Viktor Orbán picks another fight with the West, this time over the Southern Stream

I know that everybody is intensely interested in the Hungarian government’s latest brainstorm, the introduction of an internet tax, but I would rather wait with an analysis of this latest scandal until it becomes clear what the fate of the proposal will be. So far the reaction to this new tax has been so vehement that the government most likely will have to retreat. When an article in the right-wing Válasz predicts that “if we had an election today Fidesz would lose big,” I think it’s time to order a quick turnabout. I would like to add just one observation on a related topic: the Hungarian budget must be in a sorry state if an additional tax must be levied on soap and detergent, allegedly because they are harmful to the environment. Let’s not contemplate the detrimental effect of curtailing the use of soap because this would take us too far afield.

So, instead of dealing with the effects of an internet tax, I will look at other recent governmental decisions that have been detrimental to Hungary’s relations with the United States and the European Union. What I have in mind is Viktor Orbán’s flirtation with Putin’s Russia, which is being watched with growing concern in Washington and Brussels. Already there have been a couple of moves indicating close cooperation with Russia that raised eyebrows in the democratic world: the building of a nuclear power plant by a Russian firm on Russian money, Hungary’s refusal to support the common European position on the Russian sanctions, a tête-à-tête between Gazprom and the Hungarian prime minister followed by the Hungarian decision to stop supplying gas to Ukraine, and the government’s decision to let Gazprom use Hungarian facilities to store gas in case Russia cuts off the flow of gas through Ukraine.

These moves worried and irritated the United States and the European Union, only compounding their concerns about all the transgressions of the rules of democracy committed by the Fidesz government against the Hungarian people. Years have gone by; at last western politicians are slowly, ever so slowly deciding that they have had enough. After Norway it was the United States that openly showed its dissatisfaction with the domestic and foreign policies of the Orbán government. Yet, as the last few days have demonstrated, Viktor Orbán is not changing tactics. On the contrary, as I wrote yesterday, he is strengthening ties with countries whose relations with the United States and the European Union are strained. Almost as if Viktor Orbán purposefully wanted to have an open break with Hungary’s western allies.

Yesterday one could still hope that Viktor Orbán would  come to his senses and would at least make some gestures, but as yesterday’s meeting between Péter Szijjártó and Victoria Nuland indicated, the new Hungarian foreign minister was sent to Washington without a Plan B. By today, however, most likely in his absence, the government came out with a new idea. What if the Hungarian office of taxation and customs (NAV) announces that in the last several years they have been diligently pursuing their investigation of those criminal elements who through tax fraud unfairly competed against the American company Bunge? Maybe it will work. Mihály Varga, minister of national economy, announced this morning that four of the culprits are already in jail. Very nice, but there is a fly in the ointment. Most likely the U.S. State Department remembers, as I do, that András Horváth, the whistleblower at NAV, months ago gave a detailed description of the ways in which these criminals operated. He asked NAV to investigate and disclose their findings, but the managers of the tax office first fired Horváth and a couple of days later announced that after an internal investigation found everything in perfect order. So I doubt that the Americans will fall for that bogus story.

Yesterday Portfólió asked “how to make the USA more angry with Hungary,” but they “did not have the faintest idea that the government has been holding the best answer to that and it beats every idea [the Portfólió] have ever had.” So, what is it? In order to understand the situation we have to go back to the controversy over Russia’s new pipeline already under construction–the Southern Stream–that would supply Russian gas to Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, Austria, Slovenia, Greece, and Italy. The United States and the European Union were never too happy about the project and now, in the middle of the Russian-Ukrainian crisis, they are especially leery of Putin’s plans. In fact, the European Commission asked the Bulgarians to stop the construction of the pipeline in their country. They obliged. The European Union also warned Serbia that they can forget about future membership in the European Union if they agree to support the project right now.

southern stream

In Hungary construction has not yet begun, but the Orbán government seemed to be afraid that something similar would happen to them what happened to the Bulgarians. They decided to act. Changing the law by now has become a Fidesz pastime. Today Antal Rogán proposed an amendment to a 2008 law on natural gas that will allow any gas company to construct a pipeline. The original law, in harmony with laws of a similar nature in other countries, specified that the company in charge of the construction has to be a certified transmission system operator who must conform to international rules. Since pipelines are transnational projects, the countries involved must coordinate their individual projects. What the Hungarians hope is that as a result of this amendment Hungary will not be bound by any international constraint. Starting the project will depend only on the Hungarian Energy Office, which could give permission to any company it chooses to construct the pipeline. Portfólió suspects that both the European Union and the United States will be “furious” upon hearing this latest Hungarian ruse.

