Tag Archives: László Tőkés

Attila Ara-Kovács and Bálint Magyar: Can we learn from history?

After so many years, the Hungarian state is finding itself for the first time in a conflict where the external limits to the actions of its voluntarist leaders are determined not by impersonal economic processes but by equally voluntaristic factors the dimensions of which, however, are much larger and cast a shadow much longer than their own. With no pressure from outside, Hungary’s current government has sided with a policy which may seem advantageous from the viewpoint of holding on to its power but run contrary to the country’s interests and long-term objectives. Moreover, it promises that the country will once again end up sharing defeat and disgrace with forces that will be remembered by history with nothing but contempt.

CRIMEA: THE BEGINNING OF AN ERA

What goes on in Crimea today is by no means a result of random incidents but fits perfectly into Russia’s aspirations to resurrect the empire and, on the other, is inspired by the same fateful divisions, fraught with ethnic conflicts, that are as characteristic of Ukraine today as they were in Georgia in 2008. Russia’s re-positioning of its world political influence is justified neither by economic performance nor by military potential in a global context. Just as at the time of the Romanovs in the 19th century or Stalin’s empire-building decades in the 20th, the only factor motivating Russian policy vis-à-vis its neighbors is naked power politics exercised at what it considers its peripheries. Back then, Russia was unable to present itself as a great power of full value, capable of a global performance and holding out the promise of an alternative comparable to that offered by its rivals. Nor is it capable of the same feat today. In fact, there is a reverse relationship: whenever Russia reaches the outer limits of its potential for peaceful growth, parallel with that, its aggressiveness begins to grow. As a consequence, cooperation with the Russian empire in the international arena could never be conducted in a “businesslike” contractual manner but by bargains based on the power conditions, genuine or assumed, of any given time.

It was during the reign of Cathering the Great that Russia annexed the Crime in 1783 Source: Wikipedia.org

It was during the reign of Catherine the Great that Russia annexed the Crimea in 1783
Source: Wikipedia.org

A certain amount of aloofness was always highly advisable for the great powers, whether rivals or allies in a given period, when dealing with a Russia of this character. This was so in the 19th century when Russia was regarded by the world practically as an Asian power, but also in the 20th when forced alliance or openly hostile Cold War policies were predominant. The limited courses left accessible by geographical closeness for nations which did not have the military and economic power to resist Moscow’s designs are a different issue. These nations were doomed to maneuver in a field of force dominated by a provisional alliance between the western democracies and an empire struggling with permanent economic crisis yet unable to “outgrow” its despotism. Seeking balance between the great-power blocs was a failure even when they were in a stable state (perhaps with the exception of interwar Czechoslovakia), but trying to stay afloat in escalating conflicts which promised to last long usually forced them into compromises guaranteeing a losing position. The circumstances are very similar today with the difference that the former Central Europe and the Baltic have since been integrated into the European Union, and their nations are all NATO members.  NATO membership entails their obligatory protection, meaning that their freedom cannot be sacrificed even for the sake of avoiding a world war. The geographic regions still open to bargaining between the great-power blocs have narrowed down and shifted to the east. Russia’s empire-building ambitions aimed at a Eurasian Union are intended precisely to prevent “switching teams” between international blocs, a game that could be more or less openly played by the countries of the region in the past quarter century.

That is the position in which the post-Soviet states “stuck” in the Russian sphere of interest even after 1991 when the Soviet Union disintegrated find themselves. They have made occasional attempts to break out of their predicament through their “color revolutions”. Of these states, Ukraine is the most important, not only because of its size and economic potential, but also because if, after 300 years, it were to succeed to ultimately free itself from the bonds of co-habitation with Russia, it would eliminate even the appearance of Russia’s great-power status. The events that took place in Kiev’s Maidan have already forced the Kremlin to modify its strategy. 2015 was set as the original target date for the formal announcement of the new imperial union on the construction of which Putin has been working for years. Without Ukraine, the Eurasian Union will never be what it was meant to be according to the Russian blueprint. For one thing, it will grow much more distant from Europe, the entity with which the biggest share of the trade and cultural relations of the Russian Federation has been conducted ever since it was founded. On the other, it will become overwhelmingly Asian, making Moscow more vulnerable to Chinese pressure as well as hostage to the dynamically developing, increasingly dynastic post-Soviet mafia-states of Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan).

