Viktor Orbán on the world stage and at home

Every second Friday Viktor Orbán spends about twenty minutes with a servile reporter from Magyar Rádió who asks the great leader about his achievements and plans. But before I cover the latest pearls of wisdom coming from the prime minister I want to share some thoughts about an unexpected private meeting between Chancellor Angela Merkel and Viktor Orbán preceding the European Union Employment Summit held in Milan on October 8.

Critics and opponents of Viktor Orbán’s domestic and foreign policy initiatives were dismayed over news of the meeting. Just when the United States finally seems to be showing signs of greater resoluteness in its dealings with the Hungarian government, Angela Merkel rewards him with a private meeting. Hungarian opposition papers pointed to Merkel’s broad smile and assumed that the encounter had to be friendly. But this might not have been the case. Of course, we don’t know what transpired during the meeting, but there are a few signs that may indicate a less jolly encounter than Merkel’s smile would indicate.

The official government website republished the MTI summary of the encounter, based on information supplied to the news agency by the prime minister himself. What can we learn from that brief description? “First and foremost [they] talked about foreign affairs.” The second topic was energy policy. As far as foreign policy is concerned, I assume the topic was Hungary’s reluctance to support the common EU resolve concerning further sanctions against Russia if necessary. It is also possible that Merkel mentioned her disapproval of Viktor Orbán’s eastern orientation. When it comes to the country’s energy policy, I’m almost certain that Merkel brought up Hungary’s sudden decision to stop sending natural gas to Ukraine three days after the CEO of Gazprom paid a visit to Viktor Orbán.

How do I surmise that? A careful reading of this short report on the meeting makes that interpretation more than plausible. Let me quote the appropriate passage verbatim: “Hungary will be part of the common European efforts, but at the moment she must establish her own energy security. Thus, Hungary now is busy with feeding its own storage facilities.” After January 1, 2015, when the Slovak-Hungarian gas pipeline is functioning, “we will be able to send non-Russian gas to Ukraine, if our Ukrainian friends would like it.” I should call attention here to Orbán’s emphasis on the source of the gas intended for Ukraine. That strongly indicates that he agrees with the Russian position that selling Russian gas to countries outside the EU is illegal.

As for the possibility of a discussion between Merkel and Orbán on Hungarian-EU relations, my source is Viktor Orbán’s Friday morning interview. While until now we have heard only criticism from Orbán concerning the West, which is in decline and on the wrong track, during the interview Orbán praised German economic strategy. The German mentality of hard work and prudence is the basis of  successful economic policy. I might add here that praise of German economic strategy was somewhat ill-timed in the wake of dismal economic news from the country.

As far as future domestic policies are concerned, the Friday morning interview was singularly uninformative. There has been much talk lately about a new era coming, but Viktor Orbán refuses to provide any details. A careless remark by Mihály Varga a couple of weeks ago prompted speculation about the introduction of new austerity measures. Rumor has it that the government cannot hold to the 3% deficit, which may followed by the reintroduction of the excessive deficit procedure by the European Commission. And that would mean turning off the money spigots from Brussels. A government denial followed Varga’s remark, but people are not convinced that austerity measures are not in the offing. The budget that should already have been presented to parliament is still nowhere. According to Orbán, he and Varga will go through the numbers this afternoon.

There was only one topic on which Orbán was more expansive: his ideas about education. Specifically, producing skilled workers. He has big plans for something he calls “dual education,” which will produce a highly skilled workforce. After a student has been in school for eight years he would enter a course of study that would combine some academic study with hands-on work experience. It would be a kind of apprentice (inas) program. There is nothing new under the sun. Many of us still remember Nikita Khrushchev’s introduction of precisely the same type of education. We also remember that it was a huge flop and the experiment was abandoned. I guess Orbán thinks he can do a better job.

But if Khrushchev’s experiment was a bad idea in the 1960s, it is a terrible idea today. Who thinks that eight years of elementary education are enough to produce highly skilled workers who nowadays need higher math, computer skills, and–most likely in Hungary’s case–the command of a foreign language, just to mention a few requirements? The very word “inas” (apprentice) conjures up images of the little boy who was apprenticed to a master and who was terribly exploited by him. He lived with the master’s family and often did all sorts of things that had nothing to do with his future trade.  But in those days one didn’t need a lot of education to learn how to make shoes or to become a bricklayer. Today I would say that to become a skilled worker one should finish high school and have at least a two-year associate’s degree.

journeyman

Back to olden days

I agree that training a skilled workforce is needed, but Hungary is unlikely to be a country where industry dominates. The service sector will most likely remain the mainstay of the economy, as elsewhere in western countries. Moreover, it is not true, as Orbán claims, that “the road to successful life is through crafts” because statistics prove that university graduates’ compensation greatly exceeds the salaries of non-graduates. I fear, however, that he will introduce his ridiculous ideas on education very soon. He promises such legislation this year. I wonder what impact such a reorientation of education will have on the current educational system, which has already gone through a very hard time because of the nationalization and centralization of all public schools. One could also ask where they will find teachers by the thousands to instruct students to become skilled workers by the age of 16 or 18. What will happen to those teachers who today teach academic subjects? The whole thing sounds not only crazy but injurious to the country.