Clever Hungarian lawyers, who seem to specialize in circumventing the letter of the law, might think that this scheme is foolproof, but I suspect that EU lawyers will find the legislation full of holes. Hungarian papers suggest that the Orbán government is playing for time. But the case is settled, they argue; the pipeline will be built. Surely no one will force Hungary to destroy it.

Let’s contemplate another scenario. What if the European Union and the United States in joint action put such pressure on the Hungarian government that the plan must be abandoned? As it is, according to analysts, Budapest is already between a rock and a hard place. When political scientist Gábor Török, who has the annoying habit of sitting on the fence, says that “the Orbán government is in big trouble. It was before but now it is different. It will not fall, surely not now…. But if it does not recognize the fork in the road or if it chooses the wrong road, we will mark the events of today as a definite turning point.” And in an interview this afternoon Ferenc Gyurcsány twice repeated his belief that Hungary is at the verge of leaving the Union and, when it happens, it will not be Viktor Orbán’s choice.

I wouldn’t go that far, but I do predict that the screws will be tightened. Among those who will apply pressure will be Norway since the Hungarian government audit office just came out with its report claiming that Ökotárs, the organization in charge of distributing the Norwegian Civil Funds, has used the money inappropriately. A criminal investigation will be launched.

We know that Barack Obama said that the American government supports NGOs in countries where they are under fire. Today we learned that Veronika Móra, chairman of Ökotárs, was a member of a delegation that visited Washington in late September. During that trip the NGO leaders were received by President Obama in the White House. By contrast, Péter Szijjártó did not get any higher than one of the assistant undersecretaries of the State Department. If I were Viktor Orbán, I would take that as a warning.

67 comments

  1. As I look at the map in this posting, I wonder: if Hungary builds the pipeline but Bulgaria and Serbia accepts the EU request and don’t build their segments, what is that pipeline in Hungary going to transport?

  2. “In January 2013, Falcon agreed a three-well drilling exploration programme with NIS, owned 56 per cent by the Gazprom Group, to target the Algyö Play. NIS have made a cash payment of US$1.5 million to Falcon and agreed to drill three wells by July 2014.”

  3. “I wouldn’t go that far, but I do predict that the screws will be tightened. Among those who will apply pressure will be Norway since the Hungarian government audit office just came out with its report claiming that Ökotárs, the organization in charge of distributing the Norwegian Civil Funds, has used the money inappropriately. A criminal investigation will be launched.”

    I think you got it wrong about Norway applying pressure. The press dealt with this issue and covered it well. Documents show that Okotars stole at least a 500 000 USD possibly a lot more from the money they were designated to administer. They did this mainly by falsifying expense reports submitted to Norway Switzerland and other places.

    Okotars claimed every single one of their employees used 50%-100% of total work time on Norway related work and they did the same for the Swiss fund. The fraud could not be detected when a single country is investigating (so the Norwegians could always claim that everything is order), but when the totals added up the fraud is evident.

    Let’s take the Okotars worker who worked the bare minimums at Okotars. Nobody worked less than this guy. This worker is working 50% of total work time for Norway, and 50% for total work time for the Swiss fund, and charges his salary as expenses to these countries. But he has many other responsibilities, administration, training new employees, running many other projects Okotars was involved in and so on. So the least fraudulent worker was overbilling ALL the work they did for Okotars itself. But in some cases Okotars went a lot farther int the fraud. Like an employee who was billing 100% of his total work hours to the Swiss fund, claiming to work just for them nowgere else, and then billing 77% of total work hours to Norway as well, thus just for these two (and once again Okotars had many many other projects as well) were billed for 177% of worked hours of this employee.

    Okotars committed a lot of smaller fraud, embezzlement, illegal financial activity and other criminal acts, but the main thing is they simply stole a large portion of the money (2 million EUR) by simply overcharging, over billing several “clients”. The trick was that no one client could realize by themselves they were overcharged only the complete data could prove the massive fraud and theft of money. Now we know this is why Okotars tried so hard to sabotage the investigation.

