Tag Archives: European values

Emmanuel Macron meets the leaders of the Visegrád 4 countries

Viktor Orbán usually leaves these summits full of complaints about the Brussels bureaucrats’ total incompetence, which will lead to the ruin of Europe. Normally, he comes out of these meetings either condemning the results altogether or, if there is anything to praise, bragging about his key role in the negotiations. For reasons that are still unclear, Orbán’s reaction to this particular summit was surprisingly upbeat. He was especially satisfied with the unanimous support for the creation of a European army. “If one day there is a European army, then future history books will consider this summit the point of departure.”

There is nothing surprising about Orbán’s enthusiasm for a common army because he has talked about it often enough in the last year or so. On the other hand, it was unexpected that, although he admitted that there is no agreement on questions related to migration, “the emphasis was on cooperation” instead of “divergence,” which he considered to be a positive development. Orbán was remarkably congenial, although he was still unmovable on the issue of refugee quotas.

For the leaders of the Visegrád 4 countries, especially those of Poland and Hungary, the scheduled meeting with Emmanuel Macron this morning was of paramount importance. If all goes well, with the election of Macron as president of France there is a good possibility of a gradual transformation of the European Union or at least of the Eurozone into some kind of a federation-like construction. In addition, Macron has never hidden his objections to the kind of political system Jarosław Kaczyński is building in Poland and Viktor Orbán has pretty well already built in Hungary. Moreover, Macron believes, and it seems that he has Chancellor Angela Merkel’s backing, that the lack of solidarity the Visegrád countries display in the refugee crisis cannot be left unpunished. In addition, Macron has had some harsh words to say about the blatant disregard for European values in the Polish and Hungarian political systems. None of that boded well for the first person-to-person meeting of the five heads of states.

Having gone through several Hungarian, Polish, and English-language summaries of the meeting, I came to the conclusion that the prime ministers of the Visegrád 4 didn’t change Macron’s view that all member countries must respect the values and joint decisions of the EU and that, if they don’t, they must face political consequences. Nonetheless, the reports insisted that the meeting was friendly and successful. As Hungary’s Híradó, the official news distributed to all media organs, put it, “although the positions didn’t converge, the leaders called the meeting successful because they could share their own points of view with the president.” Well, that’s not much, especially if, as the Polish Gazeta Wyborcza noted, during the meeting “Emmanuel Macron … reiterated the claim that some countries regard the EU as a supermarket.”

All the Hungarian articles quoted Orbán’s somewhat cryptic description of their meeting with the new French president as a “friendship with a manly beginning,” which in English doesn’t make much sense. However, the meaning of the word “férfias ~ férfiasan” (“masculine ~ in a masculine manner”) in Hungarian also means “firm, resolute, uncompromising.” That’s why one of the internet sites continued by saying that “yet by the end of the meeting they came to the conclusion that the basis of cooperation is the mutual respect they will accord each other.” To put all this into more easily understandable language, I suspect that the Visegrád 4, most likely led by Orbán, started off on a high horse but decided after a while to tone down their “uncompromising” attitude as long as Macron shows them respect.

From other sources it is clear that Macron was unyielding on certain topics. When someone from the French president’s entourage was asked about possible sanctions against those countries that refuse to play according to the rules, he asserted that “no subject was avoided, ignored” during the talks with the Central European leaders. Moreover, Angela Merkel, who usually avoids openly criticizing the countries of the East, said yesterday that “Germany and France are totally on the same page” on the issue.

Magyar Idők most likely doesn’t know yet what the official line will be on this particular issue, and therefore it decided to rely on the official Hungarian news agency’s brief report from Brussels. However, the paper’s anti-Macron rhetoric continues. Just today two antagonistic articles appeared about him, including one which gleefully announces that the raid of Havas’ headquarters by the French anti-corruption police might also involve a visit by Macron, at the time economy minister, to Las Vegas. To an article that didn’t have any more information than what MTI released, Pesti Srácok gave the following headline: “The Visegrád Four put Macron in his place.”

