Viktor Orbán stood alone at the EPP congress

Viktor Orbán has been headline news in the last few days. One reason for this sudden interest in the pocket dictator of Hungary is his determination to close Hungary’s best institution of higher learning, the Central European University. The other was his performance at the annual congress of the European People’s Party (EPP) in Malta, where he delivered a speech that went against everything the other EPP politicians stand for.

The new government mouthpiece Origo described the Hungarian leader’s fantastic energy, which allowed him to have so many negotiations in one day in Malta. “Even foreign journalists commented on the Hungarian prime minister’s stamina.” On March 29 he had talks with an Albanian party chairman, a former Macedonia prime minister, the Bulgarian prime minister, the Croatian prime minister, an opposition politician from Malta, and the Austrian deputy chancellor. As for politicians from the European Union, he met with Jyirki Katainen, vice president of the European Union, and an official of the European Council.

Then came the second day of the congress and speeches by European politicians, who all spoke about unity and solidarity. Donald Tusk, who has been highly praised in the international media of late, talked at length about the necessity of a united Europe as the only guarantee of its sovereignty. “For a responsible patriot there is no better alternative than a united and sovereign Europe.” Romanian President Klaus Iohannis showed himself to be a strong supporter of a unified Europe bound together by the basic values of the European Union. Mariano Rajoy, the Spanish prime minister who is one of those few European politicians striving for a United States of Europe, talked about the advantages of integration. Manfred Weber, head of the EPP’s parliamentary delegation, announced that “anyone who loves his birthplace must say yes to a strong Europe.”

Then it was Viktor Orbán’s turn. His speech was described by Bloomberg as a “litany of charges” against migration into the EU, warning of “a dominant Muslim presence” in western Europe in the coming years, and condemning a “leftist ideology” that imposed guilt “for the crusades and colonialism.” Alluding to the Syrian conflict, he said that “if you kick an anthill, we should not be surprised if the ants overwhelm us.” I don’t know how other people feel about this metaphor, but it struck me as crude and demeaning. Perhaps unfairly, it reminded me of Albert Wass’s story of the rats that the farmer allowed to take over his house. Of course, Wass was writing not about the Syrians but about the Jews.

Angela Merkel, who spoke after Orbán, didn’t directly address the Hungarian prime minister but clearly was referring to Orbán’s hard-nosed inhumanity. “Do we just want to say that we don’t have any humanitarian responsibilities here?” she asked. According to Bloomberg, this clash between Merkel and Orbán laid “bare European disunity.” What they should have added was that, of all the speeches delivered, it was only Viktor Orbán’s that went against the consensus.

We are trying to be charming / Photo: MTI

Bloomberg didn’t elaborate on the part of Orbán’s speech that dealt with human rights. Orbán is mighty upset over the European Court of Human Rights/ECHR’s verdict that fined the Hungarian government for the ill treatment of two refugees from Bangladesh. In fact, Fidesz politicians were so upset that they were quite seriously talking about withdrawing Hungary from adherence to the European Convention of Human Rights. Of course, cooler heads prevailed. The hotheads calmed down once the minister of justice said that the government, although it will appeal the verdict, has no intention of taking such a foolish step. But it seems that the Hungarian government is not satisfied with a simple appeal. Viktor Orbán wants “urgent reforms” of the ECHR because “its judgments were a threat to the security of EU people and an invitation for migrants.” It is a mystery why Orbán thought that the EPP’s annual congress was the best place to suggest reform of the court when it functions under the aegis of the Council of Europe, which is a different entity from the European Union.

Orbán also decided to bring his ideological fight to the fore when he called the European Left “fatal for Europe.” Leftist politicians “want to force bureaucratic rules in our labor market, raise taxes, and … build socialism in Europe.” He called on his fellow Christian Democrats to fight these forces. “We are the EPP. We should not be afraid of leftist criticism calling us populist.” According to Euractiv, these words were received enthusiastically, which I find strange because practically no one considers the Christian Democrats populists. We normally talk about them as politicians of the right of center. The label “populism” is reserved for politicians of the far right, for example, Viktor Orbán and leaders of populist parties all over Europe. In this regard, it should be noted, Fidesz’s presence in the EPP delegation is something of an anomaly.

My sense is that because of Viktor Orbán’s behavior in the past few years, Hungary is isolated even within the EPP. For instance, at the congress there were several panels on a range of topics where experts and politicians gave speeches or led discussion groups. There was not one Hungarian leading such a group. Hungary was represented only once, on a panel discussion organized by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in which János Martonyi, the former Hungarian foreign minister, was one of the participants. Martonyi has the reputation of being a respectable diplomat, and Viktor Orbán usually trots him out when he wants to show the better side of his government and Fidesz.

