Hungary in the western media

I just received word from someone who has been collecting articles from the western press on Viktor Orbán's performance in the European Parliament. Although his appearance in Strasbourg was only two days ago, my friend found 337 negative reports. That's quite a record. The foreign press usually doesn't spend that much time on Hungarian affairs. Here I would like to sample German, French, and British assessments of Viktor Orbán's appearance in Strasbourg.

According to the Süddeutsche Zeitung, a liberal German daily, Orbán doesn't feel comfortable when it comes to "democratic discourse." He reacts too aggressively to criticism. Martin Winter, the author of the article, thinks that only autocrats or politicians with a Napoleonic complex consider themselves to be the embodiment of their people as Orbán did in his rebuttal. Der Tagesspiegel finds it unacceptable that Orbán tried to make the media law a simple domestic issue. Obviously Orbán doesn't understand the essence of the debate: the authenticity of the European Union as a democratic institution that is being damaged by Hungary representing it for the next six months. Der Spiegel talked about a "firing line" that awaited the Hungarian prime minister. His reaction to criticism was unacceptable. He was the one who threatened the European Union. Handesblatt, the leading financial paper of Germany, sarcastically remarked that "Hungary never misses a misstep." Deutsche Welle described Orbán as an obstinate man who could still change his course if he wanted to, but it is unlikely that he will given his psychological makeup.

The Austrian papers were not kinder. According to Der Standard Orbán's answer to criticism was a rhetorical fistfight. The same paper in an opinion piece claimed that Orbán misunderstands his role as prime minister of the country that will carry on with the rotating presidency in the next six months. He should strive for solutions and not carry on a fight with Brussels. Orbán's tragedy is that he became a hero in a struggle against the communists but today he would have to fight for something. That role is alien to him. The Kurier, also from Austria, asks whether Orbán is striving to be the Chávez of Europe. Die Presse emphasized that Orbán considers himself to be "the most dangerous man in the eyes of the left" because it was he who managed to win the elections with such a large majority. Therefore he refuses to take the criticism coming from these quarters seriously.

The Swiss Neue Zürcher Zeitung in the past was decidedly partial to Fidesz but lately its tone has changed. According to the paper, democracy occasionally brings to the fore "unpleasant contemporaries," but the author trusts in the strength of democracy itself "to take care of charlatans, demagogues, and power hungry politicians." These are perhaps the harshest words I read anywhere about Viktor Orbán.

The French press is not too taken with Orbán either. Le Figaro, a conservative paper, spent a whole page on the laws enacted lately by the Orbán government. It talked about the "nationalization" of the private pension funds, the extra levies on certain businesses. It even mentioned the new constitution to be voted on in April. However, the introduction of the media law was the last straw. The paper predicts that the dual citizenship offered to Hungarians living outside of the European Union might also cause friction between Hungary and Brussels. Le Croix, a Catholic paper, had a long interview with György Konrád, a novelist well known outside of Hungary, who dwells on Orbán's personality. He calls him an ambiguous and paradoxical character, a true Machiavellian who learned the "profession" of a politician well. According to him, Orbán managed to push aside all his potential rivals; by now he is convinced that his judgment is unquestionably correct. He is incapable of compromise, dialogue or debate. Orbán is building a political structure in Hungary that would exclude any alternative to his rule for a very long time.

The Guardian's deputy-in-chief, Simon Tisdall, wrote a long article about Orbán in Strasbourg in which he calls him the "rightwing prime minister" of Hungary. Previously, western papers, including The Guardian, were apt to use the adjective "right-of-center" when talking about Fidesz and Orbán. In his opinion Orbán made clear that he would cause maximum embarrassment if Brussels insisted on meddling in his domestic policies. He quotes Orbán himself: "If you mix up the two [domestic and EU issues], obviously I am ready to fight…. It won't just be detrimental or damaging to Hungary alone but … to the EU as a whole." According to Tisdall that "was an extraordinary statement: in effect, the EU's standard-bearer was threatening the EU."  He quoted Charles Grant, director of the Center for European Reform, a think tank in London, who thinks that although the European Union is upset about Orbán's policies it is unlikely that the EU would suspend relations with Hungary. "A more probable scenario is that Orbán's anti-free-market policies would eventually end with him 'eating humble pie' and asking for EU and IMF help."

