The Slovak dilemma

FicoOne of the great aspects of being on the right is the unrestrained ability (or even obligation) to talk about Hungarians living abroad. The first such article will be about the ones living in Slovakia. Slovakia is a relatively young country, being established only in 1993, with first coming into de facto existence by the Treaty of Trianon of 1920, a peace pact that forced millions of ethnic Hungarians into “exile”. Thus various Hungarian “enclaves” have been ceded to foreign powers, where their treatment was not in the least idylic. Along with these territories went cities of varying importance to Hungarian culture and history in general too. Pressburg (AKA Bratislava since 1920), present-day capital of Slovakia has been one of them, which is going to be in the center of attention in today’s article.

On March 10 elections have been held in Slovakia, where SMER has won a landslide victory by getting 83 out of 150 seats of the Slovak parliament. The party’s all-time president and freshly named prime minister, Robert Fico has been heavily criticized in the past for his heavy left-wing rhetorics, passionate anti-Hungarian outbursts and regular clashes with the press. In fact he went as far as suing Sme, a Slovak liberal daily over a caricature (due to a reference to Mr. Fico’s allegedly spineless character) and proposed a media law aimed at restricting freedom of the press.

Mr. Fico’s stance was no less malign towards the Hungarian minority, which constitutes about 10% of Slovakia’s population. He began by forming a government coalition with SNS, an ultra-nationalist party infamous throughout Europe with its hostile opposition towards all the possible minorities of Slovakia (especially Hungarians, but also Gypsies, homosexuals and generally anyone who disagrees with their agenda). Later on he expelled László Sólyom, then Hungary’s president from Slovakia (coupled with a rant about the hostile Slovak press and alleged magyarization done by Saint Stephen I), which severely soured the relationship between Slovakia and Hungary. He also made his stance even clearer when his fellow party member Marek Maďarič has submitted (and the government coalition led by Smer later passed) a revised form of the so-called “language law“. This law, originally passed by former prime minister Vladimír Mečiar in the middle of the 1990s, had only a single purpose: to push the usage of Hungarian “underground” i.e. deter Hungarians from speaking their native language in the open, especially in government offices and state-owned companies. Despite the fact that Slovak nationalists have asserted that the law’s sole purpose is to “protect the Slovak language”, the introduction of fines (and the law’s selective de facto application solely to Hungarian signs and pamphlets) was proof of the contrary.

All of this (as if by a stroke of magic) is supposed to change with the forming of the second Fico-government. Truth be told, the recent campaign wasn’t nearly as nationalistic as every single campaign between 2006 and 2010 (when even Smer’s billboards were openly nationalistic, whereas now only the ones of SNS were) and Smer’s two iconic anti-Hungarian boogeymen, namely Marek Maďarič and Dušan Čaplovič didn’t partake in the campaign all too often either (except for a few statements). In fact Mr. Fico’s stance toward the press seems to have been a more positive one as well: he gave an interview even to Slovakia’s only Hungarian daily Új Szó, which was unthinkable in the years 2006-2010. This might lead one to believe that Mr. Fico has finally realized that the press is a force to be reckoned (and not to be trifled) with. If that is so, we sincerely congratulate to Mr. Fico’s U-turn and hope that this leads to a better communication with the public in general. We also hope that such practices will sooner or later be adopted by Mr. Orbán and his crew as well.

The situation of the Hungarian minority of Slovakia remains unclear however. Smer’s nationalist boogeymen mentioned above have been awarded the ministries that the Hungarians are the most sensitive of: culture (Maďarič) and education (Čaplovič). Although they have promised to behave (and so far they do), Mr. Fico’s government is expected to introduce several cuts in order to keep the budget spending at par. And thus when the people’s anger turns against him, he might be overly tempted to compensate with recurrent anti-Hungarian rhetorics again.

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Happy Easter!

The editors of Hungarian Digest would like to wish all of its readers a Happy Easter!

Kellemes húsvéti ünnepeket!

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The Pál Schmitt saga II: The big finale

Schmittelj!An awfully lot has changed in Hungary in the past week, ever since a SOTE committee has published its findings about Pál Schmitt’s doctoral dissertation. In fact this article has originally meant to have a somewhat different form. Little did I know that things will take such a chaotic turn.

But what happened in the first place? Let’s see: last Tuesday came the news that SOTE’s fact-finding committee, established solely for the investigation of the plagiarism accusations that have surfaced regarding Hungarian President Pál Schmitt’s doctoral dissertation, has finished its report. And the findings of the report were obvious to everybody who speaks English, French and Hungarian, and also read both of HVG’s articles which have started the whole affair. After that things went just as expected: Schmitt has announced several times that he refuses to resign and Fidesz-controlled media went on to misinterpret the committee’s findings. In fact the whole “loyalist” right-wing media asserted that the committee has blamed the “mistake” on the university, citing their failure to recognize plagiarism prior to the dissertation’s defense. In fact they suggested that the committee’s conclusion is that Schmitt should NOT be stripped of his doctorate: Magyar Nemzet was the first to come to this conclusion followed by the evening news of MTV.

Despite all the prior pressure for doing the contrary, on Thursday evening Schmitt has been stripped of his doctorate. On Friday everybody was expecting Schmitt’s resignation, supported by the fact that he was to be featured in a programming right after the evening news on MTV. The programming however turned out to be an interview where Schmitt has announced that he’ll keep on fighting to earn a PhD and that he won’t resign. He also promised to refrain from legal actions, saying “instead of suing I’ll keep arguing”.
This has been followed by Monday’s U-turn, when Schmitt has announced his resignation to the Hungarian Parliament along with considerations for legal action against the “perpetrators of the hate campaign aimed against him”.

So much for the facts. Unfortunately taking a stance that would’ve been viewed favorable by the Hungarian right is not an option in this case. While I fully agree with the fact that the President’s (unprecedented) resignation was a sad moment of Hungarian history, it was the necessary outcome. Have Orbán’s stance prevailed, it would’ve threatened to sweep the whole right in a grave disagreement which could’ve led to a fracture within Fidesz itself. Cynically enough this has also shown that the Hungarian (free!) press is still a force to reckon with and it can cause or enforce the resignation of even a figure heavily backed by Orbán.

Another aspect of the whole affair is the academic one. In a normal democracy politics doesn’t interfere with the country’s scientific community, yet that’s exactly what happened in this case. And unfortunately the repercussions are the most severe exactly in this sector: Tivadar Tulassay, SOTE’s president has resigned after feeling a lack of confidence in his work, and Klaus Heinemann, one of the authors whose work has been plagiarized by Schmitt, has condemned him and questioned his ability to represent Hungary internationally in an appropriate way. This has hurt Hungary’s scientific reputation abroad to an extent which is unclear for now, but later on it might turn out to be bigger than expected. Long after Fidesz is gone.

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Péter Róna: Peace Walk saved Hungarian government from being toppled

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and “Western politicians supporting her” have considered the option of toppling the government of Hungary. This claim was made by self-described leftist economist Péter Róna in an interview for the radical leftist publication “168 Óra”. Róna previously said that he has insider sources in at least one of the embassies in Germany, and gets copies of reports sent home from there.

Róna also says that the January Peace March in support of the government has shown that the “removal” of Orbán would entail much more risks for Germany and the EU than if he was left in his place.

In an interview in 168 óra, a prestigious Oxford university professor and former leading international banker says he knows from an authentic source that Western leaders, led by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, had a plan to remove PM Viktor Orbán early this year. Speculation about such a scheme flourished in the Hungarian press late last year, but this is the first time a public personality has claimed that the rumours had a solid footing.

Mr Péter Róna, a former CEO, who had an illustrious career in investment banking and at present, a professor at Oxford, tells 168 óra, the plan to topple Viktor Orbán was abandoned because of the January 21 Peace Walk. That surprisingly large demonstration in support of the Hungarian government and against foreign press attacks, was estimated between 200 000 – 400 000 participants. As a result, Mr Róna says, Foreign Minister János Martonyi brokered a deal with Germany, whereby they stop any toppling / coup attempts against the Hungarian government in exchange for more cooperation.

Magyar Hírlap concludes from Professor Róna’s comments that left-wing pundits and politicians have actually been seeking foreign assistance in order to remove the present government.

The full exchange in the Róna interview was the following:

Attila Buják (interviewer):

Attila Buják: …Since the Union is no longer led by Brussels but by Berlin, Merkel appoints and dismisses the prime ministers at the periphery.

Péter Róna: That’s correct, and the same is true for Hungary as well. Western leaders were  contemplating the decision, whether to let Orban remain in position or to dismiss him. This was seriously considered. Finally he got lucky. The main deciding factor was the relatively high internal support. The Peace Walk for Hungary*, really did save the government. 

*The January 21 pro-government march / rally in Budapest

Attila Buják: This means that Orbán will not get toppled from the outside.

Péter Róna: They will avoid it if possible. It would be too embarassing. And it still comes with less complications to leave him in power, than to turn to unpredictable solutions. This is the logic behind the Merkel-Orbán pact in the political sense. “You may stay if you stand in line”

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OBH powers getting reduced following Venice Com. recommendations

Hungary’s new National Court Office (OBH) will provide services, exert control and have managerial functions, its head, Tunde Hando, said at a conference on legislation and public administration reform in Kaposvar (SW Hungary) on Friday.

In her lecture on Hungary’s new judicial structure, Hando said that the earlier system, including the now defunct National Judicial Council (OIT), had been unable to adequately manage the financial and human resources of the law courts. Judges and courts were unevenly burdened, while the lack of transparency across the judicial system had also elicited a lot of criticism, she said.

The new model is based on the separation of central management and professional control, as reflected in the act on judicial organisations, Hando said.

Hando said that her position provided more room for manoeuvre than that of the former OIT head and it also ensured a clear distinction between management and professional control.

“All that I do is entirely separated from the [actual] court procedures,” she said.

Hando referred to critical remarks over her authority to transfer procedures from one court to another, and said this power would be only used in exceptional cases in order to alleviate overburdened courts. She added that cases would be reassigned in consultation with the heads of courts effected. She also said that such powers had been introduced a year ago and the former OIT head had used it on 11 occasions, and “nobody raised objections”.

Earlier on Friday at a separate event in Budapest, the rotating president of the National Judicial Council OBT, Rita Szabo Toman, said that the OBT would act as the National Court Office’s (OBH) “conscience”.

Speaking at a ceremonial session, the OBT head said the new rules governing the judicial system would guarantee the independence of judges, whose protection, she said, was the primary duty of her organisation.

Justice Ministry State Secretary Robert Repassy said at the same event that the amendment to the law on the justice system had been submitted to parliament a week ago, incorporating the observations of the Council of Europe’s advisory body, the Venice Commission, as well as those of the Association of Hungarian Judges, in order to further broaden the OBT’s monitoring powers over the OBH, which sees to matters such as appointing judges and assigning them to cases.

Hando, the head of the OBH, confirmed that the OBT’s job was to monitor her office.

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German Minister of State: Press distortions are deliberate, to undermine the government of Hungary

MTI reports that the Minister of State at the German Chancellery Eckart von Klaeden had an interesting comment a few days ago. The German official claimed that some in the press were undermining the Hungarian government by spreading deliberate misunderstandings about its policy-making.

At an event held in the Hungarian embassy in Berlin, Angela Merkel’s chief official said, “I am convinced that the press wants to stir up bad news about the [Hungarian] government [by spreading] exaggerations and deliberate misunderstandings.”

He noted that the conservative Fidesz party had “a clear mandate” by having secured a two-thirds majority. Von Klaeden, a member of the CDU party, said reforms in Hungary should be implemented “patiently and comprehensively”. He added that based on his talks with Hungarian partners, the government is intent on advancing on the European path.