    They also tried to erase files, destroy evidence, forged documents after the investigation was started to cover gaps, backdated documents, and sometimes the Norwegian embassy was helping them to commit fraud and forgery (in one document the Norwegian embassy asks which date and day should they put on the forged document, created at a later date and made to appear as if it was produced years earlier).

    So while in general it is very noble to support NGOs, support for criminals, embezzlers, document forgers becomes a lot more problematic and may prove difficult to explain.

  4. @Past’s Long Shadow

    Wow. This is advanced KGB work.

    Hungarian police do not do such intricate detecting or they might have prosecuted the government on about 20 different fronts.

    However, creating cases is another matter. I am thinking of the case against the MDF politico who began by accusing a firm of spying on her and ended up having to defend herself. That’s more like what Hungarian police and prosecutors are about…

  5. @gdfxx: I also wonder about the point of building the Hungarian segment of South Stream if Bulgaria and Serbia continue to heed EU pressure. It’s hard not to speculate that Orbán and Putin must have a larger plan in mind. Perhaps Putin thinks that if Hungary defies the EU on this point then it will be easier to strongarm Serbia and Bulgaria into defecting. He may be planning on buying Serbian and Bulgarian co-operation by offering them low gas prices, which would be a hugely attractive deal for such impoverished countries. And/or Putin may think that he can count on Germany to soften the EU’s position. This is just guesswork of course.

  6. An thanks for the link it was obvious from the conclusions of the report of Ernst & Young that no crime had been committed, the auditor’s report revealed errors but concluded:
    “The project is technically and economically operating as planned. The operator and its partners are working within the organization designated groups that are financially and administratively also able to perform the tasks assigned to them.”

    What is criminal here is how the Fidesz controlled media put together bits and pieces of the audit to try to create the impression of criminality. Ernst and Young should be objecting to how their audit is being used by the Fidesz government as part of a show trial that would make Lavrentiy Pavlovich Beria Stalin’s head of state security and of the secret police apparatus (NKVD) proud.

  7. It is time that ordinary Hungarians understand the loss of freedom, and act to recover their freedom.

    The future truth tribunals will have a hard to deal with the huge number of cases of people who were involved with the illiberal regime.

  8. Two not related observations.
    1. It is still striking that as Norway and now the U.S. Ramps up the pressure on Hungary, the EU remains rather impotent. Hungary is unlikely to get kicked out of the Union, but the Union may continue to push itself into irrelevance on the big issues facing Europe.
    2. While the budget issues facing the Govt are enormous and there will be a big risk of losing EU funds in the future, is not this proposed internet tax more about trying to gain control of the industry by forcing the telecom and cable service providers out? That is what makes this idiotic idea truly scary.

  9. @Past’s Long Shadow

    “support for criminals, embezzlers, document forgers becomes a lot more problematic and may prove difficult to explain”

    Would you explain why only 1 Fidesz MPs (Angyan) defected from Fidesz, out of 200+, for moral reason since 2010?

    If you support the Fidesz regime, would you please explain your rationale?

  10. There is a lot ore going on here than Hungary. Serbia, is very strongly pro-Russian far more so than Hungary and probably doesn’t give a tinker’s damn about membership in the EU at this point. Turkey has been moving in the same direction and also is pissing off the US by attacking the Kurdish forces and providing ISIS with safe havens while they do the same. With the use of a tactical missile once again in Donetsk things in the Donbass are about to begin again except this time Russia will attack in force to defend the ceasefire once it is broken by Ukraine. The voentrag has been re-opened and troops in Russia brought back to ready positions for just this occasion. The Ukrainians have their backs up to the wall and I believe the US will push them to begin the war again rather than the imminent political collapse of Poroshenko’s government. Better to lose a war than have the citizenry rise up in revolt yet again and replace the pro-US government with a Nazi one in it’s place. The events in Ukraine will overshadow the current events in Hungary but this time it will likely also involve a second front in the transcarpathian area as well except this time by ethnic Hungarians. The bank stress tests of German banks will be released soon and the amount of leveraging is enormous and will reveal the German economy is not as good as we all believe. If faith in the Euro collapses we will see other forces beginning to affect the EU and it’s house of cards economy. So, a larger scale war in Ukraine will have the desired effect of crashing the European economy. Perhaps keeping on the forint and edging towards Russia is Orban’s attempt to be on the winning side.

