Colleen Bell on corruption; Fidesz on Colleen Bell

It is not easy to be the U.S. ambassador to Hungary, especially not since 2010. The Orbán government is outright antagonistic toward the United States, and some of the cabinet members make no secret of their “irritation” at the American ambassador’s critical remarks when, in their opinion, she has no right to meddle in Hungary’s internal affairs. On the other side, the anti-Orbán forces are dissatisfied with her because, in their opinion, she is not critical enough of Orbán’s illiberal democracy. The current ambassador, Colleen Bell, is trying to satisfy both sides by praising the military cooperation between the two countries while criticizing some other aspects of Hungarian political life.

In the last week or so we could witness the predicament in which Bell finds herself. On December 2 she visited the Pápa military base where she agreed to a fairly lengthy interview with one of the reporters of M1, the government’s main propaganda channel. Although the interview was aired only on December 5, Magyar Idők triumphantly announced on the 3rd that, according to Bell, “Hungary is a sovereign nation that has the right to defend its borders.” What Magyar Idők neglected to report was that Bell at the same time stressed the necessity of a common European solution to the migrant crisis and said that the asylum seekers are not terrorists. In fact, they are the ones who are escaping from the people who are committing terrorist atrocities in Iraq and Syria.

When the interview was broadcast, the few Hungarians who actually watch M1 could see an antagonistic reporter accusing the United States of double standards and wanting to know Ambassador Bell’s opinion of the”American-Hungarian billionaire’s involvement with the migrants.” The interview was, as far as I can judge, favorably received by the government and much less so by the opposition, where the opinion was that Bell was not forceful enough even in her defense of the human rights of the asylum seekers and far too effusive about military cooperation.

A few days later, on December 9 and 10, the Hungarian branch of Transparency International organized a two-day conference on corruption. The occasion was Anti-Corruption Day, which has been observed on December 9 ever since 2003 when in Merida, Mexico the United Nations Convention against Corruption was signed. Colleen Bell was one of the principal speakers.

I don’t think that I have to say much about the United States’ commitment to fighting corruption. After all, last fall the sticking point in U.S.-Hungarian relations was precisely the widespread corruption in Hungary and the Hungarian government’s reluctance to tackle it. So, it was expected that the U.S. ambassador would say something important on the subject and that in her speech there would be a fair amount of criticism of the Hungarian government’s attitude toward corruption. U.S. diplomats are keenly aware of the systemic corruption that ensnares the whole government, starting with the prime minister and his family.

Colleen Bell pretty well repeated the negative ramifications of corruption that she had outlined in her much-criticized speech in October. In addition, she spoke of problems specific to Hungary. Here are a couple of examples: “America’s commercial relationship with Hungary is healthy and bilateral trade is on the rise, but I’m told by some American business executives that perceptions of corruption in Hungary impact the investment climate and directly affect American businesses, and as a result, our trade. When public procurement decisions are made on the basis of favoritism instead of on the basis of merit, our companies will often just stay home. American businesses should not be asked to compete in a public tender against a company owned by the relatives of decision-makers. That is why this practice is banned in many countries.”


The ambassador also had something to say about transparency which, as we know, is in short supply in Orbán’s Hungary. “Administrations, too, can increase transparency by allowing citizens open access to information that affects their lives, and that enables them to make informed and educated decisions about policies made in their name. For example, the United States applauds the recent Capital Court of Appeals decision requiring documentation regarding the Paks contracts.” And finally, she stressed that “prosecutors [should be] empowered to investigate and prosecute officials suspected of crimes of corruption.”

It was expected that János Lázár in his Thursday press conference (“government info”) would strike back. Indeed, we didn’t have to wait for long. He hit below the belt. After explaining that the new law on public procurement is fair and the Hungarian government will not discriminate against any U.S. firm in favor of relatives of public officials, he added that “we don’t guarantee an advantage to anybody because we are not in America where somebody can become an ambassador just because he/she supports a party.” This ad hominem attack on Bell was not only boorish, it was also a blatant lie as far as the Hungarian situation is concerned. By now the great majority of ambassadorial posts are given to strong supporters of Fidesz who frequently have no diplomatic experience. Moreover, very often they are handpicked by Viktor Orbán himself.

