Viktor Orbán looked into Vladimir Putin’s eyes and was reassured

Yesterday, given the very crowded news day, I had  neither time nor space to discuss an article by Ildikó Csuhaj of Népszabadság about some of the details of the negotiations between Russia and Hungary over the Paks nuclear plant. What you have to know about Csuhaj is that she seems to have fantastic connections to important Fidesz and government officials and usually comes up with impressive “scoops.”

As we discussed in the comments, information coming from these circles cannot always be trusted and, in fact, one suspects that some of the leaks that reach Csuhaj might be purposely planted in the leading left-of-center paper. In any case, Csuhaj received lots of information about the Paks deal from her unnamed sources. Some of the information sounds entirely plausible. For example, that the plan to have the Russians build the extension to the power plant was first discussed in January 2013 during Viktor Orbán’s visit to Moscow.

I don’t know whether any of you remember, but the opposition belittled the significance of the meeting last January and pointed to the extremely short duration of the visit. The left media drew the conclusion that Viktor Orbán offered himself to Vladimir Putin but the president of Russia wasn’t interested. In brief, the meeting was no more than a courtesy visit. Today we know that during that visit Orbán got an offer of Russian collaboration on the Paks project. Apparently he pondered the issue for a few months and by the summer made the decision to go ahead. In mid-summer serious negotiations began, which continued all the way to the last days of December.

According to Ildikó Csuhaj’s source, what inspired the Orbán government to add two extra reactors to the existing plant was its desire to achieve sustainable economic growth. Building such a large project, especially if the story is true that 40% of the work will be done by Hungarian companies, will be a stimulus to employment and will give impetus to faster growth.

So far the story sounds plausible, but what comes after that must be taken with a grain of salt. According to the Fidesz story, Viktor Orbán began making inquiries at large German industrial concerns. Apparently, negotiations were conducted with RWE AG, the second largest utility company in Germany, and Deutsche Telekom. On the basis of these conversations, according to the Fidesz source, Orbán came to the conclusion that what German industry will need in the future is cheap energy. But those nasty German environmentalists are against building reactors on German soil. Given the Russian offer, Orbán apparently hatched the idea of building a large nuclear power plant that will be more than enough for Hungary’s energy needs. The rest of the capacity could be sold to Germany’s energy-hungry industrial complex.

The project couldn’t be financed from private sources as the Finnish nuclear power plant will be. Moreover, Orbán apparently made it clear that the plant must remain in state hands. Thus, a bilateral financial agreement signed by Russia and Hungary was needed which is a first within the European Union.

Csuhaj’s Fidesz source claimed that Viktor Orbán received the European Union’s blessing for the bilateral agreement. Allegedly, János Lázár talked to Günther Oettinger, EU commissioner for energy. The EU Commission even sanctioned closing the deal without a tender.

Apparently, the Edmond de Rothschild Group, a private Swiss banking concern which among other things offers investment advisory services, was especially helpful to the Hungarians in handling all these sticky negotiations with EU officials. The Rothschild Group advised the Hungarian government to get in touch with the law firm Hengeler Mueller, which has offices in Berlin, Düsseldorf, Munich, Brussels, and London. It is a large firm with 90 partners and 160 associates. They give “high-end legal advice to companies in complex business transactions.” It was allegedly this law firm that managed “to convince” the European Commission about the legality of the transaction.

Well, it seems that the European Commission has not yet blessed the deal. Eszter Zalán, the Brussels correspondent for Népszabadság, asked Sabine Berger, the spokeswoman of Günther Oettinger, who informed her that Oettinger’s office will examine the agreement and decide whether it conforms to European laws. This legal scrutiny may take weeks to complete. It also became clear that details of the agreement reached Brussels only in December. The announcement yesterday, however, didn’t come as a surprise to the European Commission.

Domestically, there is an outcry over the agreement, signed secretly with no consultation with the opposition, experts, or the general public. Fidesz politicians responded to this criticism by claiming that it was during Bajnai ‘s tenure that parliament authorized the government to conduct negotiations about doubling the capacity of the Paks nuclear power plant. They called members of the opposition, including Bajnai, liars for denying their authorization of the negotiations.