DOMINO EFFECT IN THE BUFFER ZONE

1. The occupation of Crimea should therefore be regarded as the beginning only. The reputation of the Russian regime is unlikely to be damaged any further, so what we can expect is most likely the uninhibited assertion of its real or assumed interests. That includes the restoration of the unity of the one-time Soviet military-economic complex for which major supply capacities used to be provided by industrial facilities located in Ukraine. The dress rehearsal for that has already been completed in the shadow of weapons in Crimea with a referendum intimating the Wilsonian principles. Even though the result had not been questionable for a moment; the approval of Putin’s will by the population of the peninsula was shamelessly fraudulent. (Just in Simferopol, the rate of “yes” votes was 123 per cent.) The next moves could be the “soft” annexation of the industrial regions of the Donetsk Basin, the population of which is also overwhelmingly Russian, as well as of Odessa and the coastal area, again in the shadow of weapons. That would practically cut off Ukraine from the sea and rob it of the highly important hydrocarbon repositories of the continental shelf.

2. With the tiny Moscow-supported puppet state of Transnistria announcing its desire to join Russia (the breakaway mini-state, though still formally a part of Moldova, is centered in the town of Tiraspol), we see a new phase of the encirclement of Ukraine unfolding. With the potential annexation of Odessa and with Moscow’s inciting the ethnic minorities, like the Gagauzes, of the southwest Ukrainian areas against Kiev, Transnistria will help establish a contiguous zone under Russian influence, putting Kiev increasingly at the mercy of the Russian empire and placing a bigger price tag on western solidarity with Ukraine.

3. The events in Crimea and especially Transnistria may force the truncated Republic of Moldova to escape into a rapidly established union with Romania. The conditions and prospects for such a union are already openly discussed by Moldovan politicians and analysts. Some see full union as an inevitable prerequisite for instant guarantees by the EU and NATO, for which not only the regional and economic conditions are in place but is also reinforced by tradition ranging from common language to shared national symbols. Others, considering the mixed ethnic background, envision a federal-type community as more viable.

4. In Subcarpathia, the agents of Russian nationalism have already started to provoke the region’s ethnic minorities with mother countries outside the Ukrainian borders (Hungarians, Romanians) into thinking that this might be the right historical moment and manner for their reunification with the mother country. In reality, for them it would be a game of Russian roulette where the player is offered a revolver with all chambers loaded.

At the same time though, due to the threatening presence of extreme nationalists in western Ukraine, the fears of these minorities are by no means groundless. Even if they refrain from raising a strong voice in defense of their minority rights, with no military protection to back them up, they might easily become targeted by frustrated Ukrainians with their national feelings hurt by the Russians against whom they can do nothing. Their position could become even more precarious if their claims could be interpreted as a preparatory stage to secession.

In addition, there is no great power around to remotely support an attempt at breaking away. Even Russia’s interests end at sowing political chaos in Ukraine. On the other hand, every single “mother country” affected is a member of NATO and the EU, both of which rule out meddling with the borders developed after World War II. Also, in 1994 they provided special guarantees for the territorial integrity of Ukraine when the Budapest Memorandum was signed, the very document on the legal strength of which they attack Russia for the annexation of Crimea. Moreover, Ukraine, though not an energy producer itself, has a key role in the transport of energy, so any hostility, or even deterioration in relations, might endanger the energy security of a number of European nations, mainly that of Hungary, Slovakia and Romania.

In the light of all this, the extreme nationalist visions of the “return” of territories, fuelled by Russian interests, as broadcasted in Hungary by Echo TV (a television channel owned by circles close to the governing Fidesz party) with their not-so-subtle tone of encouragement are suicidal and threaten the very existence of the Hungarian minority in Subcarpathia.

5. Another highly sensitive problem is the impact of the afterlife of the Ukrainian situation on Transylvania. In the wake of the annexation of Crimea, sealed by a referendum, the Romanian political elite is already looking with growing concern at claims of regional autonomy for the Szekler region, only made more provocative by personal visits by leading Fidesz politicians and Hungarian neo-Nazi leaders. By likening the position of Hungarians in Transylvania to that of the Crimean Tartars, the former Bishop and future Fidesz MEP László Tőkés poured oil on fire, providing further arguments to all those in Romania, whose goal it is to curtail the rights of that country’s Hungarian minority. In the wake of declarations of this kind by Hungarian political actors and developments in Crimea, aspirations of Szekler autonomy are decoded by public opinion in Romania as a first step on the road to the establishment of political and administrative conditions for eventual secession. In such an atmosphere it will hardly be surprising for the Romanian parties to resist granting any concession, even those which did not appear hopeless before, like giving prevalence to the ethnic-cultural principle in the development of EU regions.

