Charles Gati: Hungary before the election–Interview

An Interview with Charles Gati of the Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS).

[The interview, published in the January 2, 2014 issue of the weekly 168 Óra (168 Hours) and conducted by József Barát, was translated by Professor Gati for Hungarian Spectrum.]

József Baráth: Hungary is doing better. This is what we hear every day from Fidesz politicians. Some of them even demand better classification from global rating agencies and the resignation of the European Union’s finance commissioner. Looking at it from the United States: How’s Hungary doing these days?

Charles Gati: The Hungarian economy is at a standstill. It suffers from policies of re-centralization and re-nationalization. The global credit agencies issue their ratings on the basis of available numbers. Some presumably make mistakes – after all, human beings always do – but together they reflect a factual condition: that Hungary has come to occupy the last place among the Visegrad Four. The situation could change for the better only if the government no longer stood in the way of Western investments, recognized the advantages of European integration, and prepared the country for the introduction of the euro.

JB: The Hungarian government is no longer criticized so frequently in the United States as in the past. Does this mean that American officials and observers see positive changes? Or is it only that Washington has lost interest, perhaps accepting the view that Hungary belongs to that part of Europe where the values of democracy and the rule of law don’t matter so much and therefore outsiders can’t make a difference?

CG: As far as I know officials don’t see such “positive changes,” and no one has written off Hungary’s democratic potential. Yet, for now, they don’t expect to convince the current Hungarian government any more than they could convince the current government of Ukraine of the values and advantages of Western-style democracy. Given the ingrained optimism of Washington officials, you won’t hear them state it like this but their deeds reflect considerable skepticism. Far more important, however, is Washington’s preoccupation with the agonizing problems of the Middle East.

JB: Tamás Fellegi, a former member of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s cabinet, is conducting a public relations campaign in Washington to improve Hungary’s image in the United States. He’s reaching out to Hungarian-Americans. Does he have a chance to influence American public opinion?

CG: I’m aware of the campaign run by Mr. Fellegi, but I’m not familiar with the specifics of  his outreach to Hungarian-Americans. I do know that several Washington think-tanks  received contributions from his so-called “Hungarian Initiative Foundation,” which is supported by a $15 million grant from Hungarian taxpayers. In exchange, I presume, Fellegi himself and various pro-Fidesz speakers have been invited to lecture or participate in panel discussions at various forums. I attended one such lecture by György Schöpflin, a Fidesz-member of the European parliament, that was quite successful. Of the twenty or so invited guests, about half were officials of the Hungarian Embassy in Washington. As for substance, these speakers often advance the same view as the one Fidesz promotes: that it’s [the far-right] Jobbik rather than the [right-wing] Fidesz government that opposes Hungarian democracy. They say or suggest that Fidesz, by defending national values against Western “colonialism,” weakens Jobbik’s base, and therefore the West should support rather than criticize Orbán’s Fidesz-led government. This is what one hears from Fellegi, Schöpflin, as well as from Katrina Lantos Swett (daughter of the late Tom Lantos who heads the Lantos Foundation in the US and the Lantos Institute in Budapest, and who sees his father’s legacy differently from me and for that matter from what I think his father’s view would be).  By focusing on Jobbik,  Anne Applebaum, a respected American journalist,  promotes this interpretation, too. To answer your question directly, then, I don’t believe this campaign by officials and fellow-travelers of the Orbán government falls on fertile soil here.

JB: Many are surprised that there isn’t greater resistance in Hungary to the government restricting the rule of law, curtailing the system of checks and balances, and even proceeding with the expansion of funding its clients from the state budget. How do you assess this tendency?

CG: Applebaum’s recent book, Iron Curtain, offers an account of the strategy employed after World War II by Hungarian [and other East-Central European] Communists and their Soviet advisers, a strategy aimed at the immediate capture of the press which at that time meant the Radio, above all. Leaders of Fidesz have learned from Lenin; after gaining power in 2010, they conquered key positions in the press, notably television and radio, so much so that lots of Hungarians didn’t and still don’t realize what’s going on around them. So while internet helps somewhat and there are still independent papers, freedom of the press no longer exists. Those who need information most – people in the countryside who hear and watch one-sided news accounts and one-sided opinions on government-controlled stations – don’t seem to take advantage of what’s available on the internet. Moreover, businessmen as a group appear to be afraid of supporting independent or opposition voices. All in all, the attack against [Western-style pluralist] democracy in 2010 was both sudden and devastating, and much of the public have yet to wake up to the new political environment.

