“Secrets revealed”: Memoirs about the financial attacks on Hungary

Many opposition politicians, especially before the deal between Orbán and Putin became public, suggested that the coming election should be declared a kind of referendum on the European Union. After all, the majority of the Hungarian electorate still supports Hungary’s membership in the Union while Orbán’s favorite target is the European Union. Well, the Orbán government is prepared. Helga Wiedermann, the right hand of György Matolcsy in the ministry of national development and again in the Hungarian National Bank, came out with her memoirs entitled Chess and Poker.

How timely! The book is not yet available in bookstores, but Magyar Nemzet has an advance reader’s copy from which the newspaper quotes extensively. The upshot of the story is that the European Commission, especially Olli Rehn, commissioner for economic and monetary affairs, is a deadly enemy of Hungary. The European Union, conspiring with leading members of the international world of finance, tried through monetary means to unseat Viktor Orbán as prime minister of Hungary. But in the end Matolcsy’s genius guided by Viktor Orbán’s superior vision triumphed against all odds.

Who is Helga Wiedermann? Mighty little can be found out about her on the Internet, which should surprise nobody. The whole Hungarian government is full of people who have no professional background for the jobs they fill. Political loyalty is what counts. I assume that Wiedermann must have had good Fidesz connections because she began her career in Matolcsy’s ministry as “political adviser.” To accommodate faithful Fidesz supporters this administration creates new positions right and left. Matolcsy either must have been terribly impressed with her political advice or received word that Wiedermann needs a more important and permanent job: she was elevated to be Matolcsy’s chief-of staff. When Matolcsy moved over to the National Bank, his trusted chief-of-staff went with him. They created a new position for her called “director general” (főigazgató). According to a blogger who seems to know a lot about the inner workings of the National Bank, Helga Wiedermann is the only person besides Matolcsy who can hire and fire at will. The same blogger calls Widermann a “professional zero,” nothing more than the person in charge of human resources.

Given this background, one must ask how Helga Wiedermann can report on minute details of Ecofin meetings attended by all the finance ministers of the European Union. How did she learn what transpired there? Clearly, only from her boss, György Matolcsy.

According to her story, Olli Rehn from the very first Ecofin meeting Matolcsy attended was a sworn enemy of Hungary at a time when the country was struggling to conquer the economic crisis. For example, at that very first meeting Olli Rehn tried “to portray Hungary in the worst possible light and claimed that the Hungarian situation was as bad as the Greek when Hungary was in fact in much better shape.” Now, that is really funny! I remember distinctly that it was not a long time ago that Viktor Orbán himself claimed that when he became prime minister Hungary was in worse shape than Greece. Well, what is the truth then? I have the feeling that by now even they cannot tell.

There was incredible pressure put on Matolcsy from day one, even from members of the European People’s Party, to extend the IMF-EU loan and introduce an austerity program. After Matolcsy categorically stated that he was unwilling to follow their advice, “he was put under incredible economic and later political pressure.” And yet he resisted.

Wiedermann then moves on to really juicy stuff. How the European Union, conspiring with the leaders of large European and American banks, tried to remove Viktor Orbán and replace him with another Fidesz leader who would not insist on levying extra taxes on banks and instead would be ready to introduce the much desired austerity program. According to the author, the decision to unseat Orbán was hatched sometime in the spring of 2011. By July 2011 there was an attack against the forint, which until then had moved together with the Polish złoty and the Czech koruna. According to Wiedermann, there was no reason for this sudden weakening of the Hungarian currency. On the contrary, the Kálmán Széll Plan had just been introduced and was well received by the markets. Moreover, in the spring of 2011 the Hungarian treasury floated a successful bond issue.

