Campaign Caravan

The government of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán conducted intensive propaganda in preparation for the FideszChristian Democratic People’s Party (KDNP) campaign for the May 23–26 European Parliament (EP) election. The slogan of the propaganda campaign was “For us, Hungary is first!” (Nekünk Magyarország az első!).

The objective of these propaganda actions was to mobilize support for Fidesz-KDNP in the EP election by portraying the party alliance as the only political force in Hungary that would prevent the European Union from carrying through with its purported plan to resettle migrants in EU member states with help from Hungarian-American investor and philanthropist György/George Soros and his NGOs.

The Orbán-government propaganda focused on the threat that Muslim migration to Hungary would allegedly pose to the country’s internal security and Christian culture.

This preliminary propaganda consisted of eight distinctive actions that took place during a three-month period from early January to early April. Below are descriptions of each of these eight stages in the Orbán government’s preparation for the 2019 EP election campaign.

Stage 1: Request for Campaign Donations

click to enlarge

On January 3, Prime Minister Orbán sent letters to Fidesz-KDNP supporters throughout Hungary requesting donations to help the party alliance finance its political campaign for the EP election (source in Hungarian).

Fidesz-KDNP has not revealed how money Prime Minister Orbán’s request for donations generated for the party alliance’s 2019 EP election campaign.

Below is an Orange Files translation of Prime Minister Orbán’s 2019 request for donations:

Esteemed Compatriots!

I am writing to You because we are standing before a historically significant European Parliament election. This March, the stakes will be higher than they have ever been before.

Brussels—having learned nothing from the terrible terror attacks of the past years—wants to bring even more immigrants to Europe. For this purpose, the bureaucrats will do anything possible to force their decisions upon the nations. We Hungarians do not accept this. Our goal is to preserve the security of our homeland and to defend our culture.

The opposition has already proven that we cannot count upon them in this struggle, because they represent Brussels in Hungary. However, we need representatives who represent Hungary in Brussels.

In this struggle we can rely only on Fidesz-KDNP representatives. For this reason I ask You—in accordance with your means—to support Fidesz’s European Parliament campaign with financial donations. Help us to spread our message everywhere! For us, Hungary is first!

Budapest, January 2019.

Respectfully,

Viktor Orbán

Stage 2: Government “Information Action”

(photo: Orange Files)

On February 15, Spokesman István Hollik announced that the Orbán government would launch an “information action regarding the plans in Brussels to encourage immigration, because we think that all Hungarian people have the right to know about those proposals that fundamentally threaten Hungary’s security” (sources A and B in Hungarian).

A few days later, signs showing unflattering images of György/George Soros and European Commission  President Jean-Claude Juncker alongside the text “You Also Have the Right to Know What Brussels Is Preparing to Do!” (Önnek is joga van tudni, mire készül Brüsszel!) appeared in large number on the streets of Budapest.

In late February, voters in Hungary received a letter from Prime Minister Orbán providing more detail about “what Brussels is preparing to do.” Below is an Orange Files translation of this letter.

Esteemed Compatriots!

I am writing in order to inform You about the alarming developments in the immigration crisis.

Brussels has learned nothing from the dreadful terrorist attacks of the past years. It wants to bring even more immigrants to Europe. The bureaucrats are now preparing to stimulate immigration with new measures. Following the introduction of the migrant visa and the migrant bank card, they would give more money to György Soros’s immigration-supporting organizations. They continue to want to distribute immigrants in Europe through obligatory quotas.

We Hungarians decided that we do not want our homeland to became a country of immigration.

We want to protect our security and our Christian culture. This is why we built a fence and this is why we are defending our borders. However, the Brussels bureaucrats do not want to respect our decision. They want to break the resistance of the countries opposing immigration in the interest of reaching their objectives.

You also have the right to know what Brussels is preparing to do. This is why I am turning to you now: please read the enclosed information regarding Brussels’s planned steps.

