István Hiller, MSZP, and the fence

I know that most likely everybody will want to talk about the perpetrators of the terrorist attacks in Paris, but I see no point in adding to the guessing game about the identities of the eight men involved. Of course, I’m also very curious whether the Syrian passport actually belonged to one of the terrorists, and I’m sure that the discussion of the details of the attack will continue in the comments. Today, however, I would like to talk about something else, though it is not unrelated to the refugee crisis and terrorism. It is the surprise announcement by István Hiller (MSZP) that, although he doesn’t like the fence, he doesn’t know “a better solution for the refugee crisis,” a statement that goes against the position of his party.

First, perhaps I should say a few words about István Hiller. He is currently one of the most important active politicians in MSZP. He was one of the founding members of MSZP as a young man of 25 and became chairman of the party in 2004. Two years later he was named minister of education and culture. In the last few months he has indicated his desire to head MSZP, which is in serious decline. I gather he believes that under his leadership MSZP can again become a large, influential party. Otherwise, he is a historian whose main field is sixteenth-century Austrian diplomacy.

One is always suspicious when Viktor Orbán praises someone from the opposite camp, and that is what he did in the case of István Hiller. During his conversations with students of his old dormitory, after dismissing the current political leaders of the opposition parties who are unable to formulate a “national strategy” (nemzetpolitika), Orbán announced that “interestingly there is someone who can at least theoretically achieve that goal and that is the former chairman of the party, ‘a professzor úr,’ Hiller…. He is a man whose heart is in the right place, and this is difficult for someone from the left.”

MSZP politicians were stunned at Hiller’s announcement. Some of them were aware of his opinion, but they didn’t expect him to announce it publicly against the wishes of his party. Some of his colleagues tried to look upon his indiscretion as a well-meaning response to the public opinion polls showing that the overwhelming majority of MSZP voters believe that the fence is necessary to stem the flow of asylum seekers. After all, a party must be responsive to its voting base’s wishes.

But soon enough it was noticed that several former associates of Hiller had quietly received important government jobs in the Orbán administration, and Hiller himself admitted that János Lázár had asked his advice in connection with the Esterházy Center to be set up in Fertőd. Hiller noted that there was nothing unusual about the request because, after all, it was during his tenure that the bulk of the restoration work on the Esterházy Palace had taken place.

Nonetheless, suspicions have solidified: Hiller is planning to make peace with Fidesz and Viktor Orbán. Of course, Hiller denies the charge. Yet there is a danger that Hiller might end up like Katalin Szily, who first kept criticizing her party, later established a party of her own that flopped, and now is an adviser to Viktor Orbán on “national issues” for a million forints a month. As a witty headline said, “If Hiller is clever he won’t become silly.”

A double interview with László Kovács and Ildikó Lendvai, both former party chairmen and people whose personal integrity is beyond reproach, shows what a hopeless party MSZP has become since 2010 when its leadership hatched the idea of “renewal.” Renewal meant getting rid of all the experienced politicians and replacing them with entirely new young faces whom nobody knew and who were not up to the task of renewing anything.

Kovács and Lendvai are top-notch politicians and excellent democrats. They were among the “old guard” booted out from their leadership positions. Kovács made a name for himself already in the last days of the Kádár regime when he, together with Gyula Horn, were largely responsible for the decision to allow the East German refugees to cross over to Austria. He was a successful foreign minister and served as EU commissioner for five years. Lendvai for many years was the leader of the large MSZP delegation of olden days. She is an eloquent, quick-witted speaker and one of the most honest politicians I have encountered.


The interview with these two people appeared in Origo. The headline was taken from something László Kovács said: “at that price I don’t want to win an election.” The discussion that preceded that sentence was about popularity and political strategy. If it is clear that Viktor Orbán’s reaction to the refugee crisis is popular even among MSZP voters, isn’t the correct strategy to move in the direction of popular demands? At this point the following conversation took place:

László Kovács: There are two possible choices for political parties. One is that they follow what is popular and brings more votes. But if MSZP wants to win the election this way, it would have to stand for things that are very far from European values.

