European Union salvo against Viktor Orbán’s illiberal state

Yesterday an editorial appeared in Magyar Hírlap, a government-sponsored daily paper. The author reassured the paper’s readers that “yesterday nothing new happened; nothing was decided; the political, financial, legal, and communication war [between the EU and Hungary] will continue.” And in any case, next week there will be an important EU summit where “the power relations between Brusselites and the camp of those countries that defend sovereignty can shift further toward the latter.”

Admittedly, it is important for a government publication to spread optimistic messages, but the fact is that official statements belie these hopeful predictions. Viktor Orbán rarely gives “extraordinary” television interviews, but after the barrage of bad news coming from Brussels he felt it necessary to explain his version of the events.

What is the Hungarian government facing at the moment? Two different proceedings against the country are underway. The first is a triad of infringement procedures. The second, the beginning of the Article 7(1) process.

Infringement procedures are legal actions against a member country that fails to implement EU laws. There are stages to these procedures, which basically involve an exchange of legal opinions. After the second such unsatisfactory exchange the Commission sends the case to the European Court of Justice. In the event the judgment goes against the country and that country doesn’t rectify the situation, the Commission will propose that the Court impose financial penalties which, depending on the seriousness of the infringement, may be quite high, especially if the penalty is imposed for each day the country is not in compliance.

Hungary at the moment has three serious infringement cases under consideration at the European Court of Justice: the country’s refusal to accept a small quota of refugees, its modification of the laws regarding foreign-financed civic groups, and the amendments to the education law that placed Central European University in a precarious position. Its continued existence is still very much in question.

The other “drama” is being played out in the European Parliament, where a resolution was adopted earlier that calls for launching Article 7(1). It instructs the Committee of Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) to draw up a formal resolution for a plenary vote. On December 7 there was a hearing on the issue, where Péter Szijjártó represented the Hungarian government. The adoption of a resolution calling for the initiation of Article 7(1) proceedings, which could result in the suspension of voting rights for the targeted country, is a first in the history of the European Parliament.

These are significant matters, so I wasn’t surprised that Viktor Orbán, who rarely initiates television appearances, decided to grace the newly appointed Echo TV with his presence. Of course, Orbán’s interviews are so obviously staged that one can easily pick out all the “key words” that were supplied to the anchors ahead of time. And naturally the interviewers never ask “difficult questions.” One of the messages of government communication from here on will be that none of these “attacks” on Hungary has anything to do with the Orbán government’s transgression of European laws and values. They are inflicted on Hungary either because the Orbán government’s actions have had an adverse effect on the economic interests of foreign multinational companies or because they interfere in some mysterious way with the goals of the bureaucrats in Brussels.

In this interview Orbán renewed his claim that economic interests triggered the Tavares Report of 2013, which was a sharply worded, hard hitting report on the state of democracy in Hungary. After the European Parliament accepted Rui Tavares’s report, the Hungarian government wrote a resolution of its own which was then submitted to parliament. It was a verbose, clichéd piece of writing which included a sentence that struck me as odd at the time. It claimed that the Tavares Report was an answer to Hungary’s “reducing the cost of energy paid by families. This may hurt the interests of many European companies that for years have had windfall profits from their monopoly in Hungary.” That claim was ridiculous in 2013, if for no other reason than that the Tavares Report, which had nothing to do with economics, had been in the making for a year and a half while the Orbán government’s lowering of energy prices took place about two months before the release of the report. I really wonder whether by now Viktor Orbán actually believes this lie since he used the same kind of rationalization to explain away the report that is currently being drafted in the European Parliament.

