Fidesz Roma strategy, from Balog to Bayer

The country is again full of stories about “gypsy terror,” spread with gusto by Jobbik. The cause this time is a New Year’s Eve party in a bar in Szigethalom, today part of Budapest, situated on the northern end of Csepel Island. A group of boys, members of the MTK (Magyar Testgyakorlók Köre [Circle of Hungarian Fitness Activists]) was having a party when two of them, a  under-age boxer and a wrestler, were severely wounded in the men’s room of the establishment. There were two assailants, one a Gypsy. The other assailant is still on the loose.

Whatever the cause of the brawl, it was unlikely a hate crime. One of the victims, we know, had many Roma friends. In fact, a large number of the youngsters training to become boxers or wrestlers are Gypsies. At the same time it also became clear that this particular victim wasn’t exactly an innocent lamb. Last July he was arrested after attacking a young man in the men’s room of a Budapest bar, hitting him in the face and taking his money. Because the recent incident also happened in a men’s room, the police are rightfully investigating the possible role of this victim himself.

Jobbik is organizing a demonstration in Szigethalom, Magyar Nemzet wrote an article that practically accused the Roma community of collective guilt, and Zsolt Bayer wrote an opinion piece in Magyar Hírlap that can be construed as an “incitement against a community.” I wrote about Bayer a couple of times and I tried to translate his practically untranslatable prose. Then he was venting against Jews, now against the Roma.

This latest upheaval gave Attila Ara-Kovács, a member of the democratic opposition of the 1980s and an astute commentator on the pages of Magyar Narancs, the opportunity to write a very important article about the government’s so-called “Roma strategy,” entitled “From Balog to Bayer.”

A bold Roma strategy was supposed to be a key contribution of the Hungarian presidency of the European Union (January-July 2011). It was supposed to be a strategy aimed at eventually solving the terrible situation of the Roma in Europe, especially at its eastern fringes. By the end of 2011 all European countries were expected to develop their own strategies, taking their cue from the great Hungarian model.

Zoltán Balog, today minister of the mega-ministry in charge of health, education, and culture, was put in charge. His only responsibility was to work out a Roma strategy and head the effort toward Roma integration. Once he moved to a higher position, he took his old staff with him to the Ministry of Human Resources. He proudly announced only a few months ago that the Orbán government was the first in Hungary to pay attention to the Roma question.

The problem is, says Ara-Kovács, that this is simply not true. Are we surprised? It was in 2002, after the formation of an MSZP-SZDSZ coalition, that Bálint Magyar, the liberal minister of education between 1996 and 1998 and again between 2002 and 2006, began serious work in this field.

Here are few of his achievements. In 2002 an article forbidding discrimination was incorporated into the law on education. Magyar appointed a ministerial commissioner in charge of disadvantaged and Roma children whose function was to check every proposed bill and to make sure that they in no way infringed upon the rights of the disadvantaged and the poor.

In 2003 a law on equal treatment was enacted, and subsequently an Office of Equal Treatment was established.

In 2004 the government established a National Integration Network whose task was to promote integrated classrooms to assist disadvantaged children and their teachers. This same year they set up a system by which for each disadvantaged and Roma child the schools received extra financial assistance (50,000 ft more than the norm). That was a sizable amount; it constituted one-fifth of the total that the government paid out for schools.

In the same year they began a new program called “From the last row” that was supposed to move Roma children from classes designed for the “moderately retarded” back to the mainstream educational system. I should mention here that teachers liked to declare Gypsy children retarded and thus get rid of them since they needed more care and work. Magyar’s ministry also in 2004 introduced another program called “Útravaló” (Provisions for the journey) that provided scholarships for 18,000 disadvantaged children and 3,000 mentors per year.

In 2005 another law made it compulsory for schools to give preference to disadvantaged children who live outside the school districts when deciding on acceptance.

Thus by 2006 there was a noticeable decrease in the degree of segregation.

