No retreat: Viktor Orbán socks it to Ukraine

Once Viktor Orbán is on a roll there is no way of stopping him. It matters not what politicians of the countries in the European Union think of his belligerent remarks concerning the Hungarian minority in the Subcarpathian region of Ukraine, he will never admit that it may have been unfortunate to take Russia’s side in the Russo-Ukrainian conflict. Because this is exactly what Viktor Orbán did. The Russian newspapers uniformly welcomed the Hungarian prime minister’s remarks on minority rights, which in Ukraine’s case might mean the loss of sizable Ukrainian territories to Putin’s Russia. In his speech last Saturday Orbán talked about Hungarians as a chivalrous nation. I must say that he has odd ideas about the meaning of chivalry. Let’s kick somebody when he is down. A real gentleman.

Although Foreign Minister János Martonyi tried to salvage the situation after the outburst of indignation from Ukraine and disapproval from Poland, Orbán is not the kind of man who is ready to admit a mistake or misstep. Today at the meeting of the prime ministers of the Visegrád 4 (Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, and Hungary) held in Bratislava, Orbán not only repeated his earlier demands but added more fuel to the fire. He accused the western countries of hypocrisy when it comes to Ukraine because it is not only Russia that poses problems for the EU but Ukraine as well. Orbán expressed his doubts that democracy will ever take hold in Ukraine.

As far as his demands toward Ukraine are concerned, he told his audience point blank that since EU financial assistance is necessary, to which Hungary also contributes, he expects that Ukraine will do whatever is necessary to rectify the situation of Hungarians in Ukraine. Interestingly enough, in Hungary’s case that kind of argument doesn’t cut it for him. He takes the EU’s money and does whatever he wants. Brussels should not demand anything from Hungary.

So, what is the situation of the Hungarian minority in Ukraine? Since Orbán talks about 200,000 Hungarians in the region, the Hungarian media repeats this inflated number. According to the last Ukrainian census (2001), Hungarians numbered 150,000. Given the shrinking numbers of all minorities in the region, that number today, thirteen years later, is most likely smaller still.

Hungarians have cultural autonomy in Ukraine, as they do in Romania, Slovakia, and Serbia. After listening to Orbán, one might think that the Hungarian minority’s lot in the neighboring countries is intolerable. This is not the case. In fact, in the last twenty years or so their status has greatly improved. There are always some complaints but, on the whole, a state of peaceful coexistence seems to exist between the majority and the minorities. Orbán is simply using the crisis to his own advantage.

Of the four prime ministers who met in Bratislava, Donald Tusk is the one who most resolutely opposes Russia and supports Ukraine. Hungarians might complain about Russia’s military help to Vienna during the War of Independence in 1849 and, of course, Hungary was in the Soviet sphere of influence for forty years, but no one can discount Polish grievances when it comes to Russian imperialism. Polish concerns are both deeply felt and understandable.

Donald Tusk and Viktor Orbán, May 15, 2014, Bratislava Source: Hungarian Prime Minister's Office, Photo Barna Burger, MTI

Tense moments: Donald Tusk and Viktor Orbán, May 15, 2014, Bratislava
Source: Hungarian Prime Minister’s Office, Photo Barna Burger, MTI

I myself sympathize with the Polish position and fear that Viktor Orbán and Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico, who seemed to support Orbán wholeheartedly, are short-sighted. Moreover, if I were Fico, I would be worried about Orbán’s intentions. When is he going to demand autonomy for the Hungarian minority in Slovakia? When he is going to attack the Slovak law that forbids dual citizenship for its citizens?

As usual, Orbán got international coverage for his latest bombastic idea, the formation of a regional army. He is demanding “military guarantees for Central Europe. He talked about a Central European military unit (harccsoport) that could be set up by 2016. He also mentioned a longstanding idea of his, the creation of a north-south infrastructure that would facilitate the movement of goods in the Central European countries. And he pitched the idea of nuclear energy, which in his opinion is the key to European competitiveness.

I’m certain that Orbán’s followers will welcome their leader’s resolute defense of the Hungarian minority. But critics think that Orbán’s belligerence actually makes the lives of the Hungarian minorities more difficult. Here is one example from Romania. The Romanian government steadfastly stands by Ukraine and condemns Russian provocations. And lately, especially since the outbreak of the Ukrainian crisis, they worry about the Hungarian government’s demand for autonomy. They look at Ukraine and fear for the integrity of their own country.

