Viktor Orbán’s speech: Declaration of war on Europe

It was a long and full day in Budapest. The reports began pouring in early morning, even before six o’clock, as Hungarian journalists waited for the arrival of the Polish visitors who came to support their favorite Hungarian politician, Viktor Orbán.

If the radical Poles occupied the news this morning, the afternoon was full of stories about 500 neo-Nazis who tried to disrupt the demonstration organized by Milla. Early reports indicate that their behavior bore a suspicious resemblance to the events of September-October 2006 except perhaps there was a more anti-Semitic flavor and a few pro-Hitler declarations at the event.

Both topics deserve a longer analysis, but here I would like to stick with Viktor Orbán’s speech delivered in front of the parliament building. Kossuth tér was filled with an adoring crowd that MTI estimated at 250,000. Others talk about 100,000. In any case, there were a lot of them, including the Poles who naturally didn’t understand a word of what was going on. Orbán did say one sentence in Polish, but I’ll bet not too many Poles understood it. Or at least this is my opinion based on studying Polish for one year decades ago.

My first reaction to Viktor Orbán’s speech echoed a sign at the Milla demonstration: “Viktor Orbán, have you seen a doctor lately?” How can a man who badly needs the European Union’s financial and political assistance deliver such a speech? What does he want to achieve? How can he assure the European Commission about his cooperation on all outstanding issues in a letter to José Manuel Barroso written only yesterday and today tell the European Union that the Hungarian government has no intention of respecting the independence of the Hungarian National Bank? Because this is exactly what he said.

Marc 15- megerkeznek a lengyelek

The Poles arrive on Kossuth tér, Ákos Stiller, HVG

But let me summarize the speech from beginning to end. Let’s start with the anomaly that the demonstration organized by the government–because it was organized by the government on taxpayers’ money–is called “Peace Walk” while the keynote speaker, the Hungarian prime minister, talks about nothing else but “war.” From the beginning to the end of the speech the “war of independence” was the theme. According to Orbán, the Hungarians of today are descendants of the mid-nineteenth-century warriors of freedom. He called the square in front of the Hungarian parliament “the square of the freedom fighters” while forgetting that neither the parliament nor the square existed in 1848. On March 15, 1848, the crowd gathered in front of the National Museum. That’s why normally the official celebrations take place there. But because the huge crowd that was supposed to lend weight to Orbán’s speech wouldn’t have fit into the relatively small area around the Museum, the venue was changed. In front of the National Museum, István Tarlós, the mayor of Budapest, gave a long and fairly tedious speech. Most of his audience was made up of the Polish visitors who could think their own thoughts because there was no simultaneous translator on hand.

According to Orbán, the program of 2012, just as the one in 1848, is that “we will not be a colony!” The prime minister gave an entirely false description of Hungarian society when he claimed that “we have never been so close to achieving freedom … as we are now because we have never been so united.” Of course, the reality is exactly the opposite of this claim. Hungarian society has never been so divided as it is now and that division is due mostly to Orbán’s assiduous efforts in the last ten years or so. Not only are Hungarians united–he continued–but also strong. “For long decades we have never had so many political, constitutional, and economic opportunities as we have now.” Another lie because we all know that Hungary is in a very precarious situation. Furthermore, claimed Orbán, Hungarians are strong enough to achieve “a free Hungarian life” and therefore they don’t need “unasked-for help by foreigners.” (Actually, Orbán used the Hungarian word “szamárvezető” that literally means a man who is leading a donkey.)

What kind of unasked-for foreign help did he have in mind? The assistance this time “comes from people in well-tailored suits and not from men in shoulder-strapped uniforms” which is just another way of comparing Brussels to the Moscow of the Soviet Union. And while he was at it he made it clear that Hungarians “don’t tolerate injustice.” One might like or dislike Hungarians but no one can deny that “our freedom fights always served progress.” Hungarians were right even if everybody doubted them. That was the case in 1848 and in 1956. “The bureaucrats of Europe are watching us with suspicion today because we insist that new avenues must be found…. because we claim that only strong nation states can make Europe great. But you will see, my dear friends, we will be right again!”

“Modern colonizers stalk their prey patiently. They lull their vital instincts and their resistance …. This is what happened to Hungary after 2002 when people didn’t even notice that they were being captured by comfortable loans. It was in the last minute that we managed to avert disaster.” (Actually, Orbán talks about being lulled into tepid water that was slowly being boiled and the frog being cooked. It was in the last minute that Hungarians managed to jump out of the pot of hot water.)

