Something new and remarkable happened in the last few months. Due to a “creative reading” of the Lisbon Treaty, the European Parliament seized the initiative and managed to have its own candidate, Jean-Claude Juncker, be the likely president of the European Commission. With this act the European Parliament brought the process of electing the Commission president out into the open. Instead of 28 prime ministers bargaining over the nominee behind closed doors and the Parliament meekly voting for their choice, Juncker’s name has been bandied about in every EU country, including Hungary. Thus, the European Union came a little closer to its citizens. All this was due to British Prime Minister David Cameron, who was dead set against Juncker because he found him too much of a “federalist.” After a month of debate the decision has been made. Juncker’s appointment is practically assured since both the European People’s Party (EPP) and the Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (A&D), the two largest parties in the European Parliament, support Juncker.
The clear loser in this fight is David Cameron, who in the opinion of The Guardian suffered a humiliating defeat. The New York Times wasn’t more charitable. It called the 26:2 vote in favor of Juncker a “humbling defeat.” Neither newspaper mentioned the name of Viktor Orbán, the sole ally of David Cameron who went down with him. Although I doubt that Viktor Orbán can sink much farther in the eyes of the other European politicians.
The Hungarian right-wing press was in ecstasy when Hungary’s strong man flexed his muscles and delivered a speech in the European Council in which he announced his opposition to Juncker. He was suddenly seen as an important player in European affairs who will make a real impact on the future of Europe. Perhaps the funniest manifestation of this admiration was the cover of Heti Válasz with the words: “The strong man of Europe: Three years ago they would have removed him, today they cannot bypass him.”
An article appeared today in the same paper which tried to convince its readers that there will be no unpleasant consequences of Viktor Orbán’s opposition to Juncker. Perhaps Juncker will be magnanimous, but I somehow doubt that Juncker will be as forgiving as José Manuel Barroso was when it came to the games the Orbán government played with the European Union.
Viktor Orbán announced that he was going to vote against Juncker because he “promised [his] voters to stop Juncker.” Of course, nothing of the sort ever happened. In neither the national nor the EP election was Juncker’s name ever mentioned. But lying seems to come naturally to the “strong man of Europe.”
When Angela Merkel finally made it clear that she is standing by her party’s choice, Hungarian newspapers foresaw a great defeat for Orbán. It was also not wasted on the Hungarian public, at least not on those who bother to follow the news, that Orbán was unceremoniously left out of the meeting organized by Fredrik Reinfeldt, the Swedish prime minister, to discuss Juncker’s nomination.
Although it was becoming increasingly apparent that Viktor Orbán was going down, he is not the kind of man who retreats or tones down his rhetoric. On every possible occasion he kept repeating how Hungary rejects any “sneaky” changes to the EU treaty and how he is going to vote against Juncker regardless of what happens. I assume that one reason for Orbán’s decision to pursue this road was domestic: his core voters applaud his fearless stance against the Brussels bureaucrats in defense of the nation. The other reason, at least originally, was his fear that Juncker would not be a pushover.
So, now that it is all over but the shouting, how does Orbán explain himself? He naturally stands by the correctness of his decision: Hungary had to give a “forceful signal that it does not accept the curtailment of national competences.” Yes, the final score was 26:2 but it matters not. He would have voted against Juncker even if he had been the only one to cast a negative vote.
At the press conference after the meeting Orbán talked about his “other accomplishments” during the negotiations. He claimed that his suggestion to lower payroll taxes found universal approval in the Council. His “radical” suggestion to lower energy prices, on the other hand, as he admitted, garnered only a few supporters.
It doesn’t matter how Orbán tries to explain away this defeat, it remains a defeat. One reason Viktor Orbán’s violations of EP laws were tolerated until now was that the EPP caucus, where Fidesz MEPs sit, badly needed the large Hungarian contingent. But now, for Juncker’s election at least, EPP does not need the Hungarians because they have the support of the S&D. As for all the speculation about Fidesz MEPs leaving EPP and moving over to the Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists, where the British Conservatives gather, I discard it as a possibility. Fidesz has a much better chance to make a difference in the European Parliament as a member of the EPP caucus.