Yesterday Bálint Magyar and Attila Ara-Kovács, in a piece that appeared in Népszabadság, called attention to an article that was published in Adevarul, the largest Romanian newspaper. It dealt with the fear that because of the Hungarian demand for autonomy Romania might succumb to the fate of Ukraine. Of course, one could say that these fears are baseless, but Orbán’s ruthless exploitation of the Ukrainian crisis intensified Romanian paranoia. And if the Romanian government worries about its own security, it may decide to withdraw some of the privileges granted to the Hungarian minority in Romania.

I have the feeling that this particular incident will not blow over anytime soon. After all, the Russian-Ukrainian conflict will be with us for a while. If a country by inciting ethnic conflict wants to redraw borders, its actions can easily give rise to a full-fledged war and perhaps the demise of a state. Just think of  the former Yugoslavia.

54 comments

  1. Here is the real weakness of this blog – and of the Hungarian opposition in general. Seeking to counter Orban and Fidesz with …. the indefensible (i.e. NATO’s aggressive posture and rationalizations for imperialist hypocrisy, the IMF and Galician fascists) will produce nothing good.

  2. “Orbán expressed his doubts that democracy will ever take hold in Ukraine.”

    Orbán on democracy. This would be funny if it wasn’t so depressing.

  3. And here is the real strength of this blog – it doesn’t hold insane views like Lumpy Lang’s!

  4. Orban–a Russian surrogate: ‘carrying some water’… and taking the heat off of Russia by legitimizing various Russian positions–disgusting.

  5. Orban can not stop himself.
    He feels free to manipulate everything.
    His speech writers and handlers can deploy him everywhere, too.
    Sadly, most Hungarians do not see the problem.

  6. lumpy Lang
    May 15, 2014 at 5:11 pm
    Here is the real weakness of this blog – and of the Hungarian opposition in general. Seeking to counter Orban and Fidesz with …. the indefensible (i.e. NATO’s aggressive posture and rationalizations for imperialist hypocrisy, the IMF and Galician fascists) will produce nothing good.
    ———–

    Maybe I am alone in this, but what the heck are you talking about? What NATO’s aggression against Orban? Hungary is member of the NATO. What imperialist hypocrisy when Hungary is restoring feudalistic structures? WHat IMF fascists, when Orban stole the retirement saving of Hungarians, took away the businesses of tobacco shop owners, etc? WHo is the hypocrite lumpy Lang? ..you totally lost me with the GAlician fascists, so you may need expand on that if you ant to be taken seriously.

  7. I thought I will include a simple interactive map that explains how Europe’s migration took place and how the “magyars”, Hungarians fit into the picture. I am just saying this as I have idea what Orban is talking about. Someone must explain to the old man that the magyars were not the first in Hungary. I know it is award concept for him and his followers, but it is the truth. So, when he is asking for all this minority rights, and so forth, it makes me wonder if he is willing to give any autonomy for the Slavs, and Germans and so forth based on the fact that they were there first?
    http://www.worldology.com/Europe/europe_history_lg.htm

  8. OT: Norway EEA Grants

    Only the state (János Lázár and his cohort) should decide on the Norwegian EEA Grants. That is Lázár’s answer to the Norwegians.

    (Why can’t the Norwegians just decide about that money from Norway and transfer the funds from there, or first to an EU entity and then from within the EU to the recipients?)

    Anyway. Fidesz will not compromise and and fideszniks know that sooner or later the Norwegians will give in. The starved Hungarian NGOs will persuade them to give in and they will. They always do.

    Lazar cannot be defeated. It is a matter of prestige for the fideszniks that they just don’t let rich and ineffectual Europeans win over the will of Fidesz. They always give in. And if not, even better, let those liberal NGOs “promoting homosexuality and defending the rights of criminals instead of victims” die.

