Over the last four days the Hungarian media have been having a heyday with Péter Szijjártó’s real estate purchase in Dunakeszi, a town northeast of Budapest on the left bank of the Danube, right across from Szentendre Island. It was RTL Klub that broke the news that the young couple with two small children had just purchased a house for 167 million forints or $680,000. Just for comparison, the average Hungarian employee earns 2,850,000 forints a year. The news broke on the very day that Szijjártó was sworn in as foreign minister, but interest in his finances have been the subject of scrutiny before. It turned out that according to his most recent financial statement he saved more money in 2013 than he earned. Demokratikus Koalíció and Együtt-PM turned to the chairman of the parliamentary committee in charge of possible corruption cases among members of parliament and asked for an investigation. Since such efforts have failed earlier, György Rubovszky (KDNP), who by the way thinks that the Orbán administration’s mandate empowers it to introduce “the dictatorship of the majority,” will undoubtedly turn their request down. For Rubovszky, Szijjártó’s word is enough. And Szijjártó told him that the money came from investments.
In May Szijjártó had 82 million forints in addition to three houses he owned in Győr, his hometown; at Lake Balaton; and in Dunakeszi where he has been living since 2006, first as a bachelor and later with his wife. In 2011 the first child arrived and this year the second. That means that his wife’s only income in the last three years has been the child support every mother receives who decides to stay at home with the baby. The first Dunakeszi property, a duplex, was not cheap either. It cost 27.5 million forints. However, as we learned, in the last three years they have been thinking about moving because of the growing family. Well, they found their house. It is not exactly tiny: 700 m². It is a three-level house. The ground floor is 200 m² with a seven-meter cathedral ceiling. The house has a five-car garage with its own car-wash system. Naturally it has a swimming pool, which can be used even in winter because it is covered. It also has a fitness room with a jacuzzi and sauna. As far as the number of bathrooms is concerned, apparently it has currently three but, according to some accounts, the Szijjártós would like to have five.
The question is how Péter Szijjártó managed to buy this house when he did not take out a mortgage and he had only 82 million forints on hand in May when he purchased the house. Well, Szijjártó presented the public with two versions. The first was that he put in 80 million forints, his wife came up with 10 million, and so did her parents. His own parents gave him 33 million as a gift and lent him 34 million. A day later, he changed these figures. In the new version he paid out only 67 million forints while his parents lent him not 34 but 45 million. I guess the correction was necessary because if the young Szijjártós were left with only 2 million forints to their names he couldn’t explain how he is paying for the very extensive renovations that have been going on ever since May and will continue for several more months. Szijjártó hopes that perhaps by Christmas they will be able to move in.
The house, in my opinion, is hideous. The inside is no better, but I understand that the furniture does not come with the property, so perhaps there is hope. For more pictures of this monstrosity built for some Hungarian nouveau riche I suggest looking at the ad the real estate agent placed online in September 2013. It has about 20 photographs of the interior of the house. The original price was 189 million forints. So, just as Szijjártó said, it was a bargain. He managed to “save” 37 million forints.
This is not the first unusually rapid financial success of a Fidesz politician, including Szijjártó’s idol Viktor Orbán, who could never quite explain where the money came from for his family’s extensive landholdings and the purchase and enlargement of a house in a very elegant and expensive part of Buda. Or, there is Antal Rogán, whose several real estate purchases couldn’t possibly have been paid for out of his stated income. Perhaps the most mysterious story is that of Lőrinc Mészáros, the humble pipe fitter from Felcsút who in four years became a billionaire. All that while Viktor Orbán promised a “puritanic” and “plebeian” government.
Here, instead of playing detective, I would rather talk about the generosity of Szijjártó’s parents. His parents are very well-off people, and it looks as if ever since his late teens and early twenties they have been coddling him. He is perhaps even financially dependent on them. Here are a few facts. When Szijjártó was eighteen years old, his parents bought him a house in Győr. When he became a university student in Budapest, they bought him an apartment there. They were the ones who bought him the Dunakeszi house he and his wife currently live in. In that year, at the age of 28, he had three pieces of property and 43 million forints in savings. So, I am inclined to believe that the purchase of his new house was largely facilitated by Szijjártó’s parents.
Not long ago we talked about how Hungarian parents dote on their children, especially on their boys who as a result never really grow up and are completely dependent on their mothers and eventually on their wives. I remember that one of our commenters from Great Britain remarked that single Hungarian males are pretty hopeless as immigrants because they are unable to look after themselves. The situation in Szijjártó’s case is extreme because the parents seem to have more money than they know what to do with. The result? The man achieved almost nothing on his own. His early political career was made possible by his financial independence, while it was Viktor Orbán who elevated him to serve as his spokesman, most likely because he was flattered by young Szijjártó’s devotion. At the age of seventeen he decided that his goal in life was to serve the great man.
An article in gepnarancs.hu appeared today with the following title: “Why on earth are you envious of Szijjártó’s house in Dunakeszi?” After all, he was put into a position he knows nothing about. His boss managed to maneuver Hungary into a position of isolation. “Almost everybody hates us. Name me one country where Hungary is thought of with love and esteem. There is not one but, don’t worry, the Szijjártó family will take care of it.” Or, what about an editorial by Gábor Horváth of Népszabadság who is convinced that it is totally irrelevant who the next minister of foreign affairs of Hungary is? “Old or young, an expert or a bungler, a moderate or a hawk, a diplomat with a distinguished career or a spineless official from the ministry of justice, or, as it is from here on, a football player with gelled hair…. According to a historical anecdote, Caligula wanted to appoint his horse consul. The noble animal was called Incitatus and surely it was an excellent horse. But isn’t it all the same?”