    Playing Devil’s Advocate we have to ask “What exactly can the US do to Hungary?”. Perhaps all they can do is increase the pressure at a diplomatic level which will of course be ineffective and trivial. Hungary gets no direct aid from the US and American businesses have a minimal presence. Germany can apply leverage but frankly they can’t economically support sanctions any longer against anyone. It is a pickle and I am surprised the US didn’t see this coming and put things into place beforehand. I suspect they have had a lot more urgent matters at hand to deal with than a rebellious Hungary. The recent takeover of the capital of Yemen by Iranian (and Russian/Chinese) backed forces and the control of the border with Saudi Arabia is a catastrophic failure of American trained forces much like the debacle in Iraq. Now the Saudi’s in their gambit to remind the US who is boss by increasing oil production and driving oil down in the $80 range might actually be facing annihilation and might not have the forces necessary to repel an attack by these forces coming out of Yemen without US direct military intervention. There isn’t much left in the US military force structure to support another ground war though and there might not be the incentive to aid the Saudi’s again. North Korea is also about to explode and Chinese forces have amassed on the border ready to take out this embarrassing regime. There is a lot going on elsewhere which indirectly affects Hungary and Orban is apparently taking sides with the long view it is better to be a friend to Russia than to the US. At least this is how it looks to me. On top of that the US economy is extremely fragile now and the leverage exposure is north of $40 Trillion which the banks cannot support if things start to unwind. The Feds are already printing money and have lowered the interest rate to zero so have no more tools in the bag. Then we have the imminent takeover of the Senate by Republicans who will start to unravel all the things Obama is doing, especially this most recent announcement of giving green cards to 36 million illegal immigrants. My point is there is an enormous amount of pressure on the US now and they simply can’t keep all these balls in the air at the same time. Hungary is only mildly interesting because of Ukraine (and oil/gas transit) and if I am right Hungary will move to backstage once the real show begins.

  11. @Amerikai Szkeptikus

    1.
    Do you think the US and German economies are more “fragile” than the Russian?
    This sounds outlandish to me.

    2.
    In case of a Republican takeover of the Presidency in two years,
    Obama’s not-so-splendid isolationist politics will end,
    and Orban will be squeezed much stronger.

  12. gdfxx: As I look at the map in this posting, I wonder: if Hungary builds the pipeline but Bulgaria and Serbia accepts the EU request and don’t build their segments, what is that pipeline in Hungary going to transport?

    Pálinka and sertészsír. Can be used for heating. Instead of soap, too.

  13. @Amerikai szkeptikus> “The events in Ukraine will overshadow the current events in Hungary” Yes, and no. The events in Ukraine and Syria are far more important than what is happening in Hungary, true. But those in the State Dept. tasked with watching Hungary will not be less vigilant because of what is going on elsewhere. I think it’s time for Hungary to leave NATO – or be informed that it will be kicked out if it keeps on with its pro-Russian policies. I hope the Hungarian government is no longer getting sensitive information from NATO. I think plenty of senators on both sides of the aisle would back Hungary’s exclusion. I’m sure my representatives would. Put up, or get out.

  14. KGB and their Hungarian pals are getting very active here.

    I think it would be time to delete some of their comments, because they are spreading plain lies, in other cases just sowing seeds of doubts and so on, but they are starting to occupy too much space here and gaining too much influence.

    Freedom of speech does not mean everybody has the right to publish at the forum of their choosing but that they too may set up a competing forum — this is a right with which both Hungarian and Russian ‘organs’ lived amply.

  15. Orban is escalating for three reasons.

    One is an anchoring tactics in anticipation for a potential future compromise. The results will be much better in that compromise if he properly upped the ante beforehand. This tactics worked splendidly with the EU many times, one can play this game many times with the EU, especially now that the burocrats are so shuffeled that the new ones have no experience in dealing with Hungary. It worked for other dictators too.

