The Norway Funds and the statue of Bálint Hóman: two defeats for the Hungarian government?

The European Union should learn something from Norway. Although it took a year and a half of furious attacks on Norway and the NGOs that receive grants from the Norway Funds, the Orbán government surrendered. It capitulated because Viktor Orbán, János Lázár, and Nándor Csepreghy finally realized that Norway was unmovable. As long as the Hungarian government insisted on controlling the grants awarded to NGOs, the Norway Funds refused to release any money to Hungary. Norway froze 1533.3 million euros worth of assets on May 7, 2014. At the end, Orbán & Co. realized that further fighting was useless and they were running out of time. If they continued their useless battle, they wouldn’t get the money originally allocated to Hungary. “Money talks,” or as the Hungarian proverb says, “money talks, the dog barks.”

This was a total defeat. Csepreghy’s insistence that “the Hungarian government still believes that some of the funds have been used illegally” did nothing to blunt its edge.

A day after the statement acknowledging the “agreement” on the Norway Fund, the mayor of Székesfehérvár, András Cser-Palkovics, made an announcement. He indicated that he was prepared to retreat, at least partially, on the controversial issue of erecting a statue of Bálint Hóman, a historian who served as minister of education between 1932 and 1942. I wrote at least three or perhaps even four posts on Hóman, and therefore I’m sure that most of my readers are thoroughly familiar with his career. He was one of the most zealous promoters of the German-Hungarian alliance in addition to having had a hand in the drafting of the so-called Jewish laws. He was declared a war criminal in 1946 and died in prison in 1951.

In my last post on the Hóman case I explained that although it was a so-called independent foundation that came up with the idea of erecting a statue of Hóman, this foundation had received grants from the Orbán government, directly or indirectly, from its very inception. The foundation’s initiative was supported by the mayor and the Fidesz-majority city council, which was most likely also responsible for securing a 15 million forint grant from the ministry of justice specifically allocated for the statue. It had to be known, if not in Székesfehérvár certainly in Budapest, that such a move would be contentious. Yet the Orbán government decided to fund the project.

It was only today that I discovered that the reburial of Hóman’s remains took place in October 2001, during the tenure of the first Orbán government, and that several important government officials attended this event, including Ibolya Dávid, then minister of justice, Zoltán Rockenbauer, minister of culture, and József Pálinkás, minister of education. The Fidesz political leadership has obviously been toying with the idea of rehabilitating Hóman for some time. Perhaps they decided that among the many dubious political figures of the Horthy era Hóman might be acceptable because of his stature as a historian.

Although the initial media reaction hailed Cser-Palkovics’s announcement as a great triumph for those organizations at home and abroad that opposed the erection of a statue, I would suggest a somewhat more cautious reaction to his words. He simply asked the Hóman Foundation to think over the erection of the statue, “keeping in mind the interests of the country and the city.” The initiative came from a civic organization and therefore the fate of the statue is in their hands. “If the Bálint Hóman Foundation still decides to erect the planned work, which in a democracy it has the right to do, then in the name of Székesfehérvár we will ask the foundation to repay the public money it has received from the Hungarian government and the city, to the extent it is able, in order to acquit the city and the country of unjust attacks.”

There’s a lot packed into these sentences. First of all, although we can be certain that the decision on the Hóman statue was reached at the highest political level, no top official of the Orbán government had to stand up and admit defeat. The mayor of Székesfehérvár did the job. Second, the statue is most likely already cast in bronze and waiting to be installed on December 29, Hóman’s birthday. The artist was already paid or will have to be paid soon. The Hóman Foundation has no money over and above the 15-17 million forints it received from the ministry of justice and the city. So, as far as I can see, they would not be able to pay back anything. Third, it might be possible to erect the statue on public property. This would not be the first time that such a thing happened in Hungary. Just think of the Horthy statue in Csókakő. And fourth, what does Cser-Palkovics mean by “unjust” attacks? Does he mean that Hóman was not a viciously pro-German anti-Semite who was responsible, along with his fellow politicians, for the Jewish laws?

