Hungary assumes EU presidency as Orbán remains defiant

The official ceremony marking the beginning of the Hungarian presidency of the European Union is taking place just about now. The event has been seriously marred by the barrage of criticism of the Media Law that according to some of its critics signals the death of freedom of the press. As Orbán said today, "Who would want a start like this? I didn't write the script." Ah, but he did.

You may recall that those who attended the official party on New Year's Eve were all hoping that Hungary's image would greatly improve by the sheer fact that Hungary will be leading the Union over the next six months. Instead, as the reporter for the German national public television (ARD) said, "within a few days the country's reputation was in diplomatic ruins." Hilde Stadler, the reporter, repeated the general impression of Viktor Orbán that "protests leave him cold" and that he keeps repeating that all the details of the law can be found in other media laws in effect in the European Union. However, ARD's reporter in Brussels took the trouble to find that "this is not always the case." Moreover, "combining different elements of diverse pieces of legislation resulted in an entirely new type of media law that means the de facto end of the freedom of the press."

Viktor Orbán's answer to the criticism which he most likely didn't expect to be so ferocious was that he was ready to change the law under instructions from the European Commission but only if all other EU members will change their laws as well. So, as it stands now, he has no intention of retreating from his rigid stance on the subject. The same ARD reporter asked in the program "whether Hungary has realized what makes Europe Europe…. The question is whether Hungary has any inkling of the spirit of Europe…. She will have to learn a lot in the next six months."

I'm not at all sure whether Orbán's Hungary will learn anything about the spirit of Europe in the next six months. In the first place, anyone in his right mind should have known that this media law would be met with international protests. Why did they have to pass this law just before Hungary took over the rotating presidency? But then, one could ask: Why did they have to pass the law on dual citizenship just before the Slovak elections when everybody warned them that this move might strengthen the Slovak anti-Hungarian right?

Viktor Orbán is an avid soccer player and fan, but while the goal of soccer or any other sport is winning, in politics the rules of the game are different. Politics is the art of compromise, especially in a democracy, and it seems to me that Orbán is incapable of compromise. For him, compromise means defeat. Therefore, although people usually call him a brilliant politician, I am unwilling to grant him this title. On the international scene this kind of attitude sooner or later will lead to failure.

Orbán's uncompromising attitude toward the European Union and toward any criticism coming from abroad may also lead to some serious differences of opinion within the party. At the moment I don't think there is anyone who could possibly challenge Orbán, but if Orbán's policies lead to a further deterioration of Hungary's position in the world those who are not entirely happy with the way things are going might gain strength. As it is, it is becoming apparent that Tibor Navracsics, who is after all trained as a lawyer and a political scientist, is somewhat taken aback by Orbán's ways; the prime minister was aptly described by the American ambassador as a "bare-knuckled political brawler." This "political brawler" was successful against the liberals and socialists at home, but will he be successful on the international scene? I doubt it.

I already see that not everybody agrees with Orbán in Fidesz, but for the time being their grumbling results merely in confusion in communication. Tibor Navracsics and János Martonyi indicate that the media law can be changed if the critics come up with some weighty arguments while Orbán a few hours later says, "not in my wildest dreams." We know from the government spokesman, Anna Nagy, that there had been discussions on the question of the media law, but it looks that–at least for the time being–Orbán has won. Right now he  is not ready to compromise, but who knows what will happen tomorrow when the whole European Commission will be in Budapest?

Even Orbán had to realize by now that the whole world is up in arms, and a last-minute decision was made to have a press conference for the approximately fifty foreign journalists who came to Budapest for the occasion. Expectation in journalistic circles was high both at home and abroad that Orbán would yield. Reuters in a great hurry reported that Orbán announced at the press conference that "if the European Union considers it necessary to change the media law we will oblige." MTI  happily announced the news a few minutes later. Yes, the press conference began with this sentence but as time went by Orbán got feistier and feistier. Although he assured the journalists that he was aware of the rules of the game in the European Union, he immediately attacked Hungary's fellow members, France and Germany. AFP reported that according to Orbán "it is not the business of France or Germany to pass judgment on whether this or that law complies with the rules of the European Union or not." 

As for changing certain passages of the Hungarian law, he declared that "if Hungary is forced to change this or that part of the law then the same passages must also be changed in France, Germany, and the Netherlands." He will not allow any discrimination because if Hungary unilaterally had to change the law it would be a discriminatory move against a fellow member of the Union. He was obviously very angry about the German and French reactions and he lashed out at these two countries. He found it unacceptable that these countries passed judgment on the Hungarian law when they are still not familiar with its content. He mentioned that Germany was a little better than France because at least the German government has softened its criticism of Hungary somewhat since December. "I expect the same from the French government." He added, "I don't remember any time that Hungary criticized the French media law." And if that weren't enough, Orbán announced that "in Hungary, unlike in France, there is no such practice that it is the government that appoints the president of the public television. And I never said that the French law was antidemocratic." This is a sure way to make friends and influence people!

 

 

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Paul
Guest

This is all classic OV/Fidesz arguing ‘tactics’ – as we have seen so often from the trolls on here.
Don’t try to defend the point in question, just make wild attacks on anyone you can think of. It works on the poor, befuddled sods in Hungary who have had years of this nonsense, but it will be seen by ‘outsiders’ as the childish nonsense it is.
Orbán is about to discover that there is something far worse than failure in politics – ridicule.
His feeling of inadequacy and failure following the debate with Gy is going to seem like a walk in the sunshine by the end of this six months.

