Tag Archives: János Potápi

“Observer”: 150 billion Ft. support for ethnic Hungarian businesses abroad. Really?

The Hungarian government has been funding various activities of ethnic Hungarians in the neighboring countries for many years, but the big news here was the unprecedented amount heralded as well as the broad circle of recipients. There are many other Hungarian government projects in the neighboring countries, but this exceptionally large flagship project so vigorously advertised by the government deserves our special attention.

For information, as it came out, I had to rely on the few available government sources. As we know, in Hungary today commitments, decrees, and even laws are altered or annulled at the drop of a word (e.g. dropped at a press conference on Thursday or radio talk on Friday), and since there are only a couple of reports on the actual implementation, significant variances may be revealed later. Our readers may certainly contribute with more information.

On the subject of Hungarian government relations with the Hungarians living in the neighboring countries (hereinafter “ethnic Hungarians”), a bit of background would help understanding. The Orbán/Fidesz attempts of the 2000-2008 period to install puppet (ethnic) political parties in the neighboring countries largely failed, so Orbán resorted to the proven Simicska method of diverting billions of Hungarian taxpayer forints for the purchase of ethnic Hungarian parties/votes and managed 180,000 votes in the 2014 elections.

With popularity slipping, Orbán opened the tap more and now is promising the ethnic Hungarians a real cornucopia, albeit for the future, i.e. for the March 2018 elections. According to the statements of undersecretary Levente Magyar of the Ministry for Foreign and Economic Affairs made in the beginning of 2017, the government was planning to spend 150 billion Ft. (EUR 500 million) in support of ethnic Hungarians’ small businesses. An extensive road show was undertaken to popularize the initiative, as if the businesses addressed wouldn’t be flocking to inquire about the free money. There are no figures on how much was spent on this propaganda and hoopla, but here are some examples of full day programs organized in a college in the Ukraine, in Slovakia, and in a hotel at Balaton – as Levente Magyar informed us, they “reached every Hungarian and every settlement inhabited by Hungarians in Voivodina,” for example.

The undersecretary also announced that the Ministry’s Trading Houses network was creating 22 offices by way of which, together with other (unspecified) local organizations, the funds would be distributed. More sunk costs.

To put things in prospective, the same TH network now designated to process tens of thousands of tender applications in several countries was considered incapable of selling 2-3 thousand residency bonds, as a result of which the state was deprived of 200 billion forints, which went into private pockets.

Two undersecretaries and the government controlled media repeatedly stated that “research found that 40,000 ethnic Hungarian businesses are operating in the neighboring countries,” implying an extremely large circle of beneficiaries. In fact, only start-up businesses founded after January 1, 2016 or “family businesses” are eligible in three of the four programs, so the 40,000 figure is misleading.

Eight months into 2017 we could reasonably expect to see some reports about the implementation of the grand 150 billion Ft. project. Well, not surprisingly, my search found dozens of new items about the tender opportunities, but very little about the implementation.

In the beginning of August the same Levente Magyar stated that “up to now the Hungarian government has placed 9 billion Ft. through its economic development program in Voivodina.” However, the same website refers to the following four programs of the Gábor Bethlen Fund, with total funding of 0.83 billion Ft. for 2017:

  • Tender for Support of start-up ethnic Hungarians’ businesses registered and operating in the neighboring countries–0.12 billion Ft.
  • Tender for Support, cooperation with start-up ethnic Hungarian’s businesses–0.11 billion Ft.
  • Tender for Support of ethnic Hungarian family businesses registered and operating in the neighboring countries–0.6 billion Ft.

At the end of July undersecretary in the Prime Minister’s Office János Potápi stated that “the government supported … ethnic Hungarian entrepreneurs in the Carpathian Basin by 0.83 billion Ft.,” confirming the above total.

Trying to broaden the picture, I added the “Egán Ede Kárpátalja Economic Development Center” charity foundation, which also runs business support programs for:

  • Support for private entrepreneurs and micro and small enterprises’ capacity-building and innovation business development – funding 1 billion Ft.
  • Support for private entrepreneurs and micro and small enterprises’ capacity-building and innovation business development in the agricultural sector – funding 1 billion Ft. Report*
  • Support for large investments (min 50 million forint projects) – no funding information or report.
  • Support for large agricultural investments (min 50 million forint projects) – no funding information or report.

