Yesterday’s big news: Gyurcsány agrees with Orbán on Azeri natural gas

As I mentioned yesterday, Ferenc Gyurcsány agreed to write five articles for a new column launched by the editor-in-chief of Galamus, an internet news and opinion website. Most newspapers immediately picked up on the fact that Gyurcsány was commenting on the political news of the week and normally summarized what he had to say. The biggest splash was his last note. He decided to defend Viktor Orbán's trip to Baku and his signing an agreement with Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Romania to build a new pipeline from Azerbaijan and Georgia to Europe via Romania and Hungary. I wrote about the project in detail a few days ago.

Since then most commentators have viewed the project as unrealistic for several reasons, including the lack of a sufficient amount of available natural gas in Azerbaijan and the expense of liquedation and regasification.  People also pointed out the diplomatic complications such a project will most likely create in Hungary's relationship with the European Union and Russia. I personally share these worries as should be clear from my earlier writing on the topic.

Ferenc Gyurcsány thinks differently. He began his article by quoting Gábor Horváth in Népszabadság, who argued that "Viktor Orbán administered a huge kick in the teeth of the Nabucco pipeline" when he signed a letter of intent to build the AGRI pipeline. According to Gyurcsány, this is "an exaggeration."

First he renumerated Europe's natural gas needs, which used to be 500 billion m3 a year. Today it is, due to conservation and the growth of green energy sources, approximately 450 billion m3. One third of these needs is produced locally, one third comes from Russia, and the rest from elsewhere. Hungarian consumption is 13-14 billion m3 per year of which 80% comes from Russia. Such dependency on one source is worrisome, and decreasing this dependency is of paramount importance.

The current risk is twofold. One is the route of the pipeline. There is only one pipeline coming from Russia and it goes through Ukraine. If there is any problem between Russia and Ukraine concerning the gas supply, no gas can reach Hungary. Disputes between these two countries have been numerous and there were weeks when Hungary received no natural gas whatsoever. During Gyurcsány's tenure as prime minister Hungary signed an agreement with Russia concerning the building of another Russian pipeline called the Southern Stream about which one can read in this blog. At that time Viktor Orbán attacked Gyurcsány for dealing with the Russians, and I understand that the United States was also unhappy about this agreement. Some people accused Gyurcsány of being too friendly with Russia and turning his back on the Nabucco pipeline, a European Union project. However, Gyurcsány kept repeating that Hungary is also supporting the Nabucco pipeline because he considered that drawing on three sources of natural gas was better than relying on one or two.

The other problem with the current situation is that all the gas comes from one source, meaning Russia. Outside of Russia there might be two potential sources. One is the area between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus, especially Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, and other the Gulf region, for example Qatar. AGRI and Nabucco would carry natural gas from the former region while liquefied gas (LNG) could come from the latter to Croatia and from there to Hungary.

The Southern Stream and Nabucco could each carry between 10 and 30 billion m3. Half of this amount according to European Union regulations must be given to countries that are not directly involved with the project. The rest is to be shared by the countries who are signatories to the agreement. In Hungary's case that would mean between 2 billion m3 at maximum capacity or at minimum only 700-800 million m3. AGRI according to news that reached the public would produce 2-8 billion m3 which means that Hungary would receive only a few million m3 of natural gas a year through AGRI. Thus, concludes Gyurcsány, neither of these projects solves Hungary's dependence on Russian natural gas by itself. Therefore, it is a good idea to work on several projects at the same time.

Gyurcsány admits that we know relatively little about the AGRI project. We have been told that it will be able to carry between 2 and 8 billion m3 of gas a year and that the cost of building the pipeline would be between 1.5 and 4.5 billion euros. The two most important considerations here are the availability of gas and the financing. As for financing Georgia, with its very large debt, is in the worst situation. Of course, Hungary's debt is also far too high, and Romania's situation is not rosy either.

