Hungarian Foreign Minister János Martonyi has become irrelevant and should resign

I don’t keep a close tab on the activities of János Martonyi, Hungary’s foreign minister, because he has become truly irrelevant. He didn’t have much to say about foreign affairs even before June 2012 when he became formally subordinate to Péter Szijjártó, a thirty-four-year-old with no diplomatic experience whatsoever. Péter Szijjártó’s fame lies in his total subservience and devotion to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán; he always had a ready answer to any criticism of his boss or his government. The opposition referred to him as the head of the Fidesz parrot commandos.

I don’t know what it must be like to be supervised by someone half your age whom you most likely consider a dolt. I think that it would be a mighty awkward position to be in. Especially when you realize that you simply don’t matter.

One really wonders by now what János Martonyi actually believes in. Does he believe in Euro-Atlantic integration? He talks about it a great deal, yet he remains the foreign minister of a country whose prime minister wages war against the European Union in the name of sovereignty and talks about a “strategic alliance” with communist China.

It was back in March when I first noticed a call for Martonyi’s resignation. Gyula Magasdi, in an opinion piece in Népszava, called upon Martonyi to resign because his position in the government had become indefensible. Naturally, Martonyi didn’t accommodate.

He also didn’t resign during his tenure as foreign minister in the first Orbán government although he had plenty reason to do so even then. At that time it was his undersecretary Zsolt Németh who was running the show, and Németh’s ideas on foreign policy often ran counter to those of Martonyi. Even then he was running around trying to mend fences with the United States and the EU countries. At the end of four years Hungary had strained relations with all her neighbors and the world at large.

But it seems that Martonyi served Viktor Orbán’s purposes well because it was Martonyi whom Orbán mentioned first as an absolutely certain choice for a cabinet post. Even before he took the oath of office he was sent to Slovakia to negotiate on behalf of Hungary.

Martonyi was a successful civil servant during the Kádár regime as well as during the government of József Antall and Péter Boross (1990-1994). After MDF lost the elections and the socialists and liberals formed a government Martonyi joined the international firm of Baker and McKenzie (1994-1998 and 2002-2009). By now the firm in Hungary is called Martonyi and Kajtár Baker & McKenzie. He is a very wealthy man.

János Martonyi / Wikipedia

More than two years ago, in May 2010, I drew a portrait of János Martonyi. In that post I said something to the effect that Martonyi was a lousy foreign minister. Today the situation is worse. He is no more than a figurehead. The only thing I don’t understand is how it is that his foreign contacts still believe in him. What is in this man that is so reassuring? Perhaps his gentlemanly upbringing and diplomatic experience is a welcome change from the boorish behavior of people like Viktor Orbán, János Lázár, Péter Szijjártó, Gyula Budai, and the rest. But surely this shouldn’t be enough. Yet some people still trust János Martonyi, who seems to be little bothered about his lack of control over foreign policy. He keeps going on with his ridiculous explanations of events that cannot be convincingly explained.

Three days before the release of Ramil Safarov to Azerbaijan, on August 28, János Martonyi in an interview on Magyar Rádió announced that “issuing Turkish or Azeri bonds is not an alternative for Hungary…. We need an agreement with the the IMF and the EU.” I suspect that the Foreign Ministry wasn’t even aware of the negotiations with Azerbaijan that were conducted through the Ministry of Administration and Justice. Martonyi himself didn’t say a word about the case until September 5 after he returned from Switzerland, but then as is his wont he immediately defended the government. Although on August 28 he talked about a financial deal with Azerbaijan, by September 5 he tried to convince the world that the release of the Azeri officer “had nothing to do with finances.”

Way before Martonyi said a word about the Safarov affair, however, the opposition was demanding his resignation. The most potent call came from Szabolcs Kerék Bárczy, formerly spokesman for MDF and subordinate of János Martonyi during the first Orbán administration. Kerék Bárczy remembers him as a man of independence and great intelligence with an excellent sense of humor. But why did Martonyi support the “robbery of the private pension funds and the new constitution, why did he support the appointments of ambassadors who are not fit for their posts, and why is he watching in silence the country’s economic and political downfall?” Martonyi should give a signal, perhaps even with his resignation, that something has gone very wrong. Kerék Bárczy simply cannot imagine that without any outside pressure Martonyi can support this regime. What does he have in mind? Perhaps Martonyi’s past as an informer?

