Tag Archives: László Kövér

Seehofer in Hungary: A disappointment for Orbán

Horst Seehofer, minister president of Bavaria and the leader of Christian Social Union, has been pursuing an independent foreign policy of sorts lately. In December he paid a visit to Moscow where he met Vladimir Putin, a trip he is planning to repeat in the near future. His visit to Hungary yesterday was interpreted as a sign of Seehofer’s attempt to gain allies in his fight against Angela Merkel’s refugee policy. Politicians in his own party were uneasy about this trip. They were especially puzzled why the minister president decided to pay a visit to Budapest only three days before an important European summit dealing with the refugee crisis. One might add that not all Seehofer’s colleagues are happy with what has been an expensive Bavarian-Hungarian friendship. Some time back Seehofer championed establishing a subsidiary of the state-owned Bayerische Landesbank in Hungary. It flopped and was eventually purchased by the Hungarian state at a loss of two billion euros to Bavaria.

Der Spiegel was especially critical of Seehofer’s trip to Budapest, which it called “a mini-summit” against the European solution to the crisis. But almost all the German papers criticized his overly friendly relationship with Orbán, who was described by Die Zeit as “the chief ideologist of national closure.” Liberal papers especially considered the trip an outright provocation of Angela Merkel. They described Seehofer as two-faced. He keeps repeating that he and Merkel are in constant touch, but when it comes to supporting Merkel’s refugee strategy he refuses to answer questions concerning the issue.

It seems, however, that the assumption that Seehofer and Orbán are co-conspirators was misplaced. In fact, Seehofer went to Hungary to have a heart to heart with Orbán. Or at least this is what we learned from an interview with Manfred Weber, the leader of the European People’s Party in the European Parliament. The message he carried to Orbán was that “the essence of Europe is compromise” and that “if we want a European solution [he] must also move away from [his] current position.” That may mean that the EPP is no longer ready to shield Viktor Orbán from well-deserved criticism.

The press conference that followed the conversation between Seehofer and Orbán confirmed that Seehofer delivered Berlin’s message. Both men, as  Index put it, “ swore allegiance to Angela Merkel.” Orbán said practically nothing about the meeting itself except for some of his ill-phrased comments that are inappropriate and embarrassing. For example: “When two men get together, everybody is curious what their opinion is of the lady who is not present. But we know that this is man’s fate.” Otherwise, Orbán in his remarks didn’t show much inclination to follow the policies of Angela Merkel vis-à-vis Turkey, except to say that Hungary is willing to give money for the upkeep of the refugees. However, when it comes to moving Syrians out of Turkey and granting visa exemption to Turkish citizens, Orbán’s solidarity with Turkey, which he considers a strategic ally, seems to be totally absent. I wonder what President Erdoğan will think of his friend’s unyielding posture toward his country.

Seehofer was equally tight-mouthed, but he wished “with all his heart” that Merkel will succeed at the summit on Monday where she is planning to convince the prime ministers of the member states to accept as many refugees as possible.  Hungarian observers noticed disappointment in Orbán’s demeanor because it seems that he lost his most influential ally in the Bavarian minister president. Orbán’s only remaining ally is Robert Fico, who is in the middle of a national election campaign.

Seehofer and Orban2

Although Seehofer said little at the press conference, what he said in a speech delivered at the Andrássy Universität, a German-language university in Budapest, was, in my opinion, very important. He talked about the rule of law as a prerequisite of European solidarity. He called on everybody to stop “the erosion of law” in Europe. One cannot help thinking that he was referring to Hungary itself or perhaps Poland because I cannot think of any other European country that has serious problems as far as the rule of law is concerned.

 

After these introductory remarks he returned to the question of solidarity, the absolute necessity of European integration, and the continent’s low birthrate which, since 1946, reduced its population to only 7% of the world’s. The countries of Europe, he maintained, can achieve their individual interests only through a common policy. When it comes to important issues the European Union actually needs more integration, not less.

Seehofer went against Orbán not only on the question of integration but also on the treatment of the refugees. Bavaria’s immigration policy is built on three pillars, he said: humanity, integration of those who are deemed to be true refugees, and limits on immigration. In the past 25 years Bavaria has taken in two million immigrants. The integration of these people has been a great success.

He concluded by saying a few nice words about Hungary’s economic recovery and its generosity in 1989 when the country opened its border with Austria to the East German refugees.

Seehofer’s speech was followed by László Kövér’s harangue against the refugees, against immigrants in general, and against integration. According to him, “today the national, religious, family, and sexual identity of the European people is under attack.” If artificial European identity devoid of national consciousness materializes, it would be as unrealistic as the artificial Soviet or Yugoslav identity. It could be maintained only through force, relative well-being, and geopolitical interest which can collapse once force no longer can be sustained, the welfare state ceases to exist, or global interests change.” He went on and on in this vein. His tirade was dutifully reported at length in the far-right Magyar Hírlap, which found his message much more palatable than Seehofer’s. I wonder what Seehofer, who is a very conservative man, must have thought of Kövér’s speech, since it went against everything that European politicians west of Hungary think about the world.

