Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s answer to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s letter

You may recall that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sent a letter to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in which she expressed her and the Obama administration's worries about the state of democracy in Orbán's Hungary. On December 30 I published a facsimile of this letter. I described Viktor Orbán's policies as being on a collision course with practically the whole world. The signs of crisis may not look as grave as they did in late December, but I still maintain that the course that Viktor Orbán is navigating will lead to a full blown crisis sooner or later.

Below I'm making public Viktor Orbán's answer to Hillary Clinton's letter. But first let me refresh everybody's memory. Although Hillary Clinton wrote her letter to Viktor Orbán on December 23, it was only on December 27 that the Hungarian public learned about it through a report that appeared in Népszabadság. MTI, the official Hungarian news agency, at this point asked Péter Szijjártó, Orbán's personal spokesman, whether the prime minister had indeed received such a letter. Szijjártó said that he had. The only official who was ready to talk about the letter was János Lázár, leader of the Fidesz parliamentary delegation, who announced that the time for old-fashioned American democracy built on consensus is over. Hungary is building a different kind of democracy. The government spokesman, András Giró-Szász, claimed no knowledge of the contents of the letter.

Two weeks went by and there was still no word about a reply. Not surprisingly, reporters were becoming restless and kept asking Giró-Szász when the prime minister would answer. On January 5, Thursday, they were told that the letter will be sent "this week." And indeed, judging from the date on Viktor Orbán's letter, it was sent the very next day.

Snail mail
Snail mail

I suggest that you first read Clinton's letter and then return to Orbán's reply. Here I would like to point out some passages that I found intriguing.

First, I didn't quite know what to do with the passage that described the post-communist era as one "without a truly free, competition based market economy." This from a man who has been doing nothing else but re-nationalizing everything in sight.

Second, I thought that a "dig" like "the word 'change' can win elections…." was truly unnecessary.

Third, claiming that they had been "in constant dialogue and close cooperation with all interested parties, especially the European Commission, religious groups and constituents, while continuously seeking consultations with opposition parties" was a brazen lie that presupposes total ignorance of Hungarian affairs and the current political situation on the part of Clinton's staff.  

Finally, I didn't quite know what to do with the claim that "several of my cabinet members and I myself have met with Ambassador Eleni Tsakopoulos Kounalakis in Budapest, to provide interpretations of our work that may not necessarily reach Washington."

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Orban letter to Clinton-1
Orban letter to Clinton-2
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GDF
Guest

“Finally, I didn’t quite know what to do with the claim that “several of my cabinet members and I myself have met with Ambassador Eleni Tsakopoulos Kounalakis in Budapest, to provide interpretations of our work that may not necessarily reach Washington.””
I think what he implies is that only the opposition’s interpretation is getting to Washington otherwise (via sources like this blog).

Wondercat
Guest

Remarkable that a native speaker of English could not be found to comb so important a letter free of mis-spellings and of errors in grammar and syntax. Might OV have done better to reply in Hungarian?

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Wondercat: “Remarkable that a native speaker of English could not be found to comb so important a letter free of mis-spellings and of errors in grammar and syntax.”
Almost everything that comes from the Hungarian government is like that. This is one of the better ones.

tigerente
Guest

Just a doubt, is he really referring to Hungary as the only post-communist Central European country? What about countries such as the Czech Republic, Slovakia and, I don’t know, Poland? If that’s so (and he’s able to ignore history all of a sudden), then it’s no surprise he says he consults with the EU and the opposition.
Also, it seems he’s blaming the ambassador for not being able to explain or purposefully withhold information about their brilliant moves and policies.

Kingfisher
Guest

The tone of the letter alone creates the impression that Hungary is run by a bunch of amateurs who haven’t a clue how the real world works. Something eerily reflected in economic and other policy!