It was a powerful piece of writing but it looks as if Kerék Bárczy misjudged János Martonyi. Without any sign of external pressure Martonyi seems to wholeheartedly support Viktor Orbán and his regime. Zsolt Németh proudly announced during an interview on HírTV that during the first Orbán administration they managed to get rid of 90% of the ambassadors and appoint new ones in their places. And Martonyi doesn’t seem to mind being marginalized. The first government official to make public  the release of the Azeri murderer was not the foreign minister but Péter Szijjártó.

A sidenote for those who read Hungarian: an excellent summary of the failures of Hungarian diplomacy in the last two years written by Edit Inotai appeared in Népszabadság: “The Twilight of Hungarian Foreign Policy: Scandal after Scandal.”

By now János Martonyi, following in the prime minister’s footsteps, is resorting to outright lying. Because at the informal meeting of the European Union’s foreign ministers in Cyprus Martonyi appears to have convinced his fellow foreign ministers that Hungary acted in good faith and that the release of Safarov happened only after Hungary received a guarantee from Azerbaijan. But we know that there was no guarantee. After all, the Ministry of Administration and Justice released the letter which this alleged assurance was given. Martonyi’s colleagues were able to read it but instead they seem to have believed Martonyi. On September 7, referring to the meeting of the foreign ministers, the German Foreign Ministry released the following statement:  “The government of Azerbaijan assured the Hungarian side prior to the transfer that the prisoner will serve out the remaining sentence there. The Federal Government does not doubt the statement of the Hungarian government in the OSCE Permanent Council in Vienna on September 6, 2012, after which it has completed the transfer of the Azerbaijani offender on the basis of written diplomatic assurances.” So, Martonyi either managed to convince the innocents of the European Union or, if they didn’t believe him, the decision was made to spare Hungary.

Just for the record, let’s republish the letter that allegedly contains the guarantee Martonyi was talking about:

Ministry of Public Administration and Justice of Hungary

Your Ref.: 06.08.2012
XX-NBSKF013743/412012

The Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Azerbaijan presents its compliments to the Ministry of Public Administration and Justice of Hungary and has the honor to inform the following.

As a response to your inquiry about Ramil Sahib Safarov, who is serving his sentence in Hungary, we inform you that the execution of the courts decisions of the foreign states regarding the transfer of sentenced persons to serve the remaining part of their prison sentences in the Republic of Azerbaijan is carried out in accordance with Article 9 paragraph 1 point a) of the European Convention without any conversion and without having to go through any new judicial procedure.

Please be also informed that in accordance with Article 57.3 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Azerbaijan the punishment of a convict who is serving a life sentence could only be replaced by court with an imprisonment for a certain period or he could be released on conditional parole, only after he has served at least twenty five years of his sentence.

The Ministry of Justice of the Azerbaijan avails itself of this opportunity to express the assurance of its highest consideration to the Ministry of Public Administration and Justice of Hungary and thank in advance for cooperation.

Vilayat Zahirov

Deputy Minister of Justice
Republic of Azerbaijan

János Martonyi should resign not because he had anything to do with Safarov’s release but because of his immoral, unfettered support of the Orbán regime.

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Member

He will not resign. Just like Orban, Martonyi lost all moral sense. Most of Orban’s government buddies support him for two reasons, money or power. Power means prestige. In a country where people’s social value is still measured by their occupation or by their wealth, there is no way that any of Orban’s unqualified puppets will ever give up the social status they earned not by their qualifications, but by their conformity to whatever comes in their way.

Lutra lutra
Guest

Interesting article but on what grounds that are relevant to him would he resign? I’m sure he sees himself as a dutiful government servant – if he saw himself as answerable to the people then maybe his conscience would bother him – and therefore resignation is akin to a soldier refusing to fight (no matter what humiliations or incompetence he has to endure).

Julie
Guest

You would think his amour-propre would be affected at some point. It must be humiliating to be continually undermined, publicly, by the people you work for. Then again, I suppose everything has its price.

Didier Delcampe
Guest

I love this website a lot and I wish more media would apply the same dedication as HungarianSpectrum. As the leading Hungarian politics blog, I think it’s crucial to keep a neutral stance on people and events, and not let emotions take over (although I completely agree that in the current political context, this is easier said than done).
Keep up the good work and thanks for the daily updates.

Member

What can we expect from a guy who joined the MSZMP in 1989? A few months back we were guessing if he can be Orban’s successor. Oh, God, no!

Turkmenbasi
Guest

Mutt :
What can we expect from a guy who joined the MSZMP in 1989? A few months back we were guessing if he can be Orban’s successor. Oh, God, no!

