Are security agents recruiting informants in media outlets?

The usually well-informed 444.hu published a story that has shaken the world of the Hungarian media. It was about an unnamed journalist (G.) who in December 2015 was approached by two men identifying themselves as agents of the Alkotmányvédelmi Hivatal (AH) or, in English, the Constitution Protection Office. According to the organization’s website, the primary duty of the office is the defense of the constitutional order against illegal attempts to overthrow it. These attacks may come from “extremist religious groups or organizations established on an anti-democratic ideological basis. For information gathering and observation AH can use secret service means and methods.”

G. was approached on the street on his way to his newspaper’s editorial office. The men said they wanted to talk to him about matters concerning his own “safety.” Although G. wanted to have the conversation right there, the two men insisted on going elsewhere. There he was confronted with intimate details of his and his family’s private life. He was told that the information was collected not by their own office but by “someone else with harmful intent.” They could help him but only if G. would be willing to cooperate. They kept insisting that he sign a long-term cooperative agreement to report to them. He didn’t find out what he was supposed to report to AH’s secret service men. He simply refused to sign. But he did agree to a second meeting because he was hoping to learn more about what the two agents were after. At this second meeting, somewhat more composed, G. told the AH agents that he intended to go to the police and file charges against the unnamed person who allegedly collected secret information on his private life. The men tried to get information out of G. about his contacts and sources, but G. refused to cooperate or to sign anything. And that was that. When 444.hu went to the ministry of interior responsible for the secret services, the spokesman for the ministry didn’t deny that such an encounter had taken place. He simply copied out the appropriate passages from the laws governing the functioning of the office. It was all legal, he insisted.

People familiar with the methods of the secret service during the Kádár regime recall that this kind of blackmail was a classic way to force unwilling people to cooperate with the ministry of interior’s infamous III/III department. Using so-called “sensitive material” from people’s private lives, according to experts, is still allowable today. But this information could be exploited only if “the security of Hungary were in immediate danger,” which was certainly not the case here.

By the next day journalists began to express their fears that G.’s encounter with the agents of AH might not be unique and asked themselves how many such willing or unwilling recruits are already in the editorial offices of media outlets. In the last few months quite a few suspicious stories came to light indicating that agents keep a tab on politicians and journalists. In 2014 the police confiscated a journalist’s cellphone in the hope of getting information on his sources. In May 2016 the police listened in on the telephone conversations of a journalist from Blikk. Benedek Jávor, PM member of the European Parliament, became aware that a third person was listening to his telephone conversations.

Naturally, all opposition parties protested, and the socialist chairman of the parliamentary committee on national security promised to discuss the matter next Thursday. The ministry and the head of AH will be called to report on the case. I don’t expect much from this meeting. Zsolt Molnár, the socialist chairman, usually accepts the disinformation that government agencies dump on the committee.

As I was gathering material for this post I recalled, though only in the vaguest of terms, a report about the ministry of interior’s failed attempt to make it legal to plant members of the secret service in editorial offices. Soon enough I unearthed the story. On November 4, 2015 Index discovered the offensive section in a 34-page amendment package to the law on the status of the various branches of the police. ¶38 listed the organizations that must have working relations with the national security establishment: telegraphic and postal service, energy suppliers, firms connected to the armaments industry. There is nothing surprising in this list thus far, but what made the journalists of Index stop was the mention of “content providers” (tartalomszolgáltatók). No definition of content providers was given but, according to the normal understanding of the phrase, it includes print and internet news sites as well as radio and television stations.

government-spying2

It took only a few hours for Sándor Pintér’s ministry to announce that “the Hungarian opposition was deliberately misinterpreting” the text. “It only allows what was already in force.” Members of the national security apparatus are already employed in the offices of telecommunication services. As Index pointed out, there are two problems with this denial. One is that in the law on the media “tartalomszolgáltató” is defined as “any media service provider or supplier of other media content.” The other difficulty is that if this provision “was already in force,” either it was being applied illegally or, if it was legal, why did the government want to create a new law to provide for it?

The upshot, I believe, is that Sándor Pintér indeed wanted to create a law that would allow the government to legally place agents in the offices of radio and TV stations, newspapers, and internet news providers but the opposition and the media discovered that crucial paragraph and the government had to retreat.

That was in November in 2015, and about a month later G. had his encounter with the two AH agents. I can’t help thinking that there is a connection between the failed attempt of the ministry of interior to change the law on national security and the effort of the two agents to recruit G. If that hypothesis is correct, we can be pretty certain that G. was not the only journalist approached. He had the guts to say no, although it took him almost a year to gather his courage and come forward with the story of his encounter.

