No retreat: Viktor Orbán socks it to Ukraine

Once Viktor Orbán is on a roll there is no way of stopping him. It matters not what politicians of the countries in the European Union think of his belligerent remarks concerning the Hungarian minority in the Subcarpathian region of Ukraine, he will never admit that it may have been unfortunate to take Russia’s side in the Russo-Ukrainian conflict. Because this is exactly what Viktor Orbán did. The Russian newspapers uniformly welcomed the Hungarian prime minister’s remarks on minority rights, which in Ukraine’s case might mean the loss of sizable Ukrainian territories to Putin’s Russia. In his speech last Saturday Orbán talked about Hungarians as a chivalrous nation. I must say that he has odd ideas about the meaning of chivalry. Let’s kick somebody when he is down. A real gentleman.

Although Foreign Minister János Martonyi tried to salvage the situation after the outburst of indignation from Ukraine and disapproval from Poland, Orbán is not the kind of man who is ready to admit a mistake or misstep. Today at the meeting of the prime ministers of the Visegrád 4 (Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, and Hungary) held in Bratislava, Orbán not only repeated his earlier demands but added more fuel to the fire. He accused the western countries of hypocrisy when it comes to Ukraine because it is not only Russia that poses problems for the EU but Ukraine as well. Orbán expressed his doubts that democracy will ever take hold in Ukraine.

As far as his demands toward Ukraine are concerned, he told his audience point blank that since EU financial assistance is necessary, to which Hungary also contributes, he expects that Ukraine will do whatever is necessary to rectify the situation of Hungarians in Ukraine. Interestingly enough, in Hungary’s case that kind of argument doesn’t cut it for him. He takes the EU’s money and does whatever he wants. Brussels should not demand anything from Hungary.

So, what is the situation of the Hungarian minority in Ukraine? Since Orbán talks about 200,000 Hungarians in the region, the Hungarian media repeats this inflated number. According to the last Ukrainian census (2001), Hungarians numbered 150,000. Given the shrinking numbers of all minorities in the region, that number today, thirteen years later, is most likely smaller still.

Hungarians have cultural autonomy in Ukraine, as they do in Romania, Slovakia, and Serbia. After listening to Orbán, one might think that the Hungarian minority’s lot in the neighboring countries is intolerable. This is not the case. In fact, in the last twenty years or so their status has greatly improved. There are always some complaints but, on the whole, a state of peaceful coexistence seems to exist between the majority and the minorities. Orbán is simply using the crisis to his own advantage.

Of the four prime ministers who met in Bratislava, Donald Tusk is the one who most resolutely opposes Russia and supports Ukraine. Hungarians might complain about Russia’s military help to Vienna during the War of Independence in 1849 and, of course, Hungary was in the Soviet sphere of influence for forty years, but no one can discount Polish grievances when it comes to Russian imperialism. Polish concerns are both deeply felt and understandable.

Donald Tusk and Viktor Orbán, May 15, 2014, Bratislava Source: Hungarian Prime Minister's Office, Photo Barna Burger, MTI

Tense moments: Donald Tusk and Viktor Orbán, May 15, 2014, Bratislava
Source: Hungarian Prime Minister’s Office, Photo Barna Burger, MTI

I myself sympathize with the Polish position and fear that Viktor Orbán and Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico, who seemed to support Orbán wholeheartedly, are short-sighted. Moreover, if I were Fico, I would be worried about Orbán’s intentions. When is he going to demand autonomy for the Hungarian minority in Slovakia? When he is going to attack the Slovak law that forbids dual citizenship for its citizens?

As usual, Orbán got international coverage for his latest bombastic idea, the formation of a regional army. He is demanding “military guarantees for Central Europe. He talked about a Central European military unit (harccsoport) that could be set up by 2016. He also mentioned a longstanding idea of his, the creation of a north-south infrastructure that would facilitate the movement of goods in the Central European countries. And he pitched the idea of nuclear energy, which in his opinion is the key to European competitiveness.

I’m certain that Orbán’s followers will welcome their leader’s resolute defense of the Hungarian minority. But critics think that Orbán’s belligerence actually makes the lives of the Hungarian minorities more difficult. Here is one example from Romania. The Romanian government steadfastly stands by Ukraine and condemns Russian provocations. And lately, especially since the outbreak of the Ukrainian crisis, they worry about the Hungarian government’s demand for autonomy. They look at Ukraine and fear for the integrity of their own country.

