Jan-Werner Mueller: An Interview with Kriszta Bombera

Jan-Werner Mueller is a professor of political science at Princeton University and the author of several books. He began his university studies at the Free University, Berlin, followed by University College, London, St. Antony’s College, Oxford, and Princeton University. To fully appreciate the depth of his scholarly works I recommend taking a look at his official biography. In addition to his strictly scholarly work Professor Mueller writes commentaries on current affairs, which can be found in The Guardian, London Review of Books, Foreign Affairs, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Die Zeit, and Südeutsche Zeitung.

His interest in Hungary has been reinforced by family connections. Through marriage he has relatives in Hungary, and he visits the country at least once a year. He spent a longer period of time in Budapest when he was a visiting fellow at the Collegium Budapest Institute of Advanced Study. Unfortunately, the building the institute occupied was taken away from them by the Orbán government. They found shelter at the University of Central Europe.

Kriszta Bombera is currently a producer, anchor, and correspondent at ATV. In the last twelve months she has served as the foreign correspondent of the station in the United States. Prior to her job at ATV she worked for MTV (2007-2011), Hungary’s state television.

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BK: Last Wednesday the European Parliament accepted a resolution condemning the Hungarian consultation on immigration. The resolution also asks the Commission to assess the situation of democracy and rule of law and to report back in September. Does this mean that maybe even the new rule of law mechanism of 2014 will be applied?

JWM: It is now up to the Commission to decide whether they want to take this anywhere. It’s not the first time the Parliament called on the Commission, you may recall the Tavares report in 2013, and there is always some leeway of what the Commission will do with a proposal. The big difference between 2013 and now is that we have a new Commission with two central players, Juncker and Timmermans who have, to put it mildly, a “record” with the Hungarian Prime Minister and who have also made it clear in the past that they are willing to do whatever they think it takes to protect democracy and the rule of law in Europe. But the Commission is not the only player on the scene. Last December the European Council – namely the member states’ governments – made it clear that they are very sceptical about the new framework which the Commission had put in place in March 2014. They believe the framework exceeds the powers of the Commission currently has according to the Treaties. This is still debated between the Council and the Commission. It is a deep-seated problem that we don’t have one central actor who is tasked with carrying out the protection of democracy and the rule of law. So it is not guaranteed that the conduct of the Parliament will necessarily result in something very strong but it is more likely with the Commission we have in place now than in 2013.

BK: What do you think the outcome may be of the struggle between the several EU institutions?

Jan-Werner Mueller

Jan-Werner Mueller

JWM: I think it will very much depend on whether at least some of the member states are more willing to be seen as openly criticizing the Hungarian government. Not only the Commission but another thing has also changed since 2013. Viktor Orbán has at least on two occasions employed a language that even people on the outside can clearly understand. Today there is no need to get into complicated stories about the Constitutional Court, the National Judiciary Office, the ombudsman or data protection to describe the intentions of the Hungarian government. For at least some observers, it will always seem plausible to say that these things are relative and that there are always two sides to the story. But the Hungarian Prime Minister’s talk of illiberal democracy last summer and his reckless talk now on the death penalty is the kind of language that people on the outside can clearly understand. Now it is more likely that at least some members of a foreign policy establishment or some political parties in other European countries might find it easier to put more pressure on their own governments sitting in the European Council to investigate how this can happen in the European Union: a Union that is committed to values of diversity, human rights or pluralism, which are codified in Article Two of the European Treaty. So from the point of view of the Hungarian government I think these have been strategic mistakes. They have made themselves more vulnerable to be attacked now that they have made it clear to the outside world that the government of Hungary is committed to values clearly in conflict with what the EU stands for.

Kriszta Bombera

Kriszta Bombera

BK: One might say they have not made themselves that vulnerable. The EPP, after all, is not going to expel Fidesz. The Christian Democrats did not even vote for the final, very strongly worded resolution. Do you think it might have been better to embrace the EPP’s version of the resolution instead of that of the Liberals and the Social Democrats? Wouldn’t it have meant more politically if criticism comes from the party family that Fidesz belongs to? Even if the criticism is somewhat softer than, for example, that of the Liberals. After all, not even the Christian Democrats were beating around the bush about the consultation on migration or about death penalty. But since the EPP’s version of the resolution did not pass the Hungarian government can say, again, that it is a victim of party politics as usual, of the attacks of the liberal left. They said the same about the Tavares report.

