Orbán’s attack on Angela Merkel and Germany

The big item in the Hungarian media today was an exchange between Chancellor Angela Merkel and Peer Steinbrück, her social democratic rival at the next German election. The scene was a yearly event called WDR Europaforum. WDR stands for Westdeutscher Rundfunk (West German Broadcasting), based in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. The program of this year’s forum is available on the Internet. In addition to Steinbrück and Merkel, such important European politicians as Guido Westervelle, German foreign minister; José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Union; and Wolfgang Schäuble, German minister of finance, attended.

It says a lot that Hungary came up at all at such a high-level gathering. But it did and in a country like Hungary, small and deeply divided politically, its very mention at such a forum brings immediate and sometimes violent reactions at home. Peer Steinbrück, who would like to have Angela Merkel’s job, criticized the chancellor for not being forceful enough regarding Hungary’s repeated violations of human rights and democratic principles. He urged a more aggressive policy instead of CDU’s shielding Viktor Orbán and Fidesz. He wouldn’t even exclude the possibility of Hungary’s exclusion from the European Union.

Merkel naturally defended her party’s handling of the Hungarian case and warned Steinbrück that “one shouldn’t send a whole cavalry to fight a war” that may end in exclusion because that way the European Union would have no influence whatsoever on Hungarian political developments. This way there is hope to persuade Viktor Orbán to change his ways. Foreign Minister Westervelle, a liberal, concurred.

Undersecretary Gergely Prőhle interpreted Merkel’s opinion as a sign that the German chancellor “rightly expects that Hungary will choose a European solution.”  On the other hand, Népszabadság emphasized that Merkel promised that her own party, CDU, will pay close attention to Hungarian politics and that “we must do everything to change the ways of our Hungarian friends.” The editors decided to give the following headline to the news about the Merkel-Steinbrück exchange: “Only because of the leash is Hungary not kicked out of the European Union,” which may not be the most accurate interpretation of what happened at the WDR Europaforum.

x-emborok.blog.hu

x-emborok.blog.hu

But let’s see what Viktor Orbán’s reaction was. This morning he had his customary weekly radio interview, if you can call the conversation between a subservient reporter and a dictatorial prime minister an interview. One would have thought that, like the spokesman for the Hungarian Foreign Ministry, Orbán would have been appreciative of Merkel’s defense of Hungary against her social democratic rival. But obviously Orbán’s interpretation was closer to that of Népszabadság. He read it as a threat to limit his government’s freedom of action. He most likely didn’t like the fact that Merkel, as chairman of the CDU, made a reference to her party’s insistence that Orbán not overstep the limits imposed on him by the country’s membership in the European Union.

Orbán decided to attack Merkel and Germany. He announced that “the Germans once sent the cavalry to Hungary in the form of tanks. So, our request is: don’t do it. It wasn’t a good idea then. It didn’t work out.”

Why was this attack necessary? After all, Merkel didn’t demand a cavalry attack on Hungary. Just the opposite. Moreover, why was it necessary to bring up the subject of Nazi German tanks? This was especially inappropriate from the prime minister of a country that was allied with Hitler’s Germany to the bitter end. The tanks came but there was no Hungarian resistance. All in all, it would have been better to have said nothing. I don’t know whether there will be any diplomatic fallout from this unfortunate couple of sentences, but I’m sure that the German embassy in Budapest already sent a note to Berlin reporting on Orbán’s interview.

For the edification of those who are not familiar with pro-Fidesz arguments and their tone, here is an excellent example of what Viktor Orbán has managed to achieve with his anti-European Union propaganda. The article appeared on the site of Civil Összefogás Fórum (CÖF), the so-called civic group that organized the peace marches and launched a vicious campaign against Gordon Bajnai. The author is Eszter Dunst, vice president of Women for the Hungarian Nation. Judging from its Facebook page, it’s not exactly a bustling organization.

Here are a few choice sentences from her “Dear Madame Merkel!” opinion piece. First, she tried to figure out what Merkel actually said in German about the EU’s influence on Hungary. Perhaps “auf den richtigen Weg bringen,” to which she answers, “No, thank you! Hungarians don’t allow themselves to be directed or to be driven. The Bolshevik times are over. Do you understand? Not by anyone. Not even by the Germans…. How dare you lecture us on democracy when you must thank us, Hungarians, for the unification of your country…. It was we who destroyed the iron curtain. So, what are you talking about? It is Viktor Orbán who is right and not you. You are not even fit to carry Mr. Orbán’s umbrella. … You ruined Europe twice and still come out victorious in all things. … But enough! Just because you are 80 million strong it is not at all sure that you are right. You once made such a mistake and it wasn’t even such a long time ago.* But now we are right! Do you understand? Because we have a statesman that can be born in Europe only every hundred years. Someone who thinks about the long term. Someone who understands the situation thirty years ahead. Someone who thinks in terms of nation against internationalism. … We fought in defense of Europe, dear Madame Merkel, for almost a thousand years, and it is worth knowing that the bell at noon time is rung not only for us but for Europe.** … For us Hungarians only our national anthem and the ringing of the bell at noon time remained. What is important: you have no right to direct us. You have no moral authority. Do you understand?”