Charles Grant might be right. This afternoon the government received the letter containing the objections of the European Commission to the Hungarian media law and, behold, after all those harsh words in Budapest and Strasbourg Tibor Navracsics, deputy prime minister, announced that they are ready to change the media law. But then why all that fuss?

 

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Paul
Guest

The sad, and telling, thing about all this is that it doesn’t matter a fig how OV’s speech went down abroad. In Hungary, especially amongst Fidesz supporters, he is seen as standing up against Europe and giving them a long overdue lesson.
To us he has shown himself to be the stubborn, self-important megalomaniac we all knew he was. To most Hungarians he has stood up for Hungary and shown himself to be the hero, the messiah, they all want him to be.
And, I’m afraid, it’s how he’s perceived in Hungary that matters. This 6 months will be over soon enough and Hungary will drop out of the news again.
But OV will carry on building his little dictatorship – with the support of most Hungarians.

kormos
Guest

Just to see who this Cohn-Bendit is:


Pete H.
Guest

Kormos, Eva reports on over 300 negative reports and the best you can do is post a video of one EU mep? And a video that nothing to do with her post.

Kormos
Guest

@Pete H
I guess you liked the video 🙂
Well…it is enough for me to see Cohn-Bendit critiquing Baroso. What is your preference? I pick Orban over Cohn-Bendit

Member

Kormos: Yes, they were laughing at Cohn-Bendit on the video you’ve provided and has nothing to do with this issue. It took for him to criticize Orban to achieve a clapping success! Is that something to be proud of?


Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Someone: “Kormos: Yes, they were laughing at Cohn-Bendit on the video you’ve provided and has nothing to do with this issue.”
What I gathered from this short video out of context that he was talking about Barroso’s re-election. The smiles came because they thought that he was funny. As he was. He simply asked about Barroso’s record in the last five years. Why should he be re-elected?
By the way, it would have been better if we could hear the original not just a very short English version with big gaps.

Jo Peattie
Guest

I agree with Paul, this country is so inward facing that outside does not matter. If everyone appears to be against Hungary then more grist to the mill. Plucky little Hungary fighting against the World (again). Napoleon complex anyone? Of course stature has nothing to do with it. Maybe I have said too much…

Minusio
Guest

Born just after WW II, Daniel Cohn-Bendit is one of the most eminent European political minds. As most political progress comes from left-liberal thinkers, he is green-left. For a salary of one deutschmark he founded, and headed for eight years, a department for multicultural issues in Frankfurt/Main. For nine years he was presenter of a literary talk show for Swiss television. As a member of the European Parliament he is among the few who represent the enlightened democratic conscience of Europe.
He has qualities which boorish right-wingers like Orbán and his blind followers cannot even dream of because they are beyond their ‘intellectual’ grasp.

Minusio
Guest

Eva, here is the link to Cohn-Bendit’s speech against Barroso’s nomination (6 min):
http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xc5x17_dany-cohn-bendit-investiture-de-la_news&rct=j&sa=X&ei=kiE6TdreC47oOZSPkO0K&ved=0CBgQuAIwAA&q=Cohn-Bendit+Barroso&usg=AFQjCNGtV1l-GN5DfjSOSkBaSA7DEKVFhA&cad=rja
He is also a gifted, sometimes funny speaker.