The day before the Macron-Visegrád 4 meeting Ivan Krastev, chairman of the Center for Liberal Strategies, published an opinion piece in The New York Times: “Central Europe’s Tough Choice: Macron or Orban?” He explains that many countries in Eastern Europe built their economic competitiveness on low wages and low taxes and therefore fear the policies Macron campaigned on, like harmonizing taxes across the union and penalizing countries for exporting cheap labor. If these plans materialize, they “could destroy Central Europe’s business model.” So, these countries now, says Krastev, must choose “between deeper integration on terms set by Germany and France or political marginalization—and the fears of a two-tiered European Union could become self-fulfilling prophecies.” The choice is given, but “the jury is out on which choice governments will make: Macron or Orbán, “Hungary’s hard-line nationalist minister.” Orbán told us several times that a two-tiered Europe is unacceptable to him. I expect that in the next years—unless he loses the election, which is unlikely—Orbán will work to somehow wiggle himself out of this hard if not impossible choice.

June 23, 2017

Snippets from Viktor Orbán’s recent speeches–turning eastward and inward

Viktor Orbán’s stamina is remarkable. He left for China on May 11, where he had a busy schedule of meetings, and returned to Budapest on May 17. Yet the next day he gave a very long speech at the annual meeting of Daimler AG, held in Budapest. On Friday, May 19, he gave a 30-minute interview to Kossuth Rádió in the morning, and by the afternoon he was in Zalaegerszeg, an almost three-hour trip by car, where again he spoke. The following day he attended the congress of the Slovenian Democratic Party in Maribor, another one and a half hours by car from Zalaegerszeg.

I have carefully read all of Orbán’s spoken words since his return from China. Did I learn anything new from them? Yes and no. On the one hand, Orbán, like everybody else, has certain topics, ideas, and notions about the world that keep recurring in all his speeches. Those passages are of no interest to anyone who’s familiar with the main thrust of Orbán’s thinking about the world. On the other hand, here and there new ideas appear, which allow us to look at the Hungarian prime minister in a slightly different light.

My general sense is that the Chinese trip and the Chinese leadership’s vision of the “Belt and Road Initiative” made a great impression on Orbán and that he feels privileged to have an agreement with the Chinese to construct a railroad between Budapest and Belgrade as part of that modern version of the Silk Road, connecting the East and the West. As he put it in his interview on Kossuth Rádió, the Chinese invited only those countries that “will have a role to play in the growth of the world economy in the next two or three decades,” which is an excellent piece of news for Hungary.

Orbán is impressed with the Chinese in general. In his eyes, “the Chinese are serene people with a philosophical bent and a goal of achieving harmony.” In contrast, it is “the pursuit of freedom which is at the core of Western political thought.” One would think that giving freedom center stage would be positive, but for Orbán freedom “leads to conflicts.” Westerners are “constantly alarmed about dangers to freedom.” The Chinese, on the other hand, “are concerned with problem solving, trying to find a balanced result, which they call harmony,” and therefore “it is good to negotiate with them.” For example, the Chinese would never say what the leader of the European People’s Party said: “The ball is in your court, if you react the proper way you are a team player, if not there will be consequences.” In Orbán’s opinion, EPP’s reaction “shows how deformed European politics is.” Of course, many other topics were covered in this interview, but these words struck me as intriguing and perhaps even significant.

Orbán’s lengthy speech at the general meeting of Daimler AG also had a few noteworthy parts. One was a strange sentence at the very beginning of his speech. It reads: “When you chose Budapest [to hold the meeting], you made the right decision. It is a fashionable place in addition to being a place of a certain excitement. When one opens foreign newspapers and reads about Hungary, one is not sure whether they are talking about a black sheep or about an outstanding economic success. That creates a kind of intellectual excitement around Hungary. So, we are happy that you came here to see with your own eyes what’s happening in Hungary.” These sentences lead me to believe that the European Parliament’s resolution is a genuine embarrassment for Orbán. The arrangements for this meeting had to have been made months before, when no one could have foreseen the Orbán government’s being reprimanded by the majority of the European Parliament.

It always amuses me when Viktor Orbán, who knows mighty little about economics, shares his high-flown ideas about the future of the world economy. Again, he couldn’t refrain from offering his golden thoughts. The starting point of his assessment of the economic situation in the European Union began with China. “I just came back from China. If one sees the future and looks at Europe from that vantage point, it is especially urgent to reform Europe so it can regain its competitiveness.” That’s a strong beginning, but it is not entirely new in Orbán’s repertoire of stock thoughts.

It’s possible that I missed it before, but this was the first time I heard him “reinterpreting” the causes of the 2008-2009 world financial crisis in economic terms. He said that

It must be accepted in Europe that the 2008-2009 financial crisis was not cyclical but structural. Some European leaders believe that economic crises are part and parcel of a modern market economy. There had been trouble in the European Union before, economic indicators dropped, the economy corrected itself, and the indicators improved. No structural changes were necessary because the system could repair itself. This was true in the last 40 years, but it is no longer so. What we suffer from now is not a cyclical crisis. The simple truth is that other emerging economies are more competitive than we are, and therefore this is a structural crisis of competitiveness. So, our response should be formulated accordingly. I’m convinced that because this paradigm shift is now taking place in the world economy, we should give a European response to it instead of thinking in terms of a cyclical crisis.