An even bigger problem is the Azeri natural gas supply. Azerbaijan contracted to supply the Turks (6 billion), the Russians (2 billion), the Georgians (1-1.5 billion) and even the Iranians (a few million m3 ). That amounts to about 9-10 billion m3 per year. In addition, Azerbaijan itself needs about 10 billion cubic meters. That is altogether about 20 billion m3. Azerbaijan also promised to supply Syria (1 billion), Jordan (1 billion), and Nabucco (10-12 billion) in addition to AGRI (2-8 billion). But in 2009 Azerbaijan produced only 16.9 billion m3 and this year's production is estimated to be 17.2-17.9 billion m3. Azerbaijan's hope lies with the Sah-Deniz fields that are supposed to be further developed by BP, but the work is being postponed for obvious reasons–BP's oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Yet, with all these obstacles, according to Gyurcsány, Orbán did the right thing when he went to Baku. The opposition should not criticize him and accuse him of spending too much money on a private plane. This is petty and not worthy of a "responsible" opposition. Well, I don't think that he will find a similarly generous gesture on the other side.

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Pásztor Szilárd
Guest

Yes you are right, he (Gyurcsány) won’t find a “similarly generous gesture” from the Fidesz side. And that’s because Gyurcsány is very likely to stand before the court for the Sukoró corruption and the police crimes against protesters in the street riots of 2006.
Anyway, I don’t like this “agreement” from Gyurcsány. He is playing the “Dirty Fred” effect. When someone as discredited and inglorious as Gyurcsány stands by your side, you’d better flee for your own good.

Mark
Guest

Pásztor Szilárd: “And that’s because Gyurcsány is very likely to stand before the court for the Sukoró corruption and the police crimes against protesters in the street riots of 2006.”
It is hard to credit the stupidity of Hungarian right. Put Gyurcsány on trial and FIDESZ will transform him from discredited politician into martyr, and the natural focus for all opposition to themselves domestically. What’s more they’ll turn Hungary into an international pariah – the first European country since the 1950s to stage show trials against its leading politician (at least this is how it will be seen internationally). And they will guarantee what FIDESZ’s supporters least want to see – his return to a position of political power. But I think they are just too dumb to grasp this.

Pásztor Szilárd
Guest

Mark: he will be probably put on trial. Will he be condemned? Unknown yet, but chances are he will.
Because the Sukoró and the 2006 riot crimes are widely known within the Hungarian public, it is unlikely Gyurcsány would be regarded as a martyr if he gets condemned for these cases.
Put him on trial and condemn him for makeshift reasons (something the left wing has a good track record in doing so), yes he will become a martyr. But for corruption and anti-democratic crimes? No way. The public longs to see their sense of justice satisfied. They want gratification and rightfully so.
Would Hungary become an international pariah? This gives me chuckles. Would we become a pariah for letting independent jurisdiction do its work? No, we’re pariahs if we hold it back.
All in all, this would be a huge step in turning Hungary back from upside down.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Szilard: “he will be probably put on trial. Will he be condemned? Unknown yet, but chances are he will. Because the Sukoró and the 2006 riot crimes are widely known within the Hungarian public”
And because Budai’s lies are well known he is also guilty? Come off it.

