Viktor Orbán and his entourage in Baku

Not so long ago I wrote about Viktor Orbán’s fallacious theories regarding the direct connection between economic growth and authoritarian regimes. He looked at some of the countries that had plenty of gas, oil, and in some cases minerals and attributed their economic success in recent years to the nature of their regimes instead of to their natural resources. Ever since he became prime minister in 2010 he has been shamelessly courting the dictators or autocrats of these countries, only to discover that some of them are currently in deep economic trouble. One of these countries is Azerbaijan. I will not go into the details of the shocking deal Orbán made with President Ilham Aliyev concerning the fate of an Azeri murderer who was serving his sentence in a Hungarian jail. Anyone who’s interested in the particulars can find plenty of information on this blog.

At one point Orbán was even hoping that Hungary would issue bonds in Azeri currency, the manat, but the idea died a quiet death. And a good thing it did since the manat, which was worth 350 forints in January 2015, today trades at only 182 forints. Azerbaijan is in a deep recession (3.3%) with a 12% deficit and an inflation of 14%. I read somewhere that it is unable to pay for military equipment it ordered from Russia and the Russians are getting antsy.

Hungary, however, remains a steadfast ally of Azerbaijan. Not only did Viktor Orbán, his wife, and practically half of the Hungarian cabinet visit Aliyev in Baku, but it was announced during the trip by Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó that the Hungarian Export-Import Bank has opened a $200 million line of credit to Azerbaijan to expand bilateral economic cooperation with Hungary. Aside from this announcement, the Hungarian media couldn’t discover any earth shattering reasons for the trip, certainly nothing concrete regarding “bilateral economic cooperation.” Although Viktor Orbán tried to give the impression that Azeri-Hungarian trade has soared since the Orbán government decided to treat Azerbaijan as a “stable partner, ally, and friend” of Hungary, the truth is that Hungarian exports to Azerbaijan today are only slightly above where they were in 2009. In fact, between 2010 and 2012 they decreased dramatically. Azeri exports to Hungary during the same period were flat.

Members of the cabinet nonetheless keep insisting that Azeri-Hungarian bilateral economic cooperation will be important to Hungary’s economy. Mihály Varga, minister of economy, spoke fleetingly about cooperation in the energy field, pharmaceuticals, and healthcare. Varga went on to emphasize Azerbaijan’s fantastic development in the past few years and stressed that the country is “the most important partner” in the South-Caucasian region. Which is not to say much. Hungarian exports to Azerbaijan amounted to a mere $65 million. Sándor Fazekas, minister of agriculture, chimed in, claiming that “Azerbaijan is the most promising agricultural partner of Hungary” because “since 2012 our exports to the country have quadrupled,” but, again, given the low level of trade volume that doesn’t mean much.

The Hungarian politicians felt obliged to say something about the changed circumstances of the Azeri economy. As Szijjártó cryptically put it, “we must place Azeri-Hungarian economic cooperation in a different dimension.” A Mandiner opinion piece sarcastically remarked that the “new dimension is the $200 million line of credit extended to Azerbaijan.”

Every time Orbán visits a country that is not exactly a democratic paradise the Hungarian media, with the exception of sycophantic publications like Magyar Idők, Magyar Hírlap, and Pesti Srácok, point out Orbán’s servile gestures toward his hosts. This trip was no exception. Csaba Káncz, formerly an advisor to the European Union, wrote that Orbán’s trip to Azerbaijan will not produce any tangible results,“it will [only] bring shame to the country.” One of the reasons for this shame is that Orbán and his wife lay a wreath on the grave of Heidar Aliyev, father of the current president of Azerbaijan, and his wife, Zarifa Aliyeva. The elder Aliyev’s political career was infamous. As first secretary of the Azeri communist party he ruled the country uninterrupted between 1969 and 2003 when he appointed his son to be his successor. Since 1995 there has been not one free election in the country. The last election, in 2014, was so free and fair that the results were announced the day before the actual election. Currently there are more than 100 political prisoners in Azerbaijan.

Led by Viktor and Anikó Orbán the Hungarian delegation is visiting the grave site of Heidar Aliyev and his wife

Led by Viktor and Anikó Orbán, the Hungarian delegation visits the grave site of Heidar Aliyev and his wife

In light of Azerbaijan’s dictatorship (in force ever since 1920) it was jarring that the Hungarian prime minister praised “the leaders of the country who have made Azerbaijan one of the most respected and often envied countries in the world.” People rarely appreciate the success of others, but sooner or later hard work brings triumph, and of late Azerbaijan’s “weight and prestige have grown.” Looking at it from the vantage point of Europe, Azerbaijan is successful and “committed to cooperation between East and West.” Surely, Orbán didn’t want to say much about Azerbaijan’s current economic and financial woes. He merely suggested diversification, in which “Hungary can be a useful partner” and which will make Azerbaijan even more successful and stronger.