Jano
Guest

Eva: LOL, they were obviously laughing because Cohn-Bendit’s head was red and about to explode. I wouldn’t be surprised if he hired someone to warn him when he runs out of air:) Be careful what you wish, if you heard the original it might cause you a hearing impairment:)

Minusio
Guest

And here is a link to Cohn-Bendit’s speech calling Orbán back to the democratic fold, a very moderate speech:
http://www.youtube.com/watch%3Fv%3D9eLObE7EWro&rct=j&sa=X&ei=8CY6TfqwF4z2sgbJw6zzBg&ved=0CCgQuAIwAQ&q=Cohn-Bendit+Orb%C3%A1n&usg=AFQjCNFVV–yqllSvdl97B1K2YL6tZKXNA&cad=rja
For those who don’t understand French, there is also a version with the original simultaneous interpretation in English:
http://www.youtube.com/watch%3Fv%3DX65AT_yJpAw&rct=j&sa=X&ei=8CY6TfqwF4z2sgbJw6zzBg&ved=0CCEQuAIwAA&q=Cohn-Bendit+Orb%C3%A1n&usg=AFQjCNEKElYu3gSyDJ8ZP4ODohkPVdeoig&cad=rja

Kirsten
Guest
It’s interesting that the Hungarian government will consider changes to the law. So I was not entirely wrong when I thought that OV was more cooperative in the EP. In some way his anger does not seem to be completely incorrect to me as the comments of the MEPs were also meant for their own electorate. Shouting at Viktor Orban that he is no democrat without any hint what these parliamentarians suggest to do about it that one member state is “drifting towards autocracy” is a cheap way how to get into the press. More generally, for me is also lacks comprehension for how complicated the process of strengthening the democracies in the ex-Communist countries is. (OV – better understood – could give some clues about it.) There are these powerful networks of people who either got rich in the privatisation or were in the right place and ready to take the opportunity. Even with a free press the exposure of such networks in corruption cases may have no consequences because these networks are amazingly strong. People in the west would perhaps say that this proves that these countries were not sufficiently prepared to join the EU and so it… Read more »
Kevin Moore
Guest

Have you seen the objections of the European Commission?
Now where are all those “fears” about losing the freedom of press, financially breaking the media, the total state control and all of those?
Where are those objections now?
What objections are in the letter?

Minusio
Guest
@ Kirsten: I fail to see Orbán as having been more cooperative in the EP. In fact, he threatened to hurt the EU, if MEPs didn’t accept his schizoid view: As head of the European presidency he would only deal with issues as outlined in his agenda, whereas as prime minister of Hungary he refused to deal with domestic policy issues in Brussels. As far as I know the MEPs, most of them are quite independent and not talking to their own electorate. That electorate is rather virtual or at least impersonal for most MEPs, as they don’t have geographically defined constituencies. But I agree with you that it is very difficult in countries without a democratic tradition to develop some understanding of democracy and its workings. This lack seems to be present in schools as well as in the absence of a social strata of any size and influence underpinning the state. Thanks to article 7 of the Lisbon Treaty, the EU now has some instruments at its disposal to sanction member countries that stray from the path of virtue. But it would be a long and unpleasant procedure. Except for some proposals, no effective measures can be adopted… Read more »
Jano
Guest
Minusio: “Born just after WW II, Daniel Cohn-Bendit is one of the most eminent European political minds.” Yes, his eminence occasionally writes things like “On several occasions certain kids would open my fly and start to stroke me. I reacted differently according to circumstances, but their desire posed a problem for me. I asked them: ‘Why don’t you play together? Why have you chosen me, and not the other kids?’ But if they insisted, I caressed them still.” (Le Grand Bazar-1975) When he was asked for clarification he added: “We tried a collective discourse of a new sexual morality yet to be defined” Also he was accused (which he partly admitted) of helping the leftist terrorist Hans-Joachim Klein (a former associate of Carlos the Jackal), but the request of the prosecutors to waive his immunity was denied by the EP, so he got away. Also, in 1968, he organized a revolt in a democratic country (which then helped Charles de Gaulle to a three quarters majority in the national assembly the following elections a month later). His arguments and excuses sound a lot similar to the ones usually used by the Budaházy group, only the fairy tale is different around… Read more »
Mutt Damon
Guest

He was Dany le Rouge in 68, now he is Dany le Vert. To bad he wasn’t Dany le Blanc in between. He’s life could be the Hungarian flag.
On planet Hungary the liberals are cheering to communist criticizing their right wing PM. Isn’t this fun?