JWM: The EPP is a large and fairly dysfunctional political family. It partly became so large in the course of the 1990’s because people like Helmuth Kohl decided that – as he put it back then – they did not create Europe to leave it to the Socialists. So they expanded the EPP, essentially went around Europe and convinced anyone who said they hate Communists that they belong to the Christian Democrats then. So the EPP is a diverse party. There are, of course, lots of people in it who have some sympathy Viktor Orbán’s politics. They see it as a genuinely conservative, genuinely Christian voice. But there are many others who react very badly to the kind of nationalism that Orbán exhibits or to his argument for a debate on the death penalty in Hungary.

They remember what Europe was initially built for, that initially it was meant to be a project that keeps strong nationalism and strong nation states in check on the basis of the experience of the Second World War. A number of EPP members retain that sensibility, and they are committed to a common European morality. We, of course, do not know exactly who voted for what last Wednesday but I think lots of people in the EPPP are fed up with Orbán whose actions and words are, if nothing else, morally dangerous and it is also a huge distraction from Europe’s real problems. They are no longer quite willing to believe the story that Orbán always used to tell his fellow Christian Democrats, namely that he was the last bastion that kept Jobbik at check. They now realize that Jobbik and Fidesz are much closer in terms of rhetoric than they initially thought. So we should not simply say that the EPP clearly stands behind Orbán. Certain individuals like Manfred Weber have not really changed much but many others within the party would actually be willing to go along with harsher sanctions if it came to them.

BK: Hungarian opposition politicians have started stating that Fidesz lost its last ally within the European Parliament. Others who dismiss this argue that there will be always need for such a large fraction as the one Fidesz has within the EPP. Do you think this consideration will indeed always override other concerns about Hungary?

JWM: It is certainly a serious concern, you might say it is a tragic structural problem in Europe today. What can look like more democracy on the European level – when the European Parliament gets more powers – might lead to less democracy within the member states. The European parties, in this case the EPP, might indeed be willing to close its eyes to what is happening in an undemocratic way at the national level so it can retain the loyalty of a relatively big group like Fidesz. This is what happened in 2014 when Joseph Daul the then leader of the EPP in the European Parliament went to Hero’s Square in Budapest to campaign for Viktor Orbán, whom he called a good friend. This was in a sense a tragic outcome, since a very problematic development on the national level was tolerated only to make sure that the EPP remained the largest fraction in the European Parliament. But that was 2014. Now, in 2015, the EPP can be more confident that it will remain the largest fraction for a number of years to come. So, again, I would not be so sure that the entire fraction will stand behind Orbán indefinitely.

BK: The draft resolution of the European People’s Party also included that the Hungarian Prime Minister should set an example in popularizing EU values.” But why should he? There are numerous other heads of government who are doing everything but popularizing the EU. What are the significant differences between voices of dissent? For example between Orbán, Cameron or Tsipras?

JWM: I think one of the most serious problems in the EU today is that far too many politicians, parties but also social movements are lumped together under the category of being anti-European. This is a failure of political judgement (though some politicians do this quite intentionally to discredit certain political actors.) This could have very severe costs in the long run. Let us first take the paradigmatic example of the UK’s so-called euroskeptics who just want to get out of the EU. They are clearly anti-European in the sense that they don’t like the EU as it currently is. But the EU allows countries to leave the Union. I label these people a “disloyal but legitimate” opposition. There is a clause in the Lisbon Treaty that says if a country wants to get out – that is fine. Those who want to leave may leave, without causing damage to the values of the union and of those who stay within.

Let us examine those who criticize some specific current EU policies, for example those meant to rescue the eurozone. Those critics should be called a “legitimate and loyal” opposition because the EU is not about one particular policy. It should be perfectly possible to speak up against austerity or other policies without being labeled an “anti-European.” So Tsipras, for instance, or the Podemos movement in Spain are not anti-European. Chancellor Merkel very easily puts this label on very diverse groups or individuals, she famously has said ” if the euro fails, Europe fails,” as if criticism of her policies meant becoming an anti-European. IN any democracy, a legitimate opposition has an important role to play.