A pilgrimage to the grave of the elder Aliyevs wasn’t enough groveling before the Azeri dictator. Viktor Orbán decided to honor the wife of the president, Mehriban Aliyeva, who serves as chairperson of the Aliyev Foundation named after Heidar Aliyev, by conferring on her the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit. And then the Hungarian entourage packed up and left. Another pretty useless and very expensive trip.

March 7, 2016
Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Member

After the daily grind of living in a part of Europe where everybody hates him and millions would like to hang him on a lamp post, the viktor has to go to other backward dictatorships, because there, they don’t treat him with scorn, disdain, and contempt and they don’t loath him, for a couple of days. For him it is a vacation, he can feel free, a bit like the monkey that is sent back to the jungle from the Zoo.

Guest
The main religion of Azerbaijan is Islam. Orbán said he hates Muslims. He has built a very big, very expensive fence to keep them out of Hungary. And yet, here he is, courting an entire Muslim nation. Or rather, he is simply courting another dictator, whom he is probably envious of, since Aliyev has no EU strictures to prevent him from torturing and murdering opponents, no doubt exactly what our Mr. O would love to do. So the logical conclusion is that Orbán has no genuine or consistent opinion about Muslims. And if he doesn’t then he has no opinion about dictators. He has no opinion about the EU, or democracy, or freedom of assembly, or the economy or left wing, or right wing. He does not really have an opinion about Hungary either, nor the teachers, nor the students, nor their parents, nor doctors, nor nurses, nor the standing of Hungary in world opinion. Orbán cares about Orbán and is using the rather simple minded voters of Hungary to gain riches beyond his wildest dreams. With his loser mentality, he has shown himslef to be a nasty and jealous little school boy, looking round the schoolyard with crafty and… Read more »
Guest

Yes time4change

“……. has no genuine or consistent opinion about Muslims.”

Well put. I sometimes think Orban suffers from some sort of political autism – never having a clue about the other social graces – just expediency of the moment and without a collective memory.

Excusable and sad when it’s a true illness – but a trait of ignorance and evil in a lying, mendacious and corrupt politician.

PALIKA
Guest

Time4change. Orban does not say he hates Islam. He does not however want any more Middle Eastern migrants in Hungary. The reality is that apart from platidute mouthing politicians neither do most Europeans want them in Europe. There is a genuine refugee problem. His approach is in many ways unattractive but not unrepresentative of how most Europeans who themselves often live hard lives feel about the prospect of limitless number of migrants pitching up on their doorstep.

This is one area where Orban is fundamentally right. His earlier stance from which he will find it difficult to retreat will make it more difficult to find a collective solution and that could back fire.

Observer
Guest

Commander’s Cross to a Moslem notable ?!
Couldn’t they come up with some other award? Pretty silly, but at least they can play footsal.

Guest
London Calling! Presumably Orban will now champion Azerbaijan’s accession to the EU? (After all Turkey’s nearly in. Soon the real democracies will be in a minority; time to leave, I think.) “…..have made Azerbaijan one of the most respected and often envied countries in the world.” This dictatorship? Where does Hungary get this bullshit? I think Hungary’s Big Book of Bullshit must be enormous – possibly a whole reference library. Orban often uses this mantra about Hungary – as does Matolcsy, who has taken the art of bullshitting to a whole new level. There’s even a foundation called the National Bullshitting Magyarság (MNB). Yes I know it should be NBM but besides his squint eyes – he’s dislexic. And it’s unorthodox. Of course they’re only trying to convince themselves of course – a bit like the ‘winning’ mantra from the trolls on here. Only kidding themselves. And yes “Azerbaijan’s performing ….er slightly about the same” (a different dimension!) has a real snazzy ring to it – straight out of the unorthodox book of real punchy Magyarság advertising copy. The flaccid propaganda slogans that come from Hungary are very reminiscent of a well-loved comedy over here – sadly no more. In… Read more »
Guest

Btw “the Russians are getting antsy.” That’s great, Eva – never heard that before.

‘Antsy’ has gone straight into my Big Book of Lexicon. Thanks!

webber
Guest

Antsy is fairly commonly used in the States for agitated, nervous, impatient and unsettled. I never thought of it as an Americanism, but based on your comment guess it is. Still, it’s so English sounding that I wonder if it’s one of those Americanisms that originally came from England and just fell out of use there (there are quite a lot of such words and phrases).