Respectfully,

Viktor Orbán

Prime minister of Hungary

According the “enclosed information” attached to Prime Minister Orbán’s letter, the European Union—cited in the third-person plural—is preparing to take the following steps:

1. They want to introduce the mandatory resettlement quota.

2. They want to weaken the border-protection rights of member states.

3. They would facilitate immigration with a migrant visa.

4. They want to give even more money to organizations supporting migration.

5. They would also assist migration with a bank card with accessible funds.

6. They would launch experimental immigration projects with countries in Africa.

7. They want to reduce financial support for countries that oppose immigration.

click to enlarge

See The Umpteenth Campaign.

Stage 3: Media Campaign Surrounding Alleged ISIS Executioner F. Hassan

On March 22, the Budapest Investigative Prosecutor’s Office (Fővárosi Nyomozó Ügyészség) announced that in cooperation with the Counter Terrorism Center (TEK) it had taken 27-year-old Syrian national F. Hassan into custody on suspicion that as a member of ISIS he had participated in the beheading of 20 people in the city of Homs in 2016 (source in Hungarian).

Hungarian authorities had arrested F. Hassan, who had received asylum in Greece in 2017, in December 2018 as he and a companion tried to board a Paris-bound flight at Liszt Ferenc Airport near Budapest using forged identification documents. As immigration officials prepared to deport F. Hassan to Greece, Belgian and Hungarian members of the EU justice-coordination organization Eurojust reportedly uncovered evidence of his participation in the ISIS executions in Homs (source in Hungarian).

On March 28, the Greek National Intelligence Service (EYP) issued a communiqué stating that the organization had received no information indicating that F. Hassan, identified according to his full name Farhoud Hassan, had been associated with ISIS, suggesting that his arrest in Hungary on suspicion of having committed acts of terrorism was intended to serve “petty political needs”  (source in English).

Hungarian public media and pro-government private media focused on the case of F. Hasszán for several days following his arrest. Below are Orange Files translations of excerpts from reports regarding F. Hassan shown during the half-hour 10 p.m. news program broadcast on Hungarian Television’s M1 station from March 23 through March 27. These reports constituted the lead story for four consecutive days, from March 23 through March 26, and the second story on March 27.

March 23 (source in Hungarian)

Newscaster (0:47): The court could decide tomorrow regarding the arrest of the Syrian man who according to the suspicion [of authorities] was an Islamic State fighter and may have participated in the execution of at least 20 people before he traveled to the European Union.

Newscaster (1:10): The Counter Terrorism Center is trying to determine along with foreign authorities what he has been doing for the past two or three years. It is also unknown how many similar terrorists came to Europe along with the immigrants.

Reporter (1:39): According to the suspicion [of authorities], the 27-year-old Syrian man organized suicide attacks and directed executions as a high-ranking leader of the Islamic State terror organization. He took part in the murder of at least 20 people in Syria. He also appeared as a bloody-handed executioner in the Islamic State’s propaganda videos.

Reporter (3:10): On Saturday, the Counter Terrorism Center announced further details about the man. They wrote that in the Nyírbátor detention center he wore exclusively black clothing just like Islamic State fighters, but did not participate in common prayers.

Reporter (3:30): That the man has been a member of the Islamic State since 2016 came to light as the result of cooperation between the Budapest Chief Prosecutor’s Office, the Counter Terrorism Center and Belgian authorities.

Screenshot from March 23 Hungarian Television news.

March 24 (source in Hungarian)

Newscaster (0:54): The court has ordered the arrest of the 27-year-old man who according to the suspicion [of authorities] was one of the leaders of the Islamic State in Syria a few years ago and organized suicide missions and directed executions. He came to Europe with the immigrants in 2016 and was caught at Ferihegy airport [Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport] last December during an identity check.

Reporter (2:40): M1 has learned that F. Hassan can neither read nor write. As a result of the decline in the Islamic State’s power, he went to Greece, where he obtained a refugee card. He visited several European countries with this paper. Procedures were launched against him in Hungary last December for human trafficking because he wanted to get a woman out of the country using travel documents issued in someone else’s name.

Reporter (3:34): The TEK convoy transporting the Syrian man is arriving to the prison [as Counter Terrorism Center vehicles with darkened windows and wailing sirens arrive to the Budapest Correctional Institute in the background].

Screenshot from March 24 Hungarian Television news.