Yesterday Bálint Magyar and Attila Ara-Kovács, in a piece that appeared in Népszabadság, called attention to an article that was published in Adevarul, the largest Romanian newspaper. It dealt with the fear that because of the Hungarian demand for autonomy Romania might succumb to the fate of Ukraine. Of course, one could say that these fears are baseless, but Orbán’s ruthless exploitation of the Ukrainian crisis intensified Romanian paranoia. And if the Romanian government worries about its own security, it may decide to withdraw some of the privileges granted to the Hungarian minority in Romania.

I have the feeling that this particular incident will not blow over anytime soon. After all, the Russian-Ukrainian conflict will be with us for a while. If a country by inciting ethnic conflict wants to redraw borders, its actions can easily give rise to a full-fledged war and perhaps the demise of a state. Just think of  the former Yugoslavia.

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lumpy Lang
Guest

Here is the real weakness of this blog – and of the Hungarian opposition in general. Seeking to counter Orban and Fidesz with …. the indefensible (i.e. NATO’s aggressive posture and rationalizations for imperialist hypocrisy, the IMF and Galician fascists) will produce nothing good.

Paul
Guest

“Orbán expressed his doubts that democracy will ever take hold in Ukraine.”

Orbán on democracy. This would be funny if it wasn’t so depressing.

Paul
Guest

And here is the real strength of this blog – it doesn’t hold insane views like Lumpy Lang’s!

petofi
Guest

Orban–a Russian surrogate: ‘carrying some water’… and taking the heat off of Russia by legitimizing various Russian positions–disgusting.

torpetino
Guest

Orban can not stop himself.
He feels free to manipulate everything.
His speech writers and handlers can deploy him everywhere, too.
Sadly, most Hungarians do not see the problem.

Member

lumpy Lang
May 15, 2014 at 5:11 pm
Here is the real weakness of this blog – and of the Hungarian opposition in general. Seeking to counter Orban and Fidesz with …. the indefensible (i.e. NATO’s aggressive posture and rationalizations for imperialist hypocrisy, the IMF and Galician fascists) will produce nothing good.
———–

Maybe I am alone in this, but what the heck are you talking about? What NATO’s aggression against Orban? Hungary is member of the NATO. What imperialist hypocrisy when Hungary is restoring feudalistic structures? WHat IMF fascists, when Orban stole the retirement saving of Hungarians, took away the businesses of tobacco shop owners, etc? WHo is the hypocrite lumpy Lang? ..you totally lost me with the GAlician fascists, so you may need expand on that if you ant to be taken seriously.

Member

I thought I will include a simple interactive map that explains how Europe’s migration took place and how the “magyars”, Hungarians fit into the picture. I am just saying this as I have idea what Orban is talking about. Someone must explain to the old man that the magyars were not the first in Hungary. I know it is award concept for him and his followers, but it is the truth. So, when he is asking for all this minority rights, and so forth, it makes me wonder if he is willing to give any autonomy for the Slavs, and Germans and so forth based on the fact that they were there first?
http://www.worldology.com/Europe/europe_history_lg.htm

Smaugli
Guest
OT: Norway EEA Grants Only the state (János Lázár and his cohort) should decide on the Norwegian EEA Grants. That is Lázár’s answer to the Norwegians. (Why can’t the Norwegians just decide about that money from Norway and transfer the funds from there, or first to an EU entity and then from within the EU to the recipients?) Anyway. Fidesz will not compromise and and fideszniks know that sooner or later the Norwegians will give in. The starved Hungarian NGOs will persuade them to give in and they will. They always do. Lazar cannot be defeated. It is a matter of prestige for the fideszniks that they just don’t let rich and ineffectual Europeans win over the will of Fidesz. They always give in. And if not, even better, let those liberal NGOs “promoting homosexuality and defending the rights of criminals instead of victims” die. It’s a bit like telling adolescent kids that, look, you are adolescent, and it is natural that you take too much risk, but please don’t do it (eg experiment with drugs or whatever). The kids will hear the message, will get it, and they will do it anyway. It’s their nature in this age, it’s… Read more »
minority rights
Guest