It is unlikely that the upheaval will end here. G. is being encouraged to file charges. It is also possible that others will come forth with similar stories. But no matter what happens, the case will have a chilling effect on the already frightened journalists whose opportunity to ply their trade honestly and independently is shrinking in Orbán’s Hungary.

September 9, 2016
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Guest

London Calling!

Every Hungarian journalist should use burner phones for their sensitive journalism – not that much is created.

Orban’s ministries have no limits to who they monitor – and every telecommunications company must give remote access to their systems.

This remote access is not subject to any legal constraints except that they are obliged to provide it.

The telecoms companies themselves are not allowed to know who is being monitored – but have the ability to see what queries the ministries are running from system logs and ‘cpu’ usage.

There is no balanced parliamentary scrutiny or legal overview – nor data-protection ‘protection’ in Hungary.

In England the RIPA act ensures there are all three – however controversial.

It has long been suspected that Orban tracks his potential rival politicians using these resources – and I believe this is why he has a hold over the opposition parties in Parliament – and is key to how, extremely unusually in any democracy, he gets them to cooperate.

No. The 1960′s communist informer network is alive and kicking in Hungary.

There are enough ‘old informers’ around to keep the system going and this ‘Communism Overrun’ will continue for a very long time.

Long Live Kadar!

webber
Guest

It’s not just the old informers. There are also new new informers. I know from students in Hungarian universities that some of them are recruited to report. They are, for example, asked to take recordings (using phones) of lectures by people who might be anti-Fidesz. All this is in the name of patriotism, of course.

Guest

Re: the AH

This is indeed a ‘chilling’ piece. It has grave repercussions towards the interest of free discourse in the society and for the relationship of the people to each other. ‘Trust’ in the society will be damaged once again with the concept of ‘informers’. In a supposed ‘democratic’ society no less. ‘Security’ look to be now the catch-all to put news practice into a very narrow vise.

Curious if any of those in the AH or those running them have delved into their historical memories. Their previous ‘cousins’ the AVO were quickly an endangered species after engaging in their occupation and being in the wrong place at the wrong time for ‘a few minutes’ relatively speaking. No quarter was given to those individuals. Pleading for their lives couldn’t save them after feeling the absolute rage of the population. They were shot down like dogs. Can the wheel turn round once again in the country? I don’t know but if it does it could bring on another nightmare.

Jean P.
Guest

Fidesz probably doesn’t mind that this story came out. It adds to the mistrust among people.

Guest

Why does this remind me of a famous Hungarian movie?

“A Tanú”

Now that we are back in Kádár times, the next step might be a return to Rákosi methods …

ÁVO for anyone?

BMO
Guest

Still (with a huge exclamation point), the electorate could not care less, neither does the toothless EU, reasons for which we should be alarmed; to put it lightly.

Besides you can’t expect the EU to launch a full fledged attack on Orban at times when the populace appears to broadly support the regime; while at the same time Orban is a potent antihero that some forces in the EU are incentivized to keep in power, not for ideological reasons, but in order to leverage him for their own political good.

We will not see unanimous EU action (even if Orban turns Hungary into a Putinesque paternal autocracy), until the German opposition or even the Brits keep cozying up with him..

webber
Guest

You are quite wrong. Since 2014 the electorate has shown in by-election after by-election that they have had enough. Fidesz loses, loses, and loses these elections DESPITE the fact that the opposition is so divided and useless, and DESPITE the fact that Fidesz rules the media.
And please don’t make the error in logic that some have been making here – when people vote for this stupid referendum, do not assume it is a vote for Fidesz. It is not. It is a single-issue referendum.

I can tell you, from personal experience, that hatred of Fidesz is incredibly widespread and very deep now. Inside Budapest, you risk being assaulted verbally anywhere, and even physically in certain districts at night if you wear clothing with Fidesz symbols on it. Outside Budapest people are afraid to speak openly – but fear does not mean love. Far from it. People hate what they fear, and what they fear is Fidesz.

webber
Guest

P.S. If nothing else good comes out of Brexit there is this – the British right is leaving the European Parliament for good, and with this some of Orban’s greatest supporters are leaving.

As to other support (hello Wolfi), in my view Merkel and her supporters have a lot to answer for. Merkel’s party has stopped actions against Orban again and again (look at the record), because Orban is in her fraction in the European Parliament. If Merkel were to demand it, Fidesz could be ejected from that fraction tomorrow, and if Fidesz were not in it, Fidesz could no longer offer Merkel and others quid-pro-quos in the form of votes in the EP. Without that, the EP would and could act against Orban’s regime.

With power comes responsibility. Ms. Merkel is the most powerful politician in Europe today. She deserves a good part of the blame for Europe’s inability to act against Orban.

Guest

It’s always someone else’s fault – didn’t know that you subscribe to this too, Webber.