One of my favorite journalists who writes excellent opinion pieces under the pseudonym of Elek Tokfalvi (the Hungarian mirror translation of Alexis de Tocqueville) with his usual wonderful sense of humor entitled his piece in HVG about the Juncker victory “We will be a colony of Luxembourg.” Poor Viktor Orbán. He’s stuck with a “federalist” at the helm of the European Commission who actually expects member states to obey EU laws.
“Neither newspaper mentioned the name of Viktor Orbán, the sole ally of David Cameron who went down with him.”
I guess, as opposed to Mr. Orban, the rest of the world does not think that Hungary is the center of the Universe and that Mr. Orban is the smartest man around.
Viktor Orbán: The Genius of the Carpathian Basement…
How about this quote from Index:
“A miniszterelnök szerint ha úgy érzik, hogy a szerződés keretei nem jók, akkor azt transzparens módon kell megvitatni és módosítani, nem a szerződés értelmezésével próbálkozva alakítani a szabályokon.”
“The Prime Minister said that if they feel that if the contract framework isn’t good, they should discuss and amend it in a transparent way, not try to adjust the rules through the interpretation of the contract.”
Ah yes. Viktor Orbán, always the defender of transparent debate.
Let’s forget about ‘transparent’…would anyone in the Fidesz caucus know what a ‘debate’ is?
I find as a non-European it very difficult to see much good in the selection of Jean-Claude Juncker as the new European Commission president. We can have a debate about if he is a drunk or the implications of the spying scandal, but he is a typical European bureaucrat that many average Hungarians seem to detest. I am not fully sure why that is so.
Luxembourgers are the richest citizens of the EU and maybe that has something to do with the dislike of Junker among at least some Hungarians. Maybe they like the idea of Orban being the pretend defender of the poor nations of the EU, whatever it struck a note with some in Hungary. Orban’s defeat is not being cheered by thousands in Hungary I suspect.
Junker promoted the tiny landlocked nation as very attractive to foreign businesses wanting to stash away their cash as a tax haven. In Luxembourg or the Cayman Islands, businesses can cut their tax bills by setting up a holding company without any physical assets. The US Internal Revenue Service simply detests Junker and his policies, it has considered litigation against Luxembourg based investment funds for hiding money for US billionaires. One would think with this type of resume many Hungarians might actually admire Junker for cunning.
Around 2.1 trillion euros ($2.73 trillion) are held by Luxembourg’s investment funds, according to an estimate by the financial consulting firm Ogier. Taxes are very low on these funds, leading many international companies to open subsidiaries in Luxembourg in order to have their profits taxed cheaply by the country of only 500,000 people. Junker fully defended that business model.
I can understand the Hungarian opposition cheering Orban’s defeat, but I just don’t see Junker bringing the Commission together to take on issues relating to the Russian seizure of Crimea or Hungary’s attempts to crush NGOs. Maybe I am not seeing something here?
Short answer to Istvan of Chicago:
The greatness of Luxemburg is in sharp contrast to the miserable serial failing of Hungary.
We should try to rescue Hungary from its misery forever. But how?
Istvan, Jean-Claude Juncker is not the typical European bureaucrat although he did preside over the Euro Zone. He is mostly known for being the former Prime Minister of Luxembourg, a pro-European country. Although I did not vote for EPP and I might have prefered someone younger, I personally like his outspokenness which too many EU and national politicians truly lack.
Thanks, Eva, for that really funny picture of Orbán – and especially crybaby Cameron!
Whatever you might say against Juncker – his main “feature” is:
He is a federalist – he wants to progress in the direction of a United States of Europa and this election has shown that that direction will be continued, while Cameron and Orbán (but he is insignificant …) want a return to the family of independent nations, the EU as just a free trade zone …
If anyone believes that Juncker’s appointment will be the saviour of democracy in Hungary, think again.
The EP’s unilateral declaration that they would decide on the (sole) leader – and not the usual ‘consensus’ (fudge) is hardly democratic in itself.
In fact the Council has realised its error and is looking for ways to ‘claw’ back the situation.
Merkel (NB please Minusio) was hardly a decisive leader, vacillating and bullying with her German economic bulldozer.
Some leaders were just too scared to vote against the economic consequences. Hardly free. Hardly democracy in action. Hardly transparent.
