Hungarian foreign minister in Washington: A stalemate

Let’s cut to the chase: neither the Hungarian nor the American position has changed despite Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó’s meeting with Assistant Undersecretary Victoria Nuland in Washington today. So far we have two brief reports on the meeting. The first was published in Magyar Nemzet; its source is HírTV, which sent its own crew to Washington for the occasion. The second is from the Washington correspondent of MTI, which I found in HVG. The former is a more expansive summary of what transpired between Nuland and Szijjártó, complete with direct quotations from Szijjártó himself.

What did we learn from this report? Despite repeated American explanations of why the U.S. government is unable to reveal the names of the individuals who have been banned from entering the U.S., Szijjártó was still hoping for such information. Here is Szijjártó in his own words: “I asked the government of the United States to share with us creditable information on the basis of which they accuse certain Hungarian citizens of corruption.” As long as there is no such information “we cannot move forward…. It is only the United States that can make the first move.” A stalemate. The United States expects the Hungarian government to clean up the country’s thoroughly corrupt behavior toward international businesses while the Hungarian government’s interpretation of the situation is much more narrowly defined. As far as the Hungarians are concerned, there may be some corrupt officials but unless the United States names these people the Hungarian government can do nothing. The only positive development, according to Szijjártó, was that Nuland did not repeat the threat uttered by Goodfriend that “if that trend continues it may reach a level where the United States can no longer cooperate with Hungary as an ally.” I do hope that Szijjártó doesn’t interpret this omission to mean that Goodfriend made an empty threat  because I’m almost certain that if Hungary stonewalls, other harsh steps will be taken against the Orbán government. And for the time being stonewalling seems to be the Hungarian diplomatic strategy.

The MTI report was more upbeat. Who knows why Szijjártó changed his story, but he did. No more talk about who will have to take the next step. Instead, he emphasized his government’s willingness to fight corruption and said that in this fight the two governments can count on each other. Economic and military relations between the two countries are excellent. According to Szijjártó, Nuland was full of praise for Hungary’s decision to supply gas to Ukraine. There was an interesting remark made in passing. It turned out that Nuland brought up some specific criticisms of certain pieces of Hungarian legislation, but Szijjártó brushed these objections aside as being irrelevant because they have been accepted and approved by the European Commission.

György Szapáry, Hungarian ambassador to Washington, and Péter Szijjártó MTI / Ministry of Forreign Affairs and Trade / Tamás Szémann

György Szapáry, Hungarian ambassador to Washington, and Péter Szijjártó
MTI / Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade / Photo: Tamás Szémann

What did the Hungarian government know about the coming storm? It seems a lot, and not only about the corruption cases. One had to be blind and deaf not to notice the growing dissatisfaction of foreign governments with the Orbán regime. One also assumes that Hungarian diplomats do their job and write reports on the current attitude toward Hungary in their host countries. Of course, given the atmosphere in government offices in the Orbán regime, it is possible that the ambassadors don’t dare tell the truth. Still, although there was a stream of denials of any wrongdoing and everything was chalked up to Hungarian liberals’ squealing and turning against their own country, I believe they knew full well that trouble was brewing all around. And yet Népszabadság‘s Ildikó Csuhaj, who seems to have good Fidesz sources, claimed today that Viktor Orbán himself knew nothing about the NAV affair. One wonders how much disinformation from “reliable” Fidesz sources lands on Csuhaj’s desk. This seems to be one of them.

