The Hungarian media and the Greek crisis

On January 27, a day after the victory of Alexis Tsipras’s Syriza party, Hungarian foreign minister Péter Szijjártó, who happened to be in Ankara, expressed his hope that “within the shortest possible time there will be effective and pragmatic cooperation” between Hungary and Greece because “there are many important international challenges which must be handled together.” Magyar Nemzet, then still the faithful mouthpiece of the Orbán government, immediately responded with a pro-Syriza editorial: “It was enough. This was the message the Greeks sent to their corrupt government.” The fact that Syriza was a “Trotskyist, Maoist, socialist and communist” party didn’t bother Magyar Nemzet because, according to Gábor Stier, the paper’s pro-Russian foreign policy editor, Syriza was no longer as radical as it used to be.

A few days later Anna Szabó, another editor, although she expressed her fear that the new government would not be able to solve Greece’s problems, kept fingers crossed for them. After all, Alix Tsipras is doing now what Viktor Orbán did in 2010. Both said “no” to austerity. As for the state of the two economies, Szabó discovered great similarities: the previous Greek governments were as corrupt as the Gyurcsány and Bajnai governments: both cheated and falsified data. Austerity, forced on Hungary after 2008 by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, if continued after 2014 would have led Hungary to bankruptcy just as the same policy led Greece to its current troubles.

The Hungarian government signaled a willingness to have close relations with Greece. At the end of March Szijjártó talked with one of the undersecretaries of the Greek foreign ministry about increased trade relations and discussed the possibility of getting EU financial assistance for a highway and railroad connecting Athens and Budapest.

The Hungarian liberal and socialist media was anything but enthusiastic about the Greek developments. Only a few “true believers,” like Gáspár Miklós Tamás (TGM), broke ranks. “We resolutely and enthusiastically support Syriza without paying attention to the transparent lies of the ridiculous Hungarian press,” he announced. TGM didn’t reveal who these “we” were. Given the strength of the Hungarian far left, he was maybe talking on behalf of a handful of people. And indeed. According to their website, on March 13, 2015 eleven people established the Balpárt (Left Party), which “considers the examples of the Greek Syriza, the German Die Linke, and the Portuguese Blocco its guiding principles.” The last article about Greece to appear on its website, on July 6, was titled: “Today Athens, Tomorrow Budapest!” The author of the article was the chairman of the party, Szilárd Kalmár, a social worker. The article was subsequently translated into English and published in the Hungarian Free Press (Ottawa).

In addition to this far-left group, there are a couple of economists who have been supportive of the Greek position. Foremost among them is Zoltán Pogátsa, a professor of economics at the University of Western Hungary. Pogátsa has his own website on which he has published several articles about the Greek situation. In his estimate the blame for the crisis clearly falls on the European Union and the other creditors, and he accuses the European Union of abandoning everyman in favor of bankers and capitalists. Interestingly enough, an editorial in the right-wing Válasz also shows great sympathy for the Greek position and practically takes over the arguments of one of Pogátsa’s articles on an English-language Greek site called SigmaLive. In this article Pogátsa explains why the “dear Slovaks, Lithuanians, Latvians, and Slovenes” must show solidarity with the Greek people although they might be a great deal poorer than the Greeks.

The other economist who takes a more sympathetic view of the Greek position is Péter Róna, an American-Hungarian economist and investment banker, who is politically close to the anti-capitalist, anti-globalist LMP. In his opinion, all the troubles Greece is experiencing today stem from the introduction of the euro. His argument is that the introduction of a common currency in countries or states with less developed economies necessarily lead to their further economic deterioration. Therefore, Róna, in an article published in Népszabadság today, thinks that Greece should leave the eurozone, the creditors should write off at least half of Greece’s debt, and for the rest there should be at least a ten-year moratorium. In addition, over the next three to five years Greece should receive about 60 billion euros. Róna seems to forget about Greek corruption, graft, and a general reluctance to pay taxes.

So, this is the sum total of pro-Syriza voices in Hungary. The rest, including socialist and liberal commentators, are less than sympathetic. In an editorial in yesterday’s Népszabadság the author compares the Greek situation today to the earlier troubles of Portugal, Spain, and Cyprus–countries which followed the advice of the international financial institutions and in short order saved their economies. But in Greece people refuse to face facts and admit their mistakes. The Greek government doesn’t dare tell the people that “for the current crisis not only the foreigners are responsible.” The Greek people must change their ways.

