The City of Pécs, which served as Fidesz’s laboratory, is close to bankruptcy

In preparation for today’s post on the chaotic situation in my hometown of Pécs, I read two pieces I had written in October 2009, shortly after, as the result of a by-election, Fidesz candidate Zsolt Páva became mayor of the city. The first article was titled “Watch Pécs: It will tell a lot about Fidesz plans for Hungary.” Rereading this article eight years later is an eerie experience because indeed Fidesz was using Pécs as a laboratory for its own plans for the country. All the tricks it later employed, including the national consultations, were first introduced in Pécs.

Originally Páva, in true populist fashion, wanted to take the oath of office on the main square, right in front of City Hall, but MSZP and SZDSZ members of the city council, who were in the majority, refused to endorse the plan, considering it “blatant demagoguery.” Eventually, Páva took the official oath inside the building but repeated the performance in public.

Soon enough one “referendum” followed the next, which were the forerunners of the Orbán government’s national consultations. Páva spent a sizable amount of money on these referendums, in which his administration inquired about matters to which the answer could only be “yes.” Doesn’t it sound familiar? Páva also sacked all city employees who had anything to do with the previous administration. In no time he managed to change the composition of the city council by convincing a couple of members to switch parties; thus Fidesz achieved a slight majority in the council. Every company owned by the municipality was audited at a considerable cost because, Páva claimed, the audit would save the city 500 million forints. This was, as it turned out later, simply not true.

His next move was the forcible takeover of the water company in which the minority shareholder was Suez, a well-known French company. Páva ordered security men to occupy the headquarters of the firm at 3:30 in the morning. When the employees arrived for work, the guards prevented people belonging to the upper and middle management of the company from entering. A few days later a new city-owned water company was formed with a capital base of five million forints. (No, that’s not a typo.) The new company promised to pay the salaries of Suez’s 360 employees from their “riches” of five million. Suez was stunned and called the occupation of its headquarters “forcible entry.” Naturally Suez brought legal proceedings against the city. The law suit dragged on for years. Pécs was finally assessed 3 billion forints for its share in the water company, which the city of Pécs was unable to come up with. The bill was paid by the central government.

Something very similar happened in 2016 when the city of Pécs acted as an intermediary, hoping to pass the Zsolnay Porcelán Manufaktura on to a Fidesz oligarch. The factory was owned by a Syrian-Hungarian-Swiss businessman who had bought 74.5% of the shares from the city and promised to sink 500 million forints into the enterprise. The methods were roughly the same as in the Suez case. First Páva and the businessmen behind him established a new company by enticing the majority of the approximately 150 workers to abandon Zsolnay in favor of the new city-owned company. The aim was a forcible takeover of private property. I don’t want to go into the complicated machinations, but a certain businessman with close ties to the Orbán family suddenly had a burning desire to own Zsolnay because of the large restoration projects in the Castle District and elsewhere in Budapest. The roofs of many of these buildings, which had been erected in the last years of the nineteenth century, were covered with pyrogranite tiles made by the Pécs factory. In the end, the city failed because the Syrian businessman wasn’t easily intimidated and had enough money to clear all of his debt to the Hungarian Eximbank, which had been complicit in turning him out of his property. The financial loss to the city as a result of its new “business venture,” which never got off the ground, was again considerable.

By now, apparently, the City of Pécs is close to bankruptcy. For some time, there has been talk about Páva’s possible departure from the mayoralty. About three weeks ago a press conference was scheduled to take place where the mayor was supposed to announce the establishment of the Magnus Aircraft factory in Pécs. This is a huge event for the city, whose economy is in the worst shape among all larger Hungarian cities. Since 2009 the city has lost 13,000 inhabitants, unemployment is high, and investors don’t find the city, far away from Budapest and hard to reach from the West, attractive. Yes, it is a charming city with a rich history, but aside from the university with its 20,000 students it has little to offer economically. The nearby coal and uranium mines have closed and nothing came to replace them.