Well, this is not a correct description of what happened in 2009 when the topic of the enlargement of the power plant came up in parliament. Csaba Molnár, then minister in charge of transportation, communication, and energy, was the man who turned in the resolution to which Fidesz is now referring. In it there is not one word about permission to start negotiations with anyone concerning building two more reactors. It simply talks about authorization to begin a study of its feasibility, its environmental impact, future requirements of the population, etc. However, all Fidesz politicians keep referring to this resolution as authorization for making a deal with the Russians.

Finally, let me tell you a funny story that I read in today’s Magyar Nemzet. The article quotes Viktor Orbán as saying, “It was three years ago at one of the meetings of the Valdai Club that Vladimir Putin turned a bit to the right and winked; his eyes told me that everything will be all right. He talked about energy cooperation, about Paks, and about many other matters. He made it clear that Hungary can only win from all his plans. I looked into his eyes and saw that he means it, and Hungary will be a winner of all this.”

Putin turned a bit to the right and squinted

Putin turned a bit to the right and winked

I assume many of you remember another quotation, this time from George W. Bush, about Putin’s eyes. It was uttered in 2001: “I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy. We had a very good dialogue. I was able to get a sense of his soul; a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country.” So, I wouldn’t rely on Putin’s eyes if I were Viktor Orbán. And while we are at Putin’s eyes, John McCain said in 2007 : “I looked into Mr. Putin’s eyes and I saw three things — a K and a G and a B.” Viktor Orbán should keep that in mind when he gazes into eyes of Vladimir Putin, whom he apparently admires greatly.

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29 comments

  1. Of course McCain stated the obvious because as we know for sixteen years Putin served as an officer in the KGB, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel before he supposedly retired. After a few years spying on foreigners in Leningrad, Putin was summoned to Moscow in the early 1980s to attend the elite foreign intelligence training institute, and then was assigned to East Germany. When Putin returned to Russia he went to St. Petersburg, he took a job for a year and a half as assistant to the rector of the university, dealing with “international relations.” However, that was partly a cover story. He was still working for the KGB, recruiting or spying on students. Putin acknowledged in 2000 that he was “a KGB officer under the roof, as we say,” noting that the rector knew about it.

    So I suspect that the old student radical Orban must find Mr. Putin somewhat intimidating because he was an expert at manipulating and recruiting individuals just like Mr. Orban.

  2. I don’t know who Ildiko is, but I wouldn’t trust her or her contacts…as far as I could throw them huddled together in a wheelbarrow.

    In Budapest parlance we call this, “etettni”–or, “feeding the gullible”.
    The report gives the whole affair an air of long study and consideration. Too bad that Orban, with the help of the Turul bird, is privy to all knowledge and needs no advice from experts. I doubt if this was anything more than Putin telling Orban, “this is the way it’s going to be, and
    I want to take no chances on the election”. “Moreover,” says the Master Manipulator to his little guy, “the EU will no doubt object on several grounds and you will have your ready-made, Europe-is-attacking-US issue for the elections. How much better can it get?”

    Lest we forget…the funny machinations around the Azeri axe-man: those usually wild Armenians, known to terrorize far and near when the mood seizes them, hardly uttered
    a peep–Russia is their only lifeline in their region–and nary a match was lit in anger in Budapest and its environs. Stranger than stranger.

    No folks, if the Kennedy assassination was a coup d’etat, than this is the outright occupation and control of a country that doesn’t know it; doesn’t suspect it; and may not realize it until
    the history books will be printed in Moscow…

  3. Suppose the 2 new blocks will be operational in 2025 and 2030. and the 4 old blocks have to be taken out in 2032-2037.

    Paks output:

    2014-2024: 2000 MW
    2025-2029: 3200 MW
    2030-2033: 4400 MW
    2038- : 2400 MW

    Without further extension of the lifespan of the old blocks, Hungary will have significant export capacity only for a maximum of 8 years.

    But the extension will involve additional financing.

  4. There was no authorization by the Parliament. Let’s make this point very clear, because Fidesz is lying about this point too. It is astonishing to realize that point after point it turns out what Fidesz disseminates lies.

