Immediate government reactions to the European Commission’s recommendation

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.

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Paul
Guest

Éva – with reference to your last para, bearing in mind how influential this blog is, it has long puzzled me that Fidesz doesn’t put more effort into countering it.
Of course, it could be that they realise that that would be counterproductive, but that would require a level of subtlety in Fidesz thought/strategy so far not seen.

Living with it in Hungary
Guest
Living with it in Hungary

Sorry to say but László Andor made a mistake. Of all the days he could have missed this was not one of them. This is a very sensitive issue and with the current government so adverse to criticism and trying so hard to defend and deflect, by not being there, Mr. Andor’s has allowed the government to shift the conversation away from where it should be to this circus sideshow with it’s domestic audience. Not only that, they get help doing so because their point has merit. Mr. Andor’s duty was to be there representing his country even if it was only symbolic. Not very careful thinking on Mr. Andor’s part IMHO.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Living with it in Hungary: “Sorry to say but László Andor made a mistake.”
Perhaps he thought that being a Hungarian he really shouldn’t be there. That’s one way of looking at it.

Kingfisher
Guest

Commissioners are appointed by member countries but they swear an oath to act independently. I don’t see what Andor could have done other than abstain and keep his distance. In a word, he was not delegated to promote Hungary’s interests, however much Orbán or Kovács might suggest otherwise.
Of course, it may be that established practice is different and that commissioners really are lobbyists. But on paper at least, they are not supposed to be.

tigerente
Guest

I guess that even if he had been there, the government would have carried on with their ‘the (liberal) world hates us and is out to get us’ rhetoric either way. The only different thing is that now they have themselves a new scapegoat who happens to be a national.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

tigerente: “guess that even if he had been there, the government would have carried on with their ‘the (liberal) world hates us.”
If he had been there the Hungarian government would have complained that he didn’t do enough to prevent the outcome.

Bowen
Guest

@ Living with it: “Sorry to say but László Andor made a mistake.”
The fact that we’re now discussing whether Andor has or has not made a mistake (and not why cohesion funds may be withheld next year) means that the all-too-common tactic of shifting the topic (and blame) to something else has worked yet again.

cheshire cat
Guest
This morning Julia Levai (from Galamus) was invited to ATV’s morning show. She observed that the behaviour of Fidesz politicians, spokespeople etc, is not a political question at all – it is a question of mentality and problem-solving skills. While I don’t agree with everything she said, today’s reactions to the EC decision illustrate what she means brilliantly. Problem-solving and explanations range from claiming that Andor alone could have prevented the decision had he been present – to “they simply hate us”. Who is “they” and who is “us”? How can those two be true at the same time? And if it is so easy to induce unjust sanctions against Hungary in the EU, why was Orban so unsuccesful in HIS campaign for them? These are questions the great problem-solvers don’t seem to bother thinking about. And these are grown-up people. If only they started to talk about what it is that might be withdrawn, when, why, and what they are going to do to prevent it. If only they stopped pretending they don’t even understand what has happened and why. If only they realized that every one of these pathetic, childish attempts is interpreted by the EU as more… Read more »
cheshire cat
Guest

Eva,
“If he had been there the Hungarian government would have complained that he didn’t do enough to prevent the outcome.”
Precisely. Or that he actively encouraged it. That’s probably why he stayed away.

Bowen
Guest

@ Cheshire: “If only they started to talk about what it is that might be withdrawn, when, why, and what they are going to do to prevent it.”
This is a very interesting point. For me, a more positive framing of this turn of events would be that Hungary has found itself in a tight spot, but this is what we’re going to do in order to forestall fund withdrawals in 2013.
However, it’s almost as if there is a clear desire for Hungary to be framed as succumbing once more to victimhood at the hands of a powerful oppressor. Didn’t Chomsky once write something about the need to create a ‘Perpetual War’ in order to maintain a state of political superiority?