I have no idea what kind of structural corrections Orbán is thinking of or what paradigm shift he has in mind. Traditionally a paradigm shift means a fundamental change in basic concepts, which leads me to believe that Orbán is simply mouthing his “right-hand” György Matolcsy’s unorthodox economic ideas, which most responsible Hungarian and foreign economists reject. The Chinese economy, as is the case with all emerging economies, can produce an incredible rate of growth initially, just as East-Central Europe is at the moment ahead of the West as far as economic growth is concerned, but as time goes by these countries’ growth will inevitably slow. It is a mistake to claim that China’s impressive economic growth is due solely to the different structure of its economy and that if the developed West simply adopted its largely state structure, the EU or the United States would produce a 6-8% yearly economic growth.

I found two more short passages worth noting. The first is from the speech delivered in Zalaegerszeg at the opening of a large complex for testing self-driving cars. This is the only recent major construction project that was financed exclusively by the Hungarian government. Orbán said: “This test ground is living proof that we are not on [economic] crutches; we have our own resources; we have our talents; and we are capable of achieving world-class performance. I would like to remind everyone that under the leadership of [Finance Minister] Mr. Mihály Varga during our first government between 1998 and 2002, when we were not yet a member of the European Union, we achieved an economic growth rate of over 4% due to our sound economic policies. In fact, there was one quarter when it was over 5%.” These words were interpreted by the independent media and commentators who are critical of the government as a reformulation of Orbán’s earlier quip: “There is life outside the European Union.” A bad sign, they said. Perhaps he is thinking of eventually leaving the EU.

The proud crew behind the Zalaegerszeg test ground

And finally, in Maribor at the Slovenian Democratic Party’s conference, Orbán said: “As you have heard from your chairman, there is a lot of talk about European values nowadays. They talk about them as if they were guarded in a safe somewhere in Brussels whose key is in the breast-pockets of a very few privileged people. The truth is, however, that there are indeed safes in which European values are stored. These safes, however, are not in Brussels but in the hearts of European citizens, Slovenians, Hungarians, Poles, Germans, French, Slovaks, because European values are not carved into lifeless stones but are written in living hearts.” These words cannot be interpreted in any other way but as a rejection of the fundamental values of the European Union: “Respect for human dignity and human rights, freedom, democracy, equality and the rule of law. These values unite all the member states—no country that does not recognize these values can belong to the Union.” This is the first paragraph of the description of EU “values and objectives” published by the European Parliament. If these values can be reinterpreted on a national or individual level, we no longer have a union.

Taken together, these last two quotations may be an indication of Viktor Orbán’s thinking about the future. In the short run, it means that the tug-of-war between the European Union and Hungary will continued unabated.

May 22, 2017

The two faces of Hungary

Today I would like to share two pieces of writing. One is an article written by Professor András B. Göllner, whom you already know from his astute comments on Hungarian Spectrum. The article originally appeared in Canada’s National Post, a nationally distributed newspaper based in Toronto. The other is a letter addressed to Chancellor Angela Merkel and signed by 43 well-known Hungarians deeply concerned about their government’s behavior. The letter was first published in Népszabadság. These concerned people might be in the minority, but they are the conscience of the nation during these difficult times.

* * *

András B. Göllner: Hungary facing a slow slide into despotism

Last week, Hungary’s nationalist strongman, Viktor Orbán, read the riot act to his diplomats. At a meeting in Budapest, he ordered them to go on the offensive in the Western media and come to the defence of his government’s approach to stemming “the Muslim tide” that is sweeping across Europe from the South.

In his speech, Orbán declared that he will not allow Hungary to become the victim of multiculturalism and promised to do whatever is necessary to ensure that Hungary remains a country populated only by white-skinned Christians. He told his listeners that Western media outlets, including those in Canada, are government mouthpieces that purposefully distort the truth about his country’s handling of the migrant crisis. He ordered his ambassadors to set the record straight. A few days later, his ambassador to Canada, Bálint Ódor, took up the challenge by writing an open letter to the news editors of the CBC and to Canada’s major newspapers, including the National Post. (The full text of the letter is available on the website of the Hungarian Embassy in Ottawa).

rendorseg roszke

In his letter, the Ambassador says that he wants to help our national editors to become better informed. He unfortunately starts off by telling them a monumental lie. He claims that 150,000 of the 160,000 aliens entering Hungary had asked for political asylum in his country. The fact is that hardly any of them did so. Most wanted nothing but to get out of Hungary as fast as their feet could carry them.