Some key members of the government were also present at the conference. They tried to convince the audience, without much success, that the law on public procurement which allows government officials’ relatives to compete in government tenders is the strictest in all of Europe. When Péter Polt, the chief prosecutor, tried to convince people that the number of anti-corruption cases is growing, people in the audience snickered. Sándor Pintér, minister of the interior, and László Trócsányi, minister of justice, also rose in defense of the government.

Magyar Idők reported on the conference as a government mouthpiece ought to. The headline reads: “The new law on public procurement helps the struggle against corruption.” In this article even Colleen Bell’s remarks sounded positive, although at the end of the article there was one sentence that said that “the ambassador in connection with transparency mentioned among other things the importance of making the documents related to Paks public.”

Meanwhile the wholesale expropriation of the nation’s wealth continues, including the agricultural land currently in the hands of the state.

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
December 10, 2015 7:19 pm

London Calling!

Three astonishing sentences that demonstrate the continuing hypocrisy, nepotism and corruption in Hungary.

Lazer: “……..we are not in America where somebody can become an ambassador just because he/she supports a party.”

Eva: “…. the great majority of ambassadorial posts are given to strong supporters of Fidesz who frequently have no diplomatic experience.”

Bell: “When public procurement decisions are made on the basis of favoritism instead of on the basis of merit, our companies will often just stay home.”

Only Hungary, only Orban.

A compact apposite blog, Eva. An example of the perfect art of the informative essay. Thank you.



December 11, 2015 9:05 am

December 10, 2015 at 7:19 pm
Lazer: “……..we are not in America where somebody can become an ambassador just because he/she supports a party.”

Yes. In Hungary you only get a simple advisor job, and require no clearance to work for the government under unspecified terms, unspecified job descriptions, and for unspecified wages paid by the Hungarian people. It probably helps if you did not finish any higher eduction, there is nothing on your resume as far as any real job except the “guardian of the Hungarian Crown” for couple of days (no joke!) If you are able to pull off to drive expensive cars and kick old people on the road, only than you can become the special advisor for the Prime Minster! Hungary even throws in mini luxury vacations! Welcome at Lazar’s and Orban’s circle Mr. Habony. I am sure he did not donate to the PM, it is very much the other way around.

December 10, 2015 8:35 pm

At this point I wouldn’t be surprised that in our ambassador’s quiet moments of reverie on dealing with the Hungarian government she would perhaps note to herself like Oliver Hardy dealing with Laurel ‘ here’s another nice mess you’ve got me into’. But this could be even worse since it’s not Stanley but Viktor who it seems is giving most of the trouble. If it’s ‘trial by fire’ then arguably this tyro in diplomacy is learning the ropes in the boxing ring that’s Hungary today as well as parrying and landing jabs where they belong.

My wish for the ambassador is to never ever be intimidated by the realities facing her as she tries to fulfill her important role there in Hungary. Hopefully at the end of her tenure we can say she was ‘a woman for all seasons’ in trying to check the dangerous slide of Hungary away from a true democratic orientation in the 21st. Until then it looks as if she has a slog going uphill with a fiercely biting wind at her face. But it shouldn’t be any use complaining about the weather from where she’s going.

December 11, 2015 6:09 am

Nice effword, Adam Gombas. You’re not very intelligent, it seems. Not only did you misspell the English ‘liar’, you dont even know the elementary meaning of the Hungarian ‘támogat’, which every gradeschooler knows.

I labeled you a racist December 5th. You are still a racist. And you are stupid. That, unfortunately, makes you dangerous.

Fideszniks, by definition, are detrimental
to the health of Hungary. Euthanasia
might be the only remedy.

How did you sneak back onto Hungarian Spectrum?
I thought that Éva had kicked your ass out of here?


Adam Gombas
Adam Gombas
December 10, 2015 8:43 pm

Fucken lier. Lazar did not use the word “support”, and you know that.

December 11, 2015 12:15 am

Adam Gombas, thank you for continuing to illustrate the exact nature and mentality of Orbán and his followers, such as yourself. Namely, the inability to engage in meaningful civilized dialogue, and replace it with expletives and apoplectic highly emotional hysteria.