    The 2009 resolution of the Parliament was exactly as prof. Balogh wrote about feasibility studies, preparations to figure out whether we need new blocks at all, it contained absolutely no authorization to conclude any binding agreements, not even to start talks about building. In fact, that resolution has not even been complied with, it has been simply ignored, we do not know and nobody really knows why we need new blocks, what are the benefits, let alone costs, risks, whether financial or environmental. To spend 10bn euros without the slightest contemplation, analysis, planning, review, let alone public consultation, referendum is insane.

    Tappanch: The Czechs are smarter, look at their country, it is not surprising that they do not think it is so important to get nationally indebted (in foreign currency) to the tune of 120% of the GDP, because that is where we are heading with this project. This is also the difference in the quality of the democracy: in the Czecz Republic, despite all their problems, democracy results in good decisions, in Hungary democracy usually does not work (it’s not like Orban is not democratic, but rather this is the very quality of democracy in Hungary), it invariably results in bad decisions.

    Putin and his people are smart. They are from the KGB who are exactly trained to persuade people to do something they did not originally want to do or – often – they did want to do but were afraid to actually do it. They looked into Orban’s eyes (but poor Orban, just as W thought that they did into Putin’s) and saw that he is by now somewhat mentally challenged (with his worsening nose ticks), but more importantly he desperately wants to build (eg, the Varosliget Museum-project, estimated at EUR 400mn or stadiums by the dozen, railtracks by Közgép, at double, triple the cost of those in Germany, Holocaust memorials, whatever).

    Orban always leaned toward building Paks II and the Russians knew that. The oligarchs pushed for it relentlessly, but Orban also sensed that in fact all parties were for building it and that he will not encounter political opposition, which he calculated yet again correctly, especially not the kind of opposition he could have staged. But Orban did not yet have excuse to take the decision. Now that there is a more or less firm offer which Orban thinks is very advantageous, or rather he believes which can be sold as advantageous to the public, he decided to decide.

    In addition, but it is apparent only for those who have done more ‘deals’, Orban wanted to close the deal, which a good adversary can easily sense. It is an uplifting feeling to close a deal, after all the negotiations with important people, after dealing with Rotschild and Sons, the best law firms, sorting out so many problems, to come to an agreement, is a high. He wanted to feel the success of it, to feel that he was able to close a real big deal, to do it secretly, and be able to sell it to the ignorant public. It’s a high, really. So Putin took advantage of it, knowing that Orban is addicted to these little highs, as most top people are actually.

    Dictators by nature love to build, essentially monuments which outlive them. In a twisted way they want to live forever (as all people want to, through their children, of which he has some). But of course Fidesz (actually Orban himself, as Közgép is not just Simicska’s) has its very own construction companies which are just insatiable. Putin knew well that he can sell anything to Orban, he just have to be smart, like not capping the project’s costs: imagine that after having burnt 10 bn EURs from debt the project will still not be finished, but will stand at say 60% readiness, Hungarians will finish it anyway. I just hope the debt rating agencies will take this issue into account.

  5. Russel describes very nicely that “Adrenalin Rush” that Orbán and his mafiosi must feel – now the deed is done!

    But signing away a few billion € or $ or means nothing yet.

    Actually we’ve had some similar projects right now not only in Germany (the Berlin airport, the Stuttgart railway station) and it’s almost funny that all these wonderful great projects (any one remember the Channel tunnel to England?) have not/will of course not be finished on time and of course will be much more expensive than planned and …

  6. Perhaps I’m cynical but I don’t believe Orbán is either pro or con Putyin. The motivation for this disturbing deal is purely about getting him and Simicska getting their hands on even larger amounts of money. If it bankrupts Hungary fifteen years hence, it won’t bother them because their nests will already be luxuriously feathered. The sad thing is that if there is a change of government, then I have little confidence that the MSZP will reverse the deal for the usual reasons.

  7. Employment –

    Journalists at portfolio .hu write that KSH, the government statistics office provided sufficient data (I guess by accident) to calculate the real numbers about employment through September 30, 2013.

    To the contrary of the official victory (or Viktor) reports, employment is basically unchanged.

