Viktor Orbán’s first day in Brussels without his British prop

Today, after a meeting of the European Council sans David Cameron, several European leaders gave press conferences, starting with President Jean-Claude Juncker. From his brief summary of the meeting, we learned that there had been unanimity on two important issues.

First, there will be no internal à la carte market. “Those who have access have to implement all four freedoms without exceptions and nuances”: the free movement of goods, the free movement of services and freedom of establishment, the free movement of persons (and citizenship), including free movement of workers, and the free movement of capital.

The second point was that while the European Union does need reforms, they can be neither additional nor contrary to what has already been decided. What he has in mind is the strategic agenda of the European Council and the ten priorities the European Commission declared earlier. Here I will mention only four of these priorities that are not at all to the liking of the Visegrád 4 or countries that sympathize with the group: (1) a deeper and fairer internal market, (2) a deeper and fairer economic and monetary union, (3) an energy union, and (4) a common European agenda on migration. From the Hungarian point of view, perhaps the most significant announcement by Juncker was that “it is about speeding up reforms, not about adding reforms to already existing reforms.”

Viktor Orbán also gave an “international press conference,” as the Hungarian media reported the event. Normally, after an ordinary summit, there are only a couple of Hungarian media outlets that are interested in Orbán’s reactions, but this time the prime minister’s press conference was conducted in English and with a larger group of journalists.

The Associated Press’s short summary concentrated on “personnel changes,” which without additional background information didn’t make much sense. In order to have a better understanding of what Orbán was talking about, we must interpret his words in light of Jarosław Kaczyński’s demand for the resignation of Jean-Claude Juncker and other EU officials a few days ago. Orbán, who talks so much about the unity of the Visegrád 4 countries, doesn’t seem to be ready to support the Polish leader’s attack on Juncker and the Commission, at least at this time. The Hungarian prime minister thinks that “time, analysis, thought and proposals are needed” before such changes are discussed. In his opinion, “it would be cheap and not at all gallant in these circumstances to suddenly attack any leader of the Commission or any EU institution.” In addition, Orbán doesn’t stand by Kaczyński on at least two other issues. Kaczyński severely criticized Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, while Orbán praised him. Orbán also rejected, for the time being, the Polish politician’s call for a rewriting of the EU constitution.

Viktor Orbán at his press conference / AP Photo

Viktor Orbán at his press conference / AP Photo

Hungarian summaries of the same press conference are naturally a great deal more detailed and therefore more enlightening when it comes to an analysis of Viktor Orbán’s current thinking on the situation in which he finds himself. Here I will concentrate on two of Orbán’s priorities.

The first is his hope that future negotiations between the European Union and the United Kingdom will be conducted not by the European Commission but by the European Council. Even if the European Parliament and the Commission were willing to agree to such an arrangement, which I very much doubt, the complexity of these negotiations precludes such an arrangement.

Orbán’s second priority is the introduction of an entirely new set of what he calls “reforms.” He, as opposed to most European politicians, has a different notion of what constitutes “reform.” Instead of the European agenda that aims at deepening integration, he would like to see a loosening of ties among member states. During the press conference, Orbán repeated several times a Hungarian saying, allegedly first uttered by Ferenc Deák, the architect of the 1867 Compromise with the Crown who was famous for his figures of speech. Deák, after the 1848-1849 revolution, likened the absolutist administration to a hussar’s dolman which was buttoned incorrectly and which could be fixed only if the hussar unbuttoned all the buttons and started anew. In plain language, the whole structure of the European Union is wrong and it is time to undo everything and begin again from scratch. But, as we learned from Juncker, this is not what the majority of the European Council has in mind. In sum, I don’t believe that either of Orbán’s two important goals has the slightest chance of being accepted.

There is one issue, however, on which he fully supports Juncker’s position. As far as he is concerned, there can be no question of Great Britain limiting the immigration of citizens of the European Union. In his opinion, the East European countries went beyond what would have been a reasonable compromise when in February they accepted Cameron’s very tough demands on European citizens working in the United Kingdom. But now there can be no concession on this issue. If Great Britain wants to enjoy certain trading privileges with the European Union, its government must allow EU citizens to live and work there.

