The Hungarian government turns up the heat on the NGOs

Yesterday I wrote about Viktor Orbán’s pro-Russian policy, which does not endear him to Washington. Another sore point is the Hungarian treatment of certain NGOs and the attacks of late on independent organizations that receive money from the Norwegian Civic Fund. Barack Obama specifically mentioned the importance of NGOs as watchdogs over rogue states like Hungary. One would think that Viktor Orbán might try to mend fences with the U.S. by retreating a bit on this issue and not pursuing the controversial attacks on the Ökotárs Foundation, the distributor of the Norwegian Civic Funds. But no, these attacks have shifted into even higher gear.

In May the government ordered KEHI (Kormányzati Ellenőrző Hivatal = State Audit) to investigate the case. The Norwegians consider the investigation illegal because in their opinion the money Ökotárs distributed among several NGOs was not part of the Hungarian budget. The money never entered the Hungarian treasury in any way. The funds came straight from an office entrusted with the task located in Brussels.

If the Hungarian government had wanted to remove at least this particular sore point from the agenda, they could have quietly dropped the case and simply forgotten about the report KEHI prepared. Or they could have come out with a very mild reprimand for some lax practices. But Viktor Orbán wouldn’t be Viktor Orbán if he had chosen that path. Instead, yesterday KEHI released its 40-page report in which it accused Ökotárs of mismanagement, fraud, forgery of private documents, and unauthorized financial activities.

As usual, Magyar Nemzet was the first publication to write about the report. Their initial article indicated that the KEHI document is already in the hands of János Lázár. From that point on Magyar Nemzet kept publishing shocking reports about the frivolous items these NGOs spent their money on. The one that caused the greatest uproar was the purchase of tampons. It turned out that the Kékpont Foundation was guilty of this particular crime. The foundation, which deals with drug addicts, gave “motivational” hygienic packages to the addicts, and the tampons were in packages distributed to the women. All these stories came out in Magyar Nemzet before the report was made available to the Ökotárs Foundation.

Yesterday at last the document itself appeared on KEHI’s website. Okotárs over the years distributed 500 million forints and KEHI found something wrong with 200 million worth of the grants. Actually, the questionable items amounted to only 10 million (about $41,000). Yet Lázár is outraged and wants to renegotiate the contract with the Norwegian government. He promptly invited the “appropriate Norwegian minister” to Hungary for a friendly chat. Then, perhaps realizing the absurdity of his suggestion, he added that after all he would be ready to meet the Norwegian politician in Brussels.

Norwegian flag

What will Lázár tell the “appropriate Norwegian minister”? Norway should break the contract with the Ökotárs Foundation since it is not worthy of Norway’s trust. The funds should be distributed by “state or private organizations.” The English translation of the report will be sent to the Norwegian ambassador in Budapest as well as to the European Commission.

But not all accusations are in the KEHI report. Népszabadság reported that investigators at KEHI complained about Veronika Móra’s frequent meetings with American diplomats as well as her visits to the Norwegian embassy. These kinds of contacts are suspect in the eyes of the regime, as we know from Viktor Orbán’s “illiberal” speech in Romania.

Meanwhile Magyar Nemzet kept attacking both the Norwegian government and Ökotárs. Yesterday morning an article appeared in the paper which claimed, on the basis of information coming from KEHI, that Ökotárs passed on important documents for safekeeping to the Norwegian embassy. And that is not all. Officials at the embassy postdated certain documents. While KEHI investigators were at it, they decided to accuse the Financial Mechanism Office (FMO) that handles the Norwegian funds in Brussels of complicity because its official suggested to Ökotárs that it move all its documents out of Hungary.

Late last night journalists from more independent media outlets began looking at the findings of KEHI. András Földes of Index observed that only in history books could one find examples of such accusations that used to lay the groundwork for show trials in the Rákosi period. And, he added, “the officials are actually proud of it.” The proof presented to the journalists did not convince them, but they surmised that the officials of KEHI simply did what was expected of them by the Hungarian government. The results were preordained. Without going into the details, the KEHI officials, by pasting together parts of different sentences, actually falsified the intended meaning of Ökotárs’s CEO. The reporter for Index cites several dubious practices of KEHI that call into question the validity of the charges.

