Zoltán Balog’s Europe: Victim of outside forces

On paper Zoltán Balog, head of the ministry of human resources and an ordained Calvinist minister, should be relatively sophisticated about the world. He spent years studying in Berlin, Halle, Tübingen, and Bonn. He had many foreign friends already in the early 1980s when he was a student at the Debrecen Theological University. In fact, his first wife, whom he married at the age of 20, was an East German exchange student. Yet, when one listens to him today, he gives the impression of being comfortable only inside the borders of Hungary, geographically, culturally, and ideologically.

He got involved with Fidesz early, mostly as an adviser on matters of religion, about which Orbán and his friends knew next to nothing. His advice was especially badly needed around 1993 when Fidesz was supposed to be transformed into a Christian democratic party. This was apparently the time when both László Kövér and Viktor Orbán “found God,” a revelation in which Balog had a role to play.

For a short while Balog worked in the office of the president during Ferenc Mádl’s tenure, but otherwise his relation to Fidesz was informal. He first got extensive media coverage when, in 2006, joined by Krisztina Morvai of Jobbik, he established the Civil Jogász Bizottság (Civic Legal Committee). This group rewrote the history of the 2006 September-October disturbances. It will be a difficult task for future historians to come up with a more balanced view of those events.

By 2006 Balog was a full-fledged member of the Fidesz parliamentary caucus, and after 2010 he became part of the government. He began his government career as undersecretary in the ministry of administration and justice in charge of Roma affairs. Less than two years later he was named minister of the ministry of human resources, a mega ministry in charge of education, healthcare, sports, and culture.

A few days ago, Balog agreed to give an interview to 888.hu, a gutter internet paper published by Árpád Habony’s new media center. Despite the years spent outside of Hungary, in this interview he shows himself to be a provincial fellow.

In his view Hungary is under bombardment by antagonistic forces from the outside. The attacks are not just political but cultural as well. For example, he wants to save the country from foreign food and foreign music. What a threat it is to have all those foreign restaurants on Hungarian soil. And how sad that the recipes on Hungarian internet sites are practically indistinguishable from what appears on similar sites in Germany, France, or, for that matter, the United States. Even a strong Orbán government cannot defend Hungarians from food globalization.

Zoltán Balog explains Hungary's place in the world

Zoltán Balog explains Hungary’s place in the world

Of course, the real threats are the “concealed powers,” like Soros’s Open Society Foundation. On the surface it looks as if Hungary is a free country, but “there are people who want to make us the plaything of world powers.” When Balog suspects foreigners of giving advice, his “blood boils.” He gets mighty upset when “big international organizations keep explaining to us what we should do with the Gypsies, women, the media, the economy.” Hungarians don’t fabricate “conspiracy theories” because “it is a fact that … financial and economic powers try to influence the internal affairs of Hungary and other countries.” When the Orbán government goes against these forces, it is justified because it acts “in the defense of democracy.”

In Balog’s eyes all criticisms of the Orbán government come from selfish economic interests. But since complaining about diminished profits wouldn’t impress anyone, “they talk about the dangers threatening Hungarian democracy, Hungarians killing Gypsies, virulent anti-Semitism.” Of course, none of this is true, but in Germany “they make films in which they try to explain to children that Viktor Orbán is a dictator.”

Balog’s view of the former Soviet bloc is more than strange. Westerners, and here I assume Balog thinks of West Germans whom he knows best, often talk about “the former east,” which irritates him to no end. Every time he hears someone refer to “central Europeans” in such a way, he answers that as long as Europeans don’t also talk about the west as “the former western bloc” there will be no “common Europe.”

Balog finds the situation of the peoples of the two blocs analogous in many ways. As I understand him, Balog claims that none of the nations of Europe has been free. In the East, the Soviets foisted their political system on the countries that were “liberated” by the Soviet army in 1945. The same thing happened in the West, which the American army occupied. Westerners had to endure the Americanization of the West, just as Easterners suffered Sovietization.

