Tomorrow’s vote to elect Jean-Claude Juncker president of the European Union

It’s time to leave Hungary for a while. Nothing horrific is happening there since the parliament is not in session and Viktor Orbán is in Brazil. So, it’s time to see what’s going on in Brussels where Jean-Claude Juncker has been making the rounds to solicit votes. He goes from parliamentary delegation to parliamentary delegation and tells them what they want to hear.

For example, he told the 70-member Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) that he is not a federalist and that he does not believe in a United States of Europe. One must keep in mind that the members of this parliamentary group come mostly from British conservatives and Poland’s Law and Justice party, which ideologically stands close to the far right. He emphasized the need for strong nation states and stressed that the European Union stands on the principle of subsidiarity, that is the principle of devolving decisions to the lowest practical level. He said that he does not want to compete with NATO and assured them that in his cabinet there will be no commissioner of defense. On the other hand, he is not ready to abandon the notion of free movement of people within the Union, which is a bone of contention at the moment between Prime Minister David Cameron and the EU. He also expressed his full support of the common currency as a prerequisite of a strong economic union.

A few hours after the meeting the head of the British contingent of ECR announced that they will not vote for Juncker because they consider the shift in the voting venue from the European Council to the European Parliament itself a significant move toward a closer union, which they object to.

The socialists (Alliance of Socialists and Democrats/S&D) received assurances that a socialist will be appointed commissioner for growth and stability. Here  Juncker indicated that he is in favor of a new transaction tax on banks.  He talked about the minimum wage, social policy, and renewable energy. In brief, the kinds of things the left likes to hear.

He also visited the Greens/European Freee Alliance. Here he complained  about some  heads of member states who paint a false picture of the European Union. I wonder whom he had in mind. He was also critical of the handling of the economic crisis in Europe. There is a need for financial discipline but not overly aggressive austerity measures. From here on, any kind  of austerity program will be preceded by an assessment of its social impact.

It was during this conversation that we found out what Juncker actually thinks of Viktor Orbán’s authoritarian regime and its relationship to the European Union. One of the members asked him how he would handle a state like Hungary where the government does not follow the basic democratic values of the European Union. Juncker did not mention Hungary specifically but indicated that he will be ready to use Article 7 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU). To refresh everybody’s memory, this is what Article 7 of TEU says:

1. On a reasoned proposal by one third of the Member States, by the European Parliament or by the European Commission, the Council, acting by a majority of four fifths of its members after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament, may determine that there is a clear risk of a serious breach by a Member State of the values referred to in Article 2. Before making such a determination, the Council shall hear the Member State in question and may address recommendations to it, acting in accordance with the same procedure. The Council shall regularly verify that the grounds on which such a determination was made continue to apply.

2. The European Council, acting by unanimity on a proposal by one third of the Member States or by the European Commission and after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament, may determine the existence of a serious and persistent breach by a Member State of the values referred to in Article 2 after inviting the Member State in question to submit its observations.

3. Where a determination under paragraph 2 has been made, the Council, acting by a qualified majority, may decide to suspend certain of the rights deriving from the application of the Treaties to the Member State in question, including the voting rights of the representative of the government of that Member State in the Council. In doing so, the Council shall take into account the possible consequences of such a suspension on the rights and obligations of natural and legal persons.

The obligations of the Member State in question under the Treaties shall in any case continue to be binding on that State.

Juncker added that until now the European Union acted as if Article 7 didn’t exist.  They must be ready to use it if there is just cause.

The opening session of the new European Parliament Source:

The opening session of the new European Parliament

Most members of the Alliance of Socialists and Democrats and the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats will vote for Juncker, which will ensure his election. In his own party, the European People’s Party (EPP), there will be a few who will not vote for him–among them, the twelve Fidesz members. There will be two more “nays” from Hungary: Benedek Jávor (Együtt-PM) who joined the Greens and Tamás Meszerics of LMP who sits in the same delegation. Meszerics found Juncker, on the basis of the hearing, “not fit for the job.” The two Hungarian socialists, István Ujhelyi and Tibor Szanyi, and the two DK members, Csaba Molnár and Péter Niedermüller, stand behind Juncker. As for Fidesz, it will be the only national delegation that will unanimously reject Juncker.

