President János Áder’s visit to Berlin and the “stormy meetings” with German politicians

MTI, the Hungarian news agency, by now completely under the thumb of the Orbán government, makes sure that Hungarians get mighty little foreign news about their country. A good example is MTI’s coverage of President János Áder’s visit to Berlin. The news agency filed four reports on Áder’s visits to Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle and Chancellor Angela Merkel. All four are basically descriptions of what Áder himself told MTI’s reporter with the exception of one sentence that was based on information received from the spokesman of the German foreign ministry.

According to MTI’s story, Áder talked about the excellent German-Hungarian economic relations and as an afterthought mentioned that Angela Merkel would like to see more “legal security.” As far as his conversation with Guido Westerwelle was concerned, Áder concentrated on his efforts to explain to the German foreign minister that the latter’s knowledge of the Hungarian constitution and its amendments are wanting. He tried “to fill this hiatus.” When a newspaperman asked him about possible friction between the two countries due to the controversy over the latest changes introduced into the Hungarian constitution, Áder minimized the differences between Westerwelle and himself. Differences of opinion are natural. For example, Germany is against the entry of Romania and Bulgaria to the Schengen Area while Hungary supports it. Of course, this is not what the reporter was interested in.

Angela Merkel with János Áder in Berlin / parameter.sk

Angela Merkel with János Áder in Berlin / parameter.sk

So, what was the sole sentence uttered by the spokesman of the German foreign ministry that MTI found important enough to include in its report? The topics discussed included the Hungarian constitution. The discussion was frank (nyílt) and during the discussion “rather contradictory” (meglehetősen ellentmondó) opinions were expressed. Here we have to stop a bit because the Hungarian version doesn’t make a lot of sense. Népszabadság, which used the MTI report, didn’t know what it could possibly mean and tried to improve on it by calling it “meglehetősen ellentmondásos.” But the original German is a great deal stronger and straightforward: “it was an open and in parts quite adversarial meeting” (gab es einen offenen und in Teilen durchaus kontroversen Meinungsaustausch). All in all, the true nature of this meeting couldn’t possibly be grasped by someone who has to rely on the news as it is presented to all newspapers via MTI.

So, let’s see what other news agencies made of the story. According to Reuters, Áder’s meeting with Westerwelle was “stormy.” The foreign minister “could not hide his concern at the way Orban and his government were operating.” However, the article in Reuter’s continues, there may be frustration and denunciation, but “there is little the European Union can do with any alacrity and immediacy that might make the mercurial Orban sit up and listen.” The reporter outlines the various possibilities open to the European Commission. It can launch an infringement proceeding, but that might take as long as a year. Moreover, “to prove that they’ve breached a law is very difficult.”

Here we may turn to an article that appeared in Népszabadság after the reporter, Károly Lencsés, had a chance to talk to some Hungarian experts on international law. They think that Article 2 of the Lisbon Treaty might be a good point of departure. So, let’s see what this Article 2 is all about:

Article 2 TFEU
1. When the Treaties confer on the Union exclusive competence in a specific area, only the Union may legislate and adopt legally binding acts, the Member States being able to do so themselves only if so empowered by the Union or for the implementation of Union acts.

2. When the Treaties confer on the Union a competence shared with the Member States in a specific area, the Union and the Member States may legislate and adopt legally binding acts in that area. The Member States shall exercise their competence to the extent that the Union has not exercised its competence. The Member States shall again exercise their competence to the extent that the Union has decided to cease exercising its competence.

3. The Member States shall coordinate their economic and employment policies within arrangements as determined by this Treaty, which the Union shall have competence to provide.
4. The Union shall have competence, in accordance with the provisions of the Treaty on European Union, to define and implement a common foreign and security policy, including the progressive framing of a common defence policy.

5. In certain areas and under the conditions laid down in the Treaties, the Union shall have competence to carry out actions to support, coordinate or supplement the actions of the Member States, without thereby superseding their competence in these areas.
Legally binding acts of the Union adopted on the basis of the provisions of the Treaties relating to these areas shall not entail harmonisation of Member States’ laws or regulations.

6. The scope of and arrangements for exercising the Union’s competences shall be determined by the provisions of the Treaties relating to each area.

