Is Viktor Orbán playing chicken?

It was only yesterday that a lengthy psychological portrait entitled “The Patient’s Name is Viktor Orbán” appeared in Népszabadság under the pseudonym Iván Mester. The author is an associate professor, I assume of psychology or psychiatry, at an unnamed university. In this article “Mester” states that because of his character traits Orbán “is unable to stop … he is insatiable.” What is going on in front of our eyes is a manifestation of his inability to let go. He has to win against all odds.

This afternoon the latest episode of this “drama” (because I’m convinced that for the prime minister this is a real drama) took place in parliament. According to house rules, Orbán had to appear in parliament to answer questions personally. Gergely Bárándy (MSZP) wanted to know “who is lying” about the corruption case involving six Hungarian citizens, of whom at least three are high officials in the Hungarian equivalent of the Internal Revenue Service. Bárándy wanted to know whether it is true that the Hungarian government knows what these people are accused of by the U.S. government. The exchange can be read in an abbreviated form on the web site of the Prime Minister’s Office.

As Orbán explained, the U.S. chargé d’affaires claims that the president of the Nemzeti Adó- és Vámhivatal (NAV) can be personally tied to corruption involving an American firm doing business in Hungary. “According to Hungarian law, in a case like that one ought to start legal proceedings. This is what I expect from the president of NAV. If she does not do so without delay, I will replace her.” In Hungary a person found guilty of corruption does not get replaced but is locked up, said Orbán. “So, the stakes are high.” If the American diplomat can prove the charge and the court finds her guilty, then the head of NAV will be incarcerated. “But if, on the other hand, the American diplomat’s charges are untrue there will be consequences.”

Viktor Orbán is forging ahead

Viktor Orbán is forging ahead

Bárándy pointed out in his rebuttal that the lawsuit Orbán is recommending cannot take place in Hungary. The only solution is what André Goodfriend, the U.S. chargé, has repeatedly recommended to Ildikó Vida, the head of NAV. She should apply for a visa at the U.S. Embassy in Budapest, whereupon she would be told the reasons for her ban.

Orbán countered that if an American chargé accuses a Hungarian official of a crime, he cannot “hide behind his diplomatic immunity. He should be a man and accept responsibility for his claims.”

What the official government version of the exchange did not mention but Népszabadság included in its coverage was the following dialogue between Orbán and Bárándy. The MSZP member of parliament asked whether Orbán “can venture to state that the Hungarian government and authorities have no knowledge of the nature of the cases that resulted in barring the president of NAV from the territory of the United States.” Orbán did not answer this question. Instead, he stressed that the solution lies “in the world of the law,” which in my opinion is a confirmation of the government’s knowledge of the American allegations.

André Goodfriend, as usual, responded promptly by posting a short note on Twitter: “US & Hungary have excellent legal cooperation, including a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty.” And indeed, back in 2009 Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Balázs signed the Protocols of Exchange of Instruments of Ratification for the 2005 U.S.-Hungary Mutual Legal Assistance Protocols and the U.S.-Hungary Extradition Treaty. Clinton said at the time that “these twin agreements will give our police and prosecutors in both countries state-of-the-art tools to cooperate more effectively in bringing criminals to justice on both sides of the Atlantic. They form part of a network of similar agreements that the United States has reached with all the countries of the European Union.” Balázs, for his part, stressed the close cooperation between the two countries.

In addition to the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty, Goodfriend called attention to a legal guide for judges written by a lawyer specializing in international litigation. The message is that Hungary should turn to the United States asking for official legal assistance. Apparently, the Hungarian prosecutor’s office did ask for assistance but the request was not official. Details of the differences between the two can be found in an earlier article in 444.hu.