All in all, I don’t think Orbán is a happy man today, especially since his fence, which he is planning to extend along the Romanian-Hungarian border soon, has turned out to be porous. Daily at least fifty people break through the “impenetrable” fence, which was supposed to save Hungary from the bandits who want to rape Hungarian women, from the migrants who can no longer be shipped off to the Croatian or the Austrian border. One temporary shelter after the next is being built and Orbán, I think, will soon enough have to ask for help from his enemies in Brussels.

March 5, 2016

Poland at a crossroads?

After spending three days on domestic affairs, today I will concentrate on the Polish-Hungarian-European Union triangle, with a quick look at Putin’s Russia.

There is no question that Jarosław Kaczyński has been an excellent student of Viktor Orbán. The new Szydło government is copying the Orbán model step by step, just at an accelerated pace. While it took the slower-moving Orbán machinery two or three years to achieve its desired results, the eager Poles thought that a few months would suffice. It didn’t take long for Polish foreign minister Witold Waczczykowski to announce a change in the country’s foreign policy. The Szydło government will not follow its predecessor’s policy of acquiescence toward the European Union, he said. As a result of Polish belligerence, most commentators were certain that Brussels would act quickly and without hesitation. If the European Union opts to avoid a confrontation, the same thing will happen in Poland as happened in Hungary, where Orbán’s political system has solidified to the point that it may last for decades. Poland is too important a country to allow this to occur.

Cass Mudde of the University of Georgia wrote an article in the Huffington Post in which he suggested that “the success of PiS in Poland could turn out to be a poisoned chalice for Orbán” because of the possibility of EU sanctions not just against Poland but against Hungary as well.” As we know, however, Orbán made it clear on January 8 that “it’s not worth it for the European Union to rack its brains over any sanction against Poland because that would require full agreement. Never will Hungary support any sanction against Poland.”

A few days later Kim Lane Scheppele pointed out that a veto by Hungary could easily be neutralized. In an article that appeared on January 11 in politico.eu she sketched out a possible legal action that would take care of Viktor Orbán’s threat of a veto. Here is her scheme:

Sanctions require a unanimous vote of the European Council, minus the offending state, meaning Hungary does have a veto.

But Article 7 includes two separate parts: a warning system outlined in Article 7(1) and the sanctions mechanism of Article 7(2)-(3). The only way to keep the threat of sanctions on the table under Article 7(2) is for European institutions to act against both Poland and Hungary at the same time by invoking Article 7(1) first.

Those who were certain that this time the European Commission would not choose the road of appeasement as it did in the case of Hungary were correct. On January 13 the Commission launched a probe into policy changes in Poland that may clash with EU law. This is an unprecedented move with serious implications. For example, it could lead to the application of Article 7 of the Treaty of the European Union.

In the wake of the announcement of the probe, the Poles even copied Orbán, who took up the challenge and faced a very angry European Parliament in 2012. Prime Minister Beata Szydło announced that she would attend the debate on Poland in the European Parliament and defend her government’s right to make changes in the structure of the constitutional court and the media. Her speech was very East European in flavor. In addition to repeating several times that Poland is as much a part of the EU as the other 27 countries, she said that Brussels, instead of “rounding on Poland, ought to be looking to engage with a country with a troubled history and which had fought at great cost for its freedom.” These words could easily have been uttered by Viktor Orbán himself. It is still too early to know what the reaction to Szydło’s speech will be, but people in the know in Brussels are certain that “the stage is set for a ‘carnage’ in the European Parliament.”

Szydlo

Beata Szydło in the European Parliament, January 19, 2016

There have, however, been voices in the western media that have cautioned the European Commission in its handling of Poland. As early as January 13, the day the European Commission decided on a monitoring procedure against Warsaw, The New York Times came out with an editorial which claimed that “punishing Poland through sanctions would be counterproductive and even hypocritical, given the proliferation of like-minded parties across Europe,” the logic of which escapes me, I’m afraid.

What the editors of The New York Times think about Polish-EU relations is neither here nor there, but what Donald Tusk thinks is something else. After all, he is the president of the European Council who is supposed to represent the interests of the Union and not the country of his birth. But although Tusk is a political adversary of Kaczyński, he felt compelled to come to Poland’s rescue. His move was interpreted by The Financial Times as a break “with the rest of the EU’s leadership … by questioning Brussels’ decision to launch a formal review into whether Poland’s new media and judicial legislation violate the rule of law.” He declared that the EU can clarify the situation in Poland “by other methods, not necessarily triggering this procedure.” He didn’t elaborate what these other methods might be.

Meanwhile, in Hungary Viktor Orbán is most likely eagerly watching what’s going on in Brussels. Will the Poles be persuaded to abandon their revolutionary zeal under domestic and foreign pressure? There are signs that President Andrzej Duda (PiS) and other PiS officials began a campaign a few days ago to ease tensions between Poland and the European Commission. If they succeed, Viktor Orbán will not be a happy man because he is counting on the formation of a large eastern bloc of 90 million people as something of an alliance against the core countries in Western Europe. Naturally, such a bloc without Poland is worth nothing.

