The Fidesz government is demanding the resignation of László Andor, commissioner for employment, social affairs and inclusion in the Barroso administration. He was nominated to his current post by the Bajnai government and Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz, then in opposition, fiercely opposed him due to his alleged Marxist views. Mind you, Viktor Orbán opposed everything under the sun. If Andor had not been the editor-in-chief of a “leftist” social science quarterly, Eszmélet (Consciousness), he would have found something else wrong with the candidate.
Andor’s sin is that he wasn’t present at the crucial meeting of the European Commission where the decision was made about possibly withholding cohesion funds to Hungary as of January 1, 2013. Andor claims that he submitted his opinions in writing ahead of the meeting and, in any case, he as a Hungarian national couldn’t have voted on an issue related to his home country. This argument, however, didn’t make a dent with the Hungarian government. László Kovács (MSZP), former commissioner in charge of taxation, didn’t help Andor’s case by arguing that Andor could have given a more detailed description of the Hungarian situation than most of the other commissioners and perhaps that could have helped Hungary’s case. Jobbik is demanding an investigation of Andor for treasonous behavior. Andor as of this morning is holding up pretty well. He in fact dared to say that he agrees with the European Commission’s decision.
Otherwise, the Hungarian government simply doesn’t understand the decision. Late last night Gergely Prőhle, undersecretary in the Foreign Ministry, pointed out that the deficit for 2011 will be about 2.4%, which is a great deal better than the results of many countries in the European Union. However, when he was pressed for details, the only “structural” reform he could come up with was reducing the size of the parliament by 50%. Surely, not a serious item in the budget. In addition, he forgot to mention the crucial fact that without the one-time injection of nationalized pension funds, the so-called “structural deficit” would have been close to 7%. As for the strained relations between the Hungarian government and the European Union, Prőhle refused to contemplate the possibility that Viktor Orbán’s behavior may have been an added irritant in Brussels. One can have a debate about “political style,” he said, but “the Hungarian government’s activities in the last year and a half leave no doubt about Hungary’s strong commitment to Europe.” Well, that’s exactly what people not serving the Orbán government very much doubt.
Other government officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity think that the reason for the Commission’s decision is that “they simply detest us” (egész egyszerűen utálnak bennünket). As usual, in such cases one doesn’t quite know who the “us” are. The Hungarian people? The Orbán government? Or perhaps Viktor Orbán himself. Reading on, I am inclined to believe that the gentleman was talking about the Hungarian people. Those officials in Brussels detest the Hungarian people. Doesn’t make much sense, does it?
The government officials who were willing to talk kept emphasizing that the Hungarian government is in constant touch with the appropriate organizations of the European Union concerning the Commission’s objections to the new Hungarian constitution and some of the cardinal laws. The Hungarian media, at least the ones that are not in the service of the government, got the distinct impression that although there might have been talks about some of the details, there is still no agreement concerning the large questions. Nobody in government circles thinks that the tug of war between Brussels and Budapest will come to an end any time soon.
Most of the government officials who talked with journalists are convinced that the Orbán government is the target of some kind of liberal conspiracy. To this end they are even ready to twist the truth. For example, they label Olli Rehn, Neelie Kroes, and Viviane Reding liberal politicians who united against the right-of-center Orbán government. Of course, this is simply not true. All three politicians are actually conservative politicians. Rehn was a member of the Finnish Center Party, Kroes of the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (a conservative political group in the Netherlands), and Viviane Reding of the Christian Social People’s Party of Luxembourg. The organizers of the “Peace March,” the far-right representatives of Fidesz, are talking about an outright “Marxist counterrevolution” that is sweeping western Europe.
Some Hungarians think: The specter is of communism is haunting Europe
According to members of the Orbán government, another reason for the European Union’s dislike of the Orbán government is that it no longer serves the interests of Brussels as the Gyurcsány and Bajnai governments slavishly did. Lajos Kósa this afternoon talked about “brown nosing,” except he used a less delicate description. He made it clear that the Orbán government will not change its stance. After all, the Fidesz government serves the Hungarian people and they are the only ones the government has to please. Not Hillary Clinton or José Manuel Barroso.
Members of the opposition as well as ordinary people with good memories recall the days of October 2006 when, after the street disturbances which most likely received quite a bit of encouragement from Fidesz, Viktor Orbán travelled to Brussels. There he urged the members of the European People’s Party’s parliamentary delegation to vote for the suspension of all union subsidies to Hungary. Not just the cohesion subsidies but everything, including all monies going to regional development, to Hungarian companies, and to municipal governments. This money amounted to one trillion forints. (And at this point one euro was worth about 260 forints.) Orbán accused the Hungarian government of giving false data to Brussels. He proposed withholding all subsidies already allocated for the period between 2007 and 2013. The reaction in Hungary was not exactly favorable to that “treasonous” suggestion. Kinga Gál, a Fidesz EP member, immediately tried to explain the event away. According to her, Orbán’s words were misunderstood, but she refused to elaborate on the details. The story can be read in the October 25, 2006 issue of Figyelőnet.
The Orbán government finds both criticism from abroad and Hungarian nationals saying anything critical in foreign publications galling. For example, in 2001 the first Orbán government put together a blacklist of foreign journalists and hunted Hungarian commentators who dared to utter any criticism of the government to foreigners. This habit has prevailed. Now they are searching for traitors, conspirators, and label all criticism the result of liberal intrigues. I hate to tell them: it won’t work.