Although there was plenty of evidence of growing U.S. dissatisfaction with Viktor Orbán’s policies, he did not change his ways on issues that seemed important to Washington. He even ignored Zsolt Németh’s warning. I wrote about a conference held in Washington on October 2 where one of the speakers was Németh, an old friend of Orbán–at least until recently, who received a very chilly reception. It was here that Victoria Nuland delivered the speech I republished in Hungarian Spectrum. Today Németh decided to speak and tell the world that he had forewarned Orbán about the impending bomb that might be coming from Washington. The interview with Németh appeared in Válasz. In it Németh expressed his hope that “several of the questions surrounding the [NAV] affair will be cleared up.” (As we know by now they were not.) Hungarian right-wing journalists dismiss corruption as the real cause of the present situation. In their interpretation the reference to corruption is only a pretext. Válasz‘s reporter also wanted to know whether the real reason for the ban on corrupt officials is Viktor Orbán’s relations with Russia. Németh wouldn’t dismiss corruption entirely, but he thinks that in addition to the Russian connection there are other very irritating issues: the NGOs, Hungary’s attitude toward Ukraine, the Russian sanctions, and the speech on “illiberalism.” Németh sensed all that, and on his return to Budapest he informed the foreign minister–still Tibor Navracsics then–and the prime minister of his experience. At the end of the interview Németh indicated that a new chapter should open in U.S.-Hungarian relations: “we are right after the election, both countries will send new ambassadors. Let’s see the good side of this affair: we are at a point from which we can take off.” Although not in so many words, what Németh suggests is an entirely new Hungarian foreign and domestic orientation.

Németh is most likely right. I can see no room for improvement in U.S.-Hungarian relations if the Orbán foreign policy proceeds apace. I even have my doubts about improvement if Orbán makes some adjustments in his domestic and foreign policies. By now Orbán strongly believes in his vision of a new Hungary in which liberalism has no place. This new Hungary is an authoritarian country with pseudo-democratic trappings. He is also convinced in the declining West and the rising East. He will not change course. He really can’t. He is what he is. He can never satisfy the demands of western democracies.

Just to reinforce my point about Orbán’s mindset, here are two pieces of news about the latest Hungarian diplomatic moves. Hungary may be experiencing a serious diplomatic crisis with the United States but the foreign ministry just announced that Hungary will open a cultural and commercial agency in Northern Cyprus, a “country” recognized by only one country, Turkey. This move might make Hungary’s relations with two EU countries, Greece and Cyprus, less than friendly. This is a gesture toward Turkey, whose “illiberal democracy” is a thorn in the side of western democracies.

The second diplomatic move also sends a not too cordial message to the United States. Two days ago the Iranian Tasmin News Agency announced that a Hungarian parliamentary delegation is scheduled to pay an official visit to Iran. The visit will be fairly long. The delegation is headed by deputy speaker János Latorcai (KDNP). The invitation to the Hungarians was extended by the deputy speaker of the Iranian parliament Seyed Mohammad Hassan Abu Torbifard. It is interesting that reports of controversial Hungarian diplomatic moves usually don’t appear in the Hungarian press. Hungarians hear about the events from the other countries’ news agencies. From a later Tasmin News Agency report we learned that Latorcai had a meeting with the chairman of the Iranian parliament’s national security and foreign policy commission, Alaeddin Boroujerdi. According to the report, Boroujerdi made the following comment during their conversation: “the illogical and wrong policies adopted by the US and its regional allies have caused the spread of terrorism and instability across the region and their continuation has turned terrorism into a global concern.” As for Iranian-Hungarian relations, the Iranian politician said that “the two nations have great potential for the enhancement of relations in the political, economic, and cultural fields.” Latorcai, for his part, emphasized that “Budapest is determined to strengthen its ties with the Eastern nations, with Iran in particular.” One must wonder whether these diplomatic moves are the result of inexperience or, as I suspect, are designed to irritate Hungary’s allies and flaunt the country’s total independence. Whatever it is, this attitude will eventually lead to diplomatic disaster. It’s just a question of time.

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Member

Unbelievable how many Hungarian diplomats and journalist had to gather around Szijjarto to report back to Hungary on very much nothing. I guess there will be more and more Fidesz politicians will be taking off to the USA, so we can see that they were not the ones banned.