This is, I think, an excellent example of what a large proportion of Hungarians think of the European Union, of Germany and the Germans, and of their own infallible leader. Orbán succeeded in turning these people against everything outside of Hungary. It will be a very difficult task for any future government to undo the damage Orbán has inflicted on his own people. And if an attack on Germany weren’t enough, it seems that Orbán’s government is beginning another assault, this time against the United States. But more on this tomorrow.

—–

*Clearly a reference to Hitler starting World War II.

**It is an urban legend that the noontime ringing of bells in Catholic churches was ordered by Calixtus III to commemorate the Battle of Belgrade (Nándorfehérvár) in July 1456. Actually the papal decision to add to the morning and evening bell ringing a third at noon was made three weeks before the victory of an international army led by János Hunyadi against the Ottoman forces. But once news of the victory reached Rome, the pope decided that the custom be “rebranded” to commemorate the victory at Belgrade.

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Klakker
Guest

Orbán did if for three reasons: (i) he knows he can get away with it, (ii) he is a bully and shows it whenever he can, and (iii) it is popular to (look as to though to be able to) stand up to the big guys. Another day in Hungary.

He will do it again. And again. That is his nature.

You can’t and should not expect anything else from him.

cheshire cat
Guest
This is a bit ridiculous. Merkel: We won’t kick Hungarians out of the EU. We won’t send in an army of horses. Orban: Last time they sent the horses, it was tanks. Don’t do it. What Orban said here simply doesn’t make sense. (Merkel says, “we won’t do it”, he says “don’t do it”. Horses were tanks etc.) My hunch is that he hadn’t read the Merkel interview properly if at all, hadn’t understood what it was about, and when he was asked about it, he just said the first thing that came to his mind about “sending in the army of horses”. I wouldn’t keep on analysing what he was referring to, St Stephen or WW2 etc. He wasn’t referring to anything. But of course, all this is important BECAUSE Eva is right: the fact that “what to do with Hungary” comes up in a pre-election discussion in Germany at all is significant. What Orban should have understood is that at the moment there are two alternatives: 1. Hungary is forced to restore democracy by diplomatic means (if Merkel is re-elected) or 2. is going to be kicked out (if the social democrats win). But this somehow escaped his… Read more »
cheshire cat
Guest

(But I doubt Merkel would be too bothered either way – Hungary is not the number 1 problem for Germany.)

Minusio
Guest

I’m flabbergasted! As there is no substance I can’t say more, except that Germany could smoke Hungary in a pipe if it weren’t for the FDIs. But as cheshire cat mentioned, Merkel won’t go sleepless because of an unbehaved strange third-rate country megalomaniac.

Kurwenal
Guest

Mr. Steinbrück is know in Germany for his strong and drastic words. When a time ago (he was the German minister of finance at that time) he wanted to express how much he dislikes that German taxpayers can transfer money to Switzerland and hide it there from German tax authorities he said that if Switzerland will continue to tolerate this practice “Germany should send the cavalry”. That word make a big scandal and this is what Angela Merkel in an ironic way was refering to when she said that the cavalry should not be send to Hungary when Hungary was now a next country attacked by Peer Steinbrück. It is needed to know that background for the right understanding of those sentences.

res13
Guest

The law-abiding segment of Hungarian population is negligible.
The rest is enjoying the self-destructing style of Orban.
Hungarians will readily enjoy the current good drama.
And are ready to commit national suicide for no good reason.
No one will have the last laugh?

Ms KKA
Guest

LOVE the picture…I think we should have a naming contest. I am submitting Super Hun and Viktor the (really, really, really) Terrible as my entries. First prize will be all expense paid vacation to the self-supporting, autonomous, industrially superior, pre-Trianon Kingdom of Hungary that Emperor OV presides over in his tiny, and very twisted, little mind.