Orbán then moved on to thinly veiled threats against the opposition at home. He declared that “it is not enough to vote against the evil but evil must be conquered. And it is not enough to conquer it but one must create the good, so the evil couldn’t return.” One can’t help but remember Orbán’s plans for a regime in which he and his party will be in power for at least twenty years. Or, all those allusions that the socialists and the liberals must be destroyed for good so they will be unable to return to Hungarian political life.

As for the current political atmosphere in Europe Orbán lashed out with a few harsh words on that topic. Hungarians understand that “the European Union is not an alliance of saints but they cannot watch with folded arms while some political and intellectual trend forces an unholy alliance on Europe.” I assume he is talking about the “liberal pestilence” that according to his followers is taking hold of Europe.

Finally, I ought to mention his jab at any European attempt to safeguard the Hungarian National Bank’s independence. Orbán recalled that in 1848 the radical youth of Pest demanded an independent Hungarian bank. But a national bank mustn’t be independent from the nation but “independent of foreign interests.”

All in all, Viktor Orbán’s vision of Hungary is a country that “turns on its own axis.” I think it is high time for the people in well-tailored suits in Brussels, Berlin, Paris, and other western capitals to tell Viktor Orbán to choose. Either live by the rules of the European Union and receive the benefits of the membership of this club or get out and try to turn on your own axis. Let’s not waste each other’s time with diplomatic niceties.

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enuff
Guest

I haven’t read the above yet, Eva but I just wanted to share a panoramic shot of the anti-gov. protest today at Bp – amazing!
http://www.szigetiadam.hu/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/milla_2012.03.15.swf

GW
Guest

A “peace march” which is actually a war rally… where have we heard that before? Ah yes: Orwell’s 1984: “War is Peace / Freedom is Slavery / Ignorance is Strength.”

Paul
Guest

Is it just me? I can’t get enuff’s link to do anything.

Petofi
Guest
To gage how dangerous Orban is, just suppose that, for the last three months, Hungary had had five nuclear warheads and the means to deliver them…. That’s just a mental exercise. What is not a game is the increasingly clear realization that Orban is steering the country on to the rocks deliberately. Worse still, he’s got a great number of Hungarians drunk on his rhetoric willing to back him to the end. Let’s not forget that in the background are the insiduous elements of the Simchak gang and, most astoundingly, the Catholic church. But all of that aside, this marionette called Orban is drunk on something else. He gleefully attacks the very organization he seeks to borrow from. Are these the acts of a politician seriously seeking IMF agreement? Or, is he just playing for time and setting up the EU sacrificial lamb to explain why Hungary’s situation will be increasingly precarious in the coming months. Eventually, there’ll be nothing for it but to get access to the central bank’s 32 billion euros… And, if you think that most of that won’t disappear, than you might as well line up with the others in ‘Bekemenet’. So finally ask yourself, is… Read more »
Paul
Guest

OTish – interesting article on portfolio.hu today: “Hungary EcoMin says foreign currency reserves are “overly high” and costly”
http://www.portfolio.hu/en/economy/hungary_ecomin_says_foreign_currency_reserves_are_overly_high_and_costly.23955.html
But I need help understanding this. Are there any financial types out there who can explain all this in simple terms?
My understanding from the article is that old financial mega-mind Matolcsy, is laying the groundwork to ‘justify’ raiding the Central Bank’s foreign reserves.
But what I don’t understand is exactly what these foreign reserves are, why they are there, and what OV can do with them. Are there actually vaults somewhere in Budapest stuffed full of Euros, Dollars and Swiss Franks?
Is Matolcsy’s plan just to walk in there and help himself to a few billion? And, if he does, what happens afterwards when Hungary will (presumably) not have enough foreign reserves for whatever it needs them for?

Josef
Guest

Yes Orban is grate. War for EU Komisars!!!

tigerente
Guest

Couldn’t agree more with your closing paragraph, Eva.
About the link, maybe it takes forever because it’s Flash? It doesn’t load in my computer either but here’s the gallery. http://www.szigetiadam.hu/milla-tuntetes-2012-marcius-15/

GW
Guest

Paul,
The foreign currency reserves are there in case the Hungarian Central Bank needs to carry out an open market operation, for example buying up large amounts of HUF in order to support the price of the currency. This is an essential instrument for the Central Bank of a small country like Hungary and to deplete these reserves would leave the currency incredibly vulnerable.