As far as Cyprus goes, I think it is a great idea to open all of these payroll outlets for Fidesz’ friends. Slowly all Fidesz supporters will be in some remote country teaching the csardas, and if we are lucky they will stay right there.

Csaba K. Zoltani
Guest

The BP-W controversy is truly a Danse Macabre marked by dishonesty. Claiming that some are corrupt and punishing them for alleged misdeeds without revealing what these misdeeds are constitutes dishonest bullying. On the other hand, feigning lack of awareness about corrupt business practices widely discussed for some time is just as knavish. With proper leadership on both sides, this matter could be, and should be, cleared up promptly.

tappanch
Guest

Do you think the leaders in the Hungarian IRS acted alone?

Do you think that Orban is so inept that he does not know how much money ‘partner’ companies paid into Fidesz and fidesznik accounts, directly or indirectly?

Is it at least 50x 2 billion = 100 billion?

Isn’t it the mafioso dictatorial government that is dishonest?

tappanch
Guest

Employment in organizations employing at least 5 people
2014 August vs 2013 August

Budgetary institutions w/o fostered workers 696.6 [674.8], +3.2%
Enterprises + Non-profits w/o fostered workers 1963.3 [1904.1], +3.1%

Fostered workers in budgetary institutions 171.5 [130.8], +31.1%
Fostered workers in Enterprises + Non-profits 23.4 [16.2], +44.4%

Member

Csaba K. Zoltani
October 21, 2014 at 7:57 pm
“The BP-W controversy is truly a Danse Macabre marked by dishonesty. Claiming that some are corrupt and punishing them for alleged misdeeds without revealing what these misdeeds are constitutes dishonest bullying.”

I know in Hungary privacy means noting but in the USA they take it seriously. If they reveal those names, the next thing you know some of those bubbleheads will take the USA to court. By the way the USA is an independent country and if they do blot want to let anyone in because they do not like that they slurp their water to loud, it is their business. Do not forget that it was not the USA who leaked the document, but the Hungarian government.
Also for the Hungarian government it would be very easy to figure out who are involved, but they even refuse investigate their own men who spends five time the amount of money he officially earns. Wonder why?

tappanch
Guest

Remark:
The employment numbers include a secretive number of Hungarians who were actually employed abroad.

Member

Csaba, I, a US taxpayer, applaud when my government gives the boot to corrupt foreign officials, who tried to fleece American companies. I am actually proud of it. Proud, as I was, when the marines plucked out Noriega from his posh presidential palace.

gdfxx
Guest

I guess we can expect to see Orban’s next trip to be to North Korea. That’s where Ceausescu learned how the real cult of personality looks like and then applied it at home. And Orban keeps taking very similar steps to those of the deceased Romanian dictator.

András
Guest
I’m completely outraged. I’m a university student from Hungary, who happens to have an American girlfriend. With the Orbán government’s anti-Western policies, will I be soon branded as a “suspicious element”, for having close ties with “the enemy”? Better yet, will relations between the United States and Hungary deteriorate to the point where it will be extremely difficult for us to visit each other in our respective countries? I suppose I should jump ship while I can, joining the hundreds of thousands of others who are lucky enough to be already abroad. I have just one thing to say to Mr. Orbán: How dare you accuse the liberals or anyone else of turning against Hungary, when it’s quite clear that it’s you and your government of criminals that have turned against this country, its people, and every principle of Western civilization?! In these dark times, I find Abraham Lincoln’s words painfully accurate: “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” In other news, possibly as a diversion from the corruption issue, and also probably a ‘social experiment’, the Hungarian government announced that it wishes to impose… Read more »
András
Guest

@gdfxx I know it’s really ungentlemanly to say something like this, but I sincerely hope that he and his accomplices will one day sooner, rather than later will meet a similar fate than the “Genious of the Carpathians”.