Viktor Orbán claimed in 2013 that the very thorough analysis of the Orbán government’s transgression of democratic norms was nothing but a series of political attacks. Today he claims the same. As far as he is concerned, all disputes about democratic norms were closed before 2013. The Hungarian government has “the paper” to show that the European Commission and the Venice Commission were totally satisfied with all the changes that had been made to the media law and the constitution. It is not a lack of democracy that the Commission and the Parliament are really worried about today. EU politicians are concerned that Hungary’s stance on migration will hurt “their interests.” As if it was in the interest of the European Union to be faced with a million and a half refugees and immigrants. It is hard to fathom that anyone believes such nonsense or, for that matter, that any self-respecting politician can utter such an absurdity. And yet Orbán, with a straight face and in all seriousness, discussed the European Union’s plans to create a “continent of mixed population.” I assume I don’t have to add that George Soros and his network are behind this diabolical plan.

The key word, by the way, in this interview was sovereignty, which was kindly supplied by Orbán’s old friend Zsolt Bayer, one of the two anchors. Often, when Orbán encounters a word that is borrowed from abroad, like sovereignty (szuverenitás), used in Hungarian since 1786, he feels compelled to explain what the word actually means. This time he came up with “freedom” (szabadság) as a good equivalent. “At stake is the question of Hungarian freedom,” he claimed. The debate in the Union “touches on the question of freedom.”

With this switch from sovereignty to freedom, Orbán moved the discussion to an entirely different plane. Sovereignty means complete independence and self-government. Freedom, on the other hand, has many meanings, including “the condition of not being subject to a despotic or oppressive power,” and that can conjure up all sorts of xenophobic reactions in Hungarians. “Brussels is after us.” And indeed, some of the comments I read today in right-wing papers were revealing. One genius announced that the reason for the five-times higher living standards in Austria is Vienna’s exploitation and oppression of Hungary for five hundred years. The same can also be heard about the European Union’s plutocrats. Hungarian nationalism can easily be awakened by an appeal to “freedom,” a ploy Orbán loves to use. And it always does the trick.

December 9, 2017
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Michael Kaplan
Guest

The genus who announced “Vienna’s exploitation… of Hungry for five hundred years” apparently does not know the subject of history as there was no country called Hungary five hundred years ago, let alone no Austria. (there was a kingdom of Hungary though, not the same thing as a country with national awareness!) Regarding Vienna’s “exploitation” etc., it would be a stretch to say that even happened for “five hundred years”. Really -what planet do these ignorant people live on?

Red
Guest

That is precisely the point. I was just thinking the same: My “immigrant” Szekler auto mechanic neighbour, who despises me for working in a multinational financial institution would not understand a word of this article (provided it were written in Hungarian). Orban’s speech appeals to the masses first and foremost because they are hopelessly uneducated. Buulding up on this, it speculates ad infinitum nationalist pride, another thing that can work very well with the useful idiots

Farkas
Guest
I find it highly entertaining to read about the lunatic antics of Hungarians and the corrupt to the core leadership of maniacs and mafia bosses that they keep producing from among themselves, but as a serious proposition, I gave up a long, long time ago on Hungarians and the pits of Balkan-style provincial ignorance and filth they delight to wallow in, whether they are politically left, right or indifferent. I am not a hopeless Hungarophile like George Soros, and if I had as much money as him, I would know a lot better who to help and who not to help, and Hungarians wouldn’t even rate a single dime from me. In that, I find myself very much on the side of Paul Soros, who did not share his younger brother’s manic enthusiasm for Hungarians, and never gave a brass razoo to Hungarians out of his immense personal wealth. Instead, he spent his philantropic dollars on much better causes, like helping talented immigrant students succeed in the United States. But there is also another issue. As an ethnic Jew, I really and truly had a perfect gutful of the mindless and visceral antisemitism of Hungarians. The hatred of Jews is… Read more »
Farkas
Guest
semi-OT I am a liberal democrat of strongly cosmopolitan orientation, and as such, I am not 100%, but if that were possible, 110+% fully supportive of the ideal of open society. But I think that George Soros is totally delusional, if he thinks that throwing immense amounts of money at the Hungarians, he can make even the slightest dent in their semi-feudal, authoritarian mindset, or make one iota of difference to their antisemitic, anti-Gypsy, xenophobic and anti-Muslim proclivities. Soros has been trying very hard indeed for the past thirty-odd years to change these traditional ways in Hungary, though with exceedingly meager return on his investments, except perhaps among a tiny left-liberal segment within the Budapest bubble. I find it completely baffling therefore, that he now intends to double down and try even harder. These last thirty-odd years ought to have been plenty enough of a hard lesson to cure him of his obsession with Hungarians. His determination to continue on with the same things brings to mind Einstein’s perhaps apocryphal dictum on insanity that was supposed to have stated that “(…) insanity is doing the same thing over and over again with the full expectation that the results are going… Read more »
Guest