In the last category one may find those who are trying to undermine the EU in terms of its values both from the inside and from the outside. This is the “illegitimate and disloyal” opposition. In this category one can find , at least on certain occasions, the Hungarian government on the inside and Russia on the outside. Of course, Hungary does not want to officially leave the EU but it is undermining the moral core of the EU. This is truly anti-European, unlike what people like Tsipras are doing but similar to what Putin often tries to do. Putin would be much happier in a world without the European Union.

BK: Hungary, Greece and Great Britain: those are the very same three countries that the German and the French Ministers of Economy mentioned in an article in which they argued for a new regime in the European Union. There would be an inner circle for members of the eurozone and for those who believe in the values and policies of the EU and there should be another, looser circle for those who are presently struggling for more national sovereignty. Do you think it may be feasible? How should we imagine such a “layered” Union?

JWM: It is perfectly imaginable, differentiated integration is already a reality. Some countries already have opt-outs, they don’t have to go along with everything, in particular with the euro. We are already faced with a somewhat fragmented European Union and it is possible that this trend continues. But it may be more difficult to manage and could become dysfunctional. All the existing problems with democracy in the EU would be getting even more difficult. Who decides what for whom? How to identify who is responsible for what? There might have to be two parliaments but it is already very difficult to manage even one. The hopes of those who wanted Europe to use its weight, including its moral weight on the global stage will have to be buried, too, because Europe will not speak with a unified voice. It is not a very attractive vision, I think.

BK: Let me come back a bit to Hungary and to the EU rule of law mechanism of the Commission from last year. The resolution of the Liberals last Wednesday suggested that there is a “possibility of an already existing systemic threat to the rule of law in Hungary” and they argued for the first steps of the mechanism to be put into effect. But, as you previously pointed out, the mechanism has not been accepted by various member states, including Hungary. You had proposed the European Union another system before, the so-called Copenhagen Commission, which would be a brand new institution to guard democracy and the rule of law within the EU. But why would that be better than the existing tools? And, after all, do you agree that there may be a systemic threat to the rule of law in Hungary?

JWM: Let me start with the second question. The possibility of a threat has been there for years in Hungary. Democracy does not have to be already undermined or demolished in a country to be able to diagnose that there is a threat. There has to be a clear pattern, though, which we saw, for instance, in 2013 in Hungary. The Fourth Amendment to the Fundamental Law, the back and forth with the EU about it, then the Fifth Amendment, all were essentially attempts by the Hungarian government to see how far they can push certain ideas and then in response to criticism pull back to some degree. I think already at that point it was entirely legitimate to speak of a threat. One did not have to prove that “illiberal democracy” had already become entrenched..

Partly based on the experience with Austria in 2000 the EU was careful to have a two-stage process, when it comes to dealing with threats to fundamental EU values. In the first stage they only state there may be a threat. It does not mean that anything terrible has happened yet, it should be a relatively low threshold to cross. But in the second step, an actual breach of fundamental values has to be proven and then a Member State should lose its voting rights in the European Council.

Today Orbán’s talk of putting the death penalty back on the agenda – whatever that means – is also a threat. Of course, even to say this much is stigmatizing one country, since a member state is singled out as having a problem. But that is inevitable and the European Treaty allows for this. The objection that a member state was “singled out” by this process is not valid. This has nothing to do with prejudice or discrimination; if there is clear evidence, then a guilty party has to be singled out..

How could this be done in a more impartial way? The European Commission is officially the guardian of the treaties, and is officially an impartial actor on the European scene. So, in the eyes of many observers, it remains the best contender for taking on this task. But the European Commission may become more politicized. There are many proposals to make it more political, for example last year the election process for the President of the European Commission was an instance of this. This might result one day in people recognizing that the Commission has become a Christian Democrat or a Socialist Commission, that is, a partisan, political body – not in secret, but on purpose, to allow citizens to see their choices reflected in what a kind of EU government undertakes. In that case, the Commission will no longer appear as an impartial, non-partisan actor. For the case of that scenario I propose that we should create a new institution which could be called Copenhagen Commission in memory of the Copenhagen criteria for accession to the EU, which famously included democracy and the rule of law. This Commission would be tasked to monitor the member states and raise the alarm when something is going seriously wrong. A major condition would be the authority to act independently, without the member states effectively having an immediate veto.