This year was spent mostly on campaigning for three different elections, and therefore the Orbán government had relatively little time to come up with ever new ideas and proposals that become law in record time. I fear this legislative respite is over, and the prime minister will have quite a few surprises for us in the coming months.

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An
Guest

“I fear this legislative respite is over, and the prime minister will have quite a few surprises for us in the coming months.”

I agree. The real nightmare is going to start after the local elections are over and Orban won’t have to cater to the electorate for another 2-3 years. There will be another 2-3 years of arrogant governance with outdated and harmful polices, while putting further squeeze on the working classes and giving more benefits to the well-to-do and to Fidesz cronies. And building of the illiberal state of course.

Jeremy Wheeler
Guest

I think you might be slightly off the mark with your suggestion that apprenticeship schemes are doomed. According to a 2013 European Commission study, “The effectiveness and costs-benefits of apprenticeships”, 24 Member States have apprenticeship-type schemes and “there is a general consensus on the positive effects of apprenticeships in easing the school-to-work transition. Cross-country evidence shows that in those European countries where the apprenticeship system is most developed young people have better labour market outcomes than in other countries (Van der Velden et al., 2001; Quintini and Martin, 2006; Quintini and Manfredi, 2009)”.

buddy
Guest

Re: education, I agree that this scheme Orbán is promoting is unlikely to provide workers prepared for the jobs of the future.

If there’s anything the government should be promoting, it’s jobs in computer programming. There is a critical lack of English-speaking programmers in Hungary but a large demand, especially in Budapest. Moreover, they make well above the national average and work in a generally comfortable office environment. It’s pretty much the only profession in Hungary where HR people cold contact people from their LinkedIn profile, rather than the other way around. The office where I work feels that the qualified talent pool is pretty much exhausted here and has recently turned to job seekers in neighboring countries to obtain programmers.

And yet there seems to be nothing official promoting programming as a desirable career path. I could be wrong, but I doubt an “inas” program will be suitable for training anyone to work in this field.

tappanch
Guest

Generalplan Ost 1940-1944:

To ensure obedience and keep them from rebelling, the Slavs would be denied all but the most basic education, things like simple math and being taught that it was their duty to obey their masters, the Germans.

Generalplan Orban 2010-2014:

To ensure obedience and keep them from rebelling, the Hungarians would be denied all but the most basic education, things like simple math and being taught that it was their duty to obey their masters, the Fideszmen.

Jeremy Wheeler
Guest

There’s no reason why an apprenticeship scheme can’t be used to provide training for the ICT sector, Buddy. It is one of many areas in the UK where apprenticeships are available. http://www.apprenticeships.org.uk/types-of-apprenticeships/information-and-communication-technology.aspx

cheshire cat
Guest

This conversation with Merkel went like this:

Merkel: What’s up with this you not giving gas back to Ukraine thing?
Orban: The Russians are not letting me.
M: But you must give them something, something symbolic would be enough, just to show that you are complying with the EU decision.
O: Well, I’m filling up for the winter now. After that I could give them a bit of non-Russian gas.
M: OK, that will do. You can announce it. But you stop that German-bashing now, my voters are getting a bit fed up.
O: OK.

Merkel comes out grinning (“Orban is complying with the energy decision”), Orban goes into the radio and sucks up to the Germans.

An
Guest

@Jeremy Wheeler

I think it is quite telling that Orban was using the word “inas” (man-servant, valet) rather than “gyakornok” (apprentice).

In the US I see that even colleges offer internships and coop programs … so being an apprentice does not have to mean having only an elementary education.