Farkas, you sound very bitter and you’re probably right, but not all Hungarians are as you describe them.
When I was introduced to my wife I was pleasantly surprised by her very liberal attitude (but she was no Communist, not a party member, no career for her in Kadar times nor later) – and she grew up in a small town in Eastern Hungary.
The funny side of this:
She was also very wary when meeting me, because she feared that I might be a typical conservative Christian German …
After some time she told me that when she entered my little house the fist time she looked around for signs – like a crucifix or other religious symbols over the entrance door. She would have turned around if she had found them – but she only saw records by Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix and a shelf full of science fiction books which she also likes …
So we were a perfect match! 🙂

wrfree
Guest

Well from Dylan one aficionado to another ….here’s the ‘song and dance man’ telling what it’s all about…😎👍
Tough some just don’t get it.

https://youtu.be/c8fWPn_-QZ8

Guest

I hate this period of Dylan! Horrible or as John Lennon wrote:
John Lennon thought this song was “embarrassing” and wrote “Serve Yourself” in response to it. The song criticized Dylan’s preaching and instead asserted: “You gotta serve yourself/Ain’t nobody gonna do it for you.”

Farkas
Guest

@Wolfi
December 10, 2017 4:23 am

Of course. There are always exceptions, and all credit to them. For instance, I have a very close non-Jewish friend in Budapest, who is not just fundamentally decent, but brilliant professionally, who incidentally keeps telling me that she would have rather been born a couple of thousand kilometers West or Northwest of Hungary. And there is of course DK, quixotic as it may be in the Hungarian context, but still, it is quite an acceptable political formation. Unfortunately however, it is always the exception that proves the rule, and the “rule” in Hungary is overall pretty disgusting and repulsive, at least for me.

bimbi
Guest

@Farkas, 3:52 a.m.

Na und?

wrfree
Guest
Re: Einstein I am sure Mr. Soros has an undersranding of the following like no other. Kindred spirits here. Time has moved on but there are things from those chilling ‘yesterdays’ that stare one in the face. Einstein’s Declaration to the Prussian Academy Le Coq near Ostende April 5 1933…. ‘I have received information from a thoroughly reliable source that the Academy of Sciences has spoken in an official statement of ‘Albert Einstein’s participation in atrocity-mongering in America and France’. I hereby declare that I have never taken part in any atrocity-mongering and I must add that I have see nothing of any such mongering anywhere. In general, people have contented themselves with reproducing and commenting on the official statements and orders of responsible members of the German government , together with the program for the annihilation of the German Jews by economic methods. The statements I have issued to the Press were concerned with my intention to resign my position in the Academy and renounce my Prussian citizenship; I gave as my reason fir these steps that I did not wish to live in a country where the individual does not enjoy equality before the law, and freedom of… Read more »
sunyilo12
Member

Farkas, you seem to be a person whose favorite mindset is being annoyed (to the point you feel entertained by it). If you don’t care about what is happening in Hungary why are you reading this blog?

Farkas
Guest

Good question. On the one hand, Eva’s super-intelligent and highly informative blog does not just make stimulating, and indeed irresistible reading, as do the posts of some of the contributors, but an opportunity to get some annoyances and grudges off my own chest, which is psychologically helpful personally to me, however annoying it may be for some fellow contributors. On the other hand, there is this strange fascination of mine with the topic of this blog, which triggers endless streams of ugly memories of pathetically repulsive and disgusting people in and from the land of my birth. In the end, the principal driver for reading and responding to this blog is obviously psychological, the same kind of obsession as that of George Soros, albeit stood on its head. I therefore freely admit that in reading and responding to this blog I am indulging a piece of craziness on my part.