Btw Mrs Merkel has often said that she doesn’t agree with what the Hungarian government does – but what to do about it?

Mrs Merkel is no dictator and she has a lot of enemies – even in her own party, especially though in the Bavarian CSU.

So don’t expect too much from her!

She has probably known for a long time about this and anyway she doesn’t have to much to say on the workings of the EPP in the European Parliament.
There are interesting times ahead!

PS and rather OT (or not?):

The Brits are in for another surprise – the EU will probably force them to get visa if they want to come into the EU as tourists etc after Brexit – or they’ll settle on something like the US Visa Waiver Program aka ESTA, where you get your waiver online – after paying a certain sum …

For us Europeans it’s 14$ to be allowed to enter the US – for two years, each visit no longer than 90 days …
http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/sep/09/britons-may-have-to-apply-to-visit-europe-under-eu-visa-scheme

Guest

Just found an analysis of the costs of Brexit – for Germany in our SPIEGEL.
http://www.spiegel.de/wirtschaft/soziales/brexit-wolfgang-schaeuble-fuerchtet-hoehere-eu-beitraege-fuer-deutschland-a-1111653.html
Several billions of €s a year – unless the EU will be saving money …

So reducing the amount of money that goes to Hungary, Poland etc might be a step to take – how do you like that, Fidesz?

webber
Guest

No, Wolfi, I did not say that what is happening in Hungary is anyone else’s fault. Read what I wrote again. It is nobody’s fault but Fidesz and, laterally, those who voted for Fidesz in 2014 (in 2010 people could have been naive – not many saw this coming).

Please don’t try to wriggle, for whatever strange reason (German national pride?) out of what I did say. That is, Merkel and her party have been protecting Orban in the EU.

I KNOW she has criticized him, in words, but what has she done in practice?

There was an initiative to throw Orban out of the EPP. What happened? Merkel’s party voted, to a man, to keep Fidesz in the EPP fraction.

Shame on you, Ms. Merkel (and shame on you, Wolfi, if you want to pretend this is not shameful).

Guest

Webber, what could Mrs Merkel have “done”?
I don’t see what good it might have been, throwing Fidesz out and then having Fidesz join the British conservatives and the Polish “Law and Justice”.

You might as well ask the Conservatives about their group in the EP …

Merkel is very pragmatic – she has to be, her coalition is not the strongest!
Just look at this:
http://www.eppgroup.eu/press-release/Hungary%3A-EPP-Group-firmly-opposed-to-death-penalty

Btw one of the EPP spokespersons is Monika Hohlmeier, daughter of (in)famous Franz Josef Strauß.

PS:
Anyway I’m not a CDU sympathizer, I prefer the Greens.

webber
Guest
Wolfi, you are a logical person, so think again: What could throwing them out of that group have done? A HELL of a lot. It would have been a huge blow to their prestige. But more importantly, it would have ended their ability to influence quite a lot from the inside. Fidesz would have been made a pariah party. The EPP is one of the European Parliament’s biggest fractions. Getting thrown out of that is a big deal. As to what you said about Merkel’s pragmatism: Well, there is a point beyond which that becomes appeasement. I think we both know and understand why appeasement was the wrong policy many, many decades ago, and why it is considered morally repugnant now. And the case now is even stronger. Germany is in more than an alliance with Hungary. The EU is far more than an alliance. If you believe in European solidarity, then you do have a sort of responsibility surely (don’t get me wrong – only Hungarians are to blame for what Fidesz is doing to Hungary; but Germans are surely responsible for how their government responds to that — If you don’t believe in solidarity, then pardon me. That’s… Read more »
Guest

Webber, it’s very simple:
If Merkel goes, we might get a government more to the right …
She is a conservative, but for me she is the lesser evil – for some of the right wingers she’s a “leftist”.
Did you know that there are conspiracy theories that she is from a Polish Jewish family and was trained by the secret police to undermine the opposition to the Communist regime?

pappp
Guest

Let’s face it: Merkel has been a reliable enabler of Orban, who is absolutely no better than your average African or Central-Asian kleptocrat.

Orban’s minions probably – let’s add:thus far – killed fewer people (Andras Varadi, Tamas Welsz and a few more) than said dictators, but that’s it.

The looting, the corruption, the methods I tell you any African dictator could be proud of those. Seriously.

Only this is happening inside the EU. From German taxpayer’s money, with the tacit approval and encouragement of Frau Merkel. Vielen Dank!

Guest

Now come on!

So it’s only Mrs Merkel – is she the EU’s dictator?
You expect too much from the EU …
And of course the whole EU “leadership” is to blame – but they have bigger problems, for them Hungary is just “peanuts”!