Everyone knows that Europe and the world are facing a refugee crisis of epic proportions, sparked by a meltdown in global conflict resolution. No one expected that Hungary, a small and poverty stricken country directly in the path of the tide, should have to solve the problem on its own. But everyone expected that in the process of struggling with the crisis, Hungary would uphold the values that are the sacred trust of the UN and of such bodies as the European Union. The latter expectations are now totally shattered.

The last time Hungary embarked on a racially motivated immigration policy, it was an ally of Nazi Germany.

Through a series of hastily passed laws that will go into effect on Sept. 15, Hungarians and any foreign nationals on the territory of Hungary will face the following conditions. Anyone entering Hungary illegally, regardless of his/her circumstances, will be classified as a felon and face a three-year prison term. Any Hungarian citizen who assists an alien will also be charged. Hungary has erected a 175 km long, four-meter-high razor-tipped fence along its southern border with Serbia. Anyone who climbs over this fence and survives will be faced by members of the Hungarian armed forces, who have been given orders to kill if necessary to arrest trespassers. Hungary’s security forces have been given the power to enter anyone’s home in search of aliens — no warrants are necessary. Those who may offer safe haven to a refugee could have their homes confiscated, and may face imprisonment. The security forces have been given unlimited powers to tap telephone lines, to inspect Internet correspondence, to censure the media that glorifies the felons. A new law is also on the table that will force all Hungarians to possess a face-recognition ID. Their personal data will be entered into a national data bank that can be freely utilized by the country’s security forces without any judicial oversight.

What Prime Minister Orbán is doing today is not unprecedented, but the circumstances under which he is doing them are novel. The last time Hungary embarked on a racially motivated immigration policy, it was an ally of Nazi Germany. Today it is a member of a community — the European Union — that doesn’t allow such discrimination. But this new turn in Hungary is part of a much more serious Volta Face. According to respected constitutional expert Kim Lane Scheppele of Princeton University, “The Hungarian government’s disregard for the rights of refugees in EU law presages its disregard for the rights of its own citizens in the coming surveillance state.  Over the last five years, the Hungarian government has eliminated all checks on its power and now it is using the refugee crisis to usher in a police state.”

Last year, in a highly publicized speech, Hungary’s Prime Minister declared that he will remodel Hungary’s political system according to the Russian and Chinese templates. It seems that he is staying the course and is doing his utmost to court the support of Harper’s Conservatives for his enterprise. A few weeks ago, the Orbán government gave over $100,000 to “The Victims of Communism” memorial in Ottawa, a pet project of the Harper government. The letter from Hungary’s ambassador to our national media is part of this manipulative exercise, and so far, the strategy seems to be working.


* * *

The letter of 43 Hungarian intellectuals to Chancellor Angela Merkel

Dear Chancellor Merkel,

We, citizens of the European Union who are signing this letter, are concerned. We are concerned for the thousands of refugees from civil wars around Europe who, as hostages of a failed refugee policy of the European Union and as pawns of a national government that is increasingly escaping any political control, are bound to face, in inhuman circumstances , a most insecure future in Hungary. For the Hungarians with a European sensibility who, for twenty-five years have taken pride in being the first to cause a fissure in the Berlin Wall, this situation is shameful and humiliating.

For several months the Hungarian Government, through billboards and telecasts, is continuously stirring up fear of and hostility against the refugees, thus smashing the stone tablets of European fundamental values. The activity of these politicians aims at criminalizing from the outset, through razor wire fences and administrative strictures, those who seek asylum with us, at creating a pretext for their deportation, and at endearing themselves with far right voters. The Government made a further dangerous step toward this political dead end last Friday when, with the help of the far right MP’s, it obtained authorization to introduce, beginning on the 15th of September, a kind of state of emergency under the pretext of the refugee crisis. This measure would permit the deployment of the army against the refugees. This constitutes a clear mockery of the democratic political system and a vain sabre-rattling. Certainly, these politicians who are openly reneging on solidarity and humanity are Hungarian, but they are also your party allies in the European Parliament. For several months they have been acting in Hungary as if the European People’s Party had announced the Caliphate of xenophobia and the Shariah of intolerance and national self-centeredness.