Observer
Guest

Kudos for the expression of the psychological phenomena.

Member

Farkas, the language you use is emotional, hot-headed, and not constructive, but I am interested by your mention of the late Paul Soros (who I knew nothing about). You are also right that Soros really does care in some personal, irrational way about his home country. Some people can’t help doing that, some can, and the two can even be brothers. But to respond to your own reply below, I don’t think Soros is delusional at all. He is simply a very, very talented financier, and a gifted, important commentator on economic issues (in which he is not at all obsessed with Hungary – see his ideas on euro bonds, and all kinds of other affairs, in Europe, US, and around the world). He is less brilliant as a philanthropist and mediocre as a (public) philosopher. These things mean a lot to him, and I suspect he is aware that he doesn’t do them perfectly, and yet keeps going, and (if you ask me) good for him. As a philanthropist, Hungary is only a small part of his portfolio, and it is interesting that he doesn’t give up on it, but it doesn’t make him delusional.

Farkas
Guest

I cast no aspersions on the financial acumen and commercial talents of George Soros, which have my immense respect and admiration. I am also with him 100% re his astute observations about the flaws of capitalism, though I would have also liked to see some genuinely usable suggestions as to better and more effective regulatory remedies. Where we part ways is on his, to my mind, way too overgenerous stance toward Hungary and on his profoundly hostile stance toward Jewish nationalism (Zionism) and the State of Israel, however perfectly consistent as this may be with the overall emphatically anti-nationalist thrust of his belief system, and however much I may personally disagree with some of the current policies of the State of Israel.

Observer
Guest

Farkas

I have the same soul wrenching dilemma – w.t.f. am I poisoning myself with this miasma instead of turning off all local media and enjoying life, which I can afford. What do I care of the 6.5 mil Hungarians/voters, who keep shooting themselves in the foot one way or the other (i.e. all except for the DK and MSZP voters*)

But this means a lot of shutting out, actually of the main areas interests and partially profession too. And finally, this whole fascist destruction and thievery is not right, in fact it’s terribly wrong.

So I keep doing what I can as a good soldier regardless of the uncertain prospects for the immediate tomorrow.

* to forestall some comments: I sympathize with the small parties ideas, with the LMP/Hadházi’s anti corruption drive, but their refusal to co-operate directly benefits Fid and this is the worst option for Hun. Hence I sympathize even with Vona’s attempt to civilize the Jobbik.

Istvan
Guest
Orban’s diatribe against Austria is embedded in the memory of Hungarians in relationship to the take over the the banking system post communism in my opinion and I saw that first hand in the Esztergom area of Hungary in the 1990s where I invested money and funded some crazy ventures sponsored by family members. Fortunately my exposure was small and I lost only a small part of my assets in those fiascos. Hungary’s banking system went through a remarkable transformation in just a few years, from being a money-losing state-owned drain on public resources in the 1980s to becoming 75% privately owned and a generally sophisticated financial sector operating at western European standards by the late 1990s. Initially I operated through Citibank, but my family members seemed to like the Austrian Bank Erste, probably because when they went to Vienna they felt important, possibly a psychological legacy of the Empire or something. Hungary opened the flood gates to foreign investment in the financial sector at an early stage of overall bank privatization. As a result, 44.5% of Hungarian bank assets were owned by foreign financial institutions by 1996 (Economist, 1998). This was a far greater percent than the neigh- boring… Read more »
Guest

If Orbán really believes all this then there’s only one solution:
Real sovereignty and that means:
Leave the EU pronto!
And like the Brits:
Pay back the money!