“After listening to Orbán, one might think that the Hungarian minority’s lot in the neighboring countries is intolerable. This is not the case.In fact, in the last twenty years or so their status has greatly improved. There are always some complaints but, on the whole, a state of peaceful coexistence…”

Eva where you ever beaten into a pulp for speaking Hungarian on the street? On your mobile phone? And then after becoming the victim of a racist attack, harassed for years by the other racists? To the point where you have to flee the country?

http://www.parameter.sk/rovat/belfold/2014/04/22/szlovakiai-magyarok-kerekesztalama-hedvig-holnap-te-igazsagot-mindenkinek

http://hu.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malina_Hedvig

If not I suggest you rethink your views, on just how greatly others live. I had friends and distant family in some of these foreign towns and I can tell you I was not beaten but verbally accosted more than once when daring to speak Hungarian when visiting. Angry shouting and intimidation is incredibly common if you speak Hungarian in some of these places.

serengeti
Guest
OT: Strohmen and helping hands in action at Fidesz. Just another day in Hungary. Zoltan Spéder, owner of index.hu and now Takarékbank (and FHB Bank) and an all-around Fidesz oligarch had nice dealings with Istvan Stumpf, a long-time Fidesz-advisor and now member of the constitutional court — which is about to decide on the constitutionality of the nationalisation of the rural savings cooperatives which were eventually gobbled up in a very controversial way by Takarékbank. (The deals took place days before he became a judge.) I think the nationalization of the cooperatives (which were duly privatized a couple of days after the nationalization to one single buyer, ie. Spéder’s Takaérkbank) will be found constitutional. This is an important Fidesz party finance deal after all, and the judges know it, plus Spéder needs the network of rural branches to counter the Csányi-empire on behalf of Orbán who doe not like Csányi’s monopoly on hush-hush finance. I am sure it will not depend on Stumpf’s vote so strong is the party loyalty, but Stumpf will not even contemplate recusing from the case. I mean what is the issue here? By the way it seems Spéder helped the housing situation of a bunch… Read more »
Guest

@minority rights:

Nobody says that incidents like the one you describe don’t happen – but are they isolated or do they happen every day?

Then you might as well call Hungary an antisemitic country because similar attacks happen …

Guest

A bit OT re the EU:

If it depended only on us Germans the Social Democrat Martin Schulz would become the EU “president” – though many will vote for the Christian Democrats and around 7% for our anti EU party AfD which wants a return to the Deutsche Mark ….

Well, at least the AfD is not as crazy as Jobbik – and not as strong!

Guest
tappanch
Guest

May 14,
Nouriel Roubini Just Presented A New List Of Risks To The Global Economy

“There are six new countries that are fragile for political and economic reasons — Argentina, Venezuela, Thailand, Ukraine, Russia, and Hungary”

http://www.businessinsider.com/nouriel-roubinis-6-new-risks-2014-5

petofi
Guest

When will Hungarians realize that Orban’s stance with the EU is not only his messianic, napoleonic stance…but is daily bringing shame to Hungary?

Is this the fit person being deemed a hero of the country?

petofi
Guest

Sberbank, one of two Russian banks that opened offices in Budapest about a year ago, has started advertising on tv.

petofi
Guest

“Russia is seeking closer economic ties with North Korea…”

Putin sens a rep to North Korea. How long before Orban declares interest in same…?

Palkó
Guest

May be he is a Gulyas Hitler in the newspapers, but Orban will sooner or later get the kudos now that he (probably) makes Bela Kovacs disappear from the EU politics. Orban decided to move against Jobbik for political reasons, but I am sure he was also under foreign pressure to act, it was so obvious in the West that Kovacs was just a hard working representative of Moscow.

petofi
Guest

@Palko

So, if Kovacs is “…just a hard working representative of Moscow”…than what is Orban?

Tyrker
Guest

“After listening to Orbán, one might think that the Hungarian minority’s lot in the neighboring countries is intolerable. This is not the case. In fact, in the last twenty years or so their status has greatly improved.”

