Viktor Orbán and the Fidesz parliamentary delegation show the way

After spending quite a bit of time on foreign affairs, we have to return to domestic policies because soon enough parliament will reconvene, and the Fidesz and KDNP caucuses are preparing for the new session. Members of the caucuses get together, normally at some resort, and are sequestered for a few days. Their agenda is to set the tone of politics for the next five or six months. This time the Fidesz caucus met at the Balneo Wellness Hotel near Mezőkövesd, the center of an area known for its distinctive folk embroidery. Obviously, there is no shortage of funds in the Fidesz coffers. The caucus has 115 members, and several ministers and undersecretaries also attend these retreats.

Balneo Wellness Hotel

Balneo Wellness Hotel

I find these gatherings amusing, especially when I hear from Antal Rogán, the whip of the caucus, “we request and authorize the government” to do this or that. Naturally, the situation is the reverse, Viktor Orbán tells Antal Rogán what he expects them to do. If they come up with an idea of their own, which doesn’t happen too often, Orbán usually decides against it. Or if they want information from the prime minister, they don’t always get it. This time, for example, apparently the MPs wanted to know more about the visits of Angela Merkel and Vladimir Putin, but they heard nothing about either. It also seems they were hoping to hear more about the deal between the government and the RTL Group. They should have known better. When Viktor Orbán loses a fight, he doesn’t like to talk about it. Or, if an encounter, like the one with Merkel, is not exactly a success, he changes the subject.

So, let’s see what Viktor Orbán actually wanted to talk about. His greatest concern seems to be the immigration of “economic refugees.” In the last two years their numbers have grown substantially, and recently they’ve spiked. While last year 42,000 requests for immigrant status were received, this year, just in January, 14,000 such requests were filed. Orbán’s solution to the problem is draconian. He wants “to bolt the door to Hungary” to all “economic immigrants because we don’t need any of them.” Hungarian economic emigrants leave in droves while Hungary is bolted tight to anyone coming from “another culture.” He will not wait for the European Union, which is far too slow. Hungary will act on its own. I wonder how they will deport all those people who are currently in Hungary and what will they do with those who are on their way. An Irish proverb says “Never bolt the door with a boiled carrot.” What will the Hungarians use?

The government must have realized that the so-called school reform initiated by the second Orbán government was a failure. All schools were nationalized except for a few private schools and were put under one huge umbrella organization that turned out to be totally incapable of supervising about 120,000 employees and thousands of schools. We don’t know how the government is planning to undo the chaos created by Rózsa Hoffmann (KDNP), but it looks as if another “reform” is underway. Every time I hear of a new school reform I just shudder. So far the government hasn’t talked to educational experts or teachers’ unions, and it hasn’t spelled out the details of its plan. It has simply resurrected an old idea of Zoltán Pokorny, former minister of education in the first Orbán government (1998-2002), to extend the eight grades of compulsory education by one year. Apparently, it was inspired by the “Polish model,” which introduced a ninth year of elementary education–along with an entirely new educational philosophy. It seems, however, that Viktor Orbán doesn’t like the idea, so most likely it will be dropped.

Another concern of Viktor Orbán is the state of Hungarian healthcare, which is rapidly deteriorating instead of improving. Orbán seems to be frustrated. At the meeting he complained that 500 billion extra forints had been sunk into healthcare and yet the hospitals are still in the red. Their current debt is 70 billion forints, which must be paid out of the central budget. Their suppliers, mostly Hungarian middle-size companies, are also hurting. For the time being, the newly appointed undersecretary will remain, but I have feeling that his days are numbered. The government’s solution is simple: forbid the hospitals from accumulating any new debts. If a hospital director doesn’t follow this order he will be fired. It is hard to fathom how such a strategy will help the situation. By the way, there’s an apparent contradiction worth mentioning here. On the one hand, the government wants to reduce the number of hospitals and most likely cut back on the number of employees, while on the other hand Antal Rogán “requested and authorized” the government to make money available for a brand new hospital in Budapest. It turns out that money for this new hospital will come from the European Union while maintaining the existing hospitals must come from Hungarian government resources.

Although the Hungarian media is full of the news that Viktor Orbán had to give in to the demands of RTL Klub without the television station toning down its news coverage of government corruption, we learned today that “Fidesz authorized the government to negotiate further with Brussels” concerning the advertising levy. What can that mean exactly? Well, nothing good, I fear. Viktor Orbán will take his sweet time thinking about the deal between János Lázár and the top management of the RTL Group. Moreover, Orbán made it clear that the amount of money he was hoping to get from the advertising levies cannot be reduced as a result of the compromise with RTL Klub. So, we can all use our imaginations trying to figure out what Viktor Orbán has in mind when he talks about further negotiations with Brussels.