JB: Viktor Orbán claims that European politics should be renewed on the basis of his prescriptions. Could he find followers in Europe? Is the process of European integration endangered by Hungarian government policies?

CG: He has no followers in Europe for now. The British, Lithuanian, and Polish governments — the latter primarily because of domestic circumstances — are somewhat “understanding” of Viktor Orbán, but on a variety of issues they don’t agree with him. As for integration, it isn’t in danger of being reversed. Some countries try to slow down the ongoing processes, partly to protect their sovereign existence, partly to protect their power, but the deepening if not the widening of European integration continues unabated.

JB: There will be election this year in Hungary. Do you think the divided opposition has a chance of winning?

CG: I gave 168 Óra an interview exactly two years ago. Looking back, I note with pleasure that the right-wing press chose one sentence from that interview and attacked me for it thousands of times since. In a long and hysterical editorial,  the government daily Magyar Nemzet went so far as to curse me and members of my family as well. I note this with pleasure because not only friends but people of common sense have responded to these attacks by sending me encouraging emails. The sentence in question was this: “I agree with Palmer [the late US Ambassador to Hungary Mark Palmer who served there from 1986 to 1990]: there are possibilities for the removal of this government by democratic means if possible, by other means if that’s not possible.” The meaning of the sentence is clear: If the government stands in the way of free election, the people have the right to protect their democratic rights, restore the well-tested system of checks and balances, as well as freedom of the press and religion. Two years later I can only repeat what I said in 2012.  But, with a view toward the approaching election, I can add that while the new electoral law that the Fidesz super-majority in parliament passed strongly favors Fidesz, I still hope the election will be free. I can’t tell how the opposition will do, but I note that the number of undecided voters is very high indeed.

JB: We keep hearing that Gordon Bajnai has influential American supporters — though, truth be told, we hear this primarily from Fidesz propagandists. Are there significant American interest groups that are prepared to help one or another side in Hungarian politics?

CG: Such “significant interest groups” exist only in minds suffering both from delusions of grandeur and a persecution complex. There are no conspiracies against Hungary if for no other reason but because America is otherwise preoccupied. The government press has claimed, for example, that I work with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on trying to overthrow the legitimate Hungarian government. Too bad I’ve never even met Mrs. Clinton. Never. As for Gordon Bajnai, he has made a very good impression during his visits to Washington and New York. Over the years I heard three or four of his lectures about European integration. I also know that he had a chance to meet with high officials and respected analysts. I can say the same about Attila Mesterházy’s valuable lectures and conversations as he also visits the US quite regularly. It’s too bad the Hungarian Press Agency and most of the Hungarian press seldom or perhaps never report on Bajnai’s and Mesterházy’s successful encounters in America.

JB: Could Fidesz win again with a two-third majority?

CG: It received 53 percent of the vote in 2010, which resulted in a two-third super-majority in parliament. I expect a tough match this year.

JB: According to some interpretations of the new electoral law, even 30 percent popular support might translate into a two-third parliamentary majority — if the opposition is divided.

CG: This is a possibility, but months before the [Spring 2014] election such pessimism is unwarranted. Don’t forget that I’ve lived in America for 57 years…

JB: What do you expect to happen if Fidesz wins? What’s more likely: will Orbán pursue policies of consolidation, or strengthen his one-man rule?

CG: Fidesz is Viktor Orbán’s party. Some of his colleagues may be grumpy, especially those who expected higher positions or greater influence, but there’s no principled opposition to him. His one-man rule could be influenced by economic trends and by the European Union.

JB: There are those who believe that it could take generations before Hungary returns to European values. Do you agree with them?

Gati-168

CG: I couldn’t disagree more. Permit me to mention only one example from Hungarian history. Who would have thought around, say, 1860 that a Ferenc Deák would soon emerge with the idea that a grand compromise [with Austria] had to be the nation’s primary goal and that the necessary political capital for such a goal was within reach? What followed at the turn of the 19th-20th century was the construction of Budapest’s most lasting, most beautiful buildings and boulevards. And what an extraordinary cultural boom took place at the same time! Deák also understood that the economy needed the talents of Jewish and German-speaking citizens, and he recognized their rights. It’s often said that he was “the nation’s wise man.” He was. And he held up the example of Hungary for all of Europe!

