Tag Archives: human trafficking

International conspiracy to change the face of Europe, according to Viktor Orbán

Yesterday Viktor Orbán held his regular Friday morning interview at Magyar Rádió, and later he delivered a speech at a gathering organized by the Association of Christian Intelligentsia, the Association of Hungarian Civic Cooperation, and the Batthyány Circle of Professors. All three are closely allied with Fidesz. The Association of Christian Intelligentsia in 2009 joined CÖF (Civil Összefogás Fórum), the group responsible for the peace marches. The current president of the Association of Hungarian Civic Cooperation is Zoltán Balog, minister of human resources. Earlier János Martonyi, the former foreign minister, filled the post. The pro-Fidesz professors’ association has been in existence since 1995. Its first president was József Pálinkás, minister of education in the first Orbán government. So, Viktor Orbán was very much at home.

The event was organized in response to a booklet that pro-Fidesz “intellectuals” and the supporting Catholic clergy who are involved with the Association of Christian Intelligentsia had written. The booklet, “Signs of the Times,” is, as far as I can ascertain, a set of guiding principles for the Hungarian right.

Because of the heavy emphasis on religion, specifically Catholicism, it is not surprising that Orbán’s speech was mostly about the relationship between state and church, specifically the close ties between Fidesz and the Catholic Church. He spent only a few sentences on the refugee issue, but it was that topic that was widely reported in Hungary and abroad. Although, following their example, I will start with this topic, I’m planning to return to the rest of the speech soon. The comments he made on the refugee issue at this gathering must be analyzed in conjunction with his longer rumination on the problem and its Hungarian solution on Hungarian state radio.

As far as Viktor Orbán is concerned, the refugee crisis is over. The Hungarian position is simple. No migrant, refugee or not, will ever enter Hungary not only because there is now a well-guarded fence but because, by the time the asylum seekers reach Turkey, their lives are no longer in danger. They are no longer refugees, and therefore Hungary has no obligation to accept them. Moreover, Brussels will not be able to send any refugees back to Hungary just because they were initially registered on Hungarian soil. The Hungarian position is that, since they entered the European Union in Greece, it should have been Greece that registered them. This train of thought is logical enough as long as one thinks in terms of individual nation states acting entirely independently. But EU membership means that countries have to act for the common good as well as in their own self-interest.

As for distributing bona fide refugees among member states, Hungary finds the whole procedure illegal, irrational, and unfair. Alluding to Germany, he claimed that “it is not correct to invite people into our country and then divvy them up among other nations.” But he proposed an even more dangerous idea. The bureaucrats in Brussels want to make this plan permanent and automatic, which is completely unacceptable. No one can force sovereign countries “to admit people whom they don’t want.” Such a move challenges the very foundation of a European Union built on nation states. He suggests that since there is, in his opinion, no acceptable EU solution to the problem, “each country should solve this problem itself, just as Hungary did.”

A decision that would mandate an automatic distribution of refugees among member states “might be a liberal [solution], but [it is] not a democratic solution.” EU politicians cannot ignore the will of the people. Neither the national parliaments nor the European Parliament voted for such a solution. “In this case, a crisis of democracy will break out in Europe,” which may lead to anarchy.

Orbán, completely ignoring the wars raging in the Middle East, makes the human traffickers and, for good measure, the human rights activists responsible for the refugee crisis. As I wrote earlier, without the help of locals it is almost impossible to move illegally across borders. This is especially true when it comes to crossing a body of water. So, blaming the traffickers for the flow of escapees is simply foolish. Even in 1956 there were “human traffickers,” some of whom were quite decent.

In the past Orbán often talked about human traffickers as the real source of the refugee crisis but what was new today was that he found another culprit: those activists who helped the asylum seekers on their way to Germany and beyond. “In the United States and in Western Europe there is a whole network of these activists, which includes György Soros, whose name is the hallmark of those who assist everything that makes the nation states weak and who support everything that changes the customary European lifestyle, from human conduct to immigration.” These activists, by helping the immigrants, unwittingly become part of the illegal international human trafficking network. Among the bureaucrats in Brussels there are many “activist types” who think that the present immigration will help create the kind of Europe they imagine as ideal. For him that kind of Europe is unacceptable. His ideal is a nineteenth-century nation state best characterized by his crude demand for “a Hungarian Hungary.”