The German minister is not the first to notice that something fishy is going on with some of the press reports. The reaction in the Hungarian press is telling as well. While most foreign reaction is front page news in most of the Hungarian media, this comment received minimal coverage, it was even missing completely from, the second largest news portal of Hungary. The guys at Index are very thorough so it’s quite unlikely that they just missed this. They do have quality news, though, one of their headlines on the front page right now is about increased diaper sales (yes, really, in Hungarian it reads: “Vittük a pelenkát, mint a cukrot”).

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Can you spot the difference?

Three pictures used to illustrate Kossuth Square, March 15, 2012. Can you spot the difference

The single picture used by the Economist to illustrate March 15 Kossuth Square, Budapest, Hungary

What the Economist readers are allowed to see from the March 15 Kossuth Square pro-government crowd

The the single picture used by the New York Times to illustrate March 15 Kossuth Square, Budapest, Hungary

What the NYT readers are allowed to see from the March 15 Kossuth Square pro-government crowd

A picture of March 15, 2012 Kossuth Square, Budapest, Hungary

What the Economist and New York Times readers are not allowed to see.

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EU sanctions criticized from the Hungarian left as well

An interesting article has appeared about a Hungarian (currently) leftist turncoat Gáspár Miklós Tamás on Budapost. Apparently the left has realized too that the sanctions hurt all Hungarians’ interest equally.

A left-wing philosopher believes that the European Commission’s proposal to suspend 495 million Euros in development support simply reinforces PM Viktor Orbán’s power, and will only serve to help Fidesz win the next general elections.

“On Wednesday, February 22, the executive body of the EU proposed the suspension of 495 million Euros in development aid, unless Hungary makes further efforts to reduce the public deficit below the required 3 per cent of GDP – a target which the country has missed each year since its admission to the EU (see BudaPost February 22., 23 and 24).”

In Népszabadság, Gáspár Miklós Tamás writes that the EC’s decision was the climax of an all-European campaign against “PM Viktor Orbán’s new regime”.

The philosopher, who was a prominent dissident under the communist regime, and started out as a conservative liberal in the first democratic parliament, has more recently been active as the leading figure of a small Marxist movement. He suggests that the Hungarian government is criticised in the West for two very distinct reasons.

The left dislikes Orbán, because his pro-middle class policies remind them of Western conservatism (especially in the American Tea Party movement). Left wing European commentators fear that this kind of thinking might infiltrate the European Union.

Conservative westerners, on the other hand, are shocked to see that Viktor Orbán’s “unorthodox economic policy” has hurt the interests of multinational companies.

Hungarians fail to notice the difference between these two distinct types of Western criticism, Tamás suggests, so to them it appears as if the West as a whole is criticising the Hungarian government for protecting the interests of the local population. And since the Hungarian left-wing opposition appears to be an ally of those Western critics, it will have to pay a political price for any potential punitive measures from the EU.

On top of it all, after being so spectacularly put under pressure by the European Union, the government can blame all hardships on Brussels and its local allies, Tamás believes.

“The European Commission” – the left-wing philosopher predicts – “has most probably won the next elections for Viktor Orbán”.

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Election fraud at the leftist mock election: the case of László Pityinger (Dopeman)

The parliamentary opposition, of MSZP, Jobbik and LMP are not the only opposition in Hungary nowadays. Several leftist and liberal opposition groups were formed that are not even political parties. One of these groups, the so-called Milla or EMS decided to stage a mock election to elect an “alternative President”. First the rules were to be simple: the person who gets the most votes is elected president, and will speak at their rally on March 15. Then the rules started to change: first the deadline for voting was extended, after István Csaba Bartos, a down-on-his-luck philosopher, won the most votes. Then after he still had the most votes, a second round has been announced, now only between the “viable” candidates. But the leadership of the Milla group who organized the vote was not impressed: they looked down on István Bartos because he is homeless. Many have also suspected that they had their own preference even before announcing the idea last year. When István Bartos won in the second round as well, the rules were changed once again: now a final round must be organized!

Leftist democracy: even if you get less votes, you can still win if the rules change often enough

(István Cs. Bartos won with over 49% of the votes in the second round)

So what did the third election consist of, the one to ultimately decide the winner? A single round of “prisoner’s dilemma“, a high-school level basic example of game theory. The “candidates” had to decide whether they will cooperate or compete, and the organizers gave Pityinger the first choice. Long story short, after the self-styled “Nightmare of Hungary” (Dopeman) picked “compete”, it was over for Bartos before he could say anything. If he cooperates, Dopeman wins, if he competes, they both lose and the third candidate wins. So the rules have been rigged by the organizers to deny even a 1% chance to Bartos, the actual winner in terms of votes. The naive Bartos of course cooperated, thinking it was the spirit of the game and promptly lost before having any chance of winning.

So while the election was in progress, the rules were changing constantly only to sabotage the person most supporters of the “Milla” were voting for. In a blog post Milla admitted to the fraud and wrongdoing, but they refused to annul the result. Dopeman remains their spiritual leader and president.

Because rank and file supporters of Milla were the ones who voted for Bartos in large numbers, they were the ones most outraged by the turn of events. According to one of them: “and you dared to create a clip saying “I don’t like the system??” Fuck you, you are the exact same fucking cheating fraudster scum!!! („és még ti csináltok klipet is , hogy Nem tetszik a rendszer?? basszátokmeg ti is ugyanolyan mocskos csaló karvaly retkek vagytok!!!!”)

László Pityinger alias Dopeman, the self-proclaimed "Nightmare of Hungary"

László Pityinger (Dopeman) himself is extremely controversial because of his public statements and lyrics.  According to some, he is even a paedophile, because of lyrics such as:

“Szerinted gusztustalan, ha megbaszunk egy kiskorút,
de ha vérzik a ribanc, akkor baszni is tud”


“You think it disgusting, when I fuck a minor?
But if the bitch is bleeding, she can fuck as well”

being just an example. Other Dopeman lyrics talking about Dopeman viciously beating feminists if they talk back to him are also surprising, because the previous spokesman and main personalty of Milla just a few months ago was Dorottya Karsai (the girl who sang “I don’t like the system”), a feminist activist.

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Crusade against Hungary

„In stark contrast to the Left’s timidity in the face of actual authoritarian regimes such as China and Russia, the liberal media’s treatment of Hungary has aggressively crossed the line. Paul Krugman of the New York Times sounded the alarm after Hungary’s conservative Fidesz-KDNP alliance won 68 percent of the seats in Parliament in the 2010 elections. He foresaw a post-Soviet »re-establishment of authoritarian rule« in Hungary. The British Guardian fell into line, describing Hungary’s new prime minister, Viktor Orbán, as an »autocratic leader«. The Washington Post, not to be outdone, compared Hungary to Belarus and Putin’s Russia. Not long after, and with great satisfaction, Hungarian émigré professor Charles Gati announced in an op-ed in the Times that Hungary is »no longer a Western-style democracy.« Having been drummed out of the West by left-wing editorialists, Hungary became fair game for the next phase of the liberal crusade: U.S. intervention. Slander has turned into absurd policy prescriptions, intent on destroying one of the most electorally effective center-right parties in Europe. (…)

Yes, Hungary’s constitution has embraced the country’s heritage of Christianity, defined marriage in a traditional way, and proclaimed that life begins at conception. Hungary’s constitution also introduced a debt cap and reaffirmed Hungary’s 700-year-old forint as the national currency, to the chagrin of Brussels. These provisions reflect values held by most Hungarians and are therefore appropriately secured in their fundamental law. That Hungarians have decided to protect their traditional values unsurprisingly rankles the sensibilities of liberal pundits and bureaucrats in Europe and America, but it is hardly cause for crying »Dictatorship!«”

National Review Online Crusade against Hungary

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Even the socialist MEP objects against the EU sanctions (Mandiner)

Csaba TabajdiAccording to Csaba Tabajdi the measures aimed at punishing the Hungarian people would be unfair. The leader of MSZP’s EP delegation has called attention in a statement to the fact that the suspension of subsidies from the EU cohesion fund could lead to the formation of an anti-EU front of unity among Hungarians.

Csaba Tabajdi has objected in a statement against the fact that the European Comission plans to suspend the subsidies from the EU cohesion fund. According to the leader of MSZP’s EP-delegation “an anti-EU union front could be formed in the Hungarian society”.

The member of MSZP said: he turned to EP president Martin Schulz and to Hungarian EC member László Andor for this issue. “I will ask Martin Schulz and László Andor to make use of their influence to make the European Commission take into account the EP’s last week’s resolution, and to immediately back down. The Orbán government can be criticized, but it’s unacceptable to punish the Hungarian people” – Tabajdi’s statement reads.

“We consider even the proposal itself as an unreasonable, bad political decision, which is unfair against Hungarian citizens. This decision would punish the Hungarian local governments, the Hungarian people and the Hungarian entrepreneurs instead of the Orbán government” – stressed Tabajdi while reacting to an EC spokesman’s announcement about proposing the suspension of the cohesion subsidies within the excessive deficit procedure initiated by the EU’s proposing-executive institution.

(Image source: MTI)

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The Hunvald case: MSZP and SZDSZ politicians receive a total of 10 years in prison

The municipal court of Budapest sentenced György Hunvald, former MSZP MP and Socialist mayor of District VII, to 1.5 years imprisonment for his involvement in large-scale fraud, in an appealable ruling on Friday. The sentence left many wondering whether Hunvald would finally be able to fully enjoy all his assets, including his private jet, several homes and a fleet of luxury cars worth in excess of 1$ million. The prosecution appealed the verdict of 1.5 years asking the appelate court to confiscate Hunvald’s enormous wealth and sentence him in excess of 20 years in jail.

György Gál, former SZDSZ head of the district’s economic committee, was also sentenced, the liberal politician received a prison sentence of 8 years and 6 months. MSZP’s Hunvald and SZDSZ’s Gál thus received a total of ten years in prison for crimes committed while in office. Gál was sentenced for fraud, bribery, embezzlement, and abuse of authority, while the former mayor was found guilty of the two latter crimes. The MSZP and SZDSZ politicians were arrested during the latter stages of the previous Socialist government and many suspected that party rivals turned on them, making detainment and court proceedings possible under MSZP’s rule.

Out of the 13 defendants in the case, charged with defrauding the district hundreds of millions of forints in connection with the sale of municipal properties, former Socialist deputy Zoltán Szabó was also handed a six-month suspended prison sentence. Zoltán Szabó is now a member of DK, Ferenc Gyurcsány’s new party.

The discrepancy between the verdicts were visible. György Gál of SZDSZ got a sentence of 8.5 years, interestingly enough SZDSZ today is a defunct and utterly discredited party without any influence. György Hunvald of MSZP received only 1.5 years, while interestingly MSZP is a very significant party with sizable Parliamentary representation and a huge network of connections that stretches well beyond the borders of Hungary. This discrepancy caught the eye of a member of the European Parliament as well, who wrote about the case:

“György Gál messed this up horribly. If long ago he decides to join the Socialist party and sends Hunvald to SZDSZ then he could have walked away freely. Together with his several high value cars and his private plane (let’s stop for a minute here: how it is fucking possible that this Hunvald has/managed to own a plane? from his diligently saved mayoral salary? ) and Hunvald could sit in prison for eight and a half years. You have to choose your party well, Comrades!”