Bowen
Guest

Well, having a quick look at this, a couple of things are ‘clear’.
One, interestingly, is that Orban (if he is actually the author of this letter) does not make himself the agent of any action. Instead, he outlines his mental processes. He only writes about what he ‘believes’, ‘understands’ – what he ‘would like’ to be understood. He ‘encourages’ us to think the same.
Second is that agency is shifted rather vaguely onto other participants, ones which Orban presents as being outside his influence: notably the Media Authority, and the Venice Commission (note that the quote used is false attribution).
Also, clear relational processes (X is Y) are few and far between. They tend to be: misleading (“we are in constant dialogue with all interested parties”); interpretative (“my government was courageous”); or worded so as to avoid clearly identifying participants (“the economy was dominated by old relationships”).
So, it could be argued: four pages of personal opinion, control, and obfuscation.

GW
Guest

Two observations:
(1) the fact that the “successful” bidder for Klub Radio’s frequency has now gone belly up and tried to sell it back to Klub Radio renders the whole financial argument moot. This is not a better financial offer, this is speculation, buying short and expecting to profit from Klub Radio.
(2) was no one in the PM’s office aware that Sec. Clinton is a devout Methodist, a member of one of the very churches whose status was revoked? The implicit insult to her church here, in grouping in with organizations which “help themselves” is absolutely shocking in its lack of respect for her person.

Bowen
Guest

Can anyone tell me what on earth this sentence from near the end of the letter is supposed to mean? Or do I just assume that by this point, the blood was rushing to Orban’s head? (I imagine him marching up and down his office, angrily dictating to his secretary here.)
“Parliamentary system – that I personally have been fighting for for decades – against opponents coming from left and right – continues to be morally valued by the FIDESZ-KNDP majority and the new constitutional system naturally includes this.”

GDF
Guest

Bowen:”Can anyone tell me what on earth this sentence from near the end of the letter is supposed to mean?”
He is saying: I am not a dictator! (it reminds me of “I am not a crook!”)

Paul
Guest

“One, interestingly, is that Orban (if he is actually the author of this letter) does not make himself the agent of any action. Instead, he outlines his mental processes. He only writes about what he ‘believes’, ‘understands’ – what he ‘would like’ to be understood. He ‘encourages’ us to think the same.”
This is exactly how all OV and Fidesz public statements (especially his speeches) are formulated. If you are an Orbánite, you come away thinking he said/promised wonderful things, but, when challenged (i.e. by me, if you happen to be my wife!), you can’t cite a single concrete promise or policy.

Member

My favourite is the second from last sentence:
“I encourage all friends and allies to have faith in the Hungarian people.”
Is this man out of his mind? THe allies and friends of Hungary do not have a problem wit the Hungarian people, they have a problem with the governing party! Can anybody get through to Orban and his group to explain this to him?

Paul
Guest

“The tone of the letter alone creates the impression that Hungary is run by a bunch of amateurs who haven’t a clue how the real world works.”
A very easy impression to create, given that this is exactly the reality!
I wonder how Clinton feels? An intelligent and capable woman, holding one of the most important and powerful jobs in the world, having to deal with a smirking idiot schoolboy – and pretend that she takes him seriously.

Bowen
Guest

@ Some1: “Can anybody get through to Orban and his group to explain this to him?”
But two-thirds of Hungarians voted for Orban!! (By “two-thirds”, I do of course mean half of the relatively small number of people who bothered to turn out to vote).

Petofi
Guest
Ok, I confess, I voted for Orban. I didn’t know much. In fact, I voted ‘against’ rather than ‘for’: against the thieving lot of MSZP. I was even warned not to; that the election was dangerously close to a 2/3 margin which would be dangerous. I couldn’t imagine why. Of course, I grew up in Canada where there are established limits; where certain things just can’t happen. Noone would dared to have altered the Supreme court simply because it ruled in favour of the provinces and against the federal governmnet. As for pensions, any attempts to co-opt RRSPs would’ve led to a complete halt to activities in the country. And of course, institutions are sacrosanct: they can be changed of course, but incrementally and with a great deal of study and consultation with all political parties in the federal parliament. What I see in Hungary is the stunning rule, not by Law, but rule by POWER–the power of a 2/3 majority superceding all past traditional practices. Precedent be damned. Problem is, if you don’t build on precedent, you don’t have political development. And, by the way, if we take into consideration that Hungarians had 45 years of Communist governance, we… Read more »
Member
On Behalf Of THE SECRETARY OF STATE WASHINGTON February 25, 2012 His Excellency, Orban the 5th Prime Minister of Hungary (I’m not sure about the Republic part) Dear Mr. Prime Minister: I’m writing to follow up on your disgusting stupid letter you sent before Christmas. You little prick! Did you think you can bullshit me with that garbage and the world will never know? First let me ask you this: how do you like that little “saller” from the EU, that threatens your government with the withdrawal of the cohesion funds? How do you like them apples? Why do you think you got that? Let’s take the most blatant lie in your letter that is you concluding the post-communist era. Your voting droids in your parliament just voted against a bill introduced by your opposition that wanted to release the records of the Kadar era communist informants. By the way was it you or one of your moronic speech writers who wrote that “Hungary was the only post-Communist country in Central Europe”? Is this some kind of secret geography lesson, thinking we Americans cannot tell Budapest and Bucharest apart? Anyway concluding my butt. Your country is the last communist country… Read more »
An
Guest