March 25 (source in Hungarian)

Newscaster (0:47): After arriving to the [European] Union the Syrian man, who according to the suspicion [of authorities] was one of the leaders of the Islamic State, received an anonymous bank card. The man’s lawyer confirmed this information to M1. They apparently transferred 500 euros, or more than 150,000 forints, per month to the card that in theory he could use only in Greece.

TEK Director János Hajdú (2:10): We will examine all information that comes from the man’s mouth or that comes to our attention, not alone, but with the help of our international partners.

Reporter (3:12): The F. Hassan affair came up during a session of parliament as well. According to the Prime Ministerial Cabinet Office State Secretary [Csaba Dömötör], the case of the Syrian man also proves that with the migrant cards Brussels may be providing financial support to terrorists.

State Secretary Csaba Dömötör [speaking in parliament] (3:26): This brutal jihadist can be connected to the execution of at least 20 people and in typical fashion portrayed himself as a refugee. He also received an anonymous bank card with money on it.

Reporter (3:51): According to information from the investigation, the Syrian man executed 20 members of a family in the city of Homs out of revenge or to intimidate the population because one of them had refused to join the terrorist organization. In addition, F. Hassan appeared in the Islamic State’s propaganda videos. The Budapest Investigative Prosecutor’s Office is conducting proceedings against the man. F. Hassan denies everything. He says that they have mistaken him for somebody else.

Screenshot from March 25 Hungarian Television news.

March 26 (source in Hungarian)

Newscaster (0:15): Several million [currency unspecified] may have already been transferred to the suspected Syrian terrorist’s anonymous bank card. According to Fidesz, this affair is scandalous.

Newscaster (0:55): Neither the [European] Union nor the U.N. have yet reacted to the news that the Syrian man who, according to the suspicion [of authorities] was one of the leaders of the Islamic State and was arrested in Hungary over the weekend, received an anonymous bank card in Europe. As we reported yesterday, 500 euros, or more than 150,000 forints, were transferred to him and his family each month. He arrived to Greece in 2016. Since then the amount [of money] placed on his card may have reached as high as several million forints. The European Commission previously declared that the card method works well and that asylum seekers cannot abuse it.

Reporter (1:43): According to the testimony of a protected witness, F. Hassan may have participated in the slaughter of at least ten people here [in Homs]. The [pro-government daily newspaper] Magyar Nemzet writes that the witness testified to a Belgian secret-service officer that the man suspected of terrorism [F. Hassan] conducted recruitment for the Islamic State. According to the testimony of the witness, when several members of a family refused to join, he executed them.

Reporter (4:32): According to Fidesz, Brussels is indirectly supporting terrorism with the bank cards provided to immigrants.

Fidesz National Assembly Caucus Spokesman János Halász (5:01): Scandalous information has come to light over the past days regarding F. Hassan, who was apprehended in Hungary. According to his appointed defense attorney, this terrorist—this person suspected of terrorism— received a Brussels migrant card. We have indicated from the very beginning that the migrant card sponsored and operated by the European Commission is dangerous, because it lends itself, may lend itself, to the support of terrorism as well.

Screenshot from March 26 Hungarian Television news.

March 27 (source in Hungarian)

Newscaster (2:03): The European Commission has no information [showing] that the Syrian jihadist apprehended in Hungary on Friday gained access to [European] Union money with an anonymous bank card. However, the man’s lawyer himself confirmed this to M1. The Brussels body nevertheless claims that authorities are able to perfectly verify the users of the cards. According to Fidesz, it has become absolutely clear that terrorist leaders also use the cards, which presents an enormous threat to Europe, and thus the cards must be immediately eliminated.

Reporter (3:13): It can be seen clearly that no names appear on the cards next to a row of numbers with the logos of the U.N. and the [European] Union. The point of the program is for migrants in Greece to receive monetary support from the [European] Union after registration and before the judgment of their asylum requests as well, thus preventing the provision of immigrants from overburdening the Greek state. This may be how F. Hassan, who was arrested in Hungary on Sunday, gained possession of an anonymous bank card.

Fidesz National Assembly Caucus Spokesman János Halász (5:04): It is has become perfectly clear that terrorist leaders can use the migrant card as well.