However the Hungarian justice system is not yet interested in such trivial questions as how Hunvald amassed his fortune. If I recall correctly the appellate court was similarly disinterested in the Zuschlag case. Zuschlag was another MSZP politician who turned out to be a criminal, he is still in prison. An interesting part of that case was that Zuschlag stole not for himself, he stole for the MSZP party. And yet when the trial came, he repaid every penny to the state, that he stole and asked the court for leniency. How Zuschlag was suddenly able to such an exorbitant sum, was never discovered but the lack of interest by the court was highly disturbing at the time as Zuschlag never had anywhere near that amount of money from legal sources. A payoff for keeping his mouth shut and not implicating any other MSZP politicians was rumoured at the time.

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Hungarian press more free than US or Israeli press, international study finds

Reporters Without Borders, an independent international organization has compiled a ranking of countries according to press freedom. They call it the World Press Freedom Index 2012.

Hungary has rank 40 and a grade ten, while the United States is significantly worse with rank 47 and a grade of 14, four grades worse than Hungary

According to the World Press Freedom Index, 2012, Hungary has a “grade 10”, essentially the same as Spain and France, countries not often the target of criticism regarding their media situation. However the United States has a significantly worse rating than Hungary, a grade 14, and a ranking of 47, compared to Hungary’s rank 40. Yet many in the US feel they have a right to criticize Hungarian media freedom, while doing so on the pages of newspapers and media companies that enjoy significantly less freedom than their Hungarian counterparts. Greece is often criticized for its financial situation but not their media, yet at rank 70 they are far below Hungary.

Israel with rank 92 and a grade of over 30 can only dream of the high level of freedom of press, enjoyed in Hungary

Israel is extremely low ranked compared to Hungary, yet when reading the international press few news items criticize the Israeli freedom of press.

And finally let’s look at some countries that really lack at the freedom of press department:

India, Russia and Turkey are really incomparable to Hungary with their low ratings, yet their size and influence mitigates a lot of the possible criticism

Russia, Turkey and India are all countries which have serious trouble with press freedom, they are graded between 58-70. Now if we recall that Hungary had a “grade 10” we can see that if Hungary were suddenly become the nation with the best freedom of press in the world, it would not need to improve its grade a fraction of which would be needed for these countries to reach Hungary’s level.

The Hungarian leftist media in early 2011 tried to establish the lie that the “freedom of press in Hungary is no more”. They printed the lie on the front page of the political daily with the largest circulation, and spread it everywhere they could. But that message was too absurd, too radical to sustain for long. It had to be abandoned after the coming months offered no substantial evidence of any changes at all in the Hungarian media landscape. In fact many leftist organisations seemed to be and still are of the opinion that the media in Hungary is a tad too free. They regularly complain about articles published by right-wing papers, often followed by attacks on right-wing journalists and attempted intimidation through lawsuits and police reports. The last ones to complain about Hungarian journalists were a group of MPs of the European Parliament including Ulrike Lunacek. Apparently some Hungarian journalists pointed out that Urlike Lunacek was disgustingly lying about the Peace Walk for Hungary, trying to defame all participants at the same time. Instead of praising the freedom of speech and freedom of press in Hungary, Lunacek went on the attack and made it clear : the current level of freedom of press in Hungary is just too much for her to endure.

So after the original message was abandoned the new line of attack became the standard: “the freedom of press is in danger”. But the facts once again do not support these radical interpretations of the left-liberal critics. Everyone who actually consumes Hungarian media knows that there is little that they will not print and the intensity of the attacks on various government policies have only intensified since the acceptance of the media law. But not everyone of course can have first hand knowledge of the actual situation, this is where international studies such as the World Press Freedom Index 2012, come in handy.

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EP resolution on Hungary: commentators divided (Budapost)

Left and right wing columnists are sharply divided on the resolution the European Parliament adopted on Hungary earlier this week. While conservative commentators condemn Hungarian Socialist MEPs for actively taking part, their left wing counterparts call on the government to act. The European Parliament adopted a four-party resolution on recent political developments in Hungary on Thursday. The document, submitted by the Socialist, Liberal and Green groups and the European United Left/Nordic Green Left party, expresses “serious concern” about “the exercise of democracy, the rule of law, the respect and protection of human and social rights, the system of checks and balances, equality and non-discrimination.” The European Peoples’ Party and the Conservatives rejected the resolution as being “ignorant of the facts” and interfering in Hungary’s internal affairs, while others called it a “necessary warning”.

In Magyar Nemzet, Szabolcs Szerető believes the resolution will serve as a reference point for opponents of the cabinet at home and abroad, but is insufficient to provoke a political turnaround.

The pro-government daily condemns Hungarian Socialists for taking part in the drafting of the resolution. „The [Hungarian] opposition is a real Hungarian speciality as their arsenal includes high treason as well”- writes Szabolcs Szerető.

Meanwhile, Hungary has sent her reply to the concerns of the European Commission, hoping to get its approval for negotiations with the IMF on a credit line. In another column in Magyar Nemzet, Tamás Nánási admits that Hungary had to give up its previous economic policies, because it could not resist the unprecedented depreciation of the Forint which was the response of the markets to her financial unorthodoxy. He suggests Hungary had only two bad options to choose between: either further depreciation or revising her economic policy. „The grass bends when hit by a strong wind, but does not break and will recover when the wind subsides”– Nánásik explains.

In Magyar Hírlap, Tamás Fricz, a well-known political analyst and a leading figure of an organization which supported the pro-government demonstration in January (See BudaPost, January 23 and 24), condemns the Hungarian Socialist MEPs who co-authored the resolution stigmatising Hungary, and dismisses their claim that the text does not call for stripping Hungary of her voting rights. ”Thank you very much! But it does threaten constant monitoring under article 7 of the Treaty, which is a first step towards the rudest of sanctions”.

Tamás Fricz who was present at a previous hearing in Brussels, says that the left-wing participants completely ignored all counter-arguments. He believes that the Left, which already dominates the political discourse in Europe, wants to impose its own ideas and categories on the conservatives. “This is a struggle, a political fight rather than a conversation” – the analyst exclaims in Magyar Hírlap.

In the same pro-government daily, Csaba Szajlai warns that spreading anti-EU feelings in Hungary only plays into the hands of far right Jobbik. The country needs the EU’s financial support, the problem is that the resources are misused, but that’s not Brussels fault –the columnist points out.

In Népszava, Tamás Rónay calls it extremely embarrassing that the EP adopted the most critical of the three draft resolutions that were tabled. The left wing columnist rejects the explanation according to which Hungary is facing a leftist-liberal plot. And he points out that most EU countries are ruled by conservative parties. Tamás Rónay believes that the EP has given time to Hungary to amend legislation which was found to be in conflict with EU norms.
In Népszabadság, Eszter Zalán also remarks that the resolution could not have passed without the backing of some right-wing MEPs. She quotes Brussels sources as saying that some Finnish, Swedish and French People’s Party MEPs voted in favour of the text and scores of others abstained or did not attend. She also mentions, however that the EC can only stop the power concentration in certain areas, but cannot undo the Orbán-regime as a whole.

Conservative analyst, Ferenc Kumin, finds the reasons for and the aim of the „leftist power demonstration” unclear and highly questionable, as it theoretically gives ground to a possible invocation of Article 7 of the Treaty that could strip Hungary of its right to draw on EU funds.

Although Ferenc Kumin calls the implementation of the Article highly unlikely, he thinks that “It is very hard for them (the Socialists) to explain that this theoretical possibility might only hit the centre-right Hungarian government and not the country as a whole”.

In Konzervatórium, “Dobray” finds it insincere that while the resolution was rejected by the EPP and the Conservatives (therefore was hardly a consensual one), it expects Hungary to pass her laws on a consensual basis.

The conservative blogger remarks that Hungary is being forced to adopt recommendations of non-EU organizations (such as the European Council and the Venice Commission), although such advice is not considered binding in the case of other countries, such as Slovakia (when it comes to the limitations imposed on the right of ethnic Hungarians to use their mother tongue in public.

Such cases only push Hungary away from the European Union, the blogger warns and finds it most hilarious to see Communist MEPs worrying about democracy in Hungary.

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Hungary’s debt 2000-2011

Gross and net debt of Hungary up to the end of 2011. Source:

In early 2012 the reduction of the debt continued mostly due to the positive shift in the exchange rate, reports. According to index, in 2012 January alone the debt decreased by HUF 429 billion (about 1.6% of GDP). This latest change is not yet reflected in the above graph, so the situation is a bit better than it shows. It seems, the real reduction however occured in the net debt category, over 60% in the late Bajnai era, this debt type is now close to 50%. The net debt takes the value of assets into account, so for example taking out a bank loan and depositing it in the Hungarian Central Bank (MNB), would immideately increase gross debt, but not the net debt. As the debt in foreign currency increases in forints due to exchange rate changes, the foreign exchange reserve of about 38 billion euros changes as well.

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Statement by Hungarian Writers, Artists and Scientists

We, Hungarian citizens – writers, artists and scientists by profession – who live in the everyday life of our country and sense and bear the consequences of government decisions, have read and heard with increasing indignation the libellous statements made in the world press and media by certain political circles on the ‘democracy deficit’ in Hungary. We are aware that such allegations are also made by some Hungarian intellectuals – writers, philosophers, musicians and journalists – with affiliations to the present-day political opposition, whose names are known in the West and who are accorded wide publicity for incitements against their country.
It is imperative that we, intellectuals, belonging to the significant majority of the Hungarian society speak up and reassure those in the Western democracies who are concerned with Hungary ’s future. We declare that the Hungarian Government has made no encroachments on the basic democratic rights, which the overwhelming majority of Hungary ’s inhabitants themselves embrace, as they demonstrated in 1956.
Those Hungarian electors who, in 2010, voted the conservative political forces into government with a two-thirds majority, entrusting them with the improvement of social and economic conditions, which had severely deteriorated under the previous socialist administrations, feel especially great responsibility for their homeland. They therefore feel that Hungary should not break away from the democratic community of European nations and the Atlantic world.
The present Hungarian Government, despite external circumstances that have proved more difficult than expected, and despite a few errors they may have made, still enjoys the confidence of this majority. However, they have had to experience that by throwing in false news and lies and hiding behind democratic slogans, some forces aim to divest our people of the very essential democratic right they cherish: the right to judge the performance and the achievements of our Government at the ballot box.
We hope that the intentions that jeopardise Hungary ’s freedom will be overwhelmed by unbiased public opinion in the Western democracies.

Presidency of the Hungarian Writers’ Association,
Presidency of the Hungarian Academy of Arts,
Presidency of the Batthyány Society of Professors

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Hungarian Communists form opposition roundatble with MSZP reports about some interesting developments in Hungary. A Hungarian opposition roundtable was formed on February 16th in Budapest, with the participation of Hungarian Communist parties and MSZP. Yes its hard to believe so before going any further I will link my source once again: this index article. The following parties participate in the roundtable,  Hungarian Communist Workers’ Party (Magyar Kommunista Munkáspárt), Workers’ Party of Hungary 2006 (Magyarországi Munkáspárt 2006) – which is a group split off from the Communist Workers’ in 2006, Green Left (Zöld Baloldal) a small party with close ties and fluctuation of membership with Munkáspárt 2006, the Hungarian Socialist Party (Magyar Szocialista Párt, MSZP), and the Hungarian Social Democratic Party (Magyar Szociáldemokrata Párt). The largest party present is the Hungarian Socialists by far, the MSZP party still has a sizable presence in the Hungarian Parliament with fourty something MPs.  All the other parties who participate have no parliamentary representation, which immediately begs the question what does MSZP hope to achieve here.  The fact that the new Gyurcsányist party, DK, was missing seems odd, as they have some independent MPs in Parliament as well, which is more that the others can say. Index reports that DK as well as LMP were only invited after the opposition roundtable was already formed. LMP however stated several times that they reject participation in this opposition roundtable.