Pásztor Szilárd
Guest

Eva: if Budai lies, his papers won’t remain standing when they are put to the test before the court.
But as things look now, the only chance Budai is lying is if he had crafted his papers himself, along with all signatures that seem to come straight from Bajnai’s, Gyurcsány’s and Veress’ hands, and along with all the stamps of the Ministries. Budai should also have made his papers come from the registered file folder of the previous government. Pretty hard work to counterfeit all these, if you ask me.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest
Szilard: “Eva: if Budai lies, his papers won’t remain standing when they are put to the test before the court. But as things look now, the only chance Budai is lying is if he had crafted his papers himself, along with all signatures that seem to come straight from Bajnai’s, Gyurcsány’s and Veress’ hands, and along with all the stamps of the Ministries.” Your problem is that you simply swallow all the nonsense Budai comes up with. The fact is that both Bajnai and Gyurcsány are sueing and not without reason. For example, he accused them of perjury, but it seems that he has a rather peculiar notion of what perjury is. The fact is that one doesn’t even know whether there was any crime committed. Just because according to one real estate appraiser a piece of property is worth X amount of money and later someone else claims that it is worth less it doesn’t mean that those involved are guilty of anything. Unless one can prove that the “independent” apraiser was bribed or blackmailed. Budai cannot come up with any proof but surely he is trying. Not because Gyurcsány is guilty but because Orbán was very offended by… Read more »
Passing Stranger
Guest
“It is hard to credit the stupidity of Hungarian right. Put Gyurcsány on trial and FIDESZ will transform him from discredited politician into martyr,” This makes sense from the outside. But one of the most important concepts on the right of the last couple of years is that there must be some sort of “reckoning”. We can use Szilard here as a sort of one man focus group for hard core Fidesz views: “gratification” is what it is all about. Along with “revolution” it is the word I have heard the most often expressed by Fidesz supporters in the last 5 years or so. So Fidesz will be giving its grass roots supporters what they want. Autistic as Fidesz are, they don’t really consider what anybody else may think important. So there is a logic to this case. Though it will be popular with the right, Mark is right that a trial would have severe impact internationally and with non-Fidesz supporters in Hungary. If only because Gyurcsyany is clever. This is why a show trial would be stupid. It will more likely be a replay of the Dimitrov trial than the Mindszenty trial. Don’t expect a cowed and broken man… Read more »
Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Passing Stranger: “The suppression of the 2006 riots was brutal”
I disagree with you. In comparison what would have happened in Paris, London, Berlin, or New York, it was a mild affair. I watched the whole thing on television and what I saw was mostly policemen retreating. In other countries they would have moved against the attackers with full force.
More policemen than attackers were injured. The few attackers who had to appear in court received no sentences.
No, I think Fidesz managed to rewrite history. Here is for example the case of the courtyard of Magyar Rádió. The president of the Radio testified yesterday. He is about the fifth person who says that they didn’t see whatever was happening there. Meanwhile it turns out that some people who were employed by MR were actually the leaders of those who wanted to overthrow a democratically elected government by force. He didn’t mention what happened to these “ideological leaders” as he called them. Most likely nothing.

Pásztor Szilárd
Guest
Eva: what you write may sound nice for outsiders but it’s not all outsiders you’re dealing with here. It seems completely obvious that a crime has been committed by the Sukoró real estate exchange. You intentionally withhold that prosecutors are already submerged in deep investigation of the case upon the denunciation of the State Audit Office. Miklós Tátrai, then chief of the National Assets Handler has already been arrested. His institute was under clear command of the Ministry of Finance, but during conducting the Sukoró contract, both Bajnai’s Ministry and the prime minister himself were strongly involved, as all of Budai’s papers testify. Up to this day, there is not one single disproof against any of Budai’s claims that are supported by files from the Ministries involved. It will probably be extremely difficult for Gyurcsány to cleanly come out of this. As for the 2006 riots, what you write is simple and outrageous lie. Several hundred protesters, by-passers and other people not even involved with the riots were injured, eyes got shot out, people have been shot in the neck and in the back, all by a police force that was clearly violating the law in force by attacking without… Read more »
Alias3T
Guest

@Pasztor: You prompted me to trawl through what’s been reported on Sukoro.
From what’s been printed, you cannot possibly know if there’s such evidence. Budai has unveiled a letter bearing Bajnai’s signature showing what we know in any case: that Bajnai and Gyurcsany were aware of the Sukoro deal.
But the documentation Budai released does not support his claim that there were irregularities about the relative pricing of two differently-sized parcels of land, and nor does it provide any evidence of illegal favours having been done. He says it does, but the letter itself proves no such thing.
He says he passed all the really hard evidence to the prosecutor. I guesss he decided to keep the really damning stuff away from the public eye?
In any case, the allegations are pathetic. Experts have come up with different valuations for two different bits of land? The affair is so obfuscated you can’t even turn it into a pithy campaign slogan. If that’s the best skeleton they can find, then they really haven’t found much at all. Alternatively, it’s the only skeleton they can find which doesn’t also implicate a member of their team.