Reporter (5:10): According to Fidesz, the fact that F. Hassan received one of the anonymous bank cards proves that the assistance program represents an enormous security threat for Europe.

Fidesz National Assembly Caucus Spokesman János Halász (5:20): Many suspect that the Syrian terrorist leader moved about freely in Europe with the European Commission’s migrant card and in this case Brussels provided him with money. The question arises: how many more terrorists received such cards and to how many terrorists is Brussels transferring money?

Screenshot from March 27 Hungarian Television news.

Stage 4: Media Campaign Surrounding Migrant Caravans

On March 28, the pro-government Migration Research Institute (Migrációkutató Intézet)1 published a report regarding the organization of two migrant caravans—The Caravan of Hope in Turkey and the Glitter of Hope Caravan in Greece (source in Hungarian).

The Migration Research Institute report stated that an Istanbul-based organization called the Forum of Syrian Associations (Szíriai Egyesületek Fóruma in Hungarian and Minbar al-Jamʻiyyat al-suriyya in Arabic) was “representing” the organizers of the Caravan of Hope in Turkey.2 According to the report, 37,000 people had registered to participate in the caravan. However, the report noted that “Based on available information, the organization of the Glitter of Hope caravan in Greece is in a more advanced phase and its chance of departing are significantly better than that of the initiative in Turkey.”

The Migration Research Institute’s information regarding the Glitter of Hope Caravan in Greece was based on an Arab-language Facebook page. The operators of the Glitter of Hope Caravan Facebook page were unknown individuals who had removed the page by early April. According to the report, a March 25 post on the Glitter of Hope Caravan Facebook page stated that the borders of Greece were to be temporarily opened on April 5. The Facebook post called upon migrants who wanted to take advantage of this brief opening of the frontiers to gather in the city of Ioanna, Greece, about 40 kilometers south of the Albanian border, in order to make a collective trek northward. The Migration Research Institute report concluded that “Based on the point of departure and the previous West Balkan migration routes, the caravan may presumably wish to reach Western Europe via Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia.”

The Migration Research Institute report stated that the operators of the Facebook page claimed that 20,000 people had registered to participate in the Glitter of Hope Caravan. The report noted that the page had received more than 8,000 likes and had a similar number of followers and that “In 2015, a similar initiative resulted in mass migration toward the European Union.”

The Migration Research Institute report suggested that the Western press was intentionally ignoring the caravans being formed in Turkey and Greece for the following reason:

The lack of Western response is completely understandable: the appearance of any kind of caravan would fundamentally refute the “migration-crisis-has-come-to-an-end” narrative of the past few weeks and would unequivocally lead to a strengthening of the viewpoint of the Polish, Hungarian and Italian governments in the EP election campaign, while it would improve the position of the political forces opposing immigration in the countries of Western Europe and undermine the credibility of those who represent the viewpoint which currently still counts as that of the majority.

Hungarian public media and pro-government private media focused on news surrounding the formation of the Glitter of Hope Caravan in Greece for two days following the publication of the Migration Research Institute report on March 28 and then, after a three-day hiatus during which news regarding the above-mentioned alleged ISIS executioner Hassan F. again came to the fore, for four more days until the official beginning of the Fidesz-KDNP European Parliament election campaign on April 5.

Neither the Caravan of Hope nor the Glitter of Hope Caravan materialized, though Greek police had to use tear gas and percussion grenades to prevent between 1,500 and 2,000 migrants from leaving the Diavata Refugee Camp near Thessaloniki in order to to participate in the latter caravan (source A, B and C in English).

Below are Orange Files translations of excerpts from reports regarding the Caravan of Hope and Glitter of Hope Caravan shown during the half-hour 10 p.m. news program broadcast on Hungarian Television’s M1 station on the dates March 28–March 29 and April 2–April 5. These reports constituted the lead story on five of these six dates.

March 28 (source in Hungarian)

Newscaster (0:13): A migrant caravan with tens of thousands [of people] is being organized. They may depart already next week. NGOs are helping them.