Just for comparison:
The democratic USA assists the most horrendous governments – let’s start with Saudi Arabia – why?

The answer is obvious …

PS:

Of course I don’t agree with the EU’s leniency re Fidesz! But what am I to do?
I’ve never voted for those “Christian” politicians (or their coalition partners) in my life!

webber
Guest

No, again, Wolfi. Nobody here said Merkel was a dictator. Nobody said anything even remotely like that.
What I said, and what Pappp also said even more directly, is that Merkel has been a dictator’s enabler.

If she keeps people like Orban as allies, then… to hell with her!

And to hell with German politics too, if allowing a dictator in Europe to do what he wants is just “pragmatic politics” for Germans.

Merkel could, tomorrow, have Orban kicked out of the EPP. She could within a month have funds to Orban cut off.

Has she tried to do either? To the contrary, her party has kept Orban’s party in the EPP fraction, and her party has blocked attempts to cut funding for Hungary.

She is supporting a dictator. Shame on Germany.

webber
Guest

As to the US assisting horrendous governments – you are right. Germany is doing that too (arms sales from Germany to many interesting countries). But then those governments are not in a super-state structure with the US or Germany, are they?
Hungary is, with Germany. This is a bit more serious than doing business with a country far away with no free travel to Germany. This is in the EU.
Shame on Merkel!
Germans should demand that she stop supporting Orban. This dictatorship is in the EU.

Guest
Interesting info, wolfi. (thanks btw for your recent vicarious, possibly inadvertent support!) But German (and other nationalities) visitors to the UK will be in for a shock too. There is much talk here of quid pro quo solutions. If the EU introduces any border controls such as visas or passport checking and fees – then the UK government will reciprocate (retaliate). If the principal of Schengen is so precious then it would be a test of integrity and honesty if visas were introduced – and entirely consistent with the levels of vindictiveness that are bubbling under the surface in Europe. Remember too that the UK is the second biggest economy in the EU – and we buy much much more from Europe than you buy from us. This is not propaganda – figures from the esteemed FT demonstrate it. I’m sure tappanch has the figures at his fingertips. The UK has a tradition of fairness – it was only when Hitler started sending the V2 rockets which were silent and deadly – after the more avoidable V1s that Churchill said the ‘gentlemanly’ phase was over. What followed was the bombing of German civilians instead of military targets. We won’t get… Read more »
Guest
And btw when visitors come to the UK they can use our roads and stop at our service stations for free. Generally no tolls. At motorway service stations you get endless supplies of HOT water and decent toilet seats for free! And loo paper too. During a long journey it is a joy to have a hot facial wash in clean facilities. In Austria – you pay 8€ to use the roads with concomitant unclean facilities and in Germany you get charged 70cents just to use the loos – and there is NEVER any hot water! (Never! I once joined a cafe queue and asked for the manager who insisted I was wrong – a very friendly German translated for me and the ‘engineer’ was called and we followed him even into the ladies’ looking for the elusive hot water! None to be found. I insisted on my 70 cents back – and got it. I have since never experienced hot water at these ‘Sanitaire’ facilities – useless and not even clean.) The stainless steel – toilet-seat free WCs in lay-bys are disgusting and filthy with excrement and urine all over the floor! And NEVER any toilet paper. If there… Read more »
Guest
Charlie, I remember from my (probably more than a hundred, mostly by car …) visits to the UK that I always had to show my passport and sometimes they would even search my car on arrival at the port in Dover! Rather OT: I used to buy Science Fiction books in London, went there three times a year with my car and always brought lots of German beer to my friends at the Forbidden Planet bookshop – for that they often got the authors to sign books to me, even though I wasn’t at the signing). Once the lady boss of the customs people insisted on me emptying my car’s boot (at five o’clock in the morning …) so her helpers told me not to worry and took out all 150 cans of beer – there wasn’t much else in the car, I only went to London for a shopping weekend, staying with my friends … In the end she broke one of her fingernails trying to pry open the engine air filter – yes, I had to open the engine room too … Her “boys” looked at me, almost couldn’t keep from laughing … You find these people everywhere.… Read more »
webber
Guest

Charlie – don’t be silly.
Austrians pay the same fees as you do when you drive through Austria. Conditions are the same for Germans as they are for you when you go through Germany.

Toll roads are not set up against foreigners. They are a pain in the neck for natives of those countries, too.

It would be idiotic to charge foreigners for roads, etc. given for free to Brits. That is the sort of thing communist dictatorships did.

There are parallels for this elsewhere. For example, in a couple of the Western US states there are no toll roads or bridges at all and never will be because those state’s constitutions make taking tolls on roads or bridges illegal.
In other Western states there ARE toll roads and bridges.

Should those with no tolls start charging people from states where there are tolls? Of course not.

