The latest rants of Viktor Orbán: Where will all this lead?

I wanted to write today about the growing number of Fidesz politicians who are becoming far too rich within suspiciously short periods of time, but Viktor Orbán interfered. Today was one of those Fridays when the prime minister gives a radio interview, and he used the opportunity to further roil the already stormy U.S.-Hungarian relations. The topic? What else but Senator John McCain’s characterization of him as a “neo-fascist dictator” and U.S. charges of corruption against some of the high officials of the National Tax Authority.

The official transcript of the interview is already available on the prime minister’s website, so I can quote Orbán accurately and not have to rely on my notes. The first topic was Senator McCain’s description of him as a “neo-fascist dictator.” Initially Orbán acted as if this was not really an important issue as far as he was concerned; it “should not sap our energy and strength.” What McCain said was “extreme provocation, and such words tell a lot about the people who utter them.”

The reporter didn’t want Orbán to get off the topic that easily, and he went on to express his opinion that the U.S. Congress hasn’t shown such interest in Hungary for decades. Orbán was quick to correct him, pointing out that the United States already in the early 1990s was antagonistic toward “the first democratically elected [Hungarian] government.” I was madly looking for such a low point in U.S.-Hungarian relations during the Antall government when a friend reminded me of István Csurka’s anti-Semitic outbursts, which indeed elicited a negative reaction in Washington. Csurka at this point was an important politician in MDF while Viktor Orbán was in opposition.

As for John McCain’s other charges that were spelled out in his statement which I republished in yesterday’s post, Orbán brushed them aside. All those issues were discussed with the European Parliament and the European Commission. “They are closed. They belong to the past.” The issue is that “the national independence of Hungary has been attacked here. That is the essence of the thing. … I am not willing to be the viceroy of Hungary on behalf of some foreign power. I’m the chosen leader of Hungary and my most important task … is the defense of Hungary’s independence. At present Hungary’s independence is under attack.”

What does independence “in the modern world” mean for Orbán? It means energy, financial, and commercial independence. In his opinion, Hungary before 2010 was not an independent country. “Then it was possible to profiteer at the expense of Hungarians; they could be stolen from; they could be robbed; they could be fleeced. As a result, these people made incredible profits…. The people who profited from all that may now hide behind all sorts of high-falutin’ sentences, but they are in fact the enemies of Hungary’s national independence. They are the ones who find what is happening today in Hungary deleterious.” In brief, the Americans exploited the poor Hungarians between 1990 and 2010 and that’s why they complain now about the lack of democracy, freedom of the media, checks and balances, and the rule of law.

It was at this point that the conversation moved on to the U.S. ban on six Hungarian citizens.  The reporter asked Orbán whether this U.S. move is part of the attack on Hungary’s national independence. Orbán did not answer the question. Instead, he expressed his opinion that at least by now “matters have simplified” since M. André Goodfriend, U.S. chargé d’affaires, “said that the president of the National Taxation Authority is guilty of corruption.” The reporter at that point added that “they also say that proof of the crime was provided to the government.” Orbán remained silent on the subject. He refused to either confirm or deny the American charge. So, I have to conclude that indeed Hungarian government officials have been lying all along: they knew the details of the case and had access to the evidence against the banned Hungarians.

During the conversation it became apparent that Viktor Orbán practically ordered Ildikó Vida, president of the Taxation Authority, to seek legal remedies against the U.S. charge of corruption. Finally, the reporter asked the prime minister whether the Hungarian government is contemplating a retaliatory move by working out some kind of arrangement that would allow Budapest to ban foreigners from Hungary. The answer was somewhat puzzling: “The situation is that we are allies of the western countries, including the United States, but we are nobody’s colony and we will never be. Therefore we will proceed the way a country which is proud of its national independence should.”

The question is how seriously we should treat this rhetoric. Is it for domestic consumption only or does he perhaps mean it? Surely, Orbán must know that Goodfriend cannot be sued. I also assume he knows that banning citizens from outside of the European Union is a tricky business. If Hungary bans an individual from, let’s say, the United States, that individual would automatically be banned in all twenty-eight EU countries. Looked at from the other side, if an American citizen lands in any of the EU countries outside of Hungary, he cannot be prevented from entering Hungary. So, are we talking about idle threats? Does Orbán merely behave like a peeved teenager, as the spokesman of Együtt said? Is he under such stress that he is unable to think straight? Or, is he really planning to pick a fight with the United States?

