Changes in the Hungarian foreign ministry and the growth of the third Orbán government

Today I would like to say a few words about the reorganization of the government. First, one wonders why it took so long to create the third Orbán government considering that on the top level there were very few personnel changes. Only two ministries were affected–the ministry of foreign trade and foreign affairs and the ministry of administration and justice. Not much changed in the latter, but what happened in the former is truly astonishing. With the arrival of Tibor Navracsics and Péter Szijjártó about 200 new faces appeared in the ministry; their corresponding numbers were either dismissed or moved to other positions in other ministries. It is just now becoming evident how dissatisfied Viktor Orbán must have been with János Martonyi and the men and women around him.

In 2010 Viktor Orbán announced that there were two ministers whose presence in his second government was assured: Sándor Pintér and János Martonyi. Martonyi hadn’t been officially nominated at the time, but Orbán sent him nonetheless to Bratislava to negotiate with the Slovaks.

Martonyi has been loyal to Viktor Orbán ever since 1998 when he was first named foreign minister. From the WikiLeaks documents we know that after the lost election of 2002 Martonyi was a frequent and welcome visitor in the U.S. Embassy in Budapest where he was especially highly regarded by Ambassador April H. Foley (2006-2009). As a result, the relationship between Ferenc Gyurcsány and the American ambassador was outright antagonistic.

János Martonyi made an almost clean sweep in the personnel of the ministry in 2010 and yet, it seems, the atmosphere and the foreign policy strategies devised by Martonyi were not to Orbán’s liking. More and more areas of foreign policy were taken away from the ministry and given to others: first to Tamás Fellegi, minister of national development, and later to Péter Szijjártó. The former was supposed to woo China and Russia while Szijjártó concentrated on the Middle East. And yet Martonyi defended the prime minister and remained loyal to the end. If he was insulted by being sidestepped and ignored, he didn’t show it.

Now his tenure is over. For six months Tibor Navracsics will fill Martonyi’s place after which Orbán’s real favorite, Péter Szijjártó, will become minister. He will most likely continue the policy of the “Eastern Opening,” the brainchild of Viktor Orbán. For such a drastic change in orientation an entirely new staff was necessary. Not one of the six undersecretaries remained, and out of the ten assistant undersecretaries only one kept his job.

Among the victims was Enikő Győri, undersecretary in charge of Hungary’s relations with the European Union, who will be leaving to serve as ambassador to Spain. Her departure might be connected to a debate about which ministry should deal with the EU.  János Lázár wants to move the responsibility to the prime minister’s office, while Navracsics insisted that relations with Brussels belongs to the ministry of foreign affairs. After Navracsics’s departure Lázár may well have his way.

The third Orbán government / MTI Photo Attila Kovács

The third Orbán government / MTI Photo Attila Kovács

Gergely Prőhle, the assistant undersecretary about whom I wrote several times, is also leaving. Zoltán Balog created a new position for him in the ministry of human resources. With this change Prőhle’s diplomatic career seems to be coming to an end. Earlier he served as ambassador to Bern and Berlin.

The most noteworthy change is the departure of Zsolt Németh, undersecretary of foreign affairs in both the first and the second Orbán governments. He was one of the founders of Fidesz who has held high positions in the party ever since 1989. In fact, between 1995 and 2003 he was one of the vice-presidents of the party. He has been a member of parliament since 1990. He will now be the chairman of the parliament’s committee on foreign affairs. According to NépszabadságNémeth was offered the post of ambassador to Washington but he preferred to retire completely from the conduct of foreign affairs. He supports a foreign policy based on transatlantic ties and “would like to see better relations between Hungary and the United States.” Apparently, he is not happy with the cozy relations between Hungary and Putin’s Russia.

In other ministries the changes were not that drastic, but practically everywhere the number of undersecretaries and assistant undersecretaries has grown. Perhaps the most spectacular growth occurred in the Office of the Prime Minister where there are eight undersecretaries and, believe it or not, 27 assistant undersecretaries. One of these new assistant secretaries has already made his mark. He is the one who is “negotiating” with the Norwegians about their grants to Hungary. In total, according to a new HVG article, there are 100 assistant undersecretaries in the third Orbán government.

I see no attempt on the part of the government to be frugal. Not only is the government growing steadily but grandiose plans are being hatched practically daily. The government is planning to build a new museum quarter, to move ministries from Budapest to various cities across the country, and to move the office of the prime minister to the Castle district, near the current residence of the president.