You can use as many F words as Éva will allow but the nastiest F word I know, thanks to illiterate comments such as yours, is Fidesz.

December 11, 2015 6:23 am

Lots of effwords apply to racists effers like Gombas.
I once used ‘shit-for-brains’ referencing someone
whom I suggested deepsixing, which is exactly
what Éva did. Adam Gombas, like many of his
Fidesznik counterparts, is an SFB. Time to
deepsix AG and Viktor Orbán together.


Michael Kaplan
Michael Kaplan
December 11, 2015 3:21 pm

Terrific reply to people who engage in uncivilized behavior. As a Jewish Hungarian American, I am sad for Hungary that Orban and his supporters are ruling the country, which remains as corrupt as ever and with an air of populist fascism as well. Warm regards to Hungarian Spectrum, Misi bacsi

December 11, 2015 12:17 am

@Adam Gombas:
Translate the following three sentences!

“nem biztosítunk előnyt senkinek. Nem vagyunk amerikaiak. Nálunk azzal, hogy valaki egy pártot támogat, még nem lesz nagykövet”.
Magyar Nemzet did not quote the sentence although provided a minute by minute blog

tamogat= aid, assist, support, help, promote, favour,

Alex Kuli
Alex Kuli
December 11, 2015 2:52 am

Let’s suppose Eva had mistranslated Lazar’s words. Does that make her a “liar?” Only in the mind of “Adam” and the Orbanites, whose preferred method of debate is to seize upon a technical error in their interlocutor’s argument and use it as justification to slander whoever disagrees with them. A truly hateful way of thinking.

December 10, 2015 10:57 pm
It is good to see that the American Embassy continues to point out the systemic corruption in Hungary, without hyperbole, but not backing away from noting that it is there and that the Hungarian government must address it or face the fact that investors are staying away from its capricious and incestuous economy. Ambassador Bell doesn’t speak very loudly, and generally she speaks in terms of with with the Hungarian government to combat a common challenge — in this case corruption. However, the Fidesz skin is so thin that a sideways glance draws blood and howls of outrage. Fidesz mafiosi like Lazar or Habony or Rogan may make the old guard like Martonyi or Navricsics cringe because of their strong arm politics and pimp-like focus on bling, but given that the system is corrupt, all of Orban’s soldiers, the old guard too, are implicated. This is not a corruption of individual bribe taking. I doubt Lazar every took a direct bribe for himself. These are disciplined soldiers, following unethical orders, who are supported by a corrupt system. Some may not like to look in the grinder and see the sausage being made, others know exactly what remnants of Hungary’s dignity… Read more »
December 11, 2015 10:16 am

That’s a great ‘Allegory!’ Zorgas!

December 11, 2015 5:36 am

Here’s a prediction: Lazar will be hoisted as an example of corruption and dismissed by Orban…just deserts in the Fidesz world for having turned on ‘blood’–namely, Farkas.

December 11, 2015 8:08 am
There is a great article in Budapest Beacon about the ineffective the efforts are against Hungarian Corruption. “Dana Manuela Ana, a prosecutor with Romania’s Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s office (DNA), took part in Transparency International Hungary’s World Anti-Corruption Day event in Budapest on Wednesday. She delivered a presentation that was as shocking as it was impressive. Romania has been in the news in recent years for cracking down on corrupt public officials. A quick glimpse of the Romania’s anti-corruption work between 2007 and 2014 shows that Romanian prosecutors have managed to indict: 1 sitting prime minister; 1 former prime minister; 1 deputy prime minister; 9 ministers; 34 deputies; and, 8 senators.” “Miklós Ligeti, director of legal affairs for Transparency International Hungary, says the anti-corruption situation in Hungary is quite different.” “Hungary also happens to be among the EU Member States that is very opposed to seeing the creation of a European Prosecutor’s Office. We have published numerous studies in recent years offering suggestions on changes that need to take place at the Hungarian Prosecutor’s Office,” Ligeti said.” Maybe this is something Lazar should busy himself versus attacking Bell because she spoke the truth. I understand he tries to discredit Bell but she… Read more »
December 11, 2015 9:19 am

Re: the ‘AG type’

You know it would seem since they’re in with the ‘in-crowd’ they should be of the type who according to Mark Twain have the ‘calm confidence of a Christian with four aces’…(that’s for you poker players…;-)…But instead it appears as if they get ruffled pretty easy and go into cursing conniptions. Mr.Orban should hope the diplomats have better control with their mouths than his supporters when the going gets apparently tough.