Restricting immigration from Europe, especially from its eastern part, has been a topic of long-standing political debate in the United Kingdom. Theresa May, the home secretary who has a chance of becoming David Cameron’s successor, has been talking about limitations for a number of years. Both Boris Johnson and Theresa May want to close the door on unskilled labor from Europe without Britain’s losing access to the single market. They interpret the EU’s free-movement principle as the freedom to move to a specific job rather than to cross borders to look for work. And there is no question, the pro-exit Conservatives are not talking about Middle Eastern refugees here. They decry the fact that “a third of Portugal’s qualified nurses had migrated, 20% of Czech medical graduates were leaving once qualified, and nearly 500 doctors were leaving Bulgaria every year.” The Brexit leaders could talk about Hungary as well, which saw about 500,000 people leave for Great Britain, Germany, Sweden, and other countries in the West.

Viktor Orbán did touch on immigration to the British Isles as one of the causes of the anti-European sentiment that has spread across England and Wales, but he maintained that “in British thinking migrants coming from outside of Europe and the employees arriving from the European Union are conflated, the result of which the voters felt that they didn’t get satisfactory answers from the European Union for their questions.” British Conservative politicians’ opinions on the subject, going back at least a year if not longer, leave no doubt that they were not been concerned with the refugees but with those EU citizens already in the country. The person who does conflate the two is Viktor Orbán. Last Friday he, who only a few days earlier had campaigned for David Cameron, manifested a certain glee in blaming EU’s refugee crisis for Brexit. I wonder how he will feel when one of the key sticking points in the U.K.-EU negotiations turns out to be East European immigration to Great Britain.

Meanwhile, I understand that the number of Hungarians planning to make the journey to the United Kingdom has grown enormously since the British exit vote. The hope is that anybody who arrives in Great Britain while the country is still part of the EU will be safe, but who knows what will happen later.

June 29, 2016
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pappp
Guest

“British Conservative politicians’ opinions on the subject, going back at least a year if not longer, leave no doubt that they were not been concerned with the refugees but with those EU citizens already in the country.”

But that’s only because the Conservatives don’t want to appear as racist. No mainstream UK politician could have said that there were just too many poor Black Africans or South-East Asians are coming to the UK and we have to stop this asap.

The Conservatives’ voters (and the voters of Ukip who are a potential source of voters for the Conservatives) might have problems with the proverbial Polish plumbers, but they have at least as much problems with the many Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Nigerians etc.

On this point I have to agree with Orban, many people did conflate the two groups, the two tendencies. It’s not a refugee problem (as in Germany), but still a problem of too many different-looking people, similarly to France.

But this cannot be formulated in this way neither by the politicians, nor by average folks. It’s not politically correct.

However, anybody can hate the “Polish”because they are white and so there is no stigma attached to that hatred.

Guest
It’s nothing new that the Polish right wingers are even more lunatic than the Hungarian ones – but are all of them really that stupid to assume that “raisin picking” (as we call it in German) i e just choosing the positive aspects for a country will be accepted by the majority in the EU? It:s funny in a way: England wants access to the EU’s facilities – but no (im)migrants … Poland and Hungary want free access for their workers – but no immigrants from other countries … And of course in the end “We’re in it only for the money! Sometimes I’m thinking (and I know I’m not the only one): Throw them all out and return to the core EU whose people know how the profited from everything the Eu stands for – freedom! (in all its aspects …) It will be interesting to see how this develops. PS: What I really find horrible is that most or all of our politicians in Europe seem to be totally unprepared for this – the same situation as we had with the wave of refugees: They all seem surprised and have made no plans – what are all the… Read more »
Guest

Re: Poland, Magyarorszag et al in EU

I always thought they and the other Visegraders suffered from FOMO… fear of missing out. And like Lotto got to be in it to win it. Now as far as the EU and its goals they are headaches. The way they act is akin to New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts fighting en masse against the perceived political and economic predations of Washington. Fights all the time.