Együtt: City of Pécs close to bankruptcy. When will Zsolt Páva resign?

So, the intention of Magnus Aircraft to set up a factory is big news. I must admit that I had never heard of this company, which developed the e-Fusion, the first all-electric, aerobatic trainer aircraft. It is a Hungarian company from Kecskemét which describes itself as a multinational group. It has a business arrangement with Siemens, which provides the batteries. What will come of this new technology no one knows, but Pécs is very excited.

The long-awaited press conference was held, sans Mayor Zsolt Páva. Instead, two Fidesz members of parliament representing the district, Péter Csizi and Péter Hoppál, made the announcement. Páva’s absence indicated to those journalists who, after being booted out of the local Dunántúli Napló when it was bought by Lőrinc Mészáros, founded an internet news site called Szabad Pécs (Free Pécs), that Páva’s position must be shaky. And soon enough came the news on the city’s official internet site that “a new policy making body will lead Pécs” from here on. The decision was allegedly reached by the Fidesz-KDNP members of the city council. The mayor, the deputy mayors, and the two Fidesz MPs will comprise this new group, but its chairman will not be Páva but Péter Csizi. So, as Magyar Nemzet rightly points out, the city will be run by a committee no one elected. Not exactly a democratic solution to a problem.

It is highly unlikely that the decision to establish such a body was made by the Fidesz-KDNP members of the city council. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the decision came from Viktor Orbán himself. Removing Páva at this juncture is out of the question because holding by-elections now would be a suicidal move. According to my calculations, if LMP hadn’t decided to run alone in 2014, Pécs wouldn’t have two Fidesz members of parliament today. In local elections Fidesz cannot rely on foreign votes, and the locals are pretty unhappy with the Fidesz leadership. The last thing Orbán wants is an electoral loss in a major Hungarian city.

According to rumor, Pécs, during the tenure of Zsolt Páva, has accumulated 24 billion forints in debt. The city is close to bankruptcy despite the fact that Pécs did not have to pay the 3 billion forints to Suez by way of compensation. As far as I know, the owner of Zsolnay Manufactura is also suing the city.

The Fidesz laboratory set up in 2009 has failed miserably. Páva did everything that was demanded of him and yet, or perhaps because of it, he drove his city into bankruptcy. Is it possible that once Orbán’s rule is over the country will be in a similar situation despite the regime’s bragging about its fantastic successes? Not at all unimaginable.

Tomorrow Pécs will have a distinguished visitor, the prime minister himself. He is allegedly attending the 650th anniversary celebration of the university’s founding. Well, kind of. It is true that the first and only Hungarian medieval university was established in Pécs in 1367, but it most likely survived for less than fifty years. The real founding of today’s university was in 1921 when the University of Pozsony (today Bratislava) moved to Pécs. But more about that sometime in the future.

August 31, 2017
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dos929
Guest

“Is it possible that once Orbán’s rule is over the country will be in a similar situation despite the regime’s bragging about its fantastic successes? Not at all unimaginable.” >>> Hungary is already there, alas not without Orban and his fellow thieves… Just step out from any city centre in Hungary and see the deplorable infrastructure, just travel on the public transport and study the faces and behaviour of the travelling public, just try out the national health service, etc… Just try… and sooner or later you will realise that Hungary is a failed state. If the EU subsidies would cease Hungary’s GDP would hit well below minus in spite of the bragging about the tremendous successes of the regime.

Observer
Guest

Yes, Hungary IS already going the Pécs way – even the somewhat doctored figures on the economy are pretty feeble and show a downward divergence trend from the regional economies.
The monumental institutionalized corruption not only syphons development funds out of the economy, but also brings about unproductive investments, drastic distortions of the market and the deterioration of business practices, all sapping growth and development.

The exodus abroad of close to 20% the most entrepreneurial or valuable working age young population alone threatens economic disaster.