So, let’s see what the present government has done in the last two and a half years. The Orbán government’s Roma strategy was based on an agreement between Viktor Orbán and Flórián Farkas, the leader of the Roma community at the moment, who is a Fidesz puppet. In this agreement, the Hungarian government accepted responsibility for training 1,000 Roma women. It’s going very slowly. Up until last fall about 300 had received training. Viktor Orbán also promised medical screening for 5,000 women. The program hasn’t started yet. The most important part of the agreement was the promise of 20,000 new jobs for the Roma community. That promise was to be fulfilled by establishing an extensive public works program for about half of the minimum wage. The numbers currently employed are nowhere close to 20,000.

The Útravaló (Provisions for the Journey) program has continued, but while in the 2004-2005 school year the government spent 2 billion forints on it, now that amount is 1 billion.  That means 5-8,000 forints a month, but something went wrong here too and the sums that should have been distributed last year never were. One of the more important programs of Balog’s ministry is the Roma Special College (szakkollégium). This program seems to have been given over to the churches.

Finally, Ara-Kovács summarizes other Fidesz “achievements” that run counter to any grand Roma strategy. (1) Compulsory education is no longer 18 years but only 16. (2) In the first four grades grading was reintroduced. (3) If a child doesn’t finish eight grades by the age of  15 he must be discharged. (4) Secondary technical schools are no longer obliged to admit students who didn’t get into a gymnasium. (5) The government practically eliminated the extra year for foreign language competence. (6) In technical schools the number of courses in languages, literature, and history was reduced so dramatically that students will come out of these schools practically illiterate.  (7) In general, the number of students reaching matriculation will be greatly reduced, thus also the numbers who can enter college or university.

Marabu / Népszabadság

Marabu / Népszabadság

While Balog in Berlin only a few months ago proudly outlined the accomplishments of the Orbán government as far as its Roma strategy is concerned, one of the organizers of the Peace March and a man who holds the #5 membership card in Fidesz, Zsolt Bayer, announced that “a significant portion of the Gypsies are unfit for coexistence. Not fit to live among human beings. These people are animals and behave like animals. Like a bitch in heat she wants to copulate with whomever and wherever. If he finds resistance, he kills. He voids where and when it occurs to him.  … He wants what he sees. If he doesn’t get it, he takes it and he kills…. From his animal skull only inarticulate sounds come out and the only thing he understands is brute force… There shouldn’t be animals. No way. This must be solved, immediately and in any way.” In Hungarian: “Ezt meg kell oldani–de azonnal és bárhogyan.” It sounds ominous. What can he have in mind?

“This is the real Roma strategy of Fidesz. It would be worth making that clear to Europe,” adds Ara-Kovács at the end of his article.

54 comments

  1. Some1: “Orban is the Prime Minister, Janos Ader is the President, both speak and write Hungarian fluently while the “Russians” hardly do so or care for that matter. I understand that you are talking economical gains here but that is highly irrelevant here.”

    No, I did not even think of ‘economic gains’. I am talking about political gains. Quite similarly to their investment in Jobbik. Just think, if possible, in a European context. Thanks.

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  2. Mutt: I don’t think it was lame, it contained vague statements and half-truths, but it’s definitely thought provoking.

    “According to the article another bad approach (also by left wing liberals) looking at the issue as a social problem, expecting the Roma to solve their own problems with financial help from the non-Roma society.”

    This is only partially true. We must make sure that that money is spent well. Directly giving them a few thousand forints will a lot of times land either in some usurers pockets or in the cash machine of the nearest local thirst quenching venue. On the other hand financial help is absolutely crucial pure goodwill won’t get us anywhere.

    “They have no prejudices, they have experiences.”

    They have experiences from a certain group of Romas and then develop prejudices against the whole Roma community and most of them go to whoever offers the seemingly simplest solution (Jobbik). Understandable? Maybe. Acceptable? No way.

    “These people being left alone and vulnerable, turned to the ones they listened. Among other things, it also opened the door for the strengthening of the JOBBIK.””