If you think Juncker will pull Hungary into line – think again (2).
As Prime Minister for a dozy, wealthy Luxembourg for 19 years – he is hardly au fait with what is going on in Hungary.
Nor does he care.
Nor does he have the power.
The tiny pimple on the body politic that Hungary is will be allowed to fester as a tiny itch in some nether region that goes away with the occasional scratch.
Poor Hungary – you fools. You voted for him.
“Viktor Orbán announced that he was going to vote against Juncker because he “promised [his] voters to stop Juncker.” Of course, nothing of the sort ever happened. In neither the national nor the EP election was Juncker’s name ever mentioned.””
Ms. Balogh is lying. Juncker name was mentioned in EP election. Opposition to Juncker was announced a few days before the EP election. Orban had interview called P8 on News TV, Hungary. Interviewers: Otto Gajdics, Peter Csermely, interview date: before EP election.
Opposing Juncker was main thing in interview. Maybe Gyurcsany lovers don’t watch but yes opposing Juncker was promised to us before the election. Please do not lie.
I am not really sure that any ordinary people have any opinion of Junker, either in the UK or in Hungary, or what his potential impact may be. Certainly it would be a good thing if he found a way to discipline Hungary more effectively. Also, he is a compromise candidate for many countries – it was not only the UK and Hungary which opposed him in the beginning, but those two countries have been unable to negotiate and work with others. Politicians in both countries are heavily invested in standing up to the EU for their national popularity – whatever ‘standing up’ might mean. My guess is that most people think this is political grandstanding with little significance in reality. Maybe the worst case is that the UK will leave the EU and Hungary get kicked out? and then the real devastation would begin.
“I am not sure if ordinary people have any opinion…”
Right. Hungarians do not have their own opinion–they have what is hoisted upon them by the Fidesz media and the priesthood. It’s an oh-so-sorry society. And what remnants of decency or integrity, or intelligence, remains…is quickly finding its way out of the country, and the medieval dead-end that Orban and his masters have taken us.
Expulsion will, indeed, come and probably because of the Paks deal. Perhaps that was the main point of it…? Creeping Russianism.
Hungarian feudalism at the speed of insanity. And well deserved, I might add.
Re the picture of Cameron and the big O….Cameron obviously thinking: “This turkey came to stand beside me just as the cameramen arrived. And now this pic will go around the world!
Oj vay, tzurelay!”
Orbán picks a fight with many people and has already lost some battles. RTL is the first company not giving in; probably others will follow. The fight with EU looks to Hungarian ignoramuses as a good fight for national honor. However, in the long run, Orbán cannot win this fight.
Little strokes fell big oaks. And as we see now, Orbán is not a “big oak”.
The Orban allies, Putin and Tehran are disappointed.
They striker can not kick more goals against the EU team.
that Junker is a federalist (in favor of a United States of Europa) like his friends in the commision, is exactly what I have against him (them).
Hungary would be better of outside of the EU like Switzerland, which is linked to the EU by a series of bilateral agreements!
Don’t forget that most voters in all Europian countries do not want a United States of Europa.
Just like Ukraine, Hungary’s place is in the EU.
Moving from the failed East to the prosperous West.
Living in the Free EU, and not in the dark oppressive commie Russian alliance.
The Hungarian people deserve a crime-free government.
Or are the Orbans the only fair rulers?
Generations of conservative Hungarians are putting their trust in Orban, to prepare a repeat failure.
Horthy, the communists, Kadar and now Orban have failed the nation.
The conservative Hungarians must realize it, and support anybody but Orban.
Ukraine’s place is in the EU? Who is going to pay for that? Right the EU members. Aren’t you aware of the huge financial mess already in most EU member states?
There is no place for any country who wants to stay a sovereign nation that has the right of seldetermination. Said this, the EU is not a freedom loving entity you think it is.
Hungary has to stay a sovereign state with the right of seldetermination in my eyes. Much beter then to dissapear in a Europian superstate. With Fidesz and friends the Hungarians will deal themselfes one day.