Stop.hu learned from an unnamed Fidesz source that Orbán is so outraged that he is thinking of declaring M. André Goodfriend persona non grata. Apparently the newly appointed “diplomats” in the ministry of foreign affairs and trade “think that such an expulsion would not cause a serious rift in U.S.-Hungarian relations because Colleen Bell will be the new U.S. ambassador as early as January 1.” I hate to disappoint the wise men of the Hungarian foreign ministry, but I would bet that if the Hungarian government declares Goodfriend to be persona non grata, Colleen Bell will not occupy her post in the foreseeable future. On the other hand, I’m sure that some Hungarian diplomats in Washington could start packing their suitcases. Moreover, I talked to some foreign policy experts who think that such a move might result in Hungary’s expulsion from NATO. So, if I were Viktor Orbán, I would calm down and not march straight into the abyss.

Of course, it is possible that Stop.hu‘s information is unfounded rumor. But, as Albert Gazda in Cink said, “we got to the point that we are capable of seriously contemplating such a possibility.” Yes, we half seriously think that Viktor Orbán is angry enough to do something that foolish. That he would drag the country into the mud to save his own skin and his vision of an illiberal Hungary where he is not a viceroy. Only a simple dictator.

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Babar1234
Guest

Banned from an individual EU country does not necessarily mean banned from all – at least not in the UK (http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_people_banned_from_entering_the_United_Kingdom)

cheshire cat
Guest

Babar, the UK is not in Schengen, but Hungary is. Anyone coming from the UK into the Schengen area will be checked and vice versa.

Paul
Guest

I’m sure Babar is right. We always seem to be banning people from entering the UK, but I’m not aware of any of them being banned from the rest of the EU.

Also, if someone the UK doesn’t want coming in to the country lands in France (or any other EU country), they still don’t get into the UK. Although I’m not sure if this is a universal EU situation, or just yet another example of something we’ve opted out from.

Paul
Guest

I should have waited 10 minutes! (Which would also have given me time to look up the spelling of ‘Schengen’…).

göllnerandrás
Guest

I would invite the viewers of the video to carefully study Orbán’s body language throughout the interview – especially during the first parts: the paper-shuffling, the quick little scribbles of the pen, (would love to be able to decipher them – I’m quite sure, he himself would be unable to do so. They are merely nervous gestures, devoid of thought, intending to suggest officiousness, a strong hand on the helm, whereas the hand is utterly at sea is search of a pimple…) the nervous grabbing at the collar, when not pummeling his face, his eyes, his chin, the left hand always held in defensive fist-formation, peek-a-boo style, like Floyd Patterson, before Ingemar Johanssen delivered the fatal blow that turned Patterson into a pretzel. As we have learned from Ferris Mehrabian, body language, gestures, facial expressions say so much more to a listener than the words expressed through speech. , This man is in serious trouble.

cheshire cat
Guest
My word, Eva… I have read the transcript of this rant, and really, some of what he says… could be performed in a comedy show. The buzz word today seems to be “national independence” in Orban’s head (“nemzeti fuggetlenseg”). The other one is “serious, sensible” (“komoly”) “Now we Hungarians, a serious country as we are, need to think seriously about our future”. Also, he says there is no point now going up to Russia to beg “oh, pleease, can we still have the South Stream though??” , I suggest we don’t take up this body position…” At one point he says “if anyone is found guilty of corruption in Hungary, he gets locked up”. Good to know. The reporter introduced the topic of Sunday opening by reminding him that he had said it’s only realistic if one can live from the wages of 5 days a week. Is that the case now? He replies: “No, but the way I see it now, you can live from the wages of 6 days a week. At least that’s how I do it.” Here, in an attempt to shake off responsibility, he produces the best speech of the show: ” – …az én… Read more »
buddy
Guest

Andre Goodfriend was interviewed on HírTV. They really raked him over the coals:
http://mno.hu/videok/114106

Ovidiu
Guest

Amazing talk, especially since it comes from a PM not from some fringe far-right leader.
Orban is not eurosceptic he is downright europhobic, and anti-american to boot.