Deák’s wisdom is missing from Hungarian politics today. This is so because the emphasis all too often is on “heroism,” not on prudence. But heroism in 21st century Europe is old hat, an outworn value, since there’s no immediate enemy.  Hungary has never enjoyed such a favorable international environment.

JB: There are critics.

CG: There are critics, of course. Their criticism shouldn’t be met with vindictive, ad hominem attacks, but with serious adjustments in the realms of both domestic and foreign policies. That’s when Hungary’s image would begin to improve.  In this connection, let me recall the memory of Nelson Mandela. Once a most radical, uncompromising  leader, Mandela emerged from 27 years in jail promoting tolerance. He sought coexistence between whites and blacks. Let’s also remember than the political prisoner and his jailer received — together — the Nobel Peace Prize. Hungary will do well when wise leaders appear on the political scene who will not only respect their opponents but are able to lift the country from its last place to Europe’s premier class — even if it means that they must shelve their own political past, even if it means painful compromises.

 

 

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31 comments

  1. That’s a really uplifting piece – I hope Mr Gati is right!

    And thank you, Eva, for publishing this here!

  2. We were discussing the policies of the war-time Hungarian governments, partly based on the protocols they kept.

    The Orban governments have learned from this. They do not write protocols. Their main decisions are made at friendly talks.

    Future prosecutors and historians will have difficulty proving their guilt, but I hope it will be done, for the sake of Hungary.

  3. @ “…friendly talks.”

    And what could possibly have been friendlier than than the duck-quacker’s (Szijarto’s), and boss-Orban’s talks with the Azeris?

  4. Deak – Deak – Deak
    The most sympathetic remark of the Gati interview described the unique contribution of Deak to the rebuilding of the nation.
    Nothing will ever match the achievements of this great man.

  5. tappanch: It is a kind of evolution, you react to experience. Fidesz and the Fidesz-government do not leave paper trail: they are smart *lawyers* and know how to prevent conviction or even the appearance of suspicion of crime. Simicska and others only meet with a trusted group of people (aka consigliere) and never use a cell phone, let alone internet. They will enjoy the spoils forever without the slightest legal complications. Not that an imagined leftist government would have even the determination let alone the ability to bring these people to court, e.g. prosecution will still be headed by the über-loyal Mr. Polt who firmly installed his trusted people to lower positions. Fidesz’ cabal of lawyers know exactly how to behave, how and when to avoid paperwork, but when to create it (aka lepapirozni), non-lawyers live in a dreamland, they do not have the slightest idea how these things work.

    Interesting interview, but what is the bottom line? The US Gov. does not really care because middle East is more important, not to mention the new Asia pivot or whatever it is, and many US intellectuals were sold the main Fidesznik idea that – for the West, mind you, not for Hungarians – Fidesz is the better choice ‘cos otherwise Jobbik would come. These people will even be vindicated by Jobbik’s very strong showing in 2014 (maybe 25% or more of the votes cast). So even the US intellectuals are divided, but mostly they do not really care, which circumstances allow the perfect working environment for Fidesz. .

    I like also that the media situation is understood by Prof. Gati. I am sure Ms. Applebaum, Ms. Lantos and others really believe that there surely must exist a freedom of press in Hungary because ES with 8,000 printed copies exists and it could not have happened under Kadar.

    I am also sure, although this can never be proven, that Jobbik will win a lot of votes just because it is very firm and stable party. The party has been there, ideology remained the same, the party developed in an orderly fashion (of course Csanad Szegedi left Jobbik, but hey, he was a Jew, so was a good riddance). That fact that Jobbik is ‘reliable’ (no flip-flopping) means a lot in the long-term. With the Hungarian left you just do not know what will happen tomorrow, they agree, then they change their minds and renegotiate. The divide up and then they unite and so on. People instinctively like stability and do not like constant experimentation. My current prediction is that Fidesz and Jobbik together will receive about 55% of the votes cast for party lists, 37% and 27% (perhaps more), respectively.

  6. OT, Hungarian media.

    Nothing shows better the powerlessness of the Hungarian Left than TV2’s strong reply to MSZP/Együtt (see link below).

    TV2, Hungary’s second most popular commercial tv station was to everybody’s surprise purchased recently by the natural persons, by the Fidesz-related CEO (e.g. his wife was a campaign activist for Fidesz among others) and the company’s CFO, who in turn also happens to be the wife of the Budapest office leader of a well-connected US-based law firm.

