Viktor Orbán is back: his views on migrants, NGOs, and the Trump administration

In the last two days Viktor Orbán gave a short speech and a longer interview. He delivered his speech at the swearing-in ceremony of the newly recruited “border hunters.” It was exclusively about the dangers migrants pose to Hungary and Hungarians. The interview was conducted by one the “approved” state radio reporters and ranged over many topics. I decided to focus on two: the Orbán government’s current attitude toward non-governmental organizations and the prime minister’s thoughts on the coming Trump administration.

The migrant question

A few days ago we had quite a discussion about the Hungarian penchant for viewing Hungary as the defender of the West, the protector of Christianity during the expansion of the Ottoman Empire. In the last few decades Hungarian historians have done a tremendous amount of work on Hungarian-Ottoman relations, and today we have a very different view of this whole period than we had even fifty years ago. First of all, scholars no longer believe the traditional story of Hungary as a bulwark of European civilization against the Porte. Yet the traditional interpretation of Hungary’s role prevails, and since the beginning of the refugee crisis it has been recounted repeatedly, largely because the Orbán government can use the historical parallel to its advantage.

It was therefore no surprise that Viktor Orbán’s address to the border hunters began with this theme: “you today swore to defend the borders of Hungary, the security of Hungarian homes. With this act you also defend Europe, just as has been customary around here in the last 500 years. To protect ourselves and also Europe: this has been the fate of the Hungarian nation for centuries,” he told his audience.

Although this is certainly not the first time that Viktor Orbán has announced that, as far as he is concerned, all those millions who in the last two years or even before arrived on the territory of the European Union are “illegal immigrants” who “cannot be allowed to settle in Europe,” this is perhaps the clearest indication that for him there is no such thing as a refugee crisis or, for that matter, refugees. No one can force any nation “for the sake of human rights to commit national suicide.” Among the new arrivals are terrorists, and “innocent people have lost their lives because of the weakness of their countries.” In brief, he blames western governments for terrorist acts committed on their soil. “They would have been better off if they had followed the Hungarian solution, which is workable and useful.” In brief, if it depended on Viktor Orbán, all foreigners would be sent back to where they came from.

The rest of the speech was nothing more than pious lies, so I’ll move on to the interview.

Transparency and non-governmental organizations

Let me start by reminding readers that, in the 2016 Global Competitiveness Index of the World Economic Forum, among 138 countries Hungary ranked ahead of only Madagascar and Venezuela in the category of government transparency. Yet Orbán in his interview this morning gave a lengthy lecture on “the right of every Hungarian citizen to know exactly of every public figure who he is, and who pays him.”

But first, let’s backtrack a bit. The initial brutal attack by Szilárd Németh against the NGO’s, in which he threatened to expel them from Hungary, was somewhat blunted a day later (yesterday) when János Lázár, head of the prime minister’s office, assured the Hungarian public that Németh had gotten a bit carried away. The government is only contemplating making these organizations’ finances more transparent, although he added that “the national side” must feel sympathy for Németh’s outburst because it is very annoying that these NGOs, with the help of foreigners, attack the Hungarian government. Németh was told to retract his statement, and for a few hours those who had worried about the very existence of these watchdogs over the activities of the Orbán government could be relieved.

This morning, however, Zoltán Kovács, one of the prime minister’s many communication directors, made an appearance on ATV’s “Start.” He attacked these organizations from another angle. He claimed that they have been assisting migrants and thereby helping terrorists to pour into Europe. If possible, that sounds like an even greater threat to me than Németh’s unconstitutional suggestions regarding the expulsion of NGOs.

So, let’s see what Orbán is planning to do. The reporter asked about “the work of civic organizations that promote globalization.”  Orbán indicated that he finds these NGOs to be stooges of the United States. During the Obama administration, he said, the United States actively tried to influence Hungarian domestic affairs. “Some of the methods used were most primitive,” he remarked.