This kind of fear is reflected in one of Zsolt Bayer’s articles titled “Lengyelek” (The Poles). After recalling all the humiliation and treachery Poland has suffered through her history at the hands of the western powers, especially the United States, Bayer doesn’t understand “Polish devotion to the United States.” Poland must choose. Either they follow Hungary’s example or they will end up with the same “base, unjust, unbearable and unacceptable harassment that Hungary had to suffer.” Poland must be careful, Bayer warns, because it is clear that the United States has been hard at work trying to persuade Poland to loosen its ties with the alliance system Viktor Orbán managed to create from the formerly ineffectual Visegrád4 group. If a 90-million strong Eastern Bloc materializes, it will be the center of a “normal” Europe as opposed to the “mentally deranged West.” So, a lot depends on Poland, a country that should be grateful to Hungary because of Hungary’s generosity toward her in her times of peril. “There is no war yet but the situation is very serious. We should not let them drive a wedge between us.”

After reading Bayer’s lines about the possibility of a war in Europe, one wonders about the psychological state of some of the Fidesz leaders who lately have been discussing ways of strengthening the military capabilities of the country. László Kövér went so far as to talk about “the catastrophe of abolishing compulsory military service” in 2004. Do they really think that war is going to break out in Europe sometime in the near future? Possibly.

Finally, a friendly warning to Poland. Putin is delighted with the growth of right-wing radicalism and the recent emphasis on the sovereignty of nation states within the European Union, as Vladislav Inozemtsev of The Moscow Times, points out. “The events in Europe are being seen with undisguised joy” in Russia. “The Kremlin supports and will support the ultra-right and ultra-left parties who seek to put Europeans back to their ‘private apartments.’” So, going along with Viktor Orbán will be useful to Poland’s archenemy, Russia. The leaders of PiS should think very seriously whether they want to play into the hands of Vladimir Putin or not. Yes, they do have a choice.

September 19, 2016

A new year: roll back the clock

László Kövér, president of the Hungarian Parliament, has a unique ability. Even if he utters only a couple of sentences he manages to squeeze several outrageous comments into them. Can you imagine when he has a whole hour to share his complaints about the modern world, which is rotten to the core and will be even more awful with each passing day? Unfortunately, on January 1, he did just that on Echo TV, a far right channel. Kövér’s interlocutor was the like-thinking Zsolt Bayer, who sighed at frequent intervals whenever he thought that the weight of the issues was close to unbearable.

During this hour an awful lot of nonsense was uttered by these two men, but the overwhelming impression they left us with is that they are very unhappy because Hungary is no longer what it was when they were growing up. Kövér was born in 1959 and was 31 years old at the time of the regime change. Bayer was born in 1963 and so was 27 years old in 1990. Their formative years were spent in the consolidated Kádár regime. It was, they recall, a time of simple pleasures, close family ties, often two generations sharing the same apartment or house because of the lack of available housing. Interestingly, the ideal woman in this conversation was not the mother who most likely worked in some office or factory by then but the grandmother who looked after her grandchildren. This grandmother worked all day long without complaint. She wasn’t frustrated; she wasn’t bitter; she wasn’t depressed. She gladly sacrificed her life for her brood. Or at least this is how Zsolt Bayer envisaged the life of his grandmother. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if this idyllic time could come back.

As for the future, it is bleak indeed. “Homo sapiens,” especially in the most developed parts of the world, seems to have lost its instinct for survival while in poorer regions, like Africa, more and more babies are being born. It looks as if “only the European white race is capable of committing suicide,” Kövér claimed. This downward spiral started with the introduction of old age benefits, which made children superfluous as providers in later life. This bemoaning of such intrinsic parts of the welfare state as old age benefits and perhaps even health insurance leads me to believe that these people feel utterly out of place in the 21st century. It is not a coincidence that the conversation about the past centered on Bayer’s grandmother who, judging from the time of her death, was born sometime around 1910. If it depended on these men, they would lead us back to the time of the Horthy regime, specifically into lower-middle class families in which the wife remained at home, looking after the children. These people would, if they could, simply get in a time machine and fly back a good hundred years, just as Bayer indicated, in one of his recent articles, he would gladly do.

In addition to this longing for an imagined past, they have a strong belief in Hungarian exceptionalism, which stems from the socialist era in which these two men grew up. Those fifty years, which Kövér simply calls Bolshevism, are the source of all of Hungary’s problems, which the last twenty some years of democracy couldn’t remedy. So, one would expect that he and Bayer would reject the whole period. But this is not the case. In their opinion, those years kept Hungarians as well as other countries of the Soviet bloc real Europeans. Old-fashioned Europeans who adhere to Christian, national values as opposed to the westerners who went astray: they became liberal, they are politically correct, they don’t believe in family values, they allow same-sex marriages, they don’t want to save Christianity from the Muslim migrants, and above all they are helping the United States and the multinational corporations destroy the nation states. Bayer goes so far as to claim that by now Hungary is the only truly European country. Kövér is a bit more generous: the Visegrád4 countries could be included in this small community of real Europeans.