Alias3T
Guest

…and the fact of a prosecutor’s investigation doesn’t tell us much.
These are the prosecutors who received evidence that a security company controlled by a powerful banker was tracking the movements of the head of the National Security Office (now known as the AVH, of course), and gathering kompromat on the leader of a party. And their response was to investigate not the banker, not the security company – but the party leader.
The prosecutor’s office is possibly the single most rotten institution in Hungary. It doesn’t just take political orders, it sits panting on its haunches and begs for a biscuit too.

Gábor
Guest
PassingStranger: ” We can use Szilard here as a sort of one man focus group for hard core Fidesz views” I fear you under- and overestimate Szilárd, who in fact is a propagandist, given the freqency of his comments probably a paid one, not simply a core supporter. (And as a paid propagandist he can be less convinced than he pretends to be but of course can really wake up every morning with thirst for communists’ blood 🙂 ) Therefore what we really know is that Fidesz leadership thinks the population wants to see Gyurcsány being put to trial or at least the same leadership believes it is advantageous to create such passionate emotion. From where can one suspect Szilárd is a propagandist? (Not the worst kind, he at least skilfully imitates discussion, I think Eva can take it as a compliment, Fidesz did not send the usual “trolls” or “droids”. 🙂 ) The most important proof is the Márai quote. If you google it (in Hungarian) almost 95% of the search reasults come from rightist websites or from comments of rightists on websites from nol.hu to forum.index.hu I knoiw that Hungarians are very civilized and educated, but this single… Read more »
Odin's Lost eye
Guest
Ok folks back to the real problem which is Europe’s need for gas and the problem of gas pipelines across Russia. The Azeri plan on the surface is a good one. Technically it is sound and as all the technology is well known, tried and tested so there is little risk on that score. However the real risk comes from those in control of the project. if Europe, who will have to put up the money, is not careful and does not establish firm control, all you will get is a few bits of rusty pipes and a lot of very ‘fat cats’. Someone commented it was not green. Actually LPG is easy enough to make and if the plant is powered (at least to some extent) by wind farms, that argument is knocked on the head On the subject of wind farms, Hungary has refused to go in for them because they cannot store the surplus power produced. Do a google for Dinorwig and have a look. You will then understand what the problem is for Hungary. But there is always another way one of which I figured out whilst discussing a bottle of a rather nice Merlot and… Read more »
Passing Stranger
Guest

It may well be possible Fidesz uses paid propagandists, but there are plenty of people with the time and inclination to spout this kind of rubbish free of charge.
If he’s a propagandist I hope they don’t pay him very much, because he is not very effective. It is too obvious that he simply ignores all difficult questions and answers only by shouting. He achieves the opposite of what he desires: he forces people to explain their criticism of official policy in far more detail than they would do otherwise. He seems to think that the same message and tone that works for a right wing Hungarian audience also works for a foreign, English speaking audience. His whiney nationalism and tone of righteous indignation is similar to that of the far right emigres of the communist period, and they were more of an embarrassment to their Western hosts than useful allies.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest
Alias3T: “These are the prosecutors who received evidence that a security company controlled by a powerful banker was tracking the movements of the head of the National Security Office (now known as the AVH, of course), and gathering kompromat on the leader of a party. And their response was to investigate not the banker, not the security company – but the party leader.” I assume you’re talking about the UD Zrt case. I was thinking writing about this latest because Ervin Demeter, former minister in charge of national security, goes from television station to television station with the incredible story that it wasn’t UD Zrt that broke into the government’s computer network, but the national security office’s own man, recommended by György Szilvásy (who else?), broke into, for example, the parliament’s system. And he says all that with a straight face. This case is about the most outrageous I’ve ever heard of even by Hungarian standards. While the “banker” (Csányi), Demeter, Stumpf, and all the others involved should be investigated and brought charges against, the victims of the the illegal activities of UD Zrt will be the ones who will be most likely prosecuted. And one more thing. In these… Read more »
Alias3T
Guest