There is another thing that should be contemplated in the EU, the possible expulsion of a member state, for which the European Treaty does not allow now. A country can leave voluntarily, its voting rights can be taken away in the European Council but if we imagine an absolute horror scenario, let us say one day a military dictatorship arises in a member state, the Union could not really take the ultimate step of expelling that country.

So quite apart from any particular discussion that we have been having about Hungary or Romania in the last couple of years I think it is a structural deficit that the Treaty now only allows us to isolate ourselves from a particular member state, to put it in a kind of quarantine. But there is no effective mechanism for intervening in that member state.

From the point of view of a member state’s population this is a real disappointment. If, for example in Hungary, people thought they entered the EU to have a safety mechanism, a kind of insurance scheme to be helped in the case of illiberal, undemocratic politics, they were wrong. If they hoped they locked themselves into a number of supranational guarantees that their country could not go back to even authoritarian measures, that sort of assurance isn’t really in place.

It is worth at least to have a discussion about the possibility of expelling a member state entirely instead of spending all this time on a Grexit or a Brexit or expelling Greece from the eurozone. These are serious matters but again, ultimately just questions of policy, not questions of values and how we want to live together in Europe as a whole. I think that discussion has been sorely missing from our deliberations so far.

BK: You are widely known not only for your proposal of the Copenhagen Commission but also as a scholar of populism. Prime Minister Orbán seems to be taking very sharp ideological turns recently. One might think his turns are even hard for his supporters to take. For example, recently he said he will defend Christian Hungary from multiculturalism. Some days later, welcoming Arab bankers to the country he said Hungary is an open country, a friend of Islam.. How can one do this without serious risks? And what should the Hungarian Prime Minister learn from the recent failures of Turkish President Erdoğan?

JWM: A populist is not somebody who simply repeats what people are supposedly saying. There is a distinction between a populist and a demagogue. It is the latter who says what he or she thinks is the popular opinion. Conversely, what a populist says is that he or his party are the only ones that morally represent the real, the pure people. As Orbán said most famously in 2002 after losing the election, “the nation cannot be in opposition,” from which it follows that Fidesz is the nation, or rather, the only legitimate representative of the nation. Similarly, Erdoğan said last year, “we are the people.” And to his critics he said, “who are you?” The exclusive claim to represent is decicive for populism and it may have little to do with what people think or believe. So I think Orbán’s double talk is more an example of a cynical double game. On the one hand he employs a popular rhetoric domestically but internationally or in negotiations with others he says something quite different.

To answer your question about Erdoğan, I think that Orbán had a better – but therefore also more dangerous – populist strategy. Unlike Erdoğan, he quickly put populism into the Constitution. From his point of view he did it “the right way around.” He first changed the constitution, he codified his understanding of the Hungarian nation, of Hungarian history and now, were he to lose power, the constitution would still be there. It’s a very big question what will happen to this partisan “Fundamental Law” in the future, and how a more democratic, inclusive constitutional settlement could be achieved.

Erdoğan, however, made himself president first and only his next step would have been a new constitution, had he been more successful in the recent election. That constitution would have been in line with his political beliefs but also more importantly with his particular vision of what a proper Turk and what a proper Turkish nation is. Today his position is much more difficult because he does not have the backup of an “Erdoğan constitution” which would mirror his views on what a proper Turk is like, his views of Islam morality, his vision of Turkish history. So Orbán had a proper strategy in entrenching populism institutionally.

Still, Orbán has a structural dilemma now. He faces a contender, Jobbik, that will always have the advantage of being the one big party that have never been in government, thus, has never shown to be corrupt in certain ways. But Orbán, the longer he stays in power the more scandals and problems he will face. Populists will always blame former elites or foreign actors for all problems. But the longer they are in office, the less credible this blame-game becomes.

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tappanch
Guest

Price levels in Hungary (2014). EU28 = 100%.

