Tag Archives: Stop Soros

The Tiborcz scandal is not “a mosquito bite”

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and members of the Fidesz parliamentary caucus launched what promised to be a glorious path to victory. Everything was prepared. After propaganda campaigns against George Soros and the migrants in the last two years, Fidesz was in the midst of a new assault on those NGOs that receive financial assistance from abroad, claiming that they pose a national security risk through their active promotion of immigration. Fidesz’s election law, which favors Orbán’s party, coupled with limits imposed on the opposition parties’ ability to wage an effective campaign, ensured an easy victory on April 8.

But then came a worrisome message from the European Commission’s European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF). After two years of thorough investigation, OLAF found such serious “irregularities” in the business practices of Elios Innovatív Zrt. that it is suggesting the return of €40 million to the European Union, money that it claims was illegally obtained. Unfortunately for the government and for Viktor Orbán, this is not one of those run-of-the-mill corruption cases that are far too numerous in Hungary. It is special since Elios Innovatív Zrt.’s co-owner was István Tiborcz, the prime minister’s son-in-law.

Although many who follow Hungarian politics are of the view that not even this super-scandal can shake the Orbán government, I’m beginning to think that this time really might be different. No, I’m not suggesting that Fidesz will lose the election, but I believe that this scandal will not just disappear into the thin air without leaving serious scars on Hungary’s governing party.

Although I can put together a logical argument for my hypothesis, I actually arrived at it in a flash of insight. Today I watched an interview with Gergely Gulyás, the latest leader of Fidesz’s parliamentary delegation. It was a terrific interview, the kind one can see in Western Europe and the Anglo-Saxon countries. Egon Rónai of ATV was in great form. He was hard-hitting and refused to let go. Gulyás, who is articulate, smooth, and able to talk himself out of any situation, crumbled in front of our eyes. It became obvious that he had no good way to communicate Fidesz’s message.

There are already signs that Viktor Orbán has ordered a retreat. Let’s start with the infamous “Stop Soros” legislative package against the NGOs. The original plan was to put the proposal before parliament in a great hurry and to vote on it in typical Fidesz manner, that is, within a few days. But first the laws were amended on the recommendation of loyal citizens who were invited to comment on the draft proposal. As a result, certain parts of the bill that previously needed only a simple majority now require a two-thirds majority. Gergely Gulyás appealed to the opposition to support the bill in the interest of national security.

Commentators critical of the government were certain that this move was a trap. Fidesz wants to show its followers that the opposition parties are not good patriots and that deep down they want to fill the country with African and Middle Eastern immigrants. That explanation made no sense to me then and makes no sense to me now.

Last night we learned that Fidesz is not going to bring the bill forward for a vote before the election. The way Gulyás explained it, the opposition parties will not vote for the bill and therefore it is not worth even trying. After the election, when, according to our optimistic Gulyás, Fidesz will have the necessary two-thirds majority, the bill will pass easily. I might add here that Viktor Orbán, in his pep talk to the members of Fidesz MPs during a recent two-day retreat of the parliamentary delegation, told the troops that he isn’t counting on a two-thirds majority.

Well, let’s take a closer look at the issue. If it took Fidesz only a day to discover that they don’t have enough votes, why did they introduce those amendments that made its passage more difficult in the first place? I suggest that the addition of the last-minute amendments was designed not to shame the opposition but to serve as a pretext for “postponing” the vote. Why? One reason is what Gulyás himself admitted — that the pressure from abroad was too great. The German government specifically expressed its disapproval of the bill. The United Nations and the Council of Europe also protested. And we have no idea what kinds of telephone calls came from Brussels and what kinds of warnings Viktor Orbán received. It had to be something pretty weighty if the vote is “postponed.”

Finally, a few words about the possible ramifications of the Tiborcz scandal. What we hear from Fidesz sources is that many leading Fidesz leaders think that OLAF’s unveiling of the massive fraud committed in a crime syndicate of sorts “might be no more than a mosquito bite, but it can also shake the very foundations of Fidesz because, if these accusations are true, they are indefensible.” Some people who were present remarked that Orbán, despite his decades in politics and all his political cunning, is stunned by the assault on him and his family.