Mutt, indeed, he joined the MSzMP in February 1989. Much worse than that, he has become a police informant in 1968. We know from his files that NOONE forced him to become one. He just walked in and voluntarily offered his services. Just to remind the younger readers, it was in 1968 when the Warsaw Pact crushed the Prague Spring…

http://www.europeanvoice.com/article/imported/denials-and-divisions-in-hungary-s-press/57526.aspx

Karl Pfeifer
Guest

If Orbán is not anymore prime-minister, probably in 2020, Martonyi will declare
“I kept my job in order to prevent something much worse.”
In the meantime it looks as if Orbán and his ilk can do anything they like, ruin the economy with unorthodox methods, abolish liberal democracy and now showing the world that they do not fear public opinion abroad, because in Hungary most Hungarians do not oppose, because the opposition is not able or not willing to form a common platform. And probably the slogan put up in all Hungarian offices should be “let’s have the courage to be stupid”, as if for stupidity one needed courage.

cherry17
Guest

Although it’s just a matter of speculation, I am sure that Martonyi has something very nasty in his past that makes him blackmailable. Besides it is more than interesting that a person like him joined the Communist Party (MSZMP) a few years before the fall of the old regime.Has anybody ever asked him what made him join that party in the late1980-ies?

Guest
London Calling! There must be a few people in Orban’s government with this ‘ambivalent-position-of-integrity’ who can’t resign because it means letting go of the trappings of power. Maybe he feels he is ‘holding the fort’ inside Fidesz ready for the internal combustion self destruction phase? (He’ll have a long wait!) I think that there is no doubt that his position in government will be ‘beneficial’ to his position in the international company he works for. I think too that such a position would be looked on favourably by his International colleagues – and measured by how much ‘business’ he brings them. (Probably substantial.) In addition of course he’s keeping the ‘Moustachioed-constituency’ alive! You have to have a sense of humour to sport one as such a fine specimen as that! The ‘side-curve-flick’ factor is marvellous – about a 3 on the SDC scale (the Salvador Dali Curve scale!). Whilst I haven’t done any serious international research – this ‘moustache-predilection’ only seems to feature in Hungary. Why? Are those ‘regal’ pictures of Regent Horthy the subconscious text behind the fashion? – I daren’t mention those irredentist undercurrents. Anyway I’m thinking of bringing over a consignment of moustache wax on my next… Read more »
Guest

Thanks, Charlie – that was really funny but at the same time depressing. These guy are “out of our world”, reminds me of one of my former bosses.

If someone else would have told me about this (S)Ketchup accident, I’d say it was an urban legend …

Member

OT; WHat’s up with Gyurcsany’s hunger strike? I mean, I do understand that people should disagree and express their disapproval wit the government regarding the new mandatory voting pre-registration, but really? Hunger strike? I’m sure that Orban could care less, and it is likely will be a sentence in the foreign press. Many who do not like Gyurcsany, I am sure will show up and chant some very nasty stuff, but is this really necessary? Can he do something more important inside the parliament then outside in a tent?

Member

Karl Pfeifer :
because the opposition is not able or not willing to form a common platform.

THis is the key sentence. In any situation when a government is “overthrown” there is a common platform amongst those who want radical changes. THose radical changes should start with making sure Fidesz will not win the next election and the members of a democratic minded opposition will be in majority. WIth that everything can be changed back to normal and improved where it needs improvement. After that all the micro differences can be ironed out, and life can get back to normal. I am afraid that the reason this cannot happen in Hungary is the same why Martonyi would never resign. THe Hungarian prestige game. Non of the Hungarian “leaders” would be willing to become a subordinate.

An
Guest

Some1: I think the whole point is to show that the opposition cannot do anything inside the Parliament where Orban’s voting robots rule. It’s desperation, like LMP’s demonstration when they chained themselves in front of the Parliament last December. So that part I understand, something needs to be done, something that gets attention and shakes people out of their apathy. Is a hunger strike a good idea? Not sure.

I just wonder, if LMP came up with the same idea, would the reception be still this bad? I doubt it. Funny thing, Gyurcsany can do no good… even if the issue is important (the elephant in the room) , if action is coming from him, it’s either viewed as stupid, ridiculous or just a plain publicity stunt. While I understand the sentiment, I’m not sure he fully deserves it.

Anyways, the point is, something needs to be done about voter registration. Any ideas? Other opposition parties, anyone? Readers of this blog? Feel free to do something, not just criticize what others are doing.