The vote is tomorrow, and it is almost certain that Juncker will have the necessary 376 out of 751. I assume the Fidesz members of EPP are resigned. The victory of Juncker was pretty much decided when David Cameron and Viktor Orbán lost the battle in the European Council. heralded the event: “Tomorrow will come Orbán’s slap in the face.”


  1. Is this “transaction tax” the same as the one in Hungary? If so, it is not a tax on banks, but on their customers.

    And if it is the same tax, it’s going to be about as popular as Thatcher’s ‘Poll Tax’ was in Britain!

  2. @Paul

    The European Commission’s proposal for a 0.1% tax is on bond and equity transactions and 0.01% on derivatives.

  3. I pin some hopes on Juncker to stick more seriously to the majority “federalist” direction Europe should take – in contrast to many uniformed eurosceptics in many countries.

  4. This is the best. The always naive Socialists will get the commission post for growth, of which there will be none in the next years. They even think that Juncker was generous. Although I don’t think the EU will fall apart (even people like Orbán underestimate the staying power of already existing structures) as the member states are too integrated already. However, the Euro might be in trouble as there is no growth in France, Italy and Spain and there is no hope for them to service (grow out) their debt unless the ECB keeps printing money. These countries must experience some kind of a shock in the next couple of years. In any case, should there be any serious problems within the EU (anywhere), Orban will push his message the he told you so, as he has been preaching about the decadence and Untergang of the West (paid for by the EU subsidies).

  5. @Paul:

    This is the idea of the original “Tobin tax” – to reduce speculations with currencies – not something on “real transactions” for the bank’s customers!

  6. Paul: No, the long-proposed EU tax is completely different from the existing Hungarian tax — so there will be no preemption by the EU legislation (and of course the size of the Hungarian tax is several times higher).

    In short, the Hungarian tax is paid after any kind of cash/monetary transaction, while the EU tax is to be paid after capital markets transactions.

    In addition, the Hungarian tax is both a political instrument and a special retail tax levied in a tricky way so that banks pay it formally, but they have to get reimbursement in the form of much higher banking fees. Over time, this Hungarian transaction tax became one of the most important taxes in Hungary, so there is just no way to phase it out, and also people accepted it, after all “it is paid by the bad banks” (formally yes, but in reality the tax is paid by the account holders, who can blame the banks for increasing the fees, those awful banks).

    This has been a great PR trick of Fidesz, they knew that you can always sell anything to Westerners, they don’t care, and they just think that if the (Hungarian) government says something then it must be so, after all they are serious people, leaders of the nation, they cannot lie, right? So fideszniks told anybody who would listen that it is what the EU always wanted and people believed it.

    Sadly, even long-time readers like you had no idea.

  7. The devil is in the details.
    Horthy, Orban and other Hungarian dictators can fool the loyal Hungarians in the pretty way, in national patriotic colors.
    Lies work.
    There is no unified resistance, just anti-intellectual apology.
    Is Finkelstein still advising the oppressors?

  8. “Nothing horrific is happening there”

    No, I agree it’s not horrific that Gyurcsány’s party activists were beating up an NGO leader who belongs to Bajnai’s circles. It’s not horrific either that MSZP and Gyurcsány’s party run an ex-policeman for the mayor of a majory city (Miskolc) who Gyurcsány called “sickening” five years ago and he made his minister fire him. It’s not horrific either that the vicepresident of Gyurcsány’s party was talking about “Roma crime” (as opposed to the common Jobbik phrase “Gypsy crime”) in the left-liberal ATV TV channel.

    So it’s absolutely understandable that Ms. Balogh thinks “It’s time to leave Hungary for a while” now.

  9. I have written about the Pásztor controversy earlier.

    I watch with some interest the verbs used for the incident. It depends which side describes the event. On the right and on the anti-DK left it is “beaten up.” In English as well as in Hungarian “beaten up” means “to strike or kick a person, usually repeatedly, so as to inflict severe physical damage.” I find this attack deplorable but Gulyás was certainly not beaten up. Someone grabbed his sign and hit him once on the head. Regrettable, but let’s not exaggerate.