I don’t likw to use strong language, but this is a blatant lie and you know it. Hungarians living in Transylvania and the Partium are obviously better off than during Ceausescu’s rule, and Hungarians living in Austria are probably no worse off than 20 years ago – but those living in the Highlands, the Southern Lands and Subcarpathia have to face discrimination and threats day in and day out – just think about all the beatings, human rights violations and the shameful language laws.

Istvan
Guest
PM Orban’s new found interest in a regional military structure is just nonsense. Hungary is not exactly a military powerhouse and it ranks around 83rd among major nations in the world in military spending as a percent of GDP. About 1.75% in 2012 according to the CIA. Russia and the USA are spending a far greater percentage of their GDPs on their military with massively larger economies. Moreover, why in the world would Poland or Romania want to be in any joint military formation with Hungary since Poland and Romania are spending about 1.9% of GDP on their military, to allow Hungary to use them as a defensive shield? I could see the Czech Republic liking Orban’s idea, because they even spend a lower proportion of GDP than does Hungary on the military. Such a regional military formation as Orban proposes would make for many good jokes at the US Army War College where I did my graduate studies after my service in Vietnam. I wrote a research paper there in about 1975 on Lieutenant General Gusztáv Vitéz Jány who led the Hungarian Second Army to its destruction in the Battle of Stalingrad protecting protecting the flanks of the German… Read more »
szomszéd
Guest

@minority rights:
Hedviga is with highest probability a double victim: 1. Victim of criminal attack which can happen in any country. 2. Victim of Hungarian politicians (Orban´s allies). They tried to profit from this criminal act and Hedviga suddenly started to say she have been attacked because of speaking Hungarian when calling her friend. But: mobile operator confirmed there have been no call from her mobile and no friend confirmed she have called her/him. There were much more strange things which according to Hedviga allegedly happend. When it was clear that there is no hope for political gains, she was let alone. A very sad history.

Palkó
Guest

petofi: spot on, but you are way too sophisticated. For an average EU politician, as much as he/she spends on the issue and what he/she could possibly understand, that will be enough.

Member

@Tyrker Most of us who are comment on tis blog lie the facts. We back up what we have to say with correctly quoting or linking various sources for our information. I am not saying that crime against minorities do not happen in various regions. For goodness ale, it does happen in Canada too (one old the most tolerant countries in the world), but it is an exemption, committed by by extremist individuals, and is not accepted or tolerated by society at large.
On the other hand in Hungary when crime or hate speech / propaganda against minority groups happen is often overlooked by no others but the current Hungarian government. Consequentially, I find your post not only lacking facts, but hypocritical, just as I find Orban’s popularity speeches the same.

Facts: Gyongyospata, law against the homeless, beating up or threatening Jewish individuals on the streets of Budapest, tolerated hate speech on the pages of Magyar Hirlap by Orban’s best friend, etc…

kommentelo
Guest

Blaming the victim is quite common when crimes are committed. Just as rape victims are often blamed for causing their own rape there are people who blame Malina Hedvig for causing her own beating. The goal is to shift the blame away from the criminals and their supporters away to the victims. Quite a disgusting practice if you ask me. A very sad story. Nobody should ever blame the victim let alone harrass, intimidate and prosecute her.

Another topic: I read in the newspaper that Jobbik defended Bela Kovacs, they say he is innocent. They now blame non-other than Joe Biden for the action against their Bela Kovacs. Talking about Biden’s intervention through a phone call. Does anyone know what phone call are they even talking about? Did Biden say a word about Kovacs even? Or is this completely their invention which would make Kovacs even more suspicious than he already is.

petofi
Guest

Hungarians need to reeducate themselves: to discover what is Dignity, Decency, and the Eternal Verities that constitute the basis of a virtuous, human society.

Boogie
Guest

Szonda Ipsos poll (May 2014):

Under 30, the entire left wing with all its many parties could only get in aggregate 6-7% (!).

In other words 94% of the people are right-wing supporters under 30.

I don’t know about under 40 cohort, but it must also be way over 70%, more like 80% (!).

The young people will grow up to be hardened right wingers, they just don’t listen to anything that is branded as lefty or liberal. This is identity and not choice.

The left wing is dead in Hungary. It is official.

http://www.origo.hu/itthon/20140516-ipsos-mindenhol-legyozi-a-jobbik-az-mszp-t.html

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