Anti-statue forces put up their own memorial

Anti-statue forces put up their own memorial

As for Viktor Orbán’s role in this affair, let me quote from Ildikó Lendvai’s op/ed piece in today’s Népszava. “The government is in trouble. On the one hand, it doesn’t want to get to be known as a Nazi sympathizer, especially now when Orbán is eyeing a leading position in Europe. On the other hand, it doesn’t want to be at loggerheads with those who want to see a Hóman statue erected. Therefore, it pretends that it has nothing to do with this ‘local’ affair even though in the past the foundation received millions from the government….The cult of Hóman seemed like an excellent fly catcher to attract the extreme right. But the scandal has become far too big and those who protest seem to be winning…. Perhaps they have given up on this statue, but the historical brainwashing continues.”

I would go even further. There is a good likelihood that this statue will stand somewhere, even if not on Béla Bartók tér in Székesfehérvár. I would also wager to say that no money will ever be paid back to the ministry of justice and the city of Székesfehérvár. And then who really won? Alas, once again, Viktor Orbán and his friends.

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Guest

London Calling!

“Orban never loses – he is strong – always two steps ahead of the opposition. They are smart lawyers and know how to win in negotiations.

He never gives in because it’s a sign of weakness. He is smart and runs rings around the opposition.

He is invincible, the left are a disorganised rabble – a bunch of losers.

Orban will rule forever and will never be defeated and his people love him because of his two thirds majority.

Every country admires our strong Orban.

So all you liberal communists – suck it up.”

Regards

Charlie

Guest

@CharlieH
December 12, 2015 at 8:06 pm

Duh? Are you nuts?

Guest

You missed Charlies quotation marks

bimbi
Guest

Thanks to the Budapest Beacon we can read:

http://budapestbeacon.com/public-policy/theres-no-reason-for-me-to-apologize-says-janos-lazar/30006

that János “Lázár personally believes that the Ökotárs Foundation, a Hungarian foundation responsible for distributing the Norway Grants NGO funds in Hungary, was involved in all kinds of shenanigans despite the fact that Hungarian prosecutors and the tax authority found nothing wrong with the organization’s activities… …Lázár had said he would apologize if accusations against Ökotárs and other NGOs made by himself and undersecretary Nándor Csepréghy turned out to be baseless, as has proved to be the case.”

But what does Jancsi come up with?

“There’s no reason for me to apologize,” he said today.”

There is an appropriate one-word description for people like Jancsi Lázár. It is “liar”.

The Scots put it well: “There is nane sae blind as those that willna see” and Jancsi somehow can’t manage to open his brain and admit that he is wrong.

Jancsi, as Orban’s little lapdog, ought to be cringing beneath his Friday press conference podium, or at least going to pee on Bálint Hóman’s disz-Magyar fancy dress.

Guest
Dear Éva Couple of things: 1. I don’t know whether it is my computer only, or the system has changed, but for the past couple of weeks or so, the “Leave a Reply”/”Leave a Reply to…” block for commenting on some given post appears right after all subsequent posts, instead of below the post being commented on. This is very inconvenient when one needs to refer back to the post being commented on whilst writing one’s comment, particularly when one needs to go back and forth over dozens of posts subsequent to the post being commented on. I just wonder if it was possible to go back to the old system, which was really a lot better. 2. You write “Jewish Laws” as the English translation of “Zsidó törvények.” In contrast to “zsidó,” “Jewish” in English has softer, more moderate, or even positive connotations, more akin to “izraelita” or “zsidóság” in Hungarian. Therefore I think that “Jew Laws” would be a more appropriate English translation of “Zsidó törvények” than “Jewish Laws.” May I take the opportunity here to express heartfelt thanks and appreciation for your enormous work in maintaining this brilliant website, for letting us have the benefit of your… Read more »
Guest

The present format is meant to put an answer right belov the comment to be answered and move it at few columns to the right. This can only be done a few times on a page of limited width. This poses a programming problem that is unsolved in the present format and the program gets confused when there are too many answers. This is my theory.

webber
Guest

I. Lendvai wrote “Orbán is eyeing a leading position in Europe.”????
WHICH position is that???
The man is such a pariah that now even the new Polish government has distanced itself from him.

