A short pause in the battle between the Orbán government and CEU

It is possible that as a result of the four-day Easter holiday we will have a brief respite from the latest Hungarian drama. Today I will expand on previous posts regarding the Central European University controversy and the recall of Ambassador Réka Szemerkényi.

Let’s return first to the presidential signature on the controversial bill aimed at closing CEU. Few people had illusions about the integrity of János Áder, who after all started his political career as one of the founders of Fidesz and who subsequently occupied important positions in the party. He could, however, have salvaged the little reputation he had left by sending the bill back to parliament, which in turn could have returned it to him unchanged. Instead, the word from the president’s office was that Áder’s legal staff saw nothing in the law that would be incompatible with international law or that could be considered unconstitutional. Perhaps his legal staff had blinders on. Scores of constitutional lawyers, conservative as well as liberal, shared their opinions with Áder about the unconstitutionality of the law. László Sólyom, the former president who was chief justice of the constitutional court for eight years, said yesterday in a lecture that a second-year law student ought to be able to tell that the law that was put in front of Áder is “unequivocally unconstitutional.” As he ironically put it, “the students of Bibó College wrote a very poor brief.”

In the meantime it seems that the firm stand of the United States coupled with the massive demonstrations at home forced Viktor Orbán to reexamine his original game plan. 24.hu learned from reliable sources that a “serious debate” has taken place in the last couple of days in Fidesz circles. Apparently, at the moment they are still clinging to their initial response that they will not repeal or withdraw the law but instead will offer some kind of compromise. László Palkovics’s rather confused offer of an arrangement by which Central European University could offer degrees in a licensing agreement with Közép-Európai Egyetem is still on the table. But the university has already indicated that this arrangement is unacceptable. I should add that, two weeks into this drama, the Hungarian government still has not found time to get in touch with the administration of CEU directly.

I have the feeling that the Orbán government was not prepared for the resolute, self-confident stance of the university and its president, Michael Ignatieff. Hungary’s present leaders are accustomed to cowed subjects who barely dare to open their mouths. But here is a group of independent people who stand up for their rights. President Michael Ignatieff, after returning to Budapest from abroad, pointed out today that they have absolutely no idea where the government stands as far as its relationship to CEU is concerned. A week ago Zoltán Balog who is, after all, in charge of education, announced that the government’s goal is the removal of the university from Hungary, but now László Palkovics, Balog’s undersecretary, claims that the government wants CEU to stay. A week ago the minister accused CEU of fraud; now the undersecretary assures them that the university functioned legally. Ignatieff called upon the Hungarian government “to develop at last a uniform position.” He also sent a message to the government “to call us by our name. This is not a Soros University but Central European University.” As far as Palkovics’s “solution” is concerned, Ignatieff, “without wanting to be sarcastic or insulting,” considers “Undersecretary Palkovics’s sentences incomprehensible.”

Michael Ignatieff, president of Central European University

In the meantime, the government has been intimidating students and faculty at other Hungarian universities, telling them that they cannot participate in any demonstrations on behalf of CEU or do anything in general to support the CEU cause. Such threats were delivered at the University of Debrecen, the University of Kaposvár, and Corvinus University in Budapest. The Hungarian Helsinki Commission countered this government action in a press release in which it called attention to provisions in the Hungarian labor law that would protect both students and faculty from any recrimination as a result of their activities on behalf of CEU.

Today Romnet.hu, a website dealing with Roma affairs, reported that a CEU graduate, who I assume is Roma, was sacked from a state-owned company. He was told that the firm had received instructions from above that they don’t want to employ people who earned their degrees from CEU. The CEU graduate’s boss apparently expressed his regret and promised to help find another job for him through his personal contacts in the private sector.