Overall= 57%,

Consumer electronics= 91%, Groceries (w/o alcohol and tobacco) = 76%, Clothing= 70%, Electricity+Gas= 57%, Restaurants= 51%

After-tax monthly wages = 31.3% (two-earner married couple with 2 children) or
25.7% (single person without children)

Sources:
http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Comparative_price_levels_of_consumer_goods_and_services

comment image

To Minusio:

Hungary/Switzerland:

price level: 37%
after-tax wages= 9.8% (single), 11.3% (married with 2 children)

tappanch
Guest

Single person:
Subsistence level income (official KSH data) in 2014 (using EUR/HUF= 310) = 282 euros.

Two-earner married couple with two children:
Subsistence level income (official KSH data) in 2014 (using EUR/HUF= 310) = 817 euros.

Keep this in reference, since this is the last number of this sort. In the future, the state statistical office (KSH) will NOT calculate the subsistence level income.

http://www.napi.hu/magyar_gazdasag/itt_vannak_az_uj_letminimum-adatok_ket_gyerekhez_mar_havi_negyedmillio_kell.599530.html

István
Guest

Jan-Werner Mueller’s essay in Foreign Affairs “Moscow’s Trojan Horse” is well worth reading. There is a link to the essay at his official biography that Eva provided for her readers.

Guest

For me this has been one of the finest informational and analytical posts I have read laying out the issues and problems between the EU, the states and particularly Hungary. His remarks were insightful as to the ‘value’ estimations being made and promulgated within the current regime. I’d think those ‘values’ must be questioned relentlessly.

I noticed Mr. Mueller’s picture. His demeanor is perhaps dour? Perhaps his view of the precarious situation that democracy is experiencing with states around the EU table? Or a look suggesting what may lie ahead for Hungary if the combinations Orban has been playing in his regional chess match continue out?

The references are great. Thank you. A lot of work ahead..;-)..

petofi
Guest

Both Mueller and Bombera were top notch.
I’d like to know the next time Mueller is in Budapest to speak.
I’d like to ask Mr. Mueller if the EU could set up an office to examine to what degree
a member country adheres to the norms and values of the EU, and wherein it falls short.
It would be useful.

petofi
Guest

Or perhaps a Masters level class in International Law from Oxford/Cambridge/Sorbonne would undertake an annual assessment of each EU members’ performance with regard to the norms and values of the EU….

David Sade
Guest

An excellent interview describing the ills of the EU that allowed Orban to carry out cementing in his “illiberal democracy” (which by the way a contradictory term; if it is illiberal, it cannot be a democracy… and it isn’t indeed). And the following quote may summarise why he could get away with it…

“There is another thing that should be contemplated in the EU, the possible expulsion of a member state, for which the European Treaty does not allow now. A country can leave voluntarily, its voting rights can be taken away in the European Council but if we imagine an absolute horror scenario, let us say one day a military dictatorship arises in a member state, the Union could not really take the ultimate step of expelling that country.”

Orban knows perfectly well that he ‘can get away with murder’, as there is no effective policing by the EU over his actions. And the greatest tragedy in all this that this trend can repeat itself in other EU countries as well, and then we can shut the door on the EU as a whole.

Guest

But why has it taken the EU so long to begin to recognize the very real threat to Europen Union principles, when we the opposition have been campagning and protesting, for years?

The longer Hungary is left to simply “get on with it”, and the longer it is fed endless huge sums of money which go directly into Orban’s pockets to be distributed amongst his family and friends, the more entrenched the corruption becomes. It is too late now to undo the harm, but expelling Hungary would, at last drive the message home.

In that scenario Orbán, who now needs to feed his family of oligarchs, ravenous for ever-more-and-more-money, will naturally turn to his best buddy Putin, plus a few other lawless places such as Azerbaijan, to keep financing this corner of the world’s latest corrupt little enterprises.

A country made up of diverse and free citizens, with free trade, a healthy market economy, with a monopolies commission and proper auditors ( independent of Fidezs) in place to keep checks and balances, Hungary is not.

It is now a business called Orbán and Co. Enterprises, and the paymasters are the EU and the taxes the duped citizens pay into his business coffers.