    Given that the estimated price of the tv channel is probably way above the pay grade of these two people, it is a natural conclusion that they are simply so-called stróman or in other words they are fronting for the real purchasers, who, for whatever reasons (probably both legal and political) did not want to reveal their real identity at this point. Since TV2 (which has been heavily loss-making for years and perhaps can be salvaged only through channeling state media purchases, which is the MO of choice for Fidesz with respect to its media empire) was not purchased by anybody on the left, it is obvious that it was purchased by someone on the right (and interestingly TV2 has been even more Fidesz biased than the state tv channels, in over 80% of the cases letting only a Fidesz representative to talk). Trusted Fideszniks are known to have approached TV2’s parent company several times in the past with their intention to purchase TV2.

    Anyway, smart observers of Hungary has long known that no private media business ever dared to strongly criticize Fidesz, even when Fidesz was in opposition. (And whoever heard any Hungarian energy company to openly complain for that matter?). Everybody learned that Fidesz always dispenses retribution and finds a way to inflict pain, not only on the companies, but on the problematic people too. (Fidesz also likes to extract serious money from companies depending on state licenses and bottle-neck situations, through various ways, but that is another matter). The Left is generous by nature, so they are ignored.

    Now, MSZP/Együtt called attention to this very strange method of acquiring TV2, likely by Fideszniks (who, for any investment bankers are the very first choice when advising on the selling of any media business in Hungary). TV2 issued a strongly worded reply.

    http://www.origo.hu/itthon/20140106-a-tv2-visszavagott-baloldalnak.html?sec-2

    Nobody would ever dare to talk to Fidesz in that way. But the left is everybody’s punching bag and since it obviously cannot possibly inflict any pain (as it has zero influence over any important power domain but would not even do so anyway, it is not in its nature) so there you go.

  7. THis is good.

    Fidesz vice chairman Kosa is asked about an embarassing decision he made
    (shutting down mother’s milk collection in Debrecen)

    His answer to the journalist:

    ” only ask me questions I am able to give positive answers to”

    At 1:55
    http://indavideo.hu/video/Kosat_megkerdeztek

    Fidesz arrogance knows no limits!

  8. In 2013, Hungary gave away 430 European green cards for 15,000 euros a piece.

    http://hvg.hu/gazdasag/20140107_Felporgott_a_letelepedesi_kotveny_eladasa

    So the offshore intermediaries reaped about 30 million euros in profit.
    I guess most of the money landed in the pockets of the Fidesz leaders/oligarchs.

    Here is my earlier calculation of the scheme:

    Foreign applicant —-> 290,000 euros —–> Offshore company
    Offshore company —-> 221,000 euros —–> Hungary

    In return, Hungary gives a nominally 250,000 euro bond to the Offshore company and a
    permanent Hungarian, therefore European residence permit to the investor/applicant.

    The [unnecessary] intermediary receives a hefty 69,000 euros in profit for each investor –
    40,000 euros in fees and 29,000 in price discount.

    in 5 years:

    Hungary —-> 275,000 euros ——> Offshore company
    Offshore company —-> 275,000 euros [??] —-> foreign applicant

    The actual cost of the bond corresponds to 4.5% yearly interest for Hungary,
    since 1.045^5= 1.246 is about 275/221= 1.244.

    The actual cost of this European “green card” for the investor/applicant is just 15,000 euros.

  9. Please notice that the profit of the offshore intermediary comes from two sources at the end of the day.

    15,000 from the green card investor
    54,000 from the Hungarian state

    That is, 78% of the 30 million euro profit, i.e. 7 billion HUF are from the Hungarian taxpayers.

  10. tappanch: and almost all of these unnecessary intermediary companies are, surprise-surprise, off-shore companies registered in tax-havens with unknown (that is unknown to the public) shareholders. I would not be surprised the least if these companies, besides being funds for Fidesz and its posse, also acted as a kind of slush fund for certain Hungarian agencies, who are involved anyway, like doing background checks on the applicants.

  11. THe scheme is good for the investor – s/he gets a green card to Europe.

    The scheme is excellent to the offshore companies – they get a lot of money

    It is bad for Hungary – the country loses 54,000 euros per green card

  12. I respectrfully disagree with Prof. Gati. The Fidesz is still popular in Hungary for some basic reasons. And the customer is always right! Hungary is doing reasonably well, for a country with practically no resources. As for the Jobbik, even they donot oppose universal health care, unlike their counterpart the GOP in the US.