If I properly interpret the leaks from the meeting of the Fidesz delegation, Orbán will not back down on government supervision of non-governmental organizations. In his opinion the Hungarian government is entitled to know what kinds of foreign subsidies are given to Hungarian civic groups. So, I assume the harassment of these groups will continue. So will the “national freedom fight.” Rogán revealed that “the Hungarian people expect that the government will always stand for the national interests” and that as a result of the government’s policies “national self-esteem” has grown during the last five years. Orbán also has no intention of changing his “independent” foreign policy because “Hungary has become a strong country” thanks to his leadership. He repeated that cheap gas means inexpensive utility prices, which he considers critical to his political longevity. Only Putin can give him what he needs. What Orbán will give in return is as yet unknown.


  1. There is a quiet, pleasant, 50-ish, homeless person who sleeps in a doorway a few doors in our district. I wonder how interested he is in ‘cheap utility prices’…

  2. Just a small correction: All municipal public schools were nationalized and integrated into a centrally managed organization.

    Naturally parochial schools (maintained – from taxpayers’s money – by churches loyal to Fidesz) remained in effectively private hands.

  3. Orban is convinced that Putin is right when the latter brands NGOs as foreign agents (ie. in local language effectively meaning foreign spys) and Orban will absolutely not let NGOs operate freely.

    I don’t see Orban backing down on any issues. For example RTL is absolutely not off the hook, first it has to show that there’s good will on its side. Orban has all the time in the world. Do those well-dressed smart business people in various board rooms across Europe too? We’ll see. As the example of and Telekom group nicely illustrated, purportedly powerful corporations can always be nudged into ‘compromises’ and this occasion will be no different.

    But the fundamental problem with NGOs is that foreign finance is necessary because there is minimal culture of private fund raising in Hungary (people are anyway much poorer than in say the US where grassroots organizations are common) and people – even if they have money – are reluctant to send substantial amounts (and USD 500 is substantial in this respect) to causes which may be deemed politically controversial (especially by the powerful government). I think there can be no doubt that Hungarian secret services closely follow the account movements of major NGOs and register any donors. But of course even if more local money would be involved Orban could effectively ban or smother these NGOs. Orban does have the legal power to do so and why wouldn’t he crush them? He can and he enjoys the game, what’s his possible downside? Wielding power and crushing mortal enemies are great fun, what would be life without these little pleasures? Orban is actually quite frustrated because he thinks that if his adversaries would be in his place, if they only know how much fun this is, they would forgive him. But since they are hopeless losers they won’t ever be in his place to know it. But it’s fun, really.

  4. I am dismayed by the distasteful and shameful comments by Andras Heisler about the visit of Angela Merkel.

    Andras Heisler, a MAZSIHISZ leader said that “Angela Merkel’s visit had historic significance. Never since Adolf Eichmann did we receive such a high ranking guest from Germany”.

    These shameful and distasteful comments by Andras Heisler were especially disgusting because the Nazi German Reich was an abomination and not the same state as the Germany we have today.

    Therefore it would have been correct and decent human behavior to not mention Adolf Eichmann in the same sentence as Angela Merkel. Merkel did nothing so bad that she deserves to be in the same sentence as Adolf Eichmann a Nazi brute.

    What is more, Andras Heisler was also completely wrong about this visit to Hungary being so unique. In 2009 under the MSZP government Merkel herself already visited Hungary as German Chancellor. So this was Merkel’s second visit to Hungary and therefore not so significant at all

  5. This is somewhat off-topic, related to Putin’s visit, but does anyone know whether Orbán speaks Russian or not? How about German (Putin does)? Just trying to figure out if they’re talking with our without interpreters..

  6. The most serious impact of this growing tsunami of “economic immigration” is the presence in Hungary, at least temporarily, of tens of thousands of mostly Kosovar Roma, who now make up the overwhelming majority of the new migrants. Most of them hope to travel farther west, particularly to Germany. But even the Austrians are now taking measures to return them – where? – to Hungary, their point of entry into the EU, and where they are definitely not wanted, not by the government nor by the general population.

    And Orbán is probably right when he says they are not needed, either, given the high rate of employment, which is surely going to grow as the aftershocks of Orbánomics begin to set in.