Newscaster (0:47): A migrant caravan with several tens of thousands [of people] is being organized in Turkey and Greece. The goal is for them to depart for Western Europe, the Migration Research Institute warns. The caravan is being organized via social media. They call this initiative the Caravan of Hope and write that its success depends on Allah. The trip cutting through Europe may be especially attractive for immigrants because according to the summons they can join it at no cost and humanitarian organizations will also help them. According to the specialist who talked to M1, mass migration started in 2015 after a similar initiative.

Reporter (1:53): Over the next weeks, tens of thousands of migrants plan to set off from Turkey and Greece toward Germany, the most recent Migration Research Institute analysis warns. According to the [Migration Research Institute] study, almost 40,000 people, mostly Syrians, have joined the Caravan of Hope–designated initiative in Turkey, while at the same time a caravan consisting of migrants stuck in Greece is also being organized. One of the organizers of the departure from Greece wrote in his summons that they expect Allah to ensure the success of the trip.

Reporter (2:50): According to the Migration Research Institute analysis, along with family members, the number of people in the caravan could swell to several times its current number. The organization [of the caravan] at no cost and the help of humanitarian organizations could make the trip even more attractive. The study also draws attention to the fact that mass migration toward the [European] Union started after a similar initiative in 2015. This is what the Serbian-Hungarian border looked like then [film footage of clash between migrants and Counter Terrorism Center forces on September 2015]. Almost warlike conditions materialized. The immigrants issued an ultimatum to the Hungarian police to open the Röszke border [crossing point] and when this did not happen they broke through the gate. Police and counter-terrorism forces attempted to stop the crowd.

Reporter (3:34): However, the Western press has remained silent about the migrant caravan. This is what the deputy director of the Migration Research Institute told [M1] news. Szabolcs Janik attributed this to the European Parliament campaign and to the fact that the departure of the migrant caravan would refute communications from Brussels according to which the migration crisis has come to an end.

Screenshot from March 28 Hungarian Television news.

March 29 (source in Hungarian)

Reporter (7:04): Another migrant caravan with several tens of thousands [of people] could depart from Turkey and Greece in the direction of the Balkans over the next few days. Masses of people are being recruited on the internet via social media sites. Almost 40,000 people, mostly Syrians, have joined the Caravan of Hope–designated initiative in Turkey. According to the posts [on these sites], they will take the immigrants to the points of departure by bus.

Reporter (7:56): [Migration Research Institute Deputy Director] Szabolcs Janik pointed out that the 2015 migration wave also began with a similar action. The convoy now being organized in Greece could leave as early as next week. Based on internet posts, the organizers expect NGOs and Allah to ensure the success of the trip.

Screenshot from March 29 Hungarian Television news.

April 2 (source in Hungarian)

Newscaster (0:54): The migrants in Greece are 100-percent sure that the border will be opened for them if the caravan departs. This is what immigrants waiting in the vicinity of Thessaloniki told [M1] news. The migrants also said that in the interest of the success of the trip, the organizers have not revealed many details to them. But several of them stated that they are very optimistic. Several thousand [people] have already joined the action named Glitter of Hope that has been being organized in Greece for weeks on social media sites and according to reports, the migrants could leave this week.

Reporter (2:41): The action named Glitter of Hope has been being organized in Greece for weeks. Masses of people are being recruited via social media sites. According to reports, several thousand people have already joined the private groups.

Screenshot from April 2 Hungarian Television news.

April 3 (source in Hungarian):

Newscaster (0:42): Day by day, an increasing number of migrants stuck in Greece have confirmed to an M1 reporter that they know about the migrant caravan being organized on the internet. They are confident that at least 10,000 people will come together and then it will not be possible to stop them at the Greek border. Additional groups [of migrants] have arrived to Thessaloniki presumably so that they can join the caravan if it forms.

Reporter (1:35): All of the migrants asked by M1 had heard about it [the migrant caravan] and plan to join it. [Female migrant speaking in English] “Yes its true because I’m one of them. . . .”

Newscaster (3:30) : The migrant caravan is expected to leave form Thessaloniki on April 5, that is Friday. The migrants are saying that they will find out on Thursday if they will depart toward Albania or Macedonia. Thus they are preparing for departure. However, nobody knows for sure whether the caravan will leave. Reportedly not a single humanitarian organization supports it.

