There are occasions when it becomes blatantly obvious how little the Hungarian people are told about their government’s activities. I’m not talking about state secrets but about everyday events. I find it outrageous, for instance, that I had to learn from a Polish Internet site that Donald Tusk, the Polish prime minister, had a talk with Viktor Orbán in Budapest before flying to Brussels. There was not a peep about this meeting in Hungarian papers, presumably not because Hungarian journalists are a lazy lot but because the prime minister’s office failed to inform the Hungarian news agency of the meeting. The less people know the better.
There is official silence in Budapest on the Ukrainian protest, perhaps soon civil war, with the exception of a short statement issued by the Hungarian foreign ministry at 5:12 p.m. today. I assume there had to be some kind of communication between the prime minister and his foreign minister. If we compare the Hungarian statement to the words of Donald Tusk we can be fairly certain that the two men didn’t see eye to eye on the issue.
According to Tusk, “the moral judgment here is black-and-white, there are no gray areas.” Moreover, “the responsibility for the violence in Kiev rests with the government, not the opposition.” And what did the Hungarian communiqué say? “The responsibility of the Ukrainian government is decisive, but the parliamentary opposition forces must keep their distance from extremist groups.” While according to Tusk “the crisis in Ukraine could determine the course of the whole region” and requires the European Union to prepare for commitments lasting “not for hours, days or weeks, but for many years,” the Hungarian foreign ministry simply stated that “Hungary finds the European Union’s active participation in the interest of a lasting solution to the country’s political and economic crisis important.”
One can only guess why Tusk had to stop in Budapest on his way to Brussels, but whatever transpired in that meeting it didn’t result in Hungary’s forceful condemnation of the Ukrainian government and its active participation in the process contemplated by the United States and the European Union. Tusk specifically mentioned Poland’s interest in Ukraine because of its common border and historical ties. Both are also true about Hungary’s relations with Ukraine.
It seems to me that Viktor Orbán got himself into a rather uncomfortable situation with his hurried agreement with Russia on the Paks nuclear plant. Pro-government papers, like Heti Válasz, show that journalists in government service feel obliged to defend Vladimir Putin and his policies. One spectacular sign of “loyalty” was an article that appeared in the paper about a week ago in which the author expressed his disgust with the American campaign for the rights of gays and lesbians that prompted a partial boycott of the Sochi Olympics. If the Hungarian right feels that it has to come to the rescue of Putin in this case, one can imagine its position when it comes to such a momentous event as the near-civil war situation in a Ukraine torn between East and West.
While Tusk welcomes Ukrainian refugees and Polish hospitals are taking care of the wounded, nothing was said about any Hungarian willingness to take in refugees if necessary. In fact, I detected a certain fear that such an onslaught might reach the country. There is some worry about the Hungarian minority of about 200,000 in the Zakarpattia Oblast, especially around Beregovo/Beregszász. The Hungarian Inforadio announced tonight that according to a Ukrainian Internet paper “the change of regime has been achieved peacefully in Zakarpattia Oblast.” This may simply be sloppy reporting, but we know that regional capitals all over western Ukraine are engulfed in violence and that in some places the opposition took over the administration. Ukraine is falling apart at the seams. All this is far too close for comfort as far as Hungary is concerned. Yet Viktor Orbán is sitting on the fence.
Meanwhile Donald Tusk has taken the initiative with spectacular success. He flew to Brussels to facilitate a quick decision on the Ukrainian crisis and assembled a delegation of French, German, and Polish foreign ministers to visit Ukraine tomorrow. They will assess the situation before a meeting in Brussels to decide whether to impose EU sanctions on Ukraine. While French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius was giving a press conference, U.S. Secretary John Kerry was standing by his side. He stressed President Viktor Yanukovich’s “opportunity to make a choice.”
At the same time German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier had a telephone conversation with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov who urged EU politicians “to use their close and everyday contacts with the opposition to urge it to cooperate with the Ukrainian authorities, to comply with agreements reached and to decisively distance itself from radical forces unleashing bloody riots, in fact, embarking on the route to a coup.”
It seems that Hungary is trying to strike a “balance” between the western position and that of Russia. It will be difficult.
Meanwhile in Hungary a liberal blogger compared the two Viktors and found many similarities. Neither is a democrat, both are corrupt, and both built a mafia state with the help of their oligarchs. And yet Ukrainians are fighting in the streets while in Hungary Orbán still has a large and enthusiastic following. In his post he tries to find answers to the question so many people ask: how is it that the Hungarian people have not revolted yet? Are they less freedom loving than the Ukrainians? Are they longer suffering? Can they be more easily fooled? Our blogger is convinced that one day Hungarian patience will run out. He gives Viktor Orbán a piece of advice: “Keep your eyes on Ukraine!”
