Tag Archives: Gyurcsány government

Viktor Orbán, the “great supporter” of European common action

A couple of days ago we pondered the true meaning of the Kohl-Orbán joint communiqué, which emphasized a coordinated European response to the refugee crisis. What could have transpired during the hour Viktor Orbán spent with the ailing Helmut Kohl? What did the former chancellor tell the Hungarian prime minister to entice him to sign a document that emphasizes common action in the face of one of the greatest challenges the European Union has confronted in its existence? We now have the answer.

Today Viktor Orbán gave his customary, carefully choreographed Friday morning interview on Kossuth Rádió. About three-quarters of the conversation was devoted to Orbán’s views on the migration issue. His message was unequivocal. It matters not what he signed after his meeting with Kohl, he hasn’t budged an inch. He totally rejects a common European solution to the refugee problem–unless, of course, the rest of Europe accepts his solution. One could ask why he signed a document that goes against his deeply held beliefs. Because such a gesture at the moment was to his political advantage. For him it was only a scrap of paper without legal consequences.

Today’s interview began with a “little white lie.” Orbán claimed that “every time I visit the southern regions of Germany I visit Chancellor Kohl.” Sure thing, he just calls the Kohl residence announcing that he is somewhere nearby and the next thing we know he is sitting in Kohl’s living room.

He continued the interview by systematically misrepresenting the current German position on the refugee question. He claimed that although it is true that in the past there was “a significant difference between Germany and Hungary on the handling of the migrant crisis,” by now “the Germans have changed their position.” They recognized that Viktor Orbán was right all along, although “Europe doesn’t want to admit that.”

Viktor Orbán in the studio / MTI

Viktor Orbán in the studio / MTI

It was inevitable that the issue of compulsory quotas would surface in this particular Friday session. After all, the Orbán government is already hard at work preparing the ground for a referendum on the question of quotas. The Hungarian people are supposed to refuse, through a democratic process, to allow any refugees to be settled in Hungary. Orbán is adamant on the issue. His view is that if Angela Merkel “made a decision to accept migrants without any control, then she should take full responsibility for that decision.” Since other member countries, including Hungary, were not consulted, they are not obliged to take responsibility for the consequences of this action.

The reporter, who is of course carefully trained and never asks embarrassing questions, did venture to inquire whether Orbán doesn’t see a contradiction between the Kohl-Orbán communiqué’s reference to common action and Orbán’s emphasis on national sovereignty. The answer is worth translating verbatim.

No, because stronger cooperation means Schengen. My suggestion is that if a country is a member of the Schengen system and therefore enjoys its benefits, which means that its citizens can move freely within the borders, it must also accept the concomitant commitments, which include the defense of the Schengen borders. If a country refuses this obligation, the European Union should take away this country’s right to defend the borders. Well, actually, since we are talking about sovereign states, one cannot force them, but the EU should ask them to hand over the right of defense. If that country refuses to oblige, it should be expelled or its membership in the Schengen zone should be suspended.

I find it interesting that Orbán’s first thought was to use force against a truant state and that it was only a second later that he caught himself offering a solution that disregards the sanctity of sovereignty he so fiercely defends.

Relatively little time was spent on his Schengen 2.0 action plan, but the little there was is interesting. He gave the impression of such staunch German support for his plans that the interviewer summarized her understanding, saying that “there is then strong German support for your ten points.” Well, at that point Orbán had correct her and admit that “not quite, because Brussels in the meantime published its own proposals … [which are] absurd.” According to this “ridiculous idea,” Europe’s demographic situation is so grave that only immigration can solve the problem. This is a totally unacceptable idea according to Orbán, who finds it “unchristian and objectionable from the national point of view.”

The government has already prepared the ground for a forceful campaign for the totally superfluous referendum against compulsory refugee quotas. They dug up an old study the Gyurcsány government commissioned back in 2007 on the demographic problems facing Hungary. Magyar Idők, the government paper, dutifully printed a long article about the evil intentions of the socialist-liberal government. Even the headline is telling: “The left has been waiting for the migrants for the last ten years.”

