Is Viktor Orbán’s next project to undo the Treaty of Lisbon?

Today’s big news in Hungary is that Ildikó Csuhaj of Népszabadság learned “from a source close to the government” that, after a valid and successful referendum, Viktor Orbán is planning to move onto the larger stage of the European Union. There he is planning to lead the fight for a modification of the Treaty of Lisbon, the fundamental law of the European Union, also known as the Treaty on European Union (TEU).

For weeks now a guessing game has been going in the media and among opposition politicians about the real purpose of the referendum, which by itself doesn’t seem to serve any purpose. What kind of legislative act will follow a valid and successful referendum? After all, the people are ostensibly empowering the government to do something with the mandate. Will parliament be asked to vote on new amendments to the constitution or will it simply issue “a declaration of independence” of sorts as it did after the Tavares Report in 2013? The government, so the argument goes, will have to do something because otherwise it will become far too obvious that the referendum was not about the compulsory quotas and the Hungarian parliament’s sanctioning them but about something else.

If you ask the politicians of the Demokratikus Koalíció what purpose this referendum serves, they will tell you that it is about the eventual Hungarian exit from the European Union. As soon as no more money is coming from Brussels, Orbán will be only too happy to rid himself of the restraints imposed on him. Although I don’t doubt that there might come a time when Orbán would be inclined to say goodbye to Brussels, for such an eventuality he doesn’t need the results of a referendum today.

Many opposition politicians are inclined to think that the referendum is a kind of “trial election.” If more than half of the eligible voters go to the polls, it will be safe for Fidesz to consider holding elections sometime in early 2017. An added benefit would be that the opposition in 2017 would be even more divided and scattered than it presumably would be in 2018. Talk about Fidesz contemplating an early election is nothing new, though these predictions all turned out to be baseless. But now, people argue, this might become a reality. Jobbik politicians are already busy devising plans for such a possibility. Again, I don’t think that Fidesz needs a referendum to learn about its electoral support. Moreover, the party is politically savvy enough to know that the result of a referendum on the “migrants” cannot be translated into votes at a national election.

Viktor Orbán himself was rather secretive about his post-referendum plans in his September 18 radio interview when the reporter specifically asked him about “the legal [közjogi] consequences of a valid and successful referendum.” He indicated that he knows what the next step will be, but he doesn’t want to divert attention from the task at hand, the campaign for the referendum.

Csuhaj’s source claims that these “legal consequences” are not domestic in nature: “Orbán wants to enter the larger stage of Union politics for good” or, in the original, “Orbán végleg ki akar lépni az uniós politika nagyszínpadjára.” Such a decision, of course, has nothing whatsoever to do with “legal consequences” in the accepted meaning of the term. I also don’t know what to do with the word “for good” (végleg). It might simply be an ill-constructed sentence. Perhaps what she actually wanted to say was that “Orbán finally decided to enter the stage of European politics.”

In my reading, the information Csuhaj received about Orbán’s plans to change the fundamental law of the European Union might have been correct a few weeks ago, but I don’t believe that this is what he referred to in his interview when asked about the “legal consequences” of the referendum.

Csuhaj herself admits that there is nothing new about Orbán’s desire to change the TEU to give less weight to the European Parliament and the European Council and to strengthen the European Council of heads of member states. The first time he talked about it was very early in his second term as prime minister. After a summit in Brussels in October 2010 Orbán said at a press conference that with the present constitution post-2008 Europe cannot be governed. For years, however, he made no effort to promote the idea. He only talked about it at home.

The first time it looked as if he was seriously thinking about such a move and that he may even have had preliminary talks about it with David Cameron was in January 2016, at the time of the British prime minister’s visit in Budapest. Bence Tuzson, the government spokesman, gave a long interview to pestisracok.hu in which the reporter said: “If I understand it correctly, Hungary will initiate the modification of the fundamental law of the European Union.” To which Tuzson answered in the affirmative. “Yes, because Hungary has an interest in making sure that these documents and values should be in their proper places.” A couple of days later pestisracok.hu seemed to know that the modification of the TEU might be one of the topics discussed during the Orbán-Cameron exchange.