Of course, we can always argue that the enemy of democracy’s enemy should naturally be our friend but in the bigger European picture then Juncker is no great advocate of greater democracy within the EU so, yep, it is funny to see Europe’s Strongest Man utterly and completely humiliated but if we are relying on the archetypal Eurocrat Juncker to sort out the regime, I think we may be sorely disappointed.
As Mr Pfeifer points out: “Little strokes fell big oaks”.
Orban picked his big fights in the last 4 years- stealing the pensions, destroying the concept of judicial independence, removing the freedom of the media to name but three. Each time he picked the fight each time his opponents meekly surrendered- the students, the teachers, the banks, the multinationals, the EU all rolled up the white flag without a murmur.
However his present actions; attempting to close down RTL, the building of the Homage to Hungarian Amnesia in Szabadsag Ter and the attempt to close down the civil sector all have the potential to be “little strokes” because the people his regime are attempting to intimidate are refusing to roll over as he demands. The strange thing is that he didn’t need to start any of those battles, in the big picture none of them are any threat whatsoever to the regime.
But his irrational hatred is coming into play again which means it is quite possible we are going to be treated to a nightly RTL anti-Orban Fest, elderly Jews being carted off to jail for daring to challenge his denial of Holocaust responsibility and the managers and staff of internationally recognised NGOS like TI and TASZ being pulled into custody and then show-trials to prove their “criminal action” (ie attempting to promote transparency and anti-corruption). None of these actions will benefit his consolidation of power, he and his “clever lawyers” are losing their sense of perspective and reality.
“Homage to Hungarian Amnesia in Szabadsag Ter……”
At the moment there is a hiatus in its construction – but it’s only a hiatus.
The long long litany of bad Karma that has been the Chief Thug’s ‘reign’ will continue unchallenged.
I disagree that any more ‘little strokes’ will fell him.
It’s because he has not been baulked in any significant way that he carries on his ‘unconventional’ methods.
Unchallenged by the Hungarian people.
Unchallenged by the EU.
Unchallenged by Constitutional Court
Unchallenged by ANYBODY.
When Orban moves into his refurbished castle his madness will continue. His minions will continue to worship him and in his ‘bubble’ he will become further isolated.
The last thing an Offshore-Haven-Juncker-led EU will do is to burst his bubble.
So breaking the banks; breaking RTL; and breaking any opposition will continue.
And Hungary will continue to go down the pan.
Hunker down for 2018, 2022 and 2026
Perhaps 2018 but then no more. By then, the country will be so thoroughly indebted to Russia
that it will, essentially, be run by Sberbank and MOL. The Fidesz gang will depart sometime after
2020 or thereabouts leaving the country and its citizens an indentured, slave state. Hajos and Margit Sziget will be the exclusive residence of Muscovites. The Orban domain, Felcsut stadium, in fact, all of Felcsut itself, will be sold to Megdet Ahimdulov, who is already familiar with the surroundings.
Who can tell how the EU will look in 10 years?
I hope it will move into the direction of a United States – it’s the only long term solution which can guarantee peace.
Those who don’t want to follow can stay outside/move back outside. To compare an independent Hungary with Switzerland is more than ridiculous though – with the reintroduction of border controls Hungary would be economically destroyed. Or does any one really believe that “Eurasia” would take over the imports and exports between Hungary and the EU?
Not totally OT:
The HUF got very weak – it’s now at 310 to the € while it was between 305 and 306 a week ago. I’m sure this is connected to Orbán’s “success in Brussels …
The ‘United’ States of America Wolfi?
You must be joking.
The precipitous ‘bankruptcy’ brinkmanship games; the pathetic ‘I’m all right Chuck’ tea party; the fundamental bible belt; the anti-liberal latent racism against Obama; the chaotic house of representatives; ‘righteous’ idiotic gun laws……..yada yada yada….
Yea – the best of all systems ……but for the rest.
Charlie, of course I don’t want the USE to be like the USA – I’m hoping for a real united democratic Europe!
Imho even today the EU is more democratic and of course much more liberal than the USA (just take the death penalty eg and religious freedom, homosexual partnership, drug use etc etc …) – and that should not change, just more integration is necessary!
Interesting, from a UK viewpoint, to see how this is seen by others.
Here in Britain the fact that the UK was supported by Hungary is seen as either mildly funny, or slightly embarrassing – if it’s thought about at all. It’s just an amusing coda to the ‘Cameron takes on everybody and loses’ story.