    It’s a bit like telling adolescent kids that, look, you are adolescent, and it is natural that you take too much risk, but please don’t do it (eg experiment with drugs or whatever). The kids will hear the message, will get it, and they will do it anyway. It’s their nature in this age, it’s a cognitive developmental issue. Same with Westerners: you can poke at them and provoke them but they will not change behavior, it is their nature not to care, to always compromise, give in, give up. Orban and Putin know this bloody well, they understand the West, while the West just doesn’t get the East (or CEE). This is why they are there still and will be there for years to come.

    http://index.hu/gazdasag/2014/05/15/minden_norveg_penzt_allam_akar_szetosztani/

  9. “After listening to Orbán, one might think that the Hungarian minority’s lot in the neighboring countries is intolerable. This is not the case.In fact, in the last twenty years or so their status has greatly improved. There are always some complaints but, on the whole, a state of peaceful coexistence…”

    Eva where you ever beaten into a pulp for speaking Hungarian on the street? On your mobile phone? And then after becoming the victim of a racist attack, harassed for years by the other racists? To the point where you have to flee the country?

    http://www.parameter.sk/rovat/belfold/2014/04/22/szlovakiai-magyarok-kerekesztalama-hedvig-holnap-te-igazsagot-mindenkinek

    http://hu.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malina_Hedvig

    If not I suggest you rethink your views, on just how greatly others live. I had friends and distant family in some of these foreign towns and I can tell you I was not beaten but verbally accosted more than once when daring to speak Hungarian when visiting. Angry shouting and intimidation is incredibly common if you speak Hungarian in some of these places.

  10. OT:

    Strohmen and helping hands in action at Fidesz. Just another day in Hungary.

    Zoltan Spéder, owner of index.hu and now Takarékbank (and FHB Bank) and an all-around Fidesz oligarch had nice dealings with Istvan Stumpf, a long-time Fidesz-advisor and now member of the constitutional court — which is about to decide on the constitutionality of the nationalisation of the rural savings cooperatives which were eventually gobbled up in a very controversial way by Takarékbank. (The deals took place days before he became a judge.)

    I think the nationalization of the cooperatives (which were duly privatized a couple of days after the nationalization to one single buyer, ie. Spéder’s Takaérkbank) will be found constitutional. This is an important Fidesz party finance deal after all, and the judges know it, plus Spéder needs the network of rural branches to counter the Csányi-empire on behalf of Orbán who doe not like Csányi’s monopoly on hush-hush finance. I am sure it will not depend on Stumpf’s vote so strong is the party loyalty, but Stumpf will not even contemplate recusing from the case. I mean what is the issue here?

    By the way it seems Spéder helped the housing situation of a bunch of people, Antal Rogán, the former financier of Jobbik and now Stumpf. These Fidesz oligarchs are pretty smart it seems, the investments usually bring in the returns. Of course, none of these deals involved mortgages, politicians don’t need them when they obtain houses worth a 100 millions forints.

    http://hvg.hu/gazdasag/20140516_Barati_aron_kapott_ceget_Stumpf_Istvan_az

  11. @minority rights:

    Nobody says that incidents like the one you describe don’t happen – but are they isolated or do they happen every day?

    Then you might as well call Hungary an antisemitic country because similar attacks happen …

  12. A bit OT re the EU:

    If it depended only on us Germans the Social Democrat Martin Schulz would become the EU “president” – though many will vote for the Christian Democrats and around 7% for our anti EU party AfD which wants a return to the Deutsche Mark ….

    Well, at least the AfD is not as crazy as Jobbik – and not as strong!

  13. An amusing headline from the pro-government Heti Válasz.”A new turn: Even the European extreme right is shocked by Jobbik.” Then one can read summaries from TAZ, Die Zeit, and La Libre Belgique. All three criticize Viktor Orbán whom TAZ calls Gulyás Hitler. Only the Belgian paper mentions the Tamás Sneider (Jobbik) affair but blames the Hungarian government for allowing his election to the post of one of them deputy speakers of the House. A clever trick but at least they published the very critical opinions on Orbán.

    http://www.worldology.com/Europe/europe_history_lg.htm

  14. When will Hungarians realize that Orban’s stance with the EU is not only his messianic, napoleonic stance…but is daily bringing shame to Hungary?

    Is this the fit person being deemed a hero of the country?

  15. Sberbank, one of two Russian banks that opened offices in Budapest about a year ago, has started advertising on tv.

  16. “Russia is seeking closer economic ties with North Korea…”

    Putin sens a rep to North Korea. How long before Orban declares interest in same…?

  17. May be he is a Gulyas Hitler in the newspapers, but Orban will sooner or later get the kudos now that he (probably) makes Bela Kovacs disappear from the EU politics. Orban decided to move against Jobbik for political reasons, but I am sure he was also under foreign pressure to act, it was so obvious in the West that Kovacs was just a hard working representative of Moscow.

  18. @Palko

    So, if Kovacs is “…just a hard working representative of Moscow”…than what is Orban?