Hmm… just looked. Websters puts its origin at the mid-19th cent., so it was likely coined in the U.S.

Member

really good word!

zena
Guest

Can it be that Orban’s oil/gas trading company MET AG (based on Switzerland, held through reliable Strohmanner, ie fronts, and which is a joint venture with Russian siloviks) is doing business with Azerbaijan?

Bandi
Guest
Member

That look! I wonder what she is thinking at that moment.

spectator
Guest

Donnerwetter!
I left home without the rat poison, again..!

Guest

Excuse me for my ignorance, but how can the EU possibly consider Azerbaijan as a candidate for membership?

Though I am a dedicated Labour supporter in the UK, I can begin to see why Cameron would like to exit. The EU and the democratic prinicples forwhich it exists in the first place, loses a huge chunk of credibilty by even considering countries like Azerbaijan and Turkey, and latterly our own wannabe despot of Hungary.

webber
Guest

The EU isn’t considering Azerbaijan as a candidate for membership.
The EU would, however, very much like a pipeline of Azeri gas to offset dependence on Russian gas (Turkey is playing a role in this, naturally).
Azerbaijan is one of the states in the European Neigbourhood Policy, which is nothing more than a feel-good bit of frivolity that includes Egypt, Israel, Palestine, Armenia, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia and a few other states.

Guest

Yes, correct. But it is a member of the Council of Europe (the 49 not the 28). It has aspirations to be in the EU and has a regular dialogue – and participation – in many of its initiatives.

I wouldn’t put it past Orban to start kicking up trouble.

(The EU council flag, symbolically, uses a very similar flag to the EU).

Guest

Of course, below, I meant the Refugee Convention – just to see if anybody reads Eva’s blog down to these depths!

But not even further up it seems – there are only 47 countries in the EU Council not 49!

You missed the default 2 x clever dick points!

Oh! I’m a winner! I always do! I’m not a loser! Case closed!

Guest

Thank you webber, for the information.

Guest

The EU deal broke up last night without a signed deal – but they have a deal ‘in principle’.

Part of the Turkey ‘deal’ (blackmail according to Verhofstadt) is that Turkey will get visa-free access to the Schengen area at end of June 2016 (that’s 75 million population) – already young Turks are booking their Summer holidays.

Orban said at his press conference that “Ukrainian citizens should get visa-free access to Schengen – not Turkey”.

Does he mean all the ‘Russian’ Ukrainians too?

Thus could be incindiary to the EU and really make them antsy!

A Hungarian government spokesman tweeted last night that Orban had vetoed the ‘EU-Turkey deal’ already – the resettlement of ‘irregular migrants’ direct from Turkey. (Brussels insists on the term ‘ irregular migrants’ being used as ‘illegal’ is against human rights.)

And now the UN are saying that the deal with Turkey might be illegal because Turkey hasn’t signed the Geneva Convention.

So plenty of time then for Orban to sow his chaos.

webber
Guest

A Ukrainian citizen in this case is anyone with a valid Ukrainian passport.
Orbán’s suggestion will make him popular in Kiev.
If adopted, it also ought to make Ukrainian citizenship a bit more attractive to people in break-away regions of the country.
Incidentally, there’s a precedent for this: citizens of Serbia have visa-free travel to Schengen countries.
I can’t see much wrong with Orbán’s suggestion, except that it does nothing whatsoever to deal with the current refugee crisis which they were supposedly talking about.

Istvan
Guest

Off topic. Origo.hu has an interesting article today on Fidesz calculations following the municipal mid-term elections in Salgótarján. To read this article in Hungarian go to http://www.origo.hu/itthon/20160307-orban-viktor-fidesz-kdnp-jobbik-mszp-2018-as-valasztas.html Hopefully Eva will delve into this complex issue of electoral politics in Hungary for those of us on this blog. But in short Salgótarján, is a town of 36,000 residents, situated in northern Hungary, located directly along the border with Slovakia. The results in the mid-term elections were that the MSZP candidate garnered 52% of the voted, with Fidesz falling back to just 40%. That resounding, 12% Socialist victory apparently was unnerving to the Fidesz circles that are reflected in the Origo article.

Effectively it appears that Jobbik voters abandoned that party to vote MSZP, hence the Jobbik vote decline in Salgótarján was about 50%. This leads to speculation of left and right blocks against Fidesz in the Origo article.

On topic relating to Azerbaijan. I was surprised that Formula One was running a gran prix race in Baku on June 19 replacing the failed Korean Grand Prix. Who would have thought there was enough money in Azerbaijan to support F1 racing.

webber
Guest

OT –
This is for those who wonder why parents showed solidarity with teachers by keeping their kids out of school, and why they too are fed up with conditions.
This is a picture of boys toilet in a public school in Tarnazsadány, Hungary
comment image

As Fidesz would say: Magyarország jobban teljesít.
“Hungary is doing better.”