Guest
A recent news item – which I hope to locate – dwelt on how the German’s are considering introducing road tolls – for foreigners – because of the tolls German’s have to pay in Europe. They know this is currently against EU rules but they are attempting to progress it. It may be on the horizon. I know it’s not possible – yet – to have a differential charge for motorway use. But morally and in fairness it can’t always be one sided like it currently is. I equate it with ‘fair competition’ – if it costs a country more to transport their products because of local policies then their ought to be a standard model – this is one of the good principles of the EU. Sort out the motorway model – especially road tolls. Hungarians who come to the UK are met with an amazing technicolour of cats eyes – red, white, orange and green with safety rumble strips that have saved many lives. Hungary’s motorways are mainly two-lane death traps built with EU money. How can this be? Entering Germany and you have the glorious autobahns – death traps because of the number of suicidal Germans who… Read more »
Guest

Talking of German autobahns – recent journeys have experienced horrendous contra-flows that have significantly increased journey times and safety.

However the balance is changing and we are now reaping the benefits of amazing civil engineering.

(And boy do the German’s make up for lost time on them too!)

I am at a loss though about the absence of multi-coloured cat’s eyes and rumble strips that save so many lives – especially in the dark.

Guest
Charlie, funny that you should mention the German plans for a motorway toll – just for foreigners. I wanted to bring that up too. This plan is the child of the right wing CSU boss of Bavaria – Mr Seehofer who really should know that it’s against EU law! So he got the idea to reduce the tax on cars for Germans – and then introduce this toll so for Germans it would be effectively zero … Now the German and EU tax experts immediately countered that this would be against EU laws too – so it’s off. And it’s no coincidence that Mr Seehofer also is against Mrs merkel’s policies and applauds Orbán – in my eyes he’s a kind of “fascist light”! Maybe I’ve written about this already: This proud Christian is against same sex marriage – because every child should have a father and a mother … But he got his secretary in Berlin pregnant and then returned to his wife in Bavaria! And he asked his Catholic priest if they couldn’t burn that woman at the stake because she was a witch and had bewitched him to have sex with her – but the priest said:… Read more »
Guest

Webber?

Have a gander at this!

(“Don’t be silly, Charlie”!)

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-33191332

webber
Guest

Absolutely sickening. Germans are as insane as everyone else, it seems. That is lunacy of the sort that E. European countries had under communism.

webber
Guest

The Brits will not have a worse deal with the US after Brexit. They will certainly still be in the visa waiver program.

As to someone’s comments about Schengen (Charlie’s?): Since Britain was never in Schengen, and since there always were border checks entering or leaving Britain from Schengen countries, not much will change.

I recently crossed a Schengen border and saw to my surprise that many Brits are already standing in the line with Canadians, Americans, Chinese, and other non-EU citizens. They did not go to the EU line, though the UK has not yet left the EU. Since the non-EU line actually moved faster than the EU line, they made a good choice. Those in the EU line had their pictures taken, and their retinas and passports scanned by a very strange machine. Those in the non-EU line showed their passports to some friendly, but bored fellows who worked very efficiently and quickly (US border control could learn something from these people).

Guest

Interesting obs!

However I never claimed that the UK is part of Schengen – just pointed out that if Schengen is such an integral principle then it could hardly be right to inflict heavy border controls – and fees – on the British knowing that they could hardly not retaliate on their own ‘EU citizens’?

Guest

Why retaliation?
The Brits have always had strict border controls also for EU members – why should the EU be different?
It seems to me that the little englanders still believe they should get better treatments than their partners …

pappp
Guest

I totally agree. UK’s leave is a great blessing for the EU and especiaoly for Hungarians as Hungary will have no “mentor” or whatever in the EU. No great power will by default help Orban just because he is anti-EU. That’s an important thing.

BMO
Guest
Webber, I do not think that our views here are materially opposed. While I certainly have zero knowledge about political sentiment on the streets of Budapest, I think the real mistake here is to extrapolate the very extreme disenchantment of the educated (or informed, even enlightened) and thus assume that overturning the regime would be possible in a year or so. There are hundreds of thousands in the country that are incentivized to stay dormant, by way of ascribing the overinflated size of the government and the grim future of their job security. (As the following government would have no other option but to curb the overstaffed money-sink you call the Fidesz-style Hungarian public sector) It also helps tremendously that the government has created an extremely efficient system of removing non-Fidesz sympathizers from all facets of the public sector. Pacifying them has also happened through bumping up the salaries of teachers, policeman and, naturally, providing soviet style work programmes that add zero value to the country, yet establish a lifeline for many in exchange for silence and loyalty. I would be the happiest person if this wasn’t true, but I very strongly suspect that by having divided the teachers, having… Read more »
webber
Guest

I don’t assume from the educated – I look at what happened in by-elections, which are the only sure sign of how people are feeling.