He is hoping very much that in the future nothing like that will happen. His duty as a prime minister is “to defend the country” against these attempts, but all Hungarian citizens have the right to know everything about NGO’s, especially the ones that receive money from abroad. The people ought to know whether these organizations receive money as a gift with no strings attached or whether there are certain “expectations.” “And if not, why not?” So, what Orbán wants is “transparency.” This demand from Viktor Orbán, whose government is one of the most secretive in the whole world, is steeped in irony.

Viktor Orbán on the future Trump administration

Although initially Orbán tried to be cautious, repeating that it is still too early to say anything meaningful, he is hoping for “a change of culture” after the inauguration. This “change of culture” for Orbán means first and foremost that the Trump administration will not raise its voice in defense of democratic values. Earlier, Orbán didn’t dare to attack the NGOs across the board, and most likely he would have thought twice about doing so if Hillary Clinton had succeeded Obama. With Trump, he feels liberated. Whether he is right or not we will see.

What kind of an American administration does he expect? A much better one than its predecessor. The Obama administration was “globalist,” while Trump’s will have a national focus. It will be a “vagány” government. “Vagány” is one of those words that are hard to translate, but here are a few approximations: tough, brave, maverick, determined, and fearless. Trump’s men “will not beat around the bush, they will not complicate things.”

Orbán also has a very high opinion of the members of Trump’s cabinet because “they got to where they are not because of their connections. They are self-made men.” These people don’t ever talk about whom they know but only about what they did before entering politics. “They all have achieved something in their lives; especially, they made quite a few billions. This is what gives them self-confidence.” These people don’t need any political training. “They are not timid beginners. They have ideas.”

Most of us who are a bit more familiar with the past accomplishments of Trump’s cabinet members have a different assessment of their readiness, at least in most cases, to take over the running of the government. Orbán, just like Trump, is wrong in thinking that because someone was a successful businessman he will be, for example, an outstanding secretary of state. Put it this way, Rex Tillerson’s performance at his confirmation hearing yesterday only reinforced my doubts about his ability to run the State Department.

Orbán might also be disappointed with the incoming administration’s “new culture,” which he now believes to be a great asset in future U.S.-Hungarian relations. What if all those virtues of the tough, plain-talking, down-to-earth businessmen Orbán listed turn out to hinder better U.S.-Hungarian relations instead of promoting them? What if those resolute guys in the State Department decide that Viktor Orbán is an annoying fellow who has become too big for his britches? What if the strong anti-Russian sentiment of Secretary of Defense James Mattis prevails and the U.S. government gets suspicious of Vladimir Putin’s emissary in the European Union? Any of these things could easily happen.

January 13, 2017
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Guest

The qualities in Trump which Orbán admires so greatly are perfectly described by veteran journalist Polly Toynbee in the Guardian – “There are no values but victory, no goals beyond winning. Trump titillates the greed nerves without shame or doubt.”

Spot on about Orbán too, so it is not surprising that he admires the “baby-man”, Trump, to such excess.

And in yesterday’s Guardian “….. he worships every aspect of himself, each hair on his head, each word he tweets? Greater self-love hath no man.”

Here is the full and excellent article –
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jan/12/donald-trump-interview-1988-megalomaniac

Ferenc
Guest

About the first item from the post.

OV: No one can force any nation “for the sake of human rights to commit national suicide.” =>
1.basically OV puts the Nation above Human Rights (is this not in conflict with his ‘Fundamental Law’?)
2.OV’s opinion comes very close to that: a nation can force “humans to commit suicide for the sake of the nation”

The argument that because of the ‘Hungarian solution’ there hasn’t happened acts of terror (yet) in Hungary isn’t valid either. In most European countries didn’t neither happen (yet) such acts: Greece, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Holland, etc.

Curious which further lies, he needed to fill his time in front of ‘his border-hunters*’.
*the word itself ‘határvadász’, is that in use for many years already in Hungary, or is it a new one?

Guest

Well, határvadász is not in my Hungarian to German dictionary (PONS, each volume has more than a thousand pages …) nor in the online dictionary …
It’s Fidesz newspeak obviously!