David Sade
Guest

Very true, and this is the essence of the ills of Hungary today… And if there no change will come (a fundamental change!) then tomorrow there may not be a Hungary as we know it…

Gressler
Guest
The EU is unable to act against Hungary and it doesn’t want to at most it will resort to substitute acts. But this is how the EU was conceived. Only (mostly) liberal scholars oversold the EU as a powerful entity. It is not and it is hopelessly divided — just like the Hungarian left-wing: full of ineffectual, weak-willed people, plus hopelessly divided. The EU can start one of its usual legal proceedings against Hungary and then what? Why would Orban care? The bigger the conflict, the hysteria, the better for him. Hungarians hate brown-skinned people. No media deals with the Questor case (a fraud of 500m euros) or MET A.G. (a fraud of at least 1bn euros) and the rest any more — only with how “tough Orban is, a real leader defending the nation against forces who want to bring in millions of blacks and Islamic immigrants as if the gipsies weren’t a huge problem already”. Even RTL Klub is on summer holiday, just as it was foretold, it was pacified. The immigration issue is a godsent present to Orban, it will not abate, it is inconceivable that less people will start to come as Africa, the Middle-East, Central-Asia… Read more »
petofi
Guest

I think you’ve got it wrong: a system like Orban’s, especially in a small, dependent country, has a very short shelf-life. Presently, it suits the Russians to prop him up; to buy the country’s paper via a US company. But it won’t last. First off, if Putin somehow goes–and I doubt that the Russian oligarchs want to see their unearned billions not buying them thrills in New York and Paris for long–then I wouldn’t want to give a plug-nickel for Viktor’s future. Even if Putin manages to hang on, the cost of propping up Hungary may not be worth the money.

The present balancing act on a tightrope may be ok in calm weather, but what if a strong wind comes up?

gyuri
Guest

The pro-Orban George Friedman (Stratfor) about the EU (“it’s finished”) in Napi (the new Fidesz mouthpiece daily).

http://hvg.hu/gazdasag/20150624_Friedman_Az_EU_jovoje_katasztrofalis

tappanch
Guest

napigazdasag.hu is fidesznik, while napi.hu is NOT.

István
Guest

The best article I have seen on the refugee situation on the Hungarian Serbian border
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jun/22/migrants-hungary-border-fence-wall-serbia

Here is also what is interesting, a lack of investigative journalism in Hungary relating to bribes being paid to national police on the border. The reports of these payments are now appearing in the media world wide and among refugees.

Webber
Guest

Al Jazeera is reporting that Hungarian police are hunting for refugees, robbing them of their money, and sometimes beating them. Report here:
http://www.aljazeera.com/blogs/europe/2015/06/hungary-migrants-150624032410795.html

Mark
Guest

The answer to a weak EU is culture, culture, culture.

The more we share a European culture, the stronger the European political movement will be.

Umberto Eco argued that we can create a strong European culture by intermarriage:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/jan/26/umberto-eco-culture-war-europa

I know I’ve done my part, marrying a Hungarian woman. And spawning two delightful children as well!

And Mr Eco married a German.

And Mr Mueller has also married a Hungarian. (What was he thinking? 😉 )

So have many of the commenters on this blog.

We need to get the word out, though.

Intermarriage is cool.

Chic.

Very European.

petofi
Guest

Or, as it has been rumored for a long time…Hungarian women know a thing or two.

Latefor
Guest

Petofi,
Your comments made Ricard think of his mama, but you made me think of the famous quotes of Zsazsa Gabor:
“I’m a good housekeeper, I keep the house after each divorce” or “I never hated a man enough to give back the diamond rings”. Yes, I have to agree with you here. “Hungarian women know a few thing or two” 🙂

Albrecht Neumerker
Guest

I, a hungarian german married a finnish-swedish girl. Works great!
It is the only way.

Lex
Guest

I’m just hearing from reasonable, educated colleagues that this “barbed wire thing” is good and Orban is finally doing something good because we don’t need those people.

“They may want to go to Germany but they will realize this is still much better than Senegal and if the Germans catch them they will send them back to Hungary. Moreover the EU needs immigration sure, but highly educated engineers not these low-qualified ones who will go on welfare”.