There is also a lot of talk about the famous Article 7 that could under special circumstances suspend certain rights, including voting rights in case of a breach of Article 2. However, almost everybody agrees that such an outcome in Hungary’s case is highly unlikely. Here is the text of Article 7 of the Lisbon Treaty:

1. On a reasoned proposal by one third of the Member States, by the European Parliament or by the European Commission, the Council, acting by a majority of four fifths of its members after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament, may determine that there is a clear risk of a serious breach by a Member State of the values referred to in Article 2. Before making such a determination, the Council shall hear the Member State in question and may address recommendations to it, acting in accordance with the same procedure. The Council shall regularly verify that the grounds on which such a determination was made continue to apply.

2. The European Council, acting by unanimity on a proposal by one third of the Member States or by the European Commission and after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament, may determine the existence of a serious and persistent breach by a Member State of the values referred to in Article 2 after inviting the Member State in question to submit its observations.

3. Where a determination under paragraph 2 has been made, the Council, acting by a qualified majority, may decide to suspend certain of the rights deriving from the application of the Treaties to the Member State in question, including the voting rights of the representative of the government of that Member State in the Council. In doing so, the Council shall take into account the possible consequences of such a suspension on the rights and obligations of natural and legal persons.

The obligations of the Member State in question under the Treaties shall in any case continue to be binding on that State.

4. The Council, acting by a qualified majority, may decide subsequently to vary or revoke measures taken under paragraph 3 in response to changes in the situation which led to their being imposed.

5. The voting arrangements applying to the European Parliament, the European Council and the Council for the purposes of this Article are laid down in Article 354of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

No wonder that the headline of the Reuter’s article is “EU sweats over how to bring Hungary into line.” This point is also addressed by Jan-Werner Mueller, professor of politics at Princeton University in his latest article in The Guardian. In his opinion the EU should create an institution that would systematically monitor democracy and the rule of law in all member states. Since there is something on the books called “Copenhagen criteria,” which are the rules that define whether a country is eligible to join the European Union, this new EU watchdog could be called the “Copenhagen Commission.” An excellent idea. I hope the European Union will listen.

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Candy
Guest

Agree, the media coverage, especially as all media just reposted what MTI wrote, was terribly subpar. It is ridiculous that there is no editorial check on an MTI news, when all news organisations know exactly that you just can’t trust the national press agency.

Otherwise sounds like Áder is a nice soldier of the NER (System of National Cooperation), “the system of the government” that was introduced and named by Orbán when he took over (with posters hanged in each and every state office from rural municipalities to the Competition Office).

It’s not checks and balances, that is for losers, it’s finally about cooperation. That is, as told and wanted by the chief cooperator.

Áder is a die-hard Fidesz trooper, he is exactly the same as Orbán, 100% loyal to the cause.

Merkel is cool, I mean she doesn’t give a rat’s ass if these idiots (ie. us) want to destroy themselves. She knows there is no medicine for stupidiy.

Member

Ader, a member of Orban’s circle of omerta, announced a few minutes ago that he will sign the mega-amendment creating the unfettered power of the circle called Fidesz.

Hungary has become the dictatorship of a clique with the real ideology of the mob.

Koc
Guest

The important issue is not to delude ourselves. Poeple here and on various blogs expressed that Áder was such a gentleman etc.

You guys don’t get it.

These agressive lawyerly folks are the same.

They will never back down and never retreat and never make any compromises. They learnt that they don’t have to. The other side always blinks.

Only losers (like MSZP, Gyurcsány, or Bajnai) will enter into comprmises and they are winners. They don’t accept the slightest doubt that they may not be right.

The look down on weakness such as being open to compromises because they attrubute that to the lightness of Western or westernised (to which urban Hungarians aspire to) way of life.

They know that the West (Western Europe) never cared for Hungary (or for anybody else) so now all this proffered toughness is all just acting and for show. Any you know what, they are right. We need a much tougher and musch smarter opposition.

Paul
Guest

“An excellent idea. I hope the European Union will listen.”

Indeed. It’s hard to believe that such a body doesn’t already exist.

Here we have a union of countries based on the assumption that all member countries will behave in a certain way, and yet there is no way of monitoring this and no realistic sanctions against any country not following the rules.

I can’t think of another situation where this applies. Any association (etc) that you or your company, football club, gardening club, political party, etc join will fine you for not following the rules, and ultimately kick you out if you don’t behave.

But not the EU.

Guest

I still remember (vaguely …) the troubles with Austria when the (in)famous loonie Haider’s party FPÖ was supposed to become part of the government – the EU reacted and in the end the FPÖ lost and Haider was dead …

Some “constipation theorists” (my trademark) claim that he was murdered – and that he wasn’t a closet gay, of course, that was all the work of some unknown secret agency.