    The second is a simple domestic political reason. He needs the support of his followers and I mean the hard core followers here who anyway ensured his continued reelection. They need to be fired up and they need a coherent narrative of “Western jihad on poor righteous Hungary”. Just yesterday Fidesz’ media for crime reporting and disiniformation in the crime/politics field pestisracok.hu was accusing cink.hu (part of the American gawker.com empire) of being nothing less than a cia outfit. It’s getting crazier by the day. I agree that Orban is deliberately preparing for internal strife as someone called the attention to it yesterday among others with the increase of the salaries by 20-30% (when cost cutting is the order of the day elsewhere, except for the state media empire of course) for soldiers, policemen (and most likely the secret services too). If one adds that by all reliable accounts the 2006 burning down of the TV and the resulting demonstrations were orchestrated by the Hungarian deep state elements using right wing thugs, this does not bode well.

    The third reason is a gut feeling. For Orban this tactics always worked, that’s his natural choice. The lefties always compromised, bowed before power and look where they are now. He always resisted pressure and he has been holding full plena potestas power over Hungary. That Russia is pulling the strings as well protecting its ‘investment’ reassures Orban too.

  16. @Eva S. Balogh – Given the revelations of the past few weeks, I suspect the Russians realized some time ago that Hungarian f.p. is for sale, and that they’ve been very willing to pay, whatever the price.

  17. Anyone interested in my point of view of US foreign policy disasters may wish to read what I consider a very reputable source. Flame away as this is not going to make many of you very happy. But, before you start calling me a KGB troll, which I am not, think carefully about US foreign policy and how many countries have actually benefited from American help (not just the rich but the people) in the past 30 years. The US will make noise about Orban but only because he is clearly supporting an avowed enemy of the US and Hungary cannot respond in any meaningful way back against the US other than to serve as an irritant to US foreign policy. By the way, that is one definition of a bully. Anyway, it is well worth reading if you have an open mind. http://cluborlov.blogspot.hu/2014/10/how-to-start-war-and-lose-empire.html

  18. @Istvan
    The Ernst and Young report was published years ago, so saying that it proves “that no crime had been committed,” is spectacularly ignorant. Unless they see into the future, a report written in 2011 could not guess what crimes Okotars will commit in 2011-2014. Btw is forging documents a crime in your opinion or is that OK too? Another logical fallacy you seem to believe is that because an investigation did not notice a crime, it must prove that no crime was committed? Maybe Okotars was quite good in forging documents, backdating, producing missing documents as if they were created years ago even when Ernst and Young “investigated” them. And you can use that term loosely because Ernst and Young never took any documents everything they saw, was freely given to them. Hence they only ever saw what Okotars allowed them to.

    Ernst and Young only investigated the Norway fund documents. The Okotars fraud could never be proven by looking at just those documents only.

    The fraud becomes plainly evident when all the documents are investigated together, which Ernst and Young never did. Imagine a lawfirm that has 20 clients. This lawfirm says we are working 100% for client A (client A is happy since the firm is working hard), and 70% for client B (client B is happy) and 40% for client C and they all bill them accordingly. But percentages do not work like that there is only 100% of work to be distributed it is impossible for a person to work 15 hours a day for A, 10 hours for B and 6 hours for C in the same day. There isn’t enough hours in the day. This means the lawfirm (Okotars) simply stole the money from the clients by claiming they work 31 hours per day for their clients and they billed 31 hours per day to them in expenses.

    Of course if client B orders an audit they find everything is in order (even though they work very hard they only work 10 hours per day for us). To see the the stealing, you have to look at all the documents of the lawfirm togeter and see what they said to Clients A, B, C together.

  19. Oh my, Club Orlov. It’s great.

    For the uninitiated, It’s a fringe prepper site (ie. Mr. Orlov, an American but born in Russia, is preaching an imminent global collapse) and even other preppers found the more recent ideas of Orlov strangely and uncritically pro-Russian. (I wonder why).

    According to Orlov’s own admission he resides on his sailing boat and sails around the caribbean, purportedly because he fears that the US will in any minute degrade into world war Z.

    If nothing else this reference reveals that you are a FSB/GRU troll.

  20. @bob, you clearly have seen and read the report. Has it even been published yet? How come you saw it before the Norwegians or Ökotars?

  21. HiBOM:

    Bob is lying.

    Pure and simple.

    He may or may not know what’s in this “report”, but he is here to prepare the minds, to anchor our expectations, the cause dischord.