András Balogh, the vice-chairman of MSZP strongly argues for the necessity of an opposition roundtable with the Communists

MSZP seems to be committing a series of blunders here to decrease its own voterbase and legitimacy. Just yesterday MSZP politicians voted for an EP resolution, shortly after their own party paper described it as one that is against Hungary. Today we learn that they begin close cooperation with Communists that have the Communist title in their own party name which cannot be explained away as “well meaning leftists”. What their strategy is at this point is unclear.

Since MSZMP the ruling Communist party was dissolved, MSZP the legal successor kept its distance from hardline Communists who remained true to the original ideals and wore the Communist name with pride. In 1994 and later during the first Orbán government, the Communists tried to seek close cooperation with MSZP, but they were rejected out of hand. The cooperation at the roundtable ends this longstanding MSZP policy which ensured that the far-left does not gain too much influence within the ranks of the party. MSZP’s decision wasn’t well received within the left, leftist blog Varánusz for example described the Communist – MSZP coopeartion in the opposition roundtable as a “System error”. 

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Hungarian Socialist Party shoots itself in the foot on the issue of EP resolution

On the 14th of February, Népszabadság published an article titled EP Resolution: The condemnation of Hungary depends on the divided Left (EP-határozat: a megosztott baloldalon múlhat Magyarország elítélése), referring to the proposed resolutions in the European Parliament.

Népszabadság is the paper of the Hungarian Socialist Party, not just in the sense that it supports them, but 27% of the company is actually owned by the party. They didn’t get to 27% by any big acquisition, rather that is the amount they decided to keep and it was the rest of the shares that they sold. The MSZP party used to own all of Népszabadság, because they inherited it as a legal successor to MSZMP, the ruling communist party, which founded Népszabadság in 1956.

So after Népszabadság described the EP resolution in such a prominent way as being “against Hungary”, what did the Hungarian Socialist Party do? Did they vote against the resolution because they didn’t want to be seen as being against their own country and participating in its condemnation? Or did they vote for it but asked a correction from Népszabadság explaining that the resolution is after all in the interest of Hungary? Nope, not the case. They not only voted for the resolution but actively participated in drafting it. Csaba Tabajdi and Kinga Göncz were even mentioned as people who had their name attached to the resolution.

The Hungarian Socialists asked for a correction too, just not from Népszabadság, the paper which broke the story and partially owned by the party itself. They asked for a correction from for repeating the claims of Népszabadság about the resolution being a “condemnation of Hungary”. Instead, the Socialists argued that the resolution is only against the Government and not Hungary itself, as Népszabadság and others claimed.  Of course a correction was denied and the original Népszabadság article was even mentioned in the reply. So all in all this seems to be a communications disaster for the Socialists and personally for Csaba Tabajdi because the resolution actually passed.

Only 315 MPs out of 736, about 42% percent of the total have supported the resolution (it’s interesting that things can pass in the EP with such low support). Supporting groups included liberals, greens, socialists, and communists. In Hungary a resolution supported in part by the far-left is already tough enough to sell, but now Tabajdi and other Hungarian Socialists have to explain why did they support and help draft a resolution that’s against Hungary according to their own paper, Népszabadság.  The resolutions references to “article seven”, raising the possibility of severe economic harm to ordinary Hungarians, will gather few fans within Hungary as well.

Emotions ran extremely high on Hungarian discussion forums and blogs, with intense debate about the role of Hungarian Socialist in the matter. The T word was even thrown around some. In any case the Socialists will have a very tough time explaining why they did what they did. What will likely follow from this is a mild decrease in their popularity and a modest increase for Fidesz or even anti-EU Jobbik.

The European Peoples Party pretty much opposed the resolution, they even issued a statement talking about “an authoritarian method which is against European values.” referring to the fact that the resolution came before the discussion of Hungary with the European Commission was finished. This referenced an accusation of a show trial where the verdict is already made before hearing the case. The EPP added that: “The adoption of this premature and groundless Resolution, is undermining Hungarian people’s trust in the European Union and the credibility of the European Parliament

Fidesz itself also tried to capitalize on the Socialist’s blunders with several press releases, and even deploying Tamás Deutsch on Facebook to comment on the matter.

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Joseph Daul writes a strongly worded letter to Neelie Kroes

Joseph Daul the leader of the Parliamentary group of the European People’s Party, wrote a letter to Commissioner Kroes, questioning her recent performance at the LIBE committee hearing. According to press reports, Daul asked if Kroes is undermining the Commission by presenting her own biased and subjective opinions and getting personal in the discussion. In the debate Kroes used “severe and baseless” allegations about the status of minorities in Hungary, Daul says. The liberal Kroes referenced a young aide of hers as a source of information on the Roma minority of Hungary, while completely ignoring the only Roma representative in the EP, Lívia Járóka. According to Daul it is completely unacceptable that Kroes questioned the words of a directly elected representative of the Roma community based on the subjective opinion of an unidentified  colleague of hers.

Daul wasn’t the only one, who was unhappy with Kroes’ performance, which was viewed as aggressive and over the top in Hungary. As some commentators have noted, Kroes demanded that Navracsics (Hungarian Justice Minister) agree to certain resolutions before they were even drafted. So before Navracsics even knew what was Kroes talking about, Kroes wanted him to agree to it. Agree now, it’s not important what to, pretty wild stuff, right? But it didn’t stop there, Kroes then absurdly claimed that Navracsics already agreed in a private meeting to follow the unknown (!) resolutions. Of course Navracsics has no authority to sign blank checks on behalf of Hungary and never had. Kroes was pretty much out of control and acted like a party politician on the fringe of the political spectrum, and not as a neutral commissioner.  Kroes was also criticized for his performance in the Hungarian press, but there are recent reports of attempted intimidation of Hungarian Journalists who wrote about her and Ulrike Lunacek.  Apparently the Freedom of Press is only important while the press writes good stuff about you. When they are critical then it’s ok to try to harass them like Hannes Swoboda and the gang are trying to do. 

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Germany gets some bad press in Greece – Memorandum macht frei

The Financial Times reports about the Greek situation:

Rioters burn the German flag in street protests. A demonstrator defaces the façade of the Bank of Greece, the central bank, so that it reads “Bank of Berlin”.

Most shockingly, a rightwing Greek newspaper depicts Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor, in a Nazi uniform above the headline “Memorandum macht frei” – an allusion to the memorandum in which Greece’s foreign creditors demand more austerity measures and to the Auschwitz slogan.

Angela Merkel, as seen in a Greek newspaper

In Greece there seem to be a feeling, that Germany is meddling with the country a litttle too much, just as it did in WW2. From her earlier status, being depicted as an SS officer, Merkel is now portrayed with a double Swastika.

Earlier Greek depiction of the uniformed Merkel was milder

Meanwhile due to implementing the earlier IMF-EU suggestions, the Greek economy contracted by 6.8pc last year and at an accelerating 7pc rate in the last quarter, far worse than expected.

Approval of EU finance ministers is needed to unlock all parts of the complex €130bn loan package, including a 70pc “haircut” for private holders of Greek bonds, allowing the country to avoid default in March.
Germany and Northern allies seem willing to force Greece out of the euro unless there is total compliance, calculating that the eurozone is now strong enough to stem any contagion.
Luc Frieden, Luxembourg’s foreign minister, spelled out the warning in crystal clear terms. “If the Greek people or the Greek political elite do not apply all of these conditions, I think they exclude themselves from the eurozone. The impact on other countries now will be less important than a year ago.”

Of course there still is no mechanism to leave the Euro, Greece would have to leave the EU, to be able to leave the common currency.

If European leaders really want to force Greece into a disorganized default, or even have any similar plans, then Greece should start thinking about that scenario, have some plan in place. Otherwise they will end up like Malév, bankrupt and without a plan for any fresh start.

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Curse of the undead: Malév

We’ve already talked about the fact that Hungary’s pride, namely Malév, went bankrupt about a week ago and that all of Hungary’s governments since 1989 contributed to this. Personally though I hoped that within a week or two the Orbán government will act quickly enough to move all of the former company’s assets to a new company (which would preferably use the same old brand name), effectively ending the chaos that ensued since the bankruptcy of Malév. But no, unfortunately the Hungarian giant remains to be dead. Actually, not dead, but rather undead (since it’s been proclaimed a company of strategical importance, hence de jure it can never go bankrupt, remember?). And aside from the fact that it still exists (despite being defunct) it has brought around a curse (just like any “regular” undead would): the imminent obligation for the state to pay about HUF 1000 billion ($4.5 billion/£3 billion) to the creditors of Budapest Airport. The reason? An alleged secret clause (presumably in small print) in the privatization contract of the airport’s operator company (Budapest Airport), pertaining to the projected traffic loss in case Malév goes bankrupt. It’s also likely that because of the nature of the contract the airport itself would be nationalized as well.

We’ve also learned about the fact that Péter Oszkó, former finance minister of the Bajnai government, has been a board member at Wizz Air since last April. This means that he was already a board member when Wizz Air has filed a complaint about the state subsidies paid to Malév. Oszkó has later went on record to say that he was arguing in support of Malév even as a board member of Wizz Air and stated that the actions against Malév were never discussed in any board meetings. This “mishap” of his however doesn’t affect the truthfulness of his earlier statement, in which he stated that Malév could have been restarted immediately after its bankruptcy and that he’s already drawn up a rough plan for such “managed bankruptcy” in 2010 as minister of finance. He also said that when the Orbán government came to power, he handed all the documentation for these plans to them. “The plans needed an additional 3 months’ worth of prep work” – he said. Unfortunately nobody has heard of these plans ever since, but since nobody from Fidesz seemed to deny the existence of such plan, chances are that the plans did (and still do) exist. However since it hasn’t been turned into a reality, the Orbán government might’ve blown its greatest opportunity altogether.

Given the fact that the privatization (and subsequent nationalization) contracts signed during the Gyurcsány-Bajnai era are fishy to say the least, and the fact that the Orbán government obviously didn’t feel the need to come up with a wise plan for the bankruptcy of Malév, it’s obvious that nothing has changed as far as Malév’s status quo is concerned: a company wanted by nobody, mismanaged by everybody, continues its unholy fate with about to meet a nasty end.

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Midwifery verdict criticised (Budapost)

February 13th, 2012
Left-liberal observers are extremely critical of the verdict of the Budapest Appeal Court sentencing “the apostle of midwifery in Hungary” to two years in prison.

The editorial of Magyar Narancs remarks that the public still regards “peaceful birth” as something similar to witchcraft. Otherwise, the editor of the weekly thinks, the court could not have taken such a harsh decision.

The court of appeals of Budapest on Friday sentenced home-birth midwife and gynaecologist Ágnes Geréb to two years imprisonment for professional negligence causing death on one account and a permanent disability in another.

The court augmented a preliminary sentence by depriving Geréb of the possibility of release on probation after the first year and increased a five-year ban on assisting births to ten years. Geréb, who was sentenced in the first instance last March appealed for clemency to President Pal Schmitt.

Rules on homebirths were liberalised in 2011, but activists claim that midwives need to fulfil too severe conditions before getting a licence.

Magyar Narancs deplores the humiliating conditions dr Geréb was subjected to upon her arrest and criticises the court for refusing to hear international homebirth experts. The liberal weekly remarks that dr Geréb accepted the sentence with „a smile worthy of a Joan of Arc on her face”.

TASZ, the Society for Liberties, a human rights ngo, accuses the courts of applying double standards when judging birth accidents. On its home page TASZ complains that gynaecologists assisting births in hospitals are only very rarely sent to the dock, and get usually acquitted, while midwives are immediately prosecuted whenever a “complication happens”.


The above was taken from in accordance with their terms of use.