Maybe the same agency could do something with those Fidesz crazies ?

Member

Ader’s ridiculous reasoning in the original:

To summarize:
If I do not sign this mega-amendment, there would be chaos in the country

http://keh.hu/elnoki_nyilatkozatok/1727-Elnoki_nyilatkozat_az_Alaptorveny_negyedik_modositasarol

Member

I wonder in what language they were communicating?

Here is the evergreen about Ader’s language skills.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1qRpLY14lkU

Aaa, aaa, … What did you expect from this ass? Only the Fidesz.

10 11 12 14 15 16 17 the same
Guest
10 11 12 14 15 16 17 the same

I could not get worse.
This is not horthy land.
This is Milosevic land.

Paul
Guest

So, a summary of where we are then:

Orban has won. No one could stop him, no one did stop him, no one can stop him.

The only alternative (albeit unlikely) I can see to years more of the same is blood on the streets – but either way, the future for Hungary is pretty bloody bleak.

Kim Lane Scheppele
Guest
Two small additions to Eva’s as-usual-wonderful essay of the day. My colleague Jan-Werner Mueller is actually a professor rather than an assistant professor and you can find his whole proposal for a ‘Copenhagen Commission’ here: http://www.transatlanticacademy.org/publications/safeguarding-democracy-inside-eu-brussels-and-future-liberal-order . And while Eva has done a heroic reading of Art. 2 of the TFEU (Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union), my guess is that Art. 2 of the TEU (Treaty of the European Union) will make for a stronger basis for an action against Hungary: Article 2 The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These values are common to the Member States in a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail. Until two weeks ago, it was considered politically impossible to use Art 7 against Hungary to remove its voting rights in the Council (which is the body of the EU in which states vote as states) as a sanction for violating Art 2 TEU. But there have been a great many calls both from fraction leaders within… Read more »
petofi
Guest

Let’s put a positive twist on things: all civilized EU members should give thanks for Greece and Hungary for highlighting problems that need severe, legal remedies for the EU partnership to work. This realization might’ve taken years to come about otherwise…

kmno
Guest
To prof Scheppele: they will be fooled again. Make no mistake. (I mean the approved concessions given so far are so absolutely, utterly meaningless that it’s almost crazy. Orbán and co. can’t belive their luck and the weakness of their counterparties and that really encouraged them to be bolder this time). I absoluetly respect prof. Scheppele’s continued and tireless interest in what happens in Hungary. But it is not a coincidence that she is prcatically the only American legal scholar to do so. Hungary is a completely irrelevant place. And no Western politican has any interest in our case, in fact they could not care less. Even if they would care, Orbán’s votes are necessary in the EU Parliament and perhaps from time to time also in the Council. Orbán and co. know these exactly and use them. And why not? Noone’s gonna stop them. Btw I just read this yeasterday, but so true. Recommended about politics (intvw with Barney Frank): “I believe very strongly that people on the left are too prone to do things that are emotionally satisfying and not politically useful. I have a rule, and it’s true of Occupy, it’s true of the gay-rights movement: If… Read more »
FRan
Guest

I guess Hungary can be a nice case study like the case studies at Harvard Business School or a kind of war game how to change the legal system completely in a formally legal manner.

The disconnect between the weak and unsuspecting and generous left and the agressive, strategic, loyal right is so big, it is insane.

Just yesterday (while people were preoccupied with the pope) Fidesz completely changed the Energy Office’s (the agency with the right to set utility prices and utility companies) competence. Among others, judicial review will be limited to the (12 Fidesz-appointed out of the 15 members of the) Constitutional Court, the head and 5 deputies will be further entrechned etc. When could an MSZP or Bajnai put together and execute such a legsilative amendment in 3 days? I know them, they would be bogged down in endless debates about shoould it be 5 years or 7 years? Meanwhile Fidesz gave the order to draft the text in 1-2 days, then decided, then executed. Áder will sign tomorrow and the law will be effective immediately. End of story.

Guest

The U.S. Helsinki Commission, chaired by Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ), will be holding a hearing next week on “The Trajectory of Democracy – Why Hungary Matters”. Dr. Kim Lane Scheppele of Princeton, Sylvana Habdank-Kołaczkowska of Freedom House, and Dr. Paul Shapiro of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum will be testifying.

This just came up on my Facebook page. Not clear whether the public is permitted.

Guest

kmno: “Orbán and co. can’t belive their luck and the weakness of their counterparties and that really encouraged them to be bolder this time.”