    Official victory number y/y +45 thousand
    “közmunkás” – 27
    new workers in the West -18
    ————————————–
    Net change 0

    THere were 97.5 thousand people working in the West that were used to improve the employment statistics, as well as 118.6 “közmunkás”.

    http://www.portfolio.hu/gazdasag/munkaugy/ennyivel_nott_kozmunka_es_kulfoldon_dolgozok_nelkul_a_foglalkoztatas_-400.1.193885.html

    The employment in the private for-profit sphere is unchanged since the Fidesz takover in May 2010, and stands at 1.8 million or 18% of the total population.

  8. Paul, I know/remember that old newspaper headline:

    Severe storm in the Channel – Europe cut off …

    The Brits and their dreams of Empire – maybe Orbán is using them as a role model?

    Actually I like them – drove my car to London at least 50 times, buying books there, and my sister married an Englishman …

    PS:

    Yesterday I looked at a map of Hungary from 1914 – if you just add a few more of those pesky Balkan states, it would look really nice, from Russia to the Mediterranean!

    Some “Greater Hungarians” probably dream about that – the way they claim that Hungarians are the salt of the earth, just as our Prussian Emperor William 2 used to say: Am deutschen Wesen wird die Welt genesen …

    When will these crazies realise that all humans are born equals?

  9. tappanch’s statistic that only 18% of the population works in the private sector is jaw dropping. And government policy (and I suspect, opposition policy too) seems aimed at reducing this figure rather than doubling it.

  10. This agreement was signed by Némethné who is Simicska’s puppet at the Fejlesztési Miniszterium and whose adviser is Nyerges Zsolt’s brother (a vet by profession.) I think that pretty much clarifies what this deal is about for any still in doubt.

  11. @HiBoM

    This number, “the number of employed in the for-profit private sphere with at least 5 employees” stood around 1.9 million between 2001 and 2008, then dropped to 1.8 million in 2009.

    The number of working people dropped by 30% between 1989 and 1995, and Hungary has not been able to come out of this depression since then.

  12. From my experience a lot of people are working in the black economy and there’s also a lot who are nominally employed (and get paid officially …) part time while really working full time (or even more than 40 hours a week …) – but a large part of their wage is paid “tax free”.

    Are there any numbers on this phenomenon ? From the stories we hear in Hungary there must be quite a large number of people working like this.

    PS:

    And of course many who are employed full time have a second job where they work on the weekends – even here around Hévíz all the masseurs, the hair dressers, even the doctors and of course all the craftsmen …

  13. “közmunkás” is translated as “fostered worker” 🙂 in an official document…

    The latest statistical data shows the employment situation through October 2013.

    Enterprises= 1.828 million
    State employees= 0.677 million
    “fostered workers”= 0.124 million
    non-profits= 0.091 million

    together= 2.721

    So we now know that this number includes at least 0.1 million people employed abroad.

    http://www.ksh.hu/docs/hun/xftp/gyor/let/let21310.pdf

  14. … which means that the number of employed in the for-profit private sphere INSIDE Hungary is more like 1.7 million.

  15. “Viktor Orbán looked into Vladimir Putin’s eyes and was reassured”

    How romantic!
    The proper answer should have been like -Not today, Vladimir, I have a headache…
    And then, as we know, – unlike with the gorilla – they exchanged letters and calls afterwords too, and now a marriage is underway.

    The rubbery-vertebrate life-form of Orbán no longer surprises me, but somehow I still have difficulties to understand, how and why the people of Hungary accept to being played over by him and his cronies so brazenly time and again, they even insisting to keep him doing it in the future too, as it wasn’t enough!

  16. tappanch :
    “közmunkás” is translated as “fostered worker” in an official document…

    No wonder, that “Brussels had no objection” when presented with the Hungarian plans regarding the nuclear deal with Russia, as we learned from Lázár today – what could have they read, if the documents translated in a similar manner?

  17. The more the merrier… In Orbans thinking he might additionally consider the following (none of this would be new to Him, nevertheless here is a brief 10-point listing of the most unorthodox:

    1. Have Rosatom build 20+ new nuclear installations on Hungarian soil and plan to become the energy-export CZAR for Western Europe.