Viktor Orbán is not the only one who is stunned and perhaps on edge. Gergely Gulyás’s miserable performance last night is indicative of the jitteriness of Fidesz bigwigs. He was caught lying when he tried to convince Egon Rónai and ATV’s audience that the Orbán government learned about the OLAF report only this week. But how could that be, he was asked, when the MSZP member of the Szolnok city council received an OLAF document from the government that was dated October 2017? Gulyás had no ready answer. And that document is not the only proof that the Orbán government has been sitting on this report for about four months. There are other less direct clues for the approximate date of the arrival of the report.

I would like to point to two instances which, given this timeline, now make a great deal more sense. One is the complicated story János Lázár told on October 9, 2017, about which I wrote yesterday. I have the feeling that by that time Lázár knew the contents of the OLAF report and that’s why he spent so much time dissecting the exact relationship between the Orbán family and István Tiborcz. My second clue is an interview conducted by Origo, which by then was a government mouthpiece. Tiborcz, who I don’t think had ever given an interview in his life, offered the internet site a lengthy interview about his business activities. The interview appeared on October 30, 2017. In it he told the sad tale of a man whose real calling is business but who is restricted in his financial dealings by the fact that he is now related to the prime minister. This arranged interview was most likely one of the preemptive measures taken at the urging of Viktor Orbán himself.

Meanwhile, Gergely Gulyás wrote a brief note to all Fidesz politicians outlining the official line of communication concerning the Tiborcz scandal. Here are the three simple points. (1) The Olaf report is a “Brussels campaign report and thus an interference in the Hungarian election campaign.”(2) “In 2014, they also timed news concerning the case to come out just before the election. The case was investigated once, but now they are repeating the accusations.” (3) “They try to attack Viktor Orbán despite the fact that during much of the period under investigation the majority owner of the company was Lajos Simicska’s Közgép.”

This is, I’m afraid, a feeble attempt on the part of whoever is in charge of official government lying because right off the bat we can counter that: (1) The report was released in October, not just before the election. (2) The news concerning Tiborcz’s firm didn’t become public until December 2014, while the election took place months earlier, on April 6, 2014. (3) Of the 35 contracts called into question by OLAF, only three were negotiated and signed while Simicska held a majority stake in the company. Moreover, the CEO of the company all along was István Tiborcz.

In brief, Fidesz is floundering. Soon enough, I suspect, Gulyás will have to come up with a new set of instructions.

February 16, 2018

“Observer”: The Stop Soros bills–Hopefully only propaganda and nonsense

On 18 January the Hungarian government revealed its “Stop Soros​”’ package of three bills (SSB) targeting civil organizations “supporting illegal immigration:

–  Law on the social responsibility of organizations supporting illegal migration;
–  Law on immigration financing duty;
–  Law on immigration restraint order.

The disgraceful act made news around the world and sparked wide spread criticism from Al Jazeera and Bloomberg to Reuters and Yahoo and the alphabet in between.

There have been many bits of news and comments, which I would like to summarize for Hungarian Spectrum  here, including some parts of the SSB itself (in the unofficial English translation) and in Hungarian.

The Propaganda

The SSB package was tabled by the Interior Minister, but contrary to constitutional law, the so-called public debate is being managed by Antal Rogán’s “propaganda ministry,” which in the meantime is flooding the country with another tsunami of Stop Soros posters.

The preambles, descriptions, and justifications of the SSB repeat many of the government propaganda panels, the language of the preamble is uncannily reminiscent of the 1960s communist one: “The state has a duty to ensure the survival of the nation and to create a solid basis for future generations. It is the primary obligation and also the right of the Hungarian state to protect its citizens and our national culture. Recognizing the emergency, the Hungarian government has spent HUF 270 billion* from the budget to stop immigration.” ( The original budget for the fence was set at 20 billion.)

“Soros would resettle millions from Africa and the Middle East”

That is followed by another communist turn – the listing of the nefarious and damaging activities carried out by “the enemies within,” to use the old cliché, against the state, including “propaganda,” as any dissenting opinion or fact-finding report is labeled. “Any activity intended to promote illegal immigration and to intensify the migratory pressure is against Hungarian state interest and also causes quantifiable damage to the budget. The migration propaganda assists smuggling organizations and puts illegal border-crossers … at risk. Therefore a regulation is needed that identifies organizations that support migration and takes action against persons who jeopardize national security.”