An interesting test I think as to where Visegraders would really sit in connection to their surroundings is if Vlad’s big dream of that other EU, the Eurasian one , existed. Maybe that would smoke them out. But even then they could finagle a way to be in both. As we know they always are in the ‘middle’ of things but yet seem to know which side of the bread is buttered. Their taste is honed when it comes to the material. But when it comes to ‘invisible’ concepts that cannot be seen but felt we see the shortcomings. And the EU suffers from the bloc within the bloc.

Joe Simon
Guest

Viktor Orbán’s performance in Brussels has been rather impressive. He is very practical, using common sense, trying to cool the nerves, rather than engaging in heated polemics. He does have leadership qualities, just what the EU needs now. He is optimistic about the future of the Union, the glass is half full, the kind of approach we need now.

Guest

That was the best joke I’ve read in a long time, Joe!

And now back to reality:

A bitter comment on the development of British politics after WW2 – and the indifference of many voters:
http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jun/30/brexit-disaster-decades-in-the-making

PALIKA
Guest

It seems that OV has a new supporter in Soros who blames, rightly I believe, Mrs Merkel for the mess in Europe for not addressing the migrant issues properly or at all. What a surprise.

Guest

Really? After this:
Budapest on Friday accused Hungarian-born US Jewish billionaire philanthropist George Soros of seeking to spark unrest in the country by financing groups critical of the right-wing government’s hardline migrant stance.
http://www.timesofisrael.com/hungary-accuses-jewish-emigre-george-soros-of-stirring-trouble/
Do you have a source for this?

PALIKA
Guest

I think I saw it online in Guardian but not sure

PALIKA
Guest

I have found another source on Nol.hu, but it is in Hungarian.

webber
Guest

Ignore Hungarian news on events and individuals outside Hungary. So many things are misinterpreted into Hungarian, or misunderstood by Hungarian journalists, that everything written in Hungarian about what happens outside Hungary should be taken with a large grain of salt.

PALIKA
Guest

Too sweeping. I gave you the nol.hu reference because it confirmed my earlier source which I could not track down when you asked. The basic message is the same and if, as is likely Soros is accurately reported, it is common sense. She slipped up.

webber
Guest

OV does not have a supporter in Orban. That was the part of your statement I disagreed with, and challenge you to find any but a Hungarian source on that (n.b. not too sweeping, not by a long shot – I’ve been reading Hun. papers for decades)

PALIKA
Guest

See Tyrker below. Ok?

webber
Guest

Doesn’t say Soros supports anything Orban did or said, does it?
You wrote : “It seems OV has a new supporter in Soros.”
That is laughable.

PALIKA
Guest

What I tried to say is that Soros thought M messed up. I agree with him. So does OV. That seems to me to be a pretty good consensus.

Tyrker
Guest

Really, Wolfi. “Angela Merkel’s open-door policy CAUSED the migrant crisis, furious George Soros blasts”
http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/684723/Angela-Merkel-open-door-policy-caused-Migrant-crisis-George-Soros-EU

Guest

The Express???
I wouldn’t believe anything of the garbage that lunatic paper writes …

If you want to have fun or get angry at the Brits’ idiocies just read the comments …

PS:
That nonsense is only being reported by extreme right wing lunatics like breitbart etc (just google it) – serious sources have a totally different story:
http://www.businessinsider.my/soros-brexit-has-unleashed-a-crisis-as-bad-as-2008-2016-6/#YcedMt4YXD51IYzc.97