Then there is Márton Gulyás, about whom I have written nothing so far. He is a young, rather brash activist who has been under the skin of the authorities for some time because of his “unorthodox” methods of protesting. He already had one scrape with the law when, screwdriver in hand, he arrived at the National Election Commission and removed the plate bearing its name. He received a one-year suspended sentence for this act. This time he was caught trying to throw a can of orange-colored paint against the wall of the building housing the president’s office. His attempt was failed, but he was arrested and kept in jail for three days. Thousands demonstrated for his release, and today he and another young man who was arrested in his own apartment after the demonstration was over had their day in court. Gulyás was sentenced to 300 hours of physical work at some public project. His companion received 200 hours. They will appeal the sentences.

And now, switching gears, let me return to Ambassador Réka Szemerkényi’s recall from Washington. Attila Ara-Kovács, currently foreign policy adviser of Demokratikus Koalíció, writes weekly posts on foreign affairs in his blog, “Diplomatic Note.” His latest post is “The fall of the ambassador.” Ara-Kovács has contacts in diplomatic circles who provide him with information that is usually accurate. According to him, the U.S. State Department had learned about the anti-CEU bill before it was made public. Curiously, this information allegedly reached Washington from Moscow. If this is true, says Ara-Kovács, the rumors about Russian involvement might have been accurate. A State Department official contacted Szemerkényi, who didn’t seem to know anything about the proposed bill. When the American diplomat summarized its contents, Szemerkényi apparently assured him that her government would never enact such a law. She reminded the bearer of the news that there are just too many conspiracy theories floating around, and the Orbán government’s opponents are apt to conjure up untrue stories. She promised, however, to provide more information once she gets the word from Budapest.

It wasn’t easy to get confirmation from the foreign ministry, and Szemerkényi had to use her contacts in Fidesz. Eventually she received the full text of the bill and ample advice on how to “sell” this piece of legislation to the U.S. government. Szemerkényi, instead of quietly following instructions, sent word back to Budapest that, in her opinion, the United States would never accept such a law. It is an illusion to think that just because Trump doesn’t particularly like George Soros his administration would take this lying down. She added that such a step might risk future good relations between the two countries. According to Ara-Kovács, a few hours after the Hungarian government received Szemerkényi’s message the decision was made to recall her. Viktor Orbán doesn’t joke around when someone dares to say “no” to him.

April 13, 2017
Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
András B. Göllner
Guest

Hungary is not a banana republic after all. It’s just a rhapsody.

wrfree
Guest

And just wondering do they still play a little jazz in Magyarorszag? It would seem they would be the wrong notes nowadays to be played in the place.

And if there is a ‘soundtrack’ of the country this could be it. There is a sense of a sort of an atmospheric dissolution and isolation in the notes. Music for VO on the battlements.

https://youtu.be/TLV4_xaYynY

Member

If I may offer a small correction – Ader was not one of the founding members of Fidesz. The names of the original “Dirty 37” can be found here: http://fidesz-orbanviktor.gportal.hu/gindex.php?pg=23872635

Jon Van Til
Guest

Orban, like most of the rest of the world, did not anticipate Trump’s rapid return to a conventional defense of what presidents typically assert as truth, justice, and the American way. The conjunctive appearance of CEU defense, civil society assertion, Putin denigration, EU awakening (or at least interest), Momentum mobilization, and Jobbik repositioning raises prospects for a sustained level of surprisingly consistent oppositional activity throughout the Budapest Spring.

Member

It is not that Trump has seen the light: He’s too stupid, lazy, vacuous and vain. But since it’s obvious that he cannot govern (and doesn’t even want to: he just wanted the image) he has delegated all work to an extremely evil entourage he has assembled (and keeps reshuffling, because of course incompetence breeds incompetence), apart from a few glamorous decisions he relishes, like his chocolate-dessert bombing missions. But the US government is big, much bigger than any president, and there are still competent people in post — probably because Trump is too lazy and uninformed to dig very far, and his evil entourage has more pressing priorities, like destroying health care and the planet while making the richest richester — while Trump moonlights in Mar-a-lago. (He’s better there, out of mischief.)

comment image
comment image

webber
Guest

He falls asleep every time try to describe the constitutional arrangement of checks and balances to him. His minions are fired too quickly to even read the Constitution, much less to get an understanding of how Congress really works. I believe he may prove to be one of the weakest presidents in history. Well, I hope so, anyway. I’m a little nervous of his discovery that his little hands are not slapped down when they reach for military toys.

