Full-court press against the Orbán government

Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó compared the European Union to an old gent with halting steps, but lately the old man has quickened his stride. At least as far as Brussels’ relation with Hungary is concerned. Patience seems to have run out with Hungary’s maverick prime minister, Viktor Orbán. One after the other, officials of the EU and the Council of Europe have called on the Hungarian government to explain its past unlawful or at least legally questionable moves.

First came, on November 19, the official announcement that “the European Commission decided to launch an infringement procedure against Hungary concerning the implementation of the Paks II nuclear power plant project.” The reaction of the Hungarian government was predictable. János Lázár, instead of talking about the actual case–the lack of an open tender, which is an EU requirement–talked about the EU allegedly prohibiting Hungary from signing bilateral commercial agreements with so-called third countries. For details see my post titled “Infringement procedure against Hungary on account of the Paks nuclear power plant.” Hungary has two months to give a satisfactory answer. If the answer is not satisfactory, the case will go to the European Court of Justice.

Four days later, on November 23, it was announced that “the European Commission has opened an in-depth state aid investigation into Hungary’s plans to provide financing for the construction of two new nuclear reactors in Paks.” The question is “whether a private investor would have financed the project on similar terms or whether Hungary’s investment constitutes state aid.” Margrethe Vestager, commissioner in charge of competition policy, and her staff think that “this investment may not be on market terms, as Hungary argues.”

Two days after the announcement of the second in-depth investigation, on November 25, Chancellor Angela Merkel delivered a speech in the Bundestag in which she talked about solidarity as “the acid test” for the maintenance of the borderless Schengen area. She stressed that “a distribution of refugees according to economic strength and other conditions … and the readiness for a permanent distribution mechanism … will determine whether the Schengen area will hold in the long term.” The speech was interpreted as a sharp warning aimed at the new EU members. Hungary’s immediate reaction was that Hungary couldn’t possibly take any refugees because its economic situation wouldn’t allow such generosity. The government spokesman talked about 15,000 possible “migrants,” who in time would bring other family members. Within a few years Hungary would be stranded with close to 200,000 Syrians, Iraqis, and Afghans.

On November 27 Nils Muižnieks, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, after spending three days in Hungary, issued a statement about Hungary’s response to the current refugee crisis and came to the conclusion that “Hungary has not lived up to this challenge.” He complained about the “accelerated asylum procedure lacking essential safeguards.” Under this new procedure “asylum-seekers have seen their claim processed in less than a day and sent back to Serbia directly from the Röszke transit zone.” Muižnieks also noted that the crisis measures Hungary introduced are still in effect although hardly any refugees are in Hungary. After detailing all the reproachable and outright illegal pieces of legislation and practices, he called on the Hungarian government “to refrain from using xenophobic rhetoric linking migrants to social problems or security risks.”

By that time Szijjártó became convinced that “a mysterious conspiracy is unfolding against Hungary.” According to the foreign minister, “it is evident that some people would like see an opaque and confused situation in Hungary.”

On the very same day it was reported that the European Commission had given the green light to a citizens’ initiative launched by the European Humanist Federation (EHF) to strip Hungary of its voting rights in the European Union. What is a citizens’ initiative? According to the official explanation, “a European citizen’s initiative is an invitation to the European Commission to propose legislation on matters where the EU has competence to legislate. A citizens’ initiative has to be backed by at least one million EU citizens, coming from at least 7 out of the 28 member states. A minimum number of signatories is required in each of those 7 member states.” A list of these minimum numbers can be found online. In Hungary’s case only 15,750 valid signatures are needed.

Call of the European Humanist Federation for a citizens' initiative on their website

Call of the European Humanist Federation for a citizens’ initiative

The European Humanist Federation launched its initiative called “Wake up Europe!” on October 2. Its official website outlines the reasons for the initiative. Nine individuals from eight countries charge Viktor Orbán’s government with “anti-democratic and xenophobic measures that openly violate the basic principles of the rule of law.” In response, “a committee of EU citizens has launched an ECI to call on the European Commission to trigger Article 7 of TEU and bring the Hungarian issue to the Council.”

The Commission approved this citizens’ initiative on a day when Tibor Navracsics, the commissioner representing Hungary, happened to be away. Navracsics “in a strongly-worded letter criticized the decision to hold the meeting in his absence as well as the substance of the initiative.” He claimed that this was “a sensitive political issue” which could result in consequences reaching “far beyond the aim of the initiative.” Szijjártó considered the acceptance of the citizens’ initiative by the Commission to be a case of “revenge by Brussels” for “the successful migration policy of Hungary.”

