Hungarians are not happy with the Putin-Orbán agreement on the Paks reactors

Well, it seems that for perhaps the first time in almost four years Viktor Orbán may be running into serious political difficulties on at least two counts. One is the government’s handling of the Memorial Holocaust Year, which has caused an international outcry by Jewish organizations as well as historians of the period. The second is his decision to make a deal with Vladimir Putin for the Russian state-company Rosatom to build two new nuclear reactors in Paks.

The Russian government will provide a loan of 10 billion euros which Hungary will have to pay back in thirty years. Although we know nothing of the details, we are supposed to believe János Lázár’s claim that the agreement just signed in total secret “is the business deal of the century.” In fact, the deal was so secretive that even László Kövér learned about it only after the fact. And to make sure that no one will know any of the details for at least a decade, Sándor Pintér, minister of interior,  immediately declared the negotiations and their accompanying documents a state secret.

Not everybody is happy on the right. Kövér, perhaps the best known anti-communist in the bunch, was apparently disgruntled but, being a good soldier, kept his anger to himself. Ágoston Sámuel Mráz, “the independent” political scientist at Nezőpont, initially said that many of Orbán’s supporters were surprised that the two reactors will be built from a massive Russian loan “because Viktor Orbán for a long time used anti-Russian rhetoric.” But since Kövér said nothing publicly, soon enough Mráz was writing articles supporting the brilliant idea of cooperation with Putin’s Russia.

Heti Válasz wasn’t exactly taken with the deal and rightly pointed out that “Paks is not a simple business deal.” Building the two new reactors “is a geopolitical concern.” And András Lányi, a faithful supporter of Fidesz and adviser to Viktor Orbán, thinks that Paks is “bad business and poses an unacceptable risk.”

At last we also know what Hungarian citizens think because Medián’s poll, taken between January 24 and 28–that is, about two weeks after Viktor Orbán’s visit to Moscow, was just released. The first surprise for me at least was that 82% of the population knows about Paks. One might say that, given the importance of this piece of news, the figure is not all that high. However, given the total lack of interest of the Hungarian population about anything political, I think this is not a bad result and shows the concern of Hungarians over a questionable decision that was thrust upon them.

Half of the population (51%) agrees that new reactors are necessary as a supplement to the existing ones. However, the Russian connection is controversial. Those who oppose it are in the majority (56%); only a third of the population supports it. As shown in diagram #1, half of the Fidesz voters support the Russian deal. (In the summer of 2012 only 25% of them supported a reactor built with Russian technology, which demonstrates the power of government propaganda.)

Paks abra1Diagram #2 shows the results of a question about receiving news of the Putin-Orbán agreement. Were people very, somewhat, or not at all surprised hearing the news? Seventy percent of even Fidesz voters were very or somewhat surprised. By contrast, all of LMP’s (I supposed one could call them naive) supporters were surprised; none thought that such Russian-Hungarian cooperation could possibly occur. Another interesting figure concerns those who are undecided voters (elkötelezetlen;  second from the bottom). Their figures are closer to the responses of the opposition parties than those of Fidesz-KDNP voters, which strengthens my conviction that the majority of the undecided voters leans toward the opposition rather than toward the government party.

Paks abra2Diagram #3 is the most important one. Here Medián asked whether people would support holding a plebiscite on the future of Paks and the further use of nuclear energy. The answer is clear: 59% the population as a whole supports holding such a plebiscite. Even Fidesz voters.