If anything, it just goes to make Cameron look even sillier. Not only has he painted himself into a corner and failed utterly to achieve his aim, he’s also made himself look so stupid that he’s attracted this weird nonentity from… where is it? Oh, yes, Hungary. You could hear the amusement in the newsreaders’ voices when they mentioned this ‘news’.
You’re advocating drug use? Or do you mean the medical uses of marijuana?
I’m not sure what you find objectionable about religious freedom in the US–I’d say it’s a sight more ‘free’ than religion in Hungary.
As for the death penalty, political correctness aside, I see no reason why the state should pay for 60 years for the upkeep of a of a 20-something serial killer; or some who kill a family in their beds…etc. I see absolutely no problem with the state taking a life, especially when that life is maximally destructive to society. Fact is, you’d have fewer murders if there were more death penalties, after all, most murders don’t mind going back to jail–drugs, sex, gambling–at all.
As for the US constitution as a template…much preferable to something written by a pederast
on a slow train to Vienna, wouldn’t you say?
Hopefully, people will eventually see sense and the EU will one day morph into ‘the United States of Europe’. As Wolfi points out, it is the only viable long-term solution.
But it will resemble the USA in name only (assuming it’s even called that). The merest glances at the history of Europe and the United States would show anyone just how different they are, and how totally different a federation of established, independent, countries as the end point of long and complex histories, would be to a union of states which began life just 226 years ago as a grouping of recently established colonies.
Any comparison between to two to try to justify opposition to the natural progression of Europe is meaningless.
Of course I compare the USA to the more enlightened states in the EU like France, Germany etc where religion and state are better separated.
We’ve had that discussion before re the death penalty. Just one fact:
The murder rate in the USA is about five times as high as in Europe – so the death penalty does not deter murderers!
And we’ve just seen a report on National Geographic tv on how the USA is losing (or has lost already …) the “War on Drugs”.
I’m a big fan of (part of …) the USA and have been there on holiday often – but I don’t like the fundamentalists there nor anywhere else …
Federalism has been stopped in its tracks by the recent elections.
The ‘ever closer union’ clause of the Lisbon Treaty will be rewritten.
There are too many countries in the EU who want a review – despite Cameron’s clowning.
You’re USE, Wolfi is a pipedream!
Juncker et al won’t be able to hold the lid down on this hot pot.
I think Wolfi probably had in mind the crazy ‘war on drugs’. It doesn’t work, it costs billions, it creates an environment where serious crime thrives, and it makes criminals out of people who aren’t (except technically) criminals.
As for religious freedom – next year in the UK there is a very good chance that a self-confessed atheist will be elected Prime Minister. And even if he isn’t elected, the fact that he’s an unbeliever will never come up as an issue – any more than the fact that he’s Jewish. Could you ever say the same about America?
And your statement that we’d have fewer murders if we had more death penalties can easily be tested by comparison between those countries who have the death penalty and those who don’t – which ones have the fewest murders? I suspect it’s not the US.
Conservative Hungarians must take responsibility for the multiple failings.
Horthy, Orban have been champions of failed policies.
The fear from Communism have paralyzed the policies and allowed the whole sale looting of the nation.
The EU could have been the rescue path, while the Russian card is another suicide.
Conservatives have never been sillier than this time.
I too am a fan of the USA on many facets of life there – just to be clear.
However it’s like the curate who, when eating a bad egg as host of the Bishop, said “not to worry – it’s good in places”. (‘The Curates Egg’)
It is so funny to watch how each of us look upon the question of the United States of Europe. The Hungarian nationalists are horrified and want to be a second Switzerland when without the EU monies Hungary would have already gone bankrupt. The English follow the lead of euroskeptic public opinion at home. I must say that I’m on the side of the United States of Europe. That’s the only way. Just as the Americans discovered it in 1789 that the old confederation is unworkable. So is the present setup in the EU.
I, like most of my fellow countryman, am a good European! We are NOT euro-sceptics.
We too believe in the ‘ever closer union’ principle – but not on any terms.
But I am also a realist that believes that the European experiment can’t exist in its current form.