The official picture after the signing of the Treaty of Lisbon, 2007

The official picture after the signing of the Treaty of Lisbon, 2007

From the interview with Tuzson it is clear that at that point Orbán didn’t feel strong enough to propose such a modification without David Cameron. He emphasized that “we are no lone wolves,” but with the help of Great Britain Hungary was ready to face criticism or even scorn as a result of their upcoming fight. Well, it didn’t work out that way. Came Brexit and the departure of David Cameron, and Orbán had to set aside the project. A few months ago Népszabadság was told by a member of the government that Orbán has no intention of trying to force the issue of treaty modifications because “he so far hasn’t gotten involved in hopeless tasks.”

If Csuhaj’s source is correct, after a valid and successful referendum he would feel empowered to lead the battle for treaty modifications. At least this is what Fidesz stalwarts seem to think. But it is highly unlikely that this meaningless referendum would make such an impression on either Brussels or the other member states that they would be ready to sit down and negotiate with Viktor Orbán.

Csuhaj’s informer heard Orbán talk about this plan “in the past few weeks,” which I assume means before the Bratislava summit. Since for such an ambitious undertaking Orbán would need the solid backing of the Visegrád 4 countries, I wonder whether Orbán is still so sanguine about taking on Brussels anytime soon. The other three Visegrád 4 countries were less than thrilled with Orbán’s disapproving remarks about the Bratislava summit, and by now it seems pretty clear that Orbán doesn’t have the strong support of the group he pinned his hopes on. What he might be looking for is a sharp shift to the far-right in those countries where national elections will be held soon. But that’s a long shot.

In the meantime, we still don’t know what the possible legal consequences will be of a government victory in the referendum.

September 21, 2016
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e-2016
Guest

First, Hungary needs a legitimate government.

The rest can be easy.

tappanch
Guest

Mr/s X is a Hungarian citizen, does not have a Hungarian address, but her/his foreign address is not Romania or Serbia, but Britain.

S/he requested registration to vote. Registration is valid for 10 years, which makes her/him eligible to vote in the October 2 referendum and two elections.

On September 8, the National Election Bureau sent her/him a letter that her/his request was granted.

On September 13, the same Bureau sent a letter denying the request, because they “do not know where to send the ballot”

Both letters were sent to the same UK address.

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http://444.hu/2016/09/21/teljesen-osszezavarta-a-nemzeti-valasztasi-irodat-hogy-egy-angliai-magyar-jelentkezett-a-nepszavazasra

Guest

In the meantime, K still doesn’ t know what the possible legal consequences will be.

Guest

If you don’t know what the aim of the referendum is don’t vote.

Istvan
Guest
I don’t think PM Orban will be able to lead a movement for modification of the Lisbon Treaty rather he will be a follower of such a movement or maybe strangely eventually an opponent. It will likely be led by Marine Le Pen and the National Front if they do as well as they have been polling. Orban and the V4 simply don’t have the social weight to lead such a movement. Polls have shown that Le Pen will make it to the final round of the French presidential election next spring, but fall short of actually winning. But the parliamentary elections that follow are just as important, and could see Le Pen’s party make big gains. Some the anti-EU stance of the National Front is not just against Islamic immigrants, it’s also against EU citizens from the V4 and even wealthy Russians parading about the Côte d’Azur. The Front will likely have allies from other nations like the Freedom Party in Austria, the far-right Sweden Democrats party, Germany’s Alternative for Germany party, and on and on. The target is also Eastern Europeans and Orban will have a dilemma on his hands if the move to the right continues. Ildikó… Read more »
Warsaw guest
Guest
That’s why if Orban&co want the reform of the EU beneficial to them they need to hurry up. They must be first to show their proposal of the new treaty and as such they must try to set the tone of the up coming discussion. For Poland the problem with the new anti-EU movement in the “old” Europe is that not only they are against Central-Eastern Europe in terms of e.g. migration but also they are pro-Russian, what may pose existential threat to Polish interests. Poles do not see Hungary in that way, simply because Hungary is a much less powerful country then lets say France or Germany. I agree that the V4 alone doesn’t have the weight to pull this off, that’s why there are attempts to build a bigger coalition – with Austria, with Romania. There is also a question of what UK will do, while they are still members of the EU. While I agree that Hungary alone is weak in global politics, Orban is a very powerful and influential “brand” within some right-wing and conservative circles. I’d argue in this moment he is strong with V4’s strength, as long as the V4 stays united and the… Read more »
Guest

“Overall the change of the treaty will be extremely difficult but I wouldn’t write if off completely.”