Istvan
Guest
Jean-Claude Juncker well deserves to come in for criticism on multiple levels. Holding up Juncker in any manner as a leader in the EU after what Luxembourg has been done in the Luxleaks case where former PricewaterhouseCoopers employees Antoine Deltour and Raphael Halet received 12 and nine-month sentences respectively yesterday for leaking documents on how Luxembourg promoted tax evasion really gives me pause. Many of these tax evasion laws in Luxembourg were of course drafted by JC Juncker himself. Moreover, tax rulings for corporations wanting a tax haven secured in Juncker-run Luxembourg were so generous to as to amount to illegal state aid on the part of the tiny nation based on EU rules. Juncker is poison for the EU and his tough talk about the consequences of the U.K. exit prior to the vote added to the exit vote just because of his arrogance. He is a total liar when a day ago he told the media he had stayed out of the national UK debate at British prime minister David Cameron’s request. In fact he made repeated flippant public comments about how the UK would be hostilely treated if they exited. David Cameron told EU leaders two years… Read more »
petofi
Guest

A Possible Brit Scenario.

I am reminded of a time, I think it was in the 60s, when Prime Minister Pearson lost a budget vote in the parliament. Tradition had it that the government was to resign and call an election. Pearson said, ‘no’ and continued to rule as before.

Now what about the next British PM declining to act on the referendum? Surely there must be a way out…

PALIKA
Guest

This is very complicated. Some think that there maybe legal challenges. Some say the vote to trigger Article 50 should itself be subject to another referendum and some say that the final terms when ironed out by the EU and the UK should be put to a referendum.
One thing is clear though that it is a mess. The two Tories, Gove and BoJo are such a form of low life that makes one wonder by what standards they live. Bojo is a well known repeat liar who just makes it up as he goes along. Gove’s conduct is beyond belief. Ratted on his close family friend, DC. Then he shafted his new found friend and allie in treachery, BoJo.

The Labour opposition is a disaster. They are unlikely to win any election, but did we not think that Leave would win?

It is a dark time in Brittain. It seems like that the patients have taken over the asylum.

webber
Guest

The way out would be anti-democratic. Sure you want that?
I think, if you are a democrat, you have to accept the results of the referendum and move on from there, asap. Like it or not. It’s what the majority wanted.
To those who say the majority didn’t know what they were voting for – I say nonsense. Remain people had all the chances in the world to get their message across. Hell, the EU even weighed in – the dwarf of the EU, Viktor O, even took part.
Remain made its case. People said they want to leave.

If you want to overturn democracy… well… I know what I think about that.
People have the right to make bad decisions in a democracy. If we did not have the right to make the wrong choices, there would be no freedom whatsoever.

PALIKA
Guest

Democracy is a flexible concept,and referendums do not readily fit into the traditional British model. I am not clear what part of my message attracts your strictures. However, the possibility of challanges in the courts cannot be regarded as undemocratic since we do not have rule by the majority, but the rule of law. Judges are highly sensetive not to trespass into tricky political issues.
Since the UK has no culture of government by referendum. The implications of a vote either way were and still are largely speculative. The deal reached after the Article 50 negotiation will fill in much of the missing jigsaw. What is undemocratic about putting that to the voters. Not necessarily in a referendum but perhaps in a general election.

But Mrs May is not likely to run with any of this.

webber
Guest

No, not speculative. The government said the referendum would be binding before it came to the vote. That was a promise.
Why would you hold a referendum otherwise? A referendum that is not binding is no referendum. It is called a public opinion poll.

Can you tell me of any referenda in Britain’s past in which the results were not honoured?

You can be a cavalier if you like, but I will warn you that the roundheads always win in the end.

webber
Guest

“…reversing legislation approved by referendum would be unprecedented.”
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Referendums_in_the_United_Kingdom

PALIKA
Guest

The consequences of either way are speculative. No one knows where we are heading.
There is no such thing in UK as a binding referendum. Parliament cannot even bind its successor. Hence the need for a constitution like that of the USA. No chance because the place is run as “banana monarchy”. The European institutions have provided us with the next best thing. Human Rights and the ECJ. The rubbish that we are dictated to by “foreign unelected judges” stops our rights being the play thing of the way politicians see the “public interest” which is often where their political interest lies.
Getting out of the EU is the clear issue of the referendum. What does that mean was not on the ballot paper. For example: what is the extent of access to the single market going to be and on what terms. No doubt we will find out, but I would like a say in whether I agree.

webber
Guest

Unfortunately the terms of Brexit do not depend solely on the British government. What EU member states are willing to give is the question.
Britain has announced her intention to leave the club, and stop paying dues, but also says she would like to keep some of the benefits of club membership. Takes some cheek. Which are the benefits Britain wishes to keep, and if EU members are willing to consider that, what is the price the other EU members will demand for those benefits? Those are the questions.
You can’t leave the Bonkers’ Club and expect continued free access to the bar.