There are too many disparate ‘tribes’ to unite – and too many economic models to incorporate.
Not least Germany’s unbalanced trade model hoovering up all the profit of commerce with poorer countries; and the UK’s preservation of the finance universe to which it is the corrupt master.
I don’t believe the UK will say ‘No’ to the EU in the second referendum – but it will be close. And it will now be a long hard sell.
In addition I don’t think Germany will continue to bankroll the EU unless it is reformed – even if it benefits from its manufacturing bulldozer..
That’s why Cameron (and Orban for different reasons) was right that Juncker is the wrong man. He’s too old school.
There will ‘trouble at mill’ for a few political cycles before a better EU emerges from the dust.
“Could you ever say the same about America?”
You must be kidding, surely. America just elected a black man: not once, but twice. That’s like the UK electing an Indian; or like Hungary electing a gypsy, er (excuse me), a Roma. But you’re right: America would never elect a jew (ex-pat Hungarians would see to that!)
But a United Europe would have to lay the groundwork for it: they must begin a process of education in all the member states that nationalism is worse than useless. That the survival of culture does not depend on a strident nationalism.
When Cameron or Orbán for that matter speaks of reform that usually means loosening of ties instead of moving toward unity. He behaved very badly and alienated practically everybody except Orbán. I wouldn’t be too proud if I were him.
Wolfi:”I hope it will move into the direction of a United States – it’s the only long term solution which can guarantee peace.”
Unfortunately (see the Civil War) even that cannot guarantee peace.
wolfi:”Of course I compare the USA to the more enlightened states in the EU like France, Germany etc where religion and state are better separated.”
My understanding is that in Germany the various churches are financed by the government through a compulsory tax and the state determines which religion deserves this support. Based on this somehow it does not seem to me that the religion and the state are separated.
By the way, I would like to emphasize that although I am very happy with the USA from most points of view, I don’t claim that everything is perfect here. But something must be right about it, after all, although a relative young country, its constitution survived longer than any other modern country’s (with occasional amendments improving it). And whenever there is trouble in the world, the whole (civilized) world is looking to the USA for solutions.
“The EP’s unilateral declaration that they would decide on the (sole) leader – and not the usual ‘consensus’ (fudge) is hardly democratic in itself.
In fact the Council has realised its error and is looking for ways to ‘claw’ back the situation.”
I would argue the opposite – that a backroom deal after the fact among the heads of national governments (theoretically, small nations have the same voice in the European Council as large nations) is less democratic than an election that is partially a referendum on the president of the European Commission. In fact, I understand that such an idea is exactly what the proponents of the “spitzenkandidat” system had in mind: greater democracy. The fact that the council (according to you, I have heard nothing of the sort) might be trying to backtrack on their pledge is exactly the evidence I need to decide that the new way of doing things is more democratic.
You wrote: “The Hungarian nationalists are horrified and want to be a second Switzerland when without the EU monies Hungary would have already gone bankrupt. The English follow the lead of euroskeptic public opinion at home. I must say that I’m on the side of the United States of Europe. That’s the only way. Just as the Americans discovered it in 1789 that the old confederation is unworkable. So is the present setup in the EU.”
I don’t like to be obsequious, and I certainly don’t agree with you on everything, but I completely concur with you on this point.
Beyond what you’ve said, after the recent anti-immigration referendum in Switzerland, I suspect that they will not have the same access to EU markets for much longer. The Euro crisis was a direct result of an imperfect union, to quote greater minds than mine. The UK and Hungary are not going to be part of the EU experiment for much longer,and Orbán has essentially tied himself to a country that will drag him down with them, not that anyone in the UK will notice or care (except the Hungarian expats who will have to return home to their non-EU country).
I’m sad to see Hungary breaking away from the EU, but if it hastens the return of democracy, then it is a necessary evil. I’m also sad to see that the UK will soon not be part of the EU, but, as I wrote before, we will welcome Scotland, and the UK will eventually be knocking at Brussels’ door again.
The “Church tax” in Germany is compulsory only if you declare to be a member of one of those churches, if not you pay nothing. Btw this was introduced after WW1 in “The Weimar Republic” and the nazis continued it …
Re the Republicans in the USA – I found this classification:
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