You can safely write it off completely. It is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye than for a new treaty proposal to pass referenda in the member states where such are required.

Member

OT
While the Orban maffia spends billions of forints to advertise and entice hatred against the less than 1300 refuges the EU would like to settle in Hungary, they are shamelessly promoting to ANYONE their residency program. It is obvious that Orban does not want the refugees as it undercuts their program to make money on selling EU citizenship for money. As we know most of the real terrorist were financed from outside the EU, and most of them were EU citizens. Orban in fact opening the door to terrorists organizations to buy their way into the EU!!!! I hope the EU will take notice and stops this practice immediately!
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pappp
Guest

It’s one of the fundamental social laws that people with money have no race or religion. Only poor people have those.

Bowen
Guest

No, it is not a ‘fundamental social law’. I guess that wherever you’re from missed out on the Age of Enlightenment.

pappp
Guest

This is not my ideal but the sad reality, is what I meant.

All over the world people who have a lot of money are tolerated or even encouraged to come and spend/invest when the immigration systems of such countries are otherwise pretty tough.

If you are a Saudi prince about to burn 10-20m USD on a Manhattan condo or an flat in Knightsbridge you are most welcome, same if you are a Latin American oligarch.

If however you are a poor Pakistani or Honduran you are definitely not welcome, just try to obtain a visa to the US from San Pedro Sula aka the murder capital of the world, until 2016. The state forgives you for being a Muslim Arab or a Latino if you have money but holds against you if you are poor. That’s a fact which I hope you are not denying. Of course if you are a middle aged person worth 20m USD you are less likely to blow up stuff and run around knifing others (which are usually done by young, poor or middle class people).

Bowen
Guest

You seem to be trying to justifying the Orban regime by comparing it to other countries which “do the same”.

Firstly, it is simply not the case that “poor Pakistanis” are “definitely not welcome” in Western countries. Actually, if you speak to the average UKIP voter in the UK, he’d be talking about Eastern European workers. But still, the British state allows them in, last time I checked.

Secondly, find me one state (apart from Hungary) which “holds it against” a person for being a poor “Muslim Arab”. Find me one state which actively encourages its citizens, its children, to hate, to fear and demonise such people.

pappp
Guest

This is not what I meant and obviously no similar policy can relieve the responsibility of the Hungarian government. It is true that Hungarian government is by now overtly racist and is busy inciting hatred, other countries behave nicer but the point is the same, they welcome and encourage rich people to come and try to discourage poor ones.

I wouldn’t go into the UK situation about the supposed preference of poor Pakistanis over poor Polish, it’s more complex than that. There is a very complex psychological process in hating the people poorer than you (often those from other races and religions, thin of the black, gipsies, or Muslims) while being in a more ambivalent situation with the people richer than you (the Ferrari driving sheiks and the Brazilian oligarchs shopping at Gucci). You may dislike them, envy them but the visceral hatred isn’t there (as with romas or blacks for many). This process also encourages or allows politically such lopsided immigration policies (opening up to high net worth “investors”, “entrepreneurs” while restricting the have-not.

As they say many people piss into the pool but only a few from the springboard. Hungary is in the latter category.

Bowen
Guest

Oh My God …
This ‘magazine’ is bragging that 4,000 people (and their families) from China and the Middle East have so far successfully bought Hungarian residency.

Meanwhile, Orban & Co are spending billions making Hungarians feel afraid of 1300 people from the Middle East and Africa.

This is just insane.

pappp
Guest

It seems the government (from taxpayers money of course) is spending a truly eye popping 16-17bn forints on the migrant referendum, about 12bn just on the media campaign and gotv machinery, the rest is the cost of holding the referendum itself.

Even assuming that a huge chunk of this is simply stolen, the figure is much higher than the combined legal and illegal campaign spendings of all parties in any one of the general elections in history.

http://hvg.hu/itthon/20160922_A_valasztasi_kampanynal_is_tobbet_kolt_a_kvotakampanyra_a_kormany

Warsaw guest
Guest

Thank you for this very interesting and eye opening blog. It was fascinating
to read about this side of Hungarian politics.