  19. “After listening to Orbán, one might think that the Hungarian minority’s lot in the neighboring countries is intolerable. This is not the case. In fact, in the last twenty years or so their status has greatly improved.”

    I don’t likw to use strong language, but this is a blatant lie and you know it. Hungarians living in Transylvania and the Partium are obviously better off than during Ceausescu’s rule, and Hungarians living in Austria are probably no worse off than 20 years ago – but those living in the Highlands, the Southern Lands and Subcarpathia have to face discrimination and threats day in and day out – just think about all the beatings, human rights violations and the shameful language laws.

  20. PM Orban’s new found interest in a regional military structure is just nonsense. Hungary is not exactly a military powerhouse and it ranks around 83rd among major nations in the world in military spending as a percent of GDP. About 1.75% in 2012 according to the CIA.

    Russia and the USA are spending a far greater percentage of their GDPs on their military with massively larger economies. Moreover, why in the world would Poland or Romania want to be in any joint military formation with Hungary since Poland and Romania are spending about 1.9% of GDP on their military, to allow Hungary to use them as a defensive shield?

    I could see the Czech Republic liking Orban’s idea, because they even spend a lower proportion of GDP than does Hungary on the military. Such a regional military formation as Orban proposes would make for many good jokes at the US Army War College where I did my graduate studies after my service in Vietnam. I wrote a research paper there in about 1975 on Lieutenant General Gusztáv Vitéz Jány who led the Hungarian Second Army to its destruction in the Battle of Stalingrad protecting protecting the flanks of the German Sixth Army.

    By 1975, many in the US Army began to study defeats as opposed to victories because we honestly were attempting to recover from our own 211,000 dead and wounded in the Vietnam War. My paper was one of many such papers produced at what we called the Carlisle Barracks studying defeats in the late 1970s. I suppose if one needs cheering up after taking a beating studying the Hungarian military in WW II is good medicine.

    There might be one useful aspect for PM Orban’s regional military structure, giving neo-Nazis something to do other than attacking the Roma and harassing Jews. Since MEP Béla Kovács, from the Jobbik is already a Russian spy he would be the ideal candidate to be General Secretary of Orban’s new regional military entity.

  21. @minority rights:
    Hedviga is with highest probability a double victim: 1. Victim of criminal attack which can happen in any country. 2. Victim of Hungarian politicians (Orban´s allies). They tried to profit from this criminal act and Hedviga suddenly started to say she have been attacked because of speaking Hungarian when calling her friend. But: mobile operator confirmed there have been no call from her mobile and no friend confirmed she have called her/him. There were much more strange things which according to Hedviga allegedly happend. When it was clear that there is no hope for political gains, she was let alone. A very sad history.

  22. petofi: spot on, but you are way too sophisticated. For an average EU politician, as much as he/she spends on the issue and what he/she could possibly understand, that will be enough.

  23. @Tyrker Most of us who are comment on tis blog lie the facts. We back up what we have to say with correctly quoting or linking various sources for our information. I am not saying that crime against minorities do not happen in various regions. For goodness ale, it does happen in Canada too (one old the most tolerant countries in the world), but it is an exemption, committed by by extremist individuals, and is not accepted or tolerated by society at large.
    On the other hand in Hungary when crime or hate speech / propaganda against minority groups happen is often overlooked by no others but the current Hungarian government. Consequentially, I find your post not only lacking facts, but hypocritical, just as I find Orban’s popularity speeches the same.

    Facts: Gyongyospata, law against the homeless, beating up or threatening Jewish individuals on the streets of Budapest, tolerated hate speech on the pages of Magyar Hirlap by Orban’s best friend, etc…

  24. Blaming the victim is quite common when crimes are committed. Just as rape victims are often blamed for causing their own rape there are people who blame Malina Hedvig for causing her own beating. The goal is to shift the blame away from the criminals and their supporters away to the victims. Quite a disgusting practice if you ask me. A very sad story. Nobody should ever blame the victim let alone harrass, intimidate and prosecute her.

    Another topic: I read in the newspaper that Jobbik defended Bela Kovacs, they say he is innocent. They now blame non-other than Joe Biden for the action against their Bela Kovacs. Talking about Biden’s intervention through a phone call. Does anyone know what phone call are they even talking about? Did Biden say a word about Kovacs even? Or is this completely their invention which would make Kovacs even more suspicious than he already is.