  13. re: an earlier topic–Investigative Reporting in Hungary

    In my opinion, it doesn’t really exist. Do people not remember that Viktor finally weighted in on the Azeri issue with the pronouncement, ‘that the matter is over’.
    Can you imagine Nixon declaring to the multitude of investigative reporters that ‘Watergate is an apartment building and he doesn’t own it…so the matter is over and done with.” Yeah.

    Or, how about the Malev ticket issue: has there been any followup to see how many ticketers were reimbursed? Or, how much money was left in government coffers and what was done with it? Nein.

    By the way, the above criticism applies to the tepid, dainty efforts of the vaunted Olga of ATV–she too is subject to ‘fear and trembling’…as is the multitude.

    And in these quicksand terrains you expect ‘democracy’?

    Reeaallly….

  14. I might add here that nothing beats the chutzpah of the Hoongerians–I remember that a friend who had lost her Malev ticket was asked to pay 25 euros before her matter could be dealt with.

    Let’s add to such depravity the nerve of the Gundel Restaurant that dares to present their dining bills with a
    ‘kiszolgalasi dij’ (service charge, but in Hungarian only) followed by the ‘total’ of the bill and then, in capital letters, TIP….which, of course, the ever-so sophisticated Hungarian ignores but the foreigner becomes trapped in. That’s H H–Hospitable Hungary.

  15. Oh yes, re the Malev ticket…my friend told the government caller in her best, distinguished, 84-year old manner, that they can stick her refund were the light don’t flicker.

  16. Professor Gati states:

    “I’m aware of the campaign run by Mr. Fellegi, but I’m not familiar with the specifics of his outreach to Hungarian-Americans. I do know that several Washington think-tanks received contributions from his so-called “Hungarian Initiative Foundation,” which is supported by a $15 million grant from Hungarian taxpayers. In exchange, I presume, Fellegi himself and various pro-Fidesz speakers have been invited to lecture or participate in panel discussions at various forums. I attended one such lecture by György Schöpflin, a Fidesz-member of the European parliament, that was quite successful. Of the twenty or so invited guests, about half were officials of the Hungarian Embassy in Washington. As for substance, these speakers often advance the same view as the one Fidesz promotes: that it’s [the far-right] Jobbik rather than the [right-wing] Fidesz government that opposes Hungarian democracy. They say or suggest that Fidesz, by defending national values against Western “colonialism,” weakens Jobbik’s base, and therefore the West should support rather than criticize Orbán’s Fidesz-led government. This is what one hears from Fellegi, Schöpflin, as well as from Katrina Lantos Swett (daughter of the late Tom Lantos who heads the Lantos Foundation in the US and the Lantos Institute in Budapest, and who sees his father’s legacy differently from me and for that matter from what I think his father’s view would be). By focusing on Jobbik, Anne Applebaum, a respected American journalist, promotes this interpretation, too. To answer your question directly, then, I don’t believe this campaign by officials and fellow-travelers of the Orbán government falls on fertile soil here.”

    Respectfully I have to disagree with Professor Gati. I think from what I have seen here in Chicago that the Fidesz campaign relating to “western colonialism” and the EU has hit a very receptive note among the non-Jewish Hungarian-American community here. Many Hungarian-Chicagoans are small investors in various ventures in Hungary and they see big Jewish investors like Soros as a threat along with corporate interests that are opposing nationalizations. There is also some support for the Jobbik here because as I have stated we have both older former Arrow Cross supporters here in Chicago along with former Hungarian SS members largely captured as teenagers in Austria by US forces during WWII.

    The children of what were Hungarian fascists are largely conservatives and support Tea party politics including opposition to Gay marriage and support states rights. Fidesz anti-EU rhetoric appeals to this crowd,

  17. Istvan: thanks for the information, to be honest that was also my feeling from my encounters with such Hungarian-Americans (including relatives). In my experience, there is a strong sympathy towards Orbán and Fidesz among these (both first and second generations) people despite countless contradictions in ideology.

    But these people, like the majority of the right wing voters living in Hungary, emphatically hate the Communists, in other words anybody calling themselves a leftist or a liberal. They need to hate somebody, otherwise life is a bit sad. After all being, a very average, probably lower-middle class middle-American is not exactly a great existence, to be honest, whereas in Hungary these people were (would have been in their dreams) at least (in most cases) a gentry or gentrified citizen (polgár) with some social stature.