PS and not too much OT:

If Trump really gets friendly with Putin we might as well consider giving up Hungary – many in Western Europe wouldn’t mind at all if Hungary left the EU and joined Putin’s Eurasian Union, that would mean large savings for the EU and make for cheaper holidays etc again …
And we can continue to allow the best and most qualified Hungarians to come to the West – just like they’ve been doing for years!

PPS:
If wages in Hungary get low enough again (coupled with a weak Forint) then some of that industry that left Hungary for China and Bangladesh also might return – end of sarcasm!

Observer
Guest

Ferenc

“OV: No one can force any nation “for the sake of human rights to commit national suicide”

There’s no suicide, but there are problems caused by mass migration. These cause discomfort and raise legitimate concerns/fears among the population (even if the fears are fanned by some media).
These concerns/fears can not be ignored or whitewashed by PC without political costs. And those costs are too high in my view, as the fill the sails of populists and extremists who raised to power do damage in all areas, not only refugee policies.
I preach early action by the democratic govs toward compromise solutions, PC put on the back seat.

Guest

The Chinese wall did not suffice to keep migrant conquerors out of China.

Guest

Franz Kafka: Beim Bau der Chinesischen Mauer

http://gutenberg.spiegel.de/buch/franz-kafka-kleinere-werke-167/1

Ferenc
Guest

side note
Some time ago made also an infogram about the Global Competitiveness Index (2006-16, World Economic Forum), here the result:comment image

Currrent position of Hungary in the V4-group: 4th and last (can be said: the usual position!)

Full infogram here: https://infogr.am/01692b07-fbae-46a6-9c99-b858efad7ddd
Report of WEF: http://reports.weforum.org/global-competitiveness-report-2015-2016/competitiveness-rankings/

Guest
And in addition another scathing article on O’s policies: http://visegradrevue.eu/the-results-of-a-traditionalist-turn-hungarys-democratic-neo-feudalism/ Based on research carried out for the Open Society Think Tank! All the problems with Hungary’s illiberal democracy are described “nicely”: The re-emergence of the state as the solution, authoritarian tendencies in governance and society’s paternalistic attitudes with the “traditional” lack of trust in institutions, 9 can best be described as neofeudalism with some democratic credentials. 10 There are a number of factors leading toward such a controversial definition. First, the eroding middle class. Second, the remaining dependence on power: Hungary has a hierarchical power structure, with little freedom for grassroots (political) initiatives, civic involvement or community building. Third, the sectorial rent-seeking and partial capture of the economy that allowed the emergence of a local oligarchy. Fourth, celebration of selected parts of Hungarian history, namely the Horthy regime (between the two world wars) and “gentry Hungary” (Monarchy) re-enforcing paternalistic attitudes. Fifth, an underinvestment in education, healthcare and other social services, ill-functioning redistributive policies and discriminatory tax policies maintaining vast inequalities. Sixth, patrimonial relations particularly in education and healthcare, with strong hierarchic social practices, particularly in the regions. Lastly, a lack of accountability for ruling elites: very few 11 high-level corruption… Read more »
Guest

The German SPIEGEL already reports on O’s latest remarks and the inhumane treatment of the refugees all over the Balkan at the current icy temperatures.
The article reports also on the iniatiatives of some NGOs and the Catholic priest Zoltán Németh who took refugees into his house while many priests just look away – o the wonders of Christianity!
http://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/fluechtlinge-in-ungarn-viktor-orbans-offensive-a-1129919.html
So people in Germany might wonder about those bloody Hungarians – why did we help them 60 years ago?
And the next time, when Putin takes over – shall we send all Hungarian refugees back and rejoice?

Member

The event “Trump and Hungary,” featuring former Népszabadság reporter Anita Kőműves and others, is no longer accepting registrations, but you can follow it live online next Thursday, 7pm CET/1pm EST:
https://www.facebook.com/events/1787816671481406/