  25. Hungarians need to reeducate themselves: to discover what is Dignity, Decency, and the Eternal Verities that constitute the basis of a virtuous, human society.

  26. Szonda Ipsos poll (May 2014):

    Under 30, the entire left wing with all its many parties could only get in aggregate 6-7% (!).

    In other words 94% of the people are right-wing supporters under 30.

    I don’t know about under 40 cohort, but it must also be way over 70%, more like 80% (!).

    The young people will grow up to be hardened right wingers, they just don’t listen to anything that is branded as lefty or liberal. This is identity and not choice.

    The left wing is dead in Hungary. It is official.

    http://www.origo.hu/itthon/20140516-ipsos-mindenhol-legyozi-a-jobbik-az-mszp-t.html

  27. @Boogie: If there is anything the left can learn from Orban is the art of rebranding. Hungarian left does need some fresh faces, clearer and clearcut agenda, and better public relations that also focuses on uncovering the oppositions’ shortcomings.

  28. Thanks, Eva for that link to the Visegrad Insight!

    Here’s a short excerpt for those who haven’t read it yet:

    “The Orbán government had never had moral scruples over contradictory claims in public or supporting anything that did not affect Hungary directly if they had expected to have some advantage from such cooperation. But concerning Ukraine, the Hungarian government doesn’t really have a clear vision of its future apart from the Hungarian minority.”

    And:
    “Hungary’s recent “partnership” with Russia to build a replacement for the nuclear plant in Paks raises further suspicions. The deal is uneven, it suggests an asymmetric relationship between the parties and some desperation from the Hungarian side to conclude it at almost any price. It puts every risk on Hungary and offers every benefit for Russia in exchange for the building of a plant that will – according to every estimate – offer electricity at highly uncompetitive prices.”

    Really scathing!

  29. @wolfi Of course Paks will offer great benefits for many Hungarians, just like the flat tax offered great benefits, and the stolen retirement money offered great benefits. Orban offers great benefits for many Hungarians, just ask Simicska.
    If anyone is still puzzled why Orban protect the Russian interests. Fact: Russia closed the oil to Hungary. (I quote TV2 so there is no accusations form JB and Rev. that the news is fake.)
    http://tv2.hu/musoraink/tenyek/149721_nem_jon_orosz_olaj_magyarorszagra.html

  30. Mr Boogie,
    “The left wing is dead in Hungary. It is official.”

    I know it’s Friday afternoon and you are quite possibly over-excited about finishing school for the week but a little word of caution before you start proclaiming 94% of under 30s are “right-wing”

    You make the presumption that 100% of under 30s in Hungary care about politics and secondly that they all are fully aware of what actually constitutes “right-wing” and “left-wing” political philosophy.

    A large proportion of under 30s are fascist/racist/anti-Semitic/anti-democratic Orban worshippers be they of the Fidesz or Jobbik variety. No argument about that.

    A much smaller minority would have views which would be recognized as democratic in the more civilized countries of the EU. Again, no argument there.

    However I would contend that a large minority/small majority of under 30s have no interest whatsoever in the rantings of The Dear Leader or Vona or whoever is regarded as being “left-wing”. Would you argue against that?

  31. Some1: “What NATO’s aggression against Orban? Hungary is member of the NATO. What imperialist hypocrisy when Hungary is restoring feudalistic structures? WHat IMF fascists, when Orban stole the retirement saving of Hungarians, took away the businesses of tobacco shop owners, etc? WHo is the hypocrite lumpy Lang? ..you totally lost me with the GAlician fascists, so you may need expand on that if you ant to be taken seriously.”

    This isn’t about Orban or Hungary – a relatively insignificant player in this case. The point was that the weakness of this blog, and the Hungarian opposition is its cringing dependency on the EU… and readiness to apologize for Western imperialism, IMF shock therapy and all the other wonders of the neo-liberal ‘free market’. Against these wretched politics even FIDESZ can make effective arguments.

    NATO’s provocative policies towards Russia are no secret.. After agreeing with Gorbachev in 1990 that the Pentagon would stay out of Central Europe, Washington started an aggressive campaign to expand NATO, first by deliberately sparking the bloodbath in former Yugoslavia, then signing military pacts with Poland, Czech, Hungary – then Star Wars (though they backed off), then adding former Soviet Republics to NATO one after another. Then the attempt at Georgia…

    With the exception of the latter, Moscow has remained passive. As Nuland admitted – Washington has poured billions over the past few years into regime change in Kyiv. Ukraine is too historically and strategically important for Moscow to just roll over and play dead this time. Washington evidently cares nothing about strengthening reactionary nationalistic fervour in Russia (immensely strengthening Putin), let alone the potential for all out civil war in an already deeply-divided powderkeg like Ukraine.

