Orbán-Barroso meeting: A breakthrough?

Viktor Orbán arrived in Brussels early because of a scheduled talk at the European Policy Center. In the wake of widespread criticism of his authoritarian tendencies and wrong-headed economic policies, the Hungarian prime minister should have been somewhat humbled and subdued, but in typical Orbán fashion he answered attacks on his policies with attacks of his own on the European Union. In fact, he portrayed Hungary as a “laboratory” for transforming the European Union economically and politically.

I wonder how his audience reacted to this boasting. Here is a small, relatively backward and poor country in the throes of a serious economic crisis whose prime minister wants to lead the way toward the renewal of all of Europe. I bet that the common reaction was: “This man has gall.”

So, a combative Viktor Orbán went to visit José Manuel Barroso this morning at 11:30. We have only the Hungarian prime minister’s description of the meeting who, as his wont, was most optimistic. However, there are signs that perhaps not everything went as well as Orbán indicated.

First of all, the meeting lasted only half an hour. Such a short meeting can mean either that the two sides agreed on everything and there was no need to waste time or, just the opposite, they couldn’t agree on anything so there was no need to continue a fruitless exchange. I suspect that this particular meeting fell into the second category of short encounters.

First of all, it looks as if Orbán arrived in Brussels without a new, concrete agenda on the three infringement procedures. The Hungarian government is not willing to make further changes ensuring the independence of the judiciary and promises alone are unlikely to satisfy Brussels. As far as the independence of the Hungarian National Bank is concerned, Budapest is sticking to its guns on the salary and oath of the bank governor. The case of the ombudsman in charge of data protection is also an issue the Hungarian government refuses to deal with. Orbán made no secret either before or after the meeting that Hungary expects some of these issues to end up in the European Court of Justice. Thus it is unlikely that the infringement procedure against Hungary will end any time soon.

Although Orbán in his usual fashion talked about a real “breakthrough” and announced that “in essence” the negotiations with the IMF can begin within days if not weeks, I wouldn’t bet on such a happy outcome of today’s meeting.

Not only was the meeting short, the scheduled joint press conference was also cancelled.

Early morning in Budapest Tibor Navracsics tempered expectations of arriving at a political agreement between Hungary and the European Commission. In fact, Navracsics indicated that the prime minister doesn’t even want to have an agreement because “the issues at stake are just not that pressing.” But if they are not that pressing, why did Viktor Orbán look so mournful in Brussels?

 

Viktor Orbán’s arrival at José Manuel Barroso’s office

And the Hungarian prime minister didn’t look any better even later.

 

Somehow the scene doesn’t suggest that “there are no more obstacles in the way of an agreement,” as Orbán indicated to the newspapermen after the meeting. Orbán admitted that some of the questions will end up in court but was optimistic about the IMF negotiations. We know from Péter Szijjártó that Orbán made promises concerning all three disputed questions, but one is not at all sure whether anyone still believes Viktor Orbán’s promises in Brussels. Everything that has happened in the last three or four months suggests that promises will not do. Brussels wants to see the changed pieces of legislation, and for the time being I don’t see any Hungarian willingness to fulfill the demands of the European Union.

We won’t have to wait too long for the answer. Tomorrow the Hungarian issue will be on the agenda of the meeting of the European Commission. Perhaps the politicians of the Union are so tired of wrangling with Viktor Orbán that they will give the nod to the loan negotiations. I think this would be a mistake, but anything is possible in politics. It seems to me that Olli Rehn, European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, might be satisfied with a partial fulfillment of Brussels’ demands concerning the central bank. But that is only one of three issues on the table.

What does the Hungarian opposition think of the Orbán-Barroso meeting? Naturally, they are not as sanguine as Viktor Orbán seemed to be after his meeting with Barroso. Both MSZP and LMP are convinced that nothing was accomplished in Brussels because Orbán refuses to compromise. The euroskeptic Jobbik, on the other hand, is convinced that Orbán gave in to the EU and thus further enslaved the country to foreign interests.

