Viktor Orbán and the Fidesz parliamentary delegation show the way

After spending quite a bit of time on foreign affairs, we have to return to domestic policies because soon enough parliament will reconvene, and the Fidesz and KDNP caucuses are preparing for the new session. Members of the caucuses get together, normally at some resort, and are sequestered for a few days. Their agenda is to set the tone of politics for the next five or six months. This time the Fidesz caucus met at the Balneo Wellness Hotel near Mezőkövesd, the center of an area known for its distinctive folk embroidery. Obviously, there is no shortage of funds in the Fidesz coffers. The caucus has 115 members, and several ministers and undersecretaries also attend these retreats.

Balneo Wellness Hotel

Balneo Wellness Hotel

I find these gatherings amusing, especially when I hear from Antal Rogán, the whip of the caucus, “we request and authorize the government” to do this or that. Naturally, the situation is the reverse, Viktor Orbán tells Antal Rogán what he expects them to do. If they come up with an idea of their own, which doesn’t happen too often, Orbán usually decides against it. Or if they want information from the prime minister, they don’t always get it. This time, for example, apparently the MPs wanted to know more about the visits of Angela Merkel and Vladimir Putin, but they heard nothing about either. It also seems they were hoping to hear more about the deal between the government and the RTL Group. They should have known better. When Viktor Orbán loses a fight, he doesn’t like to talk about it. Or, if an encounter, like the one with Merkel, is not exactly a success, he changes the subject.

So, let’s see what Viktor Orbán actually wanted to talk about. His greatest concern seems to be the immigration of “economic refugees.” In the last two years their numbers have grown substantially, and recently they’ve spiked. While last year 42,000 requests for immigrant status were received, this year, just in January, 14,000 such requests were filed. Orbán’s solution to the problem is draconian. He wants “to bolt the door to Hungary” to all “economic immigrants because we don’t need any of them.” Hungarian economic emigrants leave in droves while Hungary is bolted tight to anyone coming from “another culture.” He will not wait for the European Union, which is far too slow. Hungary will act on its own. I wonder how they will deport all those people who are currently in Hungary and what will they do with those who are on their way. An Irish proverb says “Never bolt the door with a boiled carrot.” What will the Hungarians use?

The government must have realized that the so-called school reform initiated by the second Orbán government was a failure. All schools were nationalized except for a few private schools and were put under one huge umbrella organization that turned out to be totally incapable of supervising about 120,000 employees and thousands of schools. We don’t know how the government is planning to undo the chaos created by Rózsa Hoffmann (KDNP), but it looks as if another “reform” is underway. Every time I hear of a new school reform I just shudder. So far the government hasn’t talked to educational experts or teachers’ unions, and it hasn’t spelled out the details of its plan. It has simply resurrected an old idea of Zoltán Pokorny, former minister of education in the first Orbán government (1998-2002), to extend the eight grades of compulsory education by one year. Apparently, it was inspired by the “Polish model,” which introduced a ninth year of elementary education–along with an entirely new educational philosophy. It seems, however, that Viktor Orbán doesn’t like the idea, so most likely it will be dropped.

Another concern of Viktor Orbán is the state of Hungarian healthcare, which is rapidly deteriorating instead of improving. Orbán seems to be frustrated. At the meeting he complained that 500 billion extra forints had been sunk into healthcare and yet the hospitals are still in the red. Their current debt is 70 billion forints, which must be paid out of the central budget. Their suppliers, mostly Hungarian middle-size companies, are also hurting. For the time being, the newly appointed undersecretary will remain, but I have feeling that his days are numbered. The government’s solution is simple: forbid the hospitals from accumulating any new debts. If a hospital director doesn’t follow this order he will be fired. It is hard to fathom how such a strategy will help the situation. By the way, there’s an apparent contradiction worth mentioning here. On the one hand, the government wants to reduce the number of hospitals and most likely cut back on the number of employees, while on the other hand Antal Rogán “requested and authorized” the government to make money available for a brand new hospital in Budapest. It turns out that money for this new hospital will come from the European Union while maintaining the existing hospitals must come from Hungarian government resources.

Although the Hungarian media is full of the news that Viktor Orbán had to give in to the demands of RTL Klub without the television station toning down its news coverage of government corruption, we learned today that “Fidesz authorized the government to negotiate further with Brussels” concerning the advertising levy. What can that mean exactly? Well, nothing good, I fear. Viktor Orbán will take his sweet time thinking about the deal between János Lázár and the top management of the RTL Group. Moreover, Orbán made it clear that the amount of money he was hoping to get from the advertising levies cannot be reduced as a result of the compromise with RTL Klub. So, we can all use our imaginations trying to figure out what Viktor Orbán has in mind when he talks about further negotiations with Brussels.