Magyar Idők’s summary of the document shows it to be a well-reasoned analysis. The study maintains that, with globalization, migration is inevitable and Hungarians, especially highly qualified professionals such as doctors, will leave the country to accept better paid positions elsewhere. This exodus might be lessened by certain government policies, but selective immigration will undoubtedly be necessary to maintain the healthy demographic balance essential for a thriving economy. Natural reproduction cannot solve the demographic problems of the country, and therefore a selective immigration policy should be implemented. It is possible that by 2050 10% of the population might be of foreign origin, the study predicted.

Orbán is now using this study commissioned by the socialist-liberal government as a weapon against the opposition. The highly xenophobic population now can blame not only Brussels for its egregious refugee policies but also the Hungarian socialist and liberal politicians who wanted and most likely still want to flood the country with foreigners. “We must prevent this at all costs. We must stop not only Brussels but also the Hungarian allies of Brussels. We must stop the left because by now anybody can read what kinds of plans they were entertaining.”

This from the mouth of Viktor Orbán, who told us only a couple of days ago that he wants to have a common European solution to the refugee question.

April 22, 2016

After a seven-year delay Apollo Tyres will open a factory in Hungary

Back in 2008 I wrote a post titled “A foreign investment victim of Hungarian political strife.” It was about a large factory the Indian company Apollo Tyres was planning to build in the city of Gyöngyös, which would have employed more than 900 people by 2010. Moreover, in the following five years the company was planning to expand the facility and hire another 600 workers. Viktor Orbán, then in opposition, made sure that the project, which would have been a feather in the cap of the Gyurcsány government, would not become reality.

Another large project of the Gyurcsány government, the Mercedes factory in Kecskemét, was saved from the wrath of Orbán only because Kecsekemét was a Fidesz city. Gyöngyös, on the other hand, was led by an MSZP mayor with a socialist majority on the city council.

At first, green activists demonstrated against the establishment of the factory, believing that it would be harmful to the environment. They were then joined and egged on by Fidesz politicians. Viktor Orbán eventually managed to receive permission from the court to hold a referendum on the issue. At that point Apollo decided that it had had enough and pulled out of the deal.

At that time I wrote:

The country is stunned. Or at least the government is and about half of the population. They simply can’t understand how it is possible that a political party for its own narrow political gain is capable of going against the interest of the country. A thousand families would have benefited directly from employment at the factory while the whole city of Gyöngyös would have reaped the benefit of a higher tax base. They keep repeating that if the foreign investment happens to be in Fidesz-held cities (like Tatabánya and the Japanese tire factory) there are no environmental concerns. Also no one complained when Mercedes Benz decided to establish a factory in Kecskemét. The Fidesz mayor cooperated wholeheartedly with the central government to push the deal through. I heard an interview with the undersecretary of the ministry who was in charge of negotiations with the Indian firm, and he was near tears. I don’t blame him.

Yesterday Viktor Orbán laid the cornerstone for the Apollo Tyres factory. Apparently, it will open its doors in 2017. Seven years were lost for those more than 900 men and women who could have had good jobs. This time, just as was most likely the case in 2008, the Hungarian government gave a subsidy totaling €97.7 million (approximately 29 billion forints) for the construction of the tire plant. The subsidy was approved by the European Commission in September 2014. The only difference is that the plant will be in Gyöngyöshalász, a village not far from the city of Gyöngyös.

Viktor Orbán made a speech to mark the occasion. He started in English: “I have to apologize but because we are in Hungary and we have many Hungarians all around us, it is better to speak English.” Huh? The rest of the English part of the speech wasn’t much better. Addressing his “dear Hungarian Fellows and our Host,” he suggested that in four or five years things will be completely different. “Changings are not just deep but abrupt at the same time.” As we learn later from the Hungarian part of the text, Orbán believes that middle-aged people will have no serious role to play in these “changings.” Time has passed them by. His generation, “those around fifty, will not be more clever, more educated, and more competitive. It will not be this generation that will advance this country.” Not a surprising observation from the prime minister of a country where the concept of continuing education is practically unknown.