db
Guest

A note on the Orbán government’s shenanigans in Cyprus: it is actually the puppet state in illegally Turkish-occupied Northern Cyprus, founded in the wake of the 1974 invasion (Operation Attila), that has just opened a consulate in Budapest, not the other way around. This might not seem so bad, given that the so-called Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus already has similar offices in Berlin, Brussels, Stockholm, Geneva and Rome. It becomes harder to make light of this event, however, when one reads the following announcement, posted on the Facebook site of the Hungarian embassy in Nicosia, the capital of the officially recognized Republic of Cyprus in the South of the island (reported by Magyar Narancs): “WE WOULD LIKE TO INFORM OUR CUSTOMERS THAT THE CONSULAR SECTION OF THE EMBASSY OF HUNGARY WILL BE CLOSED AFTER 15 SEPTEMBER 2014 DUE TO TECHNICAL REASONS, UNTIL FURTHER DECISION OF THE MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND TRADE. THANK YOU FOR YOUR UNDERSTANDING!” I’m sure Mr. Erdogan, for one, understands.

http://magyarnarancs.hu/kulpol/orbanek-ujabb-diplomaciai-mesterfogasa-92203

GW
Guest
Csaba K. Zoltani, there is no “dishonest bullying” going on on the part of the US here. In response to specific complaints about corruption on the part of specific individuals, the US cannot and does not prosecute the foreign officials, but is required by law to deny them entry, to do so privately. This is not “punishment”, as foreign citizens do not have an automatic right of entry into the US. Moreover US corporations are required to report corrupt practices. Foreign officials attempting to extract bribes or other rents from US firms do so with the terms of the law fully clear. Need I remind you that the US Embassy did not leak any names here, but did, on October 5th, inform the Foreign ministry confidentially of the nature of their actions and their complaint, in terms of policy, not personnel? In so doing, ample opportunity was given to Hungary to act on the complaint within its own rule of law Instead a phony leak was given to the Hungarian press claiming that US entities were under investigation by the tax authority and any public statements subsequently made by the US Embassy were due to this leak and its publicity.… Read more »
GW
Guest

András wrote: “In other news, possibly as a diversion from the corruption issue, and also probably a ‘social experiment’, the Hungarian government announced that it wishes to impose new taxes on the use of the internet. In the current form of the proposition, this would mean that customers would have to pay 0.60 USD after every gigabyte(!) of data”

This is simply further evidence that the Hungarian government wants the Hungarian people to be uninformed and poor.

gdfxx
Guest

Maybe somebody had pointed this out already, but after reading the State Department’s daily press briefing on this particular subject, I only see the visa restriction being applied to “Hungarian Government officials”. I seem to recall that the original reports referred to others too.

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2014/10/233166.htm#HUNGARY

gdfxx
Guest

András: ‘I know it’s really ungentlemanly to say something like this, but I sincerely hope that he and his accomplices will one day sooner, rather than later will meet a similar fate than the “Genious of the Carpathians”.’

I disagree. Many (including me) consider that a totally lawless action. In a civilized country people like that are tried and then convicted in court, a regular court, not a kangaroo- court that sentenced the Ceausescu couple to death and executed them almost immediately, televising the execution soon after.

I hope the Orban government will fail, rather sooner than later, but I hope this will happen under better circumstances than those in 1989’s Romania. I would prefer elections…

Julie
Guest

@GW Hear, hear!

corman
Guest
Mr. Zoltani is a great example of the Fidesz-loyal intelligentsia. They support wholeheartedly Orban without even the slightest doubts. We are in 2014 and still nobody has any doubts or critical words. Nobody left Fidesz, everybody is staying put. For them the Orban system with its expected 20-30% kickbacks, code of silence, ordered judgements, bogus prosecutions is heaven. This is not sarcasm, they really feel so. If they are critical in a minimal way then they also happy to endure for the goal of being able to feel themselves “strong” (like versus the EU or the US) and get rid of the “communists”. “Look the mighty US is trying to act tough but Orban told them to get lost. Hehhahaa, he’s our boy. Meanwhile he’s building his pro-Turkey, pro-Iran, pro-Russia dictatorship and all inside NATO and the EU, he is such a genius.” People like Zoltani so deeply seek respect (they have been so deeply humiliated and wounded) that they will support Orban until the very last bullet, until the last days in the bunker (just as in 1944 or with Milosevic). Poor people, but they are the majority. I hope the doubters here will realize that Orban is not… Read more »
tappanch
Guest