Such fears will not appear altogether groundless to an unbiased observer either—for instance to representatives of the European Union—if, for instance, the major change in Hungarian policy regarding dual citizenship is also noticed. At the beginning, the introduction of dual citizenship was declared by Fidesz to be a symbolic act expressing the belonging together of the Hungarian nation as a cultural community. However, by granting voting rights to dual citizens residing outside Hungary, something which they had earlier denied they would ever do, they turned all those wishing to take advantage of that opportunity into citizens with equal rights of two countries at the same time. With that, these dual citizens have gained an entitlement in which emphasis is laid on their affiliation to Hungary even from the viewpoint of public policy. In certain critical periods like the current one, this poses a serious risk to the social life of the community, raising suspicions in Romanians that they may be facing the possibility of losing Transylvania again. As unrealistic as such a scenario may be, the fears it fosters politically are all the more real.

ADVENTURISM CLOAKED IN NATIONALISTIC RHETORIC 

There is little doubt that Hungary does not have any interest served by nationalistically loaded, provocative policies. Still, the Fidesz government is pursuing precisely such policies. Why is it doing that? The reason is that the mafia state absolutely needs the tense atmosphere of conflicts, genuine or made-up, internally as well as in its relationship with its neighbors. On the world political stage too: it continues its game of doublespeak with the European Union and its allies. It drags its feet in reacting to Russian aggression while sucking up to Putin’s imperial authoritarianism. A part of the Hungarian leadership—the head of state whose role is exclusively ceremonial and the impotent foreign minister—is reassuring the world about the government’s full solidarity with the trans-Atlantic alliance, while Orbán, the real source of all power makes decisions contrary to that solidarity. A secretary of state of the Foreign Ministry summons the Russian ambassador to express his concern over the annexation of Crimea while the same Russian ambassador is ensured by another secretary of state that the whole thing is nothing but a smokescreen or pure theatricals. And indeed, the nuclear energy deals signed recently with the Russians are to stay in force, as has been declared by Orbán, their fulfillment being—and remaining—a priority for the government.

A state of permanent mobilization, bellicose talk and the cult of seeking enemies all serve for Orbán to win a mandate (with a two-third parliamentary majority, if he can) for a long-term suspension of law and morality, and thus for stabilizing his rule. By pursuing such policies, however, the country is once again ending up on the wrong side, the side of the losers, while its international credibility is being further reduced.

In the sharpening conflict between East and West, quite to the contrary of what Orbán says, the region will never become the manufacturing centre of European industry but is far more likely to turn into a collision zone in which there is no economic growth, democratic traditions are diluted and the solutions of an eastern-type autocracy prove practicable. This is exactly the kind of place which not only foreign capital is fleeing from but talented people with an enterprising spirit also leave behind.

As a part of the region, owing to its internal conditions and external circumstances Hungary may find itself stagnating or on a downward slope for a long time to come. The damages that follow can be neither prevented nor reduced without a clear-cut, unequivocal and unmistakable commitment to the west, the type so characteristic of Poland, for instance. Particularly if in the meantime Orbán collaborates with the extreme right, the neo-Nazis, undisturbed. In the thinking of Fidesz, however, such considerations of genuine national policy are overwritten by the direct power and financial interests of the adopted political family of the mafia state. For them, therefore, the adventurism cloaked in nationalist rhetoric with which they react to a situation the seriousness of which they fail to recognize, is perfectly suitable.

The Hungarian Reformed Church and the extreme right

I don’t want to bore readers with a history of Protestantism in Hungary, but I often find that at least in the United States people are surprised to learn that there is a sizable Protestant minority in Hungary. They are convinced that all of East-Central Europe is Catholic.

We have only estimates on religious affiliation of the current Hungarian population, but these estimates indicate that about 20% of Hungarians were at least baptized in a Protestant church. About 17% are Calvinists (Magyar Református Egyház) and 3% are Lutherans (Magyar Evangélikus Egyház).

