Why did Viktor Orbán visit Brussels today?

Klubrádió noted this morning that Viktor Orbán’s visit to Brussels was rather strange. It resembled the kinds of visits newly installed prime ministers of member states make to introduce themselves to the dignitaries of the European Union. In this case the visit was obviously about something else since Viktor Orbán is no stranger in EU circles. The government website also felt the need to explain the reason for the visit. Their version talked about “a courtesy visit” necessitated by the change of personnel heading the governmental structure of the European Union.

I think we can safely state that Orbán’s visit to Brussels was no courtesy visit. Rather, it came about as the result of a kind of summons by Jean-Claude Juncker. Of course, it was couched in polite terms.

We know more or less what topics Juncker wanted to discuss with Viktor Orbán. The Hungarian prime minister is not as secretive as some people maintain. One just has to read his statements carefully, because they are usually revelatory, just as they were this time. There were no joint press conferences either with Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, or with Donald Tusk, the new president of the European Council. But Orbán almost always gives a press conference to Hungarian journalists when he is in Brussels, and this time was no exception. From this press conference we learned that Juncker wanted to clarify at least two issues. One was Orbán’s harsh, far-right statements concerning immigrants to the European Union; the other, the meaning of Vladimir Putin’s visit to Hungary.

So, let’s see whether we can reconstruct what transpired, at least in part, during a conversation to which we weren’t privy. One topic was definitely the immigration issue which, according to Orbán, he “managed to clarify.” Judging from Orbán’s wording, it seems that Juncker told Orbán that his statements on the subject were practically the same as those of the extreme right in Western Europe. Otherwise, Orbán wouldn’t have had to say at his press conference that “we don’t share the approach of the European extreme right” on the subject.

There is a good possibility that Juncker was not convinced of the legitimacy of the Hungarian position because, according to Orbán, “we asked them to understand that Hungary does not want to be the destination of immigrants.” This sentence indicates to me that Juncker was reluctant to accept the Hungarian point of view. Orbán tried to convince Juncker that Hungary’s position is unique because it is the transit country for economic immigrants from the Balkans. After all, sooner or later these economic immigrants will end up in countries west of Hungary. So what is in Hungary’s interest is also in the interest of Western Europe. Brussels should support the Hungarian position.

Orbán, it seems, also outlined his ideas about “more reasonable rules than the current ones” governing immigration to the European Union. He suggested “wide and thorough negotiations aimed at the formulation of a new European immigration policy.” I assume that Juncker expressed his readiness to convene such a conference. I’m not convinced, however, that Orbán received assurance that the topic will be discussed at the next EU summit, as the prime minister indicated during his press conference. It is even less likely that at the next summit “results can be achieved” on comprehensive immigration policies. This is surely only Orbán’s pipe dream.

The second topic was the Putin visit to Budapest, now definitely scheduled for February 17. Juncker, and most likely Tusk as well, wanted to know “what will happen” during their meeting, to which he coyly answered: “So would I.” His explanation for this ignorance was that, after all, his final position will be formed only after he has had a chance to talk with Chancellor Angela Merkel, who will spend a few hours in Budapest on February 9. The message was that he is a loyal follower of the EU position vis-à-vis Putin’s Russia and that he will conduct his conversation with Putin accordingly.

During his press conference he added quite a few harsh words, which he probably didn’t utter to either Juncker or Tusk. They sound to me like his typical nationalistic hyperbole that is so popular with hardcore Fidesz voters. Somehow I can’t imagine that Orbán actually delivered this sentence to Juncker or Tusk: “In the last twenty years I have been telling everyone, time and again, that when we joined the European Union we chose allies and not a boss. Hungary has no boss.” Some people would argue this point.

There was a small incident that fired the imagination of Hungarian journalists. At one point Orbán and Juncker had a photo-op, where they were supposed to shake hands. But after a second Juncker had had enough of the posing, turned to Orbán and said “OK. Thanks. Let’s go,” and practically dragged Orbán out of the room. It was the online site 444.hu that discovered this priceless scene. Most papers considered Orbán’s position “humiliating.” Gábor Török, a political commentator, on the other hand, found Juncker “impolite.” Acccording to the reporter for Klubrádió who was present, the two men were rushing to another photo-op, hence the hurry. Yet there was perhaps something symbolic about the scene. When the chips are down, Orbán will have to follow the policies of the European Union, even if he has to be dragged there or led by the hand.


  1. Very good article.
    I saw the video, of the Juncker/Orbán handshake/drag out. Perhaps Orbán said one sentence, in which there was some truth. He does not know, what Putin will tell him, during his visit in Budapest.
    I also have some ideas.
    Putin will not visit Orbán, only because he brings the spreadsheet, to show him, how much money and dividends were distributed to him in 2014 from their joint business deals since they last met.
    It is almost undebatable, that the distributions were neither in rubels, nor in forints, but the viktor can visit his bank accounts in the near future to verify the transfers at the same time, when he will visit his daughter.