Karl
Guest
If the Economist puts Orban on its cover along with Trump and Le Pen then the assumption is that he does something right. What else could a politicians want? Orban is probably important in a certain sense. I can imagine that Orban might move to unify the – Russian-backed – extreme right-wing parties of the EU. He may or may not wait for the People’s Party to kick him out but he imagines that he could be the leading person of this movement. As it was mentioned the Hungarian official media cannot any more refer to Le Pen as an extreme or radical right-winger, from now on her party is simply a right-wing party. Also pro-EU mainstream conservative or centre-right parties are all “liberal” (and as such irrelevant, Jew-backed, anti-Hungarian). So the “mainstreamization” of the EU-sceptic, radical parties is underway and Orban could – as per Putin’s instructions and his firm beliefs – be the leader of that movement. Orban realized that there is a trend emerging: what hitherto was called radical right-wing is now the mainstream. This bunch used to be the butt of jokes, was shunned by the media etc. but they are now ascending. Still, these parties… Read more »
webber
Guest

Karl
Get real.
“If the Economist puts Orban on its cover along with Trump and Le Pen then the assumption is that he does something right.”

Whose assumption???
It seems you didn’t get the sarcasm (not a surprise if you live in Orban’s Hungary), so I’ll explain that cover.

The Economist regularly runs very clever covers that are meant to make fun of people. That cover was a copy of old communist period propaganda, with hints of Mt. Rushmore. It was very tongue-in-cheek. It made most people giggle.
comment image

Getting on the cover of The Economist, you see, is not necessarily a sign of praise. For those who did not understand the cover as making fun of Orban et al., the articles on the inside of the journal made it clear that The Economist regards him as a menace and a boor.

I suggest you get a copy of the journal and read it for yourself. It will kill all your assumptions, fast.

Guest

You must joking!

Unless you’re indulging in satire – wrong in all counts.

The Economist was doing satire.

And Orban is slowly slowly losing what influence he ever had.

Ambator
Guest
It is a long-standing disagreement between us how to call those odious and murderous laws enacted for the detriment of Hungarian Jews. The dispute goes back for years and we have agreed more than once that we disagree. Well, I just have to remind all that the disagreement is still persisting and I intend to keep it going for all to see, but in the spirit of friendship and good natured debate. “Jewish laws” may mean that they are laws enacted by Jews. Yes this sound a bit less jarring than the name I am suggesting: Jew laws. (That is by the way the authentic Hungarian name by which they are mentioned every time.) I must add an observation about the use of the word: Jew. It is only mentioned with a toned down voice, Jews and gentiles equally use it only with a hush in their voice, as if it were a “bad” word, or if the mere mention of the word would conjure up the appearance of anti-Semitism. Even openly and proudly Jewish people speak of themselves as “of Jewish origin,” as if Jewish birth, or simply being a Jew, were somehow unworthy of public speech. Whereas “dirty… Read more »
webber
Guest

Ambator
I disagree – if only because “Jew law” sounds wrong to me, not because the word “Jew” is wrong, but because it’s ungrammatical: it should be “Jewish.”

Also, the tradition is to call those laws Jewish laws. People using that term include many scholars of the Holocaust whom you cannot accuse of being anti-Semites. Why change what they wrote?

It bothers you – it doesn’t bother them.

But if the term REALLY bothers you, I suggest you use “anti-Jewish laws”, which is correct in every sense.