Ildikó Lendvai: We might as well revile the Gypsies.

László Kovács: Or we can come up with the reinstatement of capital punishment because a lot of people would support it and thus we would be popular. But I don’t want to win at such a price. If we can win only with offering such inhumane solutions alien to European culture, then I would rather stay in opposition. A responsible politician should not only serve but also influence public opinion.

Those people who can read the whole interview should definitely do so. Both severely criticized István Hiller who, by the way, is planning to run for the chairmanship of the party, and they complained about MSZP’s lack of a clear alternative to Fidesz. MSZP’s platform should not be, to use Lendvai’s words, “Fidesz-light” or, as she said a few sentences later, “the same thing as Fidesz but not in a major but in a minor chord.”

It is hard to tell what will happen to MSZP, but I am convinced that the current leadership should pack up and leave. Otherwise, soon enough there will be no MSZP, and the leadership of the opposition will come from one of the smaller parties or a coalition (or unification) of these parties to replace MSZP.

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Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)

Oh well. Yesterday two Hungarian friends, Együtt & DK voters, told me ‘Orbán was right about closing the borders’.


One-million forints is a lot of money in Hungary, especially as a monthly retainer for being an adviser. Can you provide a link that shows (or states) that Katalin Szili gets that kind of money from Fidesz, Éva? Thanx.



Hazafias Nepfront in its rebirth? Viktor has not forgotten what he learned in his youth.


“Otherwise, soon enough there will be no MSZP, and the leadership of the opposition will come from one of the smaller parties or a coalition (or unification) of these parties to replace MSZP.”

Surely this has effectively already happened?


Kudos to Laszlo Kovacs and Ildiko Lendvai. Happy to see that there are politicians with a backbone and moral character in Hungary .

Re: László Kovács: ‘There are two possible choices for political parties. One is that they follow what is popular and brings more votes. But if MSZP wants to win the election this way, it would have to stand for things that are very far from European values’ You know with that comment Mr. Kovacs is astute to know that even in ‘democracies’ there are times that the majority bets on the wrong wayward horse. And further that it isn’t good politics (if you’re in it to win it) to pander and slink along to simply get ‘the votes’ and go with the flow. There are some things that you can’t play around with if you have integrity in the underlying platform you stand on. Too bad the ‘left’ or really anyone disagreeing with current majority political currents just apparently cannot effectively transfer their ‘collective’ beliefs and values to the population. It would appear that belief and confidence is of high importance in that game. If you don’t believe or have second-thoughts in what you are selling it cannot be expected that others will buy it. Maybe the opposition is ‘hopeless’ but they certainly need to analyze their communications in their… Read more »

re: “…replacing them with new young faces…”

Few things are as disheartening in Hungary as to find the political field littered with 30-something characters–politilogi–who’ve never held a job in their life.
Why is Politics the chief growth-industry in this ridiculous country?

If sense ever returns to government–a legitimate government–then the first law I’d like to see is one forbidding people under 50 to run for office; and also those who haven’t held a paying job for 25 years, or ran a business for the same period of time.

Alex Kuli

The main reasons the MSZP hasn’t gone the way of Poland’s Democratic Left Alliance is 1) No serious challenger for supremacy on the Hungarian “left,” and 2) It can still rely on the remnants of its national network that was so strong in the 1990s and 2000s. No other “left” party has such a network.

Still, the MSZP is damaged goods. I predict the Socialists will continue to sink into a tar pit of incompetence and turn out ever-poorer results at election time. Then, a new, more intelligent political force has to take over the Socialists’ national network and rebuild it, similar to the way that Fidesz co-opted the MDF’s network starting in the mid-1990s. This will be exceedingly difficult, given the restrictions that Fidesz has placed upon party finance and operations.