Resisting the hate campaign of the Hungarian Government, the citizens of Budapest have given proof of their European dignity; through spontaneous civil initiatives they are sharing their modest income and free time with the refugees who, for several weeks by now, have been camping in the train stations. Volunteers are sharing information, looking for interpreters, playing with traumatized children, caring for the sick – often wounded by the Hungarian razor wire fence, while Government politicians are playing their disastrous games on the European floor. Our daily experience teaches us that in these political circumstances we cannot expect from the Hungarian State either a fair assessment of applications for refugee status or a successful policy of integration of the refugees. When, on Wednesday, Mr. de Maizière emphasized the need for the elaboration of common European standards of refugee policy, he spoke from the very heart of all European citizens, including us. All of us are for a proportionate sharing of the burdens. The Hungarian Europeans have sufficiently proven their willingness through donations and their voluntary work in the transit zones. However, until there is a political agreement on the aforementioned standards and they are engraved through practical work of enlightenment in the marble tablets of the hearts and also until their practical implementation is overseen, we cannot entrust the refugees in Hungary to the inhuman machinery of a procrastinating bureaucracy that, from the outset, is aiming at their deportation. Were we doing so, they would remain the hostages of political intrigues.

We, the signatories of this letter, ask you to work on the unique European solution that this historical moment offers. Please help us keep our faith in a common European house and help the refugees of the civil wars to travel to Germany. Do not expose these miserable people to the Hungarian razor wire fence politics.

Sincerely yours,

Ágnes Aczél, sociologist
Judit B. Gáspár, psychologist
Tamás Bulkai, engineer
Margit Bulkai, engineer
Dr. Gábor Demszky sociologist, former Mayor of Budapest
Orsolya Dobrovits, art historian
Sára Gábor, university student
Balázs Galkó, actor
László Garaczi, writer
József Gehér, advisor
Balázs Györe, writer
Eszter Kállay, university student
György C. Kálmán, university professor
Mihály Kiss, educator
Mihály Kornis, writer
Dr. Ilona Kovács, university professor
József Kőrössi Papp, poet
Júlia Lángh writer, journalist
Júlia Lázár, high-school teacher, poet, translator
Júlia Lévai, publicist
László Miklósi, history teacher
Mihály Nagy, university student
András Nyerges, writer
Anna Perczel, architect, president of ÓVÁS! Association
István Perczel, university professor
Péter Perényi, CEO
Viktória Radics, writer, literary critic
Zoltán Radnóti, rabbi
András Schuller, doctoral student
Anna Soproni, physician
Ferenc Szijj, poet
István Sziklai, history teacher
Ádám Tábor, writer
Gáspár Miklós Tamás, philosopher, former director of the Institute of Philosophy of the Hungarian Academy of Science
József Tillmann, university professor
Ildikó Tóth, translator, interpreter
Erika Törzsök, sociologist
Annamária Uzelmann, CEO
Károly Vajda, associate professor
Péter Várdy, retired associate professor (Twente)
Anna Wessely, art historian
Gábor Zalai, real estate developer

Foreign responses to the Hungarian handling of the refugee crisis

On August 27 an article by Jean-Claude Juncker was published in Népszabadság titled “Together, courageously.” In it, Juncker declared that the European Union “will never turn those people away who need our assistance.” However, he continued, it is worrisome that the populist statements of certain politicians merely arouse passions without offering solutions. Hate speech and ill-considered announcements endanger the union’s greatest achievement, the abolition of internal borders. This is not the world he wants to live in, he said. The real Europe is personified in “those Hungarian volunteers who give food and toys to hungry, exhausted refugee children.” Europe is “those students in Siegen who opened the door of their dormitory to the refugees.” Europe is “the baker on the island of Kos who distributes bread to hungry and weary people. This is the Europe where I want to live.” Finally, he added that “by hiding behind fences we can’t barricade ourselves from all fears and sufferings.”

This article was written before 71 people suffocated in a human trafficker truck with a Hungarian license plate not far from the Hungarian border. It was written before it became known that the Orbán government was planning to introduce modifications to the criminal code that will create what has been described as a state of martial law. It was written before the contents of a parliamentary resolution were published, in which nine members of the Hungarian parliament blamed European politicians: their “irresponsible policies are responsible for the death of people.”