Meanwhile the forex market believed Orbán Viktor and the Hungarian forint strengthened considerably today. We will see what happens tomorrow after the meeting of the European Commission.

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Member
The Hungarian Comedian
Guest
The Hungarian Comedian

Apparently Olli Rehn, Ecofin, issued a statement today that the remaining two issues in regards to the central bank dispute will not be submitted to the EU courts.
Cross our fingers everything will go well tomorrow, because the economy is not too crash hot at the moment, and people are really starting to take notice that it’s going in a downward spiral.

Kingfisher
Guest

My guess is that they will open negotiations which we might even regard as the EU calling Orbán’s bluff. But Hungary will have to meet certain very strict criteria before being allowed to access any of the money. Indeed, there was a piece earlier in the week in HVG quoting sources who suggested this would be the route the EU chooses.
It is probably a sensible way to exert real pressure.
Incidentally, has anyone noticed that Fidesz are planning to cancel the 98% special tax on severance pay for public officials? This means that Fidesz ministers will get their full severance pay. It is nauseating and outrageous. But so so cynical and typical of Fidesz.

Petofi
Guest

Orban & promises & compromise
Some nerve, the little gypsy has! What’s this about ‘promises’, about ‘compromise’?
Sine when was there room here for promises? That’s a figment of
Orban’s imagination…that he can make some grandiose promises
like he makes domestically (remember this: “one million jobs!”).
And, there’s no room to ‘compromise’. There are PRINCIPLES involved: align yourself–foursquare–with the democratic principles of the European Union. What is there to discuss? What to compromise? Do it or else. Only the fantasy riddled imagination of rabid Fideszers can their be room to manoeuver.
But all this ‘harc’, this to-and-fro, this Orban fraud at trying to appease the Eu is so much window-dressing (–Did Orban have
curtains when he was a young’un in Felcsut?–) Orban’s hidden agenda is to get booted out of the EU. Sadly, only Bauer Tamas
has the guts to say this publicly.
Now, in the face of the present bullshit in Brussels–where everyone knows that Orban convinced noone and got nothing–we have the anomaly of the strengthening Forint. Hmmm. That
would seem to confirm to the natives that their hero is doing well, wouldn’t it. Now, who would be so kind as to further
the coup d’oeil?

Eva Balogh
Guest

Kingfisher: “Incidentally, has anyone noticed that Fidesz are planning to cancel the 98% special tax on severance pay for public officials?”
Yes, just heard it in Egyenes beszed. You right right. Nauseating.

Petofi
Guest

Though I would hate to see it, the EU may be forced to give in and allow negotiations in the present state of affairs if only because Orban is working so hard to get Hungary kicked out. It is basic strategy to identify the opposition’s aim and to counteract it.
Thus, hateful as it is, Hungary may yet get to negotiate. But that can only mean that the EU wishes to keep Hungary in the EU against all of Orban’s machinations; and will place its hopes and strategy on an opposition victory in 2014. What an impasse!

cheshire cat
Guest
I think we need to wait and see what happens tomorrow at the Commission meeting. http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/04/24/hungary-eu-dispute-idUSL5E8FOCAF20120424 Apparently, Reuters have seen and leaked Olli Rehn’s speech for tomorrow, in which he says he will not take the Central Bank case any further if Orban does what he says he will do. The forint strengthened quickly after that. Some analysts have said the EU has enough economic crisis areas at the moment and wants to get Hungary out of the way, not wanting to risk it go bankrupt. Others have said Orban sounds overoptimistic – how can there be a deal if he himself says that some of the issues will have to go to court? Others say this visit, as well as the convergence document suddenly sent to Brussels on Monday, is just a bluff, that Orban played one-two days before the important commission meeting, to influence it. So we have to wait and see. Eva, I’m only guessing, but Barroso was very busy today, saw 3 other prime ministers (!), so that might explain why the meeting was so short and no joint press conference held. Maybe the EU really has backed out a little and will say “OK, you… Read more »
Member