True. Reminds me of Hitler. Anschluss of Austria. Invasion of Czechoslovakia. Invasion of Poland. Invasion of Denmark and Norway. Attack on France. He never met significant resistance, grew bolder every time and became more popular in Germany than any German had ever been. No wonder that he thought he could get away with anything. It turned out that he couldn’t. He blew it all by Operation Barbarossa, the attack on the Soviet Union.

The Mega amendment may turn out to be Orbán’s Operation Barbarossa.

Member
They will male concession, they always did. THe problem is that each time some “improvement” is made the EU claps its hand like the little Jolly Chimp, and that is that. Why there is some big stink is being raised and everyone s focused on those, Fidesz pusher dozens of other stinky laws and actions into force. THey will change the law… big freaking deal, as all the judaical, the constitutional court, the media authority, and soon all the governing of high schools and universities are staffed and stuffed with their own people. They are drowning out the dissent by shutting down opposition voices, making impossible for the opposition even to advertise or publish public service announcement, and they are installing fear in possible demonstrators by dragging them in front of the courts, arresting them, and threatening them with the presence of football hooligans. …and we did not see nothing yet, as the election campaign did not even start yet. If anyone can say that Hungary have “Free Election” is either a liar, a fool, or a Fidesz Trooper (maybe all). Free election only possible when all people have access to all information, and all legitimate parties have equal access… Read more »
Trent
Guest
Jean P :kmno: “Orbán and co. can’t belive their luck and the weakness of their counterparties and that really encouraged them to be bolder this time.” True. Reminds me of Hitler. Anschluss of Austria. Invasion of Czechoslovakia. Invasion of Poland. Invasion of Denmark and Norway. Attack on France. He never met significant resistance, grew bolder every time and became more popular in Germany than any German had ever been. No wonder that he thought he could get away with anything. It turned out that he couldn’t. He blew it all by Operation Barbarossa, the attack on the Soviet Union. The Mega amendment may turn out to be Orbán’s Operation Barbarossa. I guess, more like Mugabe and will stay for 30 more years. (In addition, Orbán will stay on as head of Fidesz even in opposition, and at least his bunch can have a somewhat less stressful 1-2 years, until they get back with a vengeance. Or Lázár, his heir apparent, would not be any better, he as agressive and tough lawyer as Orbán). Try to suppress optimism, I guess this is an evolutionary thing to be always optimistic: there is no cause for any optimism whatsoever. The Western, liberal, leftist… Read more »
Glanp
Guest

Another gem.

Being member of MSZMP (the communist party prior to 1990) or KISZ (the communist youth organisation) members would be deemed a national security risk.

I guess the lawyers – always the lawyers (of which MSZP and Bajnai have none but Fidesz has dozens) – have a very creative mind: how to prevent MSZP/Bajnai (himself a former KISZ member) politicians from forming a government?

Such politicians will have to be deemed by law a national security risk by the national security services. And certainly their background would be checked even more thoroughly – with the reports sent right away to László Kövér (the hardliner Fidesz politician shadow head of national security in Hungary).

Well, the voters voted, but they can’t expect to have a government full of natinal securiyt risks, can they?

Fidesz has an infinitie capacity to set up such rules and they are completely unscrupulous.

They can’t govern (make policy), but are a genious in such laws and structures.

http://index.hu/belfold/2013/03/14/nemzetbiztonsagi_kockazatnak_szamithat_az_mszmp-tagsag/

Guest
Editorial in today’s Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/viktor-orbans-hungarian-power-grab/2013/03/13/63ead954-8b41-11e2-b63f-f53fb9f2fcb4_story.html Viktor Orbán’s Hungarian power grab HUNGARIAN PRIME Minister Viktor Orbán triggered alarm bells around Europe in 2011 when he used a two-thirds majority in parliament to push through a series of measures that concentrated political power, weakened checks and balances and restricted the freedom of the media, religious groups and minorities. Under pressure from the European Union, which Hungary joined in 2004, and from the United States, which shepherded Hungary into NATO, Mr. Orbán backed down a little, modifying measures on the media and courts; at the same time, Hungary’s constitutional court struck down several other laws. Now Mr. Orbán, a right-wing populist, has attracted more red flags. He recently appointed a close aide as head of the central bank, one of the few remaining independent institutions, triggering a run on the Hungarian currency. Then on Monday the parliament passed extensive new amendments to the constitution Mr. Orbán introduced only a year ago, ignoring explicit warnings from E.U. leaders. The State Department said the revisions “could threaten the principles of institutional independence and checks and balances that are the hallmark of democratic governance.” In Europe there have been calls for Hungary to be stripped… Read more »
Member

Glanp :
Another gem.
Being member of MSZMP (the communist party prior to 1990) or KISZ (the communist youth organisation) members would be deemed a national security risk.