In light of the above it is no surprise that Veronika Móra, CEO of Ökotárs, said to MTI today that it is impossible to respond to “accusations that are not supported by facts.” If the KEHI officials found irregularities, they should have described them precisely, but in the document one finds only generalizations. It is full of phrases like: “it also happened,” “there was also such a case.” Ökotárs is ready to go to court and hopes for a favorable verdict.

As for the Norwegian response to the publication of the KEHI report, according to a brief English-language article on the Norwegian internet site, The Local, the Norwegian government already considered the KEHI probe illegal and it is unlikely that after this most likely fraudulent report they will change their minds. It is worth quoting some passages from this article:

Hungary’s squeeze on foreign-funded NGOs has been criticized by Norway and the United States…. US President Barack Obama last month included Hungary in a list of countries where “endless regulations and overt intimidation increasingly target civil society.”…  Relations between the US and Hungary sank further last week when Washington issued entry bans to six unnamed Hungarian government officials it suspected of corruption. The US charge d’affaires in Budapest, Andre Goodfriend, told AFP on Tuesday that “intimidation of civil society” as well as “centralisation of authority, lack of transparency, and corruption” could prevent the US continuing as an ally of Hungary.

Norway was tough all along but now it must feel even more hardened since the United States is supporting its stance on this matter.

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Istvan
Guest

Eva what a wonderful summary of that mass of information and thanks for the link to the report, no doubt reading through it will cause me to drink excessive amounts of beer to contain my anger.

Julie
Guest

Re: giving their documents to the Norwegians for safekeeping. That sounds like a best practice to me, honestly. Clearly no internal correspondence is safe.

attila
Guest

Not a word about the Anniversary of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution,,,,whats wrong whith you guys!!!!Tisztelet a Hősöknek!

Ron
Guest

The KEHI report is based upon a period of 2008 to 2014 April 30. And the total amount is EUR 40K. This amount is totally immaterial divided over a period of 6 years and four months.. Btw how can the KEHI do a proper job in one day (according to the their report).

It seems that Fidesz did not learn from their mistakes. They imprisoned the Japanese Suzuki CEO and his Deputies for USD 75,000 that was some how lost in 1998 to 2002.

Attila
Guest

For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.matthew7.2
De a puszta gyűlölet csak puszta gyűlöletet gerjeszt, és így valóban életre kel majd a jóslat, (ami talán már életre is kelt) miszerint “magyar a magyarnak lesz farkasa”. Hát ne legyen! Én nem leszek. Ha mindenáron szerepet kell választanom, inkább a bárány leszek, de magyarba nem harapok.,,,shame on you traitor.devider,manipulator,lier,,

petofi
Guest

@Eva,

I think the boys in the basement draw lots and they get to castigate–no matter how idiotically–
elements of this blog. Just for fun; or, as my buddies at Connaught Raceway used to say, “juste
pour le fun”.

If Charles Darwin would be alive today, he’d have to junk all his stuff on the advancement of the species….had be but examined that creature known as “Magyar”!

Poor Charles, he must be spinning in his grave…

Attila
Guest

Very democratic move Eva..who is not your oppinion should be banned,,from here,,that’s nearly shows dictatorial character,,,I came here whith no bad intention,,,,but stop to devide,,,your brothers and sisters,,ps,your generation is a dying species,my generation is the future,,

tappanch
Guest

Speaking of the Bible,

As I heard in my family,
most Hungarians in 1956 kept at least one commandment:

Lo Tignov = Thou shalt not steal

Today, Orban’s kleptors openly flaunt their impunity for stealing.

from a future Wikipedia article:

“Kleptor orbanensis = Polt-enabled species in the Holocene of the Carpathian basin.