Paul
Guest

“Viktor Orbán is an avid soccer player and fan, but while the goal of soccer or any other sport is winning, in politics the rules of the game are different. Politics is the art of compromise, especially in a democracy, and it seems to me that Orbán is incapable of compromise. For him, compromise means defeat. Therefore, although people usually call him a brilliant politician, I am unwilling to grant him this title. On the international scene this kind of attitude sooner or later will lead to failure.”
An excellent summing up of OV and his faults.
But please call it football!

Paul
Guest

The Guardian has woken with a vengence:
Yesterday’s editorial: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/jan/05/hungary-one-party-rule?INTCMP=SRCH
and a report on today’s ceremony: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jan/06/hungary-democratic-dictator-europe?INTCMP=SRCH
Warning – the second article is a very depressing counter to Éva’s more upbeat piece. If yo want to go to bed with a little optimism still in place, don’t read it.

John G
Guest

From Wikipaepia:
hubris…means extreme haughtiness or arrogance. Hubris often indicates being out of touch with reality and overestimating one’s own competence or capabilities, especially for people in positions of power.

Karl Pfeifer
Guest

Where seek tyranny, think again:
Everyone is a link in the chain:
of tyranny’s stench you are not free:
You yourself are tyranny.
Gy. Illyés

Karl Pfeifer
Guest

The Economist
Viktor Orbán and Hír TV
Or the art how to make enemies
Economist gives a lesson to those vain and conceited people at Hir TV
Jan 6th 2011, 18:59 by The Economist online
THE Christmas issue of The Economist, dated December 18th, included a story on Hungarian politics. The piece was accompanied by a picture of the prime minister, Viktor Orbán.
Yesterday Hír TV, a Hungarian television channel, ran a news story [click the link below “Videók” to view the broadcast story] alleging that we had digitally manipulated the image of Mr Orbán before publication to materially alter his appearance. This is untrue. The uncropped picture, as purchased from the AFP news agency, is above, left. The image as it appeared in The Economist is to its right.
read the complete text here
http://www.economist.com/blogs/easternapproaches/2011/01/picture_orb%C3%A1n

Vándorló
Guest

It took me a while to find it, but this classic clip from “A Tanú” (‘The Witness’) nicely reflects the idiocy of Orbán’s self-defensive aggrandisement of his policies and ridicules Bayer Zsolt’s misplaced reasoning. I guess that’s why it’s a classic:


Tracing a brief history of the shibboleth: “And Jesus answered and said unto him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us.” (Luke 9:49-50 and also Mark 9:38-40)
“whoever is not against us is with us,” Janos Kádár (Speech to the National Council of the Patriotic People’s Front, December 9, 1961) [Full original version: “Aki nincs a Magyar Népköztársaság ellen, az vele van; aki nincs az MSZMP ellen, az vele van; és aki nincs a Népfront ellen, az vele van.”]
“Those who are not with us, are against us.” Orbán [“Aki nincs velünk, az ellenünk van”]
And then Bayer’s latest nonsense referring to betrayers etc…

Minusio
Guest

@ Vándorló: “Those who are not with us, are against us.” Orbán [“Aki nincs velünk, az ellenünk van”]
“Dubya” Bush said the same when he started the Iraq war. But only in English 🙂

Minusio
Guest

Eva: “Why did they have to pass this law just before Hungary took over the rotating presidency? But then, one could ask: Why did they have to pass the law on dual citizenship just before the Slovak elections when everybody warned them that this move might strengthen the Slovak anti-Hungarian right?”
I’d like to add: “Why will they adopt a new constitution – that will shock everybody out of their socks – while they are still at the EU presidency?” Because surely they will.
And: “Why will they curb the transfer of funds abroad for private individuals in less than a year while this is forbidden in the EU?” Because surely they will, as the drain has already started. I know this first hand.
Orbán is quite a clever power politician, but he will never be a statesman, and we have known for at least ten years that he is not a democrat.

Karl Pfeifer
Guest

József Debreczeni has published in 2009 Arcmás a book about Orbán and he predicted everything that happened the last 8 months.

Mutt Damon
Guest

Ferenc Isza, the photographer who took his majesty’s picture, wrote about it on his Facebook page (see this, sorry it’s Hungarian http://hirszerzo.hu/belfold/20110107_reuters_economist_szijjarto).
In essence Vic’s own PR team screwed him with the bad lighting conditions in the room. The fellow (OV) didn’t even see for the a while making weird faces in the blinding light.

Karl Pfeifer
Guest

Mutt Damon
“Vic’s own PR team screwed him”
Could it be that people V.O. is employing have no clue, that they are not professionals but employed because of loyalty to the leader?

Devremülk
Guest

Nice post. I love it. Waiting your new posts. Thank you…

Kevin Moore
Guest

OV’s reactions to the French and German comments are perfectly just and viable.
You yourself don’t even try to counter the arguments and say why Hungary should accept a discrimination of any form. And how France could have been right to criticise the media law even without having the slightest idea of what its contents are.
You certainly have no problem with France criticising the Hungarian law but you find it outrageous if Orbán says we don’t criticise the French law either.
Shows perfectly that you’d only like to see Orbán and Hungary succumb and don’t care one bit about fairness.

Guest

@Kevin:
It was already written here by another poster, but let me say it again:
It is unheard and absolutely undemocratic to have one member of parliament introduce a new law – and then vote on it once (maybe on the same day, I’m not so sure there) – and voilá!
Usually at least three “readings” of an important law are necessary in most/all democratic countries, so Fidesz’s procedere is really unheard of.

Kevin Moore
Guest

wolfi: this is absolutely no reply to what I’ve written here.