Petofi
Guest

@Laszlo Andor
He made no mistake. He showed a rare Hungarian quality–the nerve to stand up for what is Right. Good for him.
I’m getting somewhat unnerved by people buying into the Fidesz propaganda about “unfair punishment”. Can we keep our eye on the ball, please? Orban and Fidesz are madly in the midst of deconstructing Democracy in the country. How else can the EU make Hungarians see the light than a slow economic attrition?
I hope to god Brussels keeps its nerve and doesn’t get side-tracked by Greece or the Middle East. Brussels must stay the course.
Anyway, what did Orban expect? What moves has he made to comply with the many requests to change the laws that the EU
have objected to?

steve
Guest

Orban must go.
Andor must stay.
He is qualified to be the prime minister.
Orban hates him, is his mandate.

Petofi
Guest

The question is this: when the time comes and the Trojan gift of 20-30 billion euros will be put forward by Putin, will the Hungarians except, or not?

Member

These accusations of treason sound like the communist era show trials or ‘concept trials” as they call them in Hungary. Do you remember the word “dissident” in Hungarian? They were the ones during the communist era who went on tourist trips to the “west” and forgot to come home. They were charged with treason in absentia. Their belongings, flats were confiscated. Like the family of my mom’s cousin in the 70s. You just can’t miss the parallels between this and the case of Laszlo Andor and Kinga Goncz earlier.

Member

Orban thinks that every politicians should be Pal Schmitt. He believes that serving the country means that they should follow Orban’s decisions without questions. Orban believes that he is Oz and only wants a Scarecrow, a Tin Woodman and a Cowardly Lion. Well, he has those roles filled already and he does not know what to do with other players with brain, heart and without fear.
I completely agree with Laszlo Andor for not showing. He does not want any part of this slide show Orban keeps putting up.

An
Guest
Well, although EU commissioners are delegated by member states, they are supposed to represent EU’s interests, and they take their oath to do that. “It should be noted however that although Members of the Commission are allocated between member-states they do not represent their states; instead they are supposed to act in European interests.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Commissioner And the oath: “Having been appointed as a Member of the European Commission by the European Council, following the vote of consent by the European Parliament I solemnly undertake: to respect the Treaties and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union in the fulfilment of all my duties; to be completely independent in carrying out my responsibilities, in the general interest of the Union; in the performance of my tasks, neither to seek nor to take instructions from any Government or from any other institution, body, office or entity; to refrain from any action incompatible with my duties or the performance of my tasks. I formally note the undertaking of each Member State to respect this principle and not to seek to influence Members of the Commission in the performance of their tasks. I further undertake to respect, both during and after my… Read more »
Living with it in Hungary
Guest
Living with it in Hungary

Eva, I don’t know what the protocol and you’re right, maybe he shouldn’t of been there. But if that was the case he needs to be out there telling the Hungarian population what’s going on and why and what he’s done. This is one of the problem, no sense of understanding who the stakeholders are in all of this. At least in the American constitution they clearly state who the stakeholder are, “We, the people”. As it looks, there was this vote that was important to Hungary and Mr. Anders was AWOL. IMO, just doesn’t look good in the eyes of the undecided. He needs and the country needs him to step up his game.

Lutra lutra
Guest

As long as the EU and ECB stayed within the bounds of diplomatic language that Fidesz was either too stupid or simply unwilling to decode, the Hungarian government didn’t make any serious moves. Now that it’s realised that Orbán only understands actions that will hurt him (i.e., threatening to derail the gravy train) they get a response.
Andor’s thoughts on the whole matter are probably “don’t say I didn’t warn you”. Definitely not a resignation matter, at least not for him.

Guest

London Calling!
Ha! Ha!Ha!Ha! Ha!
Orban’s own medicine! What a hoot!
It looks like László Andor’s position is an ‘overlap’ appointment that is asynchronous to the election cycle.
Orban has ensured there will be plenty of ‘overlap’ appointments if and when he is removed – and ones which other administrations will have to bear.
A delicious irony! Swallowing his own medicine. Ha! Ha! Ha!
Regards
Charlie

M.J.
Guest

Orban can think that Andor should resign, but that’s about it.

riviera1
Guest

@Living with it in Hungary
If Laszlo had been there, Fidesz would’ve painted him as a traitor for not trying to stop, or obstruct, the vote. Furthermore, to step out and openly criticize Orban and Fidesz right now would be to commit professional suicide, at least while Fidesz has its grips on the levers of power.

Paul
Guest

“and in particular the duty to behave with integrity and discretion”
Exactly what he did under the circumstances.
OV and Fidesz-Jobbik could learn a lot from this man.