Add the record low spending on education, the anachronistic system of the latter, its deteriorated quality and results.
Investment, innovation, productivity, legal framework, business environment, governance are all down, as is happiness, livable conditions. Add atrocious health stats.

Again: it is not only Pécs, but all such regimes have brought decay to their respective economies (in the absence of easily mined natural resources and some even with them), and impoverished their populations.

wrfree
Guest

Re: ‘Just step out from any city centre in Hungary and see the deplorable infrastructure, just travel on the public transport and study the faces and behaviour of the travelling public, just try out the national health etc’

In my mind’s eye I have visions of a past traveling through the countrysides and cities. What an indictment. Materially I could see great progress today. But something ‘internal’ got lost along the line.

Perhaps future historians will be in a better position to examine the decline of Magyar relationships between the outside world and within their own. Unless unless they stare themselves down to see indelible truths within themselves that mitigate getting them out of the quicksand. But I understand the terror that might grip them. Magyars are not very brave and truthful explorers of things that go bump in the night.

petofi
Guest

If you have a goose laying golden eggs, you don’t kill the goose…unless your true pleasure lies in the killing of the very goose itself.

Ferenc
Guest

First checked the current city council (result of 2014 local elections – http://valasztas.hu/hu/onkval2014/990/990_0_index.html):
FIDESZ – 19 / Forum-MSZP – 2 / Jobbik – 2 / ÖPE (local) – 2 / LMP – 1 / DK – 1
This was reached as follows: Fidesz won all 19 districts – other parties got their total 8 seats through ‘compensation list’ – districts were won with average 36.9% of votes (varying between varying between 43.8 and 25.1%, so nowhere absolute majority)
Summarized: with about 37% of votes Fidesz gained 70% of seats!!
Marvelous this Hungarian democracy, isn’t it?
My opinion: (in good Mexican?) ‘felháborító’ or disgusting

Second, a question: Which laws/regulations make that, by Fidesz ‘decided’, ‘new policy making body’ possible? If such depends on 2/3 majority in city council, well I checked above how this was reached by Fidesz…

Joe the Plumber
Guest

Pécsi Vizmu wasn’t a hydroelectric company, it supplied water to the city and treated the waste water – nothing to do with producing electricity.

Observer
Guest

It was the water supply utility.

tappanch
Guest

Number of Islamist “radicals” in Western Europe,
a fresh estimate by Gilles de Kerchove d’Ousselghem,
the EU Counter-terrorism Coordinator:

UK: 20,000 – 25,000
France: 17,000
Spain: 5,000+
Belgium 2,000+

http://www.elmundo.es/espana/2017/08/31/59a70a48ca4741f7588b45e4.html

Observer
Guest

Number of Orbanist radicals in Hungary : 1 million and this is not an estimate.

tappanch
Guest

The FiDestruction of the trees of Budapest, 2012-2018

comment image

tappanch
Guest

FiDestruction or Tar(lós)vágás

[for English only speakers: tarvágás = clear-cutting, and Tarlós is the name of the current Orbannik mayor]

wrfree
Guest

If they keep on doing that ‘tarvagas’ Pest could one day possibly be a swimmer’s paradise. The campaign should be ‘keep the green’.

Martin
Guest

And – perhaps no so surprisingly – Jobbik continues this insainty.

The Fidesz majority municipality just voted for the proposal by Jobbik that all Populus x canadensis, Populus euamericana (kanada nyárfa) trees in Budapest will but cut down.

Many are enormous and give fantastic shade especially in these very hot summers. But never mind, cut, baby, cut.

http://index.hu/belfold/budapest/2017/08/30/kivagjak_az_osszes_kanadai_nyarfat_budapesten/

wrfree
Guest

Perhaps the loss of trees may mark an ‘asphyxiation’ as Fidesz seemingly has the chokehold over an electorate that gets to breathe a different kind of air supply.

