Waiting for the Kazakh dictator

It was a few days ago that Vladimir Putin met with his counterparts from Kazakhstan and Belarus in the Kazakh capital, Astana, to form the Eurasian Economic Union as a counterweight to the European Union and the United States. The provisions of the union will give freedom of movement and employment across the three countries.  They will also collaborate on issues of energy, technology, industry, agriculture, and transport.

What does the formation of the Eurasian Economic Union have to do with Hungary, a member of the European Union? Directly not much, but one must not forget that one of the cornerstones of Viktor Orbán’s foreign policy initiatives is the “Opening to the East.” In the last three or four years he has developed good relations with all three countries.

There has been a lot of discussion here and elsewhere in the media about Russian-Hungarian cooperation in the Southern Stream gas pipe project and the recent European Union efforts to block its construction, fearing that Gazprom will not  abide by the Union’s competition rules. Even more time was spent on the Russian loan to Hungary for Rosatom to build two additional nuclear reactors in Paks. What we hear less about are the quiet but very friendly relations between Kazakhstan and Hungary. The same is true about Belarus. It seems that Viktor Orbán enjoys the company of dictators.

In May 2012 Viktor Orbán visited Kazakhstan and gushed over the great achievements of Nursultan Nazarbayev, the president and dictator of the country. He emphasized “the historical and cultural ties that unite our peoples.” He admired the new capital, Astana, which he described as a “symbol of humanity’s new phase of development.” Orbán’s servile performance was disgusting then but now, two years later, Hungarian servility toward Nazarbayev has reached new lows.

Back in March, a journalist from 168 Óra discovered that in Városliget, Budapest’s city park, one of the roads was renamed Astana Road. After some research the journalist discovered that the decision to name a street after the Kazakh capital had been reached already in 2013. Originally, it was to be somewhere in District VIII, a poor section of Pest, but apparently the Budapest city council decided that the district is not elegant enough for the very special relations that apparently exist between the two countries. By the end of April the same city council (naturally with Fidesz majority) voted to erect a statue of Abai Qunanbaiuli or Kunanbayev, the great 19th-century Kazakh poet. Kunanbayev is much admired in Kazakhstan, where many statues commemorate his person and his work. Outside of Kazakhstan he has only one statue, in Moscow. But soon enough there will a second one which Nursultan Nazarbayev himself will unveil on June 4 in Budapest. The statue is a present from the people of Kazakhstan. It is a bust that stands on a three-meter-high platform.

There are other signs of the excellent relationship between Hungary and Kazakhstan. The mayor of Astana offered a piece of real estate gratis to the Hungarian state. The Budapest government can build a structure on the site in which Hungary could hold exhibits about the country and its people. Apparently, this is a very generous offer because real estate prices in Astana are sky high: millions of dollars.

Nursultan Nazarbayev, dictator of Kazakhstan

Nursultan Nazarbayev, dictator of Kazakhstan

Meanwhile, the fawning over the Kazakh dictator seems to have no limits. At the end of April, before invited guests in the building of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences of all places, Sándor Fazekas, minister of agriculture and rural development, and János Horváth, the oldest member of parliament and a US-Hungarian citizen, introduced the Hungarian translation of Nazarbayev’s book about his childhood and youth.  Zoltán Balog, minister of human resources, was in the audience.

Naturally, the book was a bestseller in Kazakhstan, though I doubt that it will fly off the shelves in Hungary. Fazekas referred to the Kazakh dictator as “an internationally respected statesman” whose autobiography will help Hungarians learn more about the history of Kazakhstan. János Horváth went even further. According to him, the fantastic achievements of Nazarbayev’s agricultural reform “will one day be taught at universities.” In his opinion, “it is appropriate (helyénvaló)  for the leader of a Soviet-type government to behave like a dictator, but Nazarbayev wants to move away from the practice.” The problem with this claim is that there has been absolutely no sign of Nazarbayev giving up power and contemplating the introduction of democracy. In fact, just lately he got himself reelected with 95% of the votes. Naturally, the Kazakh ambassador to Hungary was present; he compared the Kazakh president’s autobiography to biographies of Gandhi and George Washington. It was quite a gathering.

And last Monday Duna TV showed a Kazakh film, with Hungarian subtitles, based on Nazarbayev’s autobiography. As Cink, a popular blog, reported, “The Stalinist Duna World is showing a film about the Kazakh dictator tonight.” This is how low Viktor Orbán has sunk in his quest for friendship with countries outside of the European Union.

Advertisements

20 comments

  1. Like Horthy, who had no other choice than to embrace Nazism, and to declare was on USA.

  2. How to control media totally legally?

    And how to make sure in the meantime that the competition of Simicska/Nyerges will suffer badly?