In my opinion the discussion so far on the Ukraine has been very rich on this blog. Post 13 by Razvan is totally correct when it states: ” if Ukraine is forced to open its markets like Hungary did, I promise you that in a couple of years Ukraine will be like Hungary now, only much tougher in every sense.”
Post 24 by Kave linked a very interesting article by Timothy Snyder that I read and disagreed with in one respect, I think he has too many illusions that EU membership can bring with it some type of a vibrant economy given the current world market and globalization. But the factual information was interesting in the Synder article. Especially as it related to Svoboda and a new conglomeration of nationalists who call themselves the Right Sector (Pravyi Sektor), also the the Russians.
As I have stated so many times on this blog the EU is not about creating wealth for the nations of Central Europe, it’s about preserving the economic power of the core nations of the EU. Particularly Germany. Germany’s internal market is relatively tiny and it’s productive capacity is enormous, it is an export driven economy that is butting heads with the massive export economies of Asia. The US economy can’t consume any more than it is, therefore Central Europe becomes a battle ground, but for the most part it lacks sufficient per cap income to become a serious consumer of the mass of products being produced world wide.
Russia currently still has Sevastopol in the Ukaine as it’s headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet equipped with intercontinental weapons. Russia has a treaty keeping these bases into the year 2042. As a former US Army logistics officer I can assure readers Putin will not allow this base to be removed. Russia will invade if Sevastopol is threatened. Neither the EU nor the USA can stop that, various economic sanctions will have no immediate impact on Russia. Obama is blowing smoke as is the EU in relation to the Ukaine.
“Note that even in Hungary the Fideszniks or Jobbikniks, who until a year ago hated Russia were very easily convinced by Orban that after all we need Russia.”
Oh, please, how naive can you get? You must belong to that over-blown group who think that the ‘cold war’ has ended…Really? If you could put a mic into FSB headquarters, do you think that Russian agents feel that the cold war is at an end? It isn’t. The Russians are working overtime to undermine the West, presently through Europe. They have many Schroders throughout Europe who are not in the open. (Could Orban be one?) In any case, financial support etc. are available to right wingers through Europe. Why on earth would Jobbik be so supportive of things Russian? Anyway, the undermining goes on apace. And, as I’ve said before, the US does not much seem to mind because if there’s one force that could topple
American hegemony of power in the future, it would be a truly united Europe. And they know it. In the meantime, the Russkies have been given a free hand (by the Americans) to create all sorts of mayhem.
petofi: Why on earth would Jobbik be so supportive of things Russian?
Vona Gabor was instrumental in having the Ukrainian right wing nationalist party Svoboda removed from the Alliance of European National Movements (AENM) after meeting with Aleksandr Dugin of the Russian National Bolshevik Front and the Eurasia Movement. Dugin advocates dismembering the Ukraine, and considered that the western Carpathian region – with its Hungarian minority – could be returned to Hungary.
“Vona hates the EU and advocates the Eurasian Union that Putin is willing to establish in 2015: “According to Vona, Hungary must decide within a few years whether to stay with the EU, join a forming Eurasian Union or try to remain independent. One thing is certain […], the first path is not an option for us, we have no future there. Instead, we must give way to transcendent values and quit the matrix of global capitalism”.
I am surprised that not much notice was taken of this announcement on Jobbik’s official web site on Feb. 3: “Jobbik now considers it particularly important that the Fidesz introduces the strongest national advocacy because the Ukrainian crisis easily creates a historic opportunity to finally reconcile and even solve the situation of Hungarians in Transcarpathia.”
Please note, that under the previous (and more western) Ukranian regime, anti-Hungarian measures were taken in Zakarpatia. Fervent nationalism of segmments of the Ukranian opposition do not bode good tidings for the Hungarian minority on this side of the Carpathians. The composition of the Ukranian anti-government groups is similar to a small extent to the Syrian problem, i.e. there are bad fellows on the anti side also.
Stating this a hundred more times won’t make it true.
For instance, while Germany’s trade balance with Poland is certainly positive, 1) the surplus is only 25% of the surplus it makes with France (or the US, or the UK, or Austria/Switzerland) and 2) Germany’s trade balance with CZ, HU, SK is certainly negative… so who is a market for whom, exactly ? I guess everybody is, which shouldn’t be news as it has been a pillar of the EU since its foundation.