The government of course claims that it is responding to the call by the people, all the people, one is led to believe: “The creation of the legislative package has been authorized by the citizens of Hungary: 98% of participants in the referendum clearly rejected the mandatory quota and 2.3 million people expressed their clear opinion in the national consultation on the Soros Plan.”

The numbers are coming from the government “consultation” process, which, as with most acts of the Orbán regime, is non-transparent and without outside control or scrutiny. Even access to the returned forms was denied, save for the one-hour-for-three-sites granted to Ákos Hadházy, who came out convinced that the numbers were grossly exaggerated. The government stalled for weeks before coming up with a figure close to that of the Fid voters’ number, yet “based on these results, Hungarians unanimously demand strong action against illegal immigration and promote strengthened protection of the borders instead of settling [migrants in the country].”

For those who know the Stalinist times, the language is pretty poignant – i.e. the government obliged “the people” with the SSB, but according to Antal Rogán the people are actually calling for even stronger measures, as it transpires from the more than 400 suggestions his office has received.

The Legal Nonsense

Both the text and the provisions of the SSB exhibit signs of a slapdash job hatched at the “Propaganda Ministry,” where only the desired effects are clear.

Act on the social responsibility of organizations supporting illegal migration*

Sec.1: “… an association and foundation seated and registered in Hungary that sponsors the illegal entry, relocation and residence of a third-country national … directly or indirectly from financial or property benefits originating from abroad shall be qualified as an organization supporting illegal migration.” [OSIM]

There are some fundamental legal problems from the very start here – who and at which point in time an entity qualifies as an OSIM, what is the redress/appeal against such a designation. It’s a gaping legal hole which leaves the whole SSB hanging in the air.

Sec.2.1 stipulates an OSIM “is obliged to notify” the court, but this is after the entity has been qualified as an OSIM. In view of this, the widespread criticism of the act for obliging entities to report their own violations of the law is on shaky grounds, which I’m not going to pursue.

The fact that only associations and foundations are included, but not companies or other legal entities, indicates the intention to target the NGOs, violating the principle of equality before the law. The other issue is the bizarre category of entity supporting an illegal activity. Under western law illegal activities are prevented and restricted, offending entities are punished, e.g. by fines, placing the entity under management or liquidation, but there is no example of classifying them as functioning law breakers.

Sec. 2 uses phrases like “OSIM that supports in any other way,” “to facilitate the unlawful,” “sponsors or otherwise supports” which make for an extremely broad scope, allowing for the incrimination of an entity for one of its members handing out a bottle of water; note the interpretation of the preamble that “The migration propaganda assists smuggling organizations,” making all participants accomplices.

Sec. 3  stipulates that if a foreign funded organization supports in any way other Hungarian entities, such support “shall be qualified as indirect financial or property benefits deriving from abroad” i.e., making the local organization also foreign funded. Since there are no limits on how far eventual assistance will carry the “curse,” numerous entities co-operating in other matters can be drawn into the foreign-funded NGOs category with its implications under the earlier law on these.

How about Sec 2.4 prescribing that an OSIM post “ its notification pursuant to Section (1) on the website pursuant to Section 2(5)-(6) of the Transparency Act and [illetve] in the media” ?! This unique, ham-fisted attempt to force NGOs to publicly “humiliate” themselves leaves numerous questions open: in what media, in what format, for how long, at whose expense, etc. (The Hungarian “illetve” can only mean “and” here.)

According to Sec 5.2, “If the OSIM fails to meet its obligations contained in the prosecutor’s notice, the prosecutor may initiate at the registration court that a fine be imposed in double the amount of the financial benefit originating from abroad.” This provision mixes the criminal law under which the prosecution office operates with the administrative law regulating the Registration Court.

Act on the immigration financing duty

The same problem of mixing different kinds of law arises in this act as well, where the tax office is to collect (Sec.6) a duty on the basis of Sec. 2:  “The  organization supporting illegal migration is obliged to pay an immigration financing duty if…” Here we also have the absurd concept of an entity being categorized as an OSIM and then punished by a regular duty instead of being punished for the particular illegal act. And only if the entity received benefits from abroad, which again violates the principle of equality before the law.