However the statement that Orban does not have strong support in the V4 for treaty change might not be true – at least in Poland he has a very strong support for that.

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-britain-eu-poland-kaczynski-idUSKCN0ZA24W

Guest
London Calling! If the ‘Ingratitude 4’ think they can negotiate any treaty; clause or dotted ‘i’ – then they had better think again. They don’t recognise that they are net receivers and the net contributors are fed up with their corrupt ways. They can only vote on substantive ‘imrovements’ from the major players – which will mean ever closer ‘clauses’ to sort out the failing EU economy – which means intense pressure to join the Euro now the Brit faction has exited. They might be able to move a few deck chairs around – but they had better understand which side their bread is buttered on. It’s laughable watching the ‘Troublesome 4’ moving to the right politically and expecting to change the ‘values’ of the EU to suit. Poland has been checked because it has absorbed Orban’s damn cheek to think he can change the EU treaty as easily as his own home ‘peacock’ constitution. Way too late but the EU is beginning to realise the danger – hence the inconsistent treatment of Poland v Hungary. What planet are they living on? Juncker, Schultz and Merkel wouldn’t budge to keep the UK in the union – they severely underestimated the… Read more »
Guest

Great Britain that is!

Guest

And doesn’t that get up your nose!

PALIKA
Guest

This is incomprehensible drivel. Are you drunk?

Guest

I accept you may be the expert arbiter on this but you are wrong every time.

With a name chosen from the most gut rotting, vile National drink favoured by the drunk underclass of your country – that ruins lives – you can’t possibly know my drinking habits.

Except they give a clue to yours.

And you are also always wrong about the drivel you write – about the UK. (Pathetic even.)

Before your hissy fit, that is.

Why have you returned?

(Don’t answer.)

PNR

Bowen
Guest

No, no, Palika isn’t the gut-rotting, vile national drink of Hungary, favoured by the drunk underclass. He’s using the diminutive form of ‘Pál’. The English equivalent would be something like “Little Pauly”.

Guest

Yes thanks! Like Pal Schmitt! Another unfortunate link.

PALIKA
Guest

I have only returned to tease you. And will do until you drink less and learn some manners

webber
Guest

You just posted that to irritate Charlie. Isn’t that called trolling?

PALIKA
Guest

You clearly have a difficulty with the language. Tease and irritate? Call it what you like. You maybe more sober than the other guy but you are a nuisance and should really be removed from this blog.

webber
Guest

I’m sure Eva will take your suggestion seriously.

PALIKA
Guest

She should. In her place I would get you off as not only a nuisance but also a combative bore but without being intellectually challanging. Why do you not just retire and go to a blog for the combative bores? There are plenty of those. We hope we can keep this one from becoming one of those.

Guest

webber brings erudition and food for thought on here. His knowledge is vast and he delivers it authoritatively. I’m sure Eva acknowledges it too as a very rich contribution to her blog.
I know who I would choose to eradicate here – and it’s not webber.

Guest

You have been advised before that only Eva decides who is ‘got off’ to use your primitive phraseology. I suggest you desist with advice of this type.

PALIKA
Guest

You are a pair of destructive bullies and bores. It is clear you work in tandem. Your contributions are deeply troubling and destructive. Your persistence and virtually non stop presence suggests you are both professional. In whose service?

Bowen
Guest

“we hope we can …” ?
“we”?????
You mean you and the other guys in the office?

Guest

!!!

Bowen
Guest

Charlie, I think Palika has rumbled you. I think he’s found out about you and your Soros paycheque.

Guest

Sussed! The ‘tandem’ has become a four-seater at least!
I run one of György’s old seaside souvenir kiosks don’t you know!

Guest

Soros paycheque?

Please, let me in – I also need the money!

PALIKA
Guest

We means those who would like a civilised forum in support of Eva’s efforts of information and open debate.