Istvan
Guest

I believe that on the foreign policy level, General McMaster and Mathis have played critical roles in getting Trump to retreat from his strategy of using Russia as an alliance partner. Trump had amazingly enough sense to quickly shift his stance. Now Steve Bannon and several other far right operatives are isolated within the White House bureaucracy.

The amassed US forces in the Korean Peninsula are not there for just a show, President Trump is deadly serious about stopping further North Korean nuclear tests and the development of ICBMs. How crazy Kim Jong-un is will be determined shortly, we know President Trump is plenty crazy and will launch on North Korea is the carries out tests. If Kim Jong-un does respond to an attack by US forces with an artillery offensive against South Korea we are in for a good amount of killing.

Orban will in that situation be under great pressure from Putin to publicly denounce an US offensive against North Korea to help publicly split NATO. That would be an interesting dilemma for Orban.

Guest

Stevan, we have a nice expression for this trait of Trump in German:
A manger builds a “Flaschenzug” – Flasche= incompetent person.

I heard this from SIEMENS – there were whole divisions where after a Flasche was installed as top manager he of course chose Flaschen too as department heads etc …

Guest

First class people hire first class people. Second class people hire third class people. (Unknown sage)

wrfree
Guest
Re: The Trumpster… To be weakest POTUS? Hope not …. for all our sakes. Not sure why he should be the ‘weakest’. It is imperative that he at least holds the line. One would think he’d be perspicacious enough in how to deal with current domestic and global threats especially the military ones. If he (the US) withers in dealing with the major problems of the day well fill in the blanks because there are plenty who would fill the breach. Sadly to the detriment of all currently free societies. Right now the tyro POTUS is in front of the swamp and looking how to drain it. If he’s scared as hell he doesn’t show it taking a page from FDR and adding a bit of seeming no nonsense bluster to his plain-speaking elocutions. His success I’d think must be predicated on the give and take between him and his advisers and more importantly the American people. And right now the latter is a bit ‘uneasy’ in his potential to handle crises. For the US and the world’s sake we need to hope he will help direct and forge the right moves in the chess game he’s now part of.… Read more »
Member


What is this gibberish?

wrfree
Guest

Simply put we can’t afford a POTUS who ‘missteps’ at this juncture in his presidency. We must hope he can take the measure of tenuous situations. Stevan sorry to say I know you despise him But at bottom you need to pray for him not to make a mistake. If he miscalculates we’re all to suffer the
consequences. My humble take on the situation.

e-1956
Guest

Trump and his team can do a better job in their sleep than the transparently nasty Obama.

The enemies of the Enlightened West are now afraid, and on the defense.

wrfree
Guest

The analysts pretty soon will look at the ‘twilight’ Obama years and the first four of the Trump administration. They will certainly be arguing whether or not Obama handed on unsolved problems and issues to Trump that festered and now have become open bloody sores.

Ironic to say the least that a virtual neophyte in political affairs has been elected to lead the greatest and most powerful country in the world at this tumultuous time. We see he has ‘backtracked’ on positions.
I’d say he is getting ‘religion’ into the various types of political, social and eco worlds he has to slither through. Will he have beginner’s luck? I’d say he’d better have it folks or we’ll be just chum floating in the ether.

webber
Guest

The saddest thing is that Trump’s State Dept. has been as critical, if not actually more critical of Orbán than the EU. You get individual EU politicians making nice statements (just as individual senators make statements), but the Hungarian government and everyone else knows those are irrelevant.

Observer
Guest

Stevan
Kudos for the succinct but colorful and precise description.

petofi
Guest

Orbanski is backing up like a Georgia mule!