In fact, these are now the only sure sign since public opinion poll data is skewed, first intentionally, second because people who are afraid are lying.

In addition to looking at by-elections, I listen to what I hear on the streets, and I can tell you, people HATE Fidesz.

pappp
Guest

In countryside this is not true unfortunately and even if they hate Fidesz such people might still vote for Fidesz (if they prefer Fidesz over the opposition). Moreover there are 800,000 ethnic Hungarian voters from who the half will be channeled into Fidesz’s machinery. Budapest is totally comartmentalized, that they hate Fidesz means nothing. If you talk to people in rural Zala and Bács-Kiskun and they say they hate Fidesz and are happy to vote for anybody then you are right. I haven’t been seeing that unfortunately e.g. in Western Veszprém country two weeks ago Fidesz was popular as well as Jobbik of course. Rural Hajdú-Bihar a month ago detto. Sorry to disappoint.

webber
Guest

Pappp, in the countryside Fidesz has been losing by elections. Look at the record. Before the elections, polls show Fidesz is loved. On election day, the majority votes against Fidesz. People are lying.
I am happy to inform you that people in the parts of the countryside I regularly visit REALLY hate Fidesz now.

webber
Guest

Pappp, it just struck me – Fidesz lost big in the last by-election in Veszprém. It was a HUGE loss.
Are you sure you were actually IN that town?
If you were, people lied heavily to you.

pappp
Guest

Western Veszprém county as I wrote. Tapolca is solidly Jobbik (that region I’m talking about). The region that is close to Zala county. I have yet to meet left-leaning people there, it’s seemingly an identity issue. I dunno, or they lie to me (and others).

petofi
Guest

@webber

You need to revisit your Machiavelli.
People are much easier to control through fear than love.

Guest

Completely O/T

Another reason why Orban won’t get the 2024 Olympics is the perception of how the disabled minority are treated in a country.

The Paralympics are now integrally linked to the main event.

I believe that the higher the number of medals attained in the Paralympics is a reflection on how the disabled are treated in a particular nation’s society.

Hungary is languishing 49th – joint last – in the medal tables.

Enough said.

Bowen
Guest

Not to mention that the refugee team will be completely sidelined in the Hungarian media, of course.

Or, perhaps we can look forward to Orban Viktor’s equivalent of the Jesse Owens moment in 1936?

webber
Guest

Sadly, no.
Russian Paralympic athletes have taken the majority of medals in many past games. Does this mean that the disabled are treated well in Russia?
Far from it.

Guest

I said ‘reflection’ leaving the reader to judge as to whether it is an accurate reflection or not.

I’m sure with China heading the table that this ‘reflection’ is not accurate either.

It is not an immutable rule – just an indication.

webber
Guest

Winning medals is never an indication of good treatment. Just ask Nadia Comaneci.

Istvan
Guest
First off I want to commend Webber and Wolfi for their exchange, it was respectful and informative for me. However, I think the British exit from the EU has to be seen within the context of the Apple taxation decision and the pending Luxembourg decision. There is a preliminary finding that a tax deal between Amazon and the Luxembourg government appears to amount to unfair state aid that may have enabled the company to underpay its taxes for a decade or more. That deal was cut by none other than JC Juncker. The United States Treasury Department formally responded to the Apple ruling stating it jeopardized “the important spirit of economic partnership between the U.S. and the E.U.” So when is a deal a deal or not a deal with a sovereign government? Now don’t get me wrong I do hate these tax break for job swaps, but once there is a deal in place you have to live with it or face the consequences of being an unreliable state partner with multinational corporations. Actually the Luxembourg deal was more repugnant because Amazon has no distribution center there creating jobs, but is only incorporated there. I think the British are… Read more »
Guest

Istvan?

Are you confusing the Irish Republic as being part of the UK?

They are not of course, and the rotten ‘Apple’ arrangement is their business.

I believe it is as rotten as those arranged by Juncker – but his integrity was shot through a long time ago.

He excludes sleepy dozy Luxembourg from the definition of ‘tax havens’.

Before the anti-Brits loose off – we are hardly innocents in these arrangements either – and I suspect if Frankfurt takes too much of the financials then we will retaliate as you suggest.

Like the Irish Republic.

“Welcome Google, Amazon, Facebook, et al! How much tax don’t you want to pay?”