    ” there cannot be a conflict between the human life and the respect and protection of the private property”

    I have no idea what this suppose to mean but respect of private property is indeed the most basic foundation of the rule of law in a democracy and therefore it’s one of the first obligation of the state to protect it. If law enforcement fails on this, fear takes over in the population and fear further leads to hatred and makes the ones in fear to turn to unjustifiable forces (simply because they feel no one else gives a flying frisbee about their problem or worse, they dismiss them as racists) and unjustifiable methods.

    Bottom line is, it’s a complex, socio-cultural, social, law-enforcement, financial and educational issue. Any attempt that ignores any of these aspects is doomed to fail IMHO.

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  3. Jano :
    Btw, have you guys read Bayer’s “defense”?
    “If I wanted to kill gypsies, I’d never talk about that in public…”

    Makes sense … If I planned to beat him up, I’d never bandy it around on a blog.

    Ooops.

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  4. Jano :
    If law enforcement fails on this, fear takes over in the population and fear further leads to hatred and makes the ones in fear to turn to unjustifiable forces (simply because they feel no one else gives a flying frisbee about their problem or worse, they dismiss them as racists) and unjustifiable methods.

    I’m very glad you wrote this! I’m 100% with you. Crime should be dealt with by law enforcement and courts. The impotence of the law enforcement and the resulting frustration that fuels hatred. Sándor Pintér should consider resigning if public safety cannot be guaranteed.

    I may have been too harsh on the capitalist blog article, but I don’t find it bravery when somebody talks about gipsy crime, not even in a subtle way. A good, similar example is Schiffer’s (LMP) recent statement on this. Basically he said “Unacceptable, *but* there are places in the country, where …” No buts. This is Orban style double talk.

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  5. Schiffer is an Orbanista: they got something on him and playing him like a good thing.

    But ‘law enforcement’ in Hungary is a laughable topic when you consider that the powers that be use methods ‘legal’ and not, to keep a creature like Csatary
    on the loose and under their protection.

    “All hail!….” (Click your heels and salute.)

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  6. London Calling!

    Expect more ‘Global Clamour’ – the World Service of the BBC carried the Bayer ‘Animal speech’ event on the 19:00 news this evening.

    Regards

    Charlie

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  7. Turkmenbasi :
    Some1: “Orban is the Prime Minister, Janos Ader is the President, both speak and write Hungarian fluently while the “Russians” hardly do so or care for that matter. I understand that you are talking economical gains here but that is highly irrelevant here.”
    No, I did not even think of ‘economic gains’. I am talking about political gains. Quite similarly to their investment in Jobbik. Just think, if possible, in a European context. Thanks.

    I am simply referring to the fact that this article tries to focus on the “Roma strategy”. Allowing Bayer or anyone else for that matter to continually go into anti-Roma rage (next to many other things) has nothing to do with the Russians. Orban simply could step up to plate and stop it. He choose to allow it. Ader as the President of the country also allows this to happen. Let’s focus not on the other disgraceful operandi of Fidesz but what this is about.
    Yes, I do agree with the the various connections with Russians but that has very little to do wit the anti-Roma sentiments, except if you suggest that the Russians would not to business with Hungarians who not anti-Roma.

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  8. DevJoeHa :
    Some1: Ha, ha, I guess you succeeded in misundersting the very clear statements of both Turkmenbasi and ffw whatever. To any thinking Hungarian G. Sz. is most probably a former professional cooperator of the Hungarian security services and as such almost surely he had to have direct contacts to similar organisations ran by our Eastern brothers (insert well-known name). Moreover, as a separate but connected matter, it has been openly suspected by many that Jobbik is financed by foreign supporters who originate from such other Eastern-European country as there had been a strong and long opposition towards such other country and for whatever reason at one point they became and are still very friendly to them on all relevant policy points. One wonders why. As to Sz., I dont think he is handled by foreigners, he is probably a puppet of certain people around Orbán.