Is it customary to write one’s family name at the end in all capital letters in official correspondence? Just asking… don’t remember seeing that before.

Bowen
Guest

@ Petofi: “Hungarians had 45 years of Communist governance, we shouldn’t be too surprised that the citizenry cannot appreciate the significance of democratic principles …”
I’m not sure, because the surrounding countries had 45 years of communism, too. What my wife keeps telling me is that the Hungarians differ in that they never had a revolution (unlike the Romanians, the Poles, Czechoslovakia in ’89), and did not psychologically ‘close’ that period.
This is not something for me to argue, however.

An
Guest

OK, I’ve figured why the last name is written in all caps. Google to the rescue, again.
I really wanted to think that it is because OV is a megalomaniac, but no, that’s not the reason 🙂
Graphologists say that crossing your signature means fear of failure and self-defeating behavior… never trusted graphology, but would like to believe this one.

steve
Guest

The State Department could issue daily reports of the frequent violations of decency and freedom by the Orban team to prevent further deterioration of civil rules.
The current trend is generating vigilance, and lawlessness. Deadly armed group will kill and loot for short term gains.
The intervention to stop Bosnia like events, will be slow. Bombing Budapest will be a hard decision.

Petofi
Guest
@Bowen **WARNING: This post might get you in serious trouble with wifey.. I’m afraid the Hungarian psychological problem is more severe, and longer lasting, that what your wife suggests. There’s a horrendous inferiority complex best exemplified by Hungarians’ continuous preoccupation by ‘status’. I’ve been told not to address the ‘karpitos’ in the apartment basement, by the familiar ‘you’ since he wasn’t ‘at my level’. That’s example 1. Example 2 is even more interesting: at a tenants’ association meeting, the apartment manager had brought in a man who wished to purchase our roof space to construct penthouse apartments. At the appropriate moment, I cleared my throat and spoke up: ” In canada it was customary to bring in five or more buyers to have competitive bidding”. Well, in fact, I didn’t much get by the phrase “In Canada” before the attending luminaries shouted me down, “We don’t care how you do it in Canada! This is Hungary!! If you don’t like it, go back!!!” The fact that the offered price was less than 1/2 the market rate hardly mattered to them, or that they were about to be defrauded. (Luckily, they voted it down.) So much for ‘inferiority’. There’s another problem:… Read more »
GDF
Guest

“Second, I thought that a “dig” like “the word ‘change’ can win elections….” was truly unnecessary.”
Especially that the “change” slogan didn’t even belong to Clinton but to her electoral rival, Obama.

I love Hungary
Guest

I suppose the good news is that Hillary probably stopped reading after the: ” the word ‘change’ can win elections…” bit.
At that point she probably handed this to an aid and said something to the effect of ” Please summarise this for me in 100 words or less. Also draft a memo to Barry saying that if either the Russians or Chinese want these dorks, the SecState says, “let them have them”.
AT least she didn’t read the remaining three pages.
What an unfortunate embarassment for an otherwise beautiful country.

Kingfisher
Guest

Orbán laments the fact that the revolution was not “completed” in Hungary and yet his party resolutely refuses to open up the secret service files.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

An: “Is it customary to write one’s family name at the end in all capital letters in official correspondence? Just asking… don’t remember seeing that before.”
I also noticed it and wondered.