  32. This lumpy Lang, and other similar posts were pure anti-intellectualism crafted by hollow fidesz supporters.
    Passive observation can not replace action.
    Their claim of objectivity is applied against our negative opinion on Fidesz.
    Nothing can excuse the rule of Fidesz.
    Are we seeing an alliance of the closet bolsheviks, and the Orbanist pro-Puting “patriots”?
    Who is representing the interest of Hungary?
    The usual tyrants have never advanced the cause of Hungary.
    Washington is again the usual cruel scapegoat, and Putins or the Ayattolahs are the nice sheep.

  33. Lumpy, whatever it is you are smoking, please let us know who your dealer is. That must be some pretty powerful stuff you’re toking on.

    To start: “the weakness of this blog, and the Hungarian opposition is its cringing dependency on the EU.” As in expecting that membership in a democratic coalition of states should somehow help guarantee democracy? What is exceptionally cringeworthy is the craven way that FIDESZ gladly bilks the EU for money while telling the Hungarian people that these EU funds are ours – with no strings attached – by some divine right, while ignoring the many agreements that go with EU membership. (Have another palinka, Lumpy, it will do you good.)

    As for NATO deliberately sparking the Yugoslav civil wars… remember who supplied the Croatian Police in Knin with arms in 1991? (Clue: they ate a lot of paprika.) Georgia was a provocation by NATO? Moscow remained passive? I’d love to sell you some real estate in Tiraspol! I bet you are going to miss Jobbik / KGB representative Kovács Béla when he retires to his dacha outside Moscow in the very near future.

  34. Totally OT:

    has anyone heard about the incident described here:
    http://www.politics.hu/20140516/dna-of-staff-at-orban-daughters-wedding-tested-to-find-missing-mobile-phone-waiter-alleges/
    or here in Hungarian: beszolunk.hu

    What I heard from another source:
    “Stolen” at the wedding of Orbán’s daughter was Viktor’s phone – seems it was returned quickly, but without the “card”, though I don’t know if it was the SIM-card or a storage card …

    So after some time (a few months later?) they asked all the staff at the wedding of Orbán’s daughter for DNA samples – not the guests though …

    Anyone knows more about this? It’s kind of funny …

    How long did it take Viktor and his special TEK forces to realise that something was wrong with the phone? A day, a month or half a year …

  35. Regarding the atrocities mentioned above: did they occurred just as frequently during the pre-Orbán times as today, or the Great Leader nationalist bullying “helped” to heat up anti-Hungarian sentiments, as I see it happened?

    In my opinion best thing ever happened with the over the border Hungarians is the EU-membership of their country of residence, and guess what, they wasn’t even obliged to vote for Barroso, because of overwhelming gratitude.
    All of this right now on jeopardy, because our very own little despot just couldn’t exist in peace, his only reason of existence is continuos, self-generated conflict, when he ca heroically “defend” the nation and above all, demand respect to Hungary!

    What a shameless prick.
    The constant Hungarian Revolution – from Moscow with love, Viktor..!

    One worst thing to watch still, and it’s the total submission and silent obedience of the Hungarian people, while robbed dry and pushed back to pariah, to slave in their own land – and apparently in accordance with their will, otherwise I have to assume that some mysterious disease turned their spine to putty, and that’s the reason.

    I have serious doubts if they deserve any better.

  36. Regarding Lumpy Lang’s comments, I am very critical of the Hungarian left/liberals idealization of the EU and to be honest some naïveté about the dynamics of capitalism. But once we begin to discuss NATO aggression towards “Russia” not the USSR we are entering a new realm. As a former member of the US “imperialist” army I will not deny that for many years NATO aggressively sought to contain the USSR and all other non-capitalist nations.

    But today we are discussing not the USSR, but capitalist Russia. NATO expansion in this context is primarily an expansion of the economic and political hegemony of German/US/French/British interests against those of Russia in Central Europe. Russia’s Eurasian project has two parts: the creation of a free trade bloc of Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan, and the destruction of the European Union because in is economically threatening to Russian gangster capitalism.

