Viktor Orbán feels at home in Iran, Azerbaijan, and China

It’s time to move on, although the saga of the Holocaust Memorial is far from over. Let’s look outside of Hungary to see what Hungarian foreign policy is up to. The first news item is from yesterday; I discovered it on the Iranian news agency’s website. The highest Hungarian dignitaries–János Áder, president; Viktor Orbán, prime minister; László Kövér, speaker of the house; and János Martonyi, foreign minister–tried to outdo each other in sending separate congratulatory messages on the occasion of “the anniversary of victory of the Islamic Revolution.” The news agency naturally mentioned that “Hungary has been a member of the European Union” ever since 2004. It also reported that in addition to the Hungarians, dignitaries of Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan, and Tajikistan also sent greetings to the Iranian leaders.

Today another piece of news arrived from which we learned that a delegation of Hungarian journalists and film makers from MTV arrived in Azerbaijan. They are looking for a proper setting for a film about the “atrocities committed by Armenian troops” in the Nagomo Karabakh region. According to the Azerbaijan news agency, the Hungarian television crew will make a documentary about the town of Khojaly that was attacked by Armenian forces and where several hundred Azerbaijani were killed. The Azerbaijanis are certain that “the film will tell the truth to the world about Karabakh.” So, as you can see, the Orbán government finds kindred souls in Iran, Azerbaijan, and yes, China.

Because Viktor Orbán is in China right now where he keeps boasting about the Asiatic origin of the Hungarians. Not long ago he called his people “half Asiatic,” but by now it seems they have become completely Asiatic. He added that “Hungarians were ridiculed many times for their Asiatic origins” but by now that origin has become an asset because it is clear that “the center of gravity of the world economy has shifted from west to east.” I just hope that Orbán didn’t mention anything about the alleged relationship between the Huns and the Hungarians because the Chinese built the Great Wall in order to save themselves from the ferocious Hun invaders.

In Beijing, similar to other foreign visits/trade missions, the program started with a speech by Orbán before an audience of business people that included about 100 Hungarian business men who accompanied him. As usual, the speech was full of falsehoods about Hungary’s economic performance. It is hard to believe that Chinese businessmen who are known for their acumen are so ignorant that they believe that “whoever makes a business deal with the Hungarians will have a direct relationship with the economic engine of the European Union.” Or, “Hungary is Europe’s most competitive economy where a considerable production center came into being in addition to an important research-and-development network.” Furthermore, he outlined the future economic prospects of Hungary as outright rosy: a 4% economic growth year after year and 3-4 % unemployment, which is considered to be full employment.

In addition to the country’s economic prospects, he stressed “the political stability” in Hungary which is such an advantage when it comes to economic growth. In this respect the Hungarian situation is very similar to that of China, he said, adding that he very much hoped that “the Hungarian people will vote for political stability” in the coming election. This particular claim made quite a splash in Hungary where a blog writer pointed out that “Chinese political stability in other words means communist dictatorship” and that Orbán actually gave himself away by in effect admitting that Hungary is no longer a democracy.

The Chinese news agency was less effusive than the Hungarian prime minister, although Premier Li Kequiang and Viktor Orbán remembered fondly the 65th anniversary of Chinese-Hungarian diplomatic ties. Again, one just hopes that neither man remembered Mao Zedong’s less than friendly attitude toward Hungary at the time of the Hungarian October Revolution of 1956 when he urged Khrushchev to put down the revolt and show no mercy.

China-Orban

The Chinese seem to be interested primarily in building roads and railways. We heard about the Budapest-Belgrade railway line earlier, but now it seems to have become a reality. China also expressed an interest in expanding investment and local currency swap agreements. China will provide assistance to Hungarian companies to invest in China while Hungary will help Chinese businessmen acquire visas and working licenses and will provide them with health insurance. In addition, representatives of Huawei Technologies Hungary and the Hungarian government signed an agreement to establish an innovation center in addition to two Huawei Europe supply centers, one in Pécs and another in Komárom. What is really new is that Li called for Chinese-Hungarian cooperation on nuclear energy and hinted that it  could be accomplished jointly with a third party.