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Open letter to Neelie Kroes by a Hungarian member of the EP

Dear Vice-President,

I listened with great interest to your presentation at the European Parliament Committee meeting dedicated to the issue of Hungary. For us as Hungarians what is said and thought about us abroad is probably more important than is the case with other European nations. We Hungarians are particularly sensitive to being accepted as equals by the community of European nations and that the latter does not apply different standards to us than it applies to others.

Over the last two years, we have been the incredulous witnesses of a coordinated series of attacks against Hungary and the Hungarian Prime Minister, Mr. Viktor Orbán, in the press and in certain political and economic circles.

The European Commission, of which you are a Vice-President and which also plays the role of guardian of the treaty, in spite of having been collectively subjected to a great deal of pressure both politically and in the media, has nevertheless proven to be a fair partner to Hungary throughout in clarifying and resolving the areas of dispute. You in particular have been the most authentic witness of how rapidly the Hungarian Parliament succeeded last year in amending the components of the Hungarian laws regulating the press, which in the European Commission’s view conflicted with EU law.

Continue reading

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Oszkó admits: He is with Wizz Air

According to breaking news reports from, Péter Oszkó, the former Hungarian finance minister, has admitted that he is sitting on the board of Wizz Air since last April. The news came from Ryanair, as the company distributed copies of a Wizz Air yearly report aiming to prove that Wizz was in a bad shape financially. This report unintentionally contained the information about the MSZP government member, which then Oszkó admitted.

Malév went bankrupt after Wizz-air reported them to the EU over Malév’s state support which the company needed badly to say alive. The news was a shock to many, because to the public Oszkó was portraying himself as someone who did everything to save Malév, Wizz Air’s heavy competitor. Oszkó launched into an anger filled tirade on the internet, against the Fidesz government because an immediate successor to Malév was not established by the time Malév went bankrupt. If Hungary does as Oszkó suggested and establishes a successor national airline, Oszkó’s company, Wizz Air would have been very badly hurt.

The news already looks like it will quickly develop into a huge scandal, hurting Oszkó and possibly Gordon Bajnai, the former PM, whose cabinet Oszkó served as finance minister. Why and how Oszkó managed to hide his involvement with Wizz Air while acting out as a champion for Malév is not immediately known.

In his writings, Oszkó was saying, he is deeply committed to establishing the best possible situation for Malév, for the good of the country. Oszkó played a massive role in Malév’s fate, as he was overseeing many financial transactions regarding the company including its 2010 renationalization following a sell-off to a Russian investor only a few years prior.

When called for comment, Oszkó only said that “the information wasn’t news worthy”, confirming that the story was definitely news worthy. Several magazines and newspapers printed it immediately, without waiting to gather more information for a longer article.

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Jávor Benedek, LMP leader replies to Gyurcsány

Benedek Jávor of LMP replied to an open letter by Ferenc Gyurcsány, in which the former PM suggested a closed session of talks between their two parties. According to the new leader of LMP, his party is not considering cooperation with Gyurcsany its goal, because Gyurcsány is in part responsible for “destroying the moral foundation of Hungarian Democracy. Previously LMP also distanced themselves from MSZP and a proposed “opposition roundtable”, following an intense intra-party debate about LMP-s future.  It seems, that Benedek Jávor will follow the previous LMP party-line, with several of his comments now establishing a pattern. Jávor, in his reply to Gyurcsany states that there is no point to the “expert talks” behind closed doors. Instead, all talks should take place in the public and with the involvement of civic groups while facing up to the last two decades of Hungary is unavoidable. According to him, cooperation with Gyurcsany, the leader of DK would only hinder those who wish to rebuild the moral foundations of Hungarian democracy. Gyurcsany took the wrong choice several times in major moral dilemmas – the LMP leader writes, which lead to the destruction of the moral foundation of Hungarian democracy and through that, the fall of the Third Republic.

“This means that if Gyurcsany personally wants to contribute to restoring Democracy, he must face his responsibility” Jávor adds.

LMP’s identity hasn’t been all that clear for a while now as well as its relationship to other parties. The recent soul searching of LMP started after previous leader András Schiffer had to resign amid increasing press attacks, which included a broadside from left-radical website, Galamus. The portal used a relative of Schiffer to attack him while reminding him of the left wing commitments of his grandfather (He was Árpád Szakasits, the Chairman of the ruling Communist party between 1948-1950).

Schiffer, who is known for reporting Gyurcsany to the police in the Sukoro case, also took a pretty anti-MSZP, anti-Gyurcsány line while LMP’s de-facto leader. This is probably why many on the left wanted to take him out, hoping his demise would lead to closer cooperation with MSZP. Népszabadság 168 Óra and HVG all took their part in the attacks. However Galamus’ approach was so radical and extreme that it stood in its own category. Several commentators noted that these type of attacks are reminescent of Szabad Nép, from the 1950s. A newspaper article included Galamus in its search for the “largest spineless” creature because the “galamummies used the hysterical letter of his aunt in their attempt of trying to get rid of Schiffer”.  Galamúmiák (galamummies) refers to the extremely advanced, close to ancient age of the contributors there. But this shouldn’t come as a surprise. As a recent study found MSZP has almost no support with voters aged 18-37:

Tarki poll published February 7.

Pollster Tarki found that while Fidesz can count on 43% of this voter group (about the same as in the total population) and Jobbik 30%, the MSZP party has only 14% of support, in the 18-37 age bracket. MSZP’s low numbers here but higher totals overall mean that most of his supporters are old, while Jobbik has mostly young voters, while Fidesz’s support is equally distributed between the age groups. Gyurcsany’s new party, has insignificant support among young voters and did not make the poll. (many of the galamummies support DK as well).

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We need an anti-Jewish party! (Heti Válasz)

(The following was originally published in Heti Válasz, by András Stumpf)

There will be no peace, no freedom and no order until the Jews are excluded from all positions of power in Hungary.

The future of Hungary depends on whether the country is able to get rid of the Jewish influence in public life or not. The Jews with the help of left wing parties are laying siege to the Hungarian democracy, parliamentarism and civic freedom.

We cannot be free in any other way, there will never be peace, order and freedom until the Jews aren’t exterminated from all positions of public power. The hatchet needs to be applied to the root of the problem, the future of the Hungarian nation depends upon the ability to exterminate the Jews from political life and public office.

A radical anti-Jewish party should be founded against Gyurcsány and Bajnai, which with all its might would aim to remove the Jews from public life, and call attention to the fact that once again the rabbis are behind the decline of the country. This party should aim to uncover the ploy of the Jews and the rule of the rabbis. We need a kamikaze party which won’t instill some other ideology to replace the Jewish with, but one that wants a Jewish-free state without any ideology. The Jews must be forced back into the civil sector. We cannot fall for such lies like assertions that these people are covering the responsibilities of the state and therefore are entitled to full government support and reimbursement of their costs. They must be fired from education and from the healthcare facilities. If they have money they should pay for the schools and the hospitals, if they don’t, then they shouldn’t. If someone desires education according to the Jewish world view, they should pay for the rabbi who provides it. The state should thank them for the help  that they offer at the expense of the taxpayer, but should reject it altogether. Education is the Trojan horse of the Jews, make no mistake about this.

It must be recognized that Hungary has the Jews to thank for Trianon, the Don disaster, the red terror, the forty years of communist oppression, the loss of its young and promising democracy and the third republic. If the Jews do not disappear from public life, if the leftist ideology can continue to assault the democracy using these parties, then we gain nothing by the disappearance of Gyurcsany or Bajnai, the suffering will never end because someone else will just take their place. Then the continued hatred and Hungarophobia will never leave this country. The Jewish parties must be banned based on the Hungarian historical experience, just like the Communist party of the Soviet Union was banned after the the downfall of the USSR. Their remaining ruins must be salted.

Once the awareness of the Hungarians will be raised about the Jewish threat, when they will realize that they are behind the hatred, they are ruining the country, there will be a need for the kind of prime minister who can keep the ideological debates and the freedom of thought grounded in the civic sector.

(If the dear reader believes that I went nuts and the above text is the proof of it, I would like to note that this is not the case. Rather, it isn’t me who’s nuts. The article above is the shortened but word for word transcription of László Bartus’s article from Amerikai Népszava, published yesterday. I only replaced „Catholic” or „Catholic church” with the words „Jew” or „Jewish” and when the context demanded it, I replaced “right-wing” with “left-wing”, and Viktor Orbán with Ferenc Gyurcsány and Gordon Bajnai. My goal was simply to point out to everyone that we are dealing with a genuine Nazi text. Obviously the country needs neither an anti-Catholic nor an anti-Jewish party. We also don’t need Bartus, the publisher of last year’s anti-Hungarian racist article by Ákos Kertész, and the Nazi hatred emanating from this current intellectual masterpiece of his. I hope that the self-portrayed flag-bearer of the emigré Hungarian left, Bartus will not be included in any form of intellectual connection or approval from the ones he is so fond of, now or in the future.)

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Malév: Hungarian pride with a bitter end

The news itself have probably gotten to everyone already: last Friday the company went bankrupt (even though technically it didn’t, more on that later). As it’s customary in Hungary, the whole political spectrum went on to blame each other plus the EU for this unfortunate event. However I doubt that this came as a surprise to anyone but the most clueless. Sure, nobody (or rather, very few) have known the exact date, but almost everybody felt that the end is near. There were several signs, really, but the most significant was the EU ruling forcing Malév to repay HUF 70-100 bn.  ($300-400 mil./£ 200-300 mil.) worth of state subsidies and the Orbán government’s Monday regulation that turned Malév into a strategic company (which meant that the company can’t be forced into a bankruptcy, only a bankruptcy protection).

Malév Continue reading

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István Csurka, Hungarian playwright and former politician dies at the age of 78

István Csurka, a Hungarian anti-Soviet dissident playwright turned politician died on 2012 February 4. Csurka took part in the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, he was the leader  of the National Guard (Nemzetőrség) at the college where he was studying. For his participation in the revolution, he was interned by communist authorities for six months. He was released only after agreeing to become an informant of the communist regime. After the system change he became an MP for the MDF party which governed Hungary from 1990 to 1994. Following differences with party leadership Csurka was expelled from MDF in 1993, and founded his own far-right party, MIEP. This party entered the Hungarian Parliament in 1998 for the first and the last, time. After the 2002 election defeat, MIEP fell out of Parliament, and could never re-enter it. After losing his parliamentary seat in 2002 he and his party gradually lost influence to the point of becoming irrelevant in Hungarian politics.

Csurka got back into the news in late 2011 when the newly appointed director of “New theater” (Új szinház), György Dörner suggested that he might ask Csurka to be the unpaid intendant of the cultural aspects of the theater. Because of Csurka’s past as a far-right politician, this caused some controversy and as a result, the suggestion about Csurka’s possible role was withdrawn by director of New Theater, György Dörner. A few days before his death, a letter from Csurka was read to the staff of the New Theater, in which he asked members of the theater to work together in harmony despite their political differences.

One of Csurka’s last works, “The Sixth Coffin,” a play about Trianon, the post-World War I treaty which forced Hungary to give up 70% of its territories and over 60% its population, is planned to be staged at the same theater later in 2012.

While Csurka’s politics were controversial, his talent as a playwright was not. His plays were put on in various theaters across Hungary over the decades. István Verebes who can be found at the other end of the political spectrum from Csurka wrote: “One of the great playwrights of our time, István Csurka has died! His life and career had more than a few illuminating moments, but his works remain.”

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KDNP: Kinga Göncz must be recalled from the European Parliament

According to KDNP, the Hungarian Socialist Party should recall Kinga Göncz from the European Parliament, because she became unworthy to represent Hungary after her recent comments amounting to treason.