I don’t know whether this is Balog’s own theory or whether he is just mouthing the ideas of Viktor Orbán. From the other topics he covers in this interview, I’m inclined to believe that this incredible idea is not his own.

And this is not the only strange idea that Balog sets out in this interview. He was always a fierce anti-communist, even in his high school years. Add to this a very strong dislike of the political elite of the Kádár regime and the Fidesz propaganda about the liberals being the communists of today, and Balog sees communists everywhere.

According to him, “people in the West are inclined to look upon the history of the last seventy years as a small episode in the area east of the Elbe,” after which we can return to the “agenda.” But the former Soviet bloc countries cannot return to something westerners may call normalcy “because the experience of dictatorship is shared” by West and East alike. Western countries have also been poisoned by communism.

Balog contends that because communism made inroads even in the United States, Bill Clinton’s claim about the United States’ gift of freedom to Poland and Hungary is false. Does this mean that democracy in the western countries is basically a sham? That they are no more democratic than the people of the former Soviet bloc? I guess this is exactly what Balog has in mind. Because by the end, he claims primacy for Poland and Hungary over the United States when it comes to the introduction of democratic principles. As he put it: “While in America they were flogging the blacks and the slaves, in Poland there was quite a democracy already. And in Hungary too.”

As for Polish democracy, I assume Balog is thinking of the infamous “liberum veto,” a parliamentary device in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth which allowed any member of the Sejm (parliament) to force an immediate end to the current session and nullify any legislation that had already been passed. It seems that Balog’s teachers didn’t explain to him that only nobles of the realm could be members of parliament and that therefore the Polish case is not a valid counterexample. As for Hungarian democracy, I have no idea what Balog has in mind. I’m afraid he doesn’t either.

June 13, 2016
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Király Rogerius
Guest

<>
Yes, and wouldn’t he just LOVE it if US orchestras refused to play Bartók, Kodály. or Ligeti, et al. ? Or not allow Hungarians to teach in American academic institutions?

Guest

And wouldn’t he just love it if all Hungarians living and working abroad, anywhere in the world, were sent smartly back to Hungary?
If that were to happen, then of course it would mean the end of Fidesz, since ex-pat Hungarians left their mother land precisely because of the likes of Balog and his silly pontifications.

Guest

It would appear that some in Magyarorszag today have surely lost the enterprising spirit of those that lived earlier in those the ancient Eastern lands. Instead of expansion in all of its facets they go home now in essence to ‘ ringfence’ not only the land but the thinking as well.

Ironic that the unwieldy Soviet state disintegrated with all the potential inherent in that event yet a country opts to continually hunker down and ‘circle the wagons’ while bearing those alleged Western arrows being fired at them. ‘Szabadsag’ at one time was a word uttered with great import in context of what was lost. Absolutely stunning as to how that bell rings out hollow and with apparently such irrelevancy in the Magyar state.
It is evident now the latter and the West now work in different vocabularies with different meanings.

pappp
Guest
joeee
Guest

Thanks to Admiral Gorshkov who lit up the Ogaden War, and destroyed half Africa, and later, spread the jihadist insurgencies all over the world.

Poor Muslims were duped by the Moscow incitement, and now these weaponized warriors threaten the West.

It is time that Pappp should discover the hidden aggressors.

If Moscow becomes peacefully decent suddenly, the world could handle the fringe jihadists.

Joe Simon
Guest

Not often, but I do agree with this HS write-up.
The Hungarian Government should not get into a boxing match with Soros, a stockmarket speculator. These polemics will get them nowhere. FIDESZ officials have no skills at PR, in fact they do sound rather provincial, contributing to the poor image of Hungary abroad. They should take a crash-course in PR from a Madison avenue consultant.

petofi
Guest

What is Madison avenue know-how to ‘gypsy spin’?
You must be joshing.
Gypsy spin is a triple Phd. in comparison…