Odin's Lost Eye
Guest

What the Viktator and his lackeys do not realise is that the European Commissioners are politicians who can out think the Hungarian Government from here into the middle of the next centenary.
Commissioner László Andor’s decision to be absent from the meeting was probably taken in the Commissioner’s ‘Mess’ (dining room). His position would have been discussed over coffee by sort of ad-hoc committees of Commissioners. László Andor would have been damned if he had attended and damned when he did not.
To my simple mind the idea of “Withholding cohesion funds to Hungary” is a warning shot and a diversion away from what is yet to come. It is being done to call attention to the fact that the ‘Gravy Train’ can be slowed down and later stopped.
It is diverting attention away from the real charges against Hungary are even now being unearthed and looked at by the E.U’s Legal Eagles.

Living with it in Hungary
Guest
Living with it in Hungary

“If Laszlo had been there, Fidesz would’ve painted him as a traitor for not trying to stop, or obstruct, the vote.”
How could he? I wasn’t allowed to participate. By given what was written in the link provided above, it doesn’t seem that it matters much that he was there or not from a procedural POV. But I still think from a symbolic POV he should have witnessed the meeting. I don’t think it matters if he agrees with the current government or disagrees with them. Point it this was an important meeting with dire implications for the country that appointed him.
As for being politically dead, if his term ends during Orban’s reign, he’s walking dead!

Kingfisher
Guest

@Odin’s Left Eye, don’t you find this image of unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats making decisions with possibly profound consequences on nation states over coffee a bit scarey?
Andor behaved correctly and properly. But let us not forget that commissioners are for the most part failed politicians (Neil Kinnock anyone?) appointed as a result of political horse-trading in their own countries, who are accountable to no one and ruling over all of us effectively by decree. The democrat in me finds it rather repulsive and it is hard to fault Hungarian politicians for feeling something is amiss with the system.

Member

I think Andor found himself in a predicament.
“László Andor, commissioner for employment, social affairs and inclusion in the Barroso administration”(Eva)
and from his oath: “neither to seek nor to take instructions from any Government or from any other institution, body, office or entity; to refrain from any action incompatible with my duties or the performance of my tasks. I formally note the undertaking of each Member State to respect this principle and not to seek to influence Members of the Commission in the performance of their tasks.”
These are very serious points. If he would of been there he should of and could not prevented what happened, quite the opposite and he would of been crucified regardless. Orban is using him (and others) as a scapegoat. He is able to focus the attention of his followers on piddle details versus telling to the people that his government screwed up big time.

enuff
Guest

VO’s followers wouldn’t have the patience to learn the oath that Lászlo Andor has taken for his post. VO’s followers think and act based on their emotions. It’s a loose-loose situation.

Joseph Simon
Guest

Paul: The red graph you wondered about should be taken as a phallic representation of the alarmingly falling birthrate in Hungary and the EU. No IMF funds can help this downward plunge. Poor countries have larger families, so maybe that is what Viktor is aiming at. He could yet be the savior of his country.

Member

Joseph Simon: “Poor countries have larger families, so maybe that is what Viktor is aiming at. He could yet be the savior of his country.”
So, Orban wants to bankrupt Hungary in order to have more Hungarians. Unfortunately, at this point Orban cannot provide work to those who are already there, wages are so low for educated young people (except the ones in his government or those who work close to the government) that they are fleeing the country. The aged crowd who remans are to old to reproduce. lol

Odin's Lost Eye
Guest

Does not the new (Holy) Hungarian Constitution either directly say (or imply) that all those who work against (or do not support) the stated or perceived interests of Hungary are ‘Persons Non Gratias’ in Hungary. If it does not then perhaps it should be amended to say so and to act retrospectively. László Andor could be deprived of his Hungarian citizenship. He would then have to be released from his duties and the Viktator could appoint another person in Andor’s place.
The ructions this would cause in both the EU Commission and in the E.U Parliament would become legendary and would cause all the other charges and potential charges against Hungary to take a back seat for a year or two.
The ‘New Commissioner’ would have to be accepted by the E.U Parliament. As the ‘chosen one’ would almost certainly be rejected for the post, the Viktator would just re-submit the same person again and again.
Oh my word what fun!!

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