Member

It is impossible to understand the degree of Martonyi’s subservience and the reason why Orbán can use him as a muck cleaner without knowing what was affirmed about him in court as a “real fact”. He was marked in the Registration Book of Group Command III/I (that is, the communist intelligence service) as “live network” (élőhálózat) under the code name ‘Magasdi’ during the time he was a minor trade official in Brussels out of all places. It is also remarkable how neither the Hungarian opposition nor Hungary’s western partners seem to care about this fact. “They leave us to our fate,” as Hungarians would say.

Guest
London Calling! Turkmenbas: Very interesting! During our last trip to Hungary we visited the Statue Park – a great day out! – and while we were there they showed a film on how the informer network worked. Many of you may have already seen it? Most revealing – on how a whole society’s trust was undermined by informers – who may or may not have transgressed the laws, and were locked into the system. If he did do it voluntarily – then he is a ruthlessly ambitious nasty piece of work. I wish they would open those archives/files. (The Statue Park was a great day out – as I said. You see the Stalin’s Boots statue, the icon of the 56 Revolution – all those ‘Joy through Work and Struggle’ statues that have been re-located there; and a very interesting display (and the film too, of course). And you can sit in a Trabant – which was one of the few cars that passed the ‘Moose’ test – swerving safely at 30mph. And which used re-cycled materials in the bodywork – way ahead of its time! Unlike the Terror House which we also visited – which was complete confusion for… Read more »
An
Guest

Charlie, all the effort Fidesz put into the Terror Museum was lost on you! What a shame! I especially liked the last room where after all the gloom and doom, a screen comes alive and shows the young Orban giving his famous speech at Nagy Imre’s reburial… the screen is placed so prominently in the room that it makes it look like as if he himself single-handedly kicked out the Russians!

Guest

London Calling!

An! Really?

We completely missed it! – The place was so crowded with two large coach parties which meant a snail’s pace progress – and missing all those exhibits as I said (we visited in July – could it have been removed?).

I also didn’t understand why Horthy’s (?) car was in a fishing net – every few minutes the lights came on to illuminate the interior – which was ‘ruddy plush’ – as you’d expect. It was just a big obstruction for everyone there. (I would have liked to inspect the engine!)

The only exhibit that really enlightened me – were the small ‘cameo’ pictures on the outside of the building – all those artisans with their birth dates. All their ‘death’ dates were between 1956 and 1958. Murdered. Brought it home and numbed me – the price of freedom. And knowing that many relatives are still around – you might walk past them in the streets.

(And it was free!)

Regards

Charlie

Guest

London Calling!

An:

“……….Anyways, the point is, something needs to be done about voter registration. Any ideas? Other opposition parties, anyone? Readers of this blog? Feel free to do something, not just criticize what others are doing.”

Yes – good point!

The only thing I can think of is a ‘No-Registration’ or ‘Universal Unobstructed Suffrage’ community on Facebook – which has a delicious irony because we are registering ourselves!

How about “Hey Hungary – sorry for our voting system” community?

But it worked for the ‘Arab Spring’

(Not very inspiring yet – but I’ll be thinking! – Work in Progress!!)

Unfortunately – it seems that internet usage in Hungary is quite low – but you never know!

Regards

Charlie

An
Guest

Charlie, it’s been a while since I was there; so they may have changed things around in the exhibits. Don’t know about the fishing net… maybe symbolizing that how Hungary was struggling in the net of Nazis and communists (being caught in the middle in the 40s). Or maybe Horthy just liked fishing 🙂
I guess, even if they rearranged some of the exhibits since I was there, it couldn’t have gotten much better at informing its audience (as your confusion suggests). I’ve found it manipulative rather than informative: it was a little too heavy on the visual side,and too little on the informative/educational side.