    In addition, and somewhat paradoxically, ‘communism’ is regarded by these people as nothing much more than a Jewish conspiracy, similarly to capital letter Capitalism, as represented by Soros and others.

    It’s a bit similar to the Cuban-Americans, who are almost all arch-conservatives and right wingers, regardless of the generation. They just hate communists and that is that, though they don’t hate Jews that much.

  18. @Istvan and Szunyokal:

    You might be right – that’s probably why my wife’s nephew (who as a science prof moved to somewhere in the Bible Belt a few years ago) has no contact at all with those established Hungarians – he has also not much contact with the rednecks surrounding him …

    If these Hungarians are typical GOP members, well then they’re lost anyway:

    “Significantly fewer Republicans believe in evolution than did so four years ago, setting them apart from Democrats and independents, according to a recent Pew Research Center study. ” http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/01/03/republican-views-on-evolution-tracking-how-its-changed/
    Actually 48% are Creationist and another 20% believe “God guided evolution” …

  19. Just a footnote to Fellegi’s efforts. He is not interested in recruiting Hungarian-Americans to the cause. They know that it is not necessary because the majority of them is Fidesz supporters. Moreover, they are not too useful as far as vote-getting is concerned. Most of them don’t vote. Fellegi is a lobbyist who is attempting to gain US government support. I personally think that this endeavor is pretty hopeless. It doesn’t matter how much money the Hungarian government throws at it the State Department knows exactly whom they are dealing with.

  20. Re: media during the election campaign.

    I just heard on Klubradio (the only opposition radio station) that the government tries to silence them again.

    The trick is the following. The Appeals Court ruled a year ago that Klubradio should be awarded the 92.9 KHz frequency the radio had won in 2009.

    After a year of procrastination, the Media Authority now demands Klubradio to move to the new frequency by February 13. The location of the aerial of this frequency, Citadella, has been nationalized in the meantime.

    So government Agency #1 orders Klubradio to move, but Agency #2 does not even answer Klubradio’s letters requesting the use of the aerial

    Therefore there is a good chance that Klubradio will be silenced in February.

  21. @ tappanch:

    “So government Agency #1 orders Klubradio to move, but Agency #2 does not even answer Klubradio’s letters requesting the use of the aerial”.

    Ahh, Felcsutian ‘cleverness’ at its very best. Viktor the O will show Hungarians what the Felcsutian system is all about–give it a little time and any resemblance to civilized society will be all but gone.

  22. tappanch :
    Fidesz vice chairman Kosa is asked about an embarassing decision he made
    (shutting down mother’s milk collection in Debrecen)

    You beat me to it.

    FIDESZ politician’s encounter with the free press.

    Here is the subtitled version. Watch it all the way for the fun part. Don’t forget to turn on the captions (CC).

  23. Prime-time (6 PM to 10 PM) television ratings, measured between Jan 1 and Dec 1, 2013.

    1. RTL Klub – 21.4% – very little news, but see above
    2. TV2 – 15.9% – very little news in the past, purchased by fideszniks a few days ago.

    3. m1 – 7.6% – “public” – Fidesz propaganda
    4. ATV – 4.6% – independent news channel, “opposition”, not all cable companies carry it.

    The weekly political cabaret “Heti 7-es” was moved one and a half years ago from RTL Klub to RTL2 , but most cable companies do not carry RTL2 (it has a 1.5% rating)

    We can conclude that 95% of the electorate do not have access to balanced news of any quantity.

    http://comment.blog.hu/2014/01/07/itt_a_magyarok_kedvenc_csatornainak_listaja

    This is happening under the watch of the EU media commissioner.

  24. Index reports that 50 ‘Americans’ poured scalding water in the freezing temperatures expecting it to freeze.

    The true story is that it was fifty American-Hungarians who tried this; having also the benedictions of the Catholic Church and riding the inspirational words of Thomas Fellegi…The results were…well, let’s just say
    the Hungarian populace has been duly warned of the Fidesz/Catholic/Orban ‘miracles’.

  25. @tappanch. “4. ATV – 4.6% – independent news channel, “opposition”, not all cable companies carry it.”

    We get ATV via Internet (small Asus laptop hooked to a big flat tv). But then, not everybody has Internet access.

