Hungary in the eyes of the concerned outsider, by S.K.

Last night I had dinner with a professor of demography and a historian. It was impossible to avoid discussion of what is happening in Hungary and what consequences can be expected from the developments there. The majority opinion was that the actual events themselves, as they unfold one by one, may not give cause for alarm, but in their combined effect they will certainly lead to some calamitous outcome.

The opinion of the demographer was that such departures from basic, established democratic practices will inevitably force the European Community to distance themselves from Hungary at large: there is simply no place in the Union for such an authoritarian country. Punishment will inevitably follow. The historian agreed. I defended the country, saying that the fault lies with the government, therefore an entire country and its population should not be subjected to punishment for the misdeeds of a few.

Not so! Argued the demographer. They, the overwhelming majority, elected this government, supplied the constitutional grounding for their rampages, so why should they be spared the consequences? In fact, chimed in the historian, they very much should face the universal repudiation from Europe, because they must face the consequences of their choice. I protested: the electorate of Hungary is not versed enough in democratic practices to anticipate the consequences. That is why they may deserve a bit of an allowance.

Hogwash! Jumped in the demographer. When Hungary accepted the terms of the European Union, they also agreed to follow European practices. The Union simply cannot afford to have amongst its members a dictatorship, nor does it have any actual interest in tolerating such people. Nor is it conceivable that the Union should leave such despicable conduct unpunished. That would completely undermine the credibility of the institution. Yeah, protested I again, but the Union has no mechanism to get rid of distasteful members. It is assumed that once a country is in, she will remain a member no matter what.

Don’t worry, my companions assured me. Europe will sooner find a way out for Hungary than to tolerate those pesky deal breakers. Europe has enough problems already with the financial complications, the last thing they need is an anti-democratic “saboteur” in their midst to complicate their headaches. Not to mention that the way Hungary is going, soon they will also come to Europe with their hat in hand, asking for financial support. Why should the Union finance the country that wouldn’t even respect the minimum requirements of democracy? They would be idiots to agree, there are more worthy candidates for that elsewhere.

All right, I pulled in some of my sails, nevertheless it would be unfair to punish the entire population, because they elected this government democratically, but the elected are abusing the privilege and that is not the people’s fault. Absolute bloody nonsense! said the demographer, who, besides being German, was never famous for her mild manners, Hitler was also elected democratically. As soon as not all the parties agree to play by the rules, the fate of democracy is sealed, no further expectations are justified. Hungary soon will be an outcast in Europe and it is actually in the best interest of the population to get there as soon as possible. They must come to realize that their electoral decisions come with serious consequences, and the sooner they recognize those consequences, the sooner they will turn out the offending government. Yes, it is true that there will be a high price to pay for their idiocy, but it is unavoidable. Next time they will just have to be more careful.

I admit I ran out of arguments at this point. It was impossible to defend any longer the indefensible.

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An
Guest

Well, they are also punishing that 47% or so who did not vote for Fidesz. So in that it is not fair: the elections were a lot closer than the 2/3 majority it translated into. People were also misled: Fidesz wouldn’t have received the 52-53% of the votes if they had let on what they were planning to do.
What IS really disappointing, though, that in light of what OV is doing, there are still no masses out in the streets protesting against the violations of democratic institutions and principles (limiting the jurisdiction of the Constitutional Court,the disrespect of private property by re-nationalizing the private pension funds and by enacting retroactively enforceable laws, limiting the freedom of the press, just to name the worst offenders). And if there won’t be any mass protests very soon, then yes, Hungarians deserve what they get.

Kirsten
Guest

@Hitler was also elected democratically.
It depends on what you mean by “elected democratically”. The NSDAP got the highest share of votes but still less than 50 % in the 1933 elections. Hitler formed a coalition government. The parliament then decided (“democratically” if you wish but one could doubt that) to surrender by accepting the Enabling Act (with social democrats voting against). So there were more steps needed to gain full control of Germany than a simple election. Not everybody gave his consent. At the same time: The fact that a party or a coalition in a democratic state has a constitutional majority does not mean that this will be automatically misused to curtail democracy. Also in this case more steps are needed than a simple election and a majority in parliament.
Whether authoritarian rule is “deserved” by the Hungarians including those that are opposed to OV is a strange question. To me that sounds very much in line with OV’s thinking of a common (certainly bleak) fate of all Hungarians. We could equally say that we as fellow-EU countries’ citizens also deserve OV because Hungary was accepted as an EU member in a more or less democratically acceptable procedure…

Mutt Damon
Guest

I’m afraid that he German lady pretty much summed up what we can expect from the other EU governments: NIX. Why would they interfere with a government that was elected by the majority? The Germans probably only annoyed by watching Orban’s government flushing down the Hungarian economy on the toilet which means eventually they will have to bail Hungary out with German taxpayer’s money.
Now it’s Christmas time so we spent a couple of hours video chatting with our in-laws. We were cautiously pinging them about politics. Most of them were trying to steer away from the subject, the most we got was something “the previous gang was crooks, these are crooks, whatever …” This is certainly not a representative sample, but it seems the “average” Hungarian doesn’t want to think about it. They are just waiting. They are more concerned about the living standards then the media council. When our porn queen will slap the Nepszabadsag with a 25 million HUF fine for something (like calling Szalai a porn queen :-0), I don’t think they will go marching on the streets .. sad.