  7. Nadad:


    “Immigrants are bad, but brown skinned poor immigrants are worse. Gipsies from Kosovo? Don’t even get me started.”

    Orban, yet again for the hundred and fifteenth time started an entirely new discourse to which the opposition unable to add a word. The opposition people are apparently speechless and thus reinforce their weakness which is now part of their brand.

    I’m sorry to see this happening, but the opposition is weak, very weak and has zero initiatives.

  8. Civil war between Simicska and Orban (and Orban’s people in Simicska’s media outlets).

    The leaders of the daily Magyar Nemzet, the radio Lánchíd and the television Hír all resigned today to protest owner Simicska’s recent independent attitude with respect to Orban.

    Simicska’s first reaction: “I am f…ing surprised […] I am going to fire everyone”.

  9. “Defence Ministers also decided to immediately establish six command and control units in Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania. ”

    Not in Hungary.

  10. @Nádas – You are misinformed. The massive influx of migrants just now are not Roma from Kosovo. They are ordinary Albanians from Kosovo. You can see that for yourself if you look at pictures on Hungarian news sites (none of which mention Roma, as far as I can see – where did you get the idea?).
    I’ve met many of them – whole families – on trains over the past few months. The ones I’ve met have all been relatively well dressed, soft spoken, very polite, and desperate to get out of Kosovo. Quite a few are blond or red-headed with blue eyes, as are many highland Albanians (doubtless a surprise for those who haven’t visited N. Albania).
    They are leaving Kosovo because there is a social and political crisis there just now which has not been reported on in the Hungarian press. The government of Kosovo has been taken over by a true mafia, the economy has crashed, and the state is predatory. These people will go anywhere they can to find a normal life. Preferably Germany or England (most seem to speak some German). The ones I met didn’t want to stay in Hungary – they were just passing through on the way farther west. Those who are caught have two choices: 1. ask for asylum in Hungary, at which they are sent to a camp that they can leave fairly easily and try to get farther west again. 2. don’t ask for asylum, and get sent back across the Serbian border.
    They are leaving Kosovo for the same reasons (in a more extreme form) that have caused so many people to leave Hungary over the past decade. They just want a better life.
    The big question is why are Serbian (and Hungarian) border guards not doing their job? In addition to Kosovar Albanians, Africans, Afghans, Syrians, etc. are crossing that border on their way west. It seems likely that bribes are being paid.

  11. @Webber – That information comes from socialworkers dealing with border-crossers in the southern region. And aren’t you showing a bit of prejudice in expecting Roma to look and behave in a certain, stereotyped fashion?

  12. @History Professor Webber
    ….and who created this problematic Kosovo? What was the true reason of bombing Serbia?

  13. @Nádas – Where are reports from those social workers? Please give a link. I’d like to see it.
    The news about Kosovar Albanians leaving is absolutely solid.
    As to social stereotypes: which do you read into what I’ve written? Most Roma aren’t blond or blue eyed. That is not a stereotype- or would you argue that saying that most Africans aren’t blonde and blue eyed is a stereotype.
    My comments about the people I’ve met looking this way or that way is an observation, not a stereotype. I’ve seen plenty of well-dressed Roma in Hungary, and plenty of very poorly dressed Albanians in Prishtina.
    I was merely describing people I’ve seen.

  14. @Kormos

    What’s the implication in your question? Does it have anything to do with the original issue of Nadas, that is whether or not the Kosovars caught in Hungary are romas (ie. which is an ever worse category politically than simple Albanians)?

    Moreover, why do you think illegal immigration via Hungary has to do with any bombings?

    Poor Albanians (from Albania), Serbs from Serbia, well, Hungarians from an EU member state (some 600k and counting) have been moving to Western Europe for a better life. Are you implying that if Kosovo remained part of Serbia, local ethnic Albanians would be so well off that they would sit tight on their butts? Or people from Senegal, Tschad, Guinea etc. who cross the Mediterranian on sea to get into the EU were also bombed?

  15. @Kormos – Sure! But don’t forget, there were a lot of refugees from Kosovo before NATO bombing in 1999, and that their numbers rose to the hundreds of thousands after bombing started. Nice article here:
    No one predicted that there would be this wave of economic refugees decades later. It wasn’t predetermined. It seems that something was seriously botched in the transition from EU admin. to independence in Kosovo.
    Anyway, as you will recall, Hungary too contributed to NATO bombing of Serbia in 1999 – under the first Orban government – particularly helping with refueling of bombers and other logistics. And Hungary has recognized Kosovo as an independent country.

