Monthly Archives: May 2011

Romanian-Hungarian relations of late

You may recall that Traian Băsescu, president of Romania, and Viktor Orbán, prime minister of Hungary, are allegedly great friends. I will never forget an interview with Zsolt Németh at the time of the Romanian elections when it initially appeared that Băsescu would lose the elections. Németh looked devastated, as if Hungary’s whole future depended on Băsescu being president of Romania.

Fidesz leaders, who every summer make a pilgrimage to Transylvania for a week of lectures and speeches held for members of the Hungarian minority, were actually campaigning on behalf … Read the rest

Fears of Hungary’s neighbors

One of the first items I saw this morning was an opinion piece in Krónika, a Hungarian-language paper from Cluj (Kolozsvár). The author, Szabolcs Rostás, is bitterly complaining that “more than twenty years after the change of regime, after the fall of the national-bolshevik dictatorship we haven’t moved forward. Bucharest is still looking upon the demands for Hungarian national rights as before 1989.” He simply doesn’t understand why this is so.

A few minutes later I learned that Zsolt Semjén, the deputy prime minister in charge of minority affairs in … Read the rest

Miklós Horthy: It is time to set things straight (II)

We left off yesterday when parliament chose Horthy as regent on March 1, 1920. I also mentioned that his soldier friends gave him plenty of advice as far as the desirable extent of his powers was concerned. The politicians who came up with the idea of a regency tried to adhere as closely as possible to the constitutional setup of the dual monarchy, but there were certain royal privileges a regent or governor couldn't exercise. For example, he couldn't bestow nobility on individuals. Before 1918 the emperor-king was in charge … Read the rest

Miklós Horthy: It is time to set things straight (I)

Miklós Horthy (1868-1957) was not a politician and thus he couldn't have been a statesman either. His education certainly didn't prepare him for a political career. At the age of fourteen he entered the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy's naval academy in Fiume (today Rijeka). It was a fairly unusual career choice for the son of a Calvinist family because Hungarian Calvinists usually voted for the Party of Independence and were no friends of the dual monarchy as it emerged in 1867, just a year before he was born. The official language of … Read the rest

Corruption in Hungary is on the rise

A few days ago Ernst & Young made public its latest survey on corruption in Europe and came up with the startling result that Hungary is the most corrupt country within the European Union. It can be compared only to Russia. Transparency International last October released its Corruption Perception Index (CPI) for 2010, and it turned out that Hungary instead of improving its standing on the corruption scale is actually sliding backward. The drop is substantial: 4.7 points. With this change for the first time since surveys have been conducted … Read the rest

The Hungarian right and artistic taste

I mentioned earlier that there seems to be a definite dividing line in literary and artistic taste when it comes to ideological commitments. Conservatives or right-wingers are normally traditionalists while liberals on the whole are more open to modernity.

In countries with an established democratic tradition politicians usually don't try to dictate artistic taste. But in Hungary such meddling is nothing new. I just read an opinion piece in today's Népszabadság in which the author quotes a politician from the late 1920s who felt compelled to get up in parliament … Read the rest

Hungarian state’s stake in MOL (Hungarian Oil and Gas Company)

I think I ought to emphasize that MOL is not truly a Hungarian company, at least not in the sense that the Orbán government is trying to make the population believe. The announcements portrayed the Hungarian government’s purchase of a 21.2% stake in MOL as a tremendous coup by which Hungary managed to wrestle a big chunk of MOL’s stock out of the Russian bear’s paws. I’ll bet that most Hungarians still think that MOL is a state enterprise, which of course it isn’t. MOL is listed on the New … Read the rest