  2. A cure is not in sight.
    The blog is not hard hitting enough.
    Honest thinking bloggers can not explore the depth of the crimes of the regime.
    Like only a hardened hacker can crack another hacker.

  3. MY-REGIME-REVIEW: Blogs don’t depose rulers, they don’t displace and replace power and they don’t chase dictators away. People do that, if and when they can and are ready. Blogs can notify readers, when and how such events happen.

  4. GyB,

    You deserve a great compliment for your sharp vision. I like it. I am grateful for your determination.
    I grew up in a sea of lies in Hungary. I escaped. The sea grew into an ocean.
    Let us be clear about it.
    Let us contribute our modest effort towards a Hungary free of lies.


  5. MY-REGIME-REVIEW: Blogs cannot do much, only to distribute correct and true information.
    The majority of Hungarian people have to change, drastically!
    They have to change their value system, their behavior, their view of their history, their participation in events, their view of themselves, their ways in life and their self evaluation, self-pity, lack of self reliance, lack of self assurance, all has to change.
    After that happens, one can have a little hope perhaps for the better.
    I am not the one who determined this, but I agree with the one who did and describes the problems correctly.
    It is well worth to see it.

  6. It seems that, beyond Russia, Ukraine was also discussed during the meeting.

    At the same time, Péter Szijjártó was in Uzhgorod, giving mostly EU money – and assuring Budapest was monitoring the share of Hungarian-Ukrainians drafted in the service of their country. With friends like that…


  7. @Marcel, I find the Orbán government’s monitoring another country’s military practices unacceptable. I would be curious to what Orbán would say if a foreign country tried to do the same in Hungary.

  8. I find it unacceptable is if someone supports the premeditated mass murder of Hungarians. If someone has basic knowledge of history, they know that Romania during World War II used death squads created from Hungarian conscripts and sent to their deaths on purpose so as to decrease the number of Hungarians living in Romania.

    it is no surprise if there are concerns today that the same could happen in Ukraine.

    For example the Ukraine government (that also contains some neo-Nazi elements according to many reports) may plan to use forcely conscripted minorities, such as Hungarians for a dual purpose. 1. The physical destruction of minorities
    2. Usefulness as cannon fodder against the Russian army.

    Vigilance is needed to ensure that does not happen.

    Anyone who supports the forced conscriptions of Hungarians to be used as cannon fodder in an unwinnable war (the full defeat of the whole Russian military – we all know it is not just separatist rebels there) can only be regarded as a Hungarian hater rated 10/10.

  9. Did anyone see the Charlie Hebdo controversy, round 2?

    Apparently a 16 year old kid made fun of Charlie Hebdo and redrew one of the front pages. He was promptly arrested by French authorities in one of the moves to crack down on free speech and free expression.


    Now this article for this news item has over 1200 comments. Compare that with the number of comments here with 20-30 comments is typical. So this was one of the biggest news item in Hungary despite being a news about a french arrest.

    I think that this indicates that the Hungarian internet public is very sensitive to issues of free speech and free expression being limited and assaulted.

    This could be a good sign for the future.

  10. I would go further than Eva, it’s not just unacceptable that the Orbán government is monitoring Ukriane’s mobilization of ethnic Hungarians in Transcarpathia for the war but insane that this information was leaked to the media. It casts a shadow over this community and gives fuel to the right sector in the Ukraine that ethnic Hungarians are dangerous and potential allies of Putin. Our heroic troll, “unacceptable” and Fidesz will do nothing to protect Hungarians in Transcarpathia if the right sector unleases it’s racist furry on that community. Possibly the heroic Hungarian guard will march about Beregsurány and wave some flags.

  11. Re Orban and Ukraine.

    There is no long-term rationality in what Fidesz or its spooks do.

    Orban and his underlings have (only) two (rather short-term) goals re Ukraine.

    1. Remain friendly with Putin a all costs, and

    2. Appear as a kind of protector of ethnic Hungarians of Ukraine (whether or not they actually want that is totally irrelevant).

    Putin’s “love” is an absolute overriding factor, just as the sympathy of voters in Hungary who deeply care about ethnic Hungarians beyond the borders and who couldn’t care less about Slavic Ukrainians (Orban of course couldn’t care less either). Remember that Orban is competing with Jobbik for these nationalistic votes, which can only work if Orban appropriates the Jobbik/extreme right issues (as he does).

    Moreover, Orban is preparing for the collection of local ethnic Hungarian votes just as he did (though Fidesz probably forged untold number of ballots too) collect the votes in Transylvania and Serbia (with almost 100% efficiency) in 2014. The Ukrainian leg of the campaign was rather amateurish, but things will radically improve second time around.

    Nothing else matters to Orban. Least of all what some “well-fed elderly Brussels bureaucrats” may think. The EU has zero leverage over him, so the EU politicians will get nothing. Putin has the tap and he has the ability to allow the flowing of money to Orban-related energy an construction companies. So Putin wins.

  12. @unacceptable
    Little darling, I am as a Human Being find utterly unacceptable supporting any kind of murder, premeditated or not, having been committed by anyone against anyone – and not only “if someone supports the premeditated mass murder of Hungarians”.