As far as wealth is concerned, well… I’m still waiting for a demonstration that the whole 5th enlargement process did not significantly contribute to the 2004 members’ growth from 1995 on. By almost 2 points per year until 2008 at least. Again, look at Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova. Where were they, and where are they now?
Did the ‘old EU’ also benefit from the enlargement? Of course, though obviously Germany for instance invested and outsourced far better than France – one of the main factors for its current performance, particularly on emerging markets – ie, outside the EU.
Splendid idea. And assuming that Tappanch needs to protect his or her anonymity because of the Fidesz mafia, if the article cannot appear under a pseudonym, I’m sure several of us non-anonymous expat supporters would be happy to co-sign it.
Let Putin lend a few billion dollars more to Orbán so that Hungary can buy back Zakarpattia. Ianukovitch will certainly agree, since he’s not very popular there. Problem solved!
a right-wing blogger already suggested it. Later she said that it was just a joke.
Today interview with András Heisler, the leader of Mazsihisz:
Klubradio interview 2014. february 20th:
András Heisler said that they recieved the letter from Viktor Orban the prime minister. First Heisler was asked about the phrasing, “Tisztelt elnök urak!”, “Tisztelt Ügyvezető Igazgató Úr!” to which he explained that there were three people signing the Mazsihisz letter, not just him. Heisler reiterated their committment to the Mazsihisz congress decision: since their three demands(“Követelések” was the exact word used by Heisler) raised by the congress were not yet dealt with there is no reason to call a new congress together. Only a full congress is capable of reviewing the earlier decision according to Heisler.
Heisler welcomed the fact that there will be negotiations on the issues raised after the election. He said the the current climate is so hysterical that if anyone says anything they get immediately and viciously attacked. He used his own example: when they wrote the letter to the prime minister some found the letter to be too polite and heavily criticized it. It was covered on this blog too that a Mazsihisz member called for the immediate dismissal of Heisler and other Mazsihisz leaders because their letter wasn’t acceptable to them.
Heisler also expressed his view that the statue to the victims of the german occupation will not be built. Of the new date, MAY 31. Heisler said that this date can easily change as the original date changed as well, which was March 19. He said if the date gets changed again it will give enough time to discuss the statue properly and create a new symbolism for this memorial. He repeated that they view the symbolism of the original design as problematic and a different symbolism is needed.
Heisler also noted the positive developments regarding the “House of Coexistence” and the question of Páva street. Heisler was hopeful that the negotiations after the elections will proceed in a positive atmosphere and the details can be worked out on these and other issues.
Let’s hope it remains a joke (of the funny kind, not the fidesz kind).
Not much related to H.S. but well worth reading.Der Spiegel about the big game in Ukraine
Chess in a Minefield: The Global Implications of the Ukraine Conflict
By Uwe Klussmann
It is a great relief to learn that the Hungarian public is vigilant and cares about reality.
The importance of Ukraine is smaller today than of Serbia in 1914.
Ukraine is large country, with lots of trouble.
The whole world should demand from Putin to end his destructive actions in Asia and Europe.
Like in Syria, we have to replace the tyrants of the current regime, and prevent wild militias and terrorist from entering the country.
We had to support the army of Syria to end the rule of Assad, protect the population, and keep out the extremists.
Hello Mr. Obama, and Saudi King Abdullah.
Hungary was never forced to open its markets. It was not the case that the EU, at that time EC, told Hungary in 1990: open your markets otherwise we will not – but what exactly? There were programmes, in particular PHARE, that were set up to aid Hungary financially, and Hungary had decided years before that to join the IMF and borrow from the West. It was the express wish of the countries that left the Soviet block to join the EU as quickly as possible – against the warnings of some people in the West that that might be too much for what these countries can bear. And not necessarily economically but more politically. The EU is not responsible for the difficulties that these countries have with the rule of law, oligarchs, corruption, old-boys networks, wild privatisation and so on. The opening of markets as such is a minor point compared with the limited capacity of these societies to secure transparency in public matters and the rule of law.
“Viktor Yanukovich is a democratically elected president who has used his powers to eliminate liberal-rights safeguards and jail political opponents on dubious charges. He has reinforced his political position by building cronyistic relationships with powerful business figures. In this system the state creates economic rents and awards them to favoured business interests, who in turn buttress the state’s political power, all while maintaining the trappings of democracy. In other words, Ukraine looks a lot like Russia or Egypt; more significantly, it looks like other states that are in the early stages of similar threats to liberal democracy, such as Turkey and Hungary.”
The Economist has distilled the complaints of Hungarian democrats very nicely with this statement, and linked Hungary’s government directly with Ukraine’s. This is exactly why Orbán will not condemn Yanukovich unless “forced” or pressured to by the EU.