This kind of speeches are meant to prepare the population for a possible exit from EU&NATO.
He won’t ever simply say “good-bye” and leave, he will behave increasingly out of step with the alliance, then back down few steps, and then start again to move away until reaching his “independence”.Sort of Rakosi’s “salami tactics” rebaptized as “peacock dance”.

cheshire cat
Guest

He was also asked about the Veszprem by-elections and whether the 2/3 is at risk. He said: “The 2/3 has no significance. I don’t know of any problems in Hungary that we didn’t solve with the 2/3 in the first 4 years”, then went on about how it’s about the people of Veszprem electing a good MP to represent them.

göllnerandrás
Guest

To Buddy: Compare the two performers – Goodfriend was statesmanlike, open, self-assured and his body-language did not betray the pain, that Orbán is obviously suffering from after that unexpected upper-cut from a Conservative American politician. Orbán, under great fanfare, attended McCain’s coronation at the 2008 Republican convention. He’s worked with the same conservative communications advisers who worked for McCain and the Republican Party. He was caught with his guard down. His body language tells it all. He won’t go down without a fight, but he will go down. It will be sudden, and it won’t be pretty.

Member

Andre Goodfriend is a smart, confident man, a true diplomat. He did not waver, and had all the answers. He corrected HirTV’s PR info (the info they are feeding the general public). Although he is the absolute winner of the interview, the heading reads “gyalazkodo senator, bizonyitek nelkuli vadak” -> “abusive senator, charges without evidence”
his is exactly Fidesz media in a nutshell. THey know that most simple minded Hungarians will not sit through the 17 minutes, but they will walk away believing that the USA has no evidence, which they have. Goodfriend ver clearly said that if there would be a proper investigation by the Hungarian authorities against corruption, the USA would find a way to cooperate. Simply, Hungary does not want to investigate, so there is nothing the USA can do to help. Just because Orban cries, and shakes that is no call for cooperation.

petofi
Guest

“Orban won three elections…”

The various shapes and colors of trolls that invade this blog have repeatedly defended the Viktorious Orban as having won three elections. Of course, this reveals the standard half-truths
so common among Orban supporters. Let’s be clear about this: even the dim-witted, Hungarians have well learnt the “Lessons of Esztergom”–support Fidesz or do without government money; and have your children suffer in cold school rooms and be deprived of
government sponsored food. In short, risk the bankruptcy of your city. Result? Fidesz carried
some 98% of the districts in Hungary. Is this popularity? No. It’s the insiduous practice of
intimidation. Where there is Intimidation, there cannot be Democracy.

Is that simple enough for Hungarians?

Are we still proud, Hungarians?

HAJ RA MAGYAROK!! (MORONS OF THE MODERN WORLD)

Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Guest

Eva S. Balogh: If Hungary bans an individual from, let’s say, the United States, that individual would automatically be banned in all twenty-eight EU countries.

Wrong. A ‘Hungarian ban’ can result in a ‘Schengen ban’ (SIS II Alert), but it is not automatic and concerns the Schengen space, not the EU. See here, Article 24.

Eva S. Balogh: Looked at from the other side, if an American citizen lands in any of the EU countries outside of Hungary, he cannot be prevented from entering Hungary.

Wrong again. He may not be detected when entering Hungary from another Schengen country, but if arrested in Hungary he can be deported back to the country he came from. It happens every day to migrants.

Webber
Guest

Marcel Dé is right. Though there are no apparent border controls when one crosses internal borders in the Schengen area, entering the Schengen area is not the equivalent of entering the United States. Internal i.d. checks are quite normal in continental European states (the UK is rightly not part of Schengen because there is still no state i.d. and no requirement to carry i.d. in the UK – much like the US). Each Schengen state has the right to bar the entry of individuals from another Schengen state. Even citizens of Schengen countries can be (and have been) banned from visiting other Schengen countries. Not a few football hooligans who are citizens of Schengen countries have been barred from entering other Schengen countries. In certain cases, Schengen states can temporarily raise traditional border controls along internal Schengen borders to be sure to catch all those banned from entry. Austria has done this regularly for football matches. Even if traditional border controls aren’t reinstated, people on ban lists often discover that what appears to be a borderless zone actually has hidden border controls – as they are detected in some way or another as soon as they cross the border.