    He is taxpayer-paid (this thought alone makes me wanna puke) member of the security establishment serving the boss of bosses. His superiors don’t let just anybody to play on this site, he is probably a star pupil.

  22. Ordinarily, I get very irritated when regulars here start accusing those with different opinions of being “paid trolls”. It shows how few people believe in pluralism. But in the case of Bob and “Past Long Shadow”, it really does look like someone in the governments communication department has been sent along to stir things up, perhaps because this is an English blog and the Norwegians would naturally check English blogs to find out about Hungary.

  23. HiBoM: The description of Okotars fraud, document forging and others is widely reported in the press. The involvement of the Norwegians in the forgery is also reported on in the press. Do you know how to use google? Let me copy you a passage here that was published in the news media on October 22, (also known as yesterday).

    “BEÉPÍTETT KÖVETSÉGI EMBER

    A lap szerint a norvég nagykövetséggel is rendszeres volt az ökotársasok kommunikációja. Előfordult például, hogy a Demnet vezetője a nagykövetség egyik munkatársával egyeztetett bizonyos dokumentum visszadátumozásáról. Egy nyári levelezés tanúsága szerint azt írta: „Itt az ellenőrzés miatt nagyon kellene már ez. A dátum legyen az első BB (bírálóbizottság) ülés (2013. 05. 09.) előtti egy nappal.” Polgár Tamás, a nagykövetség munkatársa válaszában még visszakérdez, hogy „Mikori legyen a dátum?”, ahogyan érdeklődik arról is, hogy „A biztonság kedvéért legyen-e egy 2013-as is?”

    This passage describes an employee of the Norwegian embassy asking communicating with a Demnet employee (a partner of Okotars) about how to properly forge a document. And asking whether to create another forged document for “safety” (“biztonság kedvéért legyen-e egy 2013-as is”?) In other words how to create fake documents to “prove” to the investigators that everything was in perfect order. “no crime was committed”….

  24. by the way do we know where Ildiko Vida was heading from Schwechat when she was caught by RTL Klub? Checking her off-shore companies,accounts? I would bet Singapore, rumor has it that it’s the location of choice for many fideszniks, but perhaps somewhere else.

  25. bob

    October 23, 2014 at 5:43 am

    Interesting comment and “explanation”. What are your sources? Do you know personally any of the ladies working at Ökotars? I do. Yes, they can do mistakes but never premeditated criminal acts as you suggests.

  26. It’s really telling how bob and “The shadow” are trying to divert from the fraud of billions by people in government …

    Their superiors evidently hate independent NGOs which they can not subdue so they send their minions out.

    The good news is that they’re so easy to see through and readers here are not as easily swayed like the average Hungarians!

  27. “The description of Okotars fraud, document forging and others is widely reported in the press.”

    Ah, “widely reported” in “the press”
    That, of course, makes it correct in Fideszland?
    I guess so; in civilized democracies, commentators wait until something called the independent courts pass judgement before making allegations but I suppose that concept has been abolished by the Mafia Regime?

    Digging yourself a hole, and a message to pass on to your handlers:
    If you seriously believe the NGO sector is going to be intimidated by your scumbag thugs and their allies then you really haven’t done your research.

  28. @HiBoM, I agree with you that it is silly to assume that those with different views are trolls. There are true believers but often they are ill-informed. However, Long Shadow’s pack of lies is really too much. As far as Norwegians read this blog, I’m sure they do.

  29. Bob the passage above you site is not, I repeat is not, documentary evidence of a request from an employee of the Norwegian embassy to forge documents. It is a summary of extractions from documents. It is fair to assume once the PDFs of all the relevant communications are made public, unless of course they are placed under seal by the Hungarian government, that it will be obvious that sloppy accounting is being turned into criminal activity by Fidesz operatives.

    This is exactly the tactic used by Beria, Stalin’s man, when he put on his show trials of the old communits he was purging. He would put together bits and pieces and ask: So you admit then you are an enemy of the state? Eventually they would publicly agree and be shot. Unfortunately Fidesz will not be able to jail the Norwegian embassy staff and make them confess to complete the Stalinsit purge method.

  30. Do the Russians possess some info on Orban himself which, if made public, would very likely break Orban’s (and Fidesz’) power?

    I am not talking about corruption of which they must have ample evidence and which Orban just like Erdogan can explain away, but something more classic, something truly incriminating which the public couldn’t overlook or forgive?