So, does that mean that Orban has to resign? Matolcsy finally can retire, as you can imagine wit this III/3 background at the ex-communist party how will he filter out the MNB’s money to to communist China. Janos Martonyi the ex-KISZ secretary can start looking for a new job too. Kover who was MSZMP member and KISZ secretary will have a hard job to kick himself out, but I am sure he will do a good job in the interest of the country. WHat will happen with Fidesz? I heard that that the cleaning lady never had time to sign up for any party, as she always worked, so I guess she will be the one who will run Fidesz and become the Prime Minister from next week.

Tilla
Guest

Some1: C’mon. Obviously it will be used selectively. What a surprise. It does not matter that there is a contradiction (re Martonyi, Kövér etc.) as the best defense is the offense. It’s not a rational argument. The communists are bad and post-communists are also very-very bad (the worst are the liberals, though).

KISZ members (Bajnai) are a meance to society!!! Can’t let that happen!!!!

Member

Tilla :
Some1: C’mon. Obviously it will be used selectively. What a surprise. It does not matter that there is a contradiction (re Martonyi, Kövér etc.) as the best defense is the offense. It’s not a rational argument. The communists are bad and post-communists are also very-very bad (the worst are the liberals, though).
KISZ members (Bajnai) are a meance to society!!! Can’t let that happen!!!!

Well, the kicker is this. Bajnai wasn’t EVER a member of the KISZ or any MSZxx parties.

Tilla
Guest

Whatever. Sorry. Gyurcsany was, though. And exact details (like professionalism) are a bolshevik trick anyway (said the late István Csurka, or not).

Member

“Tilla on March 14, 2013 at 10:07 am
Whatever. Sorry. Gyurcsany was, though. And exact details (like professionalism) are a bolshevik trick anyway (said the late István Csurka, or not).”
Csurka certainly knew. He was a III/3 agent for the communist party.

Guest

Trent: ”You have no idea how powerful the conservative organisations, like churches these days.”

Even a powerful conservative church may change when its leadership is changed. The new pope has said something which gives a small glimpse of hope:

““The laws, and first of all the Constitution, are made to be obeyed and not to be modified for personal and party political reasons.” Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, since Wednesday Pope Francis I, to the Argentinean president Cristina Kirchner in reference to an attempted change of the Constitution, that would allow her a third term.”

My translation from German. (Hardly the original language).

Source: http://www.pesterlloyd.net/html/1311einmanndemokratie.html

sebt
Guest
Trent : To supress the power of these conservative networks (who are fed billions in taxpayers money) will take decades… I got a chilling echo of your comment when I came across a Guardian article from 2009, written by a certain Viktor Orbán: Instead, the new strategy was to sideline the issue of political power. Rather than attacking communist rule directly, we would create small islands of freedom, interconnected social circles and associations, which, when the moment came, could all be connected to change the system (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/jun/14/hungary-communism-europe) Here Orbán is bragging about his pivotal role in bringing down communism in 1989. But if you substitute “the rule of law” for “communist rule”, what Orbán wrote back then looks like a precise description of what he’s doing now he has power. And perhaps the methods are the same. I find it amazing that he’s managing to do this by still banging the drum of “Hungary being still under control of the communists/ex-communists”. Pot calling the kettle black. So it’s good to hear about the occupiers reading out the (original) Fidesz manifesto the other day! The article that I was actually searching for: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/mar/11/hungary-power-grab-eu-role has comments bogged down by interminable anti-EU arguments,… Read more »
Gardonista
Guest

Tilla :
Some1: C’mon. Obviously it will be used selectively.

It’s pretty obvious how they want to use the new amendment- it’s worth reading, if you bring a bucket. Here’s Article 5(5):
“The exercise of one’s right to free speech cannot be aimed at violating the dignity of the
Hungarian nation or the dignity of any national, ethnic, or religious minority group.”

Of course, I think Orban has violated the dignity of the Hungarian nation, but somehow I don’t think I will be chosen to make that determination.

Guest

Google search not helpful, so I have to ask: what is a III/3 Communist agent?
Thanks!

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