(predictable)

webber
Guest

Petofi, I will give you this, you have a rich repertoire of American sayings, and an even better understanding of Orban.

eszti
Guest

there is a protest planned for tomorrow: “nem maradunk csendben”, 17:30, at Szabadsag ter, https://www.facebook.com/events/411047012602654/

Tyrker
Guest

A most unfortunate timing for a demonstration – it’s Holy Saturday.

Member

Only a problem if Hungary was a truly Christian country.
It ain`t Poland or Ireland. 15% go to church if that.
Even the self-confessed *Christiam* fascists will be shopping or watching a movi tomorrow

Hardy
Guest

Well, considering the the Christians unworthy behavior of the Catholic church in Hungary the timing looks most fortunate to me

Guest

Totally OT – or not?

During the last week the Forint has been very weak – it went from 309 to the € to almost 313 …
So my wife was right, telling me to wait with exchanging money, waiting until Easter passes by!

Btw, Happy Holidays everybody!

George Szirtes
Guest

Dear Eva, Your readers may be interested in the letter with over 630 signatures of international writer, artists, academics and others, now featured in The Guardian and Al Jazeera.

http://georgeszirtes.blogspot.co.uk/2017/04/the-closing-of-ceu-closing-of-hungary.html

Member

Gratitude to George Szirtes for this. Academics (and all others) should use this occasion to unite against tyranny (before it’s too late).

fortran
Guest

Given the cozy, personal relationship between Orban and Putin, Szijjarto and Lavrov and the clear, unequivocal government support for the Russian intelligence agencies to operate in Hungary freely it’s rather logical to conclude that the relationship between the Hungarian and Russian intelligence agencies are also very good and personal. It is only natural that the Russian comrades will help their Hungarian counterparts with accumulated know-how about how to shut down a “American, liberal, jewish instituton”. This is what friendship is about.

The recent bilateral treaty between Hungary and Russia which created the legal possibility for the Hungarian government to provide classified information to Russian agencies is nothing more than retroactive paperwork.

Orban’s government is a government of lawyers so some government people must have realized that the fantastic interagency relationship and Orban’s actions towards Russia may be questionable from a criminal law perspective (e.g. spying, treason etc.).

So Orban created some legal fig leaf which will cover these problems. I have absolutely no doubt that the Hungarian intelligence agencies have been deeply implicated in the Lex CEU actions and useful know-how was obtained from the Russians. This is how Orban thinks, operates. He always prefers to involve siloviks.

Observer
Guest

How is the treaty called, any link?
How does it sit with the NATO commitments?

Ervin
Guest
Guest

Ervin, thanks for this!

For those whose Hungarian is limited (like mine …) – if you scroll down that link you find the info in English:

AGREEMENT BETWEEN THE GOVERNMENT OF HUNGARY AND THE GOVERNMENT OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION ON THE MUTUAL PROTECTION OF CLASSIFIED INFORMATION

Observer
Guest

Tnx guys.

Observer
Guest

What do these three cases point to?

FASCISM, to use the closest definition, or dictatorship in general. One can argue about the % of completion, but it is actually irrelevant since the regime is steady on course, i.e. solidifying so the next stage is just a matter of time.

Guest

My wife’s youngest son who with his family spends Easter here just told me that a business associate of his is a real 1000% Fidesznik. On this guy’s facebook page you find comments like “the protesters Varga and Gulyas now will have to do real work for the first time in their lives!”

wrfree
Guest

Re: ‘regime on steady course’

You know it is pretty ominous now that the CEU episode has gone now on to intimidating students and faculty at various Magyar universities. If CEU does get out of the grasp of VO and his boys it still will not remove the apparent ‘taint’ and ‘infection’ of having attended there and getting a degree.

So with that it looks way beyond ken that we will not see perhaps CEU’s best brightest students serving the Magyar government and the nation.
They apparently have sucked up the ‘wrong’ mindset.

Frankly, a CEU win just might turnout to be a pyrrhic victory. The outcome would seem to be the elevation of colleges to the ‘FU’ Magyar Education Group namely an all-encompassing Fidesz University Network if it isn’t on the books already. And the degrees? Offering Bachelor/Master of Fideszian Arts. Signed, sealed and delivered by only the ‘approved’ universities with their hand-picked , governmental ‘headmasters’ themselves. The ‘FUN’…Magyar akademia in the illiberalist mode.