It’s politically impossible to explain to the masses that these people will work (in jobs which the locals would never take) and will work hard and in most cases won’t be able to utilize welfare (though their EU-born kids will be in a more complex situation as we see from France).

Poor Africans and Afghans keep coming and unwittingly will make Orban strong and rich, entrenching him further.

It’s like opposing the “war on terror” or being “soft on crime” in the US, the conservatives are always able to push the lefties into impossible situations, when the latter would want to be reasonable and humanistic. But in a democracy masses decide and masses are not university professors.

Webber
Guest

Antal Rogan (Fidesz) has announced that if necessary (if Austria and Slovakia keep returning refugees entering their territory from Hungary), the Hungarian government will build a fence around the whole country.
The Austrian government has now said that if Hungary does not honor its treaty commitments to refugees, it may temporarily suspend free travel from Hungary to Austria. If Slovakia follows suit, Hungary’s Schengen membership on land will have effectively been suspended (presumably Schengen liberties will still be in force for those travelling by air).

spectator
Guest

The very same lovely guy – the name Rogán – exclaimed today, that “it isn’t immigration any longer, but (the great)migration”!

And?

Are these people really think, that “history” as such is finished (!) and the present status is the final one?
Is anybody awake there over?

What if Svatopluk had the same idea, back in time of the so called “great migration”?

“Tempora mutantur”, people, and it hasn’t stopped yet, so far, so better get used to it!

Or stop the damned thing – time, that is – , altogether, after all, the Fidesz still has majority..!

The only thing would make sense is to build a 13” fence around the whole Hungarian government, in my opinion.
OK, I’ll make some allowances – let’s include the whole Fidesz caucus too, if we are at it!

I bet it would greatly improve things over there!

Albrecht Neumerker
Guest

Why do we think all refugees are low educated? It is simply not trough.

Guest

petofi…Your remark made me think of my mother. She did not have much education (education in the villages was kind of say a ‘premium’ in those early 20th century days) but yet in hindsight I always thought she really knew ‘what was what’. When I was a child she took me to the UN to protest the unannounced ‘visit’ by we know who in ’56. I think it certainly changed my life in many ways as I look back on it.

So from what I know from her and the ideals she inculcated to me I compare her to the supposed high intellectual power that exists in the current Magyar administration. She may not have had a great formal education as some of the current administrators but I think she would be appalled at the goings on in her country and how some are so ‘okos’ but yet could be so dumb. Yes, Hungarian women know a thing or two…;-)…

petofi
Guest

Rikard,
A degree, especially in Hungary, does not mean a good education–I submit Schmitt Pal as a good example. But others, like Zoltan Kovacs, who have put a Brit university on their resume, probably never completed a degree…just spent a summer auditing a course (at best; at worst, they just put Cambridge or Oxford on their resume because it looks good). What’s more, even if educated, it doesn’t mean that the person has civilized values and is well-intentioned. (Witness all the slippery members of the Hungarian government.)

Civilized norms…they haven’t had any value in the Hungarian reality for a long time now.

Guest

Re: ‘A degree, especially in Hungary, does not mean a good education’

You know based on your response and being here rather than there I guess have been ‘misinformed’ like Rick in ‘Casablanca’ due to not getting first hand information. I have been contemplating coming back for a while. I believe I will relish perhaps being an American ‘de Tocqueville’ taking in the supposed ‘new’ Magyar air.

An interest of de Tocqueville was the operation of the central government in the nascent US. His view was that, if the central power ‘after having established the general principles of government ….descended to the details of their application; and if, having regulated the great interests of the country, it could descend to the circle of indiviudal interests, freedom would soon be banished from the New World’.

On that perhaps I should go and quickly because these times may be not a leap forward for the country but a back-to-the future kind of thing. I am afraid democracy and the tradition may become a lost child, disowned and bereft, in the Magyar political, cultural and social sphere.

Albrecht Neumerker
Guest

Rikard, education and intelligence do not go hand in hand. To be wise is not a question of years in schule but maturity.

Guest

I take your point. And I would just like to add ‘character’ to the mix.

And further from a famous American author..J Baldwin..
‘It is very nearly impossible to become an educated person in a country so distrustful of the independent mind’.