Screenshot from April 4 Hungarian Television news.

April 4 (source in Hungarian):

Newscaster (0:47): The clashes between illegal immigrants and police in Greece have already resulted in injuries. The members of the immigrant caravan gathered throughout the day in Thessaloniki. The crowd [of migrants] is aggressive and attacked police several times. Tear gas had to be used against them. The M1 crew recorded several shocking images during the bloody events. Over the last hour or two, the group of illegal immigrants has pitched camp and the situation is relatively calm.

Newscaster (1:59): According to the estimate of our reporter, more than 2,000 people had gathered by the afternoon. If the leaders feel that they have reached the critical mass, then they will immediately depart toward the interior of Europe. Several people both here at home and abroad declared in vain over the past few days that the information regarding the caravan was fake news. Today it became clear that it isn’t [fake news]. Word is spreading like wildfire among the immigrants that it is worthwhile for them to join [the caravan].

Government Chief Internal Security Advisor György Bakondi (4:17): Recently it has been characteristic of the leaders of the European [Union] bureaucracy, Mr. Avramopoulos,3 Mr. Timmermans4 and others as well, that they have declared that, well in fact, there is no longer any illegal migration.

Government Spokesman István Hollik (5:50): If such a migrant caravan reaches the border, the southern fence [border barrier] would come under much greater pressure. Authorities could handle this as well and since there is more and more information indicating that they [migrants in Greece] could depart and that the migrant caravan could break through the police cordons and start off toward Europe, the Hungarian government is naturally preparing for this situation. The police and soldiers are in a state of full readiness and we are going to defend our borders. The migrants must know that they will surely not be able to enter the territory of Hungary illegally.

Screenshot from April 4 Hungarian Television news.

April 5 (source in Hungarian)

Newscaster (0:48): The immigrant caravan in Greece is ready to depart. The leaders decided early in the afternoon that they would set off toward the interior of Europe. However, the police have so far been able to stop them. It’s true that in order to do this they had to use tear-gas grenades. The illegal immigrants used the tactic that is well-known in the Middle East: they started the field next to their camp on fire so that they might be able to break through police [cordon] because of the flames and smoke. Now they have retreated into their tents for the night.

Reporter (1:16): Riot police surrounded the migrant caravan as it prepared to depart. The approximately 1,500 illegal immigrants who gathered in a field next to the Diavata Reception Center set off packed up and ready to go when their road was blocked.

Correspondent (1:31): They set off and found themselves facing a police cordon. After the first percussion grenades went off and they got a bit of tear gas as well, the crowd divided into two. . . . Their number has grown over the past 15–20 minutes. The number of Greek police as well. We saw several police buses arriving.

Reporter (2:05): The migrants were visibly not interested in the police. They tried to get out from the field [surrounding the camp] in close ranks. There are leaders in the group who visibly directed the movement of the migrants. There were several scuffles between the police and the immigrants. The migrants are so determined that they even started the field on fire.

Newscaster (3:27): News of the caravan continues to spread like wildfire among the immigrants and that it may be worthwhile to join [it]. For this reason, immigrants are trying to get to Thessaloniki from all parts of Greece. However, at several locations the Greek police prevented larger groups [of migrants] from departing. At one train station in Athens several of them lay down on the tracks and there were even some who sent their children onto the rails in front of the trains, thus paralyzing [railway] traffic. In this way they wanted to get them [Greek authorities] to take them to Thessaloniki. Over the past years, it has already occurred elsewhere, for example at the Hungarian border, that the immigrants used their own children in an attempt to blackmail authorities.

Screenshot from April 5 Hungarian Television news.

 

¹The Migration Research Institute was jointly founded by the pro-government think tank Századvég and the Budapest Corvinus University’s Mathias Corvinus Collegium during the height of the European migrant crisis in September 2015.

² Orange Files found no websites operating under the names Forum of Syrian Associations or Minbar al-Jamʻiyyat al-suriyya.  

³ European Union Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos.

4 First Vice President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans.

Stage 5: Launching of the Fidesz European Parliament Election Campaign

Prime Minister Orbán introduces his seven-point anti-immigration program (photo: hvg.hu).