Observer
Guest

FASCISM it is folks.

And as we speak, there is a fourth indicative case: Speaker L. Kövér again leaped into action and
– BANNED FOREVER from the parliament building the spokesman of Dialog for Hungary and
– Forbade its president Timea Szabó to bring in any guests, including technical experts.

Both are appalling acts against democratic norms and parliamentarian tradition, and illegal as well, I suspect.
To remind all of this brutish idiot’s record I am sending the search results:

https://www.google.hu/search?q=K%C3%B6v%C3%A9r+megtiltotta+parlamentb%C5%91l&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&client=firefox-b-ab&gfe_rd=cr&ei=OAHxWLfTLdSv8wfrnoqYCA

pappp
Guest

This leak that Orban realized he needs an agreement and a compromise is total bullshit. This bullshit was strategically “leaked” via 24.hu (which is rather independent) so that readers would give assign more credibility to the news.

The whole CEU shutting down operation was modeled to various outcomes. Certainly Orban will not realize making a mistake just because urban liberals are out on the streets for a few days. This is a complex operation against CEU (and ‘the Americans’).

There is a natural human tendency towards wishful thinking because it just feels much better than continuing with the anxiety which facing reality would entail. But Orban isn’t retreating an inch.

Orban indeed has nerves of steel and can easily outplay his adversaries who over time will move onto other problems (in the EU, for example). This game only just began and Orban is happy to be playing it.

Anything other than full repeal of the law will be a ploy to fool people again.

http://24.hu/belfold/2017/04/13/orban-belatta-hogy-meg-kell-egyezni-a-ceu-val/

Guest
Pappp, I think you got it wrong – at least partially: of course it’s easy for O to win against Hungarians, they have to pay for all this, whether it’s Paks, the rampant corruption or the North Korean style media, whatever. But where has he ever “won” against the EU or the USA? Did they follow any advice from him, does Hungary have any influence at all on the policies of the USA or the EU? Germany treats the refugees following the ideas of humanity, it doesn’t matter at all what Hungary says or does and the same goes for other policies. The only thing that Omanaged in the EU is to show that Hungary is no longer a part of civilised Europe! And German companies are treating Hungary just like another one of those third world countries – not much better than Bangladesh or Vietnam or … Good and willing workers abound for cheap production – in some areas like automobiles … And of course the brain drain is a welcome source for qualified workers in IT and engineering, but now also for hotels, restaurants etc. We just heard from our young ones that Tesco and some smaller shops… Read more »
Member

“Anything other than full repeal of the law will be a ploy to fool people again”

Right; but both the regime and the CEU leadership know this is the key to CEUs survival in Hungary.

The fascists have lied to them before, there is no reason whatsoever to believe that they wont again. If Orban tells you today is Friday, check your diary very carefully to make sure

CEU has two choices- move to a democratic country and prosper or stay in Hungary if the law is repealed. No point messing about with “legal holes” in LEX CEU.

But, and this is important, the fascists and their so-called “smart lawyers” have misjudged both CEU and the NGOs resolve. Whereas threats and thuggery may have worked against the ordinary Hungarian, they haven`t in this case to date.

My hope is that CEU stays but only after a full surrender on the part of Orban. The continuance of academic freedom is of paramount importance…the utter humiliation of the fat dictator comes a close second in my book.

pappp
Guest

Orban is not living in reality any more. He’s living in his own dreamworld. Which is good. Classic end stage for any dictator – though the agony may last for years.

Having said that Orban has the entire state apparatus at his disposal and it is a formidable adversary for any democrat.

I wouldn’t want to play the game of estimating chances of CEU’s survival in Hungary. What I’m sure about, however, is that CEU has the chance of staying in Hungary but only if CEU’s leadership remain tough and unrelenting. This is serious shit, this isn’t academia, they must be really smart. This is dealing with a devious dictator, it’s something scholars only read about in books.