One can move seamlessly from Orbán’s contrast between Soros’s cosmopolitan attitude and strong (Christian) nation states to the distinction between Jewish internationalism and local nationalism. Cosmopolitanism for Orbán means exactly what it used to mean during the Rákosi and Kádár periods. To understand what that word meant then, let me quote from the Idegen szavak és kifejezések szótára (Dictionary of foreign words and expressions) published in 1973: “cosmopolitanism is a bourgeois ideology that tries to discredit patriotism, national feeling, and national culture.” Jewishness and cosmopolitanism in Eastern Europe were seen as going hand in hand. Compare that with the definition of cosmopolitanism in Wikipedia: “Cosmopolitanism is the ideology that all human beings belong to a single community based on a shared morality.”Orbán is stuck in the Hungary of 1973.

cosmopolitanism

With this, we can move back to Orbán’s speech delivered to the representatives of Fidesz-affiliated civic organizations, some of which are allied with the Catholic Church. As something of a footnote to his speech he told the audience about the seriousness of the refugee crisis and urged the writers and editors of “Signs of the Times” to include it among the topics to be discussed later at right-wing think tanks. He has been thinking a lot about the topic, but his thoughts haven’t quite jelled. In two weeks he hopes to have them ready in their final form for the next Fidesz Congress.

He is certain that “the European Union’s indecision, bungling or mistaken sizing up of the situation” is not the cause of the endless flow of refugees. After all, European great powers have the brain power, money, and surveillance organizations to know ahead of time about the migrant traffic. He is convinced that the activists in Brussels are intentionally bringing these migrants into Europe. They are not just coming on their own but are being transported. The European left wants to create a new political international world. This is being achieved through an emphasis on human rights, and “the right of escape, migration, movement … is considered to be part of human rights.” Viktor Orbán refuses to accept that view. I hate to think where such restrictions on movement could lead.

Viktor Orbán’s message to Brussels

Viktor Orbán is again marching to a different drummer. While European politicians and leaders of the European Union are working hard to find a humane and peaceful solution to the refugee crisis, the Hungarian prime minister is preparing for war–war against anyone who tries to seek refuge in Hungary.

Angela Merkel, by legalizing the settlement of Syrian refugees in Germany, took a step in the right direction. But Germany cannot solve the problem alone; there must be a common effort by the 28 member states. Johanna Mikl-Leitner, the Austrian interior minister, is also of the opinion that bona fide refugees should be given a permanent home, a step that should end the kind of human trafficking that resulted in the death of those 71 people who were found in an abandoned truck on an Austrian highway. Viktor Orbán and the politicians of the party he leads, however, see it otherwise. The Hungarian government will not accept anyone, refugee or not, and today officials worked to make sure that they will have the legal means to introduce draconian measures.

The day started with Zoltán Kovács, government spokesman, blaming the refugees who died in that truck for their own death. Since there is no war situation in the Balkan countries, there was no reason for them to escape to (and through) Hungary. “Therefore we are talking about people who make themselves victims.”

Yesterday János Lázár and Antal Rogán laid the groundwork for the government’s response to the waves of people entering Hungary when they insisted that the use of the army along the border and modifications of the criminal code are necessary because of the “growing aggressiveness” of the asylum seekers. It matters not that the ministry of interior is unaware of any such aggressiveness, which is not a criminal category in any event.

Jobbik and Fidesz are vying with each other to see which party can come up with the most hateful anti-refugee propaganda and which one can suggest the most severe measures against the asylum seekers. This rivalry is especially evident when it comes to the question of deploying the army along the border. Gábor Vona, chairman of the neo-Nazi Jobbik party, submitted a proposal yesterday to modify the constitution to allow the use of arms in the defense of the borders because, as Ádám Mirkóczky, deputy chairman of Jobbik, said, “a situation may arise when the soldiers and/or the police must use firearms to defend themselves.” Fidesz claims that the government can achieve the same end without touching the constitution. Their proposal also includes the use of “coercive instruments.” They can use guard dogs, rubber bullets, pyrotechnics, tear gas, and netting to stop the people at the border. Also, they can use firearms “if they encounter an attack which seriously endangers life or causes bodily harm, or if the asylum seekers attack an object under surveillance.” The troops will be moving into the transit zone on September 15. Because there is no real difference between the two positions, I have no doubt that Jobbik will assist Fidesz in enacting this horrendous new law.

What else is waiting for the refugees and those who try to help them? The punishment for climbing over the fence will be three years in jail. Taking part in a mass disturbance warrants a maximum five-year jail term. If someone loses his life during the disturbance, any participant could end up in jail for a term of five to ten years. Those who are found guilty will be automatically expelled from the country even if that means forcible separation from their families. There are a few exceptions to these rules: the expulsion of pregnant women and mothers of children under the age of one can be postponed, but only if their stay in the country doesn’t seriously endanger public safety and public order. In addition, the police can enter private property without a warrant if they suspect that Hungarian citizens are hiding refugees in their homes.

