European Commission President José Manuel Barroso has been very busy lately getting final approval for his second-term team of commissioners and dealing with the Greek crisis.
On March 3 Barroso unveiled a new 10-year plan for jobs and growth in the European Union. The commission’s ambitions are modest: Barroso and his team are hoping for a yearly 2% economic growth, but he emphasized that reaching even that modest goal will require closer cooperation among the 27 member states. How can this goal be achieved? First and foremost by increasing employment from 69% to 75% of the Union’s workforce. I might add right here that in Hungary it is about 55%! Europeans also want to invest more in research and development and in education.
The next day Barroso flew to Budapest where the leaders of the European People’s Party’s parliamentary caucus held one of its regular meetings. First he had a working dinner with Gordon Bajnai and the next morning he had a private meeting with Viktor Orbán. The picture below was taken after this meeting.
I suspect that the conversation didn’t go to Orbán’s liking. He looks mighty unhappy in the photo. If I had to guess, Orbán wanted to find out from Barroso how the European Union would react to a tentative proposal of raising the budget deficit from 3.8% to a somewhat higher figure. How much higher? It’s hard to tell where Fidesz stands now. A little more than a month ago Fidesz’s “independent” economists were still talking about 7.7%. At least they seemed to be certain that the government’s figure of 3.8% is phony and that the real number is 7.7%
However, since then a few things have happened. Most notably, Mihály Varga and his economic team had a couple of talks with the representatives of the International Monetary Fund and the European Union and both told Varga in no uncertain terms that (1) the figures are not phony and (2) 7.7% is out of the question. Since then, it seems to me, almost no reference has been made to exact figures. The last I heard from Orbán was that a month after he takes office he will be able to tell the whole truth about the state of the Hungarian economy to the people. My guess is that it will be an announcement that the situation is much worse than they thought, the socialists stole everything and the cupboard is bare. It breaks his heart but he cannot fulfill any of his promises. His face on this picture I think is telling: no way out of the bind. He promises immediate change but nothing of the sort will materialize.
After this most likely unhappy meeting there was a public gathering where Barroso, Orbán, and Joseph Daul, the leader of the European People Party’s parliamentary delegation, spoke. This last politician delivered a rousing campaign speech on behalf of Fidesz after which he turned to Orbán and said “Viktor, you can count on us!”
Barroso, on the other hand, was much more restrained when talking about Hungarian internal affairs. Instead, he emphasized that the member states of the European Union must have closer relations. He emphasized the necessity of the Union’s acting as one unit because otherwise economic development will stall and the European Union will not be able to compete with the United States and China.
Surely, that is not what Orbán wanted to hear. He is not a euroskeptic in the sense of rejecting the Union, but he is leery of any move toward closer cooperation and unity. He has made enough references to the importance of nation states and national cultures for us to know how he feels about the question. People often remark that at his public appearances, although there are dozens of Hungarian flags, the flag of the European Union is never present.
Orbán’s speech was basically a rehash of his speech on “the state of the Hungarian nation” on February 5, 2010. The unfortunate phrase “money capitalism” cropped up again. He again emphasized that instead of engaging in financial speculation, banks should provide money for “production.” When I heard this strange “money capitalism” phrase I first thought it must have derived from Marxism. However, this morning I learned that the term was used by the populists (narodniks) in the thirties and lately in the program of a far-right organization called Pax Hungarica Mozgalom. A closer look reveals that these people are the followers of the late Ferenc Szálasi’s Arrow Cross Party and their ideology is called “hungarism,” or in other words the Hungarian version of national socialism.
The man who discovered the source of the term, bless his heart, was Jenő Veress, a journalist who writes wonderful opinion pieces in Népszava. In his last article called “Quotation Marks” he recalled Orbán’s problems with plagiarism in his speech of February 5 and added that this time he used the phrase “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself” without crediting F.D.R. Then Veress became curious about “money capitalism” and, behold, Orbán’s speech writers turned to this far-right organization’s program for this strange term. As Veress said, it is somewhat worrisome that this man doesn’t seem to have one original idea. It is also worrisome that Fidesz speech writers copy ideas as their own from the webpage of a far-right organization.
So here we are. The leaders of Fidesz claim that theirs is a moderate party standing betwen two extremes, Jobbik and MSZP, while the party chief is plagiarizing from the hungarists. Quite something.