Eva, for name calling and for disrespect of others, you have warned people on this board. I respectfully like to ask you to ask Petofi to refrain calling Orban a “little gypsy”. I am sure you would not allow anyone t be called “the little Jew” or the “old fag” either. I am very tired of asking Petofi to stop, and even though I do agree with several point he is making, I do not even feel like being part of the conversation, as I do not want to be in the same group. When certain people post nasty stuff here about Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, communists and liberals, we all know that this must belong to the Fidesz or Jobbik groupies. How can liberals talk about moral upper hand if we walk by it because it is from “one of us”. It is exactly what Fidesz does.

petofi
Guest

Sure, Some1, let’s play nice: sit with our arms behind our backs; put up two, and only two, fingers when we wish to speak; observe all the niceties…while Orban sends the country back to the 1920’s and spreads fear and poverty like a contagion. You want to play ‘nice’? How Hungarian of you!
:My anger is well-rooted in fact: I left Hungary in 1956 and grew up in Canada where I got my education. More than that,
a sense of decency, a respect for law and order, a feeling-grounded in fact-that I had rights that were invioble and protected by the Supreme Court; the Parliament; and the full power of a free press. I returned to Hungary two years ago because I love Budapest. But Orban has plucked me clean of my civil rights, the protection of the state, and the decency of a law abiding government. All this in two years. And you want me to be respectful of him?
Well…out of respect for Eva I will change Orban’s designation: henceforth I’ll call him THE FELCSUTIAN. How’s that?

An
Guest

@petofi
I think the point wasn’t that calling OV a gypsy is disrespectful to OV, but that it is disrespectful to gypsies.
Or, in other words, using “gypsy” as a derogatory term is not ok… whether you use it to describe OV or somebody else.

stevve
Guest

who can resist petofi’s healthy disgust with the shame of hungary, the orbanites?
i think no one should defend this failed hungarian leader.

Member

@petofi “And you want me to be respectful of him”
Hell no. You don’t have to be respectful of Orban. Just call hime something acceptable … like … motherfucker. Little gipsy is racist.
Regarding the 98% special tax. You could know this when they introduced tax. They carefully set the time limit to 5 years so it didn’t reach into the end of the first Orban government because his majesty Orban the 5th would have owed 1-2 million to the treasury. I think his severance was 3-4 million.

Mouse
Guest

One point I think being missed in this discussion is the weight of the German automotive lobby now making it’s home in Hungary. I think it picked up a lot of EU (German) funds to move here and probably couldn’t guarantee getting that to move somewhere else again. How much noise they make at home isn’t clear as I don’r read German but I do know business a little and for sure if not in public in private there will be some discussions.

The Hungarian One
Guest

Kingfisher: “Incidentally, has anyone noticed that Fidesz are planning to cancel the 98% special tax on severance pay for public officials?”
The Fidesz get Fideszer and the poor get poorer.
On another note, last Friday they apparently submitted a new law allowing them to request any address on any one?

Odin's Lost eye
Guest

There are at the moment three issues at stake. These are the Control of the Central Bank, the Independence of the Judiciary. The problem over the Data Protection Ombudsman.
It seems that the Viktator has made promised to the E.U. in the first matter the Control of the Central Bank. If these are kept the E.U. will precede no further in that matter. The other two problems and any more that pop up later on will continue. As problems these do not affect the money side of things as yet. In this respect Hungary has cleared the first hurdle and can now go and talk to IMF.
The E.U. has placed the ball fairly and squarely in the IMF’s court.
The Vikator now has to face the requirements of the IMF part of which may or may not have been satisfied by the promises made to the E.U. Read the next thrilling instalment as it arrives.
The other two problems, which are the Independence of the Judiciary, and the problem over the Data Protection Ombudsman, will rumble on.