On April 5, Prime Minister Orbán officially launched the Fidesz campaign for the 2019 European Parliament election. Speaking at a party assembly in Budapest, Orbán said “the stakes [of the EP election] are whether the [European] Union will have pro-immigration or anti-immigration leaders. We will decide whether we will defend our Christian culture or if we will give ground to multiculturalism” (source in Hungarian).

The prime minister subsequently introduced the following seven-point program to be implemented following the EP election in order to stop migration to Europe (video source in Hungarian):

1. The handling of migration must be taken away from the Brussels bureaucrats and must be given back to the national governments.

2. It must be clearly stated that no country can be obliged to admit migrants against its will.

3. We must say that nobody should be allowed to enter Europe without valid identification and documents.

4. With one simple flick of the wrist we should eliminate the migrant cards and the migrant visa as well.

5. Brussels should not give any more money to György Soros’s immigration-supporting organizations. Instead they should compensate for the costs of the border fence.

6. In Europe nobody should be subjected to negative discrimination because they declare themselves to be Christians.

7. Those who are entitled to do so, mainly the European Parliament and the European Council, should decide that leaders who oppose immigration stand at the head of [European] Union institutions.

The prime minister concluded his speech with the following exhortation (video source in Hungarian):

I ask the Hungarian people, all of us to sign the program introduced here and to go out and vote on May 26. Go out and we’ll show Brussels on May 26, we’ll show that the Soros NGO’s will not have the final word and the Brussels bureaucrats will proclaim it from their dusky offices, but that it is always the people who proclaim it in the voting booths. Go Hungary! Go Hungarians!

‘For Us, Hungary Is First in Brussels Too!”: Fidesz-KDNP brochure publicizing Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s seven-point anti-immigration program (click to enlarge).

Stage 6: Signage Campaign

The Fidesz-KDNP party alliance had signs reading “Let’s Support Viktor Orbán’s Program, Let’s Stop Immigration!” (Támogassuk Orbán Viktor programját, állítsuk meg a bevándorlást!) put up throughout the city of Budapest—and presumably all of Hungary—beginning on May 6, the day after the prime minister introduced his seven-point program aimed at stopping immigration to Europe (source in Hungarian).

(photo: Orange Files)

Stage 7: Signature Drive

On May 6, Fidesz launched a national campaign to collect signatures in support for Prime Minister Orbán’s anti-immigration program (source in Hungarian).

Fidesz activists collect signatures in village of Komádi in eastern Hungary (photo: 444.hu).

Stage 8: Consecration of Church

On May 7, Prime Minister Orbán spoke at the consecration of a Reformed church in Budapest. Orbán’s speech received extensive coverage in the public and pro-government private media. During his speech, Orbán said “We Hungarians believe that Christian culture is not just one source of strength among many, but the source of all strength, the cornerstone that holds the edifice of European civilization together. Without it, there is no freedom and there is no European life either” (video source in Hungarian).

Prime Minister Orbán speaks during consecration of church in Budapest (photo: MTI).

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The Umpteenth Campaign

On February 15, 2019, Spokesman István Hollik announced that the Orbán government would launch an “information action regarding the plans in Brussels to encourage immigration because we think that all Hungarian people have the right to know about those proposals that fundamentally threaten Hungary’s security” (sources A and B in Hungarian).

The Signs

(photo: Orange Files)

A few days later, signs showing unflattering images of Hungarian-American financier György/George Soros and European Commission (EC) President Jean-Claude Juncker alongside the text “You Also Have the Right to Know What Brussels Is Preparing to Do!” (Önnek is joga van tudni, mire készül Brüsszel!) appeared in large number on the streets of Budapest.

The Letters

In late February, voters in Hungary received the following letter from Prime Minister Viktor Orbán providing more detail about “what Brussels is preparing to do”:

Esteemed Compatriots!

I am writing in order to inform You about the alarming developments in the immigration crisis.

Brussels has learned nothing from the dreadful terrorist attacks of the past years. It wants to bring even more immigrants to Europe. The bureaucrats are now preparing to stimulate immigration with new measures. Following the introduction of the migrant visa and the migrant bank card, they would give more money to György Soros’s immigration-supporting organizations. They continue to want to distribute immigrants in Europe through obligatory quotas.