Istvan
Guest
I suspect that PM Orban when discussing apprentice related education reforms has in mind the German Dual Vocational Training System (TVET) This program, many supporters believe, is the reason why Germany has among the lowest jobless rate among young people of any industrialized nation in the world. The German concept is simple: After students complete their mandatory years of schooling, usually around age 18, they apply to a private company for a two or three year training contract. If accepted, the government supplements the trainee’s on-the-job learning with more broad-based education in his or her field of choice at a publicly funded vocational school. Usually, trainees spend three to four days at work and one to two in the classroom. At the end, the theory goes, they come out with both practical and technical skills to compete in a global market, along with a good overall perspective on the nature of their profession. They also receive a state certificate for passing company exams, designed and administered by industry groups in conjunction with trade unions—a credential that allows transfer to similarly oriented businesses should the training company not retain them beyond the initial contract. But the problem with implementing this type… Read more »
Guest

I still couldn’t find anything on this “very important meeting” between Orbán and Mrs Merkel in the German media – only Pester Lloyd etc in Budapest reported on it.

Re dual education:

Istvan already mentioned many significant points – however one remark:

The tradition of having two school days and three days of work is being abolished – now it’s usually a few months work and then back to school for a few weeks/a month.

Also there are less and less “Lehrlinge” (apprentices) – the trend has been to also give them a “real higher education”. One of my brothers in law who started as an apprentice, then became an engineer and in the end director of a “Technical Gymnasium” is proof for the Durchlässigkeit (permeability?) of our German system – it’s not as rigorous as some people think.

dongó
Guest
@cheshire cat Spot on. By the way the term nas is a ridiculously old-sounding term like Kúria etc. It’s part of Orban’s game to create a world of reassurance for those people who crave the days when there was order, gipsies knew their place and so on. It’s the re-invented world of Horthy, when things still felt natural and evolutionary (so think today’s voters), whereas now we have the EU, capitalism, too much freedom, gipsies claiming only rights, every day there’s something new we don’t like. Brrrrr. This creation is pretty successful. People think that at least those kids will learn a bit of discipline, the old masters easily gave them a huge slap on the face if they misbehaved, that’s not such a big deal, they probably need a few anyway. Whatever happens in the education doesn’t concern Orban who can only think in terms of votes and voters. These mostly white inas people – given their class position – will remain reliable Jobbik and Fidesz voters in any case, which means he will not lose them, so he can experiment with this system anyway he wants. Those people who can’t make inas and fall out of the system,… Read more »
Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Guest

wolfi: Also there are less and less “Lehrlinge” (apprentices) – the trend has been to also give them a “real higher education”.

It seems smart. For as far as I can tell from my encounters with the French system many years ago, this was the weakness for low to medium skilled jobs. The State didn’t put enough money in the ‘school’ part (half general education, half professional training), hence a lot of the apprentices & former apprentices I met didn’t acquire the intellectual tools to deal with significant future changes in their trade, either in technology, organization, or business model. Changes that have been occuring at a fast pace in almost every line of business for quite some time now…

So, while I agree that apprenticeship schemes are far from being a dead end, and that in many countries they extend far beyond high school, I think Dr. Balogh has a point.

vasarhelyimezohod
Guest

Article titled: The myth of human rights.

Published by Fidesz’ most supported think tank Századvég or rather it’s just a governmental agency carrying out outsourced work.

The enemy: the Frankfurt school (aka leftist Jews) and the 68’ers. Just so you know.

http://szazadveg.hu/foundation/kutatas/szazadveg-otletmuhely/az-emberi-jogok-mitosza-

TP
Guest

OT:

The Hungarist movement holds an interesting conference commemorating the 70th anniversary of the october 15, 1944 Arrow-Cross takeover.

Guess where it is held?

In the Csepeli Munkásotthon, the Workers’ House of Csepel. Csepel of course used to be called Red Csepel due to its strong communist leanings.

Working class people moved to Jobbik…The left wing lost them entirely.

http://szupercella.tumblr.com/image/99583460719

tappanch
Guest

Budapest, district 21, Csepel

April 2014 election. Votes for party list:

Left Alliance: 37.1%
Fidesz: 34.1%
Jobbik: 17.6%
LMP: 6.7%
others: 4.5%

Somebody insulted Gyurcsany today in the Csepel farmers’ market today.

Guest

Not too much OT:

Mrs Merkel and her entourage will probably not travel to Socsi for the usual consultations with the Russian government – it would be useless …

Several NGOs (among them Amnesty International, Greenpeace etc) have already written Mrs Merkel that they will not take part in the meeting at the end of October …

http://www.spiegel.de/politik/deutschland/russland-regierungskonsultationen-mit-deutschland-fallen-aus-a-996674.html

GoodDefense
Guest

Merkel must see that the Hungarian regime has got one mission, namely to break up the unity of the European Union.

She needs to work out an effective defense to block this threat.

bild
Guest

A high profile meeting of Orban-Merkel, just before the elections in Hungary. This could be easily considered an endorsement and will result in an even bigger victory in the municipal elections for Fideusz.