Karl Pfeifer
Guest
I find this discussion interesting. Subject matter of the article is the reaction of foreign media to Orban in Strasbourg, but some prefer to write about Daniel Cohn-Bendit who was called by a good friend of Orbán recently “stinking excrement”. So those who do not stick to the subject should return to sad Hungarian reality. This Blog is called Hungarian Spectrum. Orbán and Fidesz concentrate on sweeping condemnation of the years 1990-2010, despite the fact, that they were in government 1998-2002. The whole intertwined complexity of crisis and change is reduced to a few easy catchphrases. It was the whole system that was evil. The causes, since in reality they remain obscure, are personalized and mythologized. If you believe Fidesz propaganda, there is an anti-Hungarian conspiracy; even a world conspiracy, led by the rootless cosmopolites, the shallow Hungarians (meaning the Jews), the communists (despite the fact that many leading members of Fidesz were communists and/or informers of the political police). Add to that anti-capitalist rhetoric. In the free-associative thinking of Fidesz adherents these notions do not contradict one another. The ultimate goal of Fidesz remains vague, and for that very reason it is immune from doubt. They pretend to restore… Read more »
Rigó Jancsi
Guest

Everybody who has at least a slight interest in what is going on in Brussels/Strasbourg knows who Cohn-Bendit is, knows roughly what he stood for in the past and what he represents now. But even though he’s been one of the prominent figures in the EP for a long time already, I’m not surprised that certain people just now find out that he exists, after he insulted their dear leader. Because before that, they were focused only on “planet Hungary”, oblivious to the fact that there is an outside world.
By the way, could you please for a second listen to the content and not pay attention to the way the content was delivered and by whome? Any words on that? No? I know, that would be too difficult, to contemplate the role of media in a free society as described by Cohn-Bendit.

Kevin Moore
Guest

The “critics” of the media law are about to suffer a shameful defeat unless something miraculous happens.
I’m asking again:
Now that the European Commission finally took the effort of looking into the law they were so fiercely attacking, where are the claims that were crying for democracy not too long ago?
Where are the specific objections, point by point, that show how the media law would be incompatible with EU provisions?
Where is the specific objection of how the media authority is unbalanced? All we hear now is that there is no EU directive that even touches the issue of the consistency of such bodies.
Where are the specific claims now?
When are all “critics” going to issue apologies for at least 3 weeks?

Kevin Moore
Guest

Rigó Jancsi: you are right. That is exactly what that inhuman being did. He insulted Orbán.
After their press insulted Hungary for weeks, no matter what they now lie about having criticised only the government, they didn’t, they insulted Hungary as a whole for weeks, their best soldier, the pedophile Kohn-Bandit, with a red-purple tint of that abominable head of his, did the same to Orbán. This is what the respective people of sufficiently low-quality moral standards interpret as the “defeat” of Orbán. In the eyes of those who perfectly accept pure insults instead of reasoning, this is a defeat.
But for a genuine debate, the participants must be human beings. Kohn-Bandit doesn’t qualify.

Kirsten
Guest
@Kevin: When are all “critics” going to issue apologies for at least 3 weeks? For my part, you need not wait for it. @Minusio: “As far as I know the MEPs, most of them are quite independent and not talking to their own electorate.” Daniel Cohn-Bendit is quite active in French (and sometimes also German) domestic affairs. “In fact, he threatened to hurt the EU,” I admit I had a different understanding of this statement (but perhaps I am simply unable to correctly read the signs). I thought he meant that in the EU there are areas in which the Commission can interfere and other areas that are fully in the responsibility of the member states (the media apparently belonging to the second group). If that is now being questioned OV will gather support for his belief that this is a national responsibility. And in that regard, he would indeed cause trouble in the EU. For such a claim he could get significant support from other member states as there are many who are sceptical of “Brussels” and its “malicious quest for harmonisation”. I think one of the problems of the EU is that it has not yet been solved… Read more »
Member