The Orban government submitted an amendment yesterday to make it possible for a company [Gazprom] to build gas pipelines without EU consent.

This will make it possible to build the Russian Southern Stream against EU objection.

http://www.parlament.hu/irom40/01371/01371-0004.pdf

http://index.hu/gazdasag/2014/10/22/vezetek/

tappanch
Guest

Re: Internet tax.

Say, you live outside Budapest. The only way to listen to independent radio is Klubradio on the internet.

Your internet radio is turned on 4 hours a day. (This is not impossible If you are a retired person with 90,000 forint a month from social security and plenty of time).

According to Orban government’s plans, you have to pay 39,000 forint a month in tax for your curiosity from January 1, 2015!

Based on the data traffic estimation at
http://index.hu/tech/2014/10/22/internetado_mennyibe_kerul_forint_megabajt_letoltes_torrent_infografika/

Guest
No one, myself included, can ever think the Fidez government is 1) thinking of the good of the people, 2) isn’t corrupt, or 3) has any idea of who they really are in the relative political world arena. Hungary is really relatively small in political leverage and has, like most East European countries, a faltering economy led by oligarchs. However Hungary sits exactly in the center of Europe and is somewhat important in regards to maintaining a political unity among the Eastern members. Hungary under Orban has clearly left the fold and is obviously working to re-establish close ties to Russia in particular and Turkey now it seems. Russia and it’s problems in the Ukraine are Russia’s and not Hungary’s. Nut, Orban started a few years back to fan the flames by granting citizenship rights to ethic Hungarians living in former Hungarian territories which are no parts of other Sovereign nations. In West Ukraine there is a significant population of ethnic Hungarians so for Orban this makes Ukraine a personal issue. Some of the things he has done in Hungary are well meaning and ultimately good for the country like paying off the IMF and World Bank loans. The inability… Read more »
tappanch
Guest

In 2010, Orban promised 1 million new jobs by 2020. [This was his ONLY election promise then, as far as I remember]

Let us see how he is doing in this respect!

1.
For profit enterprises with at least 5 employees, not including “fostered workers”

August 2010: 1852.5
August 2014: 1870.3 thousand employees

The increase is 17.8 thousand people (1%) since 2010, as opposed to the 400 thousand increase expected.

This number also includes an unknown [to us] number of people who were employed abroad, but counted in the Hungarian statistics.

2.
Budgetary institutions:

August 2010: 780.2 – 87.3 fostered workers [2010 average] = 692.2
August 2014: 868.1 – 171.5 fostered workers = 696.6

3.
Fostered workers

2009 average: 61.0
2010 average: 87.3
2011 average: 60.9
2013 average: 129.1
2013 August: 147.0
2014 August: 195.1

Salary of a full time “fostered worker” :
77519 forints gross – social security – health care – 16% income tax], i.e.

less than 200 euros a month.

tappanch
Guest

Number of fostered workers.
2014 [2013]

month:
01: 198.4 [ 33.5]
02: 200.3 [ 27.0]
03: 209.1 [ 92.0]
04: 211.8 [139.4]
05: 98.8 [149.5]
06:153.6 [151.8]
07:179.2 [147.9]
08:195.1 [147.0]
09: [145.4]
10: [133.5]
11: [179.4]
12: [202.8]

Hank
Guest

OT. New EU commission president Junker has just announced that Navracsics post as commissioner will not include citizenship, but it will contain education, culture and ….. sports. (Maybe he can initiate the building of some soccer stadiums in other EU countries?). Meanwhile, musicians, stage directors, conductors and choreographers from across the continent signed a petition to be published in major newspapers this week against the appointment of Navracsics as commissioner of culture and education (see http://ietm.org/en/news/an-open-letter-to-jean-claude-juncker-and-members-of-the-european-parliament-from-the-hungarian)

Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Guest

@tappanch: I disagree with your calculation for Internet radio. According to the estimations you linked to, the monthly cost for 4 hours/day would be 325.5 x4 = 1,300 Ft.