@Odin: sorry, we were all distracted by the troll. On Nabucco – I think it depends on Turkey, which is feeling its way towards a much more activist geopolitical role. If they think it will grow their influence in their old Ottomon hinterland, then it’ll happen. This latest plan? Well, god knows. Depends how much the gas price rises.
@everyone else: Following on from Gabor – the proof of the pudding is this: There is as much dirt as you want on the previous government. The thing is, most of it’s not connected to Gyurcsany. There was, for example, a minister with extremely good contacts inside the Kremlin and the looks of a TSz elnök who is as corrupt a figure as anybody the last 20 years have thrown up. If you want to prosecute the corruption of the previous government, he could provide you with show trials into the next decade. But they need Gyurcsany.

Mark
Guest

Alias3T: “But they need Gyurcsany.”
It isn’t as if FIDESZ haven’t been trying hard to get him since 2004. All the suggestions about things Attila Kulcsár supposedly told prosecutors, to Szijjárto’s committee into the origins of Gyurcsány’s wealth – and they have failed to produce the evidence they need to put him before a court. In trying so hard they have constantly undermined the political case they could have made more clearly against him – that he is Socialist wide boy; a rich man for whom politics and government are a hobby; that he has a difficult relationship with the truth; and that aside of chasing headlines he has no idea what he wants for the country. Some of these lines of attack are unfair, but I am sure they would have stuck if FIDESZ had not been trying so hard to find non-existent evidence of personal corruption, and concentrated instead on building the case. And now by trying them they seem intent on rescuing his reputation.

GW
Guest

It must never be forgotten that through well-timed appointments, the prosecutor’s office has been effectively controlled by Orban appointees thoughout the 2000s. If there were sufficient grounds to prosecute Gyurcsány et al, the means and the will were certainly there. On the other hand, it soes appear that these prosecutors did a great job of burying any inquiries into the Orban government. Anyone remember the name Kaya Ibrahim? Or the success of the Orban family in bidding for road construction projects?

Gábor
Guest

It is a bit off topic, but honesty deserves it: after a long deliberation with a fellow commenter Szilárd doesn’t seem to be paid propagandist, maybe he is just spending too much time with people from around Navracsics and let himself manipulated.

Odins lost eye
Guest

Greetings again all. Just to remind you of the old saying ‘Do not feed the trolls’! It is what they want. This blog is hurting someone high up. Because of the renown of its hostess and the driving force behind it, it is probably read in ‘ministries’ all over and some of its contents feature in ‘ministerial briefings’. As to the good pastor have a browse at this http://www.encounter2010.org/?lang=en&page=experience. It might just be the one.
As to a show trial, for the trial of László Rajk, Mátyás Rákosi had to import some 32 specialists from Moscow to write the scripts and rehearse the accused etc. Such help is not available these days. Any attempt to try Gyurcsány or Bajnai without any cast iron, copper bottomed evidence would cause such a stench in Europe that the ‘Mighty One’ (Orban Victor) would probably have to go into hiding!

SVN49
Guest

@Odins lost eye: I believe the URL encounter2010.org above is not the one you are looking for. You should look no further than Facebook.

Alias3T
Guest

This isn’t a witch hunt. All of us know how to use Google.

Alias3T
Guest

This isn’t a witch hunt.
All of us know how to use Google.
I’m sure Eva will confirm that anybody is welcome to post here.

John T
Guest

Whether people agree with Szilárd’s position or not, his contributions do spark good debate on this board, so providing he keeps his comments civil, I welcome the chance to debate with him. Without the alternative view, the board will become all to one sided.