    As for the controversy about “Roma crime,” “Gypsy crime.” It is a sloppy way of describing a phenomenon that apparently exists. Gypsies are more apt to commit petty crimes than non-Gypsies. The latter are for bigger fish. The poor Gypsies often resort to crime for a few hundred forints.

    One can discuss all this calmly and in a civilized way, but the way the Hungarian liberal intellectuals are handling it is outright hysterical.

    As for Gulyás. He specializes in “happenings.” He is an activist who is out “to provoke” as he himself admitted yesterday. That fine but one has to take it what it is and no more.

  10. “someone grabbed his sign and hit him once on the head.”

    Nice try but the very democrats hit him three times in the face, once in the stomach and later these Gyurcsány fans threw lit cigarette stubs at him.

  11. Yes, the most democratic ones of all, after all Gyurcsány’s fans are unable to say a single sentence without calling themselves “democrats”, beat up Gulyás only because he dared to lift a sign “Cigányozás helyett baloldali megoldásokat!” (Left-wing solutions instead of anti-Gypsy slurs!)

    As far as the controversy about “Roma crime,” “Gypsy crime is concerned, Gyurcsány’s stomach has obviously improved a lot since 2009 when he had Pásztor fired and he called his words “sickening”. All Pásztor said back then was that street muggings were being committed by only Gypsies in Miskolc.

  12. To tell you the truth I’m not at all surprised that a scuffle developed. Yes,I think “scuffle” is perhaps the best word to describe what happened there. People’s nerves are on edge; the political discourse is far too heated and the language coarse.

    By the way, one of the DK organizers actually got much more seriously injured than Gulyás. He broke a rib or two.

    By the way, I do hope that you realize that what’s going on right now is only good for Fidesz. Instead of cooperation, the different parties on the left are fighting each other. The worst offender, in my opinion, is E14-PM. They were the ones who began this unfortunate chain of events when their men in Miskolc supported Pásztor. I’m sure that there could have been other ways of dealing with the problem.

  13. @An, What a loss!!! It is a beautiful square and that building cap’ed it off. The fire department looked under-equiped to manage a fire of that intensity. I can only see a single ladder truck in play. I wonder how the department is equipped to manage fires in some of the taller buildings in the city.

  14. “By the way, one of the DK organizers actually got much more seriously injured than Gulyás. He broke a rib or two.”

    Surprise, surprise… And who broke this ribs? Gulyás or another democrat? 😉

    ” what’s going on right now is only good for Fidesz.”

    Do you think Gulyás is a Fidesz agent? 😉 I thought he’s Bajnai’s guy… Or do you think the violent Gyurcsány fans are the Fidesz agents?

  15. Fred: “This has been a great PR trick of Fidesz, they knew that you can always sell anything to Westerners,”

    And what about the Hungarians? From outside it appears that what makes Fidesz stand out is that they know best how to “sell great PR tricks” on the Hungarians.

    I suggest to concentrate on the Hungarian part of the story. Why do people leave in numbers not seen before 2010, why can Orban apply any kind of weird reasoning, now about some people from DK being aggressive and therefore fascists while his own people are cleaning the state bureacracy, or about dark forces robbing Hungary. Instead of making sweeping statements about France’s, Italy’s and Spain’s imminent collapse, it appears more to the point to concentrate on how Orban is “printing money” (through making the MNB lend to his buddies), how Orban is playing dirty PR tricks on his own people and how his wonderful new Hungary is bound to end in disaster.

  16. I drove by that building on Kodály Körönd twice today, once at about 3:45. So sad, that has always been my favorite “square” in Budapest!

  17. “The internal discord itself is good for Fidesz”.

    There will always be discord on the left and it will always be good for Fidesz.

    Such internal discords are in the very nature of all lefty politicians, and they are still surprised that they are unpopular and irrelevant.

    The left can get into the news only via meta-news, ie. a controversy and debate about something, but not via the thing itself (in this case, the Miskolc candidate).