Member

Noun String Grammar Intolerance Excess Complaints

No, “Jew Laws” is not the least bit ungrammatical: It faithfully expresses both the meaning and the flavor of the odious Hungarian original. Like many features of the extremely adaptable, accepting (but sometimes awkward and ungainly) English language, noun strings work (though grammarians — always the ultimate losers when it comes to language evolution — solemnly advise against them, sometimes for stylistic reasons, sometimes because they [the strings, that is] can be ambiguous). Newspaper headline writers, military jargonauts and technical manuals love ’em.

webber
Guest

Stevan Harnad
Turn it around – how would you translate Jewish into Hungarian? Zsidó.
How would you translate Jew into Hungarian? Zsidó.

In Hungarian, the word doesn’t change. In English it can and does.

I agree, all sorts of things are allowed in English
But I disagree that “Jew Laws” sounds okay. It sounds wrong to me. That’s all. And I am not arguing that the word “Jew” can’t be used in odd ways, such as “Jew-boy” (or whatever). I am just saying it sounds off in this case.

AND on that note, to me the phrase “Jew Law” sounds like the sort of thing an anti-semite would say about laws passed (in his or her view) BY and/or FOR Jews.

Anyway, other people are using the phrase “Anti-Jewish” for this sort of thing – such as the US Holocaust Museum.- see here:

http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005681

petofi
Guest

@webber

Not jewish laws, but “Jew Laws”, which is pejorative–exactly the way Hungarians meant it to be.

webber
Guest

Petofi (and Stevan) by all means write in English as you see best.

But recall, the topic came up because someone suggested Eva should change the word she was using. The “language patrol” came from that direction, not from mine.

I think she should use the word that seems best to her.

For me, I’m sticking with Jewish for this one, or anti-Jewish, like it or not – it sounds right to me.

For that matter – try to find an article or a book, just one, with the phrase “Jew law.”
I think you guys will have to write the first one, because I have never seen it in print. And why have I never seen it in print? Maybe because it doesn’t sound right to native English speakers. Maybe because nobody else writing on that lousy legislation ever had such a brilliant idea as you guys?

So, get out there and start publishing things about “Jew laws.”
While you are at it, if you write about anti-Mexican, anti-Chinese or anti-Italian legislation, you might call them Wetback laws, Spic laws and Chink laws.

It’s no skin off my back.

spectator
Guest

I would say — as an outsider, purely on instinct — that “jewish” would correctly translate to Hungarian as someone who practicing/belong to jewish religion, (zsidó vallású/hitü) while the word “jew” clearly refer to the ethnic origin (zsidó ‘fajú’ – wheneverr it’s a nonsense) – in a pejorative and racist manner, but still…

But hey, we’re talking about the Hungarian approach here, at least how I see it.

So, there is a different, and I would use “jewish” in any case.
Not to mention the fact that it would stand correct, wether the person is only religious or even has the “ethnicity” too to talk about.
Mostly, anyway.

petofi
Guest

re: right wing etc.

One should remember that the force, and financing, behind all this is Putin…

petofi
Guest

Orban’s speech on Sunday.

I must confess to watching part of this. After a while, I felt soiled, as if walking through an endless pigsty…
(Life as nightmare–only in Hungary.)

Had to turn it off.

spectator
Guest
Masochist, are you? I used to read them instead. One advantage is to skip the sound of the voice (can’t stand it, btw.) and another to be able to face the utter bullshit in it’s full glory, never missing a syllable! It’s an experience what needs strong stomach and durable nerves – particularly when you think of just how many Hungarians fell for this crap, without even considering it’s true meaning..! The most important is the few strategically chosen word what triggers the planned reaction dutifully, the rest could be whatever – and normally just that. If I was in any position to make decisions — on the other side, of course — I would print excerpts from the Orbán speeches on billboards and put it front of the public to see and read, not only hear. Without the mesmerising effect of the personality of the almighty leader the whole “orbanism” as a concept equals nil/nada/zilch/nothing! Why isn’t anybody bothers to analyse, or at least present these grammary school homework level of ‘enlightenment’ which supposed to be the leading direction of Hungary? It’s plainly ridiculous, more times than just stupid, and the populace in a dire need of entertainment, but… Read more »
Guest