December 11, 2015 12:00 pm

But in response to a question from LMP MP András Schiffer in Parliament just two days ago PM Orban made the honesty of his government very clear. He is reported to have said Hungary has the strictest public procurement laws ever, even stricter than the strictest public procurement laws in other European countries.

So the question is how could Ambassador Bell say the things she did? Surely she has become delusional.

Possibly Adam Gombas using another identity could clarify all of this for us?

December 11, 2015 12:09 pm

Orban is ignorant of other countries laws to be able to make the claim..

Parliament recently changed procurement laws saying that relatives of government employees had to live in separate abodes – not living together – to be able to ‘tender’ for contracts.

Right! That should do it then!

This is the only difference I can see from before -submitted in that multi-law bill scramble where everyone voted in the wrong lobby.

December 11, 2015 1:17 pm

We all know that laws in Hungary are not worth the cheap paper that they’re written on!

Just think of all the Fidesz family members which got those lucrative tobacco shop licences – some times several of them, while the former business owners stood there helpless …

December 11, 2015 1:51 pm

The latte-sipping clueless Brussels bureaucrats were – as usual – demolished by a third rate Fidesz trooper.

Fidesz prepares and does its homework as usual. The fideszniks always prepare professionally for any debate or public event and always win.

Fidesz devours these idiotic paper pushers for breakfast.

December 11, 2015 3:07 pm

That was a great article dorfmeister, thanks for linking it. You know Dana Manuela Ana, the prosecutor with Romania’s Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office (DNA), who spoke at the Conference on Wednesday is a great person and has done good work. But really if she was in Bulgaria or Hungary she would probably be found floating in a river. Well even in Bulgaria the corrupt rulers offer up some meat to the EU for example in March they sentenced Asen Drumev, former head of the State Agricultural Fund, to four years in prison for embezzling $34 million worth of EU assistance. Then businessman Mario Nikolov received 10 years for defrauding Brussels of $8.3 million of agriculture and rural-development funds.

PM Orban doesn’t even offer up to the EU meat at that level. Instead Orban defends Ildikó Vida and lets her retire peacefully. András Horváth a former analyst at Hungary’s National Tax and Customs Administration (NAV) explained it simply the authorities in NAV did everything possible to stop him from exposing fraud. As he said: “Hungary persecutes those who fight against corruption.” Orbán nem érdekli.

December 11, 2015 4:28 pm

“Fidesz devours these idiotic paper pushers for breakfast.”

You are so right dorfmeister!

But at least — as opposed to numerous schoolchildren someone has breakfast at all, and this is good news indeed..!
Never mind that they don’t deserve even a glass of water.

However, you kindly pointed out that if they are so shameless than Orbán and his forty thieves, they must be able to brazenly lie too, must have the ability to divert the focus from themselves and in exchange accuse someone else at the same time!

Its’s so great, that a bunch of lowlifes managed to prove the true “Hungarian Superiority” again, and impressing the worshippers at the same time!

Never mind, that your heroes also disclosed themselves by accusing the EU of corruption regarding Altus. You know, when someone taking it granted that the normal way — the only way, really — to win a tender is if corruption involved.

It’s a textbook example of judging others by one’s own standards – I would say.
How about you?