MTI / Photo Szilárd Koszticsák

MTI / Photo Szilárd Koszticsák

Orbán didn’t dwell on the past difficulties Apollo Tyres encountered in Hungary. Instead, he turned to his favorite topics. One is the family. Apollo Tyres is a family business owned by Onkar Kanwar and his sons, which came in handy. In fact, he addressed his whole speech to the “Kanwar family.” He also emphasized the importance of friendship and respect. He even managed to squeeze a bit of Christianity into his speech, which struck me as most inappropriate. It is hard to know why “after Easter” we are especially aware of the fact that “not all depends on investment, square meters, machines, profit, and money.”

Of the two virtues, friendship and respect, the latter is more important to Viktor Orbán. Although he talked about mutual respect, his focus was on respect for Hungarians. “I was delighted to hear those who spoke before me and who spoke of Hungary with great respect. Perhaps they don’t know that we are a stubborn and proud people. Of course, we must make a living and therefore we accept all kinds of jobs in order to survive, but not all jobs give satisfaction. We don’t like to work in a place where we are not respected; we don’t like to be an employee in a factory where we feel that the employer sees us only as a source of labor.” So, Indians, your work is cut out for you.

The rest was the usual fluff, but there was one thing that caught my eye that has nothing to do with the current project. Naturally, Viktor Orbán avoided talking about 2008, when he and his party prevented Apollo Tyres from building a factory. But he did talk about the more recent past. About 2010. He said: “Who would have believed in 2010 when Hungary was in a state similar to Greece today that it would be possible to create such a collaboration, as a result of which even investors from a far-away country notice Hungary and think that it is worth giving a vote of confidence in its future?” Why did this short passage catch my eye? Because you may recall that during the summer of 2010, when the European Commission refused to accept the 7% deficit Orbán tried to sell in Brussels, first Lajos Kósa and later Péter Szijjártó announced that Hungary was close to insolvency and compared her economic situation to that of Greece. Their “Chicken Little” pronouncements precipitated a worldwide panic for a few days. At the time we all thought that Kósa and Szijjártó were acting on their own and that they were irresponsible bumpkins. But after the sentence in this speech, I suspect that Viktor Orbán, then in Brussels, told them to overstate the Hungarian situation (and thereby create a mini-panic) to strengthen his hand with José Manuel Barroso.

A new political bomb: Did the Gyurcsány government spy on Fidesz politicians?

I’m in a real quandary.  Someone complained that I didn’t mention the very successful Walk for Life on Sunday while somebody else suggested that I should say something about the case of Miklós Hagyó, former deputy mayor of Budapest who went all the way to the European Court of Justice about what he considered to be his illegal detention for nine months without being charged.

But in addition to these two topics there are others that should have been talked about. For example, the anti-Semitic Patriotic Bikers whose ride across Budapest took place even though they had been forbidden to do so by the police at the instruction of Viktor Orbán. Or, that an amendment to the law was passed that forbids the use of symbols associated with right or left dictatorships. And there are the latest Eurostat figures that show that Hungary’s deficit is lower than anyone expected. It is 1.9%!

However important and interesting these topics are, I think I ought to write about the so-called Portik-Laborc affair although I’m somewhat handicapped here because I didn’t follow the police investigation of the case of Tamás Portik, a well-known figure in the Budapest underworld. However, I knew that something was afoot in government circles to connect György Szilvásy, former minister without portfolio in charge of national security in the Gyurcsány government, and Sándor Laborc, head of the National Security Office, to Tamás Portik. It was more than a year ago that stories began to float about these two government officials having questionable dealings with a known criminal. I wrote about the story at the time in a post entitled “Another ‘surveillance’ case is being hatched by Fidesz.” It took more than a year, but now the bomb has been dropped.