Living with it in Hungary
Guest
Living with it in Hungary
“Ok, I confess, I voted for Orban. I didn’t know much. In fact, I voted ‘against’ rather than ‘for’: against the thieving lot of MSZP” I don’t get to vote but I think everyone around me voted for Orban for exactly the same reason. I have one friend that suggest that voting for Orban wouldn’t be good. He pointed out that it was Orban that had parliamentary cameras removed. But at that time the thieving seemed to be so rampant… Being Canadian and growing up in Canada I couldn’t imagine a majority government being a bad thing. But then being in Canada I was unwittingly protected by checks and balances that the “strangely enough” conservative federal government in Canada would love to tear down. Unfortunately for them, they have to deal with checks and balances that can’t be so easily removed. For one, there is a balance of power between the provinces and the federal government. With those checks and balances missing here, a majority government is a disaster. I no longer believe that majority governments are good as they don’t have to come to a consensus. They get to enact changes that shouldn’t be so easily enacted. In other… Read more »
Eva S. Balogh
Guest
Petofi: ‘I voted ‘against’ rather than ‘for’: against the thieving lot of MSZP.” We all know about corruption in Hungary but we ought to keep in mind that the “thievery” of MSZP politicians was cleverly orchestrated before the elections by Fidesz working in conjunction with the prosecutors. One after the other case they concocted fall apart. Gyula Budai, the “chief investigator” has been furiously working for almost two years and came up with practically nothing. And when a case gets as far as the courts the accused turns out to be innocent of the charges. They kept Hunvald, MSZP mayor, for three years in jail for fraud and breach of fiduciary responsibility and the prosecution asked for twenty years in jail. At the end he received 1.5 years for some minor infractions which are debatable and will be appealed. Hunvald’s case is before the European Court in Strasbourg because of his long pre-trial jail term and his unfair treatment. I bet that the Fidesz leaders are mighty upset that the courts are still independent. Why do you think that they want to get rid of almost 300 judges? Just read yesterday that the government is adamant about the judges’ retirement… Read more »
Eva S. Balogh
Guest

GDF, first quoting me: “Second, I thought that a “dig” like “the word ‘change’ can win elections….” was truly unnecessary.” Especially that the “change” slogan didn’t even belong to Clinton but to her electoral rival, Obama.”
After I wrote the blog I remembered that Fidesz stole Obama’s slogan and used it as their own. But, most likely, the Americans either don’t know this or don’t remember just as I didn’t. However, for most people Obama’s slogan comes to mind.
Otherwise, of course, you’re quite right that it is a double faux pas because Clinton in those days was Obama’s opponent in the race.

Joseph Simon
Guest

First of all, this letter should have been written in Hungarian, just as Clinton’s letter was in English. Second, the US was not ‘an unwavering partner’ in Eastern Europeans’fight against communism. The US in fact did nothing. It was the Hungarians, the Czechs and the Poles who finally defeated communism while the US idly stood by.

Living with it in Hungary
Guest
Living with it in Hungary
Sorry Joesph but you are rewriting history. If you’re looking for tanks and guns and bombs, you’re right. There was a little wee bit more at stake than just a few countries in eastern/central europe to consider. Everyone was very nervous and the important players had their fingers on the triggers to the bomb so…. but more discretely, a ton of things were done. And don’t forget, Reagan was able to influence Gorbachev in many ways. Gorbachev realized that the USSR wasn’t going to be able to sustain another round of the arms race as western technology outstripping anything they could produce. Gorbi realized that supporting all of these regimes (such as Castro’s Cuba and the others in Central and South American) wasn’t sustainable. Afganistan was a disaster for the Russians and it was the US that made sure of it. Ok not directly related to Hungary but the drain on USSR resources certainly had a trickle down effect on eastern Europe. And, from a western point of view, Poland was a lot more militant than anywhere else. Aside from a few days in 56, Hungary wasn’t seen as resisting all that much. Eva, you keep trying to blame the… Read more »
Member

@Joseph You will defeat Communism when you open up the secret service files. Until then the Communism keeps defeating you.
By the way while you were living under the rock there was something called the Cold War. Read about it!
The idea of using Hungarian in diplomatic exchanges is so breathtakingly stupid it’s no use comment on it.

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