Paul
Guest

Thanks GW. So are there literally bundles of Euros, etc stored somewhere in Budapest? In these days of entirely electronic finance, this seems very odd.
And surely, if Orbán raided the reserves, the FX markets would know that left Hungary unprotected and take advantage of that?
I remember Black Monday or Wednesday or Thursday (we had so many, I get confused!) back in the 80s or 90s when the UK government had to use huge amounts of reserves to stave off an attack by speculators (ironically, led by Soros György!). We only just survived – Hungary wouldn’t stand a chance.

Paul
Guest

tigrente/enuff – I have a pretty fast PC and 10mb broadband and neither of those links are getting anywhere – even after 15 minutes or more!
And, yes, much as I hate it, I do have the latest version of Flash installed.

enuff
Guest

Paul,
There are complains from US’ users. Have you checked your security settings?
If you try tigerente’s link, choose high-def. as your option.
Was telling my husband, the amazing architectures of Budapest with the streets filled with protesters , really beautiful!

Member
And what will happen tomorrow will be one of the more house-trained Fidesz apparachiks will come out with the smooth: “No, no, no, you’ve got it all wrong- that’s not what Mr Orban meant at all, of course we’re full believers in the EU ideal, respect democracy, love the IMF etc etc”. Maybe the markets will continue to believe them, maybe they won’t. As I said in a previous post, Martonyi is addressing the den of liberal iniquity that is the CEU on Monday and I’ll bet my bottom Euro there’ll be none of the kind of nonsense his boss came out with today. And I am sure the message will be aimed not at the students but at the Eurocrats whom his boss insulted today. Problem for the regime (and us) is that crowd at Kossuth Ter today. Minus the party sheep, the coffin dodgers out for one last taxpayer-sponsored daytrip to the capital and minus their foreign far-right nutters, there was still a hell of a lot of normalish people who believe this lunatic when he tells them we are in the middle of a freedom war against the enemy once again (doesn’t matter which enemy, if it… Read more »
Paul
Guest

oneill – many of them will still believe even then. Many others will switch to Jobbik.
enuff/tigrente – at last it works! Must be some sort of server/capacity problem – although I would have expected a timeout error in that case. (Still waiting for the hi-def version to download though – 5 mins and counting…)
Looks like a pretty good crowd. It’s being reported as “several tens of thousands”, but it looks like quite a few tens of thousands to me.

GW
Guest
Paul, The reserves are not necessarily (indeed highly unlikely to be) in physical cash and not necessarily (and highly unlikely to be) all in Budapest. Yes, if the reserves were raided — either spent by the government or the Central Bank in a HUF purchase — FX markets would be aware of it and act appropriately. It’s not completely correct to think of speculators “attacking” a currency; they are making investments, both predictive and reactive, based on the best information they have available. In the case Soros and the pound, Soros made money based upon his assessment of government and BofE policy. He took a major personal risk — selling 10 bn pounds that he did not have and would have to come up with whether he was right or wrong. But the BofE was unwilling to support its own currency by either raising its interest rates to levels comparable to those of other European Exchange Rate Mechanism countries or floating its currency. In the end, they withdrew from the ERM and floated and Soros made money on the decline, being able to cover his short position with cheaper pounds, so he took advantage of an opportunity he recognized but… Read more »
Bowen
Guest

Oneill: All of the UK and US press that I’ve read over the last few hours has concentrated on Orban’s big speech today, that he and his government are playing a very bizarre and incoherent game with this aggressively anti-EU rhetoric, at a time when Hungary badly needs the EU. The phrases “bad timing” and “inappropriate” are quite key, here.
I feel that Orban has crossed a line with this speech today. Last year’s speech on March 15 was rather low-key. Oct 23 he was absent from Hungary. During the January ‘Peace March’, he kept away and let Zsolt Bayer put his face forward.
But now, he’s placed himself right in the centre stage of this nationalistic fist-waving. I think that’s what he wanted: just watch his smirking face as he started to address the huge crowds in Kossuth Ter today. He got his admiration. He ‘beat’ the anti-government protestors in numbers. But the price for this is that he’s going to find it very hard to make himself credible to his international partners now.
Lines like “Don’t listen to what I say (to get elected)” aren’t going to work any more.

Paul
Guest

Thanks for the explanation, GW.
It certainly felt like an ‘attack’ at the time. From what you say, he basically spotted a weakness and used it to make money – not caring too much what it did to the UK economy in the process.
Looking back, it didn’t actually seem to do much long-term damage (although I don’t know nearly enough to be able to say that, to be honest). But it has left an anti-EU legacy behind. The Euro haters of today can easily ‘justify’ their position by pointing to our ERM debacle.
It left a lot of people who don’t really know much about the EU (or anything else for that matter) with this vague feeling of disquiet about Europe and a strengthened feeling that we’re better off by ourselves, with our own currency. And this has grown into the strong anti_EU feeling there is in the UK today.