Monitoring the campaign directly will be useless. Observers should come early and go to selective Churches. One should definitely be Hegedus Lorant’s, Church of the Returned. He can easily be removed from the pulpit by foreign condemnation of the Reformatus Church for what goes on there..
Maybe the situation is the alarm bell that the EU needs to hear in order to recognize that checks and balances must be in place especially in other “sensitive” countries. Failing to protect the real democracy and the real freedom of the press could cause the same damage over and over again tav different places and at different times.
The road paved to the Hungarian election is full of land mines to all opposition parties, and unfortunately the misinformed population and the corrupted party friends lend a hand to the distraction.
@Kavé & Petofi
Shekhovtsov’s pieces are very interesting, but my guess is Jobbik has become far less interesting than Fidesz in Russia’s eyes. OV’s ‘respectable’ euroscepticism makes him priceless for the upcoming years, whereas Jobbik will remain a fringe group with the limited credibility of a bunch of costume party-goers.
Similarly, United Russia started flirting with a bunch of anti-EU populist parties that may form a group in the EP come June: the French Front National, Dutch PVV, Austrian FPÖ and Italian Llega Nord. All pretty telegenic.
An interesting perspective on the Ukrainian events from Karpatalja (where the Hungarian minority lives in Ukraine) (in Hungarian)
The main idea seems to be that the Hungarian minority is sitting this conflict out, as they are skeptical about the current opposition. They are not sure if an opposition government would be better for them than the current government. The pro-Russian Yanukovych is more supportive of minority rights (well, not because of the Hungarians, but because of the Russian minority living in Ukraine) than his predecessor, Tymoshenko (who is currently in prison). The opposition is anti-Russian, and the Hungarians are concerned that an opposition government would be heavy-handed not only with the Russian but with all minorities.
@Marcel De: “…whereas Jobbik will remain a fringe group with the limited credibility of a bunch of costume party-goers.”
Fringe groups are the ideal trouble makers. Even if they are not potential political allies, they may become useful for putting pressure on governing parties… so for the Russian secret service they still may be useful. I, too, heard rumors about Jobbik’s Russian connection, and I don’t think that the idea is too far fetched.
The Ukrainian parliament a short time ago voted against the anti-terrorism measures in the country, with 236 deputies casting their votes. The decision calls for a ceasefire and return of all security forces to their permanent deployment areas. The resolution also prohibits the use of firearms in certain situations and bans the blocking of public transport. There is live coverage of all of this on Russian TV, which is amazing to me. Some of this is also available on the English language RT station. The death count from last night to the last hour is over 70.
What is even more interesting is the support via internet postings for aggressive intervention in the Ukaine by Russia. Here is an example of the posts that are appearing: “The Ukrainian parliament are cowards. They are handing over the country to violent right-wing terrorists! What a travesty!!”
There are other posts condemning the EU and Obama for creating the violence. Here is one post of many that are being allowed to appear by the Russians: “U.S. and European Union – evil! 75% of Ukraine against joining the EU and want peace with Yanukovych. People chose it – it’s the people’s will.”
Putin is preparing its population for a potential invasion following the Olympics. I don’t think Putin is any too impressed with the EU sanctions or NATO in relationship to his geopolitical calculations relating to the Ukaine. What will the ramifications be for Hungary and Orban if Putin does push the button and orders troops across the border and orders the Russian Navy to fully secure all of the Black Sea ports? Such a dramatic action could really change Orban’s situation of playing off the EU and Russia.
The root cause of the current situation in the Ukaine is the failure of the transition from a state controlled economic system to capitalism. Many people in the Ukaine clearly believe that belonging to the EU will be the silver bullet for the transformation, clearly many others disagree and prefer the Russians, yet others want a right wing national government free from control of either the EU or Russia. The situation is ripe for a civil war, just like in Egypt where thousands of pathetically armed citizens proved ultimately unable to withstand having a trained army unleashed on them the situation of the protestors is not good. Either the existing government will reestablish order or the Russians will bring down the iron boot. Meanwhile the EU will pass various things that will be forgotten in a year or two.
But I do agree. Vona gave a big interview to Voice of Russia last september. I’m just saying that in the years to come, ‘respectable’ euroscepticist parties with large access to their national media will make better evangelists for Russia.
Just how big is the Hungarian population in Ukraine?