It will be much worse soon / AFP-photo Attila Kisbenedek

It will probably be much worse soon / AFP-photo Attila Kisbenedek

As for refugee camps, the government finally came up with the “perfect” solution. Several “transit zones” will be created along the border. They will be fenced in on the Hungarian side but will be open on the Serbian side. The refugees will have to enter one of these camps, which will protrude sixty meters into Hungary. The necessary land will be expropriated from the present owners. After processing the applications, authorities will make a decision within eight days about the fate of the refugees. It is quite clear from the messages we get from Fidesz politicians that nobody will be considered a refugee who comes through any Balkan country. So basically, they will go through the rigmarole of registering the refugees, which is necessary to comply with current EU rules, and then will deny them entrance to the country on the ground that they are not refugees. That will be the Hungarian solution to the refugee crisis.

Finally, Fidesz decided to send a message, in the form of a parliamentary resolution, to Brussels, “whose irresponsible policies are responsible for the death of people.” The resolution, titled “Message to the leaders of the European Union,” was submitted by seven Fidesz and two Christian Democratic politicians, among them important people like Antal Rogán, leader of the Fidesz delegation, Péter Harrach, leader of the Christian Democrats, Gergely Gulyás, the legal whiz of the party, and Szilárd Németh, the heavyweight in more than one ways who was in charge of utility rate cuts two years ago.

The resolution continues: “We must declare that every European politician who encourages the immigrants with the hope of a better life to leave everything behind, to imperil their lives, and to begin their journey toward Europe is irresponsible.” I guess this includes Angela Merkel, who by allowing Syrians to settle in Germany is actually encouraging them to pack up and leave. The document, speaking in the name of all Central European countries, goes on to say that they “cannot be the injured party as a result of the mistaken policies of Brussels.” Furthermore, they have “the right to defend [their] culture, language, [and] values.” Therefore they “call on the leaders of the European Union to listen to the voice of the people. Get their senses back and defend Europe and the European citizens.”

I worry about the fate of the refugees who try to cross into Hungary. I fear that Brussels may soon have cause to turn the Hungarian government’s own words against it: that its “irresponsible [I would say cruel] policies [were] responsible for the death of people.”

From the government’s words and actions in this refugee crisis it’s hard not to conclude that it is made up of a bunch of psychopaths. Just consider the first eight characteristics of Robert Hare’s checklist to determine who is a psychopath: glibness and superficial charm, grandiose sense of self-worth, pathological lying, cunning/manipulative, lack of remorse, emotional shallowness, callousness and lack of empathy, unwillingness to accept responsibility for actions. Check, check, check, check, check, check, check, check.

Viktor Orbán did not attend the Balkan Summit

Although most commentators are critical of the European Union’s handling of the flood of refugees, today I’m more optimistic that a viable solution will be found, which might not be to the liking of Viktor Orbán. I came to this conclusion after reading summaries of speeches at the second West Balkan Summit, held today in Vienna. These summits were originally designed to prepare the ground for the eventual EU membership of six so-called West Balkan states–Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia, but today’s gathering was completely overshadowed by the migration crisis.

It was perhaps for that reason that HVG wanted to find out from the prime minister’s office why Viktor Orbán didn’t attend the summit. The prime minister’s office rightly pointed out that Hungary is not a Balkan country, and therefore “the question of the prime minister’s attending the summit hasn’t come up at all.” Subsequently, KlubRádió interpreted the information from the prime minister’s office in a way that implied that the invitation came but was turned down. The headline read: “Orbán didn’t go to the conference on migration” (Orbán nem ment el a menekültügyi konferenciára). We don’t know for sure whether Orbán was invited to the meeting or not, but I suspect that he was because, in addition to EU officials (Federica Mogherini, responsible for foreign affairs, Maroš Šefčovič, president of the Energy Union, and Johannes Hahn, in charge of enlargement negotiations), the German delegation (headed by Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier), and the delegation of the host country of Austria (headed by Chancellor Werner Faymann and Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz), all the countries that have been most affected by the refugee crisis were present: Greece, Italy, Macedonia, and Serbia. Only Hungary was missing.