If I properly interpret the leaks from the meeting of the Fidesz delegation, Orbán will not back down on government supervision of non-governmental organizations. In his opinion the Hungarian government is entitled to know what kinds of foreign subsidies are given to Hungarian civic groups. So, I assume the harassment of these groups will continue. So will the “national freedom fight.” Rogán revealed that “the Hungarian people expect that the government will always stand for the national interests” and that as a result of the government’s policies “national self-esteem” has grown during the last five years. Orbán also has no intention of changing his “independent” foreign policy because “Hungary has become a strong country” thanks to his leadership. He repeated that cheap gas means inexpensive utility prices, which he considers critical to his political longevity. Only Putin can give him what he needs. What Orbán will give in return is as yet unknown.

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petofi
Guest

There is a quiet, pleasant, 50-ish, homeless person who sleeps in a doorway a few doors in our district. I wonder how interested he is in ‘cheap utility prices’…

petofi
Guest

correction: “a few doors down…”

Ala
Guest

Just a small correction: All municipal public schools were nationalized and integrated into a centrally managed organization.

Naturally parochial schools (maintained – from taxpayers’s money – by churches loyal to Fidesz) remained in effectively private hands.

Ron
Guest

Btw nothing is said about the new highway toll. It seems problems are popping up everywhere.

Piroska
Guest
Orban is convinced that Putin is right when the latter brands NGOs as foreign agents (ie. in local language effectively meaning foreign spys) and Orban will absolutely not let NGOs operate freely. I don’t see Orban backing down on any issues. For example RTL is absolutely not off the hook, first it has to show that there’s good will on its side. Orban has all the time in the world. Do those well-dressed smart business people in various board rooms across Europe too? We’ll see. As the example of origo.hu and Telekom group nicely illustrated, purportedly powerful corporations can always be nudged into ‘compromises’ and this occasion will be no different. But the fundamental problem with NGOs is that foreign finance is necessary because there is minimal culture of private fund raising in Hungary (people are anyway much poorer than in say the US where grassroots organizations are common) and people – even if they have money – are reluctant to send substantial amounts (and USD 500 is substantial in this respect) to causes which may be deemed politically controversial (especially by the powerful government). I think there can be no doubt that Hungarian secret services closely follow the account… Read more »
Hightower
Guest

I am dismayed by the distasteful and shameful comments by Andras Heisler about the visit of Angela Merkel.

Andras Heisler, a MAZSIHISZ leader said that “Angela Merkel’s visit had historic significance. Never since Adolf Eichmann did we receive such a high ranking guest from Germany”.

These shameful and distasteful comments by Andras Heisler were especially disgusting because the Nazi German Reich was an abomination and not the same state as the Germany we have today.

Therefore it would have been correct and decent human behavior to not mention Adolf Eichmann in the same sentence as Angela Merkel. Merkel did nothing so bad that she deserves to be in the same sentence as Adolf Eichmann a Nazi brute.

What is more, Andras Heisler was also completely wrong about this visit to Hungary being so unique. In 2009 under the MSZP government Merkel herself already visited Hungary as German Chancellor. So this was Merkel’s second visit to Hungary and therefore not so significant at all

.fi person
Guest

This is somewhat off-topic, related to Putin’s visit, but does anyone know whether Orbán speaks Russian or not? How about German (Putin does)? Just trying to figure out if they’re talking with our without interpreters..

Nádas
Guest

The most serious impact of this growing tsunami of “economic immigration” is the presence in Hungary, at least temporarily, of tens of thousands of mostly Kosovar Roma, who now make up the overwhelming majority of the new migrants. Most of them hope to travel farther west, particularly to Germany. But even the Austrians are now taking measures to return them – where? – to Hungary, their point of entry into the EU, and where they are definitely not wanted, not by the government nor by the general population.

And Orbán is probably right when he says they are not needed, either, given the high rate of employment, which is surely going to grow as the aftershocks of Orbánomics begin to set in.

yada
Guest

Nadad:

“Thematization”

“Immigrants are bad, but brown skinned poor immigrants are worse. Gipsies from Kosovo? Don’t even get me started.”

Orban, yet again for the hundred and fifteenth time started an entirely new discourse to which the opposition unable to add a word. The opposition people are apparently speechless and thus reinforce their weakness which is now part of their brand.

I’m sorry to see this happening, but the opposition is weak, very weak and has zero initiatives.

tappanch
Guest

Civil war between Simicska and Orban (and Orban’s people in Simicska’s media outlets).

The leaders of the daily Magyar Nemzet, the radio Lánchíd and the television Hír all resigned today to protest owner Simicska’s recent independent attitude with respect to Orban.

http://mno.hu/belfold/kozlemeny-1271611

http://nol.hu/belfold/lazadas-simicska-ellen-1514533

Simicska’s first reaction: “I am f…ing surprised […] I am going to fire everyone”.

tappanch
Guest

@Hightower

If you read the entire text of Heisler’s statement, you will get a different impression of what he wanted to say. He obviously did not have a PR wo/man to comb through his text for ambiguous phrases.

http://www.hetek.hu/belfold/201502/merkel_utan_putyin_elott

tappanch
Guest

Roll down for Heisler’s words.