Paks abra3In light of these figures I have the feeling that Viktor Orbán miscalculated the effect of his “business deal of the century” and made a big mistake in forcing it through before the election. He rather cockily told Professor John Lukacs that “I would bet a lot that on the question of Russian relations the day after the election there will be perfect agreement.” Of course, that is, if Fidesz wins the election. But given the significant rejection of the Russian connection and the even larger demand for a popular vote on the subject, the quickly signed agreement might have been a serious mistake from Fidesz’s point of view. The election might turn on the question of Paks. Some observers are already comparing the situation to the Horn government’s decision in 1998 to go ahead with the controversial Slovak-Hungarian treaty that obligated Hungary to build waterworks at Nagymaros after Hungary lost the case at the International Court of Justice. Without going into details, suffice it to say that the treaty originally signed by Czechoslovakia and Hungary played a large role in the political unrest in 1988-89. Some people claim that Horn’s decision to go ahead with the project played a  major role in the socialists’ defeat in the 1998 election. Orbán might find himself in a similar situation, which is largely due to his ever-growing self-confidence. In the last four years he managed to get away with everything and therefore abandoned all caution. But he might be running out of luck.

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Mr. Paul
Guest
““I would bet a lot that on the question of Russian relations the day after the election there will be perfect agreement.” Of course, that is, if Fidesz wins the election.” I don’t see the election results having any impact in this. If the Russians already ensured that MSZP will support this project in the background, then this support will show itself sooner or later. Already Mesterházy the opposition leader and chief of MSZP was not present at the opposition anti-Paks demonstration. He didn’t directly criticize the Paks project for at least a week now. Other MSZP politicians are directly involved in the Paks project like István Józsa we can also assume that party leaders and strong man within MSZP were also consulted. But of course this is an election campaign and that will have to take priority, and I’m sure that the Russians are understanding of this, they do not want to interfere with the election campaign. But it would be very surprising if the Russians were willing to sign this deal without being 100% certain that MSZP is completely behind the project once the elections are over. And there are also the case of the publicly available Wikileaks… Read more »
Istvan
Guest

Eva following Prime Minster Orban’s 25 minute presentation to Parliament today his Paks/Russian proposal was attacked. The attackers included the Jobbik along with the left/liberals. I do think there is significant opposition to this proposal. See http://www.origo.hu/itthon/20140203-orban-viktor-napirend-elott-februar-harmadikan.html?sec-2 for a description of these criticisms of the deal.

Mr. Paul
Guest

Eva S. Balogh :
Mesterhazy wasn’t there because he is in Washington

The two anti-Paks demonstrations took place on Saturday and Sunday respectively, So a meeting with McCain a few hours ago would still allow for Mesterházy’s participation. Leaders often also send video messages, written statements from their office, or other means of participation when they cannot be physically present.

“MSZP didn’t have any kind of understanding with the Russians. ”

Can I ask, how do you know this? In that case the Russians were very dismissive of MSZP, a major political force of Hungary. I always thought that MSZP-Russian relations were not bad and this would be sign of extremely bad relations. I still think that a deal of this magnitude is not possible without MSZP support, or at least neutrality. MSZP is too important a player to be completely 100% being left out in my opinion.

It is possible but I don’t see the signs of it. I guess we will know more as the issue develops. If MSZP flat out states that the project should not happen, we will know soon enough.

tappanch
Guest

Oops.
1.
The remaining 4.5% of the nationalized private retirement funds was consumed by the Orban government in November 2013.
2.
The gross debt of Hungary reached an all time end-of-month high on January 31, 2014.

Mr. Paul
Guest

Origo writes that just a few days before the election there will be a conference / meeting of several hundred Rabbis in Budapest. Including the Chief Rabbi of Israel among others.

Does anyone know if this was organized/prompted by the group of Köves Slomó I think it was called Chabad.

Mr. Paul
Guest

Eva S. Balogh :
But if you are terribly curious I could find out for you when the MSZP delegation left Budapest. I’m afraid you are unable to give up your imagined scenarios even if facts contradict them.

I would be happy if you found out for me. And yes these are only scenarios I never wanted to create the illusion that they are facts. And yes the more I wrote about them the more I convince myself, this can happen to anyone.

gdfxx
Guest

Mr. Paul :
Origo writes that just a few days before the election there will be a conference / meeting of several hundred Rabbis in Budapest. Including the Chief Rabbi of Israel among others.
Does anyone know if this was organized/prompted by the group of Köves Slomó I think it was called Chabad.

http://www.ejpress.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=47958&catid=11

tappanch
Guest

@Mr.Paul

Yes, Oberlander of Chabad Hungary is on the board of the “Rabbinical Center of Europe”, established in 2000.