    His latest moves suggest to me that he is being advised by Russians (just as Yanukovych had been), but why would he let that?

  31. To be fair, it would hugely surprising if in a country like Hungary, there wasn’t some dishonest behaviour when 4 billions forints is being disbursed, perhaps at the level of tenders being decided in advance in the favour of friends, rather than out and out thievery. So I’ll reserve judgement until we see more detail about what they claim to have found but thus far appears to be very slim.

    It is also worth bearing in mind that Hungary is a country where a radio license application can be rejected because the applicant failed to scan 460 blank pages (as happened to Tilos Radio.) So with that level of bureaucratic obduracy (which has a centuries long tradition in Hungary), there will always be things to find in any audit. Just thinking of my own work for Hungarian clients, 75% of the time I am asked to produce a backdated invoice, or write that the work I did was actually something slightly different to what I actually did, to avoid having to go through a different contractual procedure. I can’t think of any instance when there was actual dishonesty: they asked me to do something, I did it as asked. But a strict audit would probably reveal some of these irregularities, just as has probably happened with Ökotars. But that doesn’t equate them with fraud.

  32. Dear Eva, Pestisracok is not a blog, it is an investigative news portal and journalism NGO. Apart from operating their own staff they also publish investigative news articles from freelance journalists thus giving work and a platform. The different articles appearing on the site also reflect the individual points of views of the freelance journalists who decided to send in articles that day. This blog also has many commentators and participants, just the other day I have seen here people calling for / wishing for other people’s executions. But based on that you cannot create a description of this whole blog the act was committed by only one contributor. Pestisracok has too many contributors and it is definitely not far right.

    But all of that is beside the point. It is true that many newspapers reported on these various issues, some are trying to show sympathy towards Okotars, others less so. But for example index reported that out of 63 projects irregularities and some degree of financial misconduct was found in 61 of them. So many of the of projects financed by Okotars were involved. Now these may be small issues in most cases for sure so that is not too much cause for concern by itself. I agree in that.

    What concerns me is how Okotars never denied any of the allegations relating to document altering, document forging and document backdating. A simple statement by Okotars “We have never dated back or otherwise altered any documents, financial or otherwise with or without the help of the Norwegian Embassy”, would clear up this issue instantly. If they will say this it will create a different situation altogether.

  33. carro, I’m not an apologist for Ökotárs but I don’t believe they have been given a report that details what the problems allegedly are. The fact that Magyar Nemzet and Heti Válasz were given information before Ökörtárs rather demonstrates just what political exercise this whole business has been.

  34. “What concerns me is how Okotars never denied any of the allegations relating to document altering, document forging and document backdating.”

    “Allegations” being the operative word.
    Have they been a copy of the report containing these allegations?

  35. @Carro:”Dear Eva, Pestisracok is not a blog, it is an investigative news portal and journalism NGO.”

    Right. CÖF is an “NGO” as well. By the way, the author of the article on Pestisracok is an (ex?) Magyar Hirlap journalist.

  36. @carro:

    Just to remind everyone: Pestisracok is directly financed by Fidesz parlamentary caucus.

    Pestisracok regularly shows articles which reflect its intimate connection to elements within the state security apparatus.

    Its “editor in chief” Gergely Huth is effectively laundering money.

    http://hvg.hu/itthon/20130801_huth_gergely_polgarportal

    This blog is part of Fidesz-state security complex and everybody within the media world knows that.

    And you are trying to defend it as a serious medium.Pleeehease.

  37. Vida traveled with her deputy for “vacation” yesterday dawn.
    They had not had enough of each other at work, obviously… 🙂

    http://www.hvg.hu/gazdasag/20141023_Kitiltasi_botrany_helyettesevel_utazott_n

    Where did they go at 4 AM? I checked the departures at Schwechat yesterday morning.
    The first planes left at 6 AM. They either changed planes in Germany, or went to Tenerife.

    I think it is obvious that they were SENT by their higher-ups to temporary oblivion until the storm is over. This way they cannot accidentally reveal anything to journalists or friends.

  38. Albrecht Neumerker:

    Since Orban has been moving unstoppably towards Russia (and away from the EU and the US), it is the Russians who must possess the most dangerous piece of information.

    That piece must trump everything else.

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