Living with it in Hungary
Guest
Living with it in Hungary
It’s a 360 panoramic picture of the crowd. Trumped up or not it’s pretty impressive. First point, I’m no expert in this… EU rules and current Hungarian law makes it illegal to touch the foreign reserves. Not that Hungarian law seems to matter at the moment. EU law might matter more but by the time it was applied it would be too late. Same with judges, same with other institutions. And yeah, that article makes it seem like the government is looking to raid the vault. And yup, reserves are only valuable if you don’t use them. If the are used, the markets will have a run and there will be nothing to support the HUF. The expense? Well recent bond auctions have been running between 8 and 10%. These rates of interest are unsupportable (can’t be paid back) without a minimum rate of growth in GDP. WIth the outflow of capital due to the massive soft deleveraging going on (note the comment on profit taking and charging premiums to try to stop it) it is unlikely that the Hungarian economy will be close to the GDP growth needed. In fact the forecast is for sustained stagnation. An IMF load… Read more »
Paul
Guest

And while I was typing my last post, the hi-def photo finally loaded (after over 15 minutes) – and started to move!!!
I had no idea it was going to do that, so it was a little unnerving. A fantastic panorama though, as enuff says.
From my experience of football crowds and demos, I’d estimate that crowd as comfortably in excess of 50,000. A pretty good turn-out, given the circumstances, and a heart-warming sign that OV isn’t getting things entirely his own way.
A strangely ‘British’ looking demo too – very laid back, a few home-made banners, hardly any flags, nice mix of people. It’s only the fact that everyone’s white and the sun is shining that makes it look ‘foreign’.

otto
Guest

As to the Polish participants, I would just like to assure you that they are completely unwise radicals (an euphemism, meaning mad as a hatter), followed -at the most – by 10% of our population and a laughing stock for the rest. They are organized in the so-called Gazeta Polska Clubs, i.e. a collection of political freaks and lamers led by the most mendacious and hysterical self-proclaimed “patriot” Sakiewicz who’s recently made quite a lot of money on publishing unimaginable rubbish about the Smolensk crash in his magazine and newspaper.

Paul
Guest

A final post from me (for tonight, at least) – having now read some of OV’s speech, I feel that my renaming of Fidesz to Fidesz-Jobbik is entirely justified.

Guest

London Calling!
Matolcsy is right about FX reserves being costly.
They would be better used in higher yielding assets.
He could print money to bail out BKV.
Regards
Charlie

Öcsi
Guest

So Hungary will not be a colony. Great. The EU should expel Hungary as soon as possible.
I can’t help but wonder if Kim Jong-Orbán is aware that many Hungarian expats consider him an idiot.

Minusio
Guest

I didn’t decide, but my guts decided for me: The Hungarian government and its future are as dead as a nail for me. Dead nails can become archeological items in future.
My Hungarian (professor) girlfriend’s contacts in Budapest reported that the kids (mostly in their twenties) are leaving the country. I am certain that they are not coming back.
The rest looks so hopeless as not to warrant commentary.
If I had one wish free, I would wish that the present government’s acts are recorded in minute detail. Because after ten or twenty years some people would like to know who and what made Hungary do a duck dive for so long.
Meanwhile the Hungarian case is closed for me. I will follow the inevitable events from a distance. They are following the course I predicted quite early on. That makes me deeply unhappy.

Joseph Simon
Guest

Some good news!! Éva will be glad to hear that there was a big turn out at the Magyar Ház in Ottawa to celebrate March 15th. The Hungarian Embassador made a patriotic speech. In the fifties, Éva and I as undergraduates of the same university were active participants at such events. Éva was the ‘ünnepi szónok’ while I recited the Talpra Magyar.
Éva and I used to engage in some spirited discussions. How some things never change.

Member

I uploaded the Milla panoramic shot for the US readers:
http://www.4shared.com/document/ZM7KiERp/milla_20120315.html
It will annoy you with a 20 seconds countdown, but then it should be fast.
It’s really beautiful!

Janos
Guest

How many of you guys have actually heard or read Orban’s speech? It really does not look like you know what you are talking about…

Member

@Joseph “Éva and I used to engage in some spirited discussions”
Comparing your posts with Eva’s I’m sure it was the clashe of the titans …

Member

@Janos I did.

Bowen
Guest

@ Janos. I read it and heard it. The contents are simply bizarre. The delivery was somewhat scary.

Janos
Guest

Can you quote something specific that was bizarre?

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