowdn).
    I was educated after 1990 and I can tell you the revelations and more so the actual reactions of the politicians involved (or your reactions) go absolutely contrary to the values taught by the schools. But you almost suggest that I should give up these values and accept that life has changed.
    Orbán and his cohort just got fantastic new arguments. After 1990 until 9/11 it seemed for a short period that the West was acting in line with its proffered ideals. Then came Guantanamo, the Patriot Act, the survaillance state and now its clear again that the West is not superior in any legal or moral sense and has minimal standing to criticize Orbán’s quasi-dictatorship.
    It’s bad for Hungarians living in Hungary (us), but again this is only history repeating itself. Only Hungarians in Hungary can change Hungarian politics.
    In fact, I posit that in a technologically relatively backward country like Hungary, which also has an inefficient state adminsitration, the level of survaillance and the level of Western-type quasi “police state-ness” cannot ever be so complete as it is in the West.

    ‘Pink-world’ dreamers really get to me. Obviously they haven’t seen films like “The Day After”
    or they’d reorder their priorities: to date, terrorism has been conventional, but it’s only a matter
    of time that a suitcase bomb, or some such device, is exploded in Paris, or London, or Los Angeles with death and injuries in the millions. THEN, the outcry and wailing will be un-ending: “Why were we not protected? Why weren’t Islamic terrorists stopped in time?

    So, people better start understanding now that there is a trade-off between security and one’s accomodation to some invasion of privacy. Personally, I’d agree with widespread spying by a country that has a history of respect for Democracy. There’s a qualitative difference if the US is conducting such spying, or Russia…

  9. @Marcel De — Thanks for the elucidation. I understand things better when presented with linear exposition than when presented with allusion.

    I am not an anarchist. I believe that government has a useful and valid role in… well, border control and enforcement of contract… and that the extent to which government is to be entrusted with other functions is matter for discussion and negotiation — “the consent of the governed”.

    When the ground shifts — when the governed realise, or come to believe, that more has been removed from their spheres of capacity and agency than that which they agreed, or believe they agreed, to give away — discussion must be opened, and re-negotiation begun. That is not anarchism. That is libertarianism.

  10. @Rémy

    Neither the US, France nor the UK and the dictatorships they were backing were equal partners within the frame of an union of states similar to the EU. And the citizens of their respective countries were never considered as equals.

    Today, a Hungarian citizen enjoys the same rights as a French or British citizen, whether he is in Hungary, France or the UK. Comparing the EU with either colonialism or Cold War geopolitics is sophism.

    @Wondercat

    All right then. Naturally, the scope of what we cannot “do as we like” is a matter of continuous debate. However does it not strike you as odd that Fidesz wants to limit the power of EU institutions… while at the same time trampling upon separation of powers at the national level?

    Now, I agree with what you write about the contract being changed. Ms Redding in Strasbourg drew a parallel with the Stability mechanism. We have tools for evaluating the democratic commitment of candidate states… but almost none for those who are **already** in the EU. This is a huge design flaw which, in my opinion, has to be corrected.

    And it’s not only about present-day Hungary. It’s about preventing populists all over Europe from having their cake and eat it too.

  11. Marcel, what I ment is that after nearly ninety years the first time that most of the people living in those detached territories was able to move freely at will, happened after Hungary joined the EU.
    Jeopardising that because of an inflated ego got sized down to measure is not an issue I would expect that the – well..- “patriotic” side will take lightly.
    Obviously I was wrong, the most important thing is the maniac “freedom fight”, cost what it may.
    Congratulations, Viktor..!

  12. You must read this. HirTV’s very stupid reporter accosted Rui Tavares and asked him how it is possible that he is worried about the Hungarian constitution when according to the constitution of the Netherlands only people of “Dutch nationality” can work. Of course, Tavares is not familiar with the Dutch constitution so he sent the very aggressive reporter to the European Court of Justice if he has any problem with the Dutch constitution.