    Introduce (and in any case continue threatening with) progressive taxes which affect only some of the Western conglomerates (in any case Simicska/Nyerges’ media are organized cleverly so that no Media Authority will find out they are managed jointly).

    Sucker Western-Europeans don’t know how to control and govern, smart Eastern-Europeans know it well. And people say there is no creativity in Eastern Europe.

    http://index.hu/kultur/media/2014/06/01/reklamado/

  3. If the opposition were wise, they would emphasize to the Hungarian people the fact that _none_ of these “openings” to the East are bringing good jobs to significant numbers of Hungarians and export-oriented investment to Hungary. All of these relationships put Hungary ever-deeper into client relationships for raw materials and, at best, create opportunities for a chosen few to skim off the top of deals in the form of commissions, insider trades, and a few cushy managerial jobs. These are “investments” in Hungary that immediately return to the East. In contrast, it is Western manufacturers and service firms that have created real jobs for Hungary, offering actual careers to working people, and put Hungarian goods into the export markets, (and with the value of the Forint, been forced to maintain their incomes as local investment capital rather than repatriate it.) I have no illusion that the Western investors are in place just as much as the Easterners to make a profit, but only the Western investors are contributing to Hungary’s national wealth
    .

  4. Lajos,lajos: “(in any case Simicska/Nyerges’ media are organized cleverly so that no Media Authority will find out they are managed jointly).”

    You know, and the (“Eastern Europeans” working for the) Media Authority do not?

    “smart Eastern-Europeans know [how to control and govern] well.”

    You mean by not being able to find out how cleverly some two well-known entrepreneurs are managing their firms?

    The most creative effort in this appears to be the way how publicly available information gets “lost” despite the apparently excessively intelligent “Eastern Europeans” working for the Media Authority, and that how this happens is interpreted as “art of government and control”. Too much palinka at work…?

  5. The only major media that is still independent of Fidesz (but almost completely apolitical), RTLKlub will have to pay 40% tax on its profit by a bill to be submitted tomorrow.

  6. I hope RTLKlub finally just moves to Germany legally and becomes a foreign station which Simicska then cannot tax.

  7. François Hollande, the President of France sealed the fate of Juncker, now he is truly finished, because France opposes him too.

    Even before this, David Cameron said that the UK will leave the EU if they elect the disaster that is Juncker as President of the Commission.

  8. The behaviour of our European politicians (including Cameron, Hollande and Merkel) is disgusting!

    First they have election campaigns with Juncker and Schulz featured prominently and then they say no we can’t have them …

    If I were Juncker I’d say no thank you!

    And LePen like Orbán or Farage makes me want to throw up – it’s a real shame that so many people in Europe have voted for these obvious loonies. Maybe Europe is destined to be thrown on the garbage heap of history – let China etc be the new superpowers. Democracy doesn’t seem to work – and doesn’t seem to be wanted by most people – they’d rather have a king/dictator/autocrat/whoever to tell them what to do …

    Seems that people are just stupid – at least a large number of them everywhere!

  9. Wolfi, this argument over Juncker is precisely about democracy. The demos, the people, of Europe have made it clear there is no enthusiasm for the federal Europe that you support. Your argument seems to be that they should be ignored. So democracy only suits you when it produces results that you agree with.

    In England there has been a 300 year process where power has devolved from the centre downwards. I think it is a very valid criticism of the UK that this process has not gone anywhere near far enough. But the general direction is the correct one in my view. A federal Europe suddenly reverses this and power is suddenly handed over to people over whom I have no democratic control. I think you can see, even if you disagree with it or regard it as an evil necessity, that it is a perfectly honorable position to take, that Federalism goes hand in hand with a deficit in democracy. People who hold this view are not stupid, they just have different priorities as to what is important in life.

  10. Let’s not put too much stock in the report that Hollande opposes Juncker. First, it was reported by a German tabloid citing anonymous sources. Second, if the report is indeed accurate, then Hollande is not opposing Juncker on principle, but because he wants a Frenchman for the job. If the top spot ends up going to a French Socialist, Orban will truly look like the fool he is.

  11. @HiBom:

    It’s just a small minority imho (25% in France and Britain, much less in Germany) that is against a Federation of Europe – but our politicians seem to give in those very vocal protesters.

    And if the Fidesz majority is really against the EU – then they should leave!

    Might save us Germans a lot of money …

  12. HiBoM,

    “The demos, the people, of Europe have made it clear there is no enthusiasm for the federal Europe that you support.”