I’d suggest Orban and co are fitting up the country up in a straitjacket. Will ‘different’ views wind up next say as a ‘mental’ disturbance? We’ve seen that before.

dohi
Guest

enemies are attacking hungary

http://inforadio.hu/hir/belfold/hir-736966

spectator
Guest

Enemies of?
Enemies of shear stupidity, xenophobia, chauvinism and irredentism attacking the very phenomenon, and quite rightfully, I’d say.
Now, if the above mentioned scum happens to be Hungarian, those “enemies” attacking Hungarians – unfortunate as it may, this is life!

It reminds me, when I moved from Hungary at the beginning of ’89 I’ve met a guy, a former Hungarian, who according to himself has been persecuted by communists!
After a few drinks it turned out that the guy treated the others property rather “liberally”, so he wasn’t really persecuted, but prosecuted, and yes, the policeman could have been member of the Communist Partyt as well…

What I mean, it is a true fact that the guy I mentioned has had conflict with communists, equally true, that Hungary is “under attack by the enemies” – I mentioned above, – but hey, the reason isn’t being a Hungarian, but being a backward moron – and this is some difference, I dare say!

petofi
Guest

I don’t know, Spectator: “…a backward moron..” is the pure definition of the average Hungarian!

spectator
Guest

Oh my!
Sorry abot the blunder – think about the average squared and multiplied tenfold – there about..!
And still happens to be respected Hungarians – under atfack, but of course..!

ro87
Guest

More lies???
Many things can be better if lies die down.
The nation should reject the lies of Orban/Vona with one voice.

Istvan
Guest

There was a very interesting article about George Friedman an American Hungarian security analyst who runs Strategic Forecasting, Inc in Népszabadság today. The article indicated Hungary was offered the option of having prepositioning of US military supplies that I discussed yesterday but according to Friedman “Hungary missed out” (Magyarország kimarad belőle) on the opportunity. To read the article go to http://nol.hu/kulfold/mindenutt-orosz-kemeket-latnak-1546649

Mr. Friedman has lectured at the US Army War College and holds a doctorate in political science. In his 2010 book: The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century he predicted that the current U.S.-Jihadist war will be replaced by a new cold war with Russia; but in the Népszabadság story he indicated that US Russian relations had yet to deteriorate to cold war status.

Guest

A very interesting assessment from the think-tank. No doubt Stratfor has done extensive data mining on the geopolitical variables floating around within Europe and its environs. Would love to know if they’ve simulated Russia’s next move in the great chess game going on. They would appear to have past data that arguably can help in ‘prediction’ of future behavior. In fact, the Ukrainian and Crimean situations should be a treasure trove in gauging the effect of variables on nation-state moves into territory.

In essence, Russia already has made two ‘captures’ for arguably some material gain. At this point, Russia hasn’t even been given a ‘check’. All that can be said is we’ve only seen some ‘positional’ moves to prime the European position for some stabilization. Curious as to what the computers spew out on that to help ‘geopolitical’ analysis in this new age cold war.

tappanch
Guest

The Council of Europe approved the Orban regime today.

The supported document:
http://assembly.coe.int/ASP/Doc/XrefViewPDF.asp?FileID=21807&Language=EN

spectator
Guest

Oh, well…
However, besides of the load of bullshit they somehow managed to pull themselves to appear as a solid mass and published the following sentence too:

<i.”58. Concerning the new Hungarian Church Act, the European Court of Human Rights, in its judgment of 8 April 2014, found a violation of Article 11 (freedom of assembly and association) of the European Convention of Human Rights, read in the light of Article 9 (freedom of thought, conscience and religion), as the act in question violated the rights of religious communities when it stripped them of their Church status.”

-and it hardly sounds as approval.

By the other side, it still amazing that after all these years with Orbán there still is some people who can’t see through the Hungarian smokescreen. May I say, they didn’t even wanted to?

petofi
Guest

Disappointing.
The EU can’t be this stupid as to be taken in by Orban’s ‘to-and-fro’ tricks, can it?

No, it must be the Greek thing–one disaster at a time..And of course, the simmering Ukraine…

Hungarish and Hungaricoes, will just have to wait.

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