I don’t mean in Fidesz-fantasy figures, but in reality. Bereszász may still have a sizeable Hungarian population (enough to ‘win’ the recent referendum on the city’s name, although not enough to make the result valid), and the villages and towns right on the border, such as Csap, may still be predominantly Hungarian. But Ungvár, for instance, is entirely a Ukrainian city these days – no signs in Hungarian and you rarely hear it spoken. There are still Hungarian villages in the area, but, if my wife’s family’s experience is typical, nearly all the Hungarians who are left are pensioners. In a generation or two, there won’t be any Hungarian presence to speak of.
I suspect that if Orbán was ever stupid enough to try to ‘win back’ the border territory, he’d discover he’d risked everything for nearly nothing.
Egypt is in many ways different. There the populations grows insanely, after 2010 the contraceptive programs were canceled, so the growth even increased further. Already 60% are below the age of 30% and it is already impossible to maintain economic growth that can potentially absorb the people entering working age. I am not sure what will happen there, but the population growth alone can render Egypt a failed state.
That is not a problem in Ukraine or anywhere in Europe. European kids are pretty cool even in Greece where 65% of the younger adults are unemployed. Their numbers are dwindling and seemingly have accepted their fates. Not so in Egypt, I think.
Russia can intervene in Ukraine as nobody will stop it. It really depends on Russia, if the Olympics are over they can do it for sure. There is no downside for Russia. In fact I think the Russian public would love to see such an act, it would underscore Russia’s emerging power and make Putin very popular.
Orban will continue to support Putin. The monies from Paks 2 are unbelievable as are the the monies from the gas transactions. The Russians know the details so they could expose Orban at any time, but if they continue their mutual business Orban can gain even more. I do not think the EU will do much re Ukraine (they cannot really, have no power) and anyway whatever they do is practically irrelevant as regards Hungary (we have seen that they have no power to force Orban to do anything), so Orban’s Russian orientation will continue. The Russians need not to worry about their Hungarian Viktor.
“Meanwhile in Hungary a liberal blogger compared the two Viktors and found many similarities. Neither is a democrat, both are corrupt, and both built a mafia state with the help of their oligarchs. And yet Ukrainians are fighting in the streets while in Hungary Orbán still has a large and enthusiastic following. In his post he tries to find answers to the question so many people ask: how is it that the Hungarian people have not revolted yet? Are they less freedom loving than the Ukrainians? Are they longer suffering? Can they be more easily fooled? ”
I think the explanation is rather simple: while Orban is using the nationalist-populist method, Yanukovich is oppressing the nationalist movement that was always anti-Russian in Ukraine. Thus Orban has the support of the nationalist Hungarian masses while Yanukovich has the support of the sizable Russian population of Ukraine. How sizable it is is what will be decisive factor in the outcome of this crisis.
The rising star commenter Mr. Paul has had nothing to say about the Ukrainian rebellion. Maybe he is awaiting his masters voice.
Let’s refrain from bullying courteous opposition.
The trouble is, anyone reading this would think that US foreign policy is some sort of model of peaceful co-operation. We’re not getting the full picture! And this is not to excuse Russia’s own manoueverings, including their corruptive influence on the CEE region. Nonetheless, Russia feels it is acting defensively, and there are 2 main reasons:
The Georgian conflict illustrated a US foreign policy objective – pushing NATO right to the borders of Russia, running from the North to South.
In 2008 Ukraine also began initial steps to joining NATO.
These steps are considered by Russia to be AGGRESSIVE.
And you know what?
They are. This is the sort of ‘encirclement’ that Japan was subject to in the 1930s, and it had the effect of radicalising the Japanese military. It’s a provocative, neo-con foreign policy, and it’s as much to blame as anything for what is now going on the Ukraine. “Fuck the EU” – indeed.
whoever, reminding me of Japan. In the pre-WWI era Russia turned towards CEE (Balkans) exactly because it lost against Japan, to compensate. Now comes China and it will be apparent that Russia can’t keep up with China, it is anyway far from Moscow. So Russia will naturally turn its attention to CEE where it can still easily score points.
Hungarian State Radio calls the Ukrainian revolutionaries “terrorists”.
The program is edited from the Kreml, apparently.
OK. I will rephrase my comment:
Mr. Paul, I have read your comment on a radio interview given by the leader of Mazsihisz. Considering your recent productivity as a commenter on HS I expected that you would also have something to say on the topic of the day. I would like to know what is the position of the Hungarian government on the Ukrainian crisis which I find much more worrying than the Monument crisis, and I assumed that you would know it and defend it. Since you did not comment on this important topic I came to the conclusion that you did not know what to say and did not want to extemporize.
I suggest you check out this page
@Jean P: thanks for the laugh.
@An: third paragraph from the bottom?
@MarcelDe: OK, makes sense.
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