“As part of the protest and fight against revived anti-Semitism in Hungary, the Rabbinical Center of Europe has decided to hold its bi-annual General Assembly in Budapest in March.

The conference, to be organized in cooperation with the Hungarian government, will take place March 24-25 and will be attended by hundreds of Rabbis from across Europe, as well as by Israel’s Chief Rabbis, Rabbi David Lau and Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef and senior members of the Hungarian government. ”

“In an act of defiance against the local Jewish community, members of [the Jobbik] party announced over the weekend that it will hold a political assembly in the city of Esztergom in a building that used to be a Synagogue”

“The March convention will also feature a memorial ceremony in line with the Hungarian government’s own memorial project to the landmark 70th anniversary of the Holocaust in Hungary”

Conclusions:
1. This will be an anti-Jobbik and pro-Fidesz meeting.
2. They plan to dedicate Maria Schmidt’s railroad memorial at the time of the meeting.

Paul
Guest

Over a third of LMP supporters FAVOUR the new reactors?? I thought they were the ‘green’ party!

Is this poll reliable? How many people did they interview?

Paul
Guest
Some thoughts: 1) This is a golden opportunity for the opposition – Orbán has cocked up badly and handed this one to them on a plate. They should be immediately and vehemently opposing this, as a clear electoral message – on anti-Russian, economic and environmental grounds. 2) They should concentrate their electoral strategy on just a few clear-cut issues, where Orbán is weak (another obvious one is to promise that they will remove the German ‘invasion’ statue). 3) If they did win the election (brief trip into cloud-cuckoo land here), would the opposition actually be able (legally/contractually) to cancel the Paks 2 contracts? I strongly suspect not – at least not without paying Putin a great deal of money. 4) Even if the opposition does accept my advice (1 and 2 above), will their message stand any chance of reaching the majority of voters? 5) Éva, whilst I understand why Mr Paul gets your goat so easily, I think you are wrong to dismiss him so readily as a troll or as pro-Fidesz (which appears to be your reaction). In amongst his wilder comments, he does make some good points and ask some valid questions. For instance, his comment that… Read more »
tappanch
Guest

Chabad Rabbi Berel Lazar of Russia has close ties with Putin.

Putin’s government supports the Chabad movement in Russia against the mainstream Jewish organizations.

Orban has obviously copied Putin’s approach.

Todor
Guest
Some thoughts. LMP’s part in a poll of 1.200 could not have been more 60 people of which 20 something seem to have supported the Russian Paks 2. This is a very small sample size and so this 35% support rate could have a number of reasons. For example some smart green voters may believe that this could save CO2 (will not, for a host of reasons) and is a kind of “clean energy” (there is no such thing). Moreover, LMP’s voters base is more right-wing than that of the united left is, it contains many formerly Fidesz voters who would never vote for the left, but are for some reasons (like economy, constitution etc.) unhappy with Fidesz, but perhaps not on this issue. Not all LMP voters are greens, it is a kind of anti-Fidesz protest party too. Anyway, it is a small party. Also interesting are Jobbik’s figures. Jobbik generally supports Russia and the idea that Paks 2 is to be constructed by Russians, both as an official party policy. There are persistent rumors that Jobbik, which has no access to traditional oligarchs, is financed by Russians. Moreover, Jobbik had a dedicated facebook group even a month ago… Read more »
Karl
Guest

There was an interesting profile on Lev Leviev a couple of years back in the New York Times if I am not mistaken. Let’s just say that Leviev, a Bukharian Jew, who is one of the main donors (and with money comes influence) of the global Chabad Lubavitch movement, is a pretty controversial figure.