Very simply put there is no use for a Fidesznik MSZP. Fidesz and Jobbik can achieve what they want much better than MSZP – in a Socialist disguise – ever could. Of course, if Fidesz could coopt MSZP or could help to establish a split MSZP with a few percentage points and further divide the leftist voters it would be a great result already. The leftists are always divided and always looking to compromise with Fidesz. That’s their nature. The problem is that these days voters, more than ever, are looking for tough, principled leaders with a capital L. Istvan Hiller, however, is a real softie, he’s style and image embody the wavering, unable-to-decide, approval-seeking Leftie. Hiller is probably in a mid-life crises who figured his political future is over and his only way to remain a political factor if he becomes a Karoly Peyer type loyal opposition. At least Lazar will ask for his opinion about the renovation of a castle – middle-aged men are so predictably vain. The leftists are easy to flip and corrupt and never have the self-confidence to believe that they could win – even when in Slovakia or Romania the left is still in… Read more »

OK, so it’s now officially confirmed that the Syrian passport holder, Ahmad Al Mohammad, was one of the suicide bombers. French prosecutors say his fingerprints match those of someone who passed through Greece in October.

His route is confirmed – his passport and/or fingerprints were registered/detected in the following places:
Greece (Leros), Oct. 3
Serbia, Oct. 7
Croatia, Oct. 8
He is known to have passed through Austria.
Paris, Nov 13.

So, once again, it’s worth pointing out that Ahmad Al Mohammad, and his passport, most likely travelled through Hungary at the Croatian/Hungarian border.

Hungarian authorities did not check or register the passport. Hungary had no system in place at that time, other than to bus people en masse from the Croatian to the Austrian border. i.e. The Hungarians were allowing thousands into Schengen unchecked, instead of installing proper procedures which would either register people formally or care for them on humanitarian grounds.

Some Greek newspapers are reporting that Ahmad Al Mohammad was not travelling alone.


Come on. The man was registered in Greece, a member of the EU and Schengen. Then he was registered again in Croatia, another member of the EU. Why on Earth should he have been registered again in Hungary/Slovenia/Austria? What difference would that have made? Registration is not a wonder weapon, and the case of Ahmad Al Mohammad – who was registered twice in the EU and once in the Schengen Zone – proves that point. Proper vetting would make a difference, but you cannot properly vet ten thousand people a day, every day. Well-guarded detention camps could be a solution but most liberals would go out of their way to prevent such camps from being set up in the European Union.



Why on earth???

EU regulations in place at the time required each country to register refugees.
Hungarian regulations require that all people entering Hungary from a non-Schengen country have their papers checked and registered.

The terrorist entered Hungary from a non-Schengen country.

When that man crossed Hungary, Hungary was busing migrants straight from the Croatian border to the Austrian border with no checks whatsoever.

I’ll say again what I said below – checking his documents would have done nothing to stop him. Serbia checked his documents and recorded when he entered and left the country. Croatia did the same.

Hungary was in violation of Schengen arrangements at that moment, and did even less than non-Schengen countries Serbia and Croatia.


Jotted down the same timeline in this blog 24 hours ago. ( at 5:57 am November 15, 2015. )


István Hiller has adopted a pragmatic position on the building of the fence in face of not just the popularity of Orban’s policy on the fence, but because it has more or less worked. The vast numbers of refugees flooding neighboring nations and the fear in those nations that at any moment the Germans may close its borders to additional refugees and they will be stuck with thousands of refugees is not being experienced in Hungary. Hiller understands that Orban’s fence has worked on that level and the territorial integrity of Hungary is an essential function of any government be it politically on the right or left.

To continue to oppose the fence or fences is a losing proposition on the part of the democratic opposition in Hungary in the current context. To continue to oppose racism is not, to continue to ask that some legitimate refugees be admitted to Hungary who actually want to seek asylum in Hungary and who are willing to live with lower social welfare benefits is also not a complete losing proposition.


It is not untypical of the partisan nature of this blog that Kovács and Lendvai are described as top notch politicians and excellent democrats! Kovács was a hard line communist before the change of system and Lendvai was a member of the central committee! Such excellent democrats that they were quite happy to serve an undemocratic regime in a very pro active way. They weren’t people who collaborated, they were part of the regime.