Paul Haynes
Guest

I rather like Szilárd. He sems quite real to me and you’ll find people just like him on just about every blog or message board.
It would be a lot duller on here without him.
And I’m sure if Fidesz wanted to damage Eva’s reputation they’d pick a more subtle way of doing it. A poster like Mark, for instance, who writes clearly and intelligently and who doesn’t always agree with Eva. Post for long enough so that we get to respect him and gradually increase the comments that undermine Eva’s position until we start to feel uncertain of her and drift away from the blog. That’s how I’d do it, anyway.
Mark, a Fidesz troll – now there’s a thought!

Mark
Guest
Paul Haynes: “Post for long enough so that we get to respect him and gradually increase the comments that undermine Eva’s position until we start to feel uncertain of her and drift away from the blog.” I don’t think you’d succeed – but then I have no intention of undermining anyone. And I welcome the opportunity provided by someone like Szilárd who fluently defends FIDESZ and its point-of-view. After all, as he has pointed out, it is a view that has considerable support within Hungarian society (and occassionally, though not very often, I do agree with things FIDESZ says). I don’t represent anyone except myself. But the real reason I wanted to react to Paul Haynes is that there is an assumption in Hungarian political culture that a diversity of views is somehow a bad thing – and that everyone is divided into rabid fascists on the one side, or godless Communists on the other, or that diversity somehows weakens the unity of the nation (and that victory requires the suppression of all forums for expressing alternatives)- though ironically for all those accusing this blog of “Marxism” while we have had occasional fascist posters, I’ve never seen anyone attempt to… Read more »
Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Paul: “A poster like Mark, for instance, who writes clearly and intelligently and who doesn’t always agree with Eva. Post for long enough so that we get to respect him and gradually increase the comments that undermine Eva’s position”
Oh, I don’t think that Mark and I are that far apart. There are certain things we see differently. One is the role of the socialist party in the 21. century. The other is: what to do with the national debt. And third, the stimulus package. Sure, stimulus is a good answer in situation like today but Hungary simply is not in the position to follow Matolcsy’s ideas. Moreover, I’m very skeptical about Matolcsy’s economics. Once he already managed to make a mess of things (2000-2002).

Paul Haynes
Guest

Mark – it goes back a lot further than that. It wasn’t ‘left v right’, but it was effectively the state of undeclared civil war between the King and the ‘Barons’ which led to a weakened Hungary being relatively easily defeated by the Turks.
And just about everything bad that’s happened to Hungary since led directly from that defeat and occupation.
I realise you know all this, but I just thought Szilárd would be happy to read a bit of patriotically slanted history from one of us Marxists.
By the by, my tongue was firmly in both cheeks with my ‘Mark as a Fidesz troll’ comments, I hope everyone realised that!
And please, everyone, call me Paul.

Paul Haynes
Guest

Eva – re your areas of disagreement with Mark. I’d be interested in a brief summary of your views on all three topics, particularly the last two. I’m afraid to say I’ve never heard of Matolcsy, do you have a link for some background in English?

Mark
Guest
OK Paul, I will be short. My criticism of the post-1989 period is that all political parties went off after the system change and concentrated on an illusory image of the west, and grand ideological (and largely unrealistic) designs of creating a perfect free market and building a middle class and they forgot that democracy actually requires that someone represent the majority who have to go out and earn wages and salaries. Had they done this we wouldn’t be talking about right populism so much now. For the whole period since 1985 except three years (1997-9) Hungary has been stuck in a debt trap. The insistence on every post-socialist government on precise debt repayment has stymied the economy. I cannot imagine how it will all be repaid and therefore a condition of addressing the underlying economic problems is negotiated debt restructuring. I opposed Bajnai’s cuts and the terms of the IMF/EU loan. I did so because I felt they placed short-term financial interests over those of a long-term recovery. Hungary has an ageing population; it also has desperately low labour force participation, and this is due to a shortage of decent paying work. Given its demographic dynamic Hungary is faced… Read more »
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