Péter Techet in HVG is even less polite. The title of his opinion piece is “Solidarity but not with the Greeks.” Techet complains about the European left, which wants to help Greece where the salaries are three times higher than in the former Soviet satellite countries, but which ignores the millions who live in poverty in the eastern periphery of the Union. Syriza’s far-left politics repel him, and he finds the government’s cooperation with the far-right as well as Syriza’s nationalism and “aggression against Macedonia” unacceptable. He, like Róna except for different reasons, thinks that Greece should leave the eurozone before it drags the whole Union into economic chaos.

The red flags at the Acropolis made a negative impression in Hungary

The red flags at the Acropolis made a negative impression in Hungary

Magyar Nemzet reported that Syriza’s followers attacked journalists who were, in their opinion, not supportive enough of the “No” answer. Some of these journalists talk about “a march toward Stalinism” in Greece under Syriza rule. In the same paper a long interview appeared with László Csaba, a professor of economics, who was also very critical of Greek politicians’ handling of the economy in the last decade or so. He pointed out that the black market economy in Greece amounts to a staggering 40% of the GDP. He places the blame largely on the Greek political leadership.

Attila Ara-Kovács in his recent editorial in Magyar Narancs called Syriza “unacceptable,” a sentiment most Hungarian commentators share. In Hungary, only a handful of far-left people representing practically nobody are taking the side of Alexis Tsipras and Syriza.

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tappanch
Guest

Yanis Varoufakis, former Greek finance minister:

“In 2010, the Greek state became insolvent”.

“Official Europe chose the second option, putting the bailing out of French and German banks exposed to Greek public debt above Greece’s socioeconomic viability. A debt restructure would have implied losses for the bankers on their Greek debt holdings.”

“To frame the cynical transfer of irretrievable private losses on to the shoulders of taxpayers as an exercise in “tough love”, record austerity was imposed on Greece, whose national income, in turn – from which new and old debts had to be repaid – diminished by more than a quarter. ”

“By the time Syriza won power last January, and as if to confirm our claim that the “bailouts” had nothing to do with rescuing Greece (and everything to do with ringfencing northern Europe), a large majority within the Eurogroup – under the tutelage of Schäuble – had adopted Grexit either as their preferred outcome or weapon of choice against our government.”

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jul/10/germany-greek-pain-debt-relief-grexit

tappanch
Guest
Member
tappanch
Guest

If I [= tappanch] were the French president, I would create a “Souro” = Southern European Euro with France, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece on board. [pronounce like sour-oh] 🙂

Economically, the devalued Souro would help alleviate the horrible unemployment situation in those countries.

Politically, the French-dominated “Souro” zone would act as a counterbalance to the German-dominated “Euro” zone.

LwiiH
Guest

Unemployment in Gibraltar, 1.8%. Unemployment in Linear, the city separated from Gibraltar by a boarder, 37%. So, where’s the problem?

Now to Greece. The Greek economy has been strangled by the government for decades. When the finally got access to cheap money, the politicians abused the opportunity. When business went in and said, there are clever people here that we’d like to have working for us and they actually would prefer to stay here, can you change the legislation to make is viable for us to hire them, the Greek government said no EVEN DURING THE CRISIS. I know because I’ve been involved with groups that gone to the government and I have hired Greeks to do some work for me.

Now the Greeks said no to more austerity and the deal they have now accepted is worse than the one they said no to. At some point in time you have to look at Athens and ask the question, are you guys for real? WTF are you thinking?

tappanch
Guest

I like my own idea 🙂 . The weight of the Souro (FR+IT+SP+GR+PT+CY) = 56.9% in the current 700 billion ESM, so “Souro” (6 countries above) and the “Neuro” 🙂 (the remaining 13 countries) would split the Euro neatly almost in half, making a viable system, reduced unemployment and prosperous Europe.