    Haha I think it is you who is misunderstood what the subject of this thread is. a-n-t-i R-o-m-a sentiments. What does that have to do with the secret service and the Jobbik being financed from wherever is beyond me. What does that have to do with Orban not stopping anti-semitism? I think you are stretching the truth a little to far or maybe “the thinking Hungarian” is not there.
    I was simply referring to the fact that this article tries to focus on the “Roma strategy”. Allowing Bayer or anyone else for that matter to continually go into anti-Roma rage (next to many other things) has nothing to do with the Russians. Orban simply could step up to plate and stop it. He choose to allow it. Ader as the President of the country also allows this to happen. Let’s focus not on the other disgraceful operandi of Fidesz but what this is about.
    Yes, I do agree with the the various connections with Russians but that has very little to do with the anti-Roma sentiments, except if you suggest that the Russians would not do business with Hungarians who not anti-Roma.

    At the end you are saying “One wonders why. As to Sz., I dont think he is handled by foreigners, he is probably a puppet of certain people around Orbán”. So after all you agree that it is Orban who allows the “anti” sentiments to go on. Are you a thinking Hungarian? I think, not.

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  9. The international news is not kind to Hungary (or its government) today. Anyone reading about Hungary would think it’s nothing but anti-semitism and racism running rampant.

    And in football news, FIFA have fined Hungary and banned any spectators from watching Hungary play World Cup qualifying games, after anti-semitic chanting against Israel in 2012.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/football/20951156

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  10. Bowen :
    The international news is not kind to Hungary (or its government) today. Anyone reading about Hungary would think it’s nothing but anti-semitism and racism running rampant.
    And in football news, FIFA have fined Hungary and banned any spectators from watching Hungary play World Cup qualifying games, after anti-semitic chanting against Israel in 2012.
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/football/20951156

    Thanks goodness!!!! If Orban and his buddies are not willing to do something about (and this has nothing to do with the “Eastern connections”), civilized organizations and the civilized International community will do something.

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  11. “Several foreign ministries are daily visitors of the site. Also many foreign newspapers. Brussels is also listening. So, I’m sure that this case will be noticed”.

    Dear Eva,
    Bayers speech literally made me feel like throwing up.
    So….thanks for this info…made me feel better. I am still rather disappointed with the lack of response from the EU.
    Mrs. Kroes:
    “In particular, I want to see immediate action ensuring the real independence of the Media Council; measures to reduce the excessive concentration of powers in the hand of the Media Council and better measures to ensure the effective independent functioning of publicly-funded media. Solutions can be found in co-operation with the Council of Europe – so let’s see them”.

    She talked about immediate action. This was posted in november. As far as I know it was completely ignored by the Hungarian government. But….well….no response, no next step from the EU either.

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  12. Dear Some1, with all due respect and without taking away DevJoeHa’s arguments, there is one important issue. The extreme right-wing voters do not just exist in an ether. People hold extreme-right wing ideas, hate romas, but if these individual persons do not act together or think that there are many of them out there and there are institutions who support them, such as Magyar Hírlap and buddies of Orbán, such as Bayer, then they will not be able to have much influence on politics. Conversely, politicians could not make much advantage of them, even if there are many of those people. In order to somehow take advantage of these voters spread round the country you need to organize them. Same problem with any political movement or ideology. How to make their voice heard in practice? If I was from the Fidesz I would be competing with Jobbik. Sure we could cooperate with Jobbik as well, but only based on our respective power positions. So first I need to take advantage of the extreme right voters and based on that result, I could talk to Jobbik. This is what Orbán does. Now, how do I compete for the extreme-right wing voters? Among others, I also set up, purchase and operate media, even at a loss, even if it does not make any economic sense whatsoever, even if people think I am crazy to do it. We are certainly not talking Fox news here which is a money making machine. How can I make sure that the such extreme right wing media outlet remains completely loyal to Orbán (although sometimes just to pretend independence they may criticize Orbán) and not, what would be logical, the pure right extreme right winger Jobbik? Well, as is Orbán’s wont, I would also make use of a network of people who already showed they can contribute and are completely reliable. I am not saying I condemn Sz. for what he probably did decades ago, after all he helped Hungary to survive unfairly restrictive trade rules, although it is a very interesting point which could not be studied until so far, how a group/well organized network of people with the right connections could transform these connections to economic, and based on that, later political power and influence. András Schiffer and the LMP would like to shed light on these connections and I believe they have a point. I also think that if most of these connections would be made public, people would learn and gain a lot, while the losses, if any, would be minimal.