December 12, 2015 5:01 am
Me, I prepare for debates. I do my homework. I care. I always assume that my opposing party – especially if he/she is a fidesznik – will lie, that he/she will try to mislead the undecided viewers (“the trier of the fact”) and I even anticipate his/her lies (e.g. that they will bury me in details which they think I will not know about – to look unprepared and clueless).That’s the minimum program, OK? These EU bureaucrats thought that they could fly in, have a nice dinner at what is the newest Michelin starred restaurant in Budapest (on expense account), prolong the official program with a light-hearted weekend. But before all these they could have a lovely chat about “corruption”. Idiots. Just as Szájer or Navracsics prepared before they went to the US etc. and defended successfully the new system, these fideszniks are good. They do moot court, they do media. They care and they win. They especially like the Brussels bureaucrats who have no knowledge about Hungary, have no real jurisdiction to do anything, and are just naive, unprepared, well-fed paper pushers — the best enemy, who can be eaten for breakfast. Nam, nam, nam. Essentially the EU organized… Read more »
December 12, 2015 5:43 am

I think you are all perverse in your argument that the EU people were “weak.”

If someone acts like an a…hole, a gentle(wo)man generally just stands up and leaves as soon as possible, and if not possible s/he simply does not respond. S/he does not shout back. S/he acts like a gentle(wo)man, and shows utter disdain.

You apparently want EU reps (and US ambassadors) to degrade themselves by being as rude and boorish as Lazar and other Fideszniks are.

You apparently think that representatives of the EU and US should change their behavior to match that of Fidesz people.

Thank you for the suggestion – but no thanks. I would prefer my representatives to act with dignity, and in accordance with my cultural norms, not Fidesz’s.

If some Hungarians are pleased that their representatives appear on the world stage as raging gorillas wearing Armani suits, that is no concern of mine. I do have an opinion about it, though.

December 12, 2015 5:59 am

Exactly, Webber!

Nobody should try to “compete” with those “elephants in a porcelain shop”!

Just a little illustration to this …
Whenever my friends in Germany ask me whether Fidesz Hungarians are really as atrocious as I tell them, I just point them to and the comments by creatures like leto – and the naive comments by its Canadian groupies.
That’s usually enough!

December 12, 2015 6:28 am

Thank you, Wolfi.

Before Stevan Hernad points it out, I should note that my analogy was extremely unkind and unfair to gorillas (as was yours to elephants).

December 12, 2015 8:14 am
@webber Your point is partly valid. However, you don’t have to be rude and aggressive and a jerk, just prepared for some contingencies. If you walk into the lion’s den you better have a gun or something. You should at least anticipate some arguments and be able to say something. There is only a limited number of techniques Fideszniks could use like We don’t steal, But even if we do so does everybody else etc. and anybody could’ve prepared easily. You can’t just appear like a deer in the headlight. Every debate is also a meta debate. People with little knowledge about the subject matter or people undecided (at least they can’t decide whether the Hungarian corruption is bigger than that of the French) will un/subconsciously conclude that Fidesz must be either right or that there exists a genuine controversy about the issue (whether the Hungarian corruption is just the usual corruption that exists everywhere, so, hey, it’s not a big deal) because Fidesz’ arguments were left uncontested. The point is the homework must always be done because Fidesz will never miss a chance to demolish unprepared people and cast a serious doubt on the statements made by Western experts.… Read more »
December 12, 2015 10:44 am

Fully agree, there’s a precious few who effectively can- allowed- and will stand up against the brainwashing techniques of the Fidesz.
In my opinion walking away in a gentlemanly manner is not an option regarding the Fidesz.
You see, in such case at least two gentlemans needed, in order of to your reactions would hit home and have some effect.
As I hinted above, if you face with a fidesznik, you better spell your intentions clearly, otherwise they wouldn’t recognise it..!
Not an ounce more respect to them than what they’ll give to you and the others, no reason to!

One more aspect: you certainly don’t need to go ‘down’ to their debating style, oh no. You can be extremely ‘polite’ and still turn them inside out, if you can keep your cool, and just hit ‘nicely’ at the right spots. You’ll see it’s working, just don’t ever take seriously any of them, normally it wear off their façade of culture pretty fast, they just can’t stand it.

None of the authoritarian morons can.