Who is responsible for this state of affairs in Europe? The answer, in Kövér’s opinion, is simple: the multinational companies, whose interests dictate the destruction of families and nations. I would perhaps understand why multinational corporations would like to see fewer regulations that vary from state to state, but for the life of me I can’t fathom why they would want families to disappear. In any case, these multinationals want to weaken national governments because “they want to govern.” In this dirty work they receive help from “useful idiots and paid agents among the European political elite.” If you add to these two categories the “cowards,” they already hold a two-thirds majority in Brussels. These people are “the mercenaries of the United States; they are swindlers or at best unfit idiots who try to turn us out of office in the most dastardly, the most cunning, and the most boorish way.” Hungary is a besieged fortress attacked by the mercenaries of the United States. Or, less elegantly put by the boorish president of the Hungarian parliament, it is a country whose prime minister, like a pig on ice, must somehow stay on his feet while others try to trip him up.

If the Orbán regime shapes its domestic and foreign policies based on the muddled views expressed in this interview, they will be guaranteed failures. Time machines are figments of the imagination, and any attempt to turn back the wheel of time is a hopeless undertaking. The same failure is guaranteed if the Orbán regime bases its relations with the European Union on the mistaken notion that Western European political mercenaries in the service of the United States are intent on overthrowing the government in Budapest.

As for this relentless war against the multinationals, it will only result in decreasing foreign investment in the country. I know that this is no threat to Kövér, who has infinite trust in the ability of Hungarian entrepreneurs to replace the foreign companies currently in the country. But whether Kövér and Orbán like it or not, in today’s global economy they cannot be dispensed with, at least as long as Hungary is part of the European Union. To suggest otherwise is just idle talk.

László Kövér, the voice of Fidesz’s inner thoughts

It was shortly after Fidesz’s loss in the elections of 2002 that the American-Hungarian Coalition invited some members of the Hungarian parliament for a two-week visit to Washington. The idea was for these MPs to gain exposure to American democracy in action. The American-Hungarian Coalition, which at this point was the only organization allegedly representing Hungarians living in the United States, was a decidedly conservative body and therefore in Hungarian politics usually sided with the right: the Antall government between 1990-1994 and Fidesz between 1998 and 2002.

The Coalition’s bias became patently obvious when it turned out that only Fidesz MPs were selected to visit the U.S. The others obviously didn’t deserve such a trip. László Kövér, who by the way doesn’t know any English, was one of the Fidesz MPs who was chosen. I’m afraid that the money spent on him was a total waste. He doesn’t understand anything about democracy, and today he has a burning hatred of the United States.

I said earlier that Kövér is one of those people who doesn’t know when to shut up. After his unfortunate remarks at the Fidesz Congress, he made his rounds of radio stations and tried to explain what he actually meant. So, when Pesti Srácok approached him for an interview, he couldn’t resist. In response to this interview, a friend of mine said that he hasn’t seen “such concentrated stupidity, lack of information, and simple ignorance put together based on visceral anti-Americanism and the misconceptions of the far right.”

Of course, one of the topics that was covered was the refugee issue. Kövér sees two villains here: Germany and the United States. In his view, the German government wants to satisfy the needs of German business, but its real aim is to enlarge the voting base of the left. Don’t ask me why Angela Merkel would want to add voters to her Christian Democratic Party’s strongest opposition, the social democrats. Logic obviously is not Kövér’s strong suit. As for his knowledge of the employment of earlier immigrants to Germany, he talks about the prospect of having only 10% of the newcomers gainfully employed while the other 90% will be living on welfare payments. And after this piece of nonsense, Kövér embarks on another one. In his opinion, the “essence of the left’s ideology is permanent liberation.” The left suggests to one group after the other that they are oppressed and therefore need protection. Kövér “doesn’t want to offend the Muslim migrants, but in the eyes of the European left there is really no difference between them and transsexuals.”

uncle sam2

Well, we could say that Kövér cannot be taken seriously and therefore it is not worth spending time on his ridiculous statements. But the situation is not that simple. These thoughts have been cropping up in Viktor Orbán’s speeches as well. He talked several times about the advantage the German socialists see in admitting refugees who then will vote for them as soon as they become citizens.

In Kövér’s view, which I’m sure Viktor Orbán shares, politicians in responsible positions have lost their minds, except naturally for Fidesz politicians. “One’s stomach turns, and one has difficulty breathing. One chokes on the stupidities of European politics, from the mediocrity and the dishonesty of its representatives. One feels that there is no hope because we are sitting in a boat where everybody around us is an idiot or at least they pretend to be.”

Taking his cue from the far right, Kövér considers the United States to be the greatest villain in the refugee drama. Apparently, the real problem with the U.S. is that “it needs ever newer enemies, conflicts, phony rows in order to keep its military machinery in motion.” In a way, the situation during the Cold War was less dangerous, according to Kövér. Then “at least we knew who was on whose side.” But today “do we know the goals of each side in the war against the Islamic State?”