His main interests are in the diamonds business. He had, maybe still has an exclusive deal with the Russians (Yakutia), but he also dealt in Angola during the civil war, among other places. He legally holds some 7 or 8 passports. His wealth was estimated to be many billions of dollars, of course it is all obscure. He has been very close to both Jelcin and Putin, among other dictators.

If Chabad is organizing a huge conference in Budapest, than you can be sure that these Lubavitchi, all of them orthodox Jews (all the more credible in the eyes of the public) will support Fidesz. They love a deal and Fidesz also loves a deal and just like with dos Santos, one can deal with Orban too.

Wenger
Guest
Paul: the international agreement (to be concluded, as what we have now is more like a memorandum of understanding) can be canceled. Even the Russian parliamentary resolution about the to-co-concluded international agreement says that it can be terminated with a one-year notice period. The Russians (Rosatom) will likely claim damages just like thy did from the Romanians re Cernavoda. It is a question how much they can get, but it also depends where the arbitration will be held. But it has a cost, surely. Also, you can terminate it even when construction began. But Paks 2 is such a gigantic loss-maker then it is worth to stop it even if it is 70% ready, especially as it necessitates a further two Danube dams (cost: 1,500 billion HUF/each) — all from debt when the GDP will not increase in the coming years. The project is just insane as it is. Fidesz will likely win the elections and continue with the project. It will conclude all construction etc. contracts so that dismantling would be more complicated, as Közgép and other oligarchs will also claim damages. This would be a mess, but just because it will be stopped let’s say 5 years from… Read more »
petofi
Guest
Karl : There was an interesting profile on Lev Leviev a couple of years back in the New York Times if I am not mistaken. Let’s just say that Leviev, a Bukharian Jew, who is one of the main donors (and with money comes influence) of the global Chabad Lubavitch movement, is a pretty controversial figure. His main interests are in the diamonds business. He had, maybe still has an exclusive deal with the Russians (Yakutia), but he also dealt in Angola during the civil war, among other places. He legally holds some 7 or 8 passports. His wealth was estimated to be many billions of dollars, of course it is all obscure. He has been very close to both Jelcin and Putin, among other dictators. If Chabad is organizing a huge conference in Budapest, than you can be sure that these Lubavitchi, all of them orthodox Jews (all the more credible in the eyes of the public) will support Fidesz. They love a deal and Fidesz also loves a deal and just like with dos Santos, one can deal with Orban too. I dealt with a Chabad Lubavitcher recently and his unscrupulous, cut-throat manner was demoralizing. How could this… Read more »
tappanch
Guest

Background info on Chabad, an organization that has been functioning without a chief executive since rabbi Schneerson’s death in 1994.

http://www.globes.co.il/en/article-1000880067

tappanch
Guest

@petofi
“chief rabbi … should revoke”

Israel, Britain, Russia have chief rabbis – a state position, but Jewish religion does not know such title or authority.

Other info about the Russian connection:

1.
Berel Lazar’s sister is Oberlander’s wife.
2.
The Lazar family originated in Hungary.
Hungary –> US —> Italy —> Russia

tappanch
Guest

Berel Lazar:

“I will tell you a small story, which took place in St Petersburg about 50 years ago. A young non-Jewish boy grew up in a very poor family. Those times, most people lived in communal apartments, which had different rooms for families and shared kitchen and living area.

This boy had poor parents who were barely home. He was fortunate that a neighbouring family from another room in the apartment started inviting him over. The father was a professor who helped him with his homework, they babysat for him. He was a young boy. The family, who was Jewish, also invited him for the Friday night Shabbat meals. He remembers how they used to take out an old book and read from this book after the meal.”

“This boy was Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.”

http://www.oxfordchabad.org/templates/articlecco_cdo/aid/640796/jewish/Chief-Rabbi-of-Russia-Berel-Lazar.htm

LwiiH
Guest

Paul :
These days, travel to the US does not cut the leader of the main opposition party off from reacting and commenting to a vital political situation, just a month before the election. If Mesterházy had wanted to get a message out, he could have done so. The fact is he didn’t. So Mr Paul has every right to question why he behaved In that way. We should be asking the same question, not shooting the messenger.