Chancellor Werner Feymann, Chancellor Angela Merkel and Prime Minister Denis Zvizdić

Werner Faymann, Angela Merkel, and Denis Zvizdić of Bosnia and Herzegovina

Why am I optimistic after reading reports on the summit? First of all, because the reports show that European politicians have started thinking about finding a common solution to the problem. Sebastian Kurz, the Austrian foreign minister, put forth one plan that would create “safe havens” in the migrants’ home countries and elsewhere where those seeking asylum would be under UN protection. Here the refugees would be processed and, once cleared, would be given safe passage to Europe. All 28 countries would have to take their share of the new immigrants. Although I see quite a few problems with these “safe havens” as envisaged by Kurz, this suggestion could be a beginning to a comprehensive handling of the crisis.

Prior to the conference, Kurz told the media that Austria currently has more refugees than Italy and Greece together. If other EU countries refuse to cooperate, Austria will have to tighten its borders to restrict free passage to and from Austria. Although Hungary and Bulgaria refused to accept any refugees under the quota system, it looks now as if the European Commission has returned to the idea. In fact, Commissioner Johannes Hahn told reporters that “we’re going to have a quota settlement approach, and in light of recent developments, I believe all 28 member states are now ready to accept and approve that.” Does this mean that Viktor Orbán behind the scenes changed his mind and that all his saber rattling is for home consumption only? It looks that way.

Chancellor Faymann had just finished telling the other European leaders that there was an urgent need to do something about human traffickers when the news came that at least 20 refugees but perhaps as many as 50 had been found dead in a truck just a few miles away.

The story as it is unfolding is complicated. The truck itself belonged at one point to a meat processing plant, Hyza, located close to Žilina/Zsolna in northern Slovakia. It was one of 21 trucks the company sold to somebody in Slovakia who then resold it to a Hungarian company in Budapest called MasterMobilKer Kft., established in 2011 but by now defunct. The first story, told by János Lázár himself, that the temporary license plate on the truck was issued to a Romanian citizen turned out to be false. Apparently, the man who went to the Hungarian equivalent of the Department of Motor Vehicles was a Hungarian who lives on a ranch near Kecskemét. The truck, however, began its journey in Budapest and crossed the Austro-Hungarian border sometime between Wednesday at 9 p.m. and Thursday at 6 a.m. Yet when the truck was found on the roadside this morning the bodies were already in an advanced stage of decomposition with bloody fluids dripping from the truck. Although the temperature has been very high, I find it difficult to believe that the people in that truck had been traveling for only for a few hours.

While Angela Merkel was “shaken by the awful news,” which “reminds us that we in Europe need to tackle the problem quickly and find a solution in the spirit of solidarity,” Fidesz’s reaction was accusatory. According to the party’s official statement, “this shocking event shows that the migrant policies of the European Union have failed.”

What would the official Hungarian solution be? It sounds simple enough: the borders must be properly defended and crossings should occur at designated places under the watchful eyes of the authorities. In this way such tragedies could be avoided. The problem is that it doesn’t matter whether the refugees come through designated “gates” of some sort or over the fence as long as they can fall prey to unscrupulous smugglers, who in this case, it seems, happened to be Hungarians. In fact, I heard György Kakuk, the author of El Camino de Balkan, say in one of his interviews that the smugglers he encountered in crossing the Serb-Hungarian border came from Hungary. Building fences will only increase the number of enterprising smugglers. Thus, the Hungarian government is, wittingly or unwittingly, encouraging men like the one(s) who is/are responsible for the horrendous crime discovered today. It would be time to sit down with others and come up with a better solution than the one the Hungarians devised on their own.

Our man in Moscow: Szilárd Kiss

The big news in Hungary is still the financial collapse of the Quaestor Group, which may involve the loss of 150-200 billion forints to those who used the companies’ services. The consequences of the bankruptcy might be far-reaching, including a loss of trust in Hungary’s financial institutions.

The more we hear about the details of Quaestor’s ventures the clearer it is that the Hungarian government was heavily involved in the business affairs of Csaba Tarsoly, the CEO of the firm. As the story unfolds, it looks as if two ministries in particular are implicated: the ministry of foreign affairs and trade and the ministry of agriculture. A closer look at the cast of characters reveals that there was one man who had a close working relationship with Tarsoly as well as the two ministers: Szilárd Kiss. Commonly described as an adventurer of dubious reputation, Kiss may have posed, and in fact still may pose, a national security threat to the country.

I wrote about Szilárd Kiss once, but here I would like to say a few words about the likely relationships between Kiss and Csaba Tarsoly; Péter Szijjártó, minister of foreign affairs and trade; and Sándor Fazekas, minister of agriculture. Today, a month after I wrote a post on Kiss, I believe that he had a much more important role to play in Viktor Orbán’s “eastern opening” than I suspected earlier.