JGrant
Guest
Dear Prof. Balogh! I enjoy your comments most of the time, but currently it is becoming a tad irritating how every idiotic and therefore totally predictable madness that OV puts out gets an amazed reaction from you. Please accept the following facts: 1. He is mentally ill. I am not writing this as a term of abuse, but as a statement of fact. Have you read the latest analysis from Molnár F. Árpád that is doing the rounds on the Internet to this effect? It is a mind blowing analysis of not only Orban’s but of a few other Fidesz leaders’ minds too. 2.The European Union and its leaders might be mightily displeased with Orban for their own reasons, but I feel it is completely naive to expect them to rock the boat too much for at least a coupe of reasons. a) they have their own problems at home b) should the boat start rocking too heavily they themselves might also find being dropped into the mire, so they are vary cautious indeed. 3. In the final analysis the only people who can get rid of Orban are the Hungarians. That will happen sooner or later I am absolutely… Read more »
Stevan Harnad (@AmSciForum)
Guest

JGrant :
Dear Prof. Balogh! I enjoy your comments most of the time, but currently it is becoming a tad irritating how every idiotic and therefore totally predictable madness that OV puts out gets an amazed reaction

Professor Balogh is performing an immensely important, indeed historic service, both to the outside world, and to Hungary, by relentlessly chronicling the day to day decompensation of Hungary, as its dragged down by the “statesman that can be born in Europe only every hundred years.”

We can only be grateful that such statesmen are not born more often.

I believe Hungarian Spectrum is becoming more and more important every day, and it is thanks to Professor Balogh, whose likes are born even more rarely.

Stevan Harnad (@AmSciForum)
Guest

it’s

Guest

That “letter to Mrs Merkel” by Eszter Dunst is hilarious – straight out of the notebook of some North Korean school girl!

In German we use the word “Personenkult” – it was Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Castro, Chavez and now it’s Orbán …

Jgrant has said it clearly, but it still is important to document what’s going on in Hungary and in the minds of these Fidesz loonies.

forintshorter
Guest

Kurwenal :Mr. Steinbrück is know in Germany for his strong and drastic words. When a time ago (he was the German minister of finance at that time) he wanted to express how much he dislikes that German taxpayers can transfer money to Switzerland and hide it there from German tax authorities he said that if Switzerland will continue to tolerate this practice “Germany should send the cavalry”. That word make a big scandal and this is what Angela Merkel in an ironic way was refering to when she said that the cavalry should not be send to Hungary when Hungary was now a next country attacked by Peer Steinbrück. It is needed to know that background for the right understanding of those sentences.

forintshorter
Guest

Kurwenal :Mr. Steinbrück is know in Germany for his strong and drastic words. When a time ago (he was the German minister of finance at that time) he wanted to express how much he dislikes that German taxpayers can transfer money to Switzerland and hide it there from German tax authorities he said that if Switzerland will continue to tolerate this practice “Germany should send the cavalry”. That word make a big scandal and this is what Angela Merkel in an ironic way was refering to when she said that the cavalry should not be send to Hungary when Hungary was now a next country attacked by Peer Steinbrück. It is needed to know that background for the right understanding of those sentences.

Steinbrück says exactly (In my translation): “The cavalry at Fort Yuma don’t have to ride out everytime. Sometimes it’s enough, if the indians know about their existence”

tappanch
Guest

Saturday’s news.

The big:
Fidesz plans to eliminate state support to political parties.

The budget will save a paltry 2 billion HUF a year, but the opposition parties will have no money to campaign in the 2014 election. Fidesz, on the other hand is awash with money – I do not list the schemes here.

http://mno.hu/magyar_nemzet_belfoldi_hirei/jovore-a-partokon-is-sporolnak-1161655

The petty:
The Fidesz government wants to take away the Margit Island from the only opposition-led local government of Budapest (district 13.)

http://hvg.hu/itthon/20130518_Torvennyel_vennek_el_a_XIII_kerulettol_a

I am sure its oligarchs have already started salivating how to privatize parts of the island down the road.

Wondercat
Guest

Sinngemaess hat der deutsche Minister gesagt, man muesse die Kavallerie nicht ausreiten lassen; die Indianer muessten nur wissen, dass es die Kavallerie gibt.

Of course the Swiss did not care to be referred to as redskins — nor to have the possibility of blacklisting brandished at them for their financial jiggery-pokery.

Highly unlikely that OV was familiar with any of this background; but by now it will have been explained to him, including the fact that, yes, he and Fidesz are, for Germany, noch ein aufmuepfiges Pack von Rothaeuten, das eingescheucht gehoert.

Minusio
Guest

Eva S. Balogh :
JGrant: “I enjoy your comments most of the time, but currently it is becoming a tad irritating how every idiotic and therefore totally predictable madness that OV puts out gets an amazed reaction from you.”
Perhaps for you who knows the situation very well it might be boring or even irritating. However, I think it is important to chronicle of Viktor Orbán’s doings. Spectrum is partly for an audience that might not be so well informed than you.