Rigó Jancsi
Guest

@Mutt: There might be more intervention from Germany, since some major investors in Hungary are German: Audi, Daimler, Bosch, Eon, Continental, even Opel… But of course, if OV is clever and leaves the business alone, nobody will care. My fellow Germans are good in doing business with non-democratic states without getting a bad conscience. But if OV continues with “windfall” or “Robin Hood” taxes, he might have a problem which he cannot make disappear with a handkiss to Merkel. Kezét csókolom, Angi néni!

Popzene
Guest

Eva, speaking of possible EU sanctions, you might want to have a look at Article 7 of the EU Treaty:
http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CELEX:52003DC0606:EN:HTML

Minusio
Guest
While it is true that the actions of the Orbán government look increasingly ominous, they have not really disturbed most people’s daily experience yet. And with a muzzled press, realisation of what really happened will come even later. My alarms were triggered eight years ago: It was when Orbán took politics to the street and when Fidesz members walked out of the sessions as soon as Gyurcsány was holding any speeches. That was almost immediately after Orbán lost the election of 2002, if I remember correctly. What also disturbed me was the content of the street rally speeches: This was not a party soliciting voters, this was a party that felt it “owned” the “real” Hungary and had to guard its values until it could be cleansed from reckless criminals. I have heard such hate speech from other populist parties in Europe and the US, and it has become unduly influential. But no other country has honoured it with a two-thirds majority. This open and provocative breach with democratic rules was compounded by a dumb president who – despite his academic understanding of a constitution – did not call Fidesz to order. In most countries a president has no power… Read more »
Member

Rigo Jancsi: “My fellow Germans are good in doing business with non-democratic states without getting a bad conscience.”
NOt just the Germans. Canada is guilty as well with this practice. It seems that western countries sometimes pick and choose, and when the economical (and political) gain outweighs the moral interest, things stays status quo. We will see how things will unfold with Hungary that I still believe is a small fish.

Kormos
Guest

When the big hoopla was on about stealing private pension funds in Hungary, I asked if the funds were similar to US 401K or Canadian RRSP.” An” kindly replied, saying NO, so I looked into the allegations. It has become clear to me, the so called second pillar was nothing else but a clever move to channel public taxes collected for public pension into the hand of privately owned investment houses, where the management and other associated fees became part of the profit. The subsequent Government kept borrowing money to fee the pockets of those investment firms. Y’all can take a look at who were leading those firms.
Nobody really analyzed the new media control law yet, but international forces enlisting journalists to condemn it. What I can see is big hoopla, condemnation and threats again.
When all three days of wonder are over, I hope there will be an EU review of the legislation and the Hungarian Parliament will adjust the law accordingly to EU standard.
Interestingly EU is more than willing to tolerate fascist protocols like the Benes decrees.
Again…. the profit takers are crying wolf and the coyotes are echoing it.

An
Guest

@Kormos: “It has become clear to me, the so called second pillar was nothing else but a clever move to channel public taxes collected for public pension into the hand of privately owned investment houses, where the management and other associated fees became part of the profit.”
This is a gross distortion of how the private pension funds worked (the Fidesz propaganda version). If those management fees that these private funds were charging was excessive, that could have been an easy fix by regulating those fees.
So tell me, why it is better now that the government has all the pension money and can throw it away on financing pet projects, building a larger state bureaucracy, and giving out monies to their cronies?

Kormos
Guest

@ An
No, it is not better at all, but for now (your question) is accusation only.
I am willing to change my view if your version of events would become true. Yes, it could be late, but it is late already.
The test of the pudding is in the eating. I give them time.

Mutt Damon
Guest
Kormos
Guest

@Ann
I admit, I am biased due to the historical baggage I carry. I may have a distorted view, but I do not like what happened to my old Country in the past 20 years. I equate Hungarian politics to gang wars.
Am I a FIDESZ troll? Since I reside outside Hungary, and I am not a member of any party…who knows?
Lately I read a bon mot: “the only exercise some people do is to jump to conclusion”
I am so lazy (smiley), I try to avoid even that. Again, I give them time.