So, mediocre politicians and rebranded democrats is closer to the truth.


What was your first guess that this
is a partisan website, musiclover?

So what if Kovács was a “hardline Communist” before 1989. What matters is what exists now. Viktor Orbán was also a functioning Communist then, though he was never a communist. What matters is what he does now.

Rebranding that is false is cynical. Telling a truth that is unencumbered by the past is a necessity. You need to understand that dichotomy. There will be music in that revelation.



It is the Orban government that is LEGALLY responsible for the entrance of the Paris terrorist(s) in the Schengen area !!!

Between September 15 and October 16, tens of thousands of migrants/refugees entered the Schengen area at Hungary from Croatia.

The Orban government did not register them, did not check their identity, but transported them straight to Austria.

This was against the EU rules !!

The terrorist in question entered Hungary on October 9 or October 10 with the greatest probability.

Number of migrants/refugees that entered Hungary around this time (almost none of them was registered in this period !)

October 8: 4583
October 9: 7215
October 10: 7907
October 11: 7897
October 12: 8702 <— peak
October 13: 7081
October 14: 5157
October 15: 4808
October 16: 6353
October 17: border is closed


These people entered the Schengen zone when they set foot on Greek soil. The Greeks dutifully registered them – and then allowed them to go wherever they wanted to. Registration alone does not prevent anyone from committing terrorist acts, in fact, it does not even involve a proper check of their identities. Sure, you can blame their entry to Schengen on Hungary, Slovenia or whatever other country you have issues with – but that’s nothing but silly finger-pointing on your part.


Tyrker, I’M the one who (first, here) pointed out that registering people wouldn’t have stopped anyone from committing terrorist acts (see the last bit of my comment above yours).

I’m glad you liked the point enough to borrow it. Imitation of this sort is a compliment.

It, however, doesn’t invalidate the point that Hungary did not keep its own or EU law when that terrorist crossed Hungary.

Finger pointing is definitely in order. The SERBS registered the man, for heaven’s sake – with their miserable economic situation, that Balkan nation was capable of keeping track of his movements. But Hungary….


Tyrker, why do you always come in here with – let’s call them “half truths”?
Are you the typical Hungarian:
No, we didn’t!
It’s someone else’s fault!
etc …
Re that Italian businessman living in Hungary – why does his Ferrari have a Slovak licence plate? Got a good reason for that too?


These people entered the Schengen zone when they set foot on Greek soil. The Greeks dutifully registered them – and then allowed them to go wherever they wanted to.
And on what legal basis they should have prevented them from traveling?
Apparently every other country dutifully registered their entry until they happened to reach Hungary – and then nothing!
All the Greeks, Serbs and Croats at least checked upon those who moving around, while the Hungarians busily defended – their razor wire fence, prosecuted the ones who dared to damage the damned thing, and chased “terrorists” armed with a bullhorn!
That’s the true patriotic spirit, if there is one!


I’m imagining the response of the Hungarian government spokesman:
“Hungary couldn’t register this heinous terrorist because we were overwhelmed, there were too many migrants, so we built the fence…”

But, Mr. Spokesman, Serbia and Croatia both registered this man, and they aren’t even Schengen countries and are poorer than Hungary.

“That’s why we built the fence.”

Yes, but why was he not registered?

“I want to talk about the fence, which is what Hungarians care about.”

(to be fair – registering the guy in Hungary would not have stopped him).


And a beautiful friendship shall blossom:


The leading Democrat arguing for more aggressive stance towards Islamic State is Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee who was not identified in the AP article. As is obvious the Republicans for the most part are arguing for a much more aggressive stance.


Dear Istvan, I think the leading Democrat in this case is Senator Dianne Feinstein, who gave several interviews during the last two days. May I give just two explicit examples: Not exactly in line what the POTUS is saying.