I’m sure that people will also be surprised to hear that at the end of the sixteenth century 80-90% of the inhabitants of historic Hungary were Protestant. And Hungary was not alone in the region: Poland, now the most Catholic country in the area, was solidly Protestant. Ninety percent of the members of the Polish parliament, the szejm, were Protestants. Such a rapid spread of the teachings of Martin Luther (1483-1564) and John Calvin (1509-1564) in this particular part of Europe was indicative of serious societal and political upheavals and general dissatisfaction with the status quo. The new faith was spread by itinerant preachers, both Calvinists and Lutherans. At the time the two branches of early Protestantism were not separated. It was only in 1567 that the Calvinist and the Lutheran churches went their separate ways.

One could ask how it was possible that while the Counter-Reformation managed to completely eradicate Protestantism in Poland, in Hungary the Catholics were less successful. Despite the efforts of the Catholic Habsburg dynasty, large pockets of Protestantism remained. In fact, the answer is quite simple: during the sixteenth century historic Hungary was divided into three separate entities. A smaller part in the north, an area called Royal Hungary, remained in Habsburg hands while Transylvania became nominally independent, only paying tribute to the Ottoman Empire. The rest, a large chunk of today’s Hungary, was occupied by the Turks who had no interest in converting the population to Islam. It didn’t matter to them whether the infidel was a Catholic or a Protestant.

magyar reformatus egyhazAfter the expulsion of the Turks Vienna tried to reconvert Protestants, and they often used rather brutal methods to make Protestant worship impossible. The Protestant communities were beleaguered and persecuted; Calvinists in particular came to represent the true Hungarian spirit against Catholic dominance in the Habsburg Empire. And that differentiation of Calvinist and Catholic Hungarians didn’t end with the Compromise of 1867. Voters in Calvinist areas were more apt to vote for the Party of Independence. Given this history, one shouldn’t be terribly surprised that today’s Hungarian Reformed Church is even more nationalistic than the Catholic Church.

While I’m not surprised by the Church’s nationalism, I am surprised about their right-wing rhetoric. I gained the impression from my readings and also from personal experience that Protestantism at one time was more enlightened than the official line of the Catholic Church. Less bigoted, more open-minded. What I see now is a shift of Hungarian Calvinist leaders toward the extreme right while the Catholic leaders are just deeply conservative and wholehearted supporters of the current government party.

Perhaps my views are influenced by the prominent political roles played by church leaders as László Tőkés, who gained worldwide fame as a key player in the events that eventually led to the Romanian “revolution” and the removal and execution of Nicolae Ceaușescu. Nominally he is considered to be a Fidesz man, but in fact his ideology puts him to the very right edge of the Fidesz spectrum where the differences between Fidesz and Jobbik are blurred. The other person who is much more obviously a man of the extreme right, in fact an outright neo-Nazi, is Lóránt Hegedűs. He has been in the limelight for at least fifteen years and his views should be unacceptable to the church by any standards. His own wife is a member of the Jobbik parliamentary delegation. Yet the Reformed Church refuses to expel him from the church. There were attempts but no final resolution.

In 2007 Gusztáv Bölcskei, the clerical president of the Synod of the Hungarian Reformed Church and the bishop of Debrecen, tried to remove him but failed in an internal legal procedure. Then came the erection of a Horthy statue, but Bölcskei himself was guilty of having too tender feelings toward Hungary’s governor between 1920 and 1944. Bölcskei unveiled a plaque of Horthy in Debrecen. It seems that the Church either can’t or doesn’t want to act.

The latest upheaval in Hegedűs’s church in the heart of Budapest again prompted calls to do something with Hegedűs. It was in early November that Horthy’s bust was unveiled and placed close to the entrance to be seen by all passers-by. This time the church leaders promised real action. A serious investigation of the case was going to take place, they promised. Attila Jakab, who often writes on church affairs, predicted more than a month ago that most likely nothing will happen because if Hegedűs is considered to be guilty of political activities Zoltán Balog, minister of human resources, will also have to be investigated. After all, Balog is also in politics. On paper he suspended his religious activities and can’t use his title “minister” (lelkész), a status that allows him to conduct religious services only occasionally and only by special request. But, in fact, Balog regularly holds services in his old church.