I, for one, highly appreciate what you are doing, Éva! If you read German, you have also Pester Lloyd and Pusztaranger to get information from. But discussions there are much less frequent and intellectually mostly on a lower level. – BTW, where is Paul?

But for English speakers, “nothing compares to you”! Of all the sources I know (and can read), yours is the only one that includes some in-depth research.

Keep up this important work!

Deak Ferenc
Guest

Actually, my one problem with Eva’s column is that, given what’s going on and the number of different angles of attack, it’s not biting enough. There is so much more that both the local and the international community could be doing with the sheer number and (atrocious) quality of the betises/pratfalls/wrongdoings/wrongfootings/rants that Fidesz and its fellow travellers keep throwing up. But just like the criticisms often levelled at Népszabadság – windy, dull, involved editorializing within a closed circle of mutual admirers and sympathizers – I fear that the instincts and attitudes of Hungarians of the centre and further left remain stuck in the 1970s. The low volume of Twitter usage in Hungary says a lot about the place. Hungary’s opposition needs more of a killer instinct.

Minusio
Guest
@ Deak Ferenc. Éva’s is a blog maintained by a distinguished Yale historian. If you want more “bite” go to Pester Lloyd. “Hungary’s opposition needs more of a killer instinct.” You said it. They’ll muck it up. To me the next elections – if there are any – are already “won” by Orbán. But that’s not Éva’s fault. If you have a Hungarian passport, go and join Hungarian politics. The first task would be to “unsmear” Ferenc Gyurcsány because he is the only political head in Hungary who knows what he is talking about. Baijnai is a nice and knowledgeable guy, but he is no politician – and never wanted to be one. Interestingly, almost all ex-USSR satellites ended up in polarisation. All of them (Slovakia, Poland, Czechia) lost a lot of time during this period. But they found their way back into something close to the European mainstream. Only Hungary managed to let an uneducated megalomaniac take over the whole country and change it into an autocracy worse than Belarus that cannot possibly change back into a democracy by peaceful means. [Belarus is more brutal as it is, but the legal situation is much worse in Hungary.] Do something… Read more »
rrres13
Guest

Besides documenting the top echelon’s sins, somebody must explore the weird mind of the ordinary Hungarians.

Who is the supporter of the eternal oppressors?
Who is capable to resist their propaganda?
Who will fight for the disappearing freedom?

Minusio
Guest
@ rrres13. “Who is the supporter of the eternal oppressors?” Everybody by doing nothing to stop it. “Who is capable to resist their propaganda?” Small groups in Budapest and some of the smaller towns. But none of them have reached a “critical mass” to really make a difference. “Who will fight for the disappearing freedom?” Some Budapest intellectuals, many of them Jews, until they emigrate. Klubradio, ATV, galamus, That’s almost it. You know, like every regime, Orbánistan won’t last forever. But it will last longer than most people can imagine. Some of the youngsters have had this gut feeling and emigrated (more than half a million since Orbán took over). As soon as their kids go to school abroad and are integrated, they won’t come back. So Hungary is losing the smartest and the brightest by the thousands every month. A failed state? There is is one very unlikely possibility to unseat Orbán. The Hungarian economy is a dual economy – domestic and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). The domestic part is shrinking by the day. The FDI-driven one makes the statistics look quite ok. If by chance a wave of well organised, voiceful demonstrations would take place at the many… Read more »
Member

Fidesz Law Factory works on weekends too:

1.
Fidesz does not want by-elections after September 1, 2013.

They will modify the election laws again next week, for the 4th[? who counts?] time since 2010.

http://www.parlament.hu/irom39/11200/11200.pdf

2.
Here is the submitted law to take away Margit Island from district 13.

http://www.parlament.hu/irom39/11210/11210.pdf

Paragraphs 9 to 12 create a new type of territorial unit to be administered directly by Fidesz’s good friend Tarlos and shrink the territory of district 13.

petofi
Guest

A clue to the future in Hungary:

(From the Economist)
“As economic growth and support for Mr. Putin have both declined, anti Americanism has been racheted up. The spy story coincides with a search for enemies within…”

So, we have anti-EUism; anti-Germanism; anti-Americanism….can the search for “enemies within”
be far behind?

Fun and games retro-style.