  16. Simicska will direct the Hir TV personally from now on:

    Orban wants the eliminate the independent media, but we will resist:

  17. Tompi Deutsch, as always, was very well informed and useful:

    “Szerintem az egész háborús sztori, úgy, ahogy van, nem felel

    meg a valóságnak. Egy újabb választási kampány kellős közepén fideszes

    politikusként nagy lelkesedéssel olvasom azokat a tudósításokat és

    elemzéseket, amelyek az Orbán–Simicska-háborúról szólnak – a háborút

    tegyük idézőjelbe –, tudniillik a Fidesz számára ennél kedvezőbb hír

    kevés van.”

    -Deutsch Tamás

  18. About the emigration – During Chancellor Merkels visit over two hundred ‘illegal migrants’ were expelled from the train, in the Hungarian city of Győr, near by the Austrian border, en route to Austria/Germany.

    How did they get there?
    The outer border of the EU n this regard is at the opposite edge of Hungary, so these migrants has passed into EU territory unhindered somewhere, before they managed to travel a couple of hundred kilometers across Hungary.Presumably they came across the southern border of the country, which is supposed to be protected by Hungarian border guards, police, and the lot.

    Did Hungary opened up the borders, this time for the people coming, or the control is so lax that people can come and go unnoticed by the hundreds?
    Somehow the whole event seems a bit too well organised to be coincidental, or my imagination far too vivid.

    Any ideas?

  19. @spectator – If these people had Serbian passports, and all citizens of Kosovo still have a right to ask for such passports (Serbia considers Kosovo part of Serbia), then those people could have entered Hungary legally, and many Kosovar Albanians crossing Hungary now are doing this (and they are not reported or stopped).
    However, if these people had no papers at all, and if these people weren’t even Serbian citizens, then you can probably figure it out for yourself – the only question is how much was in the envelopes that changed hands.

    Those who are upset (hello Orban) should remember that this is not new. There was a massive wave of refugees from Romania after Ceausescu fell. More than 2 m. people left that country, and many crossed Hungary (some – particularly ethnic Hungarians – stayed in Hungary).

    There was another wave of refugees that I recall vividly from the war in Slavonia – particularly in the summer of 1991, when fighting at Vukovar was awful.

    There was a constant wave of refugees from Milosevic’s Serbia, including many Hungarians.

    It may only be a matter of time before a lot of Ukrainians come to Hungary, travelling farther west.

    To put all this in perspective, the entire pop. of Kosovo is @ 2 m – so the numbers could not possibly reach those of Romanians who left Romania after the fall of Ceausescu.

    What is shocking, though, is how many people have suddenly decided to leave Kosovo – in the dead of Winter. The situation for them must be truly awful for them to make this sort of decision at this time of year.

    Here is a picture of Albanians in the bus station in Prishtina, getting on buses for Hungary.

    And for those who read Serbian, or who don’t but want to see pictures of the refugees in Hungary, here is a report from Serbian press on the situation:

    Look at the clothing the people are wearing in the top picture – those aren’t cheap or worn out coats. And look at their faces – they are well fed. These aren’t people from the lowest ranks of society. Something has gone seriously wrong in Kosovo.

  20. The video below heartbreaking.
    The reporter is speaking Albanian, so I don’t understand what he’s saying, but it is clear that these people need help:

  21. @Webber re: “Anyway, as you will recall, Hungary too contributed to NATO bombing of Serbia in 1999 – under the first Orban government – particularly helping with refueling of bombers and other logistics. And Hungary has recognized Kosovo as an independent country.”

    As a NATO member Hungary had very limited options in that matter and I am sure, Hungary had not came up with he idea of destroying Danube bridges etc.
    It appears to me that politicians formulating and starting military actions have no idea of future development, or they are just too cynical to care.

    I quote from a Lars Kepler book, but I am not sure whether the statement from the book is true or not:
    ” Every single day, thirty-nine million bullets are made. Worldwide military spending, at the lowest estimate, is $1,226 trillion a year. In spite of the fact that enormous amounts of armaments are manufactured, the demand never lessens and it is impossible to estimate the volume. The nine largest exporters of weapons in the world are the USA, Russia, Germany, France,Great Britain,the Netherlands, Italy, Sweden and China.”

    Obviously, situations needs to be created to use up the produced backlog or to test new equipment in real life situations on the battle field.

    You might respond that Hungary also produces some weapons, which may be true, but the volume cannot be matching the big producers.