The countries of Central Europe are only pawns in this game, but luckily they are beginning to define and defend their own interests. “Everything started with the history of Cain and Abel, and the role of Cain is filled by those who possess the greatest power.” Kövér was slow to discover that the real enemy is the United States. It surprised him, but by now he knows that with the collapse of the Soviet Union America remained without an enemy and therefore looked for new ones: the Russian mafia and Osama Bin Laden, the chief evil (főgonosz). Eventually, after some confusion, they managed to take aim at Russia and to provoke a conflict with Ukraine, which by the way divided Europe. And then came faceless corruption as a target.

I find it shocking that Kövér equates Osama bin Laden with the Russian mafia or corruption. Moreover, the word “főgonosz” carries the connotation that this man’s wickedness was exaggerated by the United States for political reasons. As for the division of Europe as the result of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, Kövér here seems to be admitting that Hungary is secretly on Russia’s side because on the surface there seems to be unity among the European countries.

Kövér doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry when Ambassador Colleen Bell urges the Hungarian government to follow the Romanian example and investigate and bring to justice corrupt politicians when she got her cushy job only because she collected money for Obama’s presidential campaign. “So, let’s forget about the fairy tales.” I guess this means that Colleen Bell is as corrupt as any of those whom the U.S. government would like to bring to justice in Romania or Hungary.

In Kövér’s opinion, the standards of political discourse have sunk so low that “one has no appetite to react to the statements of even the American ambassador.” Obviously, Kövér is not very sensitive to what Péter Szijjártó, János Lázár, Lajos Kósa, Antal Rogán, or, for that matter, Viktor Orbán talk about. It’s enough to read, for example, Viktor Orbán’s accusations against West European politicians who purposely want to ruin European civilization.

Kövér’s speeches and interviews are useful for anyone looking for insight into the true nature of the Orbán regime and Fidesz. He is not the odd man out but one who speaks most openly about matters others try to either hide or tone down. We can learn from him more than some people think. Indeed, this far-right drivel is part and parcel of Fidesz’s worldview.

The homeland needs more babies

I just learned that there is a group of economists who are convinced that opening borders all over the world and thus allowing the free flow of people would have immense benefit to mankind. For instance, Bryan Caplan, professor of economics at George Mason University, claims that such an open-border policy would double the world’s GDP. The website Open Borders offers evidence that immigration for highly developed countries is beneficial, especially if the given country’s birthrate is low. This is certainly the case in Germany where, according to the Statistisches Bundesamt, in order to sustain the present industrial capacity and living standards the country would need about 6 million immigrants between now and 2060. The situation is somewhat similar in the United States where the birthrate has been falling year after year, although it is not as bad as in Germany or for that matter in Hungary. In the United States the current fertility rate is 1.87 per woman and in Canada 1.61. In Germany it is 1.38 and in Hungary 1.34.

Of these four countries it is only Hungary that steadfastly refuses to even consider the possibility of accepting any newcomers. Germany, which at the moment is taking care of almost one million refugees, in the past few years has quietly settled millions of foreigners, among them close to 200,000 Hungarians, more than 500,000 Poles, over 100,000 Syrians, close to 100,000 Iraqis, and 75,000 Afghans. The United States opens its doors to close to a million immigrants every year. As for Canada, papers reported today that Canada is prepared to settle 50,000 Syrians by the end of next year. Germany will take most of the asylum-seekers but wants signs of solidarity from the other member states of the European Union and therefore asks them to accept a relatively small number of refugees. The four Visegrád countries are balking at this request.

In the last few days Hungarian papers were full of stories about László Kövér’s speech at the Fidesz Congress on the duty of women to produce grandchildren for him and others of his generation. Soon enough came the outrageous remarks of the pop singer Ákos, who is a faithful promoter of Viktor Orbán’s regime. Ákos in an interview pretty well repeated what Kövér had to say about women. Their primary role is to produce babies. For good measure he added that it is not “their task to make as much money as men do.”

Kövér’s speech and Ákos’s interview were ill-conceived first stabs at introducing the Hungarian government’s new nationwide propaganda campaign that hopes to boost the country’s miserably low fertility rate. The underlying message is: “We’ve saved you from these Muslim hordes but you, for your part, must have many more children.” According to Katalin Novák, undersecretary in charge of family affairs in the ministry of human resources, the demographic problems of Hungary could be solved if every Hungarian family would produce just one additional child.

The government realizes that, given the low wages, the general housing shortage, the high price of apartments and the small sizes of the existing units, few families will embark on having two or three children. In the last few days all sorts of vague promises were made about lowering the VAT on housing construction from 27% to 5%, but details are missing. No one knows what part of the construction would benefit from the drastic lowering of the tax. In addition, the government promised to give 10 million forints gratis to families who commit to having three children within ten years. These people would also receive a loan of up to 10 million forints with a low interest rate to buy an apartment in a newly constructed building. Although we know few details, critics point out that 10 million for a brand new apartment is peanuts and thus only the better-off families would benefit from the government largess, most likely the ones who don’t really need it.