The question is what Viktor Orbán is trying to achieve by this latest move. Among my knowledgeable friends one thinks that the foxy prime minister is trying to find an excuse to fire Ildikó Vida because “he knows that she is guilty.” My answer to this supposition is that of course Viktor Orbán knows full well that she is corrupt because she was put there for the very purpose of running a corrupt organization. That is part of her job description. She is there as the emissary of a corrupt government headed by the prime minister himself. Another friend, following the same line of reasoning, thinks that Vida’s refusal to sue Goodfriend will give Orbán an opportunity to fire Vida in such a way that he will not be seen as bending under U.S. pressure. This way he will save face. I don’t see much merit in that hypothesis either. What prevents Ildikó Vida from bringing charges against Goodfriend? Nothing. She can certainly try. It could happen that the court refuses to hear the case, but this would not be Vida’s fault. She sued, just as Orbán demanded. Another possibility would be if the Hungarian courts decided to hear the case but the United States government forbade Goodfriend from appearing in court. Thus he would be a man who does not accept responsibility for his claims, to use Orbán’s words. In my opinion that would be the best scenario as far as Viktor Orbán is concerned. And, as opposed to my friends, I believe this is exactly what he is planning to do. What do you think?

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Paul
Guest

Éva – it might just be my PC, but the text that should start under the picture of Orbán appears instead vertically on its right-hand side.

LwiiH
Guest

The news was leaked to stir up anti-American sentiment but it back fired and now… it’s a runaway train. Vida’s being hung out to dry but this is only one of five so this is a gift that is going to keep on giving for a while.. if the opposition plays it smart.

Member

I do not get it. Goodfriend is only the messenger. He did not report it, wrote it down, investigate it or made the decision about these individuals who are banned from the USA. He did not even break the news. It was Orban’s henchmen who broke the news, and Goodfriend confirmed. Now Orban wants to sue Goodfriend? I think he should sue the USA if he has a problem. Orban should man up, but he is a chicken alright.
I think the US should put an end this now. How? I am not sure, but I think the USA have to make it clear that this issue is not between Goodfriend and Vida and never was, although right now it is between the USA and Orban (NOT Hungary).

Cassiopeia1950
Guest
I think the courts will bend. Just as the Kuria (the old-new name for the Supreme Court) eventually bowed deep before Orban’s clear expectations (demands) and came up with a list of – retroactive – conditions about what “fair banking” constituted. This list of conditions was then (via Laszlo Trocsanyi’s law firm, Nagy es Trocsany, which drafted the bill) put into law. Then these conditions – via court procedures in which the banks were practically barred from challenging the claims of the government – were (are being) retroactively applied to tens of thousands of FX mortgage loans resulting in huge losses for the banks, in other words the banks duly lost the court cases. In short, the court system was used to cause losses to banks so that it wouldn’t be the government per se which appropriated the assets of foreign investors, but rather such losses would be the result of court procedures, however rigged — a much tougher challenge before the ICSID or other tribunals. Needless to say the Constitutional Court, by now fully packed with Orban loyalists, approved this travesty of justice. Of course the government could have used any number of methods to force the banks to… Read more »
Alanyi költő
Guest
@some1 You are right of course. But the US is far away and is an abstract thing for most fidesznik voters and for Fidesz too. Goodfriend is here, however. He moves around Budapest, he is at hand. He is also jewish, which is just too great an opportunity to miss. In short, a useful villain in the eyes of Fidesz. Fidesz – we now know from the wikileaks cables – was extremely successful in sweet talking the previous ambassadors who duly sent cables to DC assuring everyone in the State Department that Fidesz was full of lovely, trustworthy people. In other words, Fidesz successfully double-crossed the Americans (and almost all Western European politicians for that matter). Fideszniks know, however, that Goodfriend is smart and exactly understands their thinking. Thus fideszniks are terribly frustrated because the old tricks which worked on those ambassadors and State Department officials don’t seem to work on Goodfriend and the officers at State. They don’t get it that it’s over now, by now everyone in the world got to know them even if the learning curve was rather gradual. So in their desperation they want Goodfriend gone hoping that without him they could regain their mojo… Read more »
steve397
Guest

I simply cannot understand the problem. It is quite simple: The USA for alleged criminal activities by one or more Hungarians have stated that they will not allow them to enter the US. Since the Hungarian authorities know of at least one of those involved can they not investigate that person as to their past or present activities? Have they done so and found no suspicious circumstances in connection with that person? (No they have not.)
The fact is that the Hungarians are making a lot of noise, but their authorities cannot say that there is no corruption or other reasons to withdraw the right of that person to enter the USA until they have thoroughly investigated that person. (But they deny corruption.)
By the way Ms Vida and the unnamed others are only six who are barred to enter the USA. There seems to be many others whose activities and rapid wealth ought to be investigated by authorities and not just written about by brave journalists. Why are the many noveux rich not investigated and persecuted if found to be dishonest? Is it because they belong to the ruling regime of Hungary? (Or friends and relations?)