    I don’t disagree with Lumpy Lang’s criticism of IMF policies. But any thought at all that Russia is somehow still a good anti- imperialist fighter for the economic development of eastern and Central Europe is in my opinion totally unrealistic. Russia is not a force for good in this world today and probably wasn’t since it helped end the insanity of WWI. The Russian oligarchs are every bit as greedy and self aggrandizing as are Bill Gates or Soros. But at least Gates and Soros want to perpetuate democratic processes in civil society while holding the levers of economic power. The Russian oligarchs and the Chinese oligarchs prefer effectively a one party state and fear any competition for civil power. This is why Orban is drifting into the Russian orbit, their model for civil society is similar to his.

  37. lumpy Lang
    May 16, 2014 at 12:01 pm
    This isn’t about Orban or Hungary – a relatively insignificant player in this case.
    ——–

    I think you are on the wrong Blog. What a ridiculous statement to make. It is all about Orban and his gang, and how they try to discredit everything and anything that does not fit their agenda.

    By the way, the terms provided by the IMF would of been much more beneficial for Hungary then the loans Fidesz took on. You should read a little more about this before you cry a river about a big, bad IMF.

  38. Mr Boogie,
    “The left wing is dead in Hungary. It is official.”

    I know it’s Friday afternoon and you are quite possibly over-excited about finishing school for the week but a little word of caution before you start proclaiming 94% of under 30s are “right-wing”

    You make the presumption that 100% of under 30s in Hungary care about politics and secondly that they all are fully aware of what actually constitutes “right-wing” and “left-wing” political philosophy.

    A large proportion of under 30s are fascist/racist/anti-Semitic/anti-democratic Orban worshippers be they of the Fidesz or Jobbik variety. No argument about that.

    A much smaller minority would have views which would be recognized as democratic in the more civilized countries of the EU. Again, no argument there.

    However I would contend that a large minority/small majority of under 30s have no interest whatsoever in the rantings of The Dear Leader or Vona or whoever is regarded as being “left-wing”. Would you argue against that

    —————-

    @D7 Democrat

    I think you delude yourself. It does not matter whether kids know what is left or right wing. This is not about the substance.

    The younger generation has some things in common.

    They are uniformly frustrated as there are no good jobs in Hungary, especially not well-paying ones with which their dreams of consumption can be fulfilled. It is not a surprise that the leave Hungary in droves.

    1. As a result they do not like parties or brands which would – in the kids’ view – want to give more money to the poor and inactive people (such as gipsies) perhaps from more taxes from their already meager salaries.

    2. They do not like to associate with losers (nobody does, but conforming to the perceived expectations and peer pressure are greatest among the youth). The left in Hungary, since the fall of 2006 (Öszöd speech) has been on the defensive and in a decline. Many under 30 just do not remember a time when the left was seen as a potent force, a real alternative, all they know is that the left is a bunch of wusses without being able to be decisive and who constantly argue about intellectual issue. Nobody wants to be seen as a lefty because it would be impossible to justify such sympathies before your peers.

    3. Community. The left could not provide any feeling of a community when the right wing has been very successful.

    4. Frustrated people want decisive leadership which is completely antitethical to what the left has been offering for years with people like Mesterházy, Bajnai, Molnár, Csaba Horváth, you name them.

    And so on, we talked about these. (I am not gonna go into the issue of the individual parties, why they are totally unattractive to kids open to politics).

    The point is, most of the Hungarian kids (just like those in Poland for example) hear the word lefty or liberal and would run out of the world. Granted there’s 7% plus those supporting LMP and you have a bigger concentration of them in Budapest, so there you may have 15% of the kids liking some lefty party and perhaps these are whom you meet.

    In the under 40 cohort, which is almost double the size of under-30, there may be even 25% lefties in Budapest. They may not like politics, but when they vote they sure as hell won’t vote for what is branded as left-wing or liberal.

    But there is no more than that 15-20% in Budapest and the left is in a terminal decline, a kind of death spiral because it has been unable to and of course still cannot attract talent (it is full of formerly Fidesz-sympathiser vapid and dumb people like Zsolt Molnár).

    Since the situation will not improve for the left (suddenly there won’t be visionary people appearing etc.) and it will simply disintegrate and disappear soon. Sorry, but get used to the idea.

  39. @kommentelo:
    Blaming the victims is certainly outrageous and so is their misuse for political purposes, in Malina´s case only facts should be taken into account.