    2. As a happy sideline business he could team up with a few other rogue nations to get in on the unconventional, i.e. illicit nuclear enrichment business.
    For this he would transform the now unsued underground gas storage facilities into secret underground nuclear enrichment plants.

    3.. As an additional benefit he would be heavilyt irritating the UN Atomic Oversight agency located over the border in Vienna, Austria

    4.. Grow the new now-to-be legalised (taking the cue from America) marijuana plant business, using the cheap energy hes producing to grow these plants underground – also in the former gas chambers) using the newly fashionable low-energy LED lighting grids. Cheap energy + LED = Huge savings.

    5. Benefit of the above plans would be multifarious expecially in GDP increased exports.

    6. Hungarian Homeless could be employed as long-term trainee at wages below the minimum who would by the good-will of the hungarian government be provided with gainful employment

    7. Housing for the homeless workers could be arranged in separate structured 10-bed-high bunk-bed systems in other underground (and out-of-sight) dormitory facilities. Major savings on housing construction, no expensive glass windows needed, heating at a constant level could be easily arranged – human body temperature heating factor would be calculated into the mix.

    8. Catering exclusively by the Hare Khrishna band – advocating vegetarian diet, foregoing the expensive for-export-only Hungarian meats. – Catering in another under-ground, of course out-of-sight facility.

    9.. Clothes for the workers could be arranged using the Western stylish Used Clothing collectives…

    10.. The mega complex would make optimum user of the fertile hungarian earth as well as the qulity water we have readily available underground.

    If you wanna help with additional Devious Ideas for the Dearly Loved Mother Country, kindly add those as thoughtful gifts in the name of National Development Assistance and send to the attention of Prime Minister O.V.

    Your ideas there are ALWAYS WELCOME.

  18. I think we’re selling Orban’s foresight short: the whole plan is to provide cheap electricity to light up Felcsut stadium 24/7…and, when third-rate soccer isn’t being played, they will
    grow hot-house vegetables for mama-Orban.

  19. Thank your Mr Petofi for your wise additional ideas.

    Other sponsors would be asked to provide ideas that include high-risk-taking, enormous kickback schemes, mega provisions to offshore banking facilities, major corruption opportunities to the Faithful and opportunities for our TEK-forces to feature their readiness to serve under rugged conditions against a lazy population, many of whome will need to be forced to get up early and be froced to work.

    Remember to maximally tickle and irk the rotten Brussels Bureaucrats the wrong way !

    Go for it. You might win an “iRustPhone” set and get snooping privileges into the Putyin-Orban private “hot”-line phone conversations… if you use the video feature you might get a glimpse of the FLEETING WINK !

  20. It occurred to me that an additional benefit of the “disposable” energy provided by Orbán’s nuclear production is that he could appear as the Savior of the Gypsies, and heretofore come out swinging to their benefit – he could decree a “free d.i.y. connection to the electric grid” of all Roma enclaves thereby gaining wide EU approval and seemingly becoming – at no cost to himself – a savior of the Roma Nation.

    The above being just a slight side-benefit while underneath the appearances this would give him the momentum to cut off the water supply to the same communities. As they say: “Feeding with one-hand and taking away with the other… Standard Schizophrenic Behavior 101.

    Additional suggestions availble in Machiavelli “Connivance 101” even if in those days, “Knluklclear” Energy was non existant at the time…

  21. wolfi :
    Russel describes very nicely that “Adrenalin Rush” that Orbán and his mafiosi must feel – now the deed is done!
    But signing away a few billion € or $ or means nothing yet.
    Actually we’ve had some similar projects right now not only in Germany (the Berlin airport, the Stuttgart railway station) and it’s almost funny that all these wonderful great projects (any one remember the Channel tunnel to England?) have not/will of course not be finished on time and of course will be much more expensive than planned and …

    I was involved in many government construction projects. The reason they are almost always above budget and late is very simple: their specifications are generally incomplete and with many design errors, requiring many changes as the project goes along and then these changes require more time and money than what was originally estimated. Occasionally the nature of the project also causes delays and overruns (for example unexpected finds of water or rocks in the ground).

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