Odin's Lost Eye
Guest
Popzene thank you for that link. I had forgotten about Article 7. I think it was used as a threat to keep the Austrian far right in order when it joined the Coalition government. I fear that it will have little effect. The ‘Might One’ (O.V.) was voted into power with a super majority and rule he will ‘come Hell or High Water’. I fear that if it is invoked Hungary will sequestrate all foreign privately owned goods and chattels. He could instead of expelling those people, hold them as hostages. Afret all they are expendable foreigners and could be used to m ake a profit! Mr Minusio you write ** “So I would lay the blame equally on an uneducated and naïve electorate and a president who never understood his role properly” * Oh I think he did. His job as president was to do what he was told in return for a nice job, the odd jolly abroad and perhaps a good pension when he makes way to let the ‘Mighty One’ become the ‘Supreme Leader of all’. Mr Kormos The Hungarian government undertook to collect money from people who wanted to invest in privately funded pension schemes… Read more »
Member

Kormos: “second pillar was nothing else but a clever move to channel public taxes collected for public pension into the hand of privately owned investment houses, where the management and other associated fees became part of the profit. The subsequent Government kept borrowing money to fee the pockets of those investment firms. Y’all can take a look at who were leading those firms.”
Can you clarify what are you implying here? Some of those firms enjoy a great reputation and they are in business not only n HUngary but in other countries with great success. Munich-based Allianz SE, Europe’s biggest insurer, Vienna-based Erste Group Bank AG, eastern Europe’s second-biggest lender, and OTP Bank Nyrt., Hungary’s largest bank.
If I have to decide who to trust it would be those forms above, not Mr. Orban. I have no time to look up who were leading those firms, but I know who are leading Hungary right now. SO, who were leading those firms that makes you believe that there were something fishy going on?

Sandor
Guest
To Kirsten: The accession of Hungary predated the destruction of democracy, therefore the Union could not be faulted for accepting the distasteful member, that were not yet culpable at he time. You are correct saying that “more steps are needed,” but the role of the electorate has ended at the time of the election. Beyond that all is up to the elected. Thus the responsibility of the electorate is based mainly in retrospect for their short-sightedness. In case of Hungary there is an additional responsibility on those who were staying home on election day and left the cause of democracy in the blinded others to decide. If there will be repercussions they will deservedly share in it: their pensions and their free press will be taken away from them just like from those, who showed up to vote and approved the fidesz. To Kormos: It is a bit of a bias blaming the investment funds for the identity of their managers. Don’t you think? Whoever hey are, they did a pretty good job for their clientele. Why should an investor worry about the party sympathies of his fund manager, as long as the funds are performing well? It is also… Read more »
Kormos
Guest

@Sandor
I cannot argue with you. You are a professional in this matter. It will all be cleared up with given time.

Odin's Lost Eye
Guest

Sandor now that the Hungarian Media Bill has passed into law Europe can act. It could not anticipate an offence or a breach of European law. There were probably many letters, messages and private warnings etc passed to the Hungarian Government by both official and unofficial channels. The Hungarian Government, as I knew it would, chose to ignore them. Now the public process begins and if I am right it will end up in the European Court!

Kormos
Guest

@someone
I do not want to spend the time to dig up a group of Board members for the private funds. It would be futile anyway. It would not change the past.
You have mentioned a few “trusted institutions”
Have the not required government bail-out at all?

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Kormos: “You have mentioned a few trusted institutions.’ Have the not required government bail-out at all?”
No one did.

Sandor
Guest

Kormos: “I cannot argue with you. You are a professional in this matter. It will all be cleared up with given time.”
Kormos, I am gratified that you concede the point, however, I wonder: is it not clear enough already as it is? Time will only make it worse. The government pension plan will owe more and more money to the claimants without any money being available to cover the pension obligations. This is clear and patently obvious. As long as the pensions are paid from general revenues, but those revenues are increasingly short, ( the deficit is 50% this year), the sort-fall will require increasing amounts of borrowing.

John T
Guest
I have to say I’m amused by Kormos’s take on Pension funds. Of course there is an element of risk and the fund won’t perform as well as you hope. But this risk is a transparent one, as are the fee costs. I’d like them to be lower (everyone would), but I know the costs if I invest in them. And although I don’t invest in a private pension plan (I have a state + occupational pension in the UK to come), I do invest in Unit Trusts and I have a Tax free Individual Savings Account (ISA). I know full well the risks involved, but I do a lot of research to select my providers. And so far, returns have been decent, though I’m invested for the long term anyway. So to say investments of this kind are corrupt is rather wide of the mark. What worries me is that Kormos and most Hungarians never envisage that there could come a day when the state cannot meet the pension provisions. As the country is hugely in debt and borrowing just to meet its current liabilities, it is not far fetched to say that one day, in the not too… Read more »
Mutt Damon
Guest

@Kormos “but international forces enlisting journalists to condemn it”
Have you ever tried to imagine how on earth does this theory work in practice? Nonsense. People who “don’t have the historical baggage” i.e. are/were not subjected to past or present Magyar state propaganda, just think that way. I took Mojo, my golden, to the dog park yesterday afternoon. Bunch of “dog people”, we know each-other for years. Funny, in most cases we know the dog’s name but not the owner’s. Ok, Baxter’s “daddy” comes up tome, an older guy and goes: “Hey what’s going on in Hungary?”. I gave him a little civics lesson about planet Hungary. He was especially amused by the media council lead by porn magazine editor bit … So I guess I’m part of the international evil forces now. Do you know where can I get my reward?

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