    The lefties have nothing better to do, and never had, than to be smarter than the next guy and of course to get indignant about and blame the “bourgeois socdem sellouts”.

  18. Fred,

    There you go altered it for you. What you meant to say was:

    “This has been a great PR trick of Fidesz, they knew that you can always sell anything to the sheep who comprise the majority of their electorate, voters who are so stupid if the (Hungarian) government says something then it must be so, after all they are serious people, leaders of the nation, they cannot lie, right?”

    You and the “smart” Fidesz lawyers may believe Orban has played a blinder scaring the Western multis and investers out of the country but really it is a very short-term and pyrrhic victory.

  19. Really sad about the building in Kodaly Korond. I wonder how it caught fire.

    Of course, the building had been in a state of disrepair for some time. Look at the photos of it on fire – many of the windows were already broken and boarded up.

  20. @Lajos77: “There will always be discord on the left and it will always be good for Fidesz.”

    Discord among different parties is the very nature of democracy. What is unusual is not that there is discord among parties on the left, but that Fidesz is so monolithic. One way Fidesz achieves this is by branding anyone who is critical of them a lefty-liberal. No wonder the thus branded left-liberal camp is such a heterogeneous mixture.

  21. London Calling!

    My partner’s brother and family live in 88-90 Andrassy Ut. These buildings forming the ‘Circle’ have an internal courtyard.

    The internal flats are very wooden with high ceilings with very few fire precautions on display.

    By partner’s brother’s flat has such high ceilings that they have built a wooden mezzanine in these once opulent living quarters. A tinder box.

    And with all the restrictions of listed buildings.

    Once a fire got hold the internal courtyard would make a perfect chimney to fuel the fire with oxygen.

    I hope everyone got out in time.

    (Some of these buildings forming the ‘circus’ have very faint paintings on them which you can make out on a bright day. I presume these will be lost now?)

    Beautiful architecture from a more prosperous time, which in any case had decayed almost beyond saving.



  22. @Charlie: Luckily, everybody got out. No casualties other than two policemen who are in the hospital for smoke inhalation. The building is not habitable, though; people have been evacuated and nobody is allowed to move back in.

  23. @Eva S. Balogh

    A scuffle is “a short, confused fight or struggle at close quarters” in my dictionary.

    There was nothing like that at all. The following video proves that violent Gyurcsány fans simply beat up Gulyás because he held a sign “Left-wing solutions instead of anti-Gypsy slurs!”

  24. OT
    I think Sotet Jeno Brada perfectly summarized the DK event and the crowd. It certainly worth to read. It not only proves that “labelling” and prejudice is totally wrong and that “bad apples” can be found in every group. (I already expressed my opinion a few times about the extremist views of some commenters even of this forum.) I think everyone (who understands Hungarian) owe it to themselves to read the article
    ATV Egyenes Beszed:

  25. London Calling!

    Googly “So sad, that has always been my favorite “square” in Budapest!”

    Btw googly … That was the Korond “square” that was named in honour of Hitler as in ‘Hitler Korond’ during the ‘invasion’.

    Even though the “square” is (could be) one of the most impressive in Hungary. And Kodaly was a world renowned musician and didact.

    I have yet to find the actual dates and when it switched back, or seen it on a map.

    Anyone know?



  26. London Calling!

    Found it! The dates.

    I was wrong! It was named Adolph Hitler Ter

    A négy ház előtt kis parkok találhatók, bennük egy-egy szoboralak: Balassi Bálint, Szondy György, Zrínyi Miklós és Vak Bottyán. Korábban a téren állt Bocskai István és Bethlen Gábor szobra is, de ezek 1945-ben a Hősök terére kerültek a Millenniumi emlékműre, Habsburg-szobrok helyébe.1938-45 között neve Hitler Adolf tér volt,1945-ben lett ismét Körönd. 1971-ben nevezték Kodály Zoltánról.

    The link:



  27. Btw

    It seems Hitler Adolph was fêted before the so-called ‘invasion’ – in 1938.

    Then just to ‘Korund’ in 1945! Oops!

    Only in 1971 was Kodaly finally honoured – his museum and living quarters are in one of the buildings in the ‘Korond’.


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