They devastated large areas where and when they dominated the food chain.”

sunyilo12
Member

Attila,

Perhaps you have something to add to the subject matter Eva posted? You did not bring up a different opinion but try to lecture people who could be parents of your parents. What does Matthew teach about that?

gdfxx
Guest

I guess some people need to learn to distinguish between expressing a difference of opinion and an insult.

Attila
Guest

Sunyilo. “Morality is simply the attitude we adopt towards people we personally dislike.”
– Oscar Wilde
Not hate but dislike..
I have nothing to add anymore to the matter..,just feel sorry for her,,,

Julie
Guest

In which case, Atilla, why not just get your own blog and quit posting here? You obviously have nothing to contribute.

Attila
Guest

Yes gdfxx to you it seems the the Anniversary of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution a insult,,maybe we should remember today instead again the holocaust,and tomorow to,,and daily we should remember holocaust ,,you would like that gdfxx head teacher,,,,,you are the insult,ps Julie attila not atilla.you should know this as the blog called hungarian spectrum

An
Guest

@Eva: I am so sorry you have to deal with this.

If anybody has issues with what Eva post or doesn’t post on October 23, first read these blog entries from a couple of years ago:

http://hungarianspectrum.org/2011/10/23/an-eyewitness-account-october-23-1956/

http://hungarianspectrum.org/2011/11/29/an-eyewitness-account-october-1956-part-ii/

Istvan
Guest

I am just now reading the summary section of the KEHI report and it is simply astoundingly crude. Very early on the report it accuses an unnamed member or members of the Norwegian Embassy staff of falsifying documents once the KEHI investigation began, but as yet no attempt has been made by the Hungarian government to expel these devious Norwegians. Probably because there is no actual evidence provided hence the KEHI claims it was only “likely” that these crooked Norwegians did these things.

In the USA we have a phrase for this type of investigation, it’s called a “hatchet job” meaning the investigation chops up every thing so well the truth can’t be determined from reading the report.

Eva, a vér akár több mint a 56 megjegyzés, te egy igazi magyar.

gdfxx
Guest

I doubt that any decent person would question Eva S. Balogh’s intentions when it comes to the 1956 revolution. She does not need excuses.

Member

Alá szolgája, Acika…

Time to send Acika back to his sanctimonious sandbox. The Attilas of this world can have one or two cracks at saying their say, but, that done, they just become increasingly abusive nuisances. Basta. Bye-bye. (The only reason Eva has not yet shown him the door is that she is much too busy doing much more important things. So expect our little Acika to do a little more acting out and to sputter some more venomous bigotry before he gets the boot — only to return under another pseudo, if he’s obsessive-compulsive too…)

Member

Or julcsika, if that bit’s true — no gender monopoly on jingo gibberish…

Member

…and of course the inevitable lapse into holocussing was the most predictable of all — always lurking around the corner in such endearing malcontents, alongside the sanctimony — endless source of insight and inspiration…

teambritanniahungary
Guest

Reblogged this on hungarywolf.

Guest

I certainly understand Eva’s reaction. I may not be Hungarian but I sure understand that it’s difficult (that’s an understatement) to associate 56 with today’s Hungary and its government.

Member

Speaking of anniversaries of revolutions, have you already seen this: http://propeller.hu/itthon/3007240-sajokapolnan-holnap-megunneplik-1848-oktober ? The mayor of Sajókápolna invited patriotic citizens to “the anniversary of the 1848 revolution” which was celebrated yesterday, in other words, confused the dates of the 1848 and 1956 revolutions. (BTW, the stamp with the coat-of-arms, Holy Crown and all, is upside down. Isn’t this sacrilege?)
As for Attila not Atilla, he seems to represent a similar level of education. Preaching about the orthography of Hungarian names with his interpunction and English grammar… If this is the new generation in Hungary (which doesn’t sound so unrealistic, considering what I keep hearing about the strengthening influence of Jobbik among students), that’s really sad enough.

buddy
Guest

I have a relative who works for NAV, the tax authority. He goes out to do on-site audits when the authority suspects that there might be some suspicious activity by some company.