Unless the Russians have dismissed MSzP as being irrelevant you’d think they’d want to understand what they would do if they happened to win the next election unless there are huge penalty clauses in the contracts. If MSzP wasn’t consulted and had no access to the contract that has been sequestered…. you’d think they’d be using any opportunity to oppose this. One more question, what was going on in Washington that is more important that using these opportunities to oppose this deal assuming MSzP hasn’t been consulted, is in the dark about it and does appose it?

BTW, it was reported in the news last night that all email mentioning Paks was being collected.

tappanch
Guest

Requests by the Hungarian government about internet users in 2013.

Total requests; not rejected requests

Facebook: 24; 9 [first half of the year only]
Google: 495; 0
Microsoft: 70; 58

Source: hvg.hu

Pumukli
Guest

Chabad Lubavitchers are to Judaism what Mormons are to Christianity.

Anyway, for political purposes they are perfect. They will support the official line that Fidesz is so much better than Jobbik is, as it is the lesser evil. A lot of ignorant foreigners will eat this, Fidesz will have another field day.

If Slomo Köves can arrange this nicely and Fidesz will benefit as they hoped for then he will get a lot of money (I imagine the monies now going to Mazsishisz will be divided somehow). The lack of vision, disarray, even corruption at Mazsihisz will result in ever decreasing influence on mainstream politics, while the Lubavitchers will gain a lot. But – just like Fidesz is – they are organized, disciplined, loyal and follow a long-term strategy.

tappanch
Guest

Russians – Hungarian MOL – Croatian INA

Russians are reportedly offer $2.5 billion for MOL’s stake in INA.
This is a 13.8% discount from the current stock price.

The unrealized loss from Orban’s purchase of 21.22% of MOL from the Russians is 195.9 billion HUF at this moment.

So INA’s sale would recoup 121.9 billion HUF from this loss to the Hungarian state.

Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Guest

Eva S. Balogh :
Heti Válasz wasn’t exactly taken with the deal and rightly pointed out that “Paks is not a simple business deal.” Building the two new reactors “is a geopolitical concern.”

Lukacs’ letter would have been pretty stylish in HV.

tappanch
Guest

Orban is backing out of the Reich eagle monument, according to press reports.
To be precise, it will not be set up before the elections.

http://nol.hu/belfold/elszallt_a_birodalmi_sas

tappanch
Guest

Opposition party MSzP would like to get rid of his vice chairman Gabor Simon, who cannot explain the origin of the 0.8 million euros on his Austrian banking accounts.

His estranged wife might have spilled the beans to Fidesz.

http://hvg.hu/itthon/20140204_Kirugjak_az_MSZP_elnokhelyetteset

martin eden
Guest

Good point from Greenpeace Hungary:
comment image

GW
Guest
Five hours discussion time over three days for an issue that will affect Hungary for more than fifty years, or the next three generations? Set aside for a moment the policy decision about what form of energy Hungary is committing to (a grave issue, considering that Hungary’s potential in solar, geothermal, and wind renewables as well as fracked gas reserves has not been thoroughly explored, let alone publicly discussed), this is fundamentally a credit issue. The Fidesz government is committing itself to taking long term credits on terms that are unknown to the citizenry as they have been hidden as “state secrets” and from a credit-giver who exploited Hungary for 45 years. Compare the government’s readiness to step into this arrangement with their rapid exit from IMF credits. Contemporary IMF credits are more generous, interest-wise, that those Russia would ever offer and transparent in their terms other than their demand for institutional transparency on the part of the credit-taker, thus one must conclude that it is this rejection of transparency that drives Fidesz here. And, sadly, whenever transparency is absent, one must conclude that corruption is present. The size of this credit leaves one only to assume that the level… Read more »
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