An ideal Hungarian family

An ideal Hungarian family

Sometime in May we learned that Hungary’s population was continuing to shrink. The equivalent of a smaller town had disappeared within one year. In today’s papers one can find new data on the subject. It is true that 0.5% more children were born between January and October, but the number of deaths rose by 5.5% during the same period. Thus, another middle-sized town disappeared. To be precise, 33,291 people.

How effective the new government measures will be only time will tell, but I’m not optimistic. In fact, I have the feeling that even if there are some small demographic improvements, they will not be nearly enough to replenish the population, which has been decreasing steadily ever since the 1970s. I also predict that emigration will accelerate for at least two reasons: David Cameron’s threats of discriminatory measures against immigrants from other EU countries and the Syrian, Iraqi, and Afghan immigration to Germany. Would-be emigrants heading to the United Kingdom may think that they should go now since no one knows what kinds of new restrictions Cameron’s government will come out with in the next few months. As for Germany, at the moment job opportunities, especially for blue collar workers and unskilled labor, are plentiful, but who knows what will happen once the newcomers are ready to join the workforce. Mind you, it is possible that the Syrian refugees are better educated than the East Europeans working in Western Europe. According to one poll, 86% of Syrian refugees attended high school or university. Of these people 16% are students and 4-5% of them are doctors or pharmacists.

Fidesz charge: The U.S. wants to topple the Hungarian government

Napi Gazdaság, which will soon appear under a new name, Magyar Idők (Hungarian Times), continues where the Magyar Nemzet of old left off before the outbreak of the Orbán-Simicska war. In fact, Napi Gazdaság today is an even more extremist paper than Magyar Nemzet ever was because those who decided to leave Nemzet and form a new team are the most hard-core, loyal media servants of the Orbán regime.

Those who would like to get a balanced picture of what’s going on in Hungary and abroad shouldn’t bother to read Napi Gazdaság. On the other hand, in the last few months Magyar Nemzet has become a much more balanced publication where one can increasingly find opinions that would never have been tolerated earlier. A good example of this new attitude is Magyar Nemzet‘s willingness to publish Mária M. Kovács’s rebuttal of Gábor Ujváry’s piece on Bálint Hóman.

Such a thing couldn’t possibly happen in Napi Gazdaság, which is continuing the strongly anti-American editorial policy that was the hallmark of the Magyar Nemzet of earlier days. The latest example of the pro-Fidesz newspaper’s anti-American bias is an especially outrageous editorial written by Imre Czirják. Czirják abandoned Simicska’s HírTV and became one of the two deputy editors-in-chief of Napi Gazdaság. If you find the ideas expressed in this editorial so absurd that you think they must be the product of a madman’s overly fertile imagination, I hate to disappoint you. The kernel of this bizarre story comes straight from the highest echelon of the Fidesz leadership, from the owner of Fidesz membership card #1, László Kövér, president of the Hungarian Parliament, who is the closest and oldest friend of Viktor Orbán.

A month ago László Kövér gave an interview to Pesti srácok (Scamps of Pest), an internet news site catering to the right wing of Fidesz, which is practically indistinguishable from Jobbik. The conversation was supposed to be about the refugee crisis, and in this connection the reporter disapprovingly recalled that Tímea Szabó, co-chair of the small opposition party Párbeszéd Magyarországért (PM) and a member of parliament, held up a sign to the refugees saying “Welcome to Hungary.” Then came Kövér’s non sequitur: “In the last hundred years or so internationally trained agents have been showing up from time to time in Hungarian politics. These people work in Hungary because here they are not restricted by linguistic difficulties. This is how it was already with Ernő Gerő and Co., and also after 1990. Barcelona or Belgium, Afghanistan or Africa–it matters not. They do their job whether it is here or there. And they do what their keepers tell them to do.” Clearly, Kövér was accusing Tímea Szabó of being the agent of a foreign power.

A quick look at Tímea Szabó’s biography explains Kövér’s rant. Szabó studied at Harvard and later was involved in a research program under the aegis of the Harvard Law School. She headed a research team commissioned by the United Nations to study strategies for the prevention of military conflict. In the summer of 2001 she spent three months in Pakistan, and after 9/11 she did research on the Afghan conflict and the subsequent rebuilding of the country. She subsequently went to Afghanistan as a member of a UN team and then as a representative of CARE International. Altogether she spent two years in Afghanistan. She returned to Hungary in 2003 and a year later joined LMP. (In 2013 PM split off from LMP.)

Tímea Szabó, the secret U.S. .agent

Tímea Szabó, a member of parliament accused of being an agent of the U.S.