Stevan Harnad (@AmSciForum)
Guest

RIGHTEOUS INDIGNATION IN THE CARPATHIAN BASEMENT

Viktor Orban and Fidesz are apparently much quicker to take offence at being called bigots than they are to take action — or even a stance — against those who are actually fomenting and practising bigotry, such as neo-nazi Jobbik party MPs like M. Gyongyosi, the one who called for the list in parliament, and Fidesz co-founder, Orban buddy,”Peace” rally organizer and rabid racist, Zs Bayer.

If bigotry is repugnant, then scruple-free opportunism, ready to court and appease racist voters and sentiments and to stoke up collective national persecution complexes, defensiveness and self-pity under the guise of patriotism instead of governing decently and democratically, is just as repugnant, and culpable.

And on top of that, Fidesz media- and mentality-control — along with flagrant abuses of its supermajority law-manipulating power — is allowing the current Hungarian government to successfully practice sleaze and pork-barreling with impunity to a mind-numbing degree.

http://www.politics.hu/20130518/demands-for-apology-from-european-parliament-president-schulz-over-charges-of-anti-semitism-in-hungary/

Minusio
Guest

@ tappanch. I admire your quick, relevant fact finding!

Laci8
Guest
Orbán will win with a landslide in 2014 and will lough heartily with pals Bayer, Áder, Győri Tibor, Némethné etc. because even O. does not have a similar power within the US (even though he can hold anybody prisoner for as long as he wishes, only Putin has it in Russia, but nobody from any EU country). He is simply the most powerful politician in Europe (within his country) in the last 60 years certainly, and that makes him tick. Fidesz politicians are happy too if they are thrown out of the EU, which of course will never happen. There is simply no way to force them to behave any differently.. Until the Bibo-college mafia retires (at earliest within 10-15 years time, when Orbán’s fraternity gets to be a bit too old for politics, although that is relative too, see Berlusconi) they will exercise power, even from opposition, as they do it now. Rogán and Lázár, tough and ruthless as they are, simply do not have the natural fraternal connections in a way the Orbán-led lawyers’ mafia has (whether over the courts, prosecution, local municipalities like Debrecen). They would have to exercise power in a somewhat different way and this… Read more »
petofi
Guest

@ Laci8

Orban politics will stay in Hungary as long as he wants because he has discovered what the average Hungarian wants more than anything…and feeds them ‘it’ regularly. The IT is HATRED, and he doles it out masterfully. And the dopey Hungarians–somnambulant as they are–react to what, pavlovian-like–they have been taught by the good Catholic church fathers for centuries.

So, forget about nonsense like ‘new policies’, reduced utility costs, noticeable pension increases….and the like. They matter not. Simply put, the Hungarians want ‘red meat’ they can chew on with the blessings of their masters. They’ve got that now.

Member

@Minusio – welcome back, I hope you are doing OK!

Another new measure: no foreign entity or person can give money to Hungarian parties, from January 1, 2014.

Since the distribution of Hungarian funds is completely in Fidesz hands, the elections will be absolutely unfair.

Member

http://www.parlament.hu/irom39/11191/11191.pdf

Paragraph 13 (1) 4 (3)
No party can accept contributions from another state, or from a foreign legal or natural person or from anonymous sources.

Paragraph 13 (1) 4 (4)
If they take such funds it will be confiscated. In addition, the same amount will be subtracted from their allotted Hungarian state campaign fund.

***************
Isn’t this another violation of the EU charter?

Minusio
Guest

@ tappanch. Yes, thank you, I’m fine. I had a complicated eye operation which went very well. This is one of the times I really love to live in Switzerland – although most of the good doctors are Germans nowadays.

If you re-read what I wrote about Orbán pre-2010, you will find everything that has unfolded since then – and is going on until the bitter end (which is nowhere near yet).

Kirsten
Guest
Cheshire cat: “My hunch is that he hadn’t read the Merkel interview properly if at all.” Perhaps he has been told something different by Angela Merkel when they spoke in private during his visits to Berlin and could not imagine that she would ask for more patience with him (to some extent) in an internal German debate. It is very unlikely that the German Social Democrats would initiate a European process to the exclusion of some country due to dubious democratic standards. Robert Fico was also defended by his “colleagues”. Stop financing dubious project, that sounds good but suspending Hungarian EU membership is not helping anybody. I also very much doubt that Hungary is approaching standards of Belarus. It is this drama, in which also Petöfi excels (” The IT is HATRED, and he doles it out masterfully. And the dopey Hungarians–somnambulant as they are–react to what, pavlovian-like–they have been taught by the good Catholic church fathers for centuries.”), that makes matters worse, not some “genetic hatred”. OV is considered specifically ruthless, which he APPEARS only because people have collectively decided that they will consider him so powerful. No matter how “correct” the assessment of Laci may seem, people should… Read more »
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