Act on immigration restraining orders

There is some misunderstanding of this act, I’m afraid,  since it has been widely condemned for introducing an administrative provision to restrict the movement of Hungarians as well, e.g., illustrated by the example of an absurd 8 km zone around the Vigadó border entry point on the Danube in the center of Budapest. (The misinterpretation may have come from  Sec.2.a which refers to “ a member of Parliament” in the Hungarian text without specifying which parliament.)

All of the elements of the act consistently refer only to “aliens…[or] third country nationals,” presumably non-EU citizens:

According to sec. 1 regarding “third-country nationals, in order to conduct alien police procedures in an unhindered manner, the minister in charge of immigration and refugee affairs … may ban any person whose residence in Hungary is contrary to Hungary’s national security interests or who poses a danger to the public interest, from the frontiers or from within an 8-kilometer zone of the frontier marks of the external borders.”

The above would still include people with resident status in Hungary, like NGO employees or representatives, journalists, activists or tourists who otherwise would be difficult to handle or intimidate (unlike the local ones, as the government may have assumed).

There are some drastic provisions restricting the appeal/judicial recourse in sec. 5.3.  “An immigration restraining order may be challenged on account of a breach of the essential rules of the procedure in a public administrative lawsuit within eight days.”  That is, the material facts and the judgment of the minister are incontestable. It should be recalled that the Orbán government has been pushing for the creation of a separate administrative courts system. On top of this there is the provision that “provisional measures of legal protection are not available in the lawsuit,” i.e. the judge cannot change the detention, confiscation, etc. measures taken until the end of the process.

It is almost laughable to read Sec. 3 mentioning “the period of the crisis situation caused by mass migration,” which the government still keeps in force even though there have been almost no migrants at the borders for a year now.

Impact on the NGO sector

The SSB follows on the heels of the 2017 Act LXXVI NGO Law on foreign-funded  organizations, which the European Commission recently contested in the European Court of Justice, and emphasizes the general strategy to eliminate all independent  institutions, in this case the NGOs –the real goal of the huge and hysterical government campaign, along with the scare mongering – vote winning double whammy.

The TASZ (Civic Liberties Union) has summarized the expected impact very well:  “Following up on the 2017 NGO Law on foreign-funded organizations, the latest draft laws are potentially lethal blows to civil society in Hungary: their novelty is that the threat is now existential and also targets individuals. Should the proposals be adopted in spring 2018 without major changes, they will cause grave and irreparable damage to Hungarian civil society. By the end of 2018, a number of NGOs will be unable to function or carry out core work due to five direct and imminent threats to their mission.

I. Funding for essential services will be cut and driven away

  1. All foreign donors who directly or indirectly give funds to targeted Hungarian NGOs should calculate losses, as their funds will be partly (25% tax) or fully (200% fine) seized by the government;
  2. The risk of the government taxing funding in an arbitrary manner could make yet unaffected donors pull away from funding civil society in Hungary;
  3. Domestic funding for the work of the civil sector is largely available from public funds administered by national or local government agencies, which is already politically conditioned and discourages public advocacy or exposing faulty or inefficient public services.

II. Trust in civil society and willingness to seek assistance will decline

  1. Smear-campaigns, compliance procedures and investigations will further stigmatize and discredit NGOs by accusing them of performing illegal activities;
  2. Authorities would gain access to the data of all persons working for, contracted by or receiving assistance from NGOs, thus intimidating individuals from supporting, working for or seeking help from them;
  3. An estimated 80-85% of about 900-1,000 prominent NGOs risk losing public benefit status, i.e. tax-free status and other advantages. This will dramatically raise costs for NGOs and for clients, who will have to pay taxes after the value of free services/assistance (15% personal income tax + 19.5% health care tax).

III. Sanction procedures and targeted tax investigations drain and divert NGO resources

  1. NGOs that have refused to register under the 2017 Law on foreign-funded NGOs can expect to face legal procedures for non-compliance once they publish their annual financial reports at the end of May 2018. These procedures are likely to roll out during the summer and will further aggravate the pressure.
  2. Politically-motivated tax investigations could pave the way for repressive criminal prosecutions against NGO leaders and human rights defenders.