So, what happened? Why this attack on the forint? Wiedermann has the answer. In the spring of 2011 in a New York restaurant six representatives of American investment banks decided to attack the forint. Why did they conspire to do that? After all, these banks didn’t have subsidiaries in Hungary and therefore they were not directly affected by the extra levies on banks in Hungary. They acted because they realized the danger of the Hungarian example. The poor innocent Hungarian official in the ministry didn’t realize what was going on until September because until then the weakening of the forint was slow and gradual.

Source: tenytar.blog.hu

Source: tenytar.blog.hu

The rest of the book is a tale of the brilliance of György Matolcsy, who managed to lift the sanctions against Hungary despite Ollie Rehn’s concerted efforts. Matolcsy had many friends among the finance ministers. Even the finance minister of Finland and Denmark sided with Hungary, although they were close allies of Rehn. A real surprise came when Great Britain and Sweden voted for lifting the sanctions. In brief, total victory for the efforts of Viktor Orbán and György Matolcsy.

The appearance of the book is well timed. This attack on the European Union and American bankers is supposed to sway Hungarian voters to support the heroic Orbán government, which stands for independence and sovereignty. The members of the “Hungarian team” are the defenders of the nation while foreigners wanted them to suffer the indignity of a draconian austerity program. These guys pull out all the stops.

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103 comments

  1. @chesire cat: I can believe that the EU and the US were contemplating possible alternative candidates in lieu of Orban if the domestic political situation would get to point where Orban’s positions is seriously weakened. And remember, this was the time when the opposition groups were actually putting together quite sizable demonstrations (Milla, Szolidaritas, for example). So it was not out of the realms of possibility that domestic discontent would reach a breaking point, and it is plausible that the US and the EU was thinking about who would they back in such a case.

    This is not the same as the Matolcsy narrative, according to which the EU was actively conspiring to remove Orban, and especially not the same as actively conspiring with banks to weaken the forint to remove Orban. This belongs to the realms of conspiracy theories.

    You are right, as domestic demonstrations gained momentum and the EU seemed to be serious about taking action against the democratic violations in the country, Orban got scared. That’s when they organized the peace march. It was a successful move. The crowd that Orban moved in support intimidated the domestic opposition, and pushed them into a state of lethargy from which they never recovered. The EU, seeing the opposition movements subsiding, decided not to play hard ball about the democratic deficits, but let the Hungarians sort it out.

  2. latefor :
    @Petofi – Re : Miklos Radnoti – “She had said that she never speaks Hungarian anymore after what the Hungarians did to her husband.”
    What the Hungarians did to her husband? Maybe SOME Hungarians? Most Hungarians LOVE her husband. He is one of my favorite poets. God bless him, he had a beautiful soul. It must have been very painful for Mrs Radnoti for loosing him all those years ago in such tragic circumstances.

    It is a sign of openness that Petofii can admit his memory may at times be faulty. It was my pleasure to meet her in her flat with my young son. This was at the time when Szabo!s fine film a Taste of Sunshine had just come out, part of which focused on the folly of assimilation. She spoke only Hungarian, was insistent that Radnoti had been persecuted because he was a socialist resister, NOT because he was Jewish. She insisted that he was a Catholic convert and that as far as that went, her view was that assimilation was the one and only road to take.

  3. petofi :
    “Mikos Radnoti was executed either by the SS or by the members of the Hungarian Arrow Cross.”
    My wife and I met Mrs. Radnoti some 8 years ago on Holan Erno Utca. She and my wife
    spoke in French. She had said that she never speaks Hungarian anymore after what the Hungarians did to her husband.

    It is a sign of your openness that you can admit memory may at times be faulty. But perhaps the confusions was compounded by her age. It was my pleasure to meet her in her flat with my young son. This was at the time when Szabo!s fine film a Taste of Sunshine had just come out, part of which focused on the folly of assimilation. She spoke only Hungarian, was quite upbeat, and insistent that Radnoti had been persecuted because he was a socialist resister, NOT because he was Jewish. She insisted that he was a Catholic convert and that as far as that went, her view was that assimilation was the one and only road to take.

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