Member

stevve: “who can resist petofi’s healthy disgust with the shame of hungary, the orbanites? i think no one should defend this failed hungarian leader.”
I am not sure what you are talking about. I do not defend Orban. Look back on my previous posts. I am defending the gypsies. Orban is not who he is today because whatever his roots are. A good Jewish doctor is not a good doctor because his background is Jewish. A simply do not like that people generalize people form any race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation. Not all gipsy is dishonest and a liar as Orban is, so to say Orban is like this because he is (may or may not) form gipsy routes is not a acceptable. Not in my book.

Member

OT United Nations slams Hungary for mistreatment of refugees.
“Hungary has gone from being a safe haven for thousands of refugees during regional conflicts to a country that imprisons many asylum seekers instead, a United Nations agency said on Tuesday.”
http://in.reuters.com/article/2012/04/24/hungary-asylum-idINDEE83N0E020120424

Eva Balogh
Guest

The problem with Orbán is not that he is or he is not of Gypsy origin. He is just a rotten human being and a vengeful son of a gun.

An
Guest

European Commission – Press release
Commission decides to enter into negotiations on precautionary financial assistance with Hungary
Brussels, 25 April 2012 – The Commission has today assessed that Hungary has taken sufficient action and commitments to enter into negotiations on precautionary balance of payment assistance.
This decision has been taken in light of commitments by Hungary, confirmed by PM Orban yesterday after his meeting with President Barroso, to take tangible steps to ensure compliance with EU law on all the issues that are relevant for the stable and independent legal environment that lies at the heart of the investors’ confidence and influences macroeconomic stability.
Based on Hungary’s reply to the European Commission’s administrative letter on this matter, the Commission has agreed today to close the infringement case on the independence of the Central Bank once the relevant legislation is adopted. The Hungarian authorities have also committed to continue consultations with the European Central Bank in view of finding an agreement on the remaining open issues.
Hungary has also committed to address promptly and fully the recommendations of the Venice Commission on key priority areas in the field of the judiciary reform.
Before the negotiations can be concluded, the Commission expects that the commitments are fully implemented.
http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=IP/12/407&format=HTML&aged=0&language=EN&guiLanguage=en

An
Guest

According to the Statement of the EU Commission, Orban promised two things at the meeting with Barroso:
– to work on the issues raised about the judiciary
– to work on the remaining issues about the Central Bank with the ECB
To give you an idea just how honest these commitments are: Fellegi in today’s press conference (just after the “breakthrough”) declares that the law on the national bank will not be changed (despite the “remaining open issues”, apparently).
“Az Európai Bizottság szerdai döntésével kapcsolatosan arra a kérdésre, hogy végül a Bizottsággal a jegybanktörvény vitás kérdéseiben mire jutottak a felek, elmondta: a kormány nem változtat a jegybanktörvény parlamentbe benyújtott változatán.”
http://www.napi.hu/magyar_gazdasag/megszolalt_fellegi_itt_vannak_a_reszletek.517587.html
I guess the commitment to work on the law on the judiciary system is similarly serious…
So, Orban promised everything again…and the EU fell for it?

The Hungarian Comedian
Guest
The Hungarian Comedian

Anyone that seriously wants to understand this situation at the moment should read the following introductory book cover to cover by the two of the most prominent researchers in the field:
http://www.amazon.com/Snakes-Suits-When-Psychopaths-Work/dp/0061147893/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1335367245&sr=8-1

petofi
Guest

@ An “…and the EU feel for it?”
No, it didn’t. Sad to say, the EU was in a fix: seeing that Orban was, in fact, doing his damndest NOT to get a loan; and even worse, to be heaved out of the EU, the powers that be turned on their heels and took the only available tack–keep Hungary in the EU (since Orban wanted OUT) and begin negotiations. Best case scenario: if Orban backtrack’s on his commitments to the EU, it’ll be great for the opposition parties come the next election. In any case, the IMF will now humble
THE FELCHUTIAN by the conditions they will impose. No doubt there will be twice or thrice-annual investigation of the books. That alone should throw a sizable wrench into the Orban/Simcsak thievery of government moneys. And, if Hungary does get back the EU funds next year, you can be sure the EU will demand minute accounting of every euro spent.
For the time being, the EU must content itself with the ‘long game’ as far as Orban is concerned.