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  13. Mutt January 7, 2013 at 9:05 pm | #11 Quote
    We should emphasize the responsibility of Gabor Szeles who is the majority owner of the Magyar Hirlap where Bayer publishes. Bayer would be only a garden variety little fascist maggot, like Bela Varga, if these people, like Szeles would not stand behind him. Szeles regularly defended Bayer time after time. He is his handler.
    If there will be lynchings in Hungary the blood will be on Szeles’ hands. He will be equally responsible.

    Turkmenbasi
    January 8, 2013 at 2:30 am | #12 Quote
    Mutt: “Szeles regularly defended Bayer time after time. He is his handler. ”
    Yes, and and the Russians are the handlers of Széles…
    ========================================================

    These analysis may proof that Orban is only a puppet. Some crooked oligarchs as well as theiir few foreign handlers will decide, and Orban is serving them loyally, or he is finished. This circus is hazardous to the well-being of Hungary,

    Nobody likes to be hostage. Many-many Hungarians are in self-denial, and will not admit being a hostage.

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  14. To Tappanch. And using Gábor Török’s logic.

    Why would Stefka backtrack? MH’s home page is sizzling hot and controversy only feeds exposure and new interest, and hopefully some of the new readers will stick.

    Plus, most importantly, the readers of Magyar Hirlap totally agree with Bayer, so there is no risk of losing readers. These readers want to fight, they are always in the mood to fight and and want to see resistence against “liberals and communists”, they would hate to see MH give in.

    In fact, MH may attract readers from kuruc.info. The defense of Bayer is simply a Pareto superior state.

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  15. Sabi33 :
    Dear Some1, with all due respect and without taking away DevJoeHa’s arguments, there is one important issue. The extreme right-wing voters do not just exist in an ether.

    Yes, I agree, but this discussion about how the anti-semitism, anti-gypsy sentiments could be stopped by Orban. THat is it. THe International community is not in the business to follow all of our private theories (and some facts) about how Orban gets his money, and why is he supporting trash, like Bayer.
    When we will the pages with our “why he does it” it takes away from the immediate message, which is the International community needs to act because Orban allows this environment to exist.
    THere were (and will be) plenty of threads on Orban’s and Fidesz finances. THere were posts about the paid extras on the MArch 15 celebration, and on the free trip to Budapest to participate in the Peace March. Everything has its place.
    WHat is happening here right now is like a murder trial when the everyone throws their opinion in about why the murder took place, and it goes on for 1000 pages. WHat I am suggesting is let’s concentrate on the crime that Orban allows to happen on this thread. I am not sure why is this to hard to understand. We had so many threads that were hijacked or sidetracked by small details that somehow had some connection to the original subject.
    I think Bayer comments and the support he gets from Orban, deserves to be focused on and not to be sidetracked with how the Jobbik, and such organizations get their financing.

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  16. tappanch :
    On January 9, 2013 the owner & chief editor of Magyar Hirlap (Mr Szeles & Mr Stefka)
    declared that condemnation of Bayer’s anti-gypsy article is a “post-communist witch-hunt”.
    http://www.magyarhirlap.hu/valasz-a-tamadasokra-frissitve

    I do not see any condemnation there. Are you connecting is to the right article? It is actually a support letter, a support to those who think that certain crimes (or suspicion) of certain crimes should be named as a crime committed by a demographical group. I think they mean, if s gipsy commits a crime, they are allowed to talk about gipsy crime, if they suspect a Jew to commit a crime, they are allowed to say Jewish conspiracy, if Orban steals and lies they have the right not to say a word about it. They can say what they want, but we can not name Bayer as an anti-semite or Magyar Hirlap as a garbage, that is left-liberal conspiracy.
    hahahaha Their own logic fails them.

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