Orban has won numerous such games before, he has a great routine and an unusually high ambition to eliminate CEU while CEU’s people lack that experience.

But timing is everything and timing for Orban isn’t good.

Orban is now towards the end of his career and thus CEU has a real shot at defeating Orban.

Member

comment image

Observer
Guest

Tnx. I’ll write to him too.

Ferenc
Guest

For everybody who wants to write, why not copy in representatives of your own country in EU parliament / EPP.
Members per country can be found here:
http://www.europarl.europa.eu/meps/en/map.html (just click your country and you get the full list of MEPs).
I have written one week ago to the EPP party of my country and copied in other parties, unfortunately so far no reply received

Chad Sudan
Guest

Can someone tell me what the major surviving independent Hungarian-language media outlets are?

One story I read said it’s basically down to index.hu, hvg.hu, and 444.hu.

Guest

These are the ones my wife reads regularly …

Member

Portfolio.hu

Depending on your definition of “independent,” you might consider atlatszo.hu or even the new Magyar Nemzet (mno.hu).

Hardy
Guest

http://www.direkt36.hu is another one

pappp
Guest

Honfoglalás 2000, which is ‘civil association’ but in reality it’s a joint Hungarian-Russian intelligence operation (that is the same people who were working hard to prepare Operation Lex CEU) say that “they have been informed by a reliable source that CEU will shut down soon”. This item appeared on MTI, which is the state owned news agency and is obviously part of the operation.

I hope not too many people east this bullshit about Orban retreating. It’s not happening and it won’t happen – unless there is a clear repeal or clear revocation like in the case of the Internet Tax.

https://444.hu/2017/04/14/honfoglalas-2000-belathato-idon-belul-bezarja-kapuit-a-ceu

pappp
Guest
Very interesting media ploy by Fidesz to sow doubts within supporters of CEU. It’s part of the Russian intelligence inspired tactics Fidesz uses. There is an article by ATV/Hetek, the media by Hit Gyülekezete about Fidesz’ CEU-strategy. Now, ATV used to be considered an opposition-leaning media but it became increasingly pro-Fidesz on many issues (the leader of the Church is now openly pro-Orban). But the media has a very important asset: its viewership still includes many opposition leaning voters which Orban otherwise could not really reach. But now that the church leader has been coopted Orban has ATV/Hetek too (Hetek being the print weekly edited by the same church people). The article claims that Fidesz is united and will never give up and Soros is as unpopular as Gyurcsany and that people of Borsod and Békés have zero idea about what’s going on and that the strategy of ‘central space of power’ still holds and Fidesz will win. Basically the article wants to weaken the opposition by telling them that Fidesz will not compromise (and so Fidesz will win as it usually does) and also tell ordinary fideszniks that they should not worry about the demonstrations because Fidesz will win… Read more »
Member
So… if the vote collection on the Olympics had been held in a democratic country, then there would have been 400k + signatures. Anyone working for the state (doctors, teachers, transport workers etc) were warned by the regime that if they sign then they would have their job taken off them the next day with none of this EU workersrights EU "bullshit" regarding redundancy payments and what have you. Trust me, every regime propaganda "Lets stand against Brussels while we still steal their Euros” poster in the capital has been vandalised, every day, by noon latest. The next day the regime sends out its minions to replace them, by afternoon they have been vandalised once again. The Jobbik/Simicska (admittedly very clever) anti Orban propaganda is largely (with exception of the 5th District, where the international media are located, huh!) untouched. The youth in the capital are now either far-right Jobbik or democratic. Fidesz are toast in Budapest if there is a free election they are looking at below 20% here. Tarlos is the most popular right wing poli in the city, that should tell you exactly where we are at. CEU will survive either here or in a democratic country.… Read more »
Hoping
Guest

Just to confirm what @eszti says earlier… another protest today “nem maradunk csendben”, 17:30, at Szabadsag ter, https://www.facebook.com/events/411047012602654/

wpDiscuz