Kinga Göncz says she feels "terribly bad" to be in Brussels

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The debate about Bokros continues

Some Hungarian conservatives sent the following letter to the leader of the “European Conservatives and Reformists Group” about Lajos Bokros.

Dear Mr Callanan,

We are writing to you on behalf of Jobbklikk. We are a community of young bloggers, writers and professionals who seek to promote conservative ideas in the Hungarian public discourse. Let us express our astonishment concerning the words of Lajos Bokros during the last plenary session in Strasbourg. In his speech on the Hungarian situation, he characterised himself as a true conservative.

Let us kindly remind you that Mr Bokros was a member of the Communist Party before the democratic transition. In 1990, he was elected an MP on the list of MSZP, which was the legal successor of the Communist Party. He also served as a Minister for Finance in the Government of Gyula Horn, who was on the side of the Communist oppressors during the 1956 Hungarian Revolution.

Then, in 2009, with a swift U-turn, he was elected an MEP on the list of MDF – a centre-right party that withdrew its support and, called Mr Bokros to resign many times since then.

To make the political roundtrip complete, nowadays, Mr. Bokros seems to be quite active in assisting the failed Socialist Prime Minister, Ferenc Gyurcsány with the establishment of a new left wing party. Let us remind you, that PM Gyurcsány is largely to blame for the tragic economic situation that Hungary is in now.

We find it particularly strange that an incoherent character like Lajos Bokros can be a representative of the Conservative Group in the European Parliament, especially when it comes to debates on Hungary. We would like to see British-style Conservatism having a greater influence on European and Hungarian politics. That is why we find your cooperation with Mr Bokros quite unsettling. We would be grateful if we could get to know your views on this matter.

Best regards,

Jobbklikk Association

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A word about Mr. Schmitt and his doctorate

Pál SchmittOver two weeks have passed since HVG has first reported on the alleged plagiarism in Pál Schmitt’s doctorate and tensions around it are still unabated. Index was the first to caricature him with a series of pictures, which was followed by condemnations, official denial by Pál Schmitt in a radio talk and supports from the ruling Fidesz party: some more distinguished, some more pathetic. The allegations have stirred up much controversy in  Hungarian academic society as well: at first nobody wanted to join the committee  established for investigating the allegations of plagiarism for possible political implications, then it has been proposed that the committee would consist of foreign academicians, but in the end it’s been assembled from Hungarian academicians with their names classified.

About a week later HVG has revealed another work which was plagiarized in the thesis: an English research paper by Klaus Heinemann. This has set off another wave of protests, comments and general buzz around the controversy: it turned out that the thesis review process has been sped up solely by the big publicity it has received. The Mandiner blog has asserted that Mr. Schmitt should really consider his resignation given the circumstances around his thesis and István Stefka of Magyar Hírlap vigorously defends the president still.

All the facts aside I’d like to point out a few things: as it has been pointed out in a Mandiner post, Mr. Schmitt, despite his Communist past, has some major sports achievements, which brought fame not only to himself, but Hungary as well. He also performed well as a sports diplomat (despite or owing to the the fact that he snuggled up to whichever party that was ruling at the time) so throughout his career he brought fame, admiration and recognition to Hungary. And aside from the fact that within Hungary he’s become Fidesz’s yes-man in the last couple of years, his reputation abroad seems to be flawless still.

Plagiarism however is a serious issue. If the allegations turn out to be true, Mr. Schmitt needs to be stripped of his doctorate immediately. Failing to do so would have severe repercussions for Hungary’s reputation as a whole, especially among academicians. The reason for that’s quite simple: one of the few areas in which Hungary can still show its superiority over others is its support for innovation, science in general and the long(ish) record of Hungarian Noble price laureates. Hungarians themselves strive to maintain this reputation all throughout the nation: Budapest’s home to a hands-on science museum that’s quite rare in the region (Csodák Palotája), a planetarium, countless science exhibitions/lectures given to laymen and children to show the entertaining (and practical) aspects of science. Science (especially Hungarian science) is given an utmost importance on TV as well: a series of lectures have been by Hungary’s most reputable academicians and broadcast on MTV (Mindentudás egyeteme), major Hungarian scientific discoveries usually make it to the evening news (even at the commercial stations) and even the tabloid newscasts prominently feature Hungarian pseudoscientific discoveries every once in a while (mostly when they can’t tell it apart from real science). All of these efforts would take a huge blow if Hungary’s president would get to keep his title despite the fact that his thesis was mostly a mixture of direct copies from prior works, not speaking of the demotivating effect it would have on all the university and college students. And last but not least: let’s not forget about the fact that it’s also the president who appoints and releases professors and rectors.

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Benedek Jávor becomes LMP’s new leader

After András Schiffer resigned from all his positions within the party, intense speculation began about LMP’s future. On the left, many have hoped that the departure of anti-Gyurcsany Schiffer would lead to closer cooperation with MSZP and DK, two parties Schiffer always aimed to keep his distance from. (The fact that Schiffer reported Gyurcsány to the police in the Sukoró case, alleging various misconduct, did not increase the number of his left-wing fans either). But the rapid turn of LMP to the left was not realized, at least for the moment. The LMP congress has decided to refrain from entering a so-called “opposition roundtable” because the party says “they see no suitable partners for cooperation” among other parliamentary parties. Instead they plan to seek closer cooperation with non-party elements, probably the Facebook groups and similar.

Today LMP has announced that they elected Benedek Jávor as the de facto leader of the party.  Without a clear structure LMP does not even have a chairman insted the leader of the parliamentary group functions as the de facto leader within the party. Jávor is the chair of the Parliamentary Committee on Sustainable Development and he was the mayoral candidate of LMP for Budapest.

Jávor, at least for now will follow the Schiffer strategy of distancing LMP from the other left-wing parties. Zsolt Gréczy, the advisor of Ferenc Gyurcsány (former MSZP PM) dubbed the decision of LMP a “Schifferism without Schiffer”.  It’s easy to see that in a real election situation this could change real fast as the pressure on LMP increases but the next scheduled election is not terribly soon, in 2014.

MSZP: Opposition could gain two-thirds majority in next election 

MSZP also held meetings about the future of the party, they see themselves as the main force capable of ousting the Fidesz government. The party thinks that with cleverly planned moves and a collection of just the right allies the two-thirds majority is attainable. This would enable a future MSZP-led coalition to rewrite cardinal laws and the constitution.

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Colonial status for Greece openly proposed

“We will not be a colony” –  “Nem leszünk gyarmat” – read the main banner of the January 21 Budapest rally. Many commentators and journalists started scratching their heads, wondering what was that message really all about. We have also tried to provide a possible explanation, exploring the role of the foreign press, admittedly though several others exist as well. However the threat of a colonial status is now openly raised in the mainstream press. Not for Hungary of course, but another member of the European Union, Greece. There were reports of a proposal by Germany that the budgetary competence of Greece is to be taken away. There are also talks of a new EU-appointed overseer who would have to approve any major spending item as well. But this latest report goes way beyond all of that:

The Financial Times reports:

1. Absolute priority to debt service. Greece has to legally commit itself to giving absolute priority to future debt service. This commitment has to be legally enshrined by the Greek Parliament. State revenues are to be used first and foremost for debt service, only any remaining revenue may be used to finance primary expenditure. This will reassure public and private creditors that the Hellenic Republic will honour its comittments after PSI and will positively influence market access.
De facto elimination of the possibility of a default would make the threat of a non-disbursement of a GRC II tranche much more credible. If a future tranche is not disbursed, Greece can not threaten its lenders with a default, but will instead have to accept further cuts in primary expenditures as the only possible consequence of any non-disbursement.

In this situation everyone would be assured that Greece pays up no matter what and Greece couldn’t threaten anyone with a possible default any more. Sounds good in theory if you are a creditor, right? But what if you are a Greek citizen?  A Forbes contributor writes:

That is absolutely astonishing. These are harsher terms than the British Empire ever imposed, even backed up by gunboats and the Royal Navy. Imposed on anyone at all that is, not just whatever tussles were had with Greece.

An “all good efforts” committment to debt repayment is usual enough but an absolute one simply unheard of. It does, quite literally, say that if there’s an outbreak of plague that sweeps through the country (or any other disaster you might like to think of) then Greece has to repay the debts before offering health care to its own citizens at a time of national disaster.

So now we have a crystal clear understanding of the proposal for the Greek situation: Colonial status, with terms harsher than ever imposed under actual colonialism. The legal framework they are proposing is also unclear. Let’s say the Greek parliament passes a law that says that debt payments have absolute priority. So what? A next parliament elected in 2016 or any future election can just as easily repeal that law. Constitutional amendments would work the same way, unless they propose a wording that demands some insane increase in the requirements for further change. But even then they could be undone later. In any case there are limits to how much government service can you cut. Things like healthcare, education and police funding cannot be cut over certain limits, otherwise a good part of the population would just flat out leave the country and move to a place with more tolerable conditions.

But the intent is clear: transfer all available resources to the debt service and take all decisions on budgetary matters away from Greece. “In politics and history, a colony is a territory under the immediate political control of another state. ”

If the proposal goes through like this, Greece would have to be regarded as basically a de facto colony.

Perhaps the pro-government demonstrators in Budapest were onto something?

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How the press reports on demonstrations in Hungary?

The huge change in the attitude of the press about demonstrations in Hungary was impossible to miss. The reasons are not entirely clear but anyone who looked at the recent coverage of various demonstrations in Hungary could not miss the difference between the press attention given to opposition events versus pro-government ones. An interesting comparsion would be to look at the coverage side by side by the same news organiztaions and sources, about the January 2 Opera protest and the January 21 Budapest rally considering the number of participants. Doing this for all news sources would take quite a bit of time so just two examples. The New York Times presented a detailed article complete with a picture of the crowd in the January 2 protest, a day after the event took place. They also covered the demonstration in one of their blogs and referenced them in various later articles. On the number of demonstrators they simply quoted the organizers. It is easy to compare that with their coverage of the pro-government demonstration : there is none. That’s right. The NYT refuses to acknowledge the very existence of that event.

While this is just an example, the biased and one-sided treatment of the news coming from Hungary has been getting some notice lately:

“The apparent decision of the mainstream international media to ignore almost completely this demonstration of hundreds of thousands of people goes beyond negligence” – says an article in the Daily Mail, continuing that “It disregards its duty of fair and objective information, the requirement of best practice journalism. Most importantly, it violates the principle of democracy to give everybody a fair chance to form an opinion based on untainted factual information.”

The article speculates that this is partly due to the Hungarian opposition launching an all out “war against the country” (György Konrad’s article being one example). The reason behind this according to the article is that “many opposition figures in Hungary, aggrieved by their monumental electoral defeat, refuse to accept their loss of power, and concomitant diminishing of political influence and economic privileges.”

But maybe a pro-government rally by its nature does not merit the same attention as an opposition protest. The article also compares the coverage of the recent opposition demos to people demonstrating in 2006, against the then-ruling MSZP-SZDSZ government:

International mainstream media reported this event with an abundance of pictures and details. Curiously, similar meticulously detailed coverage was conspicuously missing when the same socialist-liberal coalition then in power, resorted to brutal police force to intimidate peaceful demonstrators on the golden anniversary of the 1956 Revolution in October 2006. 

Beaten up civilians dripping with blood, some with missing eyes after rubber bullets were fired by unmarked police units, and scores of demonstrators rounded up and jailed, were not worth of international concern. 

Yet, clear-eyed observation would reveal the irony of the opposition and its Western supporters crying persecution and curtailment of freedom today. Anybody familiar with the Hungarian domestic situation knows that most of the media in Hungary is under socialist-liberal control, one of the numerous strange legacies of heavy-handed Western political influence during the transition from communist dictatorship.