Istvan
Guest
Orban like so many others want to see the rise of President Elect Trump in a way that is beneficial to their own agenda. Eva’s translation of the PM’s interaction with reporters where he states Obama’s agenda was globalist whereas Trump’s agenda is nationalist reflects not his own thinking but that of Steve Bannon (a far right adviser to Trump) and the editorial position of Brietbart news. As of late Brietbart has been attempting to create a deeper theorization of Trump’s “economic nationalism” in a series of articles written by an author generally titled only as “Virgil” actually a former far right Republican Congressman. To see an example of this theoretical work go to http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2017/01/12/virgil-trumps-nationalist-vision-vs-gospel-globalism/ But this form of so called economic nationalism is based on raising the internal GDP of the USA and domestic employment. In order to do this the GDP growth of other nations must be lowered, the productive employment growth of other nations must be contained, and the propensity of multinational companies to move production to lower wage nations has to be disincentivized. This all added up is very much a reversion to more or less old time imperialism. Implicit in this strategy as it relates… Read more »
Guest

Thanks, Istvan – but I have to ask again:

If production really “returns” to the USA (whether cars, computers, clothes, you name it) that means either prices go up or wages go down!

I can’t imagine that US citizens are willing to accept either solution.

PS and not too much OT:

I’m a big fan (my wife too …) of jeans and “Western clothing” -shirts by Levis, Wrangler, Lee etc which I’ve been buying over the last 40 years – first in Germany, then in London and then in the USA.

And it was really interesting how the “Made in …..” labels changed over the years:
First there was Mexico, later South American countries, China, now Bangladesh, Vietnam, …
Nothing was ever produced in the USA except a few “early pieces” …

Istvan
Guest

Wolfi the Brietbart people seem to believe if more consumer production is moved on shore costs can be contained by automation and robotics with controller jobs going to US residents. I think it’s all delusional, but as you can see from the Virgil essay they are believers in the doctrine.

PM Orban seems to be clueless what economic nationalism from the more developed nations will mean for Hungary.

Istvan
Guest

There is a Wall Street Jounal interview with Trump out today http://www.wsj.com/articles/donald-trump-sets-a-bar-for-russia-and-china-1484360380 In it the President elect talked openly about dropping all Russian sanctions over the seizure of the Crimea, keeping in place the Obama actions against Russian intelligence operations over hacking, but really turning the screws on China.

Guest

Istvan, I just read an article about the German car production in the USA and Mexico – and it says that Mexican wages are one tenth of US wages!

No automation can compensate that imho!

PS: Is there a special reason for you writing “brietbart”? I know people who (mis)spell it “breitfart” … 🙂

Istvan
Guest

Believe me I accept a limited amount of what I read in Brietbart, but it’s like reading Pravda in the old days. It gives the Trump line, just like Pravda gave the CPUSSR line.

When I read “creditable” media, in some cases I would say they don’t grasp that Steve Bannon has a coherent vision for where this is going, or at least where he and others in their movement want to see it go. If you read only the Washington Post and NY Times Trump looks like a confused and contradictory character, waffling all over. When he has been pretty consistent on China, Russia, and world trade with a variety of goofy tweets tossed in that seem to confuse the inside the beltway media.

Reading some of Brietbart every day is well worth the effort, it provides balance to other sources which are usually journalistically far superior. Eva does this for all of us in relationship to Hungary by regularly reading the pro-Fidesz media and its lies. She is even when I disagree with her, an exceptionally smart woman, in good part because of her attempts at intellectually balancing news sources.

Guest

Istvan, reading breitbart or Russia Today once a week is almost too much for me!

But I agree, it shows a really “different worldview”, almost unbelievable for a sane person.
I just looked at an article on German RT on the movement of US troops to the NATO members in Eastern Europe – the comments were so horrendous – I wanted to throw up!

webber
Guest

What is “worldview” and what is deception meant to undermine American democracy? How can you tell the difference?

My advice is don’t read Breitbart. The more readers they have, the more hits their website gets, the more money they make, the more power they get.

In the case of Orban’s Hungary, things are a little different. There are no market forces at work here. Hungarians have tuned out of government propaganda (viewership of govt. t.v. is tiny, readership of govt. newspapers abysmal), but that does not hurt govt. media at all because it has a constant flow of funds from government.

Breitbart might have some money from Russia, but it’s also making money from readers. Don’t read it, don’t open the page, and it becomes less and less significant.

Don’t feed the monster!

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