tappanch
Guest

Not to mention the fact that “Sexit” (Southern exit) sounds much better than “Grexit” (Greek exit)

tappanch
Guest
Officially, the gross debt of the Hungarian central government surpassed the 25 trillion forints for the first time on July 3, 2015. (25.142 trillion) http://akk.hu/uploads/ewVamLr0.xls (new type of link to the data, is this without a time stamp?) “Cheating and falsifying statistical data” Some observations. 1. Since the change of the leadership of the Hungarian Treasury in the beginning of 2015, the variation of the weekly gross debt data has been significantly reduced. How is it possible? The Statistical Office (KSH) cancelled or modified several series of data. 2. Last September, it modified the way the GDP is calculated, resulting in a several percent increase of the GDP, and a decrease of the debt/GDP ratio 3.The series containing the wages and the number of workers have been modified. In the past, we received a quarterly [deficient, since not monthly] number showing the workers abroad that were included to improve the Hungarian labor statistics. This number has disappeared since January 2015. Since the pool of workers abroad exceeds 10% of the Hungarian labor force, statistical numbers can be created at will to make the labor statistics prettier by adding an unknown and variable number of workers from the pool of those… Read more »
LwiiH
Guest

1.
Since the change of the leadership of the Hungarian Treasury in the beginning of 2015, the variation of the weekly gross debt data has been significantly reduced. How is it possible?

Hungary is heading in the same direction as Greece with some differences. Hungary is more competitive and more tied to the economy in western Europe. Rising tide floats all boats. But, the leak of corruption will sink it.

bimbi
Guest
The negotiations with the Greek government conducted by ‘Big Money’ in the last weeks seem to have been marked by intransigence, conservatism, lack of vision, marginal competence, amateurism and a failure to understand that the European Union is just that a UNION. The focus has clearly been on punishing the Syriza government for the crimes and sins of previous (compliant, wasteful and conservative) Greek governments. It is a bit like blaming Konrad Adenauer for the government of Nazi Germany by punishing the 1953 German government by no forgiveness of debt. Punishment and austerity is a dead-end street – not for Germany – but for Spain, Portugal, Greece and millions of workers throughout the EU working on short-term contracts or zero-hours contracts throughout the EU because of the unrelenting drive of the rich to accumulate more and more capital to the impoverishment and detriment of the poor. And tax-avoidance in Greece? Ask Mr. Juncker again about how he created the whole state of Luxembourg as a tax-avoidance paradise! And Mr. Draghi of the ECB? Ask him about falsifying the data for Greece so that they could enter the Euro zone. As for Hungary? Ha, ha. Hungary, with the Big O. at… Read more »
Guest

At least Tsipras’s Zorba dance is more authentic and better show than Orban’s peacock dance.

JGrant
Guest
Comment and/or analysis of the Greek crisis in Hungary is in a sorry state indeed. It is either totally uninformed and prone to prejudices of all sorts or positively unintelligent driven by personal and/or party interest, full of U-turns. But then again, why should Greece be the exception where Hungarian journalism produces intelligent, well informed and constructive comment? It is so easy to be either neglecting the topic altogether or if comment is necessary, it is much in the vein of hostile comment on a people some distance from home. On the other hand, I think it is not only typical of Hungary, but anywhere else in Europe or even the world, that the quality of comment is levelling down, and down the more the crisis is going on. Such utter nonsense as the laziness of Greeks or their outrageously high wages or pensions causing the crisis often appears in so called quality papers and blogs, which is probably even sadder than the appallingly low level of Hungarian comment. So, it was precisely at this moment when I discovered some really interesting, seemingly well informed AND still sympathetic to Greece comment from unlikely sources who, while left leaning, could not… Read more »
Walter Sobchak
Guest
The lack of support for Greece by the Hungarian left-wing is symptomatic. (And by this I’m not arguing for or against the Greek government). It’s no wonder that Pogátsa wrote the article in Heti Válasz, a reliably conservative/right wing periodical and not in a leftist/liberal weekly. The Hungarian right-wing is much more sensitive to the plight of debtors and poor people, that’s a fact. I don’t know what causes this but they care about poor people (at least as a brand, in the media, as part of a bigger political discourse), while the left – seemingly and consistently – cares about urban middle-class, well-to do people and “freaks” (like rich, urban gays), guess which politics is more popular in a poor and backward country? I would bet that the most Hungarians would be sympathetic with the suffering of Greeks who have endured rounds “restriction” after “restriction” (a term Orban successfully eliminated and inexorably linked with the Hungarian left-wing and then Orban cut costs for anything which might potentially have to do with “liberals”, culture, education etc. ) against the tyrannical IMF (meaning for most Hungarians capitalist Americans/Jews) and the EU (the new Moscow, ie when Moscow was bad, because now… Read more »
Guest

“The Hungarian right-wing is much more sensitive to the plight of debtors and poor people, that’s a fact.”