The full article is here. And interestingly enough, the Hungarian media, which usually is very quick to report on articles dealing with Hungary has remained silent on reporting about this particular piece so far. Often such articles are summarized or translated almost word by word into Hungarian by portals like and Origo and coverage in print media often follows.

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Gyurcsany’s media offensive 2

Visiting poorer neighborhoods of MSZP electorate wasn’t Gyurcsany’s only shift in his approach. Apart from moving into Avas for a day, Gyurcsany has also introduced a notable change into his own rhetoric. In a comment to MTI Gyurcsany said that for the time being he sees no political force that could replace Viktor Orban’s government once it has collapsed, adding that the government’s downfall would be “a very bad development, because there is no sign for any governing force that would be able to bring stability and prosperity for Hungary in the near or distant future for a post-Orban period”. “Orban should go – but still stay for a while,” Gyurcsany said.The current opposition, “is disintegrated in a political, moral, personal and organisational sense, and characterised by distrust, prejudice and oversensitivity.” Even though all these events sound pretty much like a political PR meant to gain followers for his new party, Gyurcsany has received fierce criticism for this.

The harshest one came from the left-wing extremists of Amerikai Népszava, who alleged that Gyurcsany has “killed himself”, that “he took a path by this rhetoric which he cannot return from anymore” and that he “emasculates everyone who listens to him”.

No less harsh was the criticism from Gyurcsany’s former fellow party member and rival Tibor Szanyi in Népszava: he’s not only alleged that Gyurcsany’s “raving about the tasks the leftists have at hand”, but also proposes freezing all the assets of the people who became rich “undeservedly” and seems to believe that “even the strictest Swiss banks would assist in this”.

Others were softer (and much less dramatic let alone demagogic) in their criticism: Péter Németh of Népszava has argued that the question’s purely hypothetical, since none of Orban’s closest men are aware of the fact that they should oust him. He also went on to say that the opposition should stop procrastinating, as every single day takes Orban closer to turning Hungary into a dictatorship.

Ferenc Krémer of the pro-Gyurcsany Galamus group has also criticized him for his reluctance to refer to Orban’s government as a dictatorship (Gyurcsany seems to prefer the term “autocracy” instead), which Krémer thinks is pointless, since both words mean essentially the same. On the other hand he thinks that the only chance for the Hungarian left (and Hungary alltogether) is if some of the rightist politics will start resenting Orbán and will essentially topple him “from within”. Otherwise – Krémer argues – there’s hardly any chance for a “peaceful transition” (i.e. from Orbán’s government to another one).

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György Bolgár of Klubrádió on awarding radio frequencies

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Gyurcsany’s media offensive

Hungarian ex-prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsány has launched a major media offensive this week.  The parliamentary faction of his new liberal-socialist party Demokratikus Koalíció hasn’t even been registered and yet he’s at it again: he visited the infamous Avas estate in Miskolc. The residents’ reactions were varied: he received some criticism, but also the kind of praise which led one to think that the residents weren’t aware of Gyurcsány’s secession from MSZP at all. What’s more he’s even moved in (along with a few fellow party members) for a day: he had a chat with the residents, listened to their rants about the cockroaches, bedbugs and even watched a live hockey coverage in the evening. Later on he said that the situation in the Avas is worse than it seems and he actually came as per an invitation from one of the residents to see the conditions they live in. News portal Hír24 even ran a video footage on this.


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French paper claims Orban is Jewish

The french paper Les Echos printed the following quote in a recent article, saying it is from Orban:

Viktor Orban, Prime Minister of Hungary

L’antisémitisme est antidémocratique et inacceptable. Je suis un Hongrois d’origine juive. Mais je n’ai pas de double identité. Mon identité est hongroise et je n’ai aucun problème avec le fait d’être juif. Je ne l’ai jamais nié et mon père me frapperait si je le faisais », affirme Viktor Orban. Continue reading

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Forint gains further, breaks 300 threshold

Previous posts dealing with the forint are found here and here. The forint had its biggest five-day gain against the euro since April 2009. CDS costs, the insurance against default on Hungary’s debt fell to 597 basis points from 610 on Jan. 20 and compared with a record high of 735 basis points on Jan. 5. 

Forint gains enough, to break 300

Sociate Generale, which seems to be involved in heavy speculation against the forint, once again issued advice urging investors to sell. The last time SG urged the sale of the Hungarian currency, was around 313, resulting in a 4% loss within a week of trading for those who took that advice. Adam LeBor also quoted that earlier statement of SG on The Economist website :

“Société Générale is already advising investors to sell forints, predicting that the currency may slide to as low as 325 against the euro.”

This was on January 17th, right before the forint started its biggest five day gain since 2009. OTP the largest Hungarian bank also gained nicely during the same period. Hopefully not too many Economist readers took that quoted advice. Now, on January 23, perhaps trying to recover some of that 4% loss on its own investments, SG is once again urging investors to sell forints. They may even get it right this time. Even a broken clock is right twice a day.

January 25 Update:

Well, SG was right this time.


The Hungarian Central Bank held the rate at 7% surprising investors who expected a 0.5% rate hike. This caused the forint to fall momentarily but it more then recovered by the end of the day ending January 24 slightly stronger despite the decision of the Central Bank. Forint gains continued early the next day (currently around 298) leading the poor suckers, who believed Societe Generale the second time, into further losses. Maybe the trick is to always do the opposite of what they recommend? It will be interesting to see if they issue further predictions after this, and whether they eventually get it right.

Forint trading on January 25, 2012 at the time of update

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Lew Rockwell, is an American political commentator, his website, published a quite detailed analyis on Hungary. The following are excerpts from the whole article, which can be found here.

As if to underscore the warning that Fidesz had better not wander too far off the reservation, an attack on the currency, the forint, recently shot up bond yields and threatened to bring the country to its knees.  It is a risky game for a Eurozone seeing its pillar countries’ credit ratings downgraded, as much of the debt amassed by Hungarians — under the reckless policies of the then-ruling ex-communists (2002–2010) — was foreign currency debt. However, the shot across the bow had the desired effect, leading Orban to send a negotiator directly to the IMF and EU to smooth things over. Continue reading

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Hungary vs. IMF: definitely not a David and Goliath fight

There’s something inexplicable to the West about Hungarian right-wing politicians’ attitude towards them: they always seem to be wary of the West, especially the US (which has predominantly right-wing governments, policies and general attitude). Extremist parties tend to take this even further: Jobbik goes as far as to propose suppressing western corporations in favor of closer ties with Russia. This isn’t too surprising considering the fact that allegations of Russian sponsorship of Jobbik emerge every once in a while. However that’s just part of the symptom: Hungarians are generally vary of any foreign power. If one’s literate enough in the history of Hungary, he can see why: ever since the Treaty of Trianon Hungary felt like it’s been abused and exploited by the foreign powers: the Paris treaty of 1947 has seen the ceding of 3 additional villages to the newly reestablished Czechoslovakia. Later on Stalin has given consent to forceful deportation of native Hungarians first within Czechoslovakia, then their expulsion to Hungary. It was also the Soviet-ruled Russia that has crushed Hungary’s 1956 attempt at a “major communist reform” while America just sat back and washed its hands of it. It goes without saying that this “cowardly” step of the Yanks didn’t go unnoticed in Hungary either. Fast forward to the 2000s now. Hungary has become a member of the EU and even though it can (and does) delegate its own MEPs via elections, many Hungarians don’t understand the “eurobureaucracy” at all: they think that they don’t have a say in EU matters no matter the results of the MEP elections.

The other challenge Hungarian populace faces is its complete financial illiteracy: they were lured into the Ponzi schemes of the 1990s just as easily as into the banks’ risky CHF and EUR-based mortgage schemes of the 2000s. Just as in private life, these people have failed to realize the inherent dangers in increased government spending as well. And let’s be honest: they didn’t care either. The only financial issues they were concerned with were the (inherently) false promises of tax cuts, boosts of social welfare and generally any promise that would’ve involved the government giving them more money. This is what they were taught ever since the Kádár regime: just “behave” and we’ll keep your mouth shut with money. What they weren’t taught is that money doesn’t grow on trees and that all the subsidies were paid for by enormous (public) debts. The only man who’s arranged for paying off a significant portion of this debt is Lajos Bokros who’s been despised for the cuts (which has been dubbed the “Bokros package”) ever since.

Because of these two factors mentioned above an average Hungarian doesn’t seem to be able to understand why is ANY (financial) backing from IMF necessary. Therefore it doesn’t understand the reason Orbán goes out of his way to comply with their terms either. Even the somewhat more thoughtful see only that Hungary has to “kiss up” to an international organization backed by the West (namely EU and US) and that Orbán (not necessarily Hungary) has to do everything they say or else. The international outlashes against Hungary don’t help matters either. Sure, there are quite a few Hungarians who are aware of the dangerous situation Hungary (especially its budget) is and there are also some others who propose drastic budget cuts, big reforms in always all the government sectors and generally a smaller state (Lajos Bokros being their most prominent supporter), but their numbers are small and Orbán doesn’t listen to them either. The Fidesz instead seems to be toying with the idea of inflating themselves out of the debt, which MIGHT sound fine, but has a huge risk associated with it: hyperinflation. Since Hungary has already gotten a gigantic taste of what it feels like (and managed to set a world record in it which hasn’t been broken ever since) perhaps the combined efforts of IMF and EU are in fact an attempt to save them from their own doom.

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The peace walk for Hungary rally, the role of foreign press

Apart from the stated goals of the rally about showing support for self-determination, sovereignty and the ability to participate in meaningful elections there was another interesting aspect of the demonstration. Participants were protesting about the way the foreign press was treating Hungary. But what sort of issues could cause hundreds of thousands to protest? This can be illustrated on three examples, Kim  Scheppele, Adam LeBor, and Charles Gati.

Kim Scheppele‘s writings represent perfectly the lies, distortions, half-truths, and falsehoods spread about Hungary. Scheppele single-handedly wrote more of these than just about anyone else. Ambassador of Hungary to the US, György Szapáry called what Scheppele was doing “tabloid journalism, not serious scholarship” while noting that there were  “factual errors or misconceptions”  in his Dec 27th letter. But after Dec 27th Scheppele increased the number of distortions, which were often corrected in the comments sections of her various posts, but never in the articles themselves. There was also no apology or comment regarding the previous pieces. Together the number of factual mistakes and their severity completely undermined the credibility of Scheppele. At one point she even wrote that Miklós Horthy was a Prime Minister of Hungary (whereas in reality he was the Regent of the Kingdom of Hungary).  It’s like calling Abraham Lincoln “The King of America”. Still Scheppele is just one example, the demonstrators were really protesting about all the distortions and half-truths written about Hungary.

Adam LeBor is a journalist with integrity, who generally researches his stuff well. He also knows much more about Hungary than the group of commentators represented by Scheppele. LeBor rarely makes a factual mistake, but his opinions are not shared by most Hungarians. Still there is no reason to protest him, so why is he even in there? There is a single sentence written by Adam LeBor that is now known by more people in Hungary than all of his other works combined. This sentence was the following:

…Mr Orbán seems increasingly out of touch. His future will likely be decided not in the gilded corridors of the Hungarian parliament, but in Brussels and Washington DC.

One of the main messages of the rally (“We will not be a colony” on the banner) clearly seems to be  a reference to LeBor’s above sentence. At first glance the notion that Hungary is a colony might seem ridiculous, even laughable, so why is it even mentioned in the protest? Yet the above sentence flatly states that Hungary is already “likely” to be ruled from “Brussels and Washington DC”.  This directly contradicts the basic democratic principle of the right to have free and fair elections. Why even have them if the result can be undone at the whim of Washington DC or Brussels? The Hungarian press wrote at length about this sentence and it was discussed on internet forums and TV shows as well. The organizers themselves were definitely aware of it too. It’s not certain that this is what they were referring to, but it’s quite likely.