But I have another theory. Could it be that Merkel wanted to send a message not to the Hungarian electorate but to the United States. A message like “I see many of your spies in Europe, I see your wiretapping and surveillance of Europeans, I see your meddling in European affairs, I see you trying influence politics within MY sphere of influence. And I don’t like it that much. Slow down a little.”

spectator
Guest
Did anyone else noticed in Orbán’s speech a certain xenophobe attitude too, when he explained that “the hidden work-force of Europe as well as of Hungary is the Romany population” – or something at this effect? Right before the tirade he went into details regarding the “negative” effects of the migrating people altogether, particularly emphasising the “faulty way of thinking” of the Europeans when they will “import” workers. it’s wrong – according to him – to encourage people of other countries to come to Europe… From here he went on to announce the new program which supposed to turn all the Roma “skilled worker” – supposedly overnight. “Only” icing on this very cake that every (Roma) child who pass the age three must go to a daycare, “where he/she get feed” and learn the “basics” of the society, in order to became a “useful” member of it… I couldn’t help but imagine the reaction of the respective families when their infants will be taken to became a “useful member” of the orbanian society, and the potential conflicts which programmed into this. Not to mention that when Gyurcsány tried to introduce a system which would have provided a weekly stay in… Read more »
Guest

As I wrote before – this meeting between Orbán and Mrs Merkel isn’t even mentioned in the German media nor on the official Chancellor’s homepage – so it couldn’t have been “high profile”!
http://www.bundeskanzlerin.de/SiteGlobals/Forms/Webs/BKin/Suche/EN/Solr_aktuelles_formular.html?nn=619050
That’s just an invention of the Fidesz media …

Uli Fichte
Guest
@spectator This was a ‘useful’ speech performed to (token) gipsies. Hungarian gipsies thereby can be felt appreciated at least more so than immigrants. There was an implicit promise of work too in the speech, which is good, the usual election BS, but you have to say something (you cannot promise money and it’s not money that people crave but a job, though a job ideally in which not much work is to be expected from the employee). Orban uses whatever trick he can. According to Orban, immigrants are a free target to hate, so why not? The problem with frustration – and believe me most people are frustrated and unhappy with their lives in Hungary – is that the left wing cannot address a very deep seated, fundamental human desire: to blame. The left can only direct frustration back to the frustrated person: you are not competitive enough, didn’t get good enough education, don’t speak languages etc. As if telling a person point blank that he/she is inadequate (aka a stupid loser) is a usually successful political strategy. The right wing knows that somebody (that is other than your very voters) have to be blamed. It can be the EU,… Read more »
KTP
Guest

The meeting was not an “invention”. Many sources including 444 reported on it (with photos).

http://444.hu/2014/10/08/orban-viktor-annyira-megorult-angela-merkel-kedves-mosolyanak-hogy-gyakorlatilag-kacagcva-tancra-perdult/

Guest

@K Troll P:

Yes there was a meeting – but nothing serious …

Or do you have any info on/from the German side? As I wrote – there is nothing online …

Btw there is a lot in the German media on the meeting with the Polish Prime Minister, the Chinese Leader etc – but nothing about Merkel and Orbán, ain’t that strange?

Here again, straight from Mrs Merkel’s office:
http://www.bundeskanzlerin.de/SiteGlobals/Forms/Webs/BKin/Suche/EN/Solr_aktuelles_formular.html?nn=619050

petofi
Guest

@Good Defense

“Merkel must see that the Hungarian regime has got one mission, namely to break up the unity of the European Union.

She needs to work out an effective defense to block this threat.”

There’s really not much merit in ‘I told you so’….but I’ve been saying this for over three years; also that Putin is the force in support of Orban, and the Hungarian currency, too.

It’s time for people to realize that Orban’s brazenness has hidden supports…and dire ramifications, for the country and for the EU.

tappanch
Guest

The Mafia uses Mafia methods:

The shepherd who opposed Orban’s close friend Meszaros, and Orban’s son-in-law and runs for a mayoral position was hit by a car tonight, on the eve of the election.

He is in hospital with life-threatening injuries.

http://www.hvg.hu/itthon/20141011_Elgazoltak_az_alcsuti_juhaszt_az_Egyutt_j

tappanch
Guest
spectator
Guest

@Uli Fichte

Of course, you’re right in every aspect. This kind of crap sounds pretty reassuring from a person standing on some park bench while the crowd cheers, indeed.

Actually I was curious that anyone else noticed a clear attitude change: there is no beating around the bush any longer. A real strong leader don’t even have to pretend compassion.
Empathy typical of the “losers”, you know.

tappanch
Guest

Breaking news:
The opposition candidate for the mayor of Alcsutdoboz, shepherd András Váradi has died from his injuries.

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