The most fanciful explanation for the launch of the citizens’ initiative in the first place came from Magyar Idők. The editorial board of this pro-government paper is convinced that, once again, it is George Soros who is behind this attack on Hungary and Viktor Orbán. The explanation, according to Magyar Idők, is simple. Since the European Humanist Federation’s affiliated partners all share Soros’s concept of an Open Society, the EHF must be a front organization for Soros. Moreover, since the Commission accepted the EHF’s citizens’ initiative, “IN ADDITION TO THE CIVIC GROUPS THE EU COMMISSIONERS ARE ALSO IN SOROS’S POCKET.” Yes, in boldface caps. Magyar Idők accuses the commissioners of purposely picking a date when Navracsics would not be present.

Yes, it seems that the whole world is against the poor, innocent Orbán government. But pulling the strings is one man who has the power to move twenty-seven commissioners and their staff to make a concerted attack not just against Hungary but against the very idea of the “nation state.” I don’t know how effective such simple-minded explanations are, but I guess they might resonate with some people, especially since Soros’s name is associated with Jewishness and financial speculation, notions that are anathema to the far right.

Well, George Soros may not be pulling the strings in Brussels, but Viktor Orbán definitely is in Budapest. And through his mouthpieces he’s sounding more and more like Jobbik (and as a result is siphoning off Jobbik supporters).

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Member

All very nice and applaudable as progress, that the EU is waking up and thinking of defending itself from an enemy within. Yet they refuse to help themselves, by simply deny the monetary support, on the basis of government organized and assisted corruption.
It is as simple as that. The EU is still financing the enemy within.

Member

“The EU is still financing the enemy within.”

The momentum for justice and answerability regarding the Orban regime’s relentless depredations — both clearly on the rise in Europe and much of the rest of the world — suggests that financial reckoning will not be far behind. Orban’s usual peacock two-step will prove unavailing, now that the rest of the world, unlike his clueless domestic cult, is becoming fully aware of his baseness and duplicity.comment image

webber
Guest

Stevan Harnad,
This is just my own pet-peeve – not that anyone has to follow my wishes – but I DO wish people would stop using this peacock dance metaphor for Orbán (WHERE did it come from – him, personally?).
When peacocks strut, they are gorgeous. comment image

At best, Orbán’s posturing resembles that of a tom turkey, and even that seems a little unfair to the turkey who does his little dance and gobble to please his potential mate.comment image

Member

@webber: I agree with you. In fact I am opposed with all my heart and mind to the countless shameless ways in which people mock, with their heartless quips and clichés (“more than one way to skin a cat,” “squealing like a stuck pig”) the innocent victims of their very own monstrous and unforgivable cruelty. Considering the horrors we inflict on them, the annual American presidential “turkey pardon‘s” only criminals are us, not the turkeys (who cannot live long after their “reprieve” as we bred them to grow so fast and huge that they break their own legs trying to support their weight and develop fatal heart disease before they have even reached full size).

Orban himself (the breeder of mangalicas) is the one who described himself as performing a peacock dance. I agree that it’s an insult to the peacock, as any allegation of likeness to that odious psychopath would be.

Member

He also describes himself as a true Hungarian….

tappanch
Guest

On Sunday (Nov 29), the EU is about to make a deal with another dictator.

“The EU is set to agree to re-start talks on Turkey’s application to join the Union in exchange for securing Ankara’s cooperation in stemming the flow of refugees from the Middle East to Europe”

“The summit on Sunday will see all 28 European leaders meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu to approve and implement an action plan to cope with the refugee crisis. The deal includes a payment of €3 billion from the EU to Turkey to help it cope with the huge numbers of Syrian refugees currently in the country.

If the conclusions are adopted as drafted on Sunday, EU leaders will also announce that on December 14 member states could open talks on further economic integration between the bloc and Turkey.”

“The document makes other commitments in exchange for Turkey’s help: on visa liberalization for Turkish citizens traveling to the EU; on readmission of illegal migrants that can be returned to Turkey; and on financial aid in the fight against terrorism. ”

http://www.politico.eu/article/eu-set-to-re-open-turkey-talks-refugees-crisis/

Guest

“The EU is set to agree to re-start talks on Turkey’s application to join the Union in exchange for securing Ankara’s cooperation in stemming the flow of refugees from the Middle East to Europe”

This may turn out to be EU’s attempt to perpetrate what we have just learned about in Göllners paper: Affinity fraud.

Guest

EU’s Tusk embracing Turkish prime minister.
See what I mean?

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/ct-eu-turkey-refugee-summit-20151129-story.html

0jr
Guest

commie marxist bolshevik jew psycho babble

Member

@0jr I do not think Orban is a jew! At any case it is not nice to talk about this way, even of the other descriptions fully fit him. (I am not sure about he marxist either.)

Guest

Can the comment by Ojr be removed please, Éva – or should it be left up so that readers can see the nature and character of Orbán and his followers?

webber
Guest

I think the comment should be left up, so that English speakers can see what Hungarians can hear every day (on Echo t.v., on the streets, or wherever).