An
Guest
@Petofi, No, I don’t think Orban wants to be out of the EU (or at leas not at this point, while EU monies are still coming in), nor I think that if he did wanted out, the EU would be much troubled by it. I think Orban may be playing a different game. He really wanted to start the negotiations to calm investors and markets (an outright panic would be dangerous even for him).. but that doesn’t mean that he necessarily wants to conclude them. He wants to gain time… there are discussions about the possibility of issuing a new foreign exchange nominated debt before the IMF deal is concluded.. and this may be what he is aiming at (or just uses it as a backup option is the IMF is setting conditions he really doesn’t want to commit to). This way, he could secure some kind of financing while the negotiations are ongoing, taking advantages of the relative calm as investors expect the IMF deal to be done… and then he can still decide not to conclude the IMF negotiations. This way he’d solve the immediate financing needs of the country.. and that’s what he really cares about, his… Read more »
Kingfisher
Guest

I think Petofi’s analysis is correct. Also, we shouldn’t forget, if the currency were to collapse and Hungary to go bankrupt, it is the average innocent person in the street whose life is potentially being ruined. Hungary has some breathing space and as HVG was reporting earlier in the week, Orbán will have to fulfill conditions before being allowed the money. This way, he is actually under greater pressure, even if it might appear a political victory for him.
And yes, I think the IMF will make demands that Orbán will find very hard to accept politically. Upsetting Hilary Clinton was not a good idea from the FELCHUTIAN!

petofi
Guest

@ An “…no long term thinking there..”
No, THE FELCSUTIAN will never be accused of that; at least, we won’t be privy to it.
I don’t see this reprieve as helping Orban secure market loans. Everyone knows that the pressure, indeed, is on Orban now. The markets will know that if Orban refuses any of the stringent conditions–which the off-balanced FELCSUTIAN well might–than the country will be up the creek and those foolhardy investors in Hungarian ‘paper’ will have wished they were securely enrolled with the el grecos. So, in fact, the market conditions are now dicier than ever before. Well done Barrosso and the EU!!

An
Guest

@Petofi:
“The markets will know that if Orban refuses any of the stringent conditions”
He won’t outright refuse any of the conditions… he’ll say he’ll meet them, then will wait, make some meaningless modifications and then will claim that he has already met the conditions and the other party is coming up with new and new conditions.
He’s been playing this game for awhile and apparently the markets still haven’t learned. Look at the market reaction to Orban making two empty promises in Brussels! The forint went up as if the IMF was a done deal.
Markets are not rational or perfect, if they were, we wouldn’t have bubbles and financial crises like the one we had in 2007-2008. For some time, investors can be fooled…. I see the news coming in about Hungary on investment news sites… a lot of the so-called “analysis” is parroting government statements. True, some analysts are starting to take notice and warn of political risks in Hungary… but even these analysts assume that OV would act as a normal rational person would… and that assumption is very very wrong.

petofi
Guest

@ Kingfisher
I’m afraid you’re exposing your roots, sir: it is FEL CSU TIAN
In Honkerian, the ch-sound is made by the letters ‘cs’.
So, when seeing a Fideszer, please tell him to CSew on this!

The Hungarian Comedian
Guest
The Hungarian Comedian

So what’s Orbans next fight going to be?
Is it the IMF he going to be bashing because they won’t hand him a security net? Is it going to be socialist/communist killer sending current opposition to jail with the TEK and then to Tunde court?
Who will he be fighting next?

petofi
Guest

@ The Hungarian Comedian: “..who will Orban be fighting next…:
You mean, if God loses his sense of humor?
So, God-willing, Orban will be fighting his shadow somewhere in a padded room…

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