Webber
Guest

Should Hungary expel Goodfriend merely for carrying out the task Washington has set for him by pointing out corruption, closing the Embassy would be a rather normal response. Expulsion from NATO, however, should only be a consequence of Hungary becoming a Russian satellite or serving up sensitive NATO information to foreign powers. If the State Department has even more serious evidence than we have seen in the press (and that is damning enough!), and if the Hungarian government refuses to change its course, then expulsion should come fairly quickly. American citizens, whose children are serving in the armed forces, should contact their Senators to make their feelings on this clear.
To Hungarian government people who read this – if there is no change in foreign policy, I suggest that the sovereign Hungarian government take Hungary out of NATO now to avoid the embarrassment of expulsion.

Karl Pfeifer
Guest

Probably Orbán wants to go the whole way and declare Goodfriend persona non grata.
He believes that since the USA is incapable to stop Russian aggression in the Ukraine and has left a disaster in Iraq they will not react. He does not have to convince his believers that Hungary is the center of the world. Could he sell this to his 2/3 majority? If Orbán would tell them this is necessary for “national independence, they would be enthusiastic.

Does Orbán believe his own lies about the great success of Hungary?

Kond
Guest
chesire cat: We should not obsess with the formal 2/3s. Orban can and will purchase that one or two or three votes from the opposition (whether it’s gonna be jobbik or MSZP or Fodor or LMP, or whoever Orban will get it), fideszniks have thought about this for long. This is a non-issue. In fact, although many people will think Fidesz has weakened (Gabor Török pushes this point that this image of all-powerfulness might weaken), losing the formal 2/3s may even be good for Fidesz because fideszniks could proclaim to their clueless Bavarian pals and others abroad that they are not all-powerful anymore, that they are constrained, when in fact they could push through anything just as before. Orban knows a few things. Although Veszprém has indeed been consistently right leaning and thus its loss would by symbolic and the loss of the formal 2/s would also be symbolic, nothing would change because the next general elections will be held in more than three years. Orban refuses to be modest and use less of his power just because he is perhaps weakened momentarily. No. That would be characteristic of the left-wing which apologizes for its very existence. If Orban has… Read more »
Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Guest

Viktor Orbán: Then it was possible to profiteer at the expense of Hungarians; they could be stolen from; they could be robbed; they could be fleeced.

But thanks to Fidesz, soon only selected Hungarian businessmen will be able to profiteer, steal from, rob and fleece Hungarians. What an achievement!

Webber
Guest
@Kond – The big question is what Hungary brings to the NATO alliance? Regardless of its past contributions, if it takes more than it contributes, and if it continues to serve Russian interests, then Hungary should be first sidelined (I trust this has already happened), warned that it needs to change its course (this is happening), and finally expelled (if it does not reform). I say this in the interest of American citizens serving in the military pledged to protect all NATO members in case of attack. Any country that does place the NATO alliance above all other alignments should not stay in NATO. American lives should not be pledged to protect a country that is serving a hostile power’s interests. The Hungarian government and the Hungarian people have every right to choose to leave NATO, or stay in. But the American government and the American people also have similar rights. I am concerned with a weakening of the NATO alliance. Hungary is, quite frankly, rather unimportant to the alliance – unless it serves Russian interests, as it apparently is doing now (n.b. Turkey is a major headache as well – but unlike Hungary, Turkey has something significant to offer… Read more »
Webber
Guest

@Ovidiu – poor peacocks! Their dance is quite pretty. Maybe we should start calling his bizarre moves on the international stage “the vulture step.”

Webber
Guest

above I meant to write “does NOT place the NATO alliance above all others” (I typed too fast, as usual).
– On another issue: Senator McCain is among many others banned from Russia. If Orban wants to please Russia, he might ban McCain from visiting Hungary too.