Wolf
Guest

Orban is nothing but an opportunist fascist dictator ! And the people who blindly support him are ignorant, sheeps ! There are thousands of hungarian refugees in many countries in the world, ignorant hungarians turning a blind eye to this fact.

Orban doesnt care about what happens in other parts of europe or in France, the coutry that sided with Romania and divided Hungary with the Treaty of Trianon. He just cares about himself, his popularity, and is using the refugee thing for his own interests.

In Iraq alone, more than 1 million civilians were killed by west’s armies ! And that clown viktor oban helped them by sending troops to those countries in the middle east and INVADED their countries. So,he himself join in forces to invade other coutries and kill their people but then he doesnt see a problem in helping to invade their countries, does he?

Istvan
Guest
In the last several years of reading this blog I have read numerous posts predicting a coming crack down on Hungary by the EU. I haven’t seen any of those actions fully consummated. In fact it is highly likely EU based companies paid bribes to Ildiko Vida, president of the Hungarian NAV as the cost of doing business for years. After the US exposed this practice did the EU nations investigate to see if their own companies were paying such bribes? There is no evidence that it has. Dr. Éva Ivanics, a former Hungarian deputy colonel in the financial police, has gone on the record stating the National Investigation Office is supposed to combat corruption, except that it is rejecting more and more such complaints and nipping more and more investigations in the bud. “In practice investigators initiate nothing after receiving the complaint,” she said. “They simply forward the complaint here and there, which the authority then evaluates and rejects. What kind of fight against corruption is this?” The EU has seen this, it is aware of this systemic corruption, and it provides training to the Hungarian National Investigation Office knowing full well that office looks the other way when… Read more »
Zorgas
Guest
Perhaps the turuls really are coming home to roost. In the past, the Fidesz machine sought to cripple internal opposition by withholding funds, extortion, vindictive tax audits, media smear campaigns, etc. — while at the same time it could ignore diplomatic criticism from the US, the OSCE, the UNHCR and even the EU as just words that could roll of the back of the Orban government like water off the back of a duck. Or, if there were actual penalties, the Orban government would attempt to wear down the threatening bureaucrats through its own bureaucratic litigation and pedantics. All the current pending actions, however, have some kind of teeth, and they come from a range of entities. The European Commission is looking at Paks, and through OLAF at the systemic corruption taking place under Viktor Orban. The EC is also looking at applying Article 7 towards Hungary because of Viktor Orban’s abuse of power. Interestingly enough, both the OLAF investigations and the Article 7 initiative are the result of a reinvigorated citizenry and civil society arena that is finding the appropriate tools to hold a renegade illiberal regime accountable to the rule of law. The same goes for the revisions… Read more »
spectator
Guest
“Perhaps Hungarians will wake from their Hungaricum-induced stupor and recognize that they have already lost much of what they fought so hard for in 1956 and 1989 — and that these EU and citizen-initiated actions are the necessary tough love to keep democracy alive.” It would be nice if the majority of Hungarians was thinking this way, but I’m afraid it’s only wishful thinking. Even from my part. Sadly the Orbanist rhetoric so successfully managed to confuse people’s mind, that presently only a very few have even basic understanding of fundamental definitions, like democracy, liberalism, freedom of speech and so on. In many people’s mind democracy and capitalism inseparably twinned, and when one considers the numbers who became the losers of the ‘regime change’ after ’89, love and yearning for democracy is near to nonexistent. All what will come out of it that the ones feel threatened – less chances to plunder the funds – tightly closing ranks, dragging their surroundings with themselves, and promptly declaring all who might show favour toward the EU “Enemies of the Nation”. With such label political chance for democratic solution is slim to none, if even that. Remember the “won’t be colony” and all… Read more »
Guest

It’s really crazy in a way – because in daily life of course Hungarians have totally adopted the brave new world of capitalism.

They go to the Tesco, the Auchan, the Aldi or Lidl where they can buy everything they need/want/would like to have.

They have those 200 tv channels full of US series (and also Italian, French, German and you name it …) so the whole world is available – if they have/had enough money …

But it seems some people at least long for the good old times of Kadar – or even Horthy …

Life was easier (to understand) then – everybody knew their place!

Istvan
Guest

How can some people on this blog really believe that the EU which appointed Mr. Juncker will do much to Hungary of after a group of investigative journalists issued a report detailing secret deals struck by major corporations with Luxembourg that allegedly allowed them to shave billions of dollars off their global tax bills.. Juncker is part of the problem of systemic corruption not part of an entity capable of solving Hungary’s corruption problems. Even Juncker himself conceded that some of Luxembourg’s tax rules might not have been in line with “ethical and moral standards that are generally applicable.” Yes this is just the man needed to crack down on corruption in Hungary.

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