  40. Some 1 while the interest rates the IMF provided were indeed better the idea that the IMF can set a sovereign nation’s social welfare spending standards as part of its bail out package is not beneficial to any nation. Again I recommend reading Zoltan Pogatsa’s ( a Hungarian economist) book on the Greek crisis. I have also posted links on this blog in the past to IMF documents that criticized the percentage of GDP Hungary was spending on education.

    The IMF and the World Bank are not the friends of economies that are in trouble, they are the friends of the creditors who stand to lose money.

  41. Istvan
    May 17, 2014 at 5:45 am
    Some 1 while the interest rates the IMF provided were indeed better the idea that the IMF can set a sovereign nation’s social welfare spending standards as part of its bail out package is not beneficial to any nation. Again I recommend reading Zoltan Pogatsa’s ( a Hungarian economist) book on the Greek crisis. I have also posted links on this blog in the past to IMF documents that criticized the percentage of GDP Hungary was spending on education.
    The IMF and the World Bank are not the friends of economies that are in trouble, they are the friends of the creditors who stand to lose money.

    ————
    I do understand your criticism, and respect that. I do not agree with you, but I am not going to expend on that here as this Blog entry was not about the IMF. THAt subject was discussed in depth way back, when Orban put his middle finger up to the EU and IMF, when COF was marching from government money against the EU with the full approval of Orban. No books were written about how Orban choose terms to finance the country versus a more beneficial IMF loan. We are not talking about other countries here but the specifics to Hungary.
    I find your support to lumpy Lang disturbing, as s/he did not put any factual criticism down against the IMF or why would Hungary is better off with the financing chosen by Orban, still you agree with him. I do not understand what you are agreeing with, because anything you wrote is your opinion, and not lumpy Lang’s. You put words into this person’s mouth which you agree with, but it is not what s/he said.

  42. István and the IMF. The IMF wants to be sure that the money they lend will be paid back and therefore it demands oversight and financial restraint. This is what Orbán doesn’t want, I wish there was someone who looks into the murky financial affairs of the Orbán government.

  43. In relation to Some 1’s comment and Eva’s comment about Hungary and the IMF. I find it odd that Lumpy Lang’s and my own hostility to the IMF hits such a nerve among some. As we know Hungary borrowed during 2008-2009 $11.6 billion dollars and in August 2013 repaid, ahead of schedule, obligations to the IMF amounting to about $2.85 billion dollars. We also know that the interest rate swap for Hungary in paying off the loan early was a net loser for Hungary. None the less many developing nations found what Orban did to be positive.

    We also know that in March 2013 the IMF issued a report that was highly critical of Hungary’s economic performance and put pressure on Hungary to carry out a whole number of reforms even though Hungary had made all of its payments to the IMF on schedule. There was good deal of brinkmanship coming from the Hungarian side during bargaining with the IMF.

    If one goes back and goes through the IMF reports on Hungary it becomes clear that the IMF pressured Hungary to reduce both public sector wages and pensions. It advocated that nominal wage adjustments be postponed and all pension bonuses suspended. It also supported reductions in spending on education as a percentage of GDP as I have already documented for readers of this blog. The IMF opposed increased taxes on international companies operating in Hungary and much more.

    While I am aware that Some 1 prefers not to discuss other nations that the IMF has supposedly bailed out I think it is important to note that the basic approach to Hungary was part of a general approach applied repeated to developing nations. Overall the conditions placed on loans are too intrusive and compromise the economic and political sovereignty of the receiving countries.

    Kari Polanyi Levitt Emerita Professor of Economics at McGill University Montreal neatly summarized the central problem with the IMF: “It is important to note that IMF programs are not designed to increase the welfare of the population. They are designed to bring the external payments account into balance…. The IMF is the ultimate guardian of the interests of capitalists and bankers doing international business”

    One can be critical of many policies of the IMF and still question and challenge Orban’s economic policies. The position of some on this blog of backing the IMF to the maximum extent possible is simply bizarre for left/liberals.

  44. István: “Kari Polanyi Levitt Emerita Professor of Economics at McGill University Montreal neatly summarized the central problem with the IMF: “It is important to note that IMF programs are not designed to increase the welfare of the population. They are designed to bring the external payments account into balance…. The IMF is the ultimate guardian of the interests of capitalists and bankers doing international business””

    What Kari Polányi forgot to add was that without proper financial management economic growth is impossible and without economic growth there will be no increase in the welfare of the population.

Comments are closed.