Again, we’re reading from the same page, as it were.
Still, I can’t help wondering about something – Obama had what, from the press shot, looked like a very intense meeting with Putin on Syria. Other than anodyne comments, there wasn’t much of an announcement, but something seems to have changed in a fairly big way. To me, it appears that there may be a bit more than just sharing information going on between the US and Russian forces at this moment – cooperation and coordination are going on. Could it be an alliance in the making, over how to deal with ISIS? Both Obama and Putin looked angry, and not with one another for a change.
Just wild speculation on my part, but there are the odd rumblings.
I recall the total silence before they got Bin Laden. Whatever else you think about him, you have to admit that the Pres. is pretty good at holding his cards until he’s sure what he has in his hand.
comment image?w=1920&q=85&auto=format&sharp=10&s=2cd2bda7025df36ac56dd2c01bc84638

Picture and article here if the above doesn’t work:

One speculation is that France is pushing both Obama and Putin to take out IS completely. I have to assume this means providing massive support for a possible on the ground attack by the Kurds on IS controlled territory that could possibly include expeditionary French forces. Daniel W. Drezner a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University implied this in his comments this morning in the Washington Post see He wrote that France saw IS as “the greatest strategic threat to the world today,” and that other nation states did not see the world that way. On Tuesday Nov 10, we got the latest hint that a large scale (not to mention prolonged) ground operation is in the offing as the U.S. Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James told reporters that air power alone cannot “defeat ISIS” at the Dubai Airshow. Gen. Raymond Odierno, outgoing Army chief of staff, said in response to a CNN question about putting troops on the ground in Iraq and Syria at his final press conference in August. He called it an “option we should present to the President.” Possibly President Obama thinks the French might… Read more »

Saying Obama “is obsessed with possible US losses” is, I think, the nicest thing you could say about a President.

It means he doesn’t take American lives lightly. He doesn’t see soldiers as expendible. He doesn’t have the attitude of “it’s their job. Some of them will die. They knew that when they signed up.”

In that light the air war doesn’t look so bad, eh?

MAYBE Obama thinks Syrians should do the ground fighting for their own country. The announcement on cooperation with Russia certainly suggested this.

Most people in my part of the country were saying “Why are Americans dying for Iraqi freedom??” some years ago. I wondered it myself.

And Kurdish advances suggest this policy might just work to defeat ISIS.

Karl Hungus
Istvan, I think the idea that ISIS could be “taken out completely” is just ridiculous. Though I can imagine that this is what Hollande wants. It’s similar to the idea of the Hungarian communists back in the 1950’s to take out the right-wing “bourgoisie” people and culture once and for all. It seems to me in 2015 that the right-wing people weren’t taken out completely after all. Try to imagine ISIS as a successor of Al Queda. There are an infinite number of discontent youngsters in the Middle East and if the West continues the bomb them more and more will find a way to somehow vent their angers. The US and its allies were manifestly unable to achieve any positive difference in Afghanistan or in Iraq. After 10 years, burning through some 2 trillion dollars the situation is not better. Is there any sane person who thinks that he situation in Syria could be any different? That this time, really bombing will work? Moreover ISIS, just as Al Queda once was, is more like an idea. More of a symbol than a real organization, more like a motley crew of smaller and bigger units using the same brand. It’s… Read more »
Karl Hungus I would recommend at least glancing at the new book by William McCants titled the “ISIS Apocalypse” available in e-book format on Amazon. He is a fellow in the Center for Middle East Policy and director of the Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World. He is also an adjunct faculty member at Johns Hopkins University and has served in government and think tank positions related to Islam, the Middle East, and terrorism, including as State Department senior adviser for countering violent extremism. He argues that Islamic State is very different than Al Queda because it believes it has established the actual Caliphate and it is a physical reality for believers world wide right now. So retaking the actual territory may create an ideological crisis for the jihadists and lower recruitment rather than just driving them deeper underground. McCants book is pretty detailed and is based on his deep knowledge of Arabic, Islamic studies, and NSA retrieved documents. I am not qualified in any way to argue with his interpretation as I have no reading knowledge of Arabic or deep knowledge of Islamic history (one graduate class years ago in Islamic history is the extent in fact),… Read more »

I agree that there are differences and one could analyze those differences and write libraries. I’m sure entire libraries have already been written by able US scholar soldiers (although I doubt any of them speak any local languages to begin with).