Member

Steve397: It is not about if they can investigate, it is about if they want to investigate. As Mr. Goodfriend pointed out the USA and Hungary have an excellent treaty for cases just like this. ORban does not play Goodfriend, he plays Hungarians. He pretends that there is no solution and Hungary under attack.

Mrozek
Guest

Éva, excellent observation. There is an underlying anti-Semitism the way they deal with Goodfriend. They hope that a non-Jewish Ambassador will not notice things… What a naivete? Minister Zoltán Balog is already in Los Angeles trying to get close to the new Ambassador. The boys are working….

Daniel
Guest
Steve “I simply cannot understand the problem. It is quite simple: The USA for alleged criminal activities by one or more Hungarians” The problem is exactly this, they accused Hungarian citizens without making the evidence public so it could be examined or questioned. Imagine what you would do if former Socialist prime minister, Ferenc Gyurcsany would be accused of possessing, transmitting, manufacturing images that show the sexual exploitation of several children aged 12, 9 and 10. He would be accused by a foreign diplomat. Gyurcsany would deny the charge while a diplomat repeats that Gyurcsany was banned from entering in order to protect the children and ideally he should be sent to prison. The diplomat says that he has evidence against Gyurcsany downloading and then spreading such images. But he will never show such evidence to anyone. The diplomat is protected by diplomatic immunity. Now what would you say to that case? That Gyurcsany should prove his innocence? He should be investigated publicly? Arrested for the duration of the investigation to prohibit him from obstructing the investigation? Shouldn’t it be investigated whether Gyurcsany is in fact guilty or not in this case? This is a real scenario if you create… Read more »
Mrozek
Guest

Daniel.. The US is not “accusing”.. it is only a “suspicion”. Nobody convicted Ms. Vida, she is not a criminal. The US, just like Hungary has the right to revoke entry to anybody suspected wrongdoing. The text says very clearly, that this is not a legal accusation, the purpose of the process is to protect the US. Also, it is a courtesy that US diplomats notify the involved person because in the past these people learned it at the border that they cannot enter…. There are hundreds of politicians, government officials on the list worldwide. It seems that Orban lost it, he is out of control….

An
Guest

@Daniel: Foreign diplomats did not accuse anybody of anything. They banned certain individuals from entering the US. They did not publish any names; they did not even make this this fact public… a newspaper close to Fidesz did. This would have been a private matter between these individuals and the US, but for some reason Fidesz decided to publicize it.