Istvan
Guest
It seems to me that Zoltán Balog in the 888.hu interview is presenting the Russian line using Hungarian nationalism as a cover. The interview is consistent with another article in 888.hu that attacked democracy by attacking supposed US export of democracy around the world to places that cannot possibly support it, see http://888.hu/article-miert-is-bukott-meg-az-amerikai-demokraciaexport There is also an interesting variant on that theme in an interview with Andrew Lánczi see http://888.hu/article-lanczi-a-gonosszal-allandoan-foglalkozni-kell Eva in her summary of the interview does not discuss an aspect of it which I think is important and that is what Balog calls the Fidesz generation “fideszes generációban.” I think that was an interesting concept that merits some reflection by all opponents of Orban’s gangster state. Effectively that there is a completely indoctrinated generation of Hungarians in Fidesz nationalism, and crypto pro-Russian ideology. But the youth according to Balog are subject to the temptations of globalization and the indoctrinated ones must transmit that wonders of Fidesz ideology and the gangster state to this materialist generation. But he truth I think is that the youth have learned well from the fideszes generációban and want their’s too. But the Orban system, like the Putin system has only so much room… Read more »
Gardonista
Guest

I wish Balog would refer to the Kremsier Constitution, which was the document developed by the 1848 rebels against the tyrannical government. The document called for freedom of the press and opposition to capital punishment.

America does owe a debt to the 1848ers who came and fought exclusively on the side of emancipation. Hungarians were the most unified ethnic group to support Abraham Lincoln.

But somehow I don’t think Balog knows that some folks used to accuse the Republican of being Communists since so many of them included 48ers from Hungary and Central Europe.

Istvan
Guest

In Chicago we have a High School named after a 48er, Carl Christian Schurz see https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Schurz So we Americns are not completely oblivious.

Gardonista
Guest

Amazing how the Hungarian American community can speak at exquisite detail about history, but somehow they forget important Hungarian-Americans like Schurz and Pulitzer. All the folks who dutifully go to March 15 commemorations would be shocked to hear that 48ers were considered Liberals.

I love telling Hungarians that no other ethnic group fought and died for Emancipation during the Civil War than the Hungarians. Germans were next, with 85% supporting the Union cause. Though among the Germans supporting slavery was the guy who designed the Confederate flag (not the Confederate battle flag). Its red-white-red background is in honor of the Habsburg flag.

Guest

Re: Carl Schurz…
Know him well by a park named after him in NYC.

Gardonista
Guest

Ahh, the St. Elizabeth’s Church on East 83rd Street often has 1848 commemorations. It is 4 blocks from Carl Schurz Park, yet they never mention him. Interesting that.

Guest
London Calling! “……………in Poland there was a democracy that was the envy of the world. And Hungary too.” Ha! Ha!.HAaaaaaaaa! HAAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! Oh! Sto…… HAAAAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa stop pleeeeeeeees ….HAAaaaaaaaaàa …… Haaaaaaaa. STOPPPP!!!!!……. Haaaaaaaaaaaàaaàaaa……. This is the overblown pompous Orban/M8tolcsy/Fidesz world view – that only circulates in Hungarian circles – for Internal consumption only. What does the rest of the world ‘envy’? Health Service? No. Education? No. Government administration? No, definitely not. Freedom? No. Finance system? No. LGBTI treatment and minority treatment? No. Culture? No! Tax system? No. Food? Maybe. Happiness index? No!! Russian perspective? No! Anything? Just what is it that we envy? I’d love to know . Just who wants to interfere in Hungary’s culture? Food? Politics? Hungarian Roma politics? No one. This is bonkers Echo TV conspiracy theory territory. Who gives a tinker’s cuss about Hungary to want to even think about interfering in their Commocracy? Here in Britain no one passes the test when I ask where Hungary is – unless they’re Hungarian. It’s just a tiny pimple on the concerns of the world – except many many English people know how Hungary treated the migrants and that fence. Self delusional – too high an opinion of themselves. It’s… Read more »
Guest

“………….the Fidesz propaganda about the liberals being the communists of today”

And it is this that we over here just don’t get.

Liberals = communists?