But that somehow doesn’t change the fact that nothing was achieved in Afghanistan or Iraq.

This is not a military issue, much more a social and economic, cultural issue. There is no way one can introduce democracy to rural Pasthuns etc. It’s like telling the Chinese to stop worrying about “the face” (as in losing face, which is one of the most fundamental cultural conceptions). Or telling the South Italians to stop cooperating with the mafias. It doesn’t work like that.

The humiliation of Sunnis, the unlimited number of available young men happy to fight (as there are no meaningful jobs), the easy money coming from the Saudis and others who are fighting proxy wars against the Shiite, poverty, non-existent pubic services, almost unbearable climate and so on, will not change. And as a result these organizations, brands, ideas (such as ISIS) will reorganize themselves again and again no matter how many bombs the French, the Americans will drop on them.


November 17, 2015 at 3:30 am

Exactly right.

A strategy is only as good as the assumptions underlying it.

Since the end of the Cold War, Western strategy in the broader Moslem world has been beset by a set of disastrous liberal illusions and delusions about the workings of the Moslem mind.

The results are on the board for all to see.

I have some basic problem with our main topic – not with the article, but the general interpretation of Hiller’s statement. As I understood, he expressed his support toward a common European solution, but so far nothing but talks came out of it. He said: “I don’t like the fact that the country has fence at the border, only someone should say (come up with) something better (instead).” („Én nem szeretem, hogy az országunk határán kerítés van, csak már mondjon valaki ennél jobbat”) ( – first on the search list) Now, if someone – like me – only hear/read the very text what blew the fuse all over on the so called “left,” can’t stop wondering, just what the hell is going on with the people over there and how did they manage to figure out of this, that “Hiller supporting Orbán”? Eva’s article shed light on the background and I have no problem to comprehend the situation, but I still amazed by the definitive nonlinear and “unorthodox” (hey, it’s Hungary, after all!) conclusions all in the media. But then again, nothing like some living, three dimensional scapegoat to take all the sins of his whole party. Beats hands down… Read more »

Lajos Kósa one of the most influential fideszniks is reading a book titled “Self defence against migrants and the EU-caliphate”.

Written by two lunatics, Janos Drabik and Peter Tőke. One of the two authors (P. T.) for sure was a communist spy before 1990.

The co-authors usually write about conspiracy theories making up stories about Jews, Americans, liberals, The Illuminati, UFOs – but these books are sold as non-fiction, current event books and are very popular on the extreme right. Apparently among the top echelon of Fidesz too. Wait, could it be that Fidesz is also extreme-right? Ah, no, the EU’s People’s Party says that Fidesz is only ‘very conservative’, but otherwise the guys are legit.


“The good news: Lajos Kósa can read” – the original title.
“The bad, what (is he reading). – continuo the article.

Just for the complete picture


French television (channel 2) headline:

6 [of the 8] terrorists had been to (“passer par”) Syria


Just a short while ago the Republican Governor of the State of Illinois where I currently live issued this statement: “Our nation and our state have a shared history of providing safe haven for those displaced by conflict, but the news surrounding the Paris terror attacks reminds us of the all-too-real security threats facing America. We must find a way to balance our tradition as a state welcoming of refugees while ensuring the safety and security of our citizens. Therefore, the state of Illinois will temporarily suspend accepting new Syrian refugees and consider all of our legal options pending a full review of our country’s acceptance and security processes by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.”

Apparently PM Orban has a new ally in Springfield Illinois. In case anyone is wondering so far in 2015, 94 refugees from Syria have been resettled in Illinois, 62 of them in Chicago, according to data from the Refugee Processing Center, operated by the U.S. State Department.


«voice laden with sarcasm»
So let us hope that the 8-dozen
refugees now in Illinois are legit, for
the sake of our Chicago poster and for
the sakes of all those others in the state.