    It turned out that the fellow’s English leaves something to be desired. The constitution says that „The right of every Dutch national to a free choice of work shall be recognised”. “National” as a noun means ” a citizen or subject of a particular nation who is entitled to its protection” and not nationality. I highly recommend to watch the actual video of HírTV. So, not only people of Dutch descent can work. The Frisians too.

    Here you find the whole shameful affair. In addition you can see what he does with a liberal Romanian MEP whom he accuses of helping Tavares.

    http://hvg.hu/velemeny.nyuzsog/20130707_Hir_TV_Hollandiaban_verik_a_nemeteket#utm_source=hirkereso&utm_medium=listing&utm_campaign=hirkereso_2013_7_7

  13. Karl Pfeifer :

    spectator :
    @Karl Pfeifer
    I agree with you, of course, but I guess, turning their back on those potential voters – not to mention the other one million plus Hungarians – would be quite an achievement even from Orbán.
    Look forward to hear an explanation which will prove, that this is all happened, because of Gyurcsány and the multinational financial interest-groups…

    I just don’t believe that Orbán cares a lot about what Hungarians think. He and his ilk (Martonyi, see my posting Nr.9) will propagate the world conspiracy against Hungary theory and hope to get away with their mafia activities. The Fideszbelievers will swallow the modern version of Georg Feder, the alleged confrontation between productive national capital and the parasitic speculation capital.
    Those believing in Orbán do not care for reality or logic.

    Indeed!
    That’s why I thought that it worth mentioning, maybe the grown-ups got some sense, after all, as opposed to this sullen adolescence, displayed by Orbán .
    Think about it: just how gracious would be riding into town over there our precious deputy PM, when there is customs and pass control involved…?

  14. Rémy :
    Charlie, Mutt, LwiiH: Orbán and the US survaillance (police) state as a hot topic are very much related. I think one makes a fundamental mistake if one misses the connections.

    The thing is, in a functional democracy there are checks and balances that work to ensure that laws are being followed and the data is being used for it’s intended purpose. These checks also work to ensure that the treatment of the data is free of political interference. Secondly, as Snowdon has pointed out to all, the current systems seem to have become unbalanced thanks to Bush and that balance has not been re-centered thank you Obama. However, there is now a broader awareness, debate and I believe this is the path better balance.

    In a functional democracy you have a police force that investigates free of political interference (again as much as that can happen). For example, the FBI is just as happy to put a corrupt Republican in jail as they are to put a corrupt Democrat into jail. In Canada the RCMP are investigating Conservative (the current ruling party) senators for expense reporting (corruption or abuse of public funds/trust). As much as the Prime Minister would love for this one to go away it involves his office and there is *nothing* he can do to call off the dogs.

    So, it’s not like any of these systems are non-arbitrary and perfect, completely free of corruption and wrong doings. However, there are institutions that are given a mandiate and then work to apply that mandiate in a non-partisan way. These instituions work to provide checks. Other branches of government help provide balance.

    All in all it’s all this other stuff that makes it very hard to legislate because it means you have to engage in something ideologically right wing conservatives seem to not like to engage in and that is negotiations. Negotiations are messy, they take time, you have to give up on some of your ideas (which is very difficult if you’re ideologically driven) to get what you really want. You can’t pass 100s and 100s of laws in a very short period of time nor can you rewrite a constitution over the weekend. You can’t because in order to do so you have to forgo negotiations and that implies your will over the majority which history has shown never leads to good governance. This is one reason why (as Eva has pointed out) these big changes often fail.

    Yet this is what Fidesz is proud of, see, we got all of this stuff done, aren’t we great. Well, good for them, they got a lot of stuff done but they did this at the expense of inclusiveness. They did this by destroying what little checks and balances there were in the system. There is also little if any institutional checks on what they can do and certainly anyone “foolish” enough to try to check is at peril.

    If you try to cherry pick points as OV and crowd have been doing, yes you can find examples of *everything* in Hungary else where. If you draw back and look at the big picture, name another country where you can find all of this in one package.

    @Charile, can you really trust GCHQ over NSA?
    @Remi, you are taking Guantanamo out of context, the Partriot Act is slowly being undone and the surveillance state will be re-balance. This things take time to re-balance in a functional democracy.

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