A bit OT:
And yesterday we read here from one of the Fidesz trolls that it was the Turkish Muslim regime that dominated Hungary for so many years – which the EU is trying to recreate in a way …
Yes, these guys are funny to watch – but not if you’re inside Hungary and habe to bear the consequences of their idiotic actions. From what my wife tells me the plundering of Hungary by the Fidesz mafia goes on and intensifies …

Member
I’m on your side, wolfi, but what you say about the Brits is a terrible misunderstanding. The Brits have always been net contributors to the EU. The EU is not asking for money back that has been given to the UK. It is bargaining for the UK to keep paying for a while in return for lessening the car crash of its bizarre decision to leave a market it has (in economic not political terms) been one of the key proponents of. Hungary on the other hand is a net beneficiary of the EU, while running propaganda about how bad the EU is. It’s an important difference. I can’t stand the idea of Brexit, and hope there is no domino effect of it, but it is quite understandable if net contributor states have enough of their money being squandered (ironically this hardly featured in the Brexit story, while other big net contributors like Germany don’t seem very anxious about this point). The plundering of Hungary by the Fidesz mafia – as your wife rightly puts it – is in good part plundering of EU funds. Had the UK plundered EU funds a bit more to help its more downtrodden regions,… Read more »
Guest

David, yes, Britain contributed to the EU – just fulfilling its obligations like Germany. But the Brits also profit(ed) from the EU system of free trade, free movement etc.
So I maybe should have written:
Just fullfil your obligations from the treaties – if you want a special relationship with the EU in the future. If not, ok, you’ll be treated like any other country …

Farkas
Guest

@David_R_Evans
December 10, 2017 11:14 am

Cogently put, David. Kudos.

Member

“It is hard to fathom that anyone believes such nonsense or, for that matter, that any self-respecting politician can utter such an absurdity”

You should know by now, never underestimate the base stupidity of the typical Fidesz zombie

Marty
Guest

I agree. But it’s also about supplying arguments to the die-hard Fidesz voters. These voters know that many of the things Orban says is bullshit but these voters also know that they have to defend their tribe, Fidesz against the “liberals”, “commies” etc.

Orban, Szilárd Németh etc. supply the arguments regularly, however preposterous. Voters, if they are enthusiastic enough, do want to fight, be part of the war, and they expect to be provided with ammunition – this case verbal ammunition they can tell to friends who might ask questions.

That’s one big difference. Lucky politicians like Orban (rich politicians are always lucky too, especially if they are autocrats) have troopers who enjoy the fighting, the constant war on liberals and other enemies, while the opposition is made up of uncommitted, undecided, not too enthusiastic voters and politicians.

Since Orban is clearly waging an all out, strategic war such opposition has hard time keeping up with the pressure as it still thinks this is just another debating society match circa 1992, when in fact this is deadly serious in more than one meaning.

Bastiat2
Guest

I am not going to condone Orbán and his government, which are despicable. However, if you think that other European states like Germany or France are models of democracy, there is a bridge I’d like to sell you.
Furthermore, most daily newspapers in Western Europe are state sponsored.
What the Brussels bureaucrats hate the most is a small country disagreeing with their viewpoint.
Last, before talking about Hungary as a mafia state, let’s take a closer look at Romania and, worse, Bulgaria.

Ferenc
Guest

Indeed you’re trying to sell the Brooklyn Bridge, actually several Brooklyn Bridges…
https://www.phrases.org.uk/bulletin_board/49/messages/988.html

bimbi
Guest

@Bastiat2, 5:02 a.m.

Gosh do you wear your blinkers at night as well?

J Simon
Guest

Bill Gates supports the Hungarian position regarding migrants, a major stumbling block for the EU. According to Gates, migrants should not be allowed to reach Europe and should be turned back. Also, in the EP, 221 of the delegates, British, Polish and French, support Hungary.

1956
Guest

Has the flood of people from the Middle East been a providential act?

It is time to ask the question:

Who created the refugee crisis in Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan?

Has it been perhaps a 70 maybe 100 year project of the Russo-Soviet foreign interventions and wars?

The refugees are weaponized tools to burden the West.

bimbi
Guest

@1956, 9:23 a.m.

“Has the flood of people from the Middle East been a providential act?”