The Hungarian government is also continuing its mania for acquisitions. It is currently negotiating “to buy Bombardier’s stake in Hungarian rail transportation firm Bombardier MAV Kft.” The new minister of national development told Napi Gazdaság that “it’s a clear aim of the government and the ministry to carry out further acquisitions. It’s not a secret that there are talks under way in this respect with E.ON, for example.”

After this spending spree, who is going to replenish the Hungarian piggy bank?


  1. I am afraid the problems are bigger than this.

    MSZP’s “spectacular renewal” resulted in:

    – The election of Gyorgy Hunvald a multiple times convicted criminal to the leader of MSZP in the VIIth district.

    – The election of Laci Puch as MSZP leader in one of the counties, we all know about his machinations, deals and widely known corruption

    – MSZP’s Nominating an anti-Roma racist for city mayor in Miskolc, who is already fully condemned by Egyutt who said they will never support him. Egyutt’s support is crucial if MSZP is to win any mayoral positions at all. So nominating a racist by MSZP and DK already started alienating a liberals when a closer cooperation is needed.

    The elections for mayoral and other local positions are just a few months away

  2. TBD: “- The election of Gyorgy Hunvald a multiple times convicted criminal to the leader of MSZP in the VIIth district.”

    Hunvald has been convicted only in one small case an even that is bogus, in my opinion. He was indeed elected to be the candidate for the 7th district but after the Kúria did not acquite him. He resigned. He was apparently a very good and very much liked mayor.

  3. Take a good look on the picture of the new Orban government and find a woman!

  4. Navracsics has only been in office for a couple of weeks, but already summoned two ambassadors (Norway, Romania). Brilliant start.

    Meanwhile, I am looking forward to see his European Parliamentary hearing in September. As Orbán had fought mercilessly against Juncker, the candidate of the EPP, I am confident the EPP will not provide full protection for Navracsics for his candidacy.

    As the EP usually rejects one or two Commissioner candidates, it might be this time Orbán’s former Justice Minister’s turn.

  5. “After this spending spree, who is going to replenish the Hungarian piggy bank?”

    I guess the government will milk every foreign company with tailor-made taxes until they leave the country. Once that happens, the whole country and its economy will sink.

  6. Take a look at the new fleet of cars behind the Foreign Ministry in Ganz utca and you will soon see how the concept of saving (austerity? ha,ha!) is implemented. Perhaps it should be called the Forked Tongue Fleet

  7. “The government is planning to build a new museum quarter, to move ministries from Budapest to various cities across the country, and to move the office of the president to the Castle district, near the current residence of the president.” Éva, you mean the office of the PM, right?

  8. The blog-world must wake up, and run a thorough investigation on the orban era now.
    It is easier to do it in the present time than in the future under severe restrictions of the freedom.
    Deceits, lies, crimes, names must be brought up to the surface.
    The history of 1914, 1917, 1933, 1948, 1956, 1968, 1989, 2001 were also poorly documented, and each one was a great tragedy.
    So please use your flashlights and magnifying glasses. Dissect. Dissect more.

  9. The Albort Pasztor nomination concerns me. I agree with TGM that this is not acceptable. This was the same police chief who said: “a közterületi rablások elkövetői cigány emberek.” (“the perpetrators of robberies are gypsy people”

    Pasztor also talked about how it is impossible to live next to gypsies and how their kids grow up to be criminals. He is a despcable, racist man. Why the hell would MSZP or DK want a man like this? Do they want to rule Miskolc this badly? This far we have known especially DK as a party of uncompromising principle guys who don’t just change their opinion to follow the voters.

    And now they make a change like this, why? In 2009 after Pasztor’s racist outburst, PM Gyurcsany wanted him fired, and with good reason. And now he wants him as mayor, why exactly? Because he thinks Miskolc voters are racist? Whoever thinks that these folks will vote for DK instead of Jobbik if you just throw them a Pasztor? And if we step on this road where will it lead to, now we nominate Pasztor but tomorrow maybe someone anti-semitic if that guy has local support like Albert Pasztor?

  10. Orban is now the de facto president of Hungary with Lázár acting as his prime minister.

    Áder – for the time being – remains the figurehead president, and he is anyway an old ally of Orban’s, and as far as politics or policy go, he is irrelevant.

    Orban is taking a bit of rest, while retaining the right to deicide any and all questions in Hungary.

    But daily decision making and politics are being delegated to Lázár, who is now a de facto prime minister.

    The power and influence of other ministers are completely secondary.

    Since Lázárt became essentially irreplacable, he will stay on. Neither Rogán, nor others are up to Lázárs ability “to get things done”, therefore they cannot be real competitors of Lázár.

    (Note Bence Tuzson who gave up his bar membership, indicating he sees his future in politics.)

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