Observer
Guest

ILLEGAL is the whatever committee created to assume the prerogatives of the mayor imho. The law on local government (2011. évi CLXXXIX. törvény
Magyarország helyi önkormányzatairól) sets out in detail the offices and governing bodies and doesn’t allow for any such possibility, which would be contrary to the basic legal principles.

This another example of the lawlessness of the Orban mafia state, I’m affraid.

tappanch
Guest

There are still small islets of democracy left in the cesspool of Hungary.

The Hungarian Swimming Federation dismissed its Fidesz apparatchik
chairman today.

The vote was 141 against, 10 abstentions, and 2 for Mr Bienerth.

http://index.hu/sport/uszas/2017/09/01/bienerth_rendkivuli_kozgyules_musz/

Observer
Guest

Something similar took place several years ago in the Sailing Federation, where the gov man was later voted out (by mainly fidesz sympathizers though). I don’t know of any other cases of such democracy, limited as it is since the main players were all from the party circles. (similar to the elections of the communist times – all candidates from the same party).

Member

The failure of Pecs as an experiment of the Fidesz policies fits a larger picture of these so-called conservative economic failures. I think of the economic policies in Hungary as a “wet-dream” for the US GOP politicians. Cut taxes for the rich and cut services for the masses. It has worked just as well in the States where the Republicans are in control. Kansas is the most notable failed experiment.

tappanch
Guest

“Supreme Court quashes [the president’s] re-election”

http://www.nation.co.ke/news/Kenya-Election-Petition-Supreme-Court-Judgment-Uhuru/1056-4079158-j52377/index.html

This cannot happen in Hungary, only in Africa …

tappanch
Guest

In the near future, only people who are accepted to and graduate at Orban’s new university can become leaders, high apparatchiks of the state.

The University (Nemzeti Közszolgálati Egyetem) has a huge budget separate from the general higher education budget.

The president of this university (András Patyi) is also the appointed head of the National Election Commission. (cheating-free, fair 2018 election anyone?)

comment image

http://hvg.hu/itthon/20170901_A_fiatal_jogaszok_sem_usszak_meg_a_kormany_diplomadiktatumat

tappanch
Guest

Patyi’s ex cathedra statement :
“no referendum can be held about Paks”

https://mno.hu/belfold/patyi-andras-nem-lehet-nepszavazas-paksrol-2403010

Observer
Guest

These are to be the jannisars of the regime, as if the currently appointed party soldiers are not obedient and immoral enough.

To hell with the various laws, uni charters and 100s y.o. traditions of the universities to guarantee tutorial and scientific standards, in Orbanistan some are much more equal than the others.

It’s fascism Ms. Applebaum … lawlessness and corruption.

tappanch
Guest

Orba hypnotizes like a cobra

„És úgy néz ez az Orbán:
valahogy kobra-formán!”

“Poem” by the Fidesz poet Szőcs:

http://hvg.hu/itthon/20170901_Hallgassa_meg_hogy_szavalja_el_Galvolgyi_a_volt_allamtitkar_verset_a_kormanyrol

Ferenc
Guest

OT – football
Paris Saint Germain (PSG), owned by a company from Qatar, ‘contracted’ two new players this summer in very peculiar ways, Brazilian Neymar and Frenchman Mbappe. One by arranging a contract for the WC 2022 (to be held in Qatar) to shift him enough money, so he himself could buy himself out of his contract with Barcelona, and then sign for PSG. The other one by making a construction of the first year on loan and then buying him from his former club.
UEFA just announced that they’ll start an investigations into these PSG cases according their rules of ‘financial fairplay’.
I would like to compare this whole PSG transfer circus with the situation in Hungary: OV&Fidesz actions and the ‘investigations’ by the Hungarian legal bodies.
PS: may be, when it was unclear what OV was doing after his holiday period officially was over, he had meetings with some people from Qatar on Aug.21-25…

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