Roderick Beck.
Guest

It is not legally binding. In fact, elected representatives have an obligation to consider the consequences of such a dumb move.

Observer
Guest

@webber
“..you want to overturn democracy.. ”
I have to correct u here :
1. The referendum isn’t binding for the Parliament.
2. Many important issues are decided by qualified majority, e. g. 2/3, particularly if they change the status quo.
3. In every legal forum – courts, gov administration , Parliamentary commetties, etc , decisions are made upon veritable data and premises.
4. In politics – government, legislation, in legal proceedings and in business decisions considered eranous or simply bad are corrected as a matter of course.

All these cases are within the frame of the democratic process.

The above said, I think the EU has to face the challenge (UK ‘s tribulations notwithstanding) and use the occasion to reform itself and strengthen it’s institutions.

webber
Guest

Stop fudging. Government said the referendum results would be binding before the results came in.
When is parliament overturning the results of a referendum ever democratic? (A referendum allowed by parliament, may I remind you).

webber
Guest

P.S. And I also don’t like the results of the Brexit refendum, but I’ve lived enough of my life in a democracy to know that accepting the results of an election that I do not like is democratic. Nobody gets everything s/he wants. I can recall other referenda that did not go as I wished, but I accepted the decisions as democratic.
Ignore this referendum result, and you will be shaking the foundations of democracy. I’m not the only one saying this. There are plenty of British commentators arguing the same – people who voted Remain.

Observer
Guest

What I’m swing is that there legal ways in both directilns, so the the exit decision will be a political one,

webber
Guest

allowing the Referendum was the political decision. Refusing to implement the decision brought by referendum would also be political, yes, in the terms that instituting a dictatorship is also political.

Observer
Guest

Correct

What I’m saying…

Roderick Beck.
Guest

No fudging at all. If Cameron ignored it, he faces no legal repercussions.

Roderick Beck.
Guest

The referendum is not binding. It probably violates the Spirit of Democracy, but hardly the letter.

Direct democracy plays to democracy’s weakness – Every Man. Representative democracy yields better results most of the time.

webber
Guest
Fudging! The Prime Minister promised the voters before the referendum – a referendum that he brought to the voters – that he would respect their wishes, as expressed by their votes. He and plenty of others campaigned hard against Brexit. The facts were presented to the voters. What do you think a referendum is for? To be honored only if the result you want is achieved? Sorry, it does not work that way. You lot who think you can ignore the results of a referendum when it suits you are not democrats. As to your personal allergy to direct democracy- well, Roderick Beck, I suggest you never move to Switzerland or to any of the 26 US states that have citizens initiatives, or popular referendum laws (almost ALL of the Western states). Just stay out of Arizona, California, Idaho, Oregon, Montana, Washington, N. and S. Dakota -in fact, take my advice and stay well east of the Mississippi because you plainly think westerners are populist yahoos, and we out there will recognize you for what you are, and I am not going to use the term here because it’s impolite. I come from a state that has referendum items on… Read more »
webber
Guest

P.S. Roderick Beck – for an example of the lousy results, the truly horrific results representative democracy can bring, may I suggest you look at Hungary….

Observer
Guest

@webber

Cool off, you seem to recognize someone not for what he is.

Again, the point here is that in politics promises are broken everywhere and pretty often, but not the law. Crucial difference between being judged and punished at the next elections or in a criminal law court.
There are various theories about this, Newt Gingrich played with the interesting idea of casting the promises in the form of a “contract with the American people”, which would have been legally binding.

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