December 12, 2015 11:58 am
Novo and Spectator I think you two have misunderstood the whole point, along with the author of the 444 article (btw). Read it again. The event was not a “debate.” (as you both suggest). It was not even an event held to criticize the Hungarian government. It was a conference about corruption in general. So, the EU people who came gave talks on corruption in general. That is all. They did not arrive to criticize the Hungarian government. It was one of those fairly irrelevant things the EU holds regularly. Since it was held in Budapest, I would assume that the Hungarian government invited them to hold it in Budapest (no other explanation). They were never going to describe details of investigations ongoing against Hungarian businesses and the government – they can’t! If those investigations reveal wrongdoing, they still can’t – they can just take the Hun. govt. to court, when the details will come out, and we’ll all read about them. Expecting those EU guys to “be prepared” and answer Fidesz idiocies with counter arguments is like expecting a state prosecutor, in a conference about organized crime, to answer the screaming of some dude from the Bonano Family. It’s… Read more »
December 12, 2015 5:14 pm
Thanks for the insight ‘webber’! Actually I didn’t refer in this comment to any particular event – I expressed my opinion of that in my December 11, 2015 at 4:28 pm piece above – but in general, regarding the inability of most of the opposition to effectively counter the unscrupulous Fidesz rants. I mostly agree with you otherwise – and I do agree completely with assessment about the ‘national socialism’ and the orbanist path back to Horthy and beyond, and countless other topics. However, if one will achieve any kind of impact, one must calculate the comprehensive capacity of the target group, otherwise the whole act wasted in wain. I tried to explain, that I don’t mean that one has to go down to the level of the others, but highly recommended to use methods which may have chance to succeed. Being gentleman toward pigs isn’t exactly such method. So yes, in my opinion you need at least one other gentleman to communicate with, or it remains the case of the l’art pour l’art gentleman versus the sunflower shell spitting redneck, and he just keeps on spitting even long after you elegantly turned your back and gone away, as a… Read more »
December 12, 2015 6:42 am


Just look at this in the Budapest Business Journal:

“It almost seems that the government no longer feels the need to hide the appearance of corruption. Like the communist government that this country had about a quarter of a century ago, it does what it wants and justifies its actions with flimsy excuses, as if public opinion does not matter. It is hard to tell whether officials are insulting our intelligence or we are supposed to be in on the joke. Either way, a government that does not care what its people think is no longer democratic. And that certainly is not funny.”
Now taking BBJ to court might be the first job for those new improved state lawyers …
I’ll quote this article to my German friends when they ask about corruption in Hungary …

December 12, 2015 10:18 am

The working link to the article what ‘wolfi’ referred to:

December 12, 2015 2:14 pm

Thanks, spectator, for correcting my mistake (pushed the copy button twice …)!
And may I highlight the report in English that csoda.peter linked to – fascinating, as Eva wrote in the article on the Hungarian econmy two days ago!
I’m not an expert at this but some parts sound rather ominous.

December 12, 2015 12:34 pm

You kind of act like Neville Chamberlain. In a world of ruffians and hooligans that ignores the gentleman’s code, what does the gentleman’s code mean? What is it worth?

It is a different world now. Watch the “Life and Death of Colonel Blimp”, and get back to me:

Especially pay attention to Anton Walbrook’s monologue about “Nazism”. Something to ponder.

December 12, 2015 1:01 pm

Now, now – none of this Chamberlain silliness, please. Don’t mistake politeness for harmlessness (Hitler did – look where he ended up).
A gentleman can also throw punches, you know.

ON a related matter,
as I recall, the Hungarian government has been forced to back down on a raft of issues when things went to EU courts.

December 11, 2015 3:22 pm

The end result of mismanagement of economy and corruption [and other factors]:

Actual Individual Consumption (AIC) per capita in Purchasing Power Standards (PPS) in 2014 :

EU 28 = 100%

Luxembourg 141 %
Norway 135
Switzerland 131

Germany 123
Austria 122

Denmark 115
United Kingdom 115
Belgium 114
Finland 114
Iceland 114
Netherlands 113
France 112
Sweden 111

Italy 98
Ireland 96

Cyprus 90
Spain 88

Greece 83
Portugal 83
Lithuania 81
Malta 79

Slovakia 77
Czech Republic 76
Slovenia 75
Poland 74

Estonia 68

Latvia 65
Hungary 63 %

Croatia 60
Romania 57
Bulgaria 51 %