Kond
Guest
Webber: I agree. This is clear and logical and in a way goes without saying. Orban, however, hates the concept of “the West” and is happy to have found an ideology in which the “West is going down” (Dugin-Tellér). Bavarians, some GOP weirdos and his remaining pals (whoever they are) still think that Orban is a cool guy who was an anti-communist hero and so he still must be, or they just don’t care (which for Orban is the same, he hates the non-caring Westerners). In any case, Orban categorically hates (of course hate almost always comes with envy) the West, whose populace had it so easy, which is often very hyprocritical politically and – in his view – weak (as shown by the EU’s utter impotence against him). It’s the same kind of contempt Merkel allegedly has for her Western-German competitors according to George Packer’s profile. Merkel, although born in the West but growing up in the DDR just as Orban had to be really tough and ruthless just to survive and then to rise to the top. Putin has the same contempt for Westerners. The point is Orban hates the West and does anything he can to take… Read more »
Webber
Guest

@Kond – “Hungarians on the whole never really cared about NATO or even the EU…” Hmmm… I seem to remember that the majority of Hungarians who actually voted strongly supported EU membership in 2003. I just checked – 83.8% of those who voted wanted to join the EU (admittedly just 45.6% of the electorate voted). The referendum in 1997 on joining NATO was supported by 85.2% (here 49.2% of the electorate voted). Until this government, the line taken by all Hungarian governments was that Hungary was an integral part of the West unjustly separated from the West by communist dictatorship. The old history textbooks taught children that Hungary has a western heritage, explicitly and implicitly (starting from St. Stephen). Every government stressed Hungary’s Euro-Atlantic heritage, almost as a force of nature. It’s my impression that the majority of Hungarians today, also, feel Hungary should be part of the EU (on opinions about NATO, I’m not so sure). I might be wrong, of course, but I would be willing to bet on it.

Joe Simon
Guest

What the authors are able to find, despite the deficiencies of the data, is important: the first-ever scientific analysis of whether the U.S. is a democracy, or is instead an oligarchy, or some combination of the two. The clear finding is that the U.S. is an oligarchy, no democratic country, at all. American democracy is a sham, no matter how much it’s pumped by the oligarchs who run the country (and who control the nation’s “news” media). The U.S., in other words, is basically similar to Russia or most other dubious “electoral” “democratic” countries. We weren’t formerly, but we clearly are now. Today, after this exhaustive analysis of the data, “the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.” That’s it, in a nutshell.

Joe Simon
Guest

The above is from the Princeton/Northwestern study of the US.
While we should view Hungary with a critical eye, HS

Joe Simon
Guest

should preach less and be objective more. And a bit more modest when it comes to critisizing other countries.

Istvan
Guest
In general I agree with Webber on the NATO issue. The first step should be some type of suspension of Hungary from NATO and the temporary closing the joint operations of Pápa Air Base. There are now comparable facilities in Romania. The National Guard State Partnership Program (SPP) is a United States Department of Defense program managed by the National Guard that links U.S. States with partner countries around the world for the purpose of supporting the security cooperation objectives of the geographic Combatant Commands (CCMDs). The Ohio National Guard has worked extensively with Hungary since 1993 and has conducted at least 150 trainings for Hungarian forces, this is based on a bilateral affairs agreement which should be abrogated given the current situation. But here is the problem, one of the original goals that Ohio has accomplished has been the establishment of a genuine, ongoing, personal relationship(s) that developed between Ohio National Guard units and individual Hungarian soldiers/airman. These relationships are of value and I would hate to see Putin’s Spetsnaz take over these type of contacts. While these Hungarian troops have trained in the USA some have been influenced by one of our core military values, loyalty and subordination… Read more »
buddy
Guest

Istvan: “The first step should be some type of suspension of Hungary from NATO and the temporary closing the joint operations of Pápa Air Base.”

Seems pretty drastic as a “first step,” and with serious national security ramifications for everyone involved. If I had to guess, I’d say that the first serious step the US might take against Hungary would take would be to close down the ILEA here. (http://www.state.gov/j/inl/c/crime/ilea/c11279.htm) This would be an enormous loss of prestige for the government, though the effects wouldn’t probably wouldn’t last until the next elections.

Member

@Eva, May I ask you (and I am sure others would support this) to remove Joe Simon’s non-relevant rants or Joe Simon from this blog. Joe Simon’s only relevance at this time that he mentions U.S. He sole purpose on this blog to constantly hammer (right or wrong) on this blog, most of the time with no relevance to the given subject. He also does not exercise he courtesy to reply to those who actually still take the time to debunk his silly comments. He just creates constant distractions, the same way as Fidesz creates distractions each time they came up with some “genius” ideas. This is going on for at least 6 years, from the time I started to read the blog. If he does not have anything to say about Hungary, maybe we would help him by locking him out so he could find a relevant forum where his contributions about the U.S. would be more then welcomed.

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