There was one piece of news from the congress about which the Hungarian government media was silent. The EPP adopted a resolution on “Russian disinformation undermining Western democracy.” We learned about the existence of this resolution from István Ujhelyi, an MSZP member of the European Parliament, who wrote about it on his Facebook page. He pointed out that Viktor Orbán signed the document, but obviously the party and the government were not too eager to advertise this fact.

The path to this resolution started with an open letter by members of the EPP to Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. The letter asked her to “Please start taking the Russian disinformation threat seriously!” Apparently, she didn’t answer “nor did she acknowledge what the letter’s signatories seemed to want her to say: that Russian disinformation, as well as the separate but related issues of illiberalism and political extremism, is increasingly becoming a big problem in Europe, and specifically in the ‘Visegrad Four’ countries in Central and Eastern Europe, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia.”

Unfortunately, I very much doubt that Viktor Orbán’s signature on this declaration will make any difference in the government media’s pro-Russian orientation.

March 31, 2017
Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
petofi
Guest

Hungary’s not isolated: it has big bear brother.

Ferenc
Guest

Regarding BBB, here you can listen to what OV said about foreign influences:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s3RJI8m93ZI#t=7m30s (7:30-7:40)
And as noted in the post, not a letter from this in both the English and Hungarian items on the official kormany.hu site!!

wrfree
Guest

Re: ‘it has a bear brother’

True but it would appear the ‘connection’ to Europe still is of concern in the VO mind. I’d think there could be a tipping point in the extent of his country’s isolation especially now with the CEU situation since what he is attacking is a pillar of Euro democratic values. And even before this he has had the reputation as a ‘dictator’ and autocrat. His move on CEU certainly has to reorder thinking in some observers

Perhaps all that feverish energy is a telling of something. He just could be checking what he has in his baskets. April 4th is coming up. It’s the day in literary history where Winston Smith of ‘1984’ starts his diary. And rebellion. Perhaps the country now will be seeing a testing…a testing of ‘pushing the limits’… for both the governors and the governed.

Ferenc
Guest

I have read or heard in Hungarian media (don’t remember source(s)), that OV has said at the EPP congress that he considered himself not being a populist. It’s not mentioned in the post, I’m very curious if he really said such or if media did some mis-interpretation/-translation of his words.

Ferenc
Guest

Couldn’t find where I got the quote about not being a populist, so checked kormany.hu, and found the following about the EPP congress:
http://www.kormany.hu/en/the-prime-minister/news/the-eu-must-change-in-order-for-europe-to-remain-the-best-place-in-the-world
the first paragraph in their item, so important for them
In Malta on Thursday, on the second day of a two-day EPP congress, the Prime Minister said that the party must accept and take up the intellectual and political struggle with the left, and must not be afraid of criticisms from the left when they call its members “populist”, because we know that we are not. The audience greeted his words with enthusiastic applause.
There’s also a video there: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s3RJI8m93ZI (just check 8:45-8:55, so you don’t have hear all his blatter)
From now on I suggest everybody, even Jobbik supporters so everybody!, to consequently call OV a POPULIST and Fidesz a POPULISM party, he obviously doesn’t like that and seems even afraid to be called such, remember JW Muller presentation at CEU in February titled “How Can Populism Be Defeated?”

bimbi
Guest

@Ferenc, 4:11 a.m.

Are you suggesting that Mr. Orban now be addressed as the Paragon of the Populist Paranoia Party?

As they say… …if the cap fits…

Ferenc
Guest

FIDESZ – Hungarian POPULISM Alliance
FIDESZ – Magyar POPULISTA Szövetség

webber
Guest
webber
Guest

Sorry for posting that. I just realized it was an article from 2015. Clearly it was a bluff from Orban then.

Guest

Our German SPIEGEL has two articles on O/Hungary – one about the meeting in Malta – O being really isolated and far away as possible from Mrs Merkel:
http://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/kongress-der-europaeischen-volkspartei-auf-malta-europa-auf-der-couch-a-1141190.html
The other about CEU and the Hun government’s policy against NGOs etc in general – both very scathing!

http://www.spiegel.de/lebenundlernen/uni/ungarn-viktor-orban-will-central-european-university-ceu-vertreiben-a-1141124.html

The article ends:
The Mayor of Vilnius already wrote a letter to the rector of CEU with an invitation to his city where CEU would be very welcome – he went to CEU himself many years ago …

PS:
There also was an article on the Heineken red star controversy – everybody is laughing about those crazy Fideszniks!
That article also reported on the other “economic measures” against international companies, especially the supermarket chains, that we have discussed here – any manager who reads this will think twice about investing in Hungary.