PS: according to my own estimations it would be higher, around 2,000 Ft/month for the low quality stream – ((32 x 3600 x 4 x 30)/1048576)*150.

tappanch
Guest

@Marcel De

Thanks, it is my mistake. I skipped the words “for a month” and multiplied by 30.

browsing the internet: 2 hours a day ——> 1020 forints tax a month
facebook: 1 hour a day ———–> 1040 forints in tax
not doing anything on the internet (idling) 8 hours a day ——> 1700 forints in tax

http://444.hu/2014/10/22/ha-jon-az-internetado-akkor-kb-35-forint-lesz-egy-ora-a-facebookon/

Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Guest

@Hank : the EP vote on the Juncker Commission seems to be a done deal anyway.

Anyway thanks for the link to the IETM release, too bad they didn’t advertise it sooner. I’m not sure though it’s the same as the text supported by ‘Western European’ artists and cultural institutions managers that has recently been mentioned in the press. I’m trying to get my hands on the latter …

HiBoM
Guest

This internet tax is ridiculous and breathtakingly short sighted. The internet is up in arms and many have asked if this is not just a crafty distraction from the government’s current problems with the USA. GIven that this tax will cripple IPTV in Hungary, it is untenable so I expect it to be modified before being finally passed into law.

But what it doesn’t do is create any remote confidence in Hungary as a place to live and do business.

Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Guest

To all: could you please start writing shorter comments? Those of us who are in Hungary have only two months to prepare for the InterNyet tax.

HiBoM
Guest

It is interesting that the economics ministry is expecting something like 20 billion forints of revenue per year from this tax. Calculations show that if usage remains the same, it will gather 220 billion.

So, I strongly suspect that the end result will be a 15 forints per gigabyte tax, but only after everyone has pulled their hair out and forgotten the other issues that they should be getting annoyed about.

Talking about the impotence of the opposition – the Hungarian government is being accused of corruption by the USA, the person who is sent to America is Péter Szijjartó who lives in a house he cannot possibly afford on his salary and the focus of the corruption accusations are on the tax authority whose job it is investigate people who have become magically rich like Szijjartó. Surely that is a big enough target to aim at: it is a question or right and wrong, rather than right and left. But no one seems willing to even try…

Guest

Péter Szijjartó is more or less one of the same kind of person who dominates US politics. No Member of Congress has a net worth less than $7 million except for those few who have either gone bankrupt for hazy schemes, embezzled, gambled it away, or had their property confiscated by the courts yet they still remain in power. Nuland is herself a very wealthy woman with long and deep family political ties (http://www.theoccidentalobserver.net/2014/02/victoria-nulands-family-ties/) and her husband is the arch neo-con who co-sponosred the Project for the New American Century. One has to be very careful when making accusations that it applies to all parties involved. IMHO ALL politicians are by nature corrupt and self-serving. It is only when their personal goals coincide with the people’s goals that any actual progress is made. Orban is obviously intellectually challenged and apparently most of his staff are as well which mirrors Obama’s obviously incompetent administration.

Sorry, I am going to have to learn brevity to cut my posts down.

tappanch
Guest

Hungary could not sell its 12-month discount treasury bills today.

http://www.portfolio.hu/gazdasag/allampapirpiac/besult_a_magyar_kincstarjegy-aukcio.3.205392.html

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