Ambator, you’re right!
“Jew laws” would also be the correct translation for the German “Judengesetze” – though Hungary had its laws before the Nazis wrote theirs …

Not too much OT:
I was really surprised though when I found out that Imperial Germany had restrictions there – a Jew could not become a regular officer in the army!
So when in WW1 they needed more officers, the Prussians came up with the idea that they recruited Jews willing to fight for their German homeland as reserve officers – which meant that after WW1 they had not the same status as the regular officers in spite of having done the same service, again the typical discrimination …

Guest

Karl, I sincerely hope that you’re wrong with this assessment of the right wing lunatics!
If they should be accepted into the mainstream, then I give up hope for Europe – it would take a long time to come back to normalcy (at least what I believe as normal: a liberal democracy …).
I’m still hoping that this is just a passing fad/trend – fuelled of course by the refugee problem which I think can and will be solved however.

If Europe (and the whole civilised world …) would return to the Nationalism of the 19th and early 20th Century – then good riddance, humanity!

PS and not too much OT:
I’ve often wondered about the strange situation in Hungary (and the other ex-Communist countries too probably):
In technology Hungarians are as advanced as the “decadent liberal west” but the society is still fifty years behind in many respects – almost like those African or Syrian refugees with their burkas, Adidas shoes and smartphones …

Istvan
Guest
Among the many things the Norway Fund (EEA Grants also) supports in Hungary are Improved well-being of children and young people at risk. While Eva’s essay focus in on the political defeat of Fidesz in relation to the Fund becoming functional once again, there was a real cost to the attack of Fidesz on these NGOs. A majority of the programs have had payments suspended since 7 May 2014. There is limited time available to implement the existing programs and projects. The donors are in dialogue with the Fidesz government regarding what can be implemented before the deadlines. In the area of work with children who have significant disabilities and their families in Hungary which I am most involved in it meant a dramatic reduction in aggregate funding and the layoff of some staff in Hungary. Some of these laid off staff I know emigrated and found work in Germany for example working with unaccompanied migrant children from the middle east. While their skills are being put to good use, they may have been lost to Hungarian and Hungarian Roma children forever. So rather than celebrating the flow of funds I find myself sickened by the actions of the Fidesz… Read more »
Guest

Istvan!

I know Orban and his gang love to move/install/modify/move again/install again/recast all those statues but surely you mean statutes?

“At the beginning of March more than three thousand statues came into effect:………”

I think it was probably android that was the culprit – but it is quite amusing!

Intuitive software – even the bytes know!

Istvan
Guest

Indeed it was a typo

TrianonTrianon
Guest

I think there are a couple of errors/misconceptions creeping in here.

Prof Balogh – I think a typo has crept into the value of the frozen funds in your piece. The total value of the funds allocated to Hungary via the state is around €153m (not €1,533.3m). Actually, I thought it was €156m – but I suppose we can forget the difference when none of it is in our bank accounts )

2 Istvan – I think you are confusing the two different funds which Norway (plus Iceland and Lichtenstein) supports. The Norwegian govt suspended payments to the Hungarian state, because the government changed the receiving organisation mid-term, and with no consultation with the donors. Norway deemed this unacceptable. It is this which has now been cleared for release.

As I understand it, the funding for the NGOs, roughly €13m, via Okotars, has continued unabated. Moreover, it is probably this very fact, the continued funding of the NGOs, that stung the Hungarian government into its attacks on Okotars.

Istvan
Guest

The civil society funds did continue, but numerous projects for children were frozen. Funds from both EEA grants and the Norway Fund were impacted. My understanding is that in some cases other funds were leaned on to keep some programs operational.

But some rural programs collapsed and there were layoffs. Two young workers for these programs had grants to study here in Chicago during October and instead of returning to Hungary they took jobs in Germany and Greece last month because their positions had been cut. I am not clear what agency is funding them in Germany to work with unaccompanied migrant minors, I think it might be UNHCR as Associate RSD Officers as part of the Refugee Status Determination (RSD) team.