Zalán
Guest

“Defence Ministers also decided to immediately establish six command and control units in Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania. ”

Not in Hungary.

Webber
Guest
@Nádas – You are misinformed. The massive influx of migrants just now are not Roma from Kosovo. They are ordinary Albanians from Kosovo. You can see that for yourself if you look at pictures on Hungarian news sites (none of which mention Roma, as far as I can see – where did you get the idea?). I’ve met many of them – whole families – on trains over the past few months. The ones I’ve met have all been relatively well dressed, soft spoken, very polite, and desperate to get out of Kosovo. Quite a few are blond or red-headed with blue eyes, as are many highland Albanians (doubtless a surprise for those who haven’t visited N. Albania). They are leaving Kosovo because there is a social and political crisis there just now which has not been reported on in the Hungarian press. The government of Kosovo has been taken over by a true mafia, the economy has crashed, and the state is predatory. These people will go anywhere they can to find a normal life. Preferably Germany or England (most seem to speak some German). The ones I met didn’t want to stay in Hungary – they were just… Read more »
Nádas
Guest

@Webber – That information comes from socialworkers dealing with border-crossers in the southern region. And aren’t you showing a bit of prejudice in expecting Roma to look and behave in a certain, stereotyped fashion?

Kormos
Guest

@History Professor Webber
….and who created this problematic Kosovo? What was the true reason of bombing Serbia?

Guest

Not too much OT – a residency permit may lead to citizenship:
http://www.portfolio.hu/en/economy/hungary_keeps_selling_a_heap_of_residency_bonds_despite_losing_on_the_deal.29124.html
A very scathing comment!
The Hungarian government is even losing money on these papers – so why do they continue giving them out?

Webber
Guest

@Nádas – Where are reports from those social workers? Please give a link. I’d like to see it.
The news about Kosovar Albanians leaving is absolutely solid.
As to social stereotypes: which do you read into what I’ve written? Most Roma aren’t blond or blue eyed. That is not a stereotype- or would you argue that saying that most Africans aren’t blonde and blue eyed is a stereotype.
My comments about the people I’ve met looking this way or that way is an observation, not a stereotype. I’ve seen plenty of well-dressed Roma in Hungary, and plenty of very poorly dressed Albanians in Prishtina.
I was merely describing people I’ve seen.

Chandra
Guest

@Kormos

What’s the implication in your question? Does it have anything to do with the original issue of Nadas, that is whether or not the Kosovars caught in Hungary are romas (ie. which is an ever worse category politically than simple Albanians)?

Moreover, why do you think illegal immigration via Hungary has to do with any bombings?

Poor Albanians (from Albania), Serbs from Serbia, well, Hungarians from an EU member state (some 600k and counting) have been moving to Western Europe for a better life. Are you implying that if Kosovo remained part of Serbia, local ethnic Albanians would be so well off that they would sit tight on their butts? Or people from Senegal, Tschad, Guinea etc. who cross the Mediterranian on sea to get into the EU were also bombed?

Webber
Guest

@Kormos – Sure! But don’t forget, there were a lot of refugees from Kosovo before NATO bombing in 1999, and that their numbers rose to the hundreds of thousands after bombing started. Nice article here:
http://migration.ucdavis.edu/mn/more.php?id=1801
No one predicted that there would be this wave of economic refugees decades later. It wasn’t predetermined. It seems that something was seriously botched in the transition from EU admin. to independence in Kosovo.
Anyway, as you will recall, Hungary too contributed to NATO bombing of Serbia in 1999 – under the first Orban government – particularly helping with refueling of bombers and other logistics. And Hungary has recognized Kosovo as an independent country.

tappanch
Guest

Oligarch Simicska calls extremist journalist Bayer and Orban a g… [a bad word in Hungarian] .
Simicska says that he can be shot or hit by a car.

http://www.hir24.hu/belfold/2015/02/06/simicska-lajos-kinyirnak-lelonek-elut-egy-auto/

tappanch
Guest

“Premier Orban sorts the media in three groups –
1. those completely under the government,
2. those that dare to criticize [Simicska probably considers himself in #2, although I never saw any proof of this in his media empire, he looked solidly in #1 in the past], and
3. the enemies

[Orban] wants to eliminate #2 and #3.”

http://www.origo.hu/itthon/20150206-lemondott-a-simicska-mediabirodalom-vezerkara.html

tappanch
Guest

Simicska will direct the Hir TV personally from now on:

Orban wants the eliminate the independent media, but we will resist:

https://soundcloud.com/atlatszo-hu/simicska-lajos-a-hir-tv-elnoke-en-leszek-szemelyesen-2015-februar-6

willo
Guest

by the way Orban left the retreat yesterday quite early.

legoman
Guest

Gabor Borokai of Heti Valasz stayed on, who knows why?

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