Member
Daniel: You don’t understand what is the purpose of Presidential Proclamation 7750. You are repeating only a small portion of the issue, the same way Fidesz does and most of the people of Hungary are too lazy to find out the real issues by themselves. Many people are used to being too what is, by the Government and they simply let the politicians this for them. http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2004-01-14/pdf/04-957.pdf I do not want to write the umpteenth time why P.P. 7750 was issued by President Bush and I will not reiterate here again the text itself. I strongly advise you to read and understand P.P. 7750. I give you a hint. The US and any country can deny entry to anyone without a reason. It is simply a visa issue. The US used P.P. 7750 to deny visas for six Government officials for a very, very good reason! It makes the point, that Hungary where corrupt officials are employed by the Government is NOT a Constitutional State, therefore it is NOT a democracy. The denial of the visas are private issues and secondary items only. The fact that no investigation is launched, no corruption was discovered, nobody was accused, prosecuted, because the… Read more »
steve397
Guest
Hi Daniel. I am afraid you did not convince me. Whether it is Mr Goodfriend or Obama or I am accusing a civil servant of corruption the least one would expect that thosse accused will be investigated. This is quite natural in any country, irrespective of the position or standing of the accused. Was Ms Vida investigated by anyone or simply declared to be innocent and those people who do not wish her to come to their country declared guilty of falsely accusing an innocent person. There must be something somewhere connected with those who have been accused of corruption in the “fecni” and it is the job, nay the duty of the State to investigate the truth of these allegations and then and only then declare the accusers of falsehood or not. Surely this is standard practice in liberal democracies and one would think that the many newspaper articles and public accusations of the corruptions proven or at least being publicly disclosed would also be investigated. I am sure that if there would be a newspaper article accusing President Obama of a break-in (see Nixon) or having a relationship with a girl in his office (see Clinton) there would… Read more »
Istvan
Guest
I have to assume that PM Orban has lost his mind because in the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (1961) it is clearly established in Article 29: Diplomats must not be liable to any form of arrest or detention. They are immune from civil or criminal prosecution, though the sending country may waive this right under Article 32. I can assure the readers of this blog the United States of America will not waive the immunity of Mr. Goodfriend to face civil litigation from the corrupt legal system in Hungary. By his comments in parliament PM Orban has succeeded in making Hungary an international outlaw. PM Orban knows all that can be done to Mr. Goddfriend is to expel him and he seems afraid to do that because then the USA would reply in kind and release documents showing the criminal activities of the president of NAV and possibly other Fidesz officials. Let us not forget that Senator McCain praised Mr. Goodfriend for his work in Hungary on the floor of the US Senate. The fury of my nation will come down unrestrained on Hungary if Mr. Goodfriend were to be expelled. The US embassy will ignore any lawsuit filed… Read more »
o'magyar
Guest

are we using too many words?

a dictator is not guided by a classical roman-greco codex.

misinformation, deceit, violence etc etc are the tools of a gulyas dictatorship.

Jano
Guest

Is it that inconceivable that the Americans do indeed have proof but those were obtained in illegal ways and therefore they can not put forward any of it publicly? After all, they were tapping Merkel’s phone, it must not be all that hard for NSA hackers and surveillance teams to gather some evidence on the rampant Hungarian corruption. If Orbán knows that, then he can play a very very safe game of chicken.

Member
FAMILIAR FUMES OF FIDESZ FUD Fell for it again! “Daniel” is a dead-obvious Turul troll, trying the by now yawningly familiar Fidesz echolalic cover-up strategy — “you’re the troll; the US is the mafia…” — but doing it especially clumsily, invoking the usual whipping boy,”your” FG, using the occasion to associate his ever-handy name to pedophilia, then some arbitrary mashup of the elements and non-elements (diplomat, allegation, evidence, prison), relying on the assumption that the accused is an opposition favorite and that the charges are obviously arbitrary, to camouflage the essence of it all: Yes, if the Hungarian gov’t were discretely advised by the US or any other reputable gov’t that FG was excluded on suspicion of a crime, the Hungarian gov’t’s immediate responsibility is to launch a reliable and responsible investigation! Instead Fidesz and its trolls are trying the same transparently stupid and primitive smokescreen that has successfully duped the Hungarian populace so many times, to cover up their self-protective stone-walling. Let’s hope that this time, at long last, the smoke will blow straight back into their faces, and set the stage for blowing them all off the map, ending their pestilential presence and its ignominious blot on not… Read more »
Goodguy
Guest

This is embarrassing for the US. Goodfriend should be recalled. Do you guys know that he has been taking part in left wing organised demos in Budapest. He is a blasted guest there! Now this! What a stupid situation we get ourselves into. Orban has all rights to ask this guy to be removed, unless he puts up.

Member

Splat

Orban’s criminality and psychopathology have by now become so blindingly obvious to the rest of the world that the formulaic splutterings of pathetic, mechanical trolls like “Goodguy” are merely underscoring it, rather than distracting and masking it, as intended…

Guest

The trolls are getting desperate, it’s really funny …

Mr Goodfriend was also seen at one of those “peace marches” organised by Fidesz friends CÖF – now what does that tell us, little “goodboy”?

tri
Guest

I am curious about what everyone thinks about the Turkey-Russia allaince. Is it just about trade, gas, new investments or something more between the two countries.