Istvan
Guest
No not all Charlie, I am an Apple investor and have been for years by way of disclosure. The Irish Republic made a deal and now the EU wants it to abandon that deal and collect billions in taxes. There are implications for Hungary too which has similar deals with US firms. There are real problems with all of these tax avoidance deals that I don’t like, but a deal is a deal. That are fiscal implications for all US taxpayers not just Apple shareholders like myself. If you read this white paper issued by the US government two weeks ago https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/tax-policy/treaties/Documents/White-Paper-State-Aid.pdf you will see this passage that speaks to the implications for all US taxpayers : “There is the possibility that any repayments ordered by the Commission will be considered foreign income taxes that are creditable against U.S. taxes owed by the companies in the United States. If so, the companies’ U.S. tax liability would be reduced dollar for dollar by these recoveries when their offshore earnings are repatriated or treated as repatriated as part of possible U.S. tax reform. To the extent that such foreign taxes are imposed on income that should not have been attributable to the… Read more »
webber
Guest
A deal is a deal, you say? Well, it doesn’t quite work that way. If you and I make a deal that violates the law, it is null and void. That should be clear. Think about it – Here’s an example: If I have a retail shop in Alabama, and you – a businessman from another state – sell me wholesale goods, and bring them across the state lines for me very cheaply under the condition that I do not let a single black person into my door, what is likely to happen? What should happen? Sooner or later I should get into trouble, shouldn’t I? I’m quite likely to end up in court, I believe. Possibly federal court. Now, when I’m in court, do you think it’s going to help me one little bit if I wave our contract around and say “A deal is a deal! I signed this contract…. We have a deal your honor!” Will that help? Not at all. Now you’ll be in trouble, too, and I’ll still be in trouble. The EU’s version of a Federal court has determined that the deal Apple had with Ireland violated the EU’s version of Federal law. A… Read more »
Guest

When Apple does repatriate its stranded funds in Europe it will have to pay enormous US taxes.

At the moment it has only paid between €50 and €500 per €1,000,000 of profit made on European sales and it holds billions in its ‘offshore European coffers’.

This is strictly immoral, if not illegal, whilst piggybacking on the effective European infrastructure – paid for by every European!

Orban’s Hungary has shown that anything can be legal as long as it’s covered by ‘the law’ – backdated and modified to suit your dishonesty as necessary.

This is extreme tax evasion. How can it be right?

The Irish and Apple should have just paused a little before signing.

And the surrounding publicity will ensure that there will be an enormous boycott of Apple – on the very equipment they have hardly paid fair tax on.

I refuse to buy anything Apple – or connected with it.

It’s no wonder that TTIPP and other ‘initiatives’are failing.

The US and it’s multinationals want their cake and eat it – using their clout for dubious gains.

And Ireland should be ashamed of myself – more ‘successful’ than Juncker.

Guest

Btw Other multinationals without the clout have paid 12½% corporation tax in Ireland.

A good Roman Catholic country is the Republic!

As ‘honest’ as the day is long!

Wait til the Pope catches on.

But don’t hold your breath.

Istvan
Guest
Apple CEO Tim Cook told the critics of the company’s strategy to avoid paying U.S. taxes, via The Washington Post in a wide ranging interview that the company would not bring that money back from abroad unless there was a “fair rate” two weeks ago. This is also what Apple told its stock holders, including me, three days ago in our newsletter. It’s not coming back anytime too soon. It could even go to the UK if a deal can be worked out now that it’s outside the EU. Apple did recently announce that it will return $100 billion to shareholders over three years through a combination of dividends and purchases of its own shares. I will have to pay capital gains on my dividends in the tax year I receive them as will other stockholders. Legislation is also in the works for a repatriation holiday that would lower the rate on returned money to about 5.5% from about 35% for Apple and other firms. This has happened before by the way. It was likely Ireland that violated EU laws not Apple or for that matter not Amazon in the Luxembourg situation. Europe is overstepping its power, targeting American companies… Read more »
webber
Guest

Both Apple AND Ireland violated the law. That is the meaning of a contract. Those who are involved are responsible.

No problem with you criticizing Juncker.

But I’m sorry, I can’t agree with you on it being AOK for Apple to avoid paying taxes when the rest of us get stiffed with them.

If large corporations paid their share, we all – including large corporations – might have some significant tax reductions.

webber
Guest

P.S. When I was growing up, good Republicans paid their taxes as a patriotic duty. They really, really despised tax evaders, and would have been the first to denounce them.

They didn’t like taxes, mind you – but serving one’s country isn’t all fun and games.

What happened to that patriotism?

webber
Guest

Istvan – Europe is not targeting American. Europe’s tax authorities are targeting ALL companies and tax evaders.

FYI, Austria, Germany and Denmark are vigorously going after their own individual citizens who have hidden cash in tax havens.

So, from that perspective, the question should be, why shouldn’t the EU go after American tax evaders?