Jakab turned out to be right. Nothing will happen to Hegedűs but not because of Balog’s services in his old church but because the Hungarian Calvinist Church doesn’t really want to pursue the case. A few days ago Index reported that György Horváth, who is the legal counsel to the Hungarian Reformed Church, resigned his position in disgust because the diocesan court refused to take up the case, claiming a conflict of interest.

Horváth suggested expelling Hegedűs from the Hungarian Reformed Church. This was not the first time that Horváth recommended such an action, but each time the members of this particular diocesan court refused to hear the case. After his third attempt, Horváth had had enough. He announced that he “will not assist in this opportunistic practice.” He claimed that the church leadership is afraid of Jobbik and that members of the court are worried that their names might appear on kuruc.info, the virulently anti-Semitic neo-Nazi internet site.

This is not the end of the story. The case will be transferred to another diocesan court. But don’t hold your breath. The same thing happened in the earlier investigations as well. Clearly, the Hungarian Reformed Church refuses to deal with the problem and in my opinion not only because they are afraid of Jobbik. Rather, because they sympathize with this clearly neo-Nazi party. This is a sorry end to a church with a glorious past of fighting for freedom of religion and suffering persecution over the centuries. It is a real shame.

Viktor Orbán: Hungary, Hungarians, and the world

I will continue yesterday’s discussion of Viktor Orbán’s speech at Tusnádfürdő/Baile Tusnad because I didn’t cover some important topics. Moreover, at the time of the post’s writing I had access only to Orbán’s speech and not his answers to questions from the audience. Since then I have read a summary of what transpired in the hour and a half after the prime minister finished his speech.

I should emphasize that the Tusnádfürdő extravaganza was organized not by RMDSZ, the largest Hungarian party in Romania, but by the Erdélyi Magyar Néppárt (EMNP) headed by Tibor T. Toró. So, the enthusiastic crowd came from the more radical right in Transylvania, from those who enthusiastically supported or most likely initiated the reburial of József Nyirő whose political sympathies lay with Hitler and later Szálasi. The other important speaker was László Tőkés, who is the chairman of an organization called Erdélyi Nemzeti Tanács which is in close alliance with EMNP.  An RMDSZ politician who was originally chosen to deliver a speech was forbidden to participate.

By way of background, Tasnádfürdő is in the Szekler region. The Szeklers  live in the counties of Hargita/Harghita, Kovászna/Covasna and Maros/Mureş and for a numbers of years have been demanding territorial autonomy which the Romanian majority refuses to grant.

I think László Tőkés’s speech was a window into the mindset of these people.  His speech was sprinkled with statements such as “we now are in a community of the Szekler Autonomous Region” or “we are gathered in Tusnádfürdő of the Szekler Autonomous Region.” These and similar claims give you an idea about these people’s sense of reality.

And as long as I’m bringing up Hungarian minority politics I might as well return to a part of Viktor Orbán’s speech that I didn’t touch on yesterday. It was his close to incomprehensible discourse on the concept of  the “world nation” (világnemzet), a word that at least until now didn’t exist in the Hungarian language. Among the compound words starting with “világ,” “világcég” means “international company” and “világnyelv” means “language widely spoken.” For example, today English is a “világnyelv.”

On the T-shirts: Great Hungary and Even Greater Hungary / Nepszabadság / Malabu

On the T-shirts: “Great Hungary” and “Still Greater Hungary / Népszabadság / Malabu

I guess a “world nation” means that there are Hungarians all over the world but regardless of where they live they all belong to the nation. That is simple enough, but what are we going to do with the following claim? “We must find a way that the Hungarian from Budapest, or rather from Felcsút, the Hungarian who lives in New York or in Argentina will all prosper.”

In my opinion, he can look high and low but he won’t find a way to achieve this, How could he? He has no power over the lives of those who live on a permanent basis in other countries. But it seems that his mind works differently from mine because he claims to have found the key to solving this problem. What is necessary, in his opinion, is “a strong Hungary.” He will draw all these people “into the new political and economic order that is being built by the two-thirds majority.” How, may I ask? But such practical questions don’t seem to occur to his admirers.

The same thing is true about Orbán’s deputy, Zsolt Semjén, who went even further when he claimed that if the Hungarian minorities totally assimilate sometime in the future in Ukraine, Romania, Serbia, and Slovakia, Hungarians altogether will disappear from the face of the earth. What is the connection? Why does the fate of the Hungarians of Hungary depend on the Hungarian minorities in the neighboring countries? There are, of course, no rational answers to these irrational statements, but that doesn’t seem to bother these people.