IV. Threatened by enhanced government surveillance measures, NGOs will be effectively silenced

  1. Human rights defenders who work with targeted organizations could be declared a national security risk and be subjected to arbitrary and unlawful restrictions on their freedom of movement;
  2. NGOs will have to assume their work and staff are being monitored by intelligence services, pressuring them into self-censorship and impacting their families;
  3. Stigmatizing civic groups and individuals as national security risks will have a chilling effect on other groups, supporters and clients by sending a clear message that at any point in time they could become targets as well.

V. Serious risk of ‘mimicry effect’ by potential Europe-wide copying of worst practices related to shrinking civic space l. The proposed laws could serve as a model within the EU to thwart the valuable work of civil society organizations that fight for the respect of human rights in the European Union, a danger that the EU Fundamental Rights Agency has recently underlined.”

The conclusion is not difficult to arrive at: “The recently announced anti-civil organization bill is deceitful, arbitrary and harmful. It is deceitful because it creates the appearance that its purpose is to stop illegal immigration, while in reality it wants to crush the entire civil society. It is arbitrary because the government seeks to determine what would constitute a problem for the people and who is entitled to solve it. In a democracy, this kind of restriction is unacceptable. Finally, the new act is harmful because removing public-interest status from  organizations that receive a majority of foreign support could result in all Hungarian citizens being deprived of free civil assistance.”

*The quoted passages are taken from the Hungarian Helsinki Committee’s unofficial translation of the Stop Soros laws.

January 9, 2018

The Orbán government defeated in Luxembourg: Will it retaliate?

On January 25 the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled on a case that the Hungarian Helsinki Committee had brought to it in April 2015 on behalf of a Nigerian man seeking political asylum because of his homosexuality. In Nigeria’s 12 northern states that have adopted Shari’a law, the maximum penalty for homosexuality is death by stoning. The Hungarian authorities, on the basis of psychological tests, turned down his request. With the help of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, he appealed to the Szeged Administrative and Labor Court, where one of the judges decided to ask the opinion of the ECJ. He apparently had doubts about Hungarian law as it applied in cases like the Nigerian asylum seeker. As it turned out, not without reason.

Now, almost two years later, the court in Luxembourg ruled that “an asylum seeker may not be subjected to a psychological test in order to determine his sexual orientation” because “the performance of such a test amounts to a disproportionate interference in the private life of the asylum seeker.” This ruling is a great victory for the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, which was an early opponent of psychological testing. In fact, the organization received a 120 million-forint grant from EU sources to put together a training manual titled Credibility Assessment in Asylum Procedures, which was published in 2013. It is a 140-page, extremely thorough guide for those who have to decide the fate of refugees or migrants. The staff of the Helsinki Committee argued that these psychological tests, especially the ones used by the Hungarian authorities, are of no help; in fact, they can easily lead to unfair assessments of individual cases. If well-trained professionals do the questioning, the veracity of the asylum seeker can be ascertained in most cases without any psychological testing, the Helsinki Committee contended. Although there were earlier ECJ rulings on similar cases, this decision is especially significant because it is applicable in all 28 member states of the European Union. Moreover, the Hungarian court cannot appeal, which makes the Nigerian refugee’s chances for asylum much stronger.

The Hungarian authorities’ decision was based on a psychologist’s report that included an exploratory examination, an examination of the applicant’s personality, and the results of three personality tests: Draw-a-Person-in-the-Rain, Rorschach, and Szondi. The Rorschach test was developed almost 100 years ago in the 1920s; Lipót Szondi’s test is not much more recent. It first appeared in 1935. According to current opinion, “when interpreted as a projective test, results [of the Rorschach test] are poorly verifiable.” There is some evidence that it is still good for detecting such conditions as schizophrenia and psychotic and/or personality disorders, but I found nothing that said the test is good at proving or disproving homosexuality. When it comes to the Szondi test, it is not widely used in modern clinical psychology “because its psychometric properties are weak.” Both the Rorschach and the Szondi tests are available online. The third test is positively amusing. The subject is asked to draw a person in the rain, on the basis of which far-fetched conclusions are drawn. These conclusions are so bizarre that I urge everybody to pay a visit to the site, which explains the significance of every aspect of this drawing, starting with the position of the person on the paper to the handle of the umbrella.