It’s just ludicrous if anyone thinks these equate! Just so ludicrous.

And yet so many Hungarians believe this! Unbelievable!

It’s just mutation of the English language and a complete misunderstanding of these political systems.

Put forward by the trolls on here too.

Hungary speaks a different English to the world – so different you have to wonder what their other ‘truths’ are. And since no one can speak Hungarian they’re in a bubble only of their understanding.

Gobbledygook in a tower of Bagel

Ferkó
Guest

All those hundreds of billions into football? It was worth it.

People are extatic. Hungary is back. Hungary defeated Austria. And this is just the beginning.

Panem et circenses. Never underestimate Orban. Football and sports work.

The liberals and leftists intellectuals can emigrate. Fidesz is here to stay.

petofi
Guest

Smuckhood to the power of 3…I couldn’t help enjoying the Hungarian win–the goals were quality (as Brits say)–but I pulled my joy-genes up rather quickly: “Orban will make hay with this. He’ll declare that it was his prescient policies about football stadiums that led to this great victory and the return of Hungary to the very top echelons of the soccer world!” Even more, he’ll claim that the victory supports and gives justification for every policy of the government.

I stopped enjoying the win rather quickly.

Guest

The Magyars stepped up. We’ll certainly see if they have what it takes to go on and continue winning. I wish we could get politics out of it but it’s no doubt nothing doing.

PALIKA
Guest

Eva, please, please get this oaf Charlie out of our hair. He is just not fit for this blog. Why do you not bar him? Are you scared of him?

Guest

Dear Palika,
For me, CharlieH is one of many valued members here. I, for one, have no wish to banish him. Each of us offers a different flavor.

PALIKA
Guest

Dear Gedance, you speak for yourself. Can we have a democratic process? I respectfully invite our bloggers to express a view. Is Charlie someone we should have on his blog? Please give us your views. With or without comment

petofi
Guest

Palika,

Your Fidesz-coloured underwear is showing.

Charlie, like I, is fed up with moronic Hungarians.
What to do, except to mock them?

Get a sense of humour, bud.

PALIKA
Guest

I apologise for being a peanut brained Hungarian. Life is full of sadness. Maybe you should tell me what should happen to the likes of me so we do not offend any more? Sense of humor? No chance. Only true born Brits have it, as you know.

webber
Guest

Palika – drop it. Eva already made it clear she saw nothing wrong with what Charlie told you, personally.
And most of the rest of us told you the same.
Why do you keep going on about Charlie?

Guest

You mean “illiberal democratic” the Fidesz style? If you get the majority then the minority has to stay quiet?

webber
Guest

We gave our views – and who cares if we do?
This is Eva’s blog, not an election. If you don’t like it, leave.

tappanch
Guest

The significant news of the day is NOT the soccer game with Austria !

The Orban regime can declare state of emergency from July 1st.

It is enough for 2/3 of the MPs present in the Parliament to vote for it. (What if some opposition MPs denied entry before such a vote?).

The government can ban demonstrations, use the army against the people, etc.

http://www.magyarkozlony.hu/

Magyar Közlöny 2016. évi 86. szám , June 14.

ria-ria
Guest

Nothing is more important than the happiness of the voters. Who cares about this intellectual bullshit? Hungary won and this is what counts. This is a victory after 50 years. The politicians are corrupt, we know that, but the communists are even more corrupt and at least Fidesz made Hungarians proud again. Without all this money into sports this would not have happened. Sports is not cheap but it is important. People will naturally reward Orban, soccer fan no. 1. He received a lot of loughs, but he will have the last lough and not the leftists. The lefties must pull themselves together if they even want to be contenders.

tappanch
Guest

Soccer at this time is a toy for dictators and other crooks.

Matches organized by FIFA, UEFA and MLSz should be boycotted until they are cleansed from hooligans, politicians and other criminals.

Guest

Troll! Back under a new name …
Your grammar and spelling mistakes give you away …
Couldn’t you at lest have the decency to keep your name?