In the last couple of days I have been listening to a lecture series on the structure and the laws of the European Union. One of the lectures concentrated on the EU’s stages of development from its beginnings. The lecturer emphasized the fact that the Union even today is an entity in constant change. Something still in the making. The trend is toward closer and closer integration, especially since the crisis of the eurozone. Viktor Orbán will not be able to stop this trend and he can only lose this war. He may win a battle or two, but he will not succeed in transforming the European Union to his own liking.

It seems that Orbán was carried away during the Q&A session when he revealed the “secret”of how he fools the European Union. For example, the EU insists on changing certain passages in the new constitution. Eventually the Hungarian government obliges but at the same time they change a few more words here and there. The final result is that the European Union would have been better off if it hadn’t insisted on the changes at all. What upright behavior! And he is even proud of it.

And, continuing my random thoughts, here are a couple of corrections to Viktor Orbán’s figures. He claimed that since 2010 the Hungarian national debt was reduced through his efforts from 85% to 79% of GDP. A lie. Not since the mid 1990s has the national debt been at 85%, and at the moment it is climbing to a new cyclical high. It currently stands at 81.3% of GDP. Paying back the IMF loan early actually means borrowing money at a higher interest rate to repay a loan with a considerably lower interest rate. But according to his admirers, including László Tőkés, sending the IMF packing is a patriotic act.  As Tőkés said, “as in 1989 a young man sent the Soviets home today the same man with graying hair sent the IMF home.” Another lie. Viktor Orbán didn’t send the Russians home in 1989. Their departure had already been arranged between the Németh government and Mikhail Gorbachev’s Soviet Union.

MSZP campaign at home and abroad. Part II

Hungarian pollsters did after all come out with their most recent findings. Although there are no earthshaking developments in the popularity of politicians and parties, there are a few noteworthy points.

First, neither the student demonstrations nor the government’s announcement of a 10% decrease in natural gas prices made a difference as far as electoral support was concerned. The number of those who are undecided has grown since December. There are, however, signs that something is brewing if questions are posed in a way that doesn’t address actual voter participation. When asked whether they would like to see this government continue after the 2014 elections 53% said no and only 21% answered in the affirmative.  The problem for the opposition is that 48% of those who would like to see Viktor Orbán and his pals go don’t support any of the opposition parties either.

Second, although Gordon Bajnai is still more popular than Viktor Orbán, support for E14 has been decreasing in the last two months. There might be at least two reasons for this decline. One is that E14 seems to be a reluctant partner in the initially promising prospect of a united front embracing all democratic opposition forces. I don’t think that it is Gordon Bajnai himself who is responsible for this development, although one can blame him for choosing Milla’s Péter Juhász as one of his partners. Péter Juhász seems to be about as reluctant to work together with MSZP as LMP’s András Schiffer. I recall that back in October, before the Milla-organized mass demonstration, Ferenc Gyurcsány expressed his doubts about the wisdom of this move. I’m afraid he was right. Juhász and other civic organizers are only strengthening the population’s mistrust of parties. But without parties on one side against a ruthlessly led and centralized party on the other side there is no way of winning an election.

While E14 is losing momentum, MSZP under the leadership of Attila Mesterházy is gaining ground, although its gains don’t show up yet in the statistics. One must keep in mind that Fidesz’s lead over MSZP is slight: 1.5 million would vote for Fidesz and 1.3 million for MSZP. So, it doesn’t matter how many people, even among the readers of Hungarian Spectrum, would prefer that MSZP not have an important role in Hungarian political life, its disappearance will not happen any time soon.

But let’s move away from the domestic scene to MSZP’s play for Hungarians abroad. Key MSZP politicians made a pilgrimage  to Romania on January 16. As I mentioned earlier, Fidesz is the clear favorite among the Hungarians of Romania. Why? First, the Romanian-Hungarian population is conservative. After all, RMDSZ, the largest and most important Hungarian party, is a right-of-center political formation. Second, because Transylvanian cities formerly inhabited by Hungarians became Romanized with the passing of time, Hungarians for the most part remained in the countryside. And as we know from examples all over the world, there is a great deal of difference in the politics of the cities and the countryside. Third, I’m being told time and time again by people who know the psyche of the Hungarians of Romania that those who live in Transylvania know darned little about what’s going on in Hungary. They made up their minds years ago that Fidesz represents their interests and the socialists do not.