Guest

When I visited a ward in Gyor hospital the toilet had no lights – well I think you had to bring your own lightbulb!

The stench was awful – and no toilet paper – maybe it was a good thing I couldn’t see!

Fran
Guest

And the only boys toilet in that school.

Guest

@webber
All the Fidesznik fat cats are aware of how the schools and hospitals look like. They don’t care. This is what poverty looks like and most people are predestined to be poor.

By the way are you sure that the picture is from a school and not from a footbal stadium?

Guest

Just remember Lázár’s motto (and I’m sure that goes for all of the Fidesz nomenklatura):

If you have nothing – then you are nothing!

That’s all there is to say – like in the days of pyramid building or the Middle Ages, the sheeple just don’t count, as long as they are quiet (and vote Fidesz – which really is the greatest joke …)!

webber
Guest

It’s from a school. Can you imagine your kids stuck with a toilet like that in school.

Guest

@webber
Sometimes I write a sentence which is meant as a joke. I should know better because almost every time there is somebody who takes it at face value. I realize that people from different cultures appreciate widely different jokes. In my country we often say the opposite of what we mean. It is so common that everybody knows how to immediately spot irony. Sometimes I forget that the humour of my culture is not universal, and I have noticed that other commenters frequently make the same mistake. There are many misunderstandings on this account among the commenters. I shall try to keep it in mind when I write, and I hope other commenters will do the same.

webber
Guest

Sarcasm often doesn’t work in print without certain clues, because we can’t hear the voice when we read.

webber
Guest

I like the plastic seats tastefully placed behind the bowls, in case of need…
They are the cheapest sort that slip off the square plastic knobs holding them in place very easily. They cost, maybe, 2,000 forints each.
They are obviously unspeakably filthy. You’d think someone would throw them away, but that’s just what a cleaning lady would not (could not) do. Only someone in authority could throw away a piece of property like that in Hungary. If the cleaning lady did it, she might be accused of theft (seriously!).
I also like the toilet paper holders – forlorn, painted over, they haven’t seen paper for years I bet.

Observer
Guest

Mêmes pensées, mais que faire ?
There is such thing in English too – tongue in cheek.

Member
Ridiculous public statements/ action and minuscule results are the core ills of the dear leader’s deeds on this subject, as Eva@ correctly noted. Otherwise, big countries and companies were known to court Baku for over a decade for its gas reserves, and other deals, but behind closed doors, not publicly. The list of countries included US, UK (BP), Statoil, Total, Lukoil (Russia), etc. just to mention a few. These companies finally formed the consortium aimed at exploiting the Shah Deniz II (and I) gas fields off the south coast of the Azov Sea. Before the Iran nuclear deal, the US Congress banned the start of the project because Iran had a 10% stake in Shah Deniz. Iran’s possible participation was also brought into play as a carrot for Tehran to agree on a nuclear deal. The main purpose was to build a so-called southern gas corridor (aka South Stream, Nabucco, now codenamed TAP) with the final aim to deliver gas to the Southern European markets. Here is the summary of recent EU statement on the issue: http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-16-541_en.htm Therefore, I believe that the visit of the Hungarian PM was timely, or way too late (as you wanted to see it). Anyway,… Read more »
Observer
Guest

Tnx for the info. Right, the big oil companies have been operating there and in Kazakhstan for decades.
I doubt that even MOL can get into this big boys game.
Orban is still licking there because he thought he can get them buying bonds three years ago. They didn’t and now they can’t – instead Hungary will credit something, which will probably become a costly flop as all the economic nonsense Orban dreamed up. He never understood economics or capitalism for that matter.

Member

THX for noticing my late comment. If you can still recall Nabucco pipeline Hungary used to be a very active participant in it. Now we are out of the picture but this gas still could be accessed via Austria (like a MET project), probably starting from 2018.
To succeed in such a mega-scale endeavor you need consistency, consensus and a long tem vision that Hungarian governments had only as an exception (like EU membership before). This uncomfortable truth relates to the rest of Central Europe as well. What I sense that the Iranians want to reactivate this dead body but I think they are also too late. http://en.mehrnews.com/news/114928/Post-sanction-Iran-calls-for-reconsidering-Nabucco-pipeline Still, no ridiculous statements either from the Austrian or the Iranians.

Member

Orban forgot to have his dress ironed before the visit so he looked like a homeless person (not mentioning Anikó’s overall). They were in a great contrast with the Aliyevs.

wpDiscuz