But the crazy thing is this: He’s told that in order to justify the expense of her traveling there and spending time on the audit, he’s REQUIRED to find something incriminating in the company’s records, whether it’s actually there or not. So just him being called out to investigate a company is a guilty sentence for the party involved, and involves a fine. It’s an awful job and he hates it, but it’s a job and he has a mortgage, so what are you going to do…

So anyway if the pressure is on ordinary NAV workers to find something incriminating on a company being investigated, can you imagine the pressure on KEHI workers to find something wrong with Ökotárs when they’re being requested by the top government officials in Hungary??

I’m sure they’re quite aware that if they hadn’t found anything incriminating about Ökotárs they’d all be out of a job tomorrow….

tappanch
Guest

Brainwashing:

This is what an average Hungarian hears day by day INSTEAD of the facts about Fidesz thievery:

Headlines from the NEWSREEL of the pro-government TV2 television channel, which has the second largest viewership in Hungary:

“Ice cream can be dangerous”
“Falling dog almost hit her head”
“Chimney threatened the pupils”
“New giraffe has to make friends”
“Died at a worm hunt”
“Cow hairstylist in Debrecen”
“Parrots chat huddled together”
“Buffalo love triangle”
“Babies cry”
“Shoveled snow and died”
“Slugs eat each other”
“Bus stop speaks too loudly”
“Denture on the streetcar”

“Rats and mice in the house”
“Students do not like chemistry”
“Patients are afraid of roaming horses”
“Vermin teemed everywhere”
“Owl feigns death”
“Lion cubs are always hungry”
“Chestnuts are small and few”
“Grandmother was locked in the bus”
“Dogs and cats were blessed”
“Foul cat smell in the house”
“Children cannot swim”
“Couples cheat on each other”
“Robber’s finger was bitten”
“Hungarians drink too much mineral water”
“2 million stone Satan”
“Parrot whistles film music”
“Cat beauty groped”
“Harpist plays to orangutans”
“Bloodsucking bedbugs invaded the house”
“Policemen chased the young boar”
“Swallow feces cover everything”

http://kepek.444.hu/2014/10/24/magyarorszag-legszurrealisabb-arcat-mutatja-be-a-tv2-hiradoja/
http://lastdaysoftenyek.tumblr.com/

buddy
Guest

OT:

The US Embassy is going to have a press conference today at 1:30pm CET. I wonder what could be so important that they’ve scheduled it on a non-working day.

Also, I’ve heard Viktor Orbán has also scheduled a press conference today, also at 1:30.

Coincidence??

Jon Van Til
Guest

The quality of reporting and analysis on this site is as high as one could possibly wish or imagine. Reserving the right to comment to those possessed of a modicum of civility and intelligence would seem altogether appropriate. Brava, Eva!

hiBoM
Guest

@jon van til, agreed although I wonder how long Petofi would be permitted to contribute his vile rants if he was still a Fidesz supporter?

szabolcs
Guest
The war against NGOs is straight from Russian play books, it worked there perfectly. So Orban and Lázár think it will work in Hungary too. I think what the ‘advisors’ (including I’m assuming some of the government-related trolls here) didn’t think of yet is the spy angle — just to make the case even more reminescent of the 1950’s. That’s because they overlooked the relevant laws. Or probably not, but they chose not to pursue that avenue, at least for the time being. Even to ‘keep regular contacts’ with a foreign government is hazaárulás (the betrayal of the home country, punishable by up to 12 years of imprisonment, still better than in the US) if the goal is to damage the Hungarian constitutional order. Of course whether such intent was there needs very thorough analysis and ultimately only the judiciary is in a position to render a binding opinion on that one… Given the ludicrous cases which the government (chief prosecutor Polt Peter is part of the government even if he is pretending to be independent, which I guess Fidesz is selling to foreigners) brought against many ‘troublemakers’ (let’s just mention the UD Zrt. case in which the victims are… Read more »
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