No, that’s only in theory – just a few examples:

The high VAT of 27% even for basics like food hurts mainly poor people.
The flat income tax and
The linear reductions in utility prices ditto are essentially good for those who use a lot of energy for their air condition, swimming pools etc.
The Sunday closing of supermarkets forces poor people (who work all week) to shop in the CBAs which are up to 50% more expensive than say Tesco.

In our village almost half of the people aren’t even connected to the gas line that runs down the main street – they use wood (and anything that burns – awful smells in winter) for heating and gas bottles for cooking …

PS:
I totally agree with your comments on “Liberal thinking” which will be dead in Hungary in a few more years of Fidesz rule – well, you don’t need much thinking to raise pigs or maybe work in a car factory if you’re intelligent enough ..

JGrant
Guest

I am enclosing a Piketty article link below, but just would say something to Walter Sobchak:
I agree with what you wrote above, but please, please, please do not follow the Hungarian left into one of their common failings with the rest of the intelligentsia in Hungary by projecting generations of misery and Orbanism! If you study history, and especially the history of revolutions, you will find plenty of sudden turns and changes which came out of nowhere. It is not written in the heavens that we will suffer this evil, corrupt and useless regime forever. The trouble with “experts” (although I am not implying you are one!) is that they think they know it all and concentrate on the official organisations, parties and channels. History has known all kinds of transformations in the past, it might do it again. Even in Hungary!!

http://qz.com/445373/thomas-pikettys-wise-words-on-german-hypocrisy-and-how-to-solve-the-greek-debt-crisis/

Dobze
Guest

Yes, you have a point. But what you are saying is that there’s always an outlier event, a kind of black swan nobody could have predicted and that’s Hungary’s hope. I just don’t think that’s a good enough approach, it’s like waiting for Godot.

JGrant
Guest

Not at all. We are all doing things in our own way to make things better. What I was referring to was that black negative attitude to the future that many on the left have, which to my way of thinking expresses their own hopelessness and uselessness, rather than the almighty power of Orban and his gang. If you can stay positive and try to work with those that have ideas to fight against injustice and offer a better alternative that is better even if it will not produce results for a while. There are plenty of forces out there to offer solutions other than the old traditional parties.

Guest

@JGrant
July 12, 2015 at 6:39 am

I wouldn’t hold my breath.

tappanch
Guest

General government gross debt (December 31, 2014)

Neuro Zone (N13), billions of euros, % of the Euro zone debt (E19)
3793.2, 37.9%, including Germany 2170.00 or 23.4%, N12 = 14.5%

Souro Zone(S06), billion of euros, % of the Euro zone debt (E19)
5767.74, 62.1%, including France 21.9%, Italy 23.0%, Spain 11.1%,

Greece owes 3.4% of the government debt in the Euro zone, while Germany owes 23.4%

The 9 Non-euro countries, billions of euros, % of the Euro zone debt (E19)
2802.00, 30.2%, including UK 2055.29 or 22.1%, Hungary 77.72, 0.8%

(Remark: the Hungarian Treasury data for July 3 corresponds to 79.90 billion euros. This number is much smaller than the also official data from the Hungarian National Bank, and does not include the nationalized and already spent money of the private retirement funds)

Source :
http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/tgm/refreshTableAction.do?tab=table&pcode=teina230&language=en

tappanch
Guest

New compilation of data by Deutsche Bank Markets Research

Eurozone countries’ exposure to Greece’s debt amounts to 311.3 billion euros

Germany= 27.9%
France= 21.3%
Italy= 18.6%
Spain= 12.8%
Netherlands= 6.0%
Belgium= 3.7%
Austria = 3.0%

tappanch
Guest

“Luxembourg’s foreign minister makes an impassioned plea for Germany to avoid a Greek exit from the euro, warning Berlin of a catastrophic schism with France if it pushes for Athens to leave the currency union.” (Reuters)

tappanch
Guest

“German request for Greece to sign over €50 billion in assets. This is 27% of Greek GDP. In the U.S. this would be €4.5 trillion.”

w36
Guest

Selling out, corruption, poor management.