  26. Apparatchik Töröcskei is the head of the National Debt Agency and at the same time the head of a private bank. (conflict of interest, anyone?)

    Raiffeisen bank wants to leave behind the marshlands of Hungary.
    Töröcskei’s bank is going to take over the Hungarian branch of the Raiffeisen Bank with the help of public funds.

    Töröcskei was a beneficiary of previous fideszizations and can thank some of his his billions to former Fidesz treasurer Simicska.

    http://atlatszo.hu/2013/04/02/kis-oligarchatarozo-torocskei-istvan/

    from my dictionary of Fideszspeak:

    fideszization = nationalization of assets, followed by privatization to friends & family.

  27. @ tappanch

    “..(conflict of interest, anyone?)

    I remember a story told by a friend: many years back he was negotiating on behalf of foreign firms to buy a Hungarian company. In mid-negotiations, he suddenly found himself as a board member of the Hungarian company–sans invitation, or even of being informed in advance. He turned it down; but he thought that Hungarians don’t recognize ‘conflict of interest’.

    Aren’t Hungarians Great?
    Aren’t Hungarians Smart?
    Haven’t Hungarians evolved to new heights of genius?

  28. tappanch :
    We were discussing the policies of the war-time Hungarian governments, partly based on the protocols they kept.
    The Orban governments have learned from this. They do not write protocols. Their main decisions are made at friendly talks.
    Future prosecutors and historians will have difficulty proving their guilt, but I hope it will be done, for the sake of Hungary.

    Don’t leave it to the historians to prove guilt. They cannot meet out justice. Let the judges do it. They will face the problem that the Fidesz mafia has legalised their crimes by practically unrepealable paragraphs in the constitution and as a further insurance they leave no records. These problems can be solved if a successor government is prepared to use a legal principle which is horrendous but not more horrendous than what Fidesz is doing. Fidesz is making the laws for a future where they are not in power. A successor government has no other choice than to determine the laws of the past where they were not in power, i.e. by retroactive laws. Failing to make records of the entire state household, or destroying the records, are major crimes.

  29. @Szunyokal: On Fellegi’s efforts and the Hungarian Americans.

    According to what I heard from my fellow Hungarian Americans in our local Hungarian club, my feeling is that the Hungarian government is pretty active to recruit old-new citizens before the elections. For example officials from the consulate has visited our state twice in the last year, to “help in our consular matters”, that has been unheard before. To tell the truth it has been fairly helpful to a number of us to renew our passports and manage our official business without traveling to DC, but the main purpose of their visit was clearly not that, but to find new potential citizens. (Anyway it should be said they work hard with our passports in a short time, thanks for that. The whole citizenship circus is not their fault…) I consider Fellegi’s association, the “Hungarian American Coalition” (http://www.hacusa.org/) as a similar effort. (Actually, I think, this society, its goals, its board, its connection to the Bush era hawkish US foreign policy establishment, etc. worth a separate discussion… I would be really interested in Eva’s opinion.)

    But being in a southern state where not too many traditional Hungarian Americans live, it must have been extremely hard to “mine” for undiscovered ’56 “emigre”-s. I doubt the consulate has found anyone who applied for citizenship.

    Still our club has contacts with at least a hundred of Hungarian families, most of them moved here since the nineties. They have almost no connections with members of previous waves of Hungarian immigration (44 and 56). By the way I think neither of those traditional Hungarian American political loyalties are so strong in this community. The majority might have been Fidesz/MDF/conservative sympathizers before they moved in this country, but now – I am not sure about that any more. Young professionals (university people, software engineers, even doctors) have mostly liberal attitudes. So the situation is changing and that might be true for other parts of the US as well, except for the traditional hotbed of the Hungarian American right (northern Ohio, New York and Toronto).

  30. Joe Simon :
    I respectrfully disagree with Prof. Gati. The Fidesz is still popular in Hungary for some basic reasons. And the customer is always right! Hungary is doing reasonably well, for a country with practically no resources. As for the Jobbik, even they donot oppose universal health care, unlike their counterpart the GOP in the US.

    To call the GOP Jobbik’s US counterpart shows total ignorance.

  31. The Hung. Spectrum leaders are way ahead of the game.
    Most of them have got no illusions regarding the Orbani dictatorship.
    The conservative Hungarians in America have embraced Orban from the beginning, and will not admit their error. Which Hungarian has ever apologized for their mistakes?

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