I’m happy to answer that for you. All good Catholics, such Viktor Orban and Mr. Szijjarto must believe that it is all the work of the Holy Virgin Mary, of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Ghost and the Holy Father which art in Heaven. “A providential Gift from God”.

Just eat it. Nothing moves here down below without the activation of Our Lord, doncha know!

Observer
Guest

BTW Orbán presented himself as reformatus.

bimbi
Guest

@Observer, 5:23 p.m.

Does he really? Ask Mr. Szentivanyi. Orban knows where the Cat’lic voters are and how many there are.

Guest

If there’s any government responsible for the Middle East problem it’s the USA
Blood for oil has been their motto for many years …
And TRump’s good relations with the ugliest of the ugly states like Saudi Arabia speak for themselves.
So please lay off, Andy – your propaganda is as bad as Orbán’s …

petofi
Guest

re: Trump and Saudi

I do believe that the Bush family got there first. (Who preceded them, I don’t know.) But in the aftermath of 9/11, several plane-loads of Saudis were flown out of the US the next day…

bimbi
Guest

That’s right. They all had the surname Bin Laden

1956
Guest

Try to think out of the box.
Try to learn the history of the Middle East from the beginning.
FYI: NAZI agents were the first instigators of anti-British, and anti-Jewish actions in the Middle East.
Was Eichmann visiting Palestine for no reason around 1939?
You should refrain from blanket soviet style accusation against the USA.

1956
Guest

Oh, I forget to protest.
I have just returned from Tuebingen a few weeks ago.
I appreciated the memorial meetings on the anniversary of the Kristallnacht in almost all towns of Germany.
I have managed to meet one of organizers.
What an inspiration it was.
I would appreciate to see pure logic and solid knowledge in your posts instead of cowardly pseudo-progressivism.

PS Did you catch the chocolART in Tuebingen?

Observer
Guest

Pleeeease! Let’s jeep some level here.

Observer
Guest

Fidesznik Joe Simon
Let’s bet tet that B Gates will not support, bur rather actively oppose Orbàn’s kleotocratic fascism – check out the activities ogbthe Bill & Melinda Gates foundation. There’s NO MIGRATION PROBLEM in Hun because no migrants want to come/stay here, none, zero. It’s another fat Orbàn lie to rally the useful Fid dopes.
Pls spare this idiocy for you circles.

Julia G. Stone
Guest
Dear Guest/Observer, It seems you are mixing a few issues. First, it is simply not true that no immigrants want to come or stay here. In fact, there are many immigrants in Hungary, hailing from various regions (Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, to name a few), and having arrived by various means (political crises, educational endeavors that lead to permanent work/residency, straightforward immigration requests, etc.). This immigration ‘problem’ lies in 1.) deciding who can stay and for how long; 2.) supporting those who ARE allowed to stay so the relationship can be mutually beneficial, meaning the newcomers can access the resources of society (healthcare, education, employment, housing, etc.) as a foundation for both thriving and contributing. Obviously, a country can neither guarantee the thriving of its residents nor force their productive participation; it can only enable the pursuit of those things. To whom a country can or should enable such pursuits is a question of paramount importance (egy létfontosságú kérdés). If you are referring to the migrant flux that began in 2015, then again I must challenge your rationale. The fact that most of those migrants did not consider Hungary their final destination does not negate the impact of… Read more »
wrfree
Guest

Re: the ‘3 serious infringement cases’… the 3 ‘monkeys’

At this point the EU let’s say has thrown 3 monkeys at VO. So he does the next best thing by squirming each and every way to get them off his back and running them backto those who throw them at him.

This is the ‘monkey on the back’ game and the idea is to make sure that those monkeys don’t stick. It’s what all lazy guys do who have a hard time solving and coming to grips with problems. They are the ones who have a deficiency in what’s known as ‘cooperation’. They stifle companies and they stifle nations.

Orban doesn’t want the monkeys. He just simply dumps them at the EU doorstep. Your monkeys …..your problem. Koszonom szepen. Magyarorszag: a new type of ‘Animal Farm’ of Europe???