Apparently this happened to others too. I hope now that the funds are unfrozen they will return to Hungary but there in no guarantee. They knew their situations were precarious when they came to the States at the start of October on a State Department grant.

Zorgas
Guest
“I would go even further. There is a good likelihood that this statue will stand somewhere, even if not on Béla Bartók tér in Székesfehérvár. I would also wager to say that no money will ever be paid back to the ministry of justice and the city of Székesfehérvár. And then who really won? Alas, once again, Viktor Orbán and his friends.” I agree that in the short term, Viktor Orbán and his friends, may win — particularly if victory is perceived as keeping a gullible public in thrall while emptying their pockets, or if winning is perceived to be keeping your mouth pressed tight to the EU money spigot until you bust your guts. But, Victor Orban and his cohort are like children who were only expecting to be let into the candy shop, and found that they were given the keys. Rather than handling their good fortune responsibly and just stealing a little candy every day, they are gorging themselves…. chocolate and syrup all over their faces…. and even when they vomit, they say everything is all right and go on gorging and drinking from the EU chocolate fountain. But, it already seems to be catching up with… Read more »
webber
Guest

OT
If the exit polls are right, and Marine Le Pen’s Front National has not won a single district in the second round of the French local elections (because a majority of the French voted against FN) I wonder –
Will Hungary’s news agency MTI change it’s policy and say that it is again okay to call the FN an extreme right party?

spectator
Guest

It would also mean that the French people aren’t so stupid as they usually presented!

Congratulations!
After all, already the maquis proved that they don’t want nazis to rule!

While the Hungarians acting the same way as then… And will get about the same result.

Oh well, history obviously using carbon copy…
The damned analog technology is the reason! It must be, won’t you say..?

Guest

I traveled from Budapest to Szekesfehervar today to be at 4 PM on Béla Bartók tér protesting against the planned Homan statute. (http://www.mazsihisz.hu/2015/12/13/tobb-szazan-tiltakoztak-a-szekesfehervarra-tervezett-homan-szobor-ellen-vasarnap-8330.html) . Sad fact: there were only around 2-300 people on the Béla Bartók tér and at least 3-4-5 or even more times more citizens of Szekesfehervar who were just walking along happily at the same time on the open Xmas market in the city center but never ever considered spending that one hour with the presenters and protesters.
I guess that more people signed the “we don’t want immigrants here” list at Fidesz’s booth within that hour. Nekünk Mohács kell…

Member

Test

Latefor
Guest

I’d love to see a few statues erected of my favorite Hungarian author: Istvan Fekete
(At least he’s kosher, and nobody would object to it)

Guest

Your use of ‘kosher’ is racist and antisemitic……..

Latefor
Guest

And your use of “antisemitic” is racist. Picking on me for your well-known abusive comments. I have never ever abused anybody on this blog. If Eva should kick someone out it’s you, not me.

exTor
Guest

You need to chill, CharlieH.
· with respect to ‘kosher’ ·
And get a sense of humor.

MAGYARKOZÓ

webber
Guest

There are already a five statues to Istvan Fekete in various places around Hungary. Here is one:comment image

Latefor
Guest

Thank you, Webbed.

Latefor
Guest

It should be “Webber”. (There is NO correction to be seen???)

Guest

webber?

Your picture doesn’t work for me on Chrome/Android or Chrome/Windows10 – try again please?

webber
Guest

It’s just a nondescript bust of Istvan Fekete.

Guest

Not too much OT:
German author Herta Müller (born in Rumania, she fled Ceaucescu’s regime in 1987) who also won the Nobel prize for literature in 2009 spoke very strongly for the refugees and defended Mrs Merkel.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herta_M%C3%BCller
She also criticised the Eastern European governments – for their inhumanity.
In German:
http://www.tagblatt.de/Nachrichten/Hoelderlinpreis-Fuer-Herta-Mueller-sind-Schreiben-und-Humanitaet-nicht-zu-trennen-254442.html

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