mszp uj logoNow with the possibility that perhaps tens of thousands of Romanian Hungarians might cast their votes in the Hungarian elections, MSZP felt that they had to make themselves heard. The first trip was to Cluj/Kolozsvár where Attila Mesterházy outlined the party’s new “nationality policy” (nemzetpolitika). He sketched out five programs. (1) The Carpathian Basin program would in the next ten years try to strengthen the economic and cultural level of Hungarians. (2) If MSZP wins the elections the new Hungarian government would promote education, culture, and the study of history. They would pay special attention to the dissemination of information via the Internet. (3) They would encourage cooperation between the electronic media near the two sides of the border and they would restore the original function of Duna Television. (Duna Television, although ostensibly still the TV station for Hungarians in the neighboring countries, is today under the central governance of all public media and thus its programming doesn’t reflect the needs of those living outside of the country.) (4) They would continue the past practice of  joint Romanian-Hungarian cabinet meetings. (5) They would make the dispersal of Hungarian subsidies more democratic by including Romanian-Hungarians in the decision-making process.

In addition to these programs Mesterházy outlined five MSZP strategies. (1) MSZP in contrast to Fidesz will never try to “export domestic political debates” to Hungarian regions in the neighboring countries. (2) The principle of equality between the Hungarian government and the democratically elected representatives and organizations will be scrupulously observed. Unlike Fidesz the government will not pick and choose among Romanian-Hungarian organizations according to political preferences.  (3) MSZP will not interfere in domestic issues that might influence the lives of Hungarians in any given country. (4) MSZP’s policy will be based on partnership, and therefore Budapest will not dictate policy to Hungarian representatives and organizations of other countries. (5) The guiding principle will be “nothing about them without them.” MSZP will seek continuous dialogue with the Hungarian political leaders abroad on all questions that concern the Hungarian minority.

rmdsz3Finally, Mesterházy apologized for MSZP’s decision to support those who cast their votes against dual citizenship in the December 5, 2004 referendum. As he put it, “it was a wrong question at the wrong time.” Responsibility for that mistiming lay not only with MSZP. Obviously, he was alluding to Fidesz, the party that in the last moment joined the clamor for a plebiscite.

The reactions of pro-government papers were predictable. It was also expected that László Tőkés, who only recently established a new Hungarian Party supported by Fidesz, immediately attacked the meeting. He is an opponent of both MSZP and RMDSZ. His new party, Erdélyi Magyar Néppárt, ran against RMDSZ in the last election and did poorly. It seems that some of the Hungarians in Transylvania were also skeptical of  MSZP’s effort to gain a toehold among Romanian-Hungarians.

Szabadság, a Hungarian-language paper in Cluj/Kolozsvár, republished an analysis from Mensura Transylvanica. The author of the article was not impressed. One by one he criticized past policies of the MSZP-SZDSZ governments and expressed his doubts that the party’s attitude toward the Hungarian minority’s organizations has changed. Moreover, there is nothing new in the proposals or strategies outlined.  MSZP’s favorite was always RMDSZ while they were leery of the two right-wing parties, one favored by László Kövér and the other by Viktor Orbán. Mensura Transylvanica doesn’t seem to like the MSZP idea of having good relations with the governments of the neighboring states. This policy harks back to the Antall government that wanted to have a balance between good relations with the governments of the neighboring states and the rights and interests of the Hungarian minority. “All in all, the new program of MSZP does not bring anything new to past practices.”  The author especially worried about “the partnership that is being forged by RMDSZ and MSZP.” Whoever our author is, he is no friend of the largest Romanian-Hungarian party. As for MSZP trying to get votes from Transylvania, he considers it a hopeless cause.

Yet Mensura Transylvanica admitted that the visit was “an important milestone in Hungarian nationality policy” and an indication of RMDSZ’s changing policy. Until now, RMDSZ kept equal distance from all Hungarian parties, but now due to the worsening relationship between RMDSZ and Fidesz the political leadership of the party gave up one of its cardinal rules concerning its relationship with Hungary. However, warned the writer of the article, if RMDSZ decided to make this move in the hope of achieving a better relationship with Fidesz, it is a risky undertaking. In order for RMDSZ to benefit from this partnership MSZP and its future allies must win the elections. And our man doesn’t believe that this will happen.