The Bethlen Gabor Fund also runs some non-business support programs:

All the above programs for the support of ethnic Hungarians’ businesses, culture and education, etc. put together do not total even 10% of the 150 billion hyped by the government.

In a confusing mixture of promises, cross references, and multiple announcements, the e-media is awash with all sorts of figures, mostly based on the statements made by the two undersecretaries.

The full statement of Levente Magyar, mentioned above, reveals that of the “9 billion ft. … placed in Voivodina … the amount distributed so far is less than a quarter of the whole, and they will try to distribute the remaining during the next year.” This means that more than 2 billion ft. were distributed, contradicting the Potápi figure of 0.83 billion. Confused? Me too.

According to another statement of János Potápi, “the Hungarian government supported the creation of 104 workshops and training farms in the Carpathian Basin, spending more than 738 million forints” in 2015 and 2016, the “2015 – Year of vocational training for ethnic Hungarians” program included. This amount is similar to the 0.83 billion reported for 2017.

I’m certain more funds are being spent in the neighboring countries, but after the boisterous heralding of the 150 billion forint programs, few if any reports about their implementation were available. I wonder where the road show costs were accounted for, as the amounts spent on propaganda and hoopla are probably commensurate with the 0.83 billion distributed.

Moreover, these support funds pale in comparison to many propaganda items like the many billions for US lobbying, the almost 10 billion of Századvég funding, the never ending multibillion poster campaigns, or, say, a single 8+ billion soccer item.

After all, if even a fraction of the unprecedented amounts hyped were spent for the support of ethnic Hungarians, it would have been a commendable act, but from the “coincidence” of this initiative with the forthcoming parliamentary elections in April 2018 emanates the familiar stench of corruption in the form of vote buying (and eventually awards to cronies and supporters, if the long domestic record is any guide).

The initiative is questionable in light of the negative or downright appalling trends in the Hungarian economic and business areas – the government should fund remedies to the domestic problems before those in the neighboring countries. And problems we have: almost all Hungarian indicators have deteriorated since 2010 according to the World Economic Forum, OECD, and EU: business environment, legal framework, competitiveness, productivity, capitalization (small and medium companies), and vocational skills.

There is also the all-pervasive and all-corroding corruption, the huge bureaucracy, e.g. 18% of the workforce employed by the state, the five-layer administration, e.g. ministerial rank departments have almost doubled since 2010, etc. etc.

To answer to the question in the title – no, not really, nothing like 150 billion is being spent. The much hyped initiative is just another case of propaganda, deception, and trickery, Orbán style. The danger to the ethnic Hungarian businesses is that they may become infected if they operate close to the corrupt Hungarian regime.

* The report of the results in the micro and small agricultural businesses tender contains no actual payout figures. The awards are noted as either “maximum funding” or “depending on availability of funds.” Notably all awards were made to individuals, which raises the specter of political corruption.


Viktor Orbán discovered the culprits of bolshevism in western europe

At last we have a Viktor Orbán speech that contains something new, not merely his usual mantra of the declining West which, let’s face it, is becoming pretty tedious. Although the speech was still about the West, Viktor Orbán–this time as a self-styled expert on political philosophy from a historical perspective–decided to enlighten his audience about one of the West’s gravest sins. With admirable virtuosity he managed to make the West responsible for the Soviet system as it developed after 1917 in Russia. For good measure, he added that Western Europeans should be ashamed for not placing equal blame on communism and national socialism.

The speech was delivered on February 25, which Orbán’s government declared in 2000 to be the “Day of Victims of Communism” as “befitted a Christian-national government.”

So, let’s see how he moved from the Soviet Union and its satellites to the guilty West. “It is no longer customary to say that those ideas that led to tyranny were born in Western minds. Communism, just like national socialism, came into being as a Western intellectual product. It didn’t see the light of day in Moscow, Cambodia, or Havana. It came from the west of us, in Europe, from where it proliferated over half the world.” The West was also responsible for this “through and through Western idea becoming the bitter lot of Central Europe.”