Naturally, the Hungarian Helsinki Committee is delighted with the ruling, which “is the result of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee’s decade-long struggle to put an end to the humiliating and stigmatizing psychological testing of asylum-seekers’ sexual-emotional orientation in asylum procedures.” For Viktor Orbán, on the other hand, this is yet another blow from an NGO that he perceives as part of a centrally ordered and organized attack on his political system with a view to his removal from office. In opposition circles most people express their disbelief that Viktor Orbán can seriously think that George Soros, like a puppeteer, pulls all the strings that result in his repeated humiliation. I might be mistaken, but I think that Orbán’s repeated attacks on George Soros and his activities through the NGOs is more than a campaign stratagem. I suspect it is a reaction to what he perceives as a genuine threat to his power.

This latest defeat was answered by a plethora of belligerent articles and editorials in the government media. In Magyar Idők two relevant articles and one editorial appeared on the day following the release of the ECJ’s verdict. All three emphasize that the court opted to share “the point of view of the Soros-financed Helsinki Committee.” Calling the lawyers working for these civil rights organizations “human rights fundamentalists,” one of the articles accuses them of “removing the administrative barriers which hamper the admission of migrants to the European Union.” An article titled “According to the EU the immigrants are always right” is mostly concerned about the exclusion of psychologists. It charges that “in the future lay people will decide whether those who claim to be homosexuals are really ‘different’ or not.” Misinterpreting the Helsinki Committee’s handbook, the author accuses the organization and the European Court of Justice, which agrees with it, of always believing the words of the asylum seekers, even if their stories are confused and contain contradictory statements. These opinions reflect the judgment of the Hungarian ministry of justice. Undersecretary Pál Völner considers the ECJ verdict unprofessional because the judges failed to consult “the experts on the subject,” the psychologists. They are the ones who can pass judgment on the tests the Hungarian psychologists have been administering to asylum seekers.

Magyar Idők’s editorial titled “An absurd verdict” is frightening. According to the unsigned opinion piece, as a result of this new development the “Stop Soros action plan is not only justified and urgently needed but it is presumably insufficient against the systematic undermining of traditional European societies.” It continues: “to defend against the activities of the Soros organizations and to counter migration pressure further changes in the law will presumably be necessary.” Does this mean that attacks against the “Soros network” will intensify? Unfortunately, the government media’s predictions more often than not turn out to be an announcement of government policy. There is therefore a good likelihood that the answer to the Helsinki Committee’s success in Luxembourg will be another round of attacks on them and the other civil rights groups.

January 27, 2018

Who poses a danger to Hungary’s national security? Anyone who lends a helping hand to a refugee

It is hard to describe the hysteria the Orbán government has whipped up over the nonexistent migrant invasion of Hungary. Day after day, they bombard Hungarians with a relentless campaign of fear mongering. Just when I think that perhaps they have finally spent themselves, they come up with yet another salvo. The latest is their decision to ban Bernadett Szél, co-chair of LMP, from attending the parliamentary committee on national security, of which she is a bona fide member.

By tradition, the chairman of national security committee is always a member of the opposition. In this case, the position has been filled in the last eight years by Zsolt Molnár of MSZP. Since 2014 Szilárd Németh (Fidesz), known for his verbal attacks and boorish behavior, has served as deputy chair. On January 15 Németh announced that “those politicians who lie about the national consultation campaign and have been supporting the Soros Plan all along, as LMP politicians do, cannot take part in the discussions of the national security committee, whose task is the prevention of the implementation of the Soros Plan.” Németh charged that in the past Szél worked in a Soros-financed organization that was supportive of migrants. So, Szél was in fact a paid agent of Soros. But that’s not the only sin of  LMP’s candidate for prime minister. She had the temerity to meet with EU Commissioner Věra Jourová in Brussels, who spoke highly of George Soros’s Open Society Foundation. When asked by journalists how a member of the committee can be barred, Németh claimed that “she will not be barred,” but “in those sessions where the Soros Plan is discussed, the LMP member will not be able to participate because she holds views on the subject which are not in the interest of the nation.” I hope you understand why Németh is ridiculed for his rational deficiencies.