Viktor Orbán, the man who is, we can safely say, responsible for everything that happens in the country, says not a word. He has, as is his wont, disappeared, just as he vanishes from the chamber when he forces his minions to vote for controversial pieces of legislation he wouldn’t like to be held responsible for at a later date. I can’t imagine that any statesman would remain silent in a situation that government officials and politicians describe as a state of emergency. Orbán instead gets his henchmen to sign the odious document.

Foreign criticism of Viktor Orbán has been growing, especially since the tragedy that befell the Syrians on their way to Germany in that truck. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius gave an interview today in which he called the attitude of some countries in Eastern Europe “scandalous.” He criticized them for “not complying with the common values of Europe.” Fabius wants to dismantle the fence the Hungarian government erected as the first demand, after which the “European Union should have a serious and tough discussion with the Hungarian leaders.” French Prime Minister Manuel Valls also condemned the Hungarian “solution” to the crisis when he told a gathering in La Rochelle that “those who flee wars, persecution, torture, must be welcomed with dignity.” Look around the Hungarian train stations where families have to lie on the cement floor in designated areas.

Mourning the death of the refugees at the Keleti Station in Budapest

Mourning the death of the refugees at the Keleti Station in Budapest

On the other side, the Orbán government tries to justify its actions by claiming that they are actually defending the interests of Western Europe. Gergely Gulyás, one of the cleverest and therefore most dangerous of the Fidesz lot, in an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, told the German readers of the paper that in fact Hungary’s tough stand serves German interests. They should be grateful because fewer people will reach Germany as a result of Hungary not allowing the refugees to step onto Hungarian soil. “One could say,” he continued, “that Hungary is closing its borders for Germany’s sake.” Perhaps it would be time for the German government to tell the Hungarians that it doesn’t want their help. I don’t think that Angela Merkel would like to be held responsible for more deaths of refugees who feel that they must pay smugglers because the Hungarian authorities, for Germany’s sake, don’t let them board trains for which they already have tickets. Let’s leave that responsibility to Viktor Orbán.

Reuters‘s Krisztina Than talked at length with Ahmed, a twenty-seven-year-old Syrian school teacher, and his wife at one of the Budapest railway stations. He told her about their harrowing ten-day trip from Ariha in northern Syria to Budapest. They are heading to Germany, he said. He described their journey as “a trip from death to death.” He said that if he finds a smuggler, he will go with him. “It’s better than sitting here.” Indeed, the next day “there was no sign of Ahmed and his wife at the railway station.” The family who camped out next to them indicated that “they had already moved on.” The chaos that has been the result of the incompetence and perhaps even ill will of the authorities and the fear that they will have to stay in Hungary compel these people to flee, if necessary with the help of smugglers.

Just yesterday the Austrian police checked a suspicious-looking truck near Sankt Peter am Hart in Upper Austria in which they found 26 refugees, among them two five-year-old girls and a six-year-old boy who, due to severe dehydration, were close to death. The driver of the vehicle was a Romanian citizen. It is only a question of time before another tragedy happens. This one was a close call.

Tibor Szanyi, an MSZP member of the European Parliament, on tumblr.com, blamed Viktor Orbán for the death of the 71 people who suffocated in the refrigerated truck because “if these people didn’t also have to escape from the Hungarians, they would still be alive.” Szanyi can say hair-raising things, but this time I’m not sure that István Dévényi of Válasz is correct when he claims that “Tibor Szanyi has simply lost his mind.” It was not only the right-wing Válasz that condemned Szanyi’s short note but also János Széki, a columnist of Élet és Irodalom. He is outraged that instead of mourning the victims, the first thing that comes to someone’s mind is that “Orbán will have to answer for the death of these people.” (Actually, Szanyi used the Hungarian expression “Orbán lelkén szárad” [it is on Orbán’s conscience].)

According to Zoltán Kovács, the government spokesman, the victims themselves are responsible for their own deaths. In the opinion of the leading politicians of Fidesz, it is the irresponsible European politicians who are guilty. And now Szanyi comes forward with a new culprit, Viktor Orbán himself. Of these three, I’m afraid, Orbán is the best candidate because after all he is the prime minister of the country that seems unable and/or unwilling to handle the crisis and whose government is determined not to allow these refugees to continue their journey in a legal and organized fashion. Under these circumstances, after such an arduous and dangerous journey, these people feel that they have no choice but to turn to smugglers. The more stringent border patrolling and more severe restrictions produce more smugglers and more possible tragedies. A rapid change in policy is in order. The tough talking-to Fabius proposed shouldn’t be postponed.