Magyar Nemzet, which by now can safely be called the official paper of the Orbán government, managed to get hold of an edited transcript of a tape recording of two meetings between Laborc and Portik. According to the article that appeared in yesterday’s edition of the paper, Tamás Portik in 2008 was so terribly concerned about Fidesz winning  the election in 2010 that he offered information on Fidesz politicians designed to help MSZP ruin Viktor Orbán’s party. According to Magyar Nemzet,  Portik was allegedly worried that a future Fidesz government would pursue some of his earlier crimes. The article claims that the transcript in the paper’s possession clearly proves that there was “an intimate connection between the Gyurcsány government and the underworld.”  A rather sweeping statement.

Today Magyar Nemzet published excerpts from the two meetings between Portik and Laborc. I should mention here that Szilvásy was told back in 2008 by a third person that Portik would like to get in touch with someone from the National Security Office because he had information about people who might be cause for concern. Szilvásy in turn got in touch with Laborc who pursued the lead. The excerpts Magyar Nemzet decided to publish are hard to follow. Most likely this was the paper’s intent. One doesn’t always know what the subject of the conversations between the two men really is. According to one reading of the text, Portik is offering dirt on certain Fidesz politicians that Laborc gratefully accepts; others view the conversation as an attempt on Laborc’s part to find out about the reliability of the informer.



Since then the text of the excerpts from the transcript has become available. This gives a somewhat clearer picture of what transpired at these two meetings between Laborc and Portik during the summer of 2008. The conversation begins with a discussion of the right-wing influence in the police force which “XXX directs.” Portik claims that the police are badgering him to give them incriminating information about leading member of MSZP. But at the same time he tells Laborc that he delivered cash to MSZP politicians, which might be true but might be merely a stratagem to establish his credibility. Let’s not forget that he is a criminal.

By the second conversation it looks as if cooperation between Portik and Laborc had been sealed. “It’s good that we found each other. Something serious may come of this,” says Laborc. This is followed up by an outline of the points of cooperation. “What interests us most is which politicians, judges, and prosecutors are under whose influence.” And, adds Portik, “perhaps the police.” Laborc agrees. On the surface this sounds fine. Laborc wants to find out about corruption and political influence in government offices. But when in the next sentence there is talk about catching people in a brothel it doesn’t sound so innocent. Laborc here gives the impression that he is trying to find dirt on men in the service of Fidesz.

Eventually Laborc even gave Portik his own secure cell phone number. Portik seemed to be very eager to cooperate because he was certain that he would end up in jail in case Fidesz wins the next election. Laborc interrupted him, saying that it is possible that “they will take me as well.” I assume he was thinking of the UD Zrt. case in which he ordered the monitoring of telephone conversations that included calls between Fidesz politicians and the men running UD Zrt. that was spying on the National Security Office’s activities. He was not far off in his prediction.

All in all, it looks pretty bad. The MSZP leadership seems to be split on the issue. According to Attila Mesterházy, “both the style and the content of the conversations are unacceptable.” On the other hand, Zsolt Molnár, MSZP chairman of the parliamentary committee on national security, who seems to have more information on the case because of his position, claims that Laborc’s conversation with Portik contains nothing that could be considered illegal. He was just doing his job.

Szilvásy pointed out in an interview on Klubrádió that the transcript about whose authenticity we know nothing is being used for political purposes. After all, said Szilvásy, if Laborc considered his conduct illegal he wouldn’t have ordered the conversations to be taped and transcribed. Laborc’s lawyer seems to know that the transcriptions are edited. The transcript of the first conversation, which lasted an hour and a half, took up 41 pages while only 24 pages of the second one, which was two and a half hours long, were published. On his client’s behalf he will demand to see the complete transcript. DK considers the released text “a complete jumble-mumble without names.” I tend to agree. Without the complete text we don’t really know what happened.

The Párbeszéd Magyarországért (PM) and LMP both demand setting up a parliamentary committee to investigate the case, but apparently Fidesz is not too eager to oblige. Only they know why.