A few hours later Szél announced on her Facebook page that “the great thinker of Fidesz just admitted that everything I said about the Soros network is true and everything they say about it is a lie.” In an interview with 444 she claimed that the material presented by the secret services was information anyone could have picked up from the internet. Yet this material is declared to be secret. She was trying to convince the Alkotmányvédelmi Hivatal (AH / Office in the Defense of the Constitution) to allow it to be made public. Hungarians ought to know the truth, not the kind of reality Fidesz wants to present.

Since all the opposition parties, including Jobbik, announced that “this is madness,” it was thought that this particular stupidity would die a quiet death. So, when a day later, Balázs Hidvéghi, communication director of Fidesz, said that Németh’s utterance was a “political opinion,” people breathed a sigh of relief. At least László Kövér, the president of parliament, would not enlist the parliamentary guard to prevent Szél from entering the committee room. That reaction, however, was premature. Hidvéghi is a young, civilized-looking fellow whose IQ must be a great deal higher than Németh’s, but he is not allowed to utter an opinion that in any way differs from the ukase that comes from above. So, by the end, he basically supported Németh when he said that “we will see whether we will have a session [on the Soros Plan] and then we will see. This is our political opinion.” In effect, though in a mealy-mouthed way, Hidvéghi reasserted Németh’s threat. If there is a session about Soros and his nonexistent plan, “we will see” whether Szél can join the discussion.

If it wasn’t clear after Hidvéghi’s press conference that the government was squarely behind Szilárd Németh, whom Viktor Orbán finds extraordinarily useful in his propaganda campaigns, Híradó’s article yesterday, “Bernadett Szél’s expert failed his security clearance,” left no room for doubt. According to this most official government publication, “in the middle of the migration crisis” Szél nominated an expert to testify before the committee who failed vetting. The expert was born in Kabul, and before he began working for LMP, he had worked for MigSzol, “which is the most pro-migrant organization of Soros.” He was deemed to be a national security risk. Apparently, Szél appealed the decision, but Sándor Pintér, minister of the interior, refused to reconsider the decision.

After this introduction came a laundry list of MigSzol’s activities, which obviously the Orbán government considers to be illegal. Here are some of them: MigSzol organized a demonstration in support of Ahmed H., the man who was sentenced to ten years for “terrorism” for throwing a rock (no one knows whether it hit anyone). During the demonstration protesters chanted slogans like “Freedom for Ahmed!” and “Ahmed today, tomorrow you.” MigSzol activists protested against the national consultation by launching boats into the Danube made out of national consultation questionnaires. During the chaos created by migrants at the Eastern Station in 2015 these activists encouraged Hungarians to give money to feed the migrants. The activists of MigSzol have been attending the trial of Ahmed H.; they inform people about the details of the court proceedings on their website; they try to defend Ahmed H. in opposition to the Hungarian authorities; they don’t hide their goal of attaining freedom for the leader of the disturbances at the Serbian border in September 2015. After all that, Híradó adds: “it is now obvious why Szilárd Németh does not want to see Bernadett Szél in the committee.”

Source: Index / Photo: István Huszti

Híradó’s article also claimed that Bernadett Szél was herself at one point in the pay of George Soros when, in 2002, she was the program director of Menedék—Mingránsokat Segítő Egyesület (Shelter—Association of Migrant Assistance. In an interview yesterday Szél told her audience that at the age of 16 she received a Soros Foundation scholarship to spend six months in the United States. That’s her only connection with George Soros and his organizations. She said that she did work as an activist for the Humanist Movement, which is an international volunteer organization that promotes nonviolence and non-discrimination. She sarcastically added that “it seems that Fidesz at the moment considers it a Soros organization.”

Today Szél gave a press conference in which she labelled press reports on the vetting of LMP’s expert an unlawful disclosure of a state secret. Szél stressed that none of LMP’s experts performs work that is not legitimate. She also said that all the employees of the party are Hungarian citizens who cannot be discriminated against on the basis of their ethnic origin.

This story is a perfect example of how easily the Hungarian authorities can label charitable organizations and protesters threats to national security. It also demonstrates that the Orbán government’s first instinct is to declare people suspect or even guilty on the basis of their national origin. Anyone—and I’m afraid there are many in Hungary—who thinks that the Orbán government’s latest “Stop Soros” campaign is not meant seriously is dead wrong. If that package of new laws is enacted, the MigSzol people who chanted “Today Ahmed, you tomorrow” were unfortunately right.

January 20, 2018