Juncker – we agree on him. A rotten apple, clearly.
There are people like that everywhere. I remember a few senators being involved in similar business back in Washington.

Istvan
Guest
In general the correct approach to the problem of tax avoidance would be going forward and not backwards Webber. You draw a line that says going forward the tax shelters created in Ireland and Luxembourg are illegal and take your incorporation to somewhere else effective this date. To seek the back taxes is indeed a money grab on the part of the EU. As to Repubicans paying their taxes here in the USA Webber. The tax code here is so complex for those of us worth significant money, meaning in the top quarter of income and assets in the USA, that it drives tax avoidance. The US Code is heavily controlled by lobbyists. More than 2,220 organizations spent an estimated $773 million hiring as many as 6,500 lobbyists to advocate on 1,454 tax-related bills in the 2011-2012 Congress, when code was last significantly revised. Webber even a liberal billionaire George Soros, who has called for higher levies on the rich while at the same time using tax loopholes to bolster his own fortune. Now I am not in the league with Soros, but I do mimic some of his practices like using trusts that are set up by the evil… Read more »
Guest

To make it short:

In the USA like in Hungary only the poor and stupid pay tax!

I still remember when I was a freelance consultant and my accountant told me once:
If you made a million instead of a hundred thousand I could tell you ways to reduce your income tax to almost zero …

The crazy side of this was that (even though I didn’t consider myself rich) on every extra Mark I made I had to pay at least 30% income tax …

webber
Guest

Istvan, you still don’t seem to understand that Apple and Ireland violated EU law. The law was already on the books before Apple and Ireland tried their nice little trick.

You can’t talk about ” You draw a line that says going forward the tax shelters created in Ireland and Luxembourg are illegal”

The line had already been drawn before Apple and Ireland made their little deal.

Violate federal law in the US, and what happens?
The same damned thing. Doesn’t matter if you have a contract with (say) California or Texas. You violate Federal law on an issue of federal jurisdiction – incl. taxes – and tough cookies. You can wipe your tush with that contract.

The same applies in the EU as in the US here.

tappanch
Guest

There are new developments in Syria that can affect Europe & Hungary.

The US has abandoned (or reduced the support to) the Syrian Kurds, and now Turkey will do the same to the various rebel groups in return for a Turkish-occupied “security zone”.

Since Assad+Iran+Russia are winning, there will be a new wave of Sunni refugees towards Turkey. Some will be absorbed in the security zone. Other will try to move to Europe.

In addition, Turkey is waging a war inside its own country against the Kurdish population. (its army has already destroyed several Kurdish neighborhoods inside Turkey). Kurdish pupils will also be without teachers for a while (more than 10,000 of their teachers were summarily fired yesterday).

So Europe will probably face Syrian Sunni and Turkish Kurdish waves of refugees of Assad’s and Erdogan’s design.

tappanch
Guest

Because of the low oil prices, unemployment and poverty is at record high level in Iraqi Kurdistan. “Nearly 680,000 people out of the estimated 5.5 million live on less than $87 per month.”

“At least three hospitals and a number of health centers are going to be shut down in the Kurdish city of Duhok due to a lack of physicians. In 2016 alone, around 100 physicians have left Duhok province and gone abroad”

In Afghanistan, Taliban and the local Da’esh are making gains. The Shi’a Hazaras are also singled out for persecution. (Some are recruited by Iran to fight in Syria, other want to go to Europe).

Politicians who do not like dictatorial “populists” like Orban, Kaczynski, LePen should be prepared to give answers to these real-life challenges.

pappp
Guest

Many thanks of making the connections with the article about planting spies into media organizations.

I haven’t seen that connection made in Hungarian media and although I read it too back then this new item did not bring back the memories of the old article.

That said, this must be the thing and I agree Zsolt Molnar, who is controlled by both Fidesz and the state security will do nothing. He is there where he is exactly to settle such nuisances.

tappanch
Guest

National Bank chairman Matolcsy employed his lover for more than 3 years at the bank for 1.7 million forints a month.
She also got board membership at various bank foundations.
Her mother and sister were also given lucrative jobs.

http://index.hu/gazdasag/2016/09/10/milliokert_szerzodtek_matolcsy_feltetelezett_szeretojenek_anyjaval_az_mnb-alaptvanyok/

http://nol.hu/belfold/matolcsy-gyorgy-mnb-valas-trafik-1631239
http://index.hu/gazdasag/2016/09/10/a_nepszabadsag_szamokat_kert_az_mnb-tol_de_matolcsy_valasa_volt_a_valasz/

petofi
Guest

It’s funny how attractive a little money can make a donkey’s ass like Matolcsy (or Trump, for that matter); but the real lure here for a wiley
Hungarian female is the potential to include family members in the
thieving group…

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