But what can one expect froma Fidez/Putin troll?

Bowen
Guest

Victory?? Hungary won a single game. Not a very important one.

Guest

Mr. Storck would simply just love to get out of the group stage. After that well the football can get interesting. Don’t need to tell anyone you can be up for 90 min and then if some or one ‘perchance dream’ for a sec well as they say viszontlatas!…..🙀

PALIKA
Guest

Some of the bloggers are tossers. I forget the Hungarian for this. We might prefer to share the pleasure of an unexpected but well deserved sporting success achieved by young men who should receive our congratulations. Please vote to get Charlie out of our hair and tell the players we share the pleasure of their superb victory.

petofi
Guest

Palika,

I vote to get YOU, out of the Spectrum…but, on second thought, I’d miss the entertainment value of that peanut you call a brain…

petofi
Guest

You see, dimwit Palika, some of us are more concerned with the deterioration of schools and hospitals throughout the country; and the wild abuse of government monies by the mafia that runs the state.

But hey, in the light of the great victory…all is fine, right Sir?

PALIKA
Guest

I cannot follow you. Are you saying the players are paid Orban agents who win football games to wrong foot you? They won a game against the odds. Be happy if you can be at anyone achieving something.

Good for them. Well done.

Will any of you join me in applauding their achievement, or do you live on a different planet?

But this idea maybe a manifestation of a peanut brain, for which I am sorry

PALIKA
Guest

True to form, but I am grateful for your qualified support. You have missed the point that I am not the issue. I am glad you find it entertaining. I wish I did,

What is the response to

1 the Charlie problem and

2. Congratulating the Hungarian players on a remarkable win.

Can you not respond, preferably without abusive remarks?

peanut brain? Of course, you are right. I am disabled. Thank you for your kindness.

petofi
Guest

I grieve for your physical disability, but you mental incapacity is of your own doing…

petofi
Guest

And Palika,

one would heartily congratulate the players were it not for the certainly that Orban will use the victory in obtuse and damaging ways….read what Tappanch just wrote.

PALIKA
Guest

Why do you not simply do just that? Congratulate them without the surrounding nonsense. We are not with Berlin 1936 unless that is what you want. Just write WELL DONE for the team. My God this is hard work. I am off to sleep. I wait with eager anticipation to see if we can all celebrate the players who delivered a great result?

Imre
Guest

PALIKA

I agree with you. It was a great match and the Hungarian team showed remarkably good football. And deserve our congratulations.

On the other hand Viktor will certainly use this for political gain or for drawing away money from higher education and healthcare to build more stadiums in villages with less inhabitants than there are seats. That realization diminishes the pleasure found in the viktory.

And let’s not get to exited. Hungary won from Austria. There in group F together with Iceland, Portugal and Austria which practically ensures them that the will go to 1/8 finals. The football equivalent of in the land of the blind one eye is king. Of course it would be a completely different story if they where together with let’s say England, France and Germany. Politically speaking it would have been better if they had been in such a group. And never would have been able to score any points at all. Let alone go to the next round.

Rozsi
Guest

Palika,

WELL DONE HUNGARY!!! Congratulations to the team

Latefor
Guest

@Rozsi
@Palika
Congratulations to Hungary! Well done!

Guest

Just a reminder:

Hungary’s coach is a German: Trainer Bernd Storck

The goals were shot by two players in the German league:

László Kleinheisler – that family name is German obviously

Zoltán Stieber – the same …

This just shows the globalisation of sports – in the German or French national team you’ll find people whose parents came from urkey or Africa as well …

PALIKA
Guest

The German names are no guarantee of being ethnic German. Many with German names are ethnic Hungarians or just as often Jews. Both my parents had German names. One was ethnic Hungarian the a Jew.
German, Hungarian of Jews the result was brilliant.

Guest

Re: ‘crypto- pro-Russian ideology’

Looks as if the ‘red csillags’ were the start of it. The Russians indeed always take the ‘long view’ with implantations. The fruits apparently have grown.

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