I am glad that some of the highly respectable politicians stood up and told Orban what they think of him. Not that this would faze him or his groupies, but it is nice that the whole world for one reason or another gave attention. Orbans’ reply on the press conference was poor, and it has shown to all that Orban is incapable to take criticism directed at him. He takes personal criticism and does a twist and a turn and makes it sound like it is against the whole nation. His groupies are instrumental in delivering the criticism directed at Orban as criticism directed at Hungary in order to flame up further nationalistic feelings and to create a more divided nation. I would not expect anything less then admiration for him from his followers when the foreign news is interpreted to them by a highly censored and altered way.
So, the foreign press’ feedback is good for outside the borders but it will not faze Hungarians, simply because they do not know what they say, only what they think they say, and for what purpose.

Kirsten
Guest

@Kevin: That is exactly what that inhuman being did.
But for a genuine debate, the participants must be human beings. Kohn-Bandit doesn’t qualify.
You know, weeks ago you wrote that we should not suspect that you may not fully share democratic ideas. But these sentences cannot be related to a democratic kind of thinking with any stretch of the imagination. One of the basic ideas is that human beings have their dignity and rights, irrespective of whether you personally like that person or not. Put perhaps it is best summarised in the American Declaration of Independence, second sentence.

Kevin Moore
Guest

@Kristen: my question was “poetic”. I know those who attacked Hungary don’t have the moral quality to apologize for anything, whatsoever.
But it’s a tell-tale that you fail to answer any of my questions in the same post you replied to.
“You know, weeks ago you wrote that we should not suspect that you may not fully share democratic ideas”
This has nothing to do about democratic ideas, my words are merely an appropriate reflection of how Kohn-Bandit treats others, and how he deserves to be treated by others. Nothing more. A pedophile doesn’t qualify as human being in my views anyway, in the U.S. such “people” are in jail, and rightfully so.
Moreover: comment image

In the shadow of Deak
Guest
In the shadow of Deak

The basic problem is that Orban is pursuing conservatism, with lies, without honesty, and he is lightyears from Ferenc Deak’s liberal legal concept.
Gyurcsanyi was touched by the liberal attitudes of Nagy Imre, but failed to approach government in Deak’s style.
Deak was exceptional, and the Hungarian Constitution should mention him as a compulsory role model for all Hungarians.

Kirsten
Guest

Kevin: This has nothing to do about democratic ideas, my words are merely an appropriate reflection of how Kohn-Bandit treats others
I understand that this is your point of view. But then we are back to the question why you can be so sure that your perception is the (only) correct one. Are you endowed with privileged knowledge? Your approach knows of distinct differences between people that entitle you to judge whether these make them worth being alive or not. That is (I repeat that) fully in line with communist thinking that you despise so much.
And I do not believe that this helps your cause (which I interpret to be that the rest of the world should respect Hungarian national pride). Your advertisements are not always too attractive if you deprive people of other nationalities of their rights (national or other).

John T
Guest

Kevin – the weeks in your household must just fly by!

Minusio
Guest

@ Kevin Moore & Jano: “I am fond of pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals.” (Winston Churchill, one of my favourite debunkers)

Kevin Moore
Guest

This is a direct link to the speech of Werner Langen, caucus leader of the European People’s Party: http://vod.europarl.europa.eu/download/nas/nasvod02/vod0501/2011/isma/VODUnit_20110119_11571700_11593200_-3bfebd6e12d96e782f5-3238.mp4
The English interpreter DID NOT translate the key message when Langen at the 1:00 mark is saying that the campaign against the media law was conducted by the losers of the 2010 elections in Hungary (which is an obvious truth).
In my sadder moments I tend to think this interpreter mistake was intentional.

Member

“One of the most ridiculous aspects of democracy will always remain… the fact that it has offered to its mortal enemies the means by which to destroy it.” – Joseph Goebbels

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