Although Imre Czirják’s editorial is titled “Miss Afghanistan,” it is not really about Tímea Szabó. She is merely someone whose past plays into yet another tale of alleged espionage, which fuels the paranoia of Fidesz leaders. Just think of all those stories about an international conspiracy led by western politicians bent on removing Viktor Orbán from power. In government circles and in the right-wing media it is widely believed that foreign powers are financing the opposition parties. They have been especially suspicious of Gordon Bajnai’s financial backers from the United States. And here is where Tímea Szabó’s past comes in handy. Czirják finds it most suspicious that on the united opposition’s party list Szabó’s position was high enough to ensure that she would become a member of parliament. She also represented her party at the farewell party given for M. André Goodfriend, the chargé d’affaires of the United States, before his departure from Budapest. She must be guilty of something, thinks Czirják.

The United States, with the help of Hungarian agents, is hard at work. The question is “what is the real goal of Goodfriend and company and their allies” because up to now Goodfriend’s “unprecedented media campaign achieved only Jobbik’s spectacular rise.” What kind of a strategy are they contemplating now that they have strengthened Jobbik and weakened Fidesz? Are they planning to use Jobbik to their own advantage? It wouldn’t be the first time in Hungarian politics that two parties coming from opposite ends of the political spectrum, for example “the communist MSZP and the anti-communist SZDSZ, found common ground with the effective assistance of George Soros.” Czirják suggests that Tímea Szabó, the alleged American agent, is being used to approach Jobbik for an alliance between the neo-Nazis and the so-called democratic opposition under American tutelage.

In Czirják’s opinion there are already signs of a closer collaboration between the two sides. Szabó told Jobbik’s leader in no uncertain terms that it was unacceptable for one of Jobbik’s MEPs to spit into the empty shoes on the bank of the Danube that had been placed there in memory of the Jews who were shot and thrown into the river in 1944. Czirják admits that Vona didn’t answer her directly, but a few days later he sent the culprit to the embankment “to atone for his sin.” When Szabó later asked Vona what he thinks about his party’s racist attitude toward the Roma, or about the paramilitary Hungarian Guard, again the Jobbik party chief didn’t respond, but soon enough he announced his plans to change the party’s image by abandoning its extremist stance. So, Czirják indicates, an alliance is being forged between the extreme left and the extreme right under the watchful eye of the United States in order to ruin Fidesz and Viktor Orbán. Even if we strip the story of its more fanciful details, the United States is being accused of supporting (up to this point indirectly and perhaps in the future directly) a neo-Nazi party.

Let’s return briefly to László Kövér, who in the interview with Pesti Srácok also made the United States responsible for the immigration crisis in Hungary. It all started with the war in Iraq and the Arab Spring, for which the United States is responsible.

Although André Goodfriend’s “unprecedented media campaign” coincided with the growth of Jobbik, it was not responsible for it. Fidesz’s precipitous losses were due primarily to bad governance and an accumulating dissatisfaction with the whole Orbán regime. Many former Fidesz voters left for Jobbik or, for that matter, for MSZP and DK, while the number of undecided voters grew substantially. Admittedly, the Ipsos chart of Jobbik’s fortunes in the last couple of months shows a drop in support for the party (from 18% to 15%). But, again, Goodfriend’s departure can’t be causally linked to this decline. Most likely Vona’s new, more accommodative strategy didn’t appeal to the extreme elements in the party. Moreover, Fidesz ratcheted up its nationalistic, anti-immigrant rhetoric.

In any case, the current Hungarian government’s attitude toward the the United States is not the kind upon which a strong friendship can be built. It is not enough to send an ambassador to Washington who sounds reasonable and moderate when the most important party leaders in Fidesz accuse the United States of using agents to topple the Hungarian government. Or when Fidesz leaders accuse the United States of aiding and abetting a neo-Nazi party.

Zsolt Bayer, a Fidesz hack, on the immigration crisis

It’s been a long time since I wrote about Zsolt Bayer, a notorious columnist for Magyar Hírlap, a pro-Fidesz publication of the more radical sort. One could say that tabloid journalists like Bayer are a dime a dozen, but he is no ordinary scribbler. He holds the #5 membership card of Fidesz. (László Kövér, president of the Hungarian parliament, is the proud owner of #1, ahead of Viktor Orbán.) Bayer might be a vulgar, hate-filled hack, but he is still closely associated with the top political leadership of Fidesz. If Viktor Orbán wanted to shut him up, it wouldn’t take more than a quick telephone call. But clearly he doesn’t want to. In fact, just lately Bayer had some very distinguished guests on his new program, “Deep Magyar,” on Echo TV, a companion to Magyar Hírlap, starting with Viktor Orbán himself and followed by László Kövér. So, Zsolt Bayer is still an important man in Fidesz and a much-needed one. He is the one who is supposed to keep the radical wing of the party happy.

Zsolt Bayer is always handy to have around, but this time, when the Orbán government decided to reap political benefits from people’s fear of the thousands of refugees who are moving across Hungary, he has been a godsend. He can whip up hatred like nobody else. And nowadays, in addition to his weekly column in Magyar Hírlap, he also started a blog, where those who are not satisfied with one dose of Bayer hate-speech can always find more of the same.