    So you didn’t notice that the pro-federalist parties received an overwhelming majority? Wolfi’s argument is not at all that those in the minority should be ignored – where in the world did you get that idea? Still, the majority chose Juncker, essentially, even though is a rabid federalist. If Cameron doesn’t like it, he can take what’s left of the UK out, and we’ll take Scotland (and later, Northern Ireland). At this rate, Hungary and the UK can join Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan in the EU-alternative Eurasian Union- you can already see how well that is working for Russia’s economy.

  13. HiBoM:
    “Wolfi, this argument over Juncker is precisely about democracy. The demos, the people, of Europe have made it clear there is no enthusiasm for the federal Europe that you support. Your argument seems to be that they should be ignored. So democracy only suits you when it produces results that you agree with.
    In England there has been a 300 year process where power has devolved from the centre downwards. I think it is a very valid criticism of the UK that this process has not gone anywhere near far enough. But the general direction is the correct one in my view. A federal Europe suddenly reverses this and power is suddenly handed over to people over whom I have no democratic control. I think you can see, even if you disagree with it or regard it as an evil necessity, that it is a perfectly honorable position to take, that Federalism goes hand in hand with a deficit in democracy. People who hold this view are not stupid, they just have different priorities as to what is important in life.”

    I was taught in school that in a democratic state the prime minister is appointed by a majority in the parliament. In analogy I think that the president of the EU-commission should be appointed by a majority in the European parliament. Whatever the demos is claimed to have made clear is irrelevant if there is no majority behind it.

    There is a long way to go between appointing an alleged “federalist” and establishing a federation. Don´t worry about a sudden reversal. A federation will have to pass a democratic referendum in most member states.

  14. wolfi: “it’s a real shame that so many people in Europe have voted for these obvious loonies. Maybe Europe is destined to be thrown on the garbage heap of history – let China etc be the new superpowers. Democracy doesn’t seem to work – and doesn’t seem to be wanted by most people – they’d rather have a king/dictator/autocrat/whoever to tell them what to do …”

    Strong words! But I heard opinions to this effect also from other people in Germany over the last week. Too much of German idealism, I am afraid. If it does not work perfectly, the whole thing is not worth it. For me, the majority of European voters did not show up at the elections, proving at least a detached relation to the EU (out of reasons people have not directly told). Of those who voted, there is indeed a majority for pro-EU parties in the parliament, but the parliament is not the only place where EU politics is being decided. We still have the rather mighty heads of state. People have not been asked about whether they want a federalised Europe or not, but you can guess from the referenda about EU issues of the past ten years how the outcome might look like. That the EU parliament has decided to push the democracy issue and chose in advance their candidates for the Commission was brave but I am not sure they were promised by ALL heads of state that the choice of the sum of the voters will be respected (the results are quite different between the member states, as is the turnout). For me there should be some balancing between the “direct” results (through the EU parliament) and the member states, so that no country feels fully dominated (at least as a principle).

    I am not in favour of telling the UK that they either embrace some “Continental” ideas of integration (which are not so uniform either…) or they should leave. I believe that the European project should be able to integrate most of the European countries (West of Russia) as the objective is to create a stable mechanism for the countries for cooperation and peaceful settlement of disputes. It is of course a problem that this can imply violations of principles considered fundamental (such as “democracy”, “rights” etc.) but not always such “attractive solutions” are available. Do we know what dynamics a withdrawal of the UK could unleash in other member states? What is the price to be paid when we now stick to just one principle, and also based on a voter turnout of 40 %? So even if it appears “too pragmatic”, I would try to find a compromise with the UK, to have it as a partner against the real destroyers of the EU project – those political extremists left and right.

  15. “By the end of April the same city council (naturally with Fidesz majority) voted to erect a statue of Abai Qunanbaiuli or Kunanbayev, the great 19th-century Kazakh poet. Kunanbayev is much admired in Kazakhstan, where many statues commemorate his person and his work.”

    I must admit I have been passing this for the last couple of days and I honestly assumed it was a homage to Confucius (and obviously to lick up to our new best mates in the Chinese dictatorship). But no, on closer inspection it is indeed Mr Kunanbayev.

    It certainly adds to the eclectic mix in the park where there are now presently statues of Leo Tolstoy (was regularly seen having a vodka in the Kertem pub in the Varisliget) ; Nixon or possibly Reagan (guess both would be heroes in different ways to Orban); Bela Lugasi (the famous Dracula actor) and Winston Churchill. The latter, along with the Olaf Palma monument is regularly vandalized by the local Fidesz-Jobbik Nazi Youth.

    Anyway, they will all be disappearing soon as the Fidesz Mafia are going to let their oligarchs loose on one of the last green areas in the city. Multi-storey car parks replacing kids’ swings, Trianon Haz taking over from the football pitches. And a Museum quarter that is only being built to line the Mafia’s pockets.

Comments are closed.