Greeks, Russians, Iranians, Hungarians are champions in these sports.

When governments and politics are handled by liars and thieves, the results can be very bad.

The rest is history.

Guest

@w36
July 12, 2015 at 7:14 am

Yes, when they run out of other people’s money, things tend to get tough..

JGrant
Guest

@Dear w36! You will get no argument from me about thieving, corrupt politicians. However, try not to lord it over us poor Eastern Europeans about our “very bad results”! If WikiLeaks are anything to go by there are plenty corrupt, lying and poorly managing politicians everywhere!!

w36
Guest

Dear JGrant,
I left Hungary because I could not stand the prevailing rotten national character.
With some exception, the majority was way out of order.
It has not changed too much in those 40 years.
I found a much better society in Western Germany, and in USA now.
w36

István
Guest

I have been in the back country in Wyoming with zero Internet acess, so I am just now catching up with my reading. I think there is to a degree a misunderstanding of the position of professor Pogatsa whose book on the Greek crisis merits serious reading. There are many good reasons to be critical of Syriza’s electoral coalition tactics with right wing opponents of austerity. Even if the Greek Parliament accepts this very bad deal, Greece will polarize. The already significant anarchist movement will grow among the young as will right wing. The EU and the German bankers with the imposition of these harsh terms could utimately destabilize Greece and create chaos.

Today here in the USA, liberal economist James K. Galbraith, who returned from Greece yesterday in an interview predicted the harsh terms of the Greek bail out deal with lead to the destruction of the EU as it has been known. I don’t know if his prediction will be proven to be true, but it is a chilling one indeed.

toni
Guest

Syriza is also a bunch of idiots. They are as clueless and idiotic as your average Hungarian leftist party.

Now it seems that Tsipras and his “smart” finance minister simply didn’t have a master plan, a real goal to achieve. This is no way to negotiate. I think Tsipras ended up with a worse deal than what they would have gotten six months ago. They were complete amateurs.

Truth be told many of the undertakings are ridiculous like the Greek would have to enact, finally in 2015 a unified Civil Procedure Act, keep the Statistics Agency independent etc. which they should have achieved decades (if not a century) ago.

It boggles the mind.

Guest

You know after all is said done with the Europe-Greek crisis it probably confirms even more and more Orban’s disenchantment with the ‘Western’ approach to solving the crisis. Put a fork in him on that, he’s ‘done’ with all that financial baggage.

For him now it’s Putin ‘accounting’ that’s the way to go to run an economy. I’d think ‘capitalism’ in democracies today are getting a rough ride. There are some endemic issues that need addressing. Hungary’s ruling elite see this and don’t want those headaches when filling the till. They can rob easier going the ‘other’ way without all the centralized hassle.

András B. Göllner
Guest
With all respect – dismissing all those who disagree with the European Troika’s approach to the Greek crisis as “ultra left” is highly misleading. Tsipras and Syriza is a reaction to decades of collusion between Pasok and Western creditors, and to decades of blindness to the scam being foisted upon the Greeks and Europe by a corrupt Greek political elite. Criticism of the Troika does not mean endorsement of Syriza !!! The EU’s blindness to Orbán’s scam is strikingly similar to its blindness to Pasok.. European taxpayers are providing 90% of the capital for the Hungarian government’s economic developmental strategy – a strategy that’s driven first and foremost by the Hungarian oligarchy’s greed and corruption. The declining competitiveness of the Hungarian economy, the massive increase in inequality, the strangulation of the health and educational sectors, the rampant corruption, the restrictions on transparency, are interlinked and are tolerated by the EU. Joseph E. Stiglitz, Paul Krugman, James Galbraith, Barry Eichengreen, Thomas Piketty are NOT ultra-left radicals, and yet, they are all highly critical of Europe’s approach to the Greek crisis. It is unfortunate that the liberal-democratic opposition in Hungary has not learned anything of it’s own mistakes and is unable to… Read more »
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