    According to your comment every other kind of murder supposed to be alright , but the premeditated ones agains Hungarians, but please, reconsider this, at least for my sake!

    Thank you in advance!

  13. @rob
    In my opinion the whole Charlie Hebdo phenomena is nothing but a bad joke, and a rather tasteless one, from day one, and this news only reinforces my opinion.

    Obviously people has hard time to distinguish the real thing from wannabes or/and pretenders, hence the response usually goes astray as well, and here we are.

    Just as it seems, there’s still quite bit of uncertainty regarding the place of Charlie Hebdo, so the powers that be decided to go along with the popular view, that those poor guys were indeed heroic victims of the freedom of expression, and not of the totally unnecessary stupidity – as I think.
    If they were still alive and well, nobody would give a second thought when the 16 years drawing appeared, but since they have been – yes, unforgivable – slaughtered, there is no way to give them the same treatment what they gave to everyone else while they were alive.

    And now we are back to my original point – posted about weeks ago: – respect!

    Nobody should expect more respect than he/she gives to the others, consequently, nobody should get more respect either – in my opinion.
    And I don’t – and won’t override this principle ever, for nobody’s sake.
    (And no, I wouldn’t ever say that this is right and that’s the only way to be, but in my case this is it.)

  14. About the topic: I guess Mr.Juncker’s mama told him – just as mine did – that he rather shouldn’t socialise with questionable characters, because he might be associated with them, so he tried to cut the public appearance short.
    Poor man, he couldn’t avoid completely the show, but he did his best, nevertheless, don’t you think?
    My deepest condolences, Mr.Juncker!

  15. Dirk Gerkens’ life, CEO of RTL Klub, which lately has been informing the pubic (as it should) about the insane levels of corruption at Fidesz, was threatened several times, so he moved his family abroad and he himself moved into a hotel protected by bodyguards.

    If anybody thought that Orban would ever hand his power over to anybody else is deluding himself.

    Orban and his criminal friends will do anything to keep power. They are letting small time opposition parties to play around, but at the first moment anybody became really dangerous, Orban would have them eliminated. A suspicious accident a la Andras Varadi, Tamas Welsz will do, the rest will get the message.


  16. Niw, perhaps, as long as it is individuals that can be clearly identified. I am not in favour of useless individual heroism but people should not underestimate their COLLECTIVE power. So I would not accept these examples as proof of that Orban can keep his power no matter what. He can keep it as long as some people feel intimidated and powerless, and the others emigrate.

  17. @Kirsten

    Antonia Radi (formerly of HVG) had just published a nice 3-part story at Atlatszo.hu about dealings of the Rogan-clan and certain other people (e.g. the Szetlik crime family which is related to Arpad Habony). Connected to them are – as usual – some ‘former’ III/II or whatever directorate secret service people – brought in by the head of the Hungarian siloviki, Sandor Pinter. If it won’t be Hungarians who will carry out the job then the omnipresent Russian friends or their Serbian friends will do it.

    Fidesz really is a mafia and in a mafia state anything can happen. Until now, fideszniks felt that it need not resort to these means (although I believe too that Welsz and Varadi were murdered). Once however fideszniks and their helpers get more desperate, they will. Why wouldn’t they?? They literally own the police and the prosecution, as well as many judges. Somebody will get killed and the case – just like the NAV case or the literally dozens of corruption cases in district 5 – will go nowhere. I know many people who really fear that they could end up like Varadi, designated as an accident, case closed, two weeks later forgotten.

  18. @spectator. I respectfully disagree about your proposal that respect can be a guideline to the proper use of the freedom of speech. Ridicule would be impossible. Ridicule is what tyrants fear most..

  19. Jean P, Just think about it: if respect is the guideline then there must be a clear case of disrespect too, won’t you agree?
    Not to mention the case when I respect smeone’s opinion, belief, or/and his/her right to all, even if I don’t agree with that opinion or/and belief at all.
    Otherwise yes, the strongest weapon against egocentric tyrants is ridicule, I fully agree!

  20. greco, I do not doubt what you write. And yet it also about numbers. To say that the country is in the hands of… (mafia, Russians, old secret service, too bright lawyers…) could be right but it too often sounds as if that already explains why all effortof the rest of the society, presumably still the majority, is useless (they will kill you). And that it isn’t. Fidesz has not been very violent since 2010, certainly not when we believe that the country is run by the mafia, the secret services etc. or when compared with e.g. Russia. That they can easily target individuals does not mean that they can easily threaten many, by which I mean very many.

  21. The most important – in my opinion – lection or moral of this unfortunate event is that even if I have all the right on Earth to do something, it still not a reason to do it.
    I can, but I don’t have to, do I?
    Freedom means to me that I free to make choices, whether or not to do or say something, and I have to have the freedom not to.
    Religious freedom, for example, must give the right not to be religious at all, otherwise there is no freedom – in my opinion, that is.

  22. @spectator

    “…it still not a reason to do it.”

    Decency and good will have left the ‘room-of-human-activity’ a long time ago.

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