  22. @Kormos – At that time (I remember it vividly) many in Hungary feared that after the Milosevic regime had dealt with Kosovar Albanians, it would be the turn of Hungarians in Vojvodina/Vajdasag, and many people felt it was, therefore, time to stop Milosevic, come what may.
    Anyone can say, after the fact, that they were wrong, but you cannot deny that these fears existed. Who knows – they may have been justified. People still think of the (much more recent) beatings of Hungarians (magyar verések) in Serbia, under a government of Serbia that was incomparably better toward minorities than the Milosevic regime.

  23. @Kormos – Hungary did have a choice in 1999. Several NATO member states refused to take part in the bombing of Serbia (I can’t remember the states that refused – but possibly Greece and Turkey as well?).
    So, you can’t really say that Hungary was forced to take part. Contributing was a voluntary decision, and there was no later discrimination against NATO members who didn’t take part.

  24. @Kormos – I just checked, and I am wrong. I apologize. ALL NATO countries took part in one way or another in 1999. Spanish planes were the first to bomb.

  25. MN: Azért Orbán önkényuralmi törekvései nem tavaly kezdődtek, és amíg az érdekeltségei nem bánták, önt sem zavarta annyira a demokratikus jogok csorbulása. Mikor tört meg a kapcsolatuk? Mi volt a fordulópont?

    SL: Tavaly áprilisban a választások után leültünk és elmondta az elképzeléseit. Ennek a részleteibe nem fogok belemenni, de nem tetszett a dolog. Én erre azt mondtam neki, hogy ebben én nem akarok partner lenni. Azóta durvultak el az események.

    Was this only about business (ie. that Simicska’s people are cut out and Orban created a new economic power base essentially for himself)? Or politics as well, like becoming a president in 2017 (for say 5-6-7 years) and being financed by Russia? The text “I didn’t wanna be a partner in that” suggest political plans, not just economical.

  26. @tappanch

    I guess Polt could arrest Simicska at any time and have his companies seized. It would be a great show of power. To be consistent Orban must show he is still the sovereign in Hungary and that he cannot be disrespected. Orban cannot appear to be afraid of anybody. The underlings in Csorna or Békéscsaba will have doubts as to his omnipotency, and that’s not desirable.

    I don’t think Simicska has those famous files. He knows a lot for sure, but can he back that knowledge up with anything tangible? If not, his stories will end up like the US visa issue, a hot topic in the opposition-leaning media which fizzles out after a while, while much of Hungary will not even know about it. I think Simicska is weaker than what he thinks of himself.

    As a side note what on earth Bayer Zsolt spent those millions on? He is probably alcoholic, but I am guessing a gambling habit or cocain, which must cost a lot.

  27. @Webber – Thank you for the answer! I had no idea how the Serbian passport supposed to work for easy crossing to Hungary, so it cleared it up.

    However, as the south-eastern outpost of the EU so easily penetrable, it’s a miracle that the armed terrorists doesn’t came by the truckload…

    Somehow interesting though that while Orbán preaching against immigrants his government provide just about everyone with valid Hungarian passports and eased border passing.

    “Logic” is a foreign word too, perhaps that’s the reason.

  28. Would be interesting to see just how Simicska would be able to rat in Orbán without incriminating himself, isn’t it?

    As much as I know they didn’t really prospered without each-others ‘help’, it pretty unlikely that they can that easily cut the umbilical chord without both of them feel it.

    However, I hardly think that Simicska will go out alone at night – setting up billboards, for example – in the near future…

  29. @tappanch

    Simicska really didn’t say anything. He is livid, but that’s all. He uses strómen, that became clear, although we suspected that. Some tidbits about Zsolt Bayer who likes to borrow money from rich people, that’s about it.

  30. @Spectator – If Orban really sends Hungarian soldiers to “Kurdistan” (his word) “to help” in the fight against ISIS, armed terrorists might just want to come to Hungary by the truckload. Why he would do that, I cannot fathom – but that was one of the announcements on Hir t.v. this evening. Nobody, surely, has asked that of him? Could it be related to the MOL concerns there?

  31. Orbán’s and Rogán’s opinion that there is absolutely no need for any economic immigrants in Hungary is foolish, since I’m sure any intelligent leader would love to have some nice Indian doctors, Chinese software engineers, or pretty much any person from a poorer country with skills and experience to contribute to Hungary’s economy. No mention, of course, of those economic immigrants who buy bonds to gain residency. I’m sure that at least some of those people want to live in Europe so they can make more money.

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