The numbers on the lectern designate the three parcels in which the remains of the heroes of 1956 are buried / MTI/ Photo: Zoltán Máthé

The transgressions of the West don’t end here. “Even today there are many people in the West who try to excuse the sins of communism, and the European Union itself is reluctant to condemn it.” After the war, sentences were meted out to war criminals in a military court, but after the fall of communism “the representatives of the free world didn’t impose such a severe verdict” on the perpetrators of crimes in the former communist countries. So, it’s no wonder that “Western Europe has a bad conscience.”

Orbán’s critics are up in arms. What an incredible leap from Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels to Lenin and Stalin. Accusing Western European politicians and intellectuals of being responsible for Stalinism or Maoism just because in the second half of the nineteenth century a German social scientist and philosopher developed a social model which years after his death was transformed in Russia into something that had nothing to do with Marx’s theories is preposterous. Marx’s original hypothesis that the lot of the proletariat would worsen turned out to be wrong and therefore, as the years went by, Marx’s ideas were transformed. Modern social democracy developed. Soviet Bolshevism had more in common with Russia’s Tsarist past than with Karl Marx. Viktor Orbán should know that only too well. His generation had to study Marxism-Leninism and, as far as we know, he was an enthusiastic member of KISZ, the Communist Youth Organization, while his father was party secretary at his workplace.

Other speakers representing the Christian-nationalist government elaborated on Orbán’s theme, further distorting the past, burying it under their ideological garbage. Zoltán Balog went so far as to claim that “European unity and real dialogue [between East and West] will be possible only if Western Europe is willing and able to look upon the sins of both communism and Nazism as the shame of Europe.” This contention–that underlying the profound differences of opinion between some of the Central and East European countries and the western members of the European Union is the refusal of Western Europe to own up to the sins of communism–is staggering.

Other Fidesz politicians turned instant historians came up with bizarre versions of Hungarian history in their desire to make anti-communism a trademark of Hungarian existence during the Kádár regime. János Potápi, undersecretary in charge the government’s “national policy,” said that with the arrival of communism Hungary “had to say goodbye to a world based on law and order.” As if the Horthy era had been a model political system that was worth preserving. We also learn from him that “the political system founded on tyranny failed because there were secret little islands, fortresses of souls and ideas that paralyzed” the dictatorship. This is the fruit of Mr. Potápi’s imagination. With the exception of a handful of “dissidents” in the 1980s who were the future founders of SZDSZ there were no fortresses or islands of resistance in Hungary to speak of. And those few who resisted the regime and were ready to face the serious consequences of their actions are today considered to be “enemies of the people” by Viktor Orbán.

László Kövér, president of the Hungarian parliament, is inclined to see communist ghosts everywhere, although he himself came from a family that was closely associated with leftist politics. His grandfather, as a young man, served in Béla Kun’s Red Army, and his father was known to be a faithful member of the party. Yet he considers the communist system to be the greatest curse of history, which ruined the lives of generations. It seems that Kövér discovered God and now as a religious man is worried about the “godlessness and inhumanity that are manifest in communism, which may under a different name and in a different shape return at any time.” Such a tragedy must be thwarted by reminding people of the evils of communism.

Gábor Tamás Nagy, the mayor of Budapest’s District I, claimed that in essence there was no difference between the Rákosi and the Kádár regimes, adding the total nonsense that “the communists didn’t learn anything from 1956 and didn’t forget anything. That was the reason for their downfall.” At first I thought that perhaps the mayor is a relatively young man who knows nothing about the Kádár regime. But no, he was born in 1960 and thus spent 30 years in Kádár’s Hungary, which he equates with the terrors of Mátyás Rákosi. They didn’t learn anything from 1956? Just the opposite. The memory of the revolution was foremost on their minds, and they adjusted their policies accordingly. It was precisely the lessons of 1956 that eventually led to Kádár’s goulash communism.

All this falsification of history only postpones a real reckoning with the past, be it 1944, 1956, or 1989-90.

February 27, 2017