Of course, Bayer is in his element at the moment. It’s the perfect stage for a man whose hate-filled words fire up those under the spell of Viktor Orbán. And, indeed, Bayer of late has turned his attention to the refugee issue. His latest piece titled “Is it unavoidable?” begins with the situation on the island of Kos, which is one of the first stops for arrivals from Turkey.

The state of affairs on Kos, according to Zsolt Bayer, is desperate. Seven thousand “intruders” have arrived. “The tourists have escaped and the hotels are empty, the population is angry and desperate. The horde doesn’t know anything about this. They are just pouring in. But on Tuesday it began….” The “horde” began a demonstration. “‘We want papers! We want to eat!’ they kept screaming,” and they sat down in the middle of a highway. The Greek authorities tried to shepherd “the beasts” into a stadium because “everything else on Kos was already filled with the beasts.” In the stadium a fight broke out and the police had to use billy clubs. Thursday the horde attacked the police. Giorgios Kynthsis, mayor of Kos, said that ” the situation is out of control…. Blood will be shed.”

Now let’s now turn to western descriptions of what happened on the Island of Kos. First of all, Bayer’s description of Kos as a tourist paradise now empty of well-off European visitors is false. “Sunbathers tan on the beach, metres from where migrants camp on the street. Tourists queue for €20 ferry rides to the Turkish shore–a journey that a nearby refugee will have paid 50 times more to complete in reverse.” The hotels are full.

Yes, it is true that there were two occasions when fights broke out among the Syrian and Afghan refugees who have been on Kos for months, waiting for a piece of paper that will allow them to move off the island. Athens, which has had a lot on its plate in addition to the refugee crisis, simply neglected to lighten Kos’s burden. According to the UN Refugee Agency, “conditions for migrants on Kos and other islands are shameful.” They don’t have adequate housing. A Syrian banker told a journalist from The Guardian that he, along with 2,000 of his fellow countrymen, was sandwiched in on a sandy beach for over a day without a drop of water or food. They didn’t even provide open public facilities for them. Apparently, Mayor Giorgios Kynthsis “agreed with the suggestion that no refugee should be given even a bottle of water.” The head of Greece’s reception system claims that “on the island of Kos we don’t have the cooperation of the mayor at all. He thought that if he doesn’t facilitate our operation, the people would go away.” Perhaps this background would make the revolt of “the beasts” more understandable.

 Migrants crammed into stadium as they await registration procedure on Tuesday. Photograph: Angelos Tzortzinis/AFP/Getty Images

Migrants crammed into a stadium as they await the registration procedure on Tuesday. Photograph: Angelos Tzortzinis/AFP/Getty Images

By today, the mayor of Kos was described by Reuters in an entirely different light: “overcome by emotion, the mayor of Kos handed out water, milk and food to hundreds of Syrian migrants on Friday as a huge passenger ship docked on the Greek island to serve as a floating reception center and dormitory.” I suspect that earlier Kynthsis wanted to call attention to the untenable situation on the island in an effort to prompt Athens to do something in a hurry.

Bayer himself mentions the arrival of the passenger ship because the Greek government “at last got its senses back, but the question now is whether it will be brave enough to deploy the riot police and a battleship. If they do, the Greeks will make history. If they dare to employ the troopers and if necessary the army and at last rid Kos of these hordes, then at last something will begin. But only then…. We will write history only if they send them home packing and eliminate them from the middle of Europe. Once and for all.”

I’ve concentrated on Bayer’s version of what was happening on the island of Kos. But at least half of his article deals with atrocities committed this week in two European countries by non-Europeans. During a police raid in the resort town of Salou in Catalonia, a Senegalese man jumped out of a third-floor window. This set off angry clashes between the police and about 200 people, “many of them believed to be members of the African community.” Here comes Bayer. “The Senegalese was a criminal. They wanted to arrest him. Instead he jumped. So what? It was his decision. He jumped and died. That’s all.” The Spanish authorities “should have handled the situation right then and there. All of them should be cleared out from Spain. They can go home.”

Then he moves on to Sweden where in an IKEA store two men from a nearby refugee center stabbed two people to death. Bayer describes the men as being cooperative with the police and adds that it would have been better if they had resisted arrest because then “the police could have shot them as one does a mad dog.” Now the Swedes have two murderers from Eritrea and two dead white Swedes. “Surely, the exchange was worth it. Long live liberalism! Long live human rights! Except when we talk about the rights of the European, white, Christian race.” Here Bayer uses the word “rassz,” which is practically never used in modern Hungarian in this sense.

Bayer’s conclusion is that Europe must be defended. “It must be freed from this horror. If necessary with arms in hand. If everything remains the same, there will be bloodshed. These hordes believe that only the blood of Europeans can be shed.”

Bayer’s racist rant is dreadful but, let’s face it, the only difference between Bayer and the members of the Hungarian government is that he can freely express his desire for a white, Christian Europe while Viktor Orbán can only hint at such a goal. And if that is not possible, at least the prime minister can try to prevent the “hordes” from the Middle East and Africa from entering Hungary.