Charles Gati is an aging Hungarian communist, who left then Communist Hungary in the 1950s.  Gati went on to achieve a massive career in the west  leaving his past behind, very much like Paul Lendvai. Before leaving Hungary, Gati was a journalist for Szabad Nép, the infamous propaganda paper of the Communist times, a publication with journalistic integrity and style similar to Völkischer Beobachter (this has been denied by Gati in a Népszabadság article). Gati who is very successful and wields large influence within the US is still very much fond of the left-wing in Hungary. Reportedly Gati had a caricature of Viktor Orban in his room already in 2003, indicating a much earlier dislike than any new law or decision made by the government since 2010. But still, this is hardly enough for a protest. A recent comment of Gati however, raised the ire of many in Hungary. Gati was commenting on the possibility of removing the present Hungarian government from power, mentioning five points. Point five reads: Civil war.  According to Gati this can be realized if “the irrational and defiant rejection of western suggestions and criticism continues”. Gati’s words can easily be interpreted as a threat (especially by linking them to rejecting criticism) or wishful thinking by Gati, or even in a more benign way. Gati may only be afraid of such an event and is worried for Hungary. Needless to say the mention of civil war was not well received within Hungary no matter the interpretation. But is there any reason to think that the protesters have referred to Gati as well? According to press reports, a peace walk participant said of the huge crowd “let Charles Gati see this”. The reference is clear: communist old timers and liberal extremists are few in number and they aren’t known for their fighting prowess either. Seeing the size of the crowd this could become the shortest civil war in human history.

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Press goes with minimum estimate on rally, slow to report on event

The New York Times published two separate articles on it’s site the day of the peace walk, neither of them make a word of mention about the event. Earlier they reported at length about a much smaller opposition protest.

The Washington post connects the mass demonstration with an anti-Schmitt protest on the same day, making the bold claim that the opposition’s demo had “several thousand” participants. a left-leaning portal was only aware of several hundred people at the same event.

Most English language publications, who did report on the event, did their best to severely underestimate the number of participants. In Hungarian language media nobody,  no matter how left wing said less than  a 100,000 participants, while adding that it could be a lot more. So 100,000 being the minimum number, it seems that most international media sources went with that number, without any mention that it could be significantly more. One exception is which now talks about “Hundreds of Thousands“. Coverage though is still very weak compared to the Opera protest.

The Economist have so far not reported the event anywhere on it’s site. Earlier they reported on a much smaller opposition protest at length. (True at original date of post, See update)


After six days, on January 27, the Economist has finally covered the rally.

Mr Orbán was doubtless feeling bolstered by a massive demonstration in Budapest last Saturday, when at least 100,000 protestors (400,000, according to the interior ministry) took to the streets to show their support for the government. The protest, organised in part by right-wing journalists, was one of the largest since the change of system in 1989 and showed that the ruling party can still bring out far greater numbers than the opposition.

Many of the protestors carried placards attacking the EU and the IMF, doubtless unaware that even as they marched for sovereignty, Mr Orbán was preparing to surrender it in Brussels.

The Economists’ coverage of the Opera protests can be found here (for comparison purposes).

The New York Times is still yet to produce a single word about the demonstrations.

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Peace walk for Hungary gallery

Professional pictures of the event, these are probably copyrighted, so please click over if you want to see them:

Gallery 1

Gallery 2

Gallery 3

Gallery 4 (by clicking on the picture in the middle)

The following few pictures about the “Peace walk for Hungary” are not copyrighted. These pictures are verified to be in the public domain, freely usable by anyone.

The banner reads: Nem leszünk gyarmat - We will not be a colony


Continue reading

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Peace walk for Hungary number of participants

So how many people have actually participated in the “Peace walk for Hungary” event? Different sources disagree on the numbers let’s see:

Video showing the start of the walk at Heroes’ Square

Video of the crowd passing through Oktogon

The government’s spokesman Andras Giro-Szasz told public television, he did not want to get into a “war of numbers”, but aerial photographs made it clear that there was a “very big difference” in the numbers of people supporting the government and those who criticised it. This was on January 23, on MTV’s Ma reggel show. According to the ministry of the interior, 400,000 people demonstrated in support of the government, “There has not been, in living memory, such a huge crowd rallying to the government’s side in Hungary,” the ministry said in a statement.
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Peace walk for Hungary, January 21

An event dubbed “Peace Walk for Hungary” (Békemenet Magyarországért) was organized in Budapest for January 21 by some members of Hungarian civil society.  This event type is pretty much unknown in Hungary, according to a definition peace walks or peace marches are actions “where a person or groups of people march a set distance to raise awareness of particular issues important to the walkers.”

According to HVG the organizers said they are “saying yes to Europe, but saying no to what certain European political and press groups are doing to Hungary”. Adding that “after the soul crushing decades of communism and post communism, we watch with growing concern the biased and misleading reports and opinions appearing in the international press, which portray our country in a derogatory and unjust manner. This causes more and more damage to our economy and to the Hungarian people. ”

Several civil groups have indicated their participation. Lungo Drom, the largest Roma organization in Hungary has also said that they will take part. The walk expects over a hundred thousand people but that seems to be a little too ambitious considering that they lack any political support. Fidesz, the governing party which many of the organizers sympathize with, has distanced itself from the event, saying their members may participate only as individuals. Viktor Orban the Prime Minister have also said that he won’t attend or speak to the crowd. Instead of involving itself with the peace walk, Fidesz plans to hold a large rally on March 15th, leaving this event entirely to civilians.

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Troubling (Mandiner)

The original of the following appeared on Mandiner in Hungarian.

I may not know any of the details, but Hungary is a dictatorship for sure. Just about this feeling spread trough the communes of Brussels. The beliefs about the country became a matter of faith, where facts no longer matter and are overruled by personal impressions. Mandiner wrote several times about the international factors limiting the success of this kuruc-style freedom fight: the staggering lack of major allies, the unusual style, the humbleness being pushed aside. So we shall not repeat that now.  In a sudden outburst, we have collected a few idiotic or problematic foreign phenomena. Not because there is a galaxy-wide conspiracy against us, but because all this nonsense is annoying and troubling.

It’s troubling when some countries cry wolf because the position of green ombudsman is abolished. Especially if it’s done by countries where such a position never existed.

It is troubling when the constitutional definition of marriage (between a man and a woman) can serve as a proof of dictatorship while many other member states hold the same.

It is troubling when the official recognition of fourteen churches is assumed to be the proof of ongoing fascistification, when several other states have an official state religion and e.g. Belgium has six and Italy eight officially recognized churches.

We were never fond of messing with the competencies of the  Constitutional Court. Still it is troubling to see a torrent of hate towards Hungary when Denmark, Sweden and Holland does not even have a Constitutional Court.

Daniel Cohn-Bendit is troubling too, although he has little (if any) relevance left. It is also troubling if György Konrád is the one and only constituent of all civil society in Hungary.

It is troubling if the complete lack factual knowledge is excused by saying “the details are irrelevant, just look at the big picture”. And yes, every foreigner should read up on this stuff before they start screaming at the top of their lungs.

It is troubling if the three infringement proceedings initiated against Hungary by themselves, are proof positive that authoritarian rule is afoot. Especially since there is a total of 739 such proceedings in progress currently, initiated by the European Commission. Hungarian democracy may not really hinge on the data ombudsman nor the retirement age of judges.

Humility was surely missing quite a few times from the last 1.5 year’s government actions. However we ask the same humility from all the foreign participants too. Especially if its about adjectives thrown around about us. If we do not get that, we will dump 4 pounds of checks and 6 tonnes of balances to their front yard.

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Lajos Bokros claims that he is a “right-winger”

Lajos Bokros sent an email to all members of the European Parlaiment as discussed here to call attention to his remarks in yesterday’s debate. Bokros, who refused to speak in Hungarian on the floor, noted that his remarks were “factual and without emotion. It is coming from the right, not the left.”  The claim of Bokros belonging to the “right” have already raised some eyebrows. As a fellow MEP notes, Bokros was a member of MSZMP, a member of MSZP, an MP for MSZP and a member of the MSZP-SZDSZ government, all on the left. Bokros later also “misremembered” (or – as some say- lied) about being a registered member of the MSZP party. Bokros is also mentioned in the infamous Őszöd Speech of Ferenc Gyurcsány as an important person around MSZP:

With whoever influential opinion-shaper around the Hungarian Socialist Party in macroeconomy-related matters, from Kornai to Bokros, from Békesi to Surányi, from Vértes to heaven-knows-who, we have discussed, suffered, yelled it through. 

But is it possible that Bokros has changed his mind and really moved to the right after all of that?  In 2006 Bokros was also elected as the honorary president of the MSZP platform “Reason and responsibility”.  In 2009 after Gyurcsany’s resignation, Bokros immediately said that he wants to be prime minister in an MSZP-SZDSZ-MDF coalition government (MSZP held 190 seats at the time SZDSZ and MDF both had under 20).  Bokros completely abandoned the party that got him elected into the EP. The relationship turned so sour that they are suing Bokros for 280 million forints ($1.2 million or £767,000). Apparently the old leadership of MDF took on a huge pile of debt and signed unfavourable contracts to get Bokros elected. The party alleges that he defrauded them and their supporters by cutting all ties with them once in the EP. Bokros asked for the suit to be thrown out but wasn’t successful.

But that was all in the past, maybe Bokros means that he became right-wing more recently? Well, that’s not exactly the case:

former MSZP PM Gyurcsany with Bokros and Békesi in 2012 January

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The debate in the European Parliament

The parliamentary debate in the European Parliament was eagerly awaited by many in the Hungarian media.  Viktor Orbán participated in a very similar debate about a year ago, on the topic of the media law. Some of the same people, like Daniel Cohn-Bendit, took part here as well.

Daniel Cohn-Bendit at the EP session

The end result however was not so clear. Gábor Török, a well known political scientist and harsh critic of Orbán, noted the following points:

„1.  Viktor Orbán was a lot more restrained, supple and accommodating than at his last appearance a year ago. Even though his speech contained messages for the domestic front as well, he was not focused on the “defense” [of Hungary], but rather aimed to prove his ability to compromise on the international stage. It must be noted that the Hungarian Prime minister – especially in the second part of his remarks – has shown that he can effectively debate at a European level. 

2. Maybe due to the restrained nature of Viktor Orbán’s remarks, the style, tone and direction of the debate was somewhat different from the one that took place a year ago. Party politics came through even more than last year, and the debate seemed much more balanced and unremarkable. 

3. Most importantly the debate – as it could be expected – didn’t bring us closer to answering the real question. We don’t know much more about the situation, we don’t know how far will the EU go in terms of demands or how far will the Hungarian government go in terms of concessions. Yet this is the point.

Maybe a bit disappointed with the results, Török lamented that the debate was not worth a whole article on his blog, and instead posted the above brief remarks on Facebook (they still recieved over a hundred comments, within a short time of being posted)

On the far left however they clearly interpreted the debate as a disaster. László Bartus of “Amerikai Népszava” lost what little sanity he had to begin with and berated the members of the European Parliament as “retards” and “morons” and a “collection of miscreants”.  Bartus also added that the debate convinced him that all is lost, and should he be in Hungary, he would flee immediately… The radical Gyurcsányist website, Galamus used a similar tone with its “we are alone rhetoric” also.  Eva Balogh, a left-wing blogger tried to find comfort in the fact that “It was only the first round”.

It will be very interesting to see the international press’ take on the events.

Not entirely related but here is an extremely interesting recent article with a unique take on the general events in Hungary.

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