Btw Péter Szijjártó two years ago called Heineken a strategic partner – but the times they are’a changeing …

wrfree
Guest

And oh the pix. ‘Csokolom’…said the spider to the fly. But I think Ms. Merkel is too shrewd to fall for that line. She knows where he’s at..;-)…

Guest

Mrs Merkel has already managed Putin and Trump – for her O is, well …

The bully from kindergarten?

Ron
Guest

For years I hear that EPP is against VO, and they want to expel Fidesz. They did not do it sofar. Under their Statute it is possible.

http://www.epp.eu/files/uploads/2015/09/EPP-Statute_EN.pdf

I doubt it this will happen.

If you read one of the first pages “on the basis”. VO/Fidesz breaching all of them, and he is still member.

Member

Minister Lazar is such an ignoramus that he thought that the notion of “liberal arts” in a college or university setting means “liberal” in the modern political sense !

I thought the Orban government wanted to go back to the Middle Ages just to satisfy their uncontrollable desire to steal, but I have evidence now that their ultimate goal is the Stone Age.

comment image

https://444.hu/2017/04/01/lazar-janos-szerint-nagyjabol-minden-amit-egyetemen-tanitanak-liberalis

http://members.iif.hu/visontay/ponticulus/rovatok/hidverok/free7.html

Member

{grammatica, dialectica, rhetorica}
[arithmetica, geometria, musica, astronomia]

Member

Protest march tomorrow starting at 5 PM. People should gather in front of Corvinus University.

“The amendment of the Higher Education Act (bill No. T/14686) attacks 28 institutions altogether. Although the legislation primarily discriminates against CEU, this attack is not a single university’s issue – this is a challenge to all universities in Hungary. This is a challenge to all educational institutions in Hungary. This is a challenge to all students, professors, teachers, educators, and academics in Hungary. This bill is an attack against the very scholastic freedom and academic autonomy in Hungary”

https://www.facebook.com/events/289441054811441/

Ferenc
Guest

“their ultimate goal is the Stone Age”
will be ‘interesting’ footbal matches, with stone balls, and with what footwear will they protect their feet then?????

Member

I meant mental Stone, i.e. Stone-headed Age.

comment image

Member

“Hungary’s prime minister wants to shut down a beacon of freedom”
“Mr. Orban is taking a page from playbooks in Russia and China on how to suffocate civil society.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/hungarys-prime-minister-wants-to-shut-down-a-beacon-of-freedom/2017/03/31/74fce58a-14a8-11e7-833c-503e1f6394c9_story.html

pappp
Guest

C’mon don’t start that bs, you know this better. Like Orban doesn’t know how to switch on a computer, see, he’s such a regular joe, not like those Budapest liberals who do everything on computer, right Mari néni?

It doesn’t matter what Lazar knows about “liberal arts” – his people know the term well enough.

But his media advisors thought that this is a good opportunity, let’s use the term “liberal” and it’s good enough.

Those who know exactly what liberal arts mean anyway mostly hate he government.

Meanwhile in the state media and propaganda Lazar will say his version which will remain uncontested.

This is anyway an intellectual issue and average people (all over the world) hate intellectuals. Lazar may even look good to the masses when he’s revealed as an ignoramus.

(Which is why I dared to suggest that CEU involves non-intellectual who can appeal to the average joes whom Orban fears at least a little politically).

Member

Protest march tomorrow (April 2) will start in front of the Corvinus University at 5 PM.

pappp
Guest

I wonder if Tesla – which announced that it is looking for the site of a new 5bn USD plant in the region – is still seriously considering Hungary.

One day Heineken is the target because it had a dispute with a competitor in another country, now CEU which just finished an investment of tens of USD is in the process of being banned.

No surprise that the Romanians are overtaking Hungary soon and Slovakia long ago did so.

Member

The Jobbik started a billboard campaign against the Orban government. Where is the Socialist Party, the DK, the LMP ?

comment image

comment image

https://444.hu/2017/04/01/ti-dolgoztok-ok-lopnak-oriasi-plakatkampanyba-kezdett-a-jobbik

Observer
Guest

Tnx for posting.
Strong move which makes Jobbik’s eventual co-operation with Orban at the 2018 elections or thereafter more difficult. A good thing too.

Ferenc
Guest

Right on Jobbik, that’s the way!
Now other opposition parties can’t really stay behind, have to do something also!
Curious for one thing, on which these “plakatok” are put, are these from Simicska (or from somebody else)?

wpDiscuz