PALIKA
Guest

Dear Eva, I think that your input is brilliant and astute. Where would we be without it especially now that OV is planning more media restrictions.
I do not know of any other Hungarian blogs so I cannotbcompare. I think some of the contributors and I have two particular ones in mind damage your efforts. The bulk are great. The offenders, and I will not repeat my earlier points should be watched carefully. Their motivation and aims are of concern to me at least and maybe to you. You are clearly very busy, but if you can spare the time please just look at their input.

webber
Guest

Palika – Haven’t you promised Eva, repeatedly, to stop doing this sort of thing? (spec. your initial comment to Charlie, above)

Guest

Manners – do they count in Orbanistan?

Have you ever heard of gallows humour?

PS:
If you can’t stand the heat – then stay out of the kitchen!

PALIKA
Guest

I have no idea what counts for what in your fantasy land.
Gallows humour? Why do you ask ?

I am not in any kitchen. I am asked to join a discussion. What has the heat got to do with it?

webber
Guest

Who asked you? Just curious.
Most people here were not asked to join the discussion.

Nicholas Molnar
Guest

Reading your articles more or less regularly, I wonder what will you do or write about when Orban will no longer be the PM. Your articles, comments reminds me Nixon, who, after lost the 1962 election for Governor in California said next morning to the press: “This is my last press conference, you will not have Nixon to kick anymore.”

Bowen
Guest

My guess is Hungarian politics, economics and culture (the clue is in the banner at the top of the page).

Although, there’s always the possibility that Királynő Rahel Orban I will provide ample material for articles for the coming decades.

Guest

“Reading your articles more or less regularly, I wonder what will you do or write about when Orban will no longer be the PM.”

Don’t worry. Eva will also x-ray the next government.

Ferenc J. Kovacs
Guest
Dear Nicholas, It seems you are profoundly unfamiliar with Hungarian politics. I have bad news for you. Viktor Orban isn’t about to leave anytime soon. Hungary is not a democracy. Hungary – to use this oxymoron – is a managed democracy (that is managed by Orban’s circle or lawyers and trusted state security officers). Everything is just a show which keeps the non- or barely functioning opposition, the populace and outside observes occupied. They are allowed to daydream, this is their right, the government would be stupid to deny it from its citizens. But come election day and things shall remain the same. Viktor Orban will continue to wield power. For this is how a managed ‘democracy’ works. It’s a smarter, more evolved and thus perhaps a more insidious form of dictatorship. Even the EU member states deluded themselves into believing that it is impossible for an electoral autocracy or managed democracy to be part of the EU. They are in denial as the real situation would be impossible to reconcile with their haughty ideals. Facing their utter failure is not an option. So instead everybody is pretending that Mr. Orban can be gotten rid of and then he be… Read more »
Guest

I’ve been reading this blog by Professor Balogh, filled with invaluable insights, since 2007 – where were you and Orbán then, I’d like to ask?

Istvan
Guest

I have no doubt Eva will thrill me with discussions about Hungarian history and numerous other insights on Hungarian culture if Orban should disappear from the scene. On that glorious day light shall shine from heaven on Hungary and I promise to drink excessive amounts of cherry Pálinka.

tappanch
Guest

This is how we will know if the restoration of democracy has started in Hungary:

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tappanch
Guest

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tappanch
Guest

One of the anchors of the brand new “educational” channel of the state television system will be an open anti-Semite, who adores Cecile Tormay, Jozsef Nyírő, regards Nobel-prize winner Imre Kertész a “non-Hungarian”, and called the famous literary magazine “Nyugat” of the early 20th century a “zsidó lapocska” [dwarf Jewish newspaper]

http://vigyazo.blog.hu/2016/09/20/_nyiro_zseni_volt_vallja_az_m5_musorvezetoje
http://comment.blog.hu/2016/09/22/nacibarat_musorvezeto_tanitja_az_embereket_a_kozteve_uj_musoraban

PALIKA
Guest

In the case such as that of Kertesz, it is difficult to know when it is right to refuse to accept being Hungarian, though he never did. We are going over well trodden ground are we not?

Observer
Guest

@Ferenc Kovacs

The Orban Mafia will fall, one day. We are trying to bring this forward regardless of the varying probabilities.

The elections, unfair and not completely free, are still a way to topple the regime. In 1989 the overwhelmibg majority voted against the Communists. When the life in the country deteriorates further, as it will, people will vote like in 1989.
The regime may abolish elections , but that will lead to a downward spiral.

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