Relations between USA – Turkey are very low due to US support for the Kurds, the traditional enemies of Turkey and other issues. So a strong bond between Russia and Turkey looks all the more likely.

The Russians are investing huge amounts into Turkish gas infrastructure. And once that is finished they promised not to send any gas into Ukraine except what they pay for in advance. So Ukraine as a transit route is finished once and for all, and all thanks to Turkey.

teambritanniahungary
Guest

Reblogged this on hungarywolf.

Webber
Guest

@Goodguy – Part of all diplomats’ job description is meeting opposition politicians and observing significant political events, whether they are supported by the opposition or government. Mr. Goodfriend, who has attended pro- and anti-government demonstrations, and who meets regularly with government people and with the opposition, has acted as a perfect diplomat.
Hungarian diplomats in Washington regularly meet with Republicans and Democrats alike, regardless of which party is in control of the White House or the houses of Congress. No democrat would ever object to a diplomat meeting the opposition.
The fact that Fidesz objects to Goodfriend meeting opposition people is simply more evidence that the party has no real comprehension of the meaning of democracy.

steve397
Guest

Weber: You ought to have said: Hungarian diplomats in Washington regularly meet with Republicans and Democrats alike, regardless of which party is in control of the White House or the houses of Congress. No democrat would ever object to a diplomat meeting the opposition.
The fact that Fidesz objects to Goodfriend meeting opposition people is simply more evidence that the party has no real comprehension of the meaning of democracy OR DIPLOMATIC PRACTICE..

salto
Guest
tri: Do you always believe everything politicians say? Well, I guess, Orban too believed Putin’s words about the South Stream, until Putin one day said nyet. The pipe line will remain standing in Ukraine, why would Russia turn off the tap? The thing is, Russia will still be able to control Ukraine via the pipeline even if Ukraine will be fully independent. This is simple business, if there are buyers which I can satisfy through an existing infrastructure then why leave such infrastructure idle? (Moreover didn’t the Russians bought the Ukrainian part of the gas pipeline?, I’m not sure) Turkey might leave the NATO and as far as the EU is concerned it will never join the EU nor does Turkey want to. Things have radically changed in Turkey in the last 10-20 years, because Turkey has changed. Compulsory religious education is just being introduced, the country is becoming clearly islamist, but that’s what people want and in any case don’t seem to mind as the economy has been booming. But Turkey thinks that it is almost on par with Russia (sans the nukes of course – at least for the time being), Erdogan and his pals think that they… Read more »
googly
Guest
I’d like to give Daniel the benefit of the doubt (as I do with most commenters) and assume he is not a troll. Partly this is because he makes a good point: He outlines how a typical Hungarian would think about this situation, and it seems to me that many Hungarians see it in these terms (mostly the Fideszniks, but I imagine not only them). There is a problem there for the US, and that is probably why Fidesz released this information. They wanted to discredit the US in the minds of the voters. I don’t know for sure, but I assume that the US has tried to tell Fidesz that they have a corruption problem, and that the US cannot ignore it forever. They have to protect their businesses, otherwise what is the point for a business of being headquartered in the US? So finally they do something that is official, but is still back-channel, since it’s not made public. It’s a way to show that they mean business, and that if nothing changes, the next step will be taken. It doesn’t mean anything, since why would Vida or the others even go to the US (she doesn’t even… Read more »
googly
Guest

Tri,

Don’t forget, Turkey and Russia are on opposite sides in the Syrian civil war, which is very important to Turkey (well, to Erdogan). Historically, Turkey and Russia have hated each other and fought many wars, though Iran hates Russia more than it hates the US, but is willing to work with it when necessary. I foresee Iran possibly becoming part of the Russia-China axis, in order to circumvent sanctions, but maybe I’m wrong, since Russia doesn’t like Iran to have nukes and would prefer not to have another oil-exporting competitor. Their current alliance is possibly just temporary and focused entirely on Syria.

googly
Guest

Jano,

That’s plausible, but unlikely, since I doubt that the US government is tapping the phones of the tax authority in Hungary (they don’t have the resources, or enough translators, I imagine). Vida is not Angela Merkel. What is more likely is just what we’ve heard, that the law states that the government cannot release the evidence.

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