This last item sounds rather intriguing. Is it possible that Viktor Orbán realized in the last month or so that the Russian loan might not be quite enough to build the new nuclear power plant and that he is also soliciting Chinese money and know-how? What will Russia think of such an arrangement?

Another item of note is the establishment of a regional center of the Bank of China. While the Orbán government does everything in its power to get rid of western banks, the prime minister welcomes the Bank of China with open arms. I am curious what kinds of guarantees he offered the Chinese to prompt them to establish the Bank of China’s European regional headquarters in Hungary. Without some guarantees I can’t imagine that any banker in his right mind would choose Hungary.

The rest of the agreements are less exciting: the usual cultural centers, more bilingual Chinese schools, and additional scholarships for Chinese students to study in Hungary. It seems there is money for foreign students even as the government sharply reduced the money available for Hungarian higher education in general and introduced very high tuition fees for Hungarian students.

The question of a direct flight between Budapest and Beijing came up again. When there were such flights they operated at a loss. Of course, if Chinese business is substantial enough in Hungary, such flights might be feasible. At first glance, however, it is hard to tell how extensive Chinese economic penetration will be as a result of these agreements.

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55 comments

  1. Hungarian Ambassador to Israel Summoned by Foreign Ministry Over Holocaust Denial

    1. Foremost among the trends are the governmental attempts to reform the image of Miklos Horthy, an anti-Semitic Hungarian leader who was a close ally of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.

    2. Hungary’s whitewashing of history has included plans to build a massive monument commemorating the 1944 invasion of Hungary by the Nazis.

    3. Another troubling trend noted by the Foreign Ministry was the permission given to Hungarian Dawn (NFP), a neo-Nazi party, to run in the upcoming April 6 elections.

    http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/177446

  2. Forget any worthwhile retreat by Orban or Fidesz on any issue before the elections if that would mean the potential loss of even a morsel of a vote !

    Stick-to-it-ism and obstinacy is their game beceause Orbán fears the whole structure could come unraveling if he gives even a millimeter on any issue.

    His approach has paid off handsomely till now. He just needs to stay the course and he comes out the winner.

    Any semblance to truth, the right vs the wrong, or any other ‘nebulous’ idea would just cause unnecessary turbulence for the masses.

    Its only a matter of time before his self-induced fog will start lifting but by then, Orban and Co should be well esconced for another several terms by hook and by crook.

    ‘China’ WILL work out by providing at least a momentary distraction and hope for those who are longing for the paternalistic state to keep the reigns of decision-making.

    There are many GOOD, very GOOD reasons for a large segment of the population to do all they can for a hoped-for return to the relative security of the paternalistic state-decides-all and doles out the wages to the ‘proletariat’ like it did pre 1989!!!!

    Anyone insisting for any rational unselfish action on the part of Fidesz is lost in the clouds somewhere.

    Additionally – the opposition democrats work only when provoked !!!!!!!!! And even then in comatose fashion. Even their media outlets have been generally ‘államositva lettek’ (taken over by the State apparaat.)

  3. tappanch :
    Fidesz Mayor of Budapest has banned the free food distribution to the hungry on Blaha square, because it spoiled the Fidesz propaganda of success.
    see
    http://index.hu/galeria/index/belfold/2013/12/24/karacsonyi_etelosztas_a_blaha_lujza_teren/
    He designated five spots today, outside downtown, where charity food can be distributed in the future:
    http://index.hu/belfold/budapest/2014/02/13/itt_engedik_meg_tarlosek_az_etelosztast/

    I was just in Budapest and the sight of so many people sleeping in the doorways of closed shops along the major boulevards and near Keleti is just gut-wrenching. Clearly a culture of deep and long-lasting, generational poverty is being created by the policies of this regime.

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