As we know, Kiss has been living in Russia at least since 1990, where he moved in the hope of exploiting business opportunities. His specialty was agricultural products. Eventually, he worked as an unofficial lobbyist for Hungarians who wanted to do business in Russia. But how did Péter Szijjártó and Sándor Fazekas come to know Kiss? I suspect through Csaba Tarsoly, whom Kiss most likely tried to entice into some Russian business venture. Their relationship goes back to 2002 and 2003, way before Viktor Orbán ever dreamed of any “eastern opening.” Szilárd Kiss could be persuasive. As early as 2003 he was named to the board of Quaestor Financial Consulting. Three years later, in 2006, he became a board member and part owner of Quaestor Energetics. He resigned both positions in April 2011 when he became a civil servant.

After the 2010 Fidesz victory and the announcement of the “eastern opening,” Szilárd Kiss’s time arrived. It must have been Tarsoly who called the attention of Péter Szijjártó, an old friend from Győr and the key person in the new foreign policy introduced and directed by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, to Szilárd Kiss, who allegedly had important connections in Russia with both businessmen and officials in the ministry of agriculture. Although at present Sándor Fazekas doesn’t want to remember anything about Szilárd Kiss, it had to have been the ministry of agriculture that named him agricultural attaché in the Hungarian Embassy in Moscow.

Szilárd Kiss / válasz.hu

Szilárd Kiss / válasz.hu

István Íjgyártó, the Hungarian ambassador to Russia between 2010 and 2014, knew about Kiss’s shady business dealings and even his brush with the law. And in September 2013 Kiss was about to be dismissed from his diplomatic post. What was behind this sudden decision when apparently both Fazekas and Szijjártó were satisfied with Kiss’s work? The foreign ministry, it seems, learned that Kiss had been vetted by the national security office and had failed the test. It had become evident during the investigation that Kiss had connections to the Russian mafia. His dismissal was not automatic, however, because the Orbán government had changed the law on the vetting of officials. An official’s superior can make his own decision about the dangers involved. Fazekas suggested to Kiss that he resign, thus avoiding the stigma of dismissal. In compensation, Fazekas immediately appointed Kiss commissioner of eastern economic relations. Why the change? Because the new appointment was based on a contractual agreement for which one didn’t need national security clearance.

Szilárd Kiss was also involved in a profitable “visa business” on the side, which he continued even while he was a member of the Hungarian diplomatic corps. All told, he was responsible for getting Hungarian visas for about 2,500 Russian citizens. Considering Kiss’s relations with the Russian underworld, it is very likely that some of his friends from the Russian mafia are today the happy owners of a Hungarian visa. Kiss was also known to be involved in human trafficking. Hundreds of prostitutes received visas through his good offices. How did he manage to acquire all these visas? It was fairly simple. He approached one of his influential Hungarian businessmen to invite Igor, Olga, or Natasha, and with this invitation he managed to convince the Hungarian consulate in Moscow to issue them visas. There was a 2011 case which came to light during a court proceeding against Kiss where a certain Yevgeny Dubrovin gave him 80,000 euros to acquire visas “for his friends.” At the exchange rate at the time, this transaction alone netted Kiss 20.8 million forints. Apparently Kiss had powerful backers in the government and the local officials could do nothing to stop his activities even if they wanted to.

Consulates in general are run quite independently from the foreign ministry, and the Moscow consulate was considered to be a hotbed of corruption. It was for that reason that some officials familiar with the situation in Moscow welcomed the idea of setting up a visa center. A lot of other countries had established such visa centers, all of them run by an Indian company, VFS Global. The Orbán government doesn’t like “orthodox” solutions, however, and therefore the Hungarian visa center in Moscow, VisaWorld-Center Szolgáltató, is owned by Csaba Tarsoly of Quaestor fame and Yelena Tsvetkova, wife or girlfriend of Szilárd Kiss. In addition, Index found out that Tsvetkova has a joint business venture with the same Yevgeny Dubrovin who earlier wanted to buy visas for his friends. There is a good possibility that both Kiss and Tsvetkova have friendly relations with the Russian secret service.

According to a well-informed source, the VisaWorld-Center in its present form may well be a hole in the “shield of Schengen.” In his opinion, it is impossible that the Russian secret service wouldn’t have a fair idea of what’s going on there. Altogether Hungarian consulates have issued more than two million visas since January 2008. The Russian share is staggeringly high: 400,000. That is, every fifth visa has been issued to a Russian citizen.

I think that even this brief description of the network that exists among politicians, businessmen, and the Russian and Hungarian underworld highlights the dangers the Hungarian government poses to the security of the European Union.