Member
An : Some1: I think the whole point is to show that the opposition cannot do anything inside the Parliament where Orban’s voting robots rule. It’s desperation, like LMP’s demonstration when they chained themselves in front of the Parliament last December. So that part I understand, something needs to be done, something that gets attention and shakes people out of their apathy. Is a hunger strike a good idea? Not sure. I just wonder, if LMP came up with the same idea, would the reception be still this bad? I doubt it. Funny thing, Gyurcsany can do no good… even if the issue is important (the elephant in the room) , if action is coming from him, it’s either viewed as stupid, ridiculous or just a plain publicity stunt. While I understand the sentiment, I’m not sure he fully deserves it. Anyways, the point is, something needs to be done about voter registration. Any ideas? Other opposition parties, anyone? Readers of this blog? Feel free to do something, not just criticize what others are doing. I am not sure about the “reception” just yet, as I did only read about the fact. If you refer to my own reception, I… Read more »
Member
CharlieH : London Calling! An: “……….Anyways, the point is, something needs to be done about voter registration. Any ideas? Other opposition parties, anyone? Readers of this blog? Feel free to do something, not just criticize what others are doing.” Yes – good point! The only thing I can think of is a ‘No-Registration’ or ‘Universal Unobstructed Suffrage’ community on Facebook – which has a delicious irony because we are registering ourselves! How about “Hey Hungary – sorry for our voting system” community? But it worked for the ‘Arab Spring’ (Not very inspiring yet – but I’ll be thinking! – Work in Progress!!) Unfortunately – it seems that internet usage in Hungary is quite low – but you never know! Regards Charlie I wanted to say that I do not like the “not just criticize what others are doing” byline. THat is kind of a Fidesz slogan. I think voicing our opinion is doing something. Bringing attention to various issues, and criticizing is doing something. Maybe I should go on hunger strike and start to blog about it. My friends every year try to convince me about the liquid diet, so I will just put the two together. For that matter… Read more »
Louis Kovach
Guest

Didier Delcampe: I think it’s crucial to keep a neutral stance on people and events, and not let emotions take over (although I completely agree that in the current political context, this is easier said than done).

With great sorrow, I infom you that this blog does not represent a “neutral stance” It is very definitly left and anti-Hungarian government oriented.

Guest

London Calling!

More O/T!

What a coincidence – The Terror House – and now this a few minutes ago on World Service BBC (Nick Thorpe!)

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-19546237

Regards

Charlie

Member

Louis Kovach :
With great sorrow, I infom you that this blog does not represent a “neutral stance” It is very definitly left and anti-Hungarian government oriented.

Kovach, you are a mini-Orban:

1. This blog is not left leaning. Anybody with a cursory knowledge of the English can see that. Critisizing Orban is not a left wing idea. You only wish ..

2. This blog is NOT anti-Government. The blog is critiquing the ORBAN government.

You misunderstood Didier. It’s OK to take sides, but don’t let your emotions take over when you interpret the events.

An
Guest
Some1: Voicing our opinion is a good start, but a little more than voicing our opinions among ourselves is needed at this point. It’s action that is seriously lacking in Hungarian politics. Voicing opinions and criticizing each other already works very well in opposition circles. We need more if we would like change. I would like to see more action, even from people I don’t necessary like or don’t see eye to eye 100%. Even if it is coming from Gyurcsany, and even if it is maybe not the best move. This is really not a criticism to you personally, more to the general reaction of what I’ve seen in Hungarian online communities. Btw, I think Eva is doing plenty by keeping this blog. I consider what she is doing action. As for us, commenters… I don’t know… obviously there is no blog without readers and commenters and voicing our opinion has value… but let’s look into ourselves if we could do more. Maybe not…. But at least I’d be very careful with my criticism with someone who does. If we want to see a united opposition, I think we should start there. Instead of saying what a bad idea… Read more »
Member

Louis Kovach :
Didier Delcampe: I think it’s crucial to keep a neutral stance on people and events, and not let emotions take over (although I completely agree that in the current political context, this is easier said than done).
With great sorrow, I infom you that this blog does not represent a “neutral stance” It is very definitly left and anti-Hungarian government oriented.

Thank goodness we have you here to represent the neutral stance!!!

Member
An : Some1: Voicing our opinion is a good start, but a little more than voicing our opinions among ourselves is needed at this point. It’s action that is seriously lacking in Hungarian politics. Voicing opinions and criticizing each other already works very well in opposition circles. We need more if we would like change. I would like to see more action, even from people I don’t necessary like or don’t see eye to eye 100%. Even if it is coming from Gyurcsany, and even if it is maybe not the best move. This is really not a criticism to you personally, more to the general reaction of what I’ve seen in Hungarian online communities. Btw, I think Eva is doing plenty by keeping this blog. I consider what she is doing action. As for us, commenters… I don’t know… obviously there is no blog without readers and commenters and voicing our opinion has value… but let’s look into ourselves if we could do more. Maybe not…. But at least I’d be very careful with my criticism with someone who does. If we want to see a united opposition, I think we should start there. Instead of saying what a… Read more »
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