We Hungarians decided that we do not want our homeland to became a country of immigration.

We want to protect our security and our Christian culture. This is why we built a fence and this is why we are defending our borders. However, the Brussels bureaucrats do not want to respect our decision. They want to break the resistance of the countries opposing immigration in the interest of reaching their objectives.

You also have the right to know what Brussels is preparing to do. This is why I am turning to you now: please read the enclosed information regarding Brussels’s planned steps.

Respectfully,

Viktor Orbán

Prime minister of Hungary

According the “enclosed information” attached to Prime Minister Orbán’s letter, the European Union—cited in the third-person plural—is preparing to take the following steps:

1. They want to introduce the mandatory resettlement quota.

2. They want to weaken the border-protection rights of member states.

3. They would facilitate immigration with a migrant visa.

4. They want to give even more money to organizations supporting migration.

5. They would also assist migration with a bank card with accessible funds.

6. They would launch experimental immigration projects with countries in Africa.

7. They want to reduce financial support for countries that oppose immigration.

 

                                                                      click to enlarge

The European Commission Response

On February 19, the EC published the following response to the Orbán government’s signs on Facebook in both English and Hungarian:

On February 25, the EC published a Hungarian-language communiqué entitled “Facts regarding European Union Migration Policy” (Tények az uniós migrációs politikáról) refuting each of the Orbán government’s claims in detail (source in Hungarian).

Conservative–Christian Democratic Condemnation  

Leaders of the Conservative–Christian democratic European People’s Party (EPP) European Parliament political group with which the FideszChristian Democratic People’s Party (KDNP) alliance is affiliated as well as leaders of other regional EPP member parties denounced the Orbán government’s “information action.” Among the EPP and EPP-affiliated national-party leaders who voiced such condemnation were the following:

European People’s Party Group Leader Manfred Weber (source in German);

European People’s Party President Joseph Daul (source in English);

Christian Democratic Union leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (source in German);

Christian Social Union leader Markus Söder (source in German);

Austrian People’s Party Chairman and Chancellor of Austria Sebastian Kurz (source in German);

and Croatian Democratic Union President and Prime Minister of Croatia Andrej Plenković (source in English).

Initiative to Expel Fidesz-KDNP from the EPP

As of March 1, nine parties¹ affiliated with the European People’s Party from seven different states indicated that they were prepared to initiate the expulsion of Fidesz and the Christian Democratic People’s Party from the EPP, thus surpassing the minimum of seven parties from five different states required to force a member party to leave the European Parliament political group (source A in Hungarian and B in English).

On March 4, European People’s Party President Joseph Daul announced that EPP officials would consider the initiative to expel Fidesz-KDNP in response to the the Orbán government’s current anti–European Union propaganda campaign at the party’s political assembly in Brussels on March 20 (source in English).

Daul remarked during an interview published in the German newspaper Die Welt on March 5 that Prime Minister Orbán “had crossed the red line” with his government’s current anti-EU campaign (source in German).

European People’s Party Group Leader Manfred Weber stated during an interview published in the German tabloid Bild on March 5 that Prime Minister Orbán would have to satisfy the following three conditions in order to prevent the expulsion of Fidesz-KDNP from the EPP: immediately and permanently halt his government’s anti–European Union propaganda campaigns; apologize for these campaigns to Fidesz-KDNP’s fellow EPP member parties; and guarantee the continued existence of the Central European University in Budapest (source in English).

¹ The Moderate Party and the Christian Democrats of Sweden; the National Coalition Party of Finland; Christian Democratic Appeal of the Netherlands; the Christian Social People’s Party of Luxembourg; the Humanist Democratic Centre and the Christian Democratic and Flemish of Belgium; the Democratic and Social Centre-People’s Party of Portugal; and New Democracy of Greece.

Orbán Government Response

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán characterized those who have denounced his government’s current propaganda campaign as “useful idiots”² in an interview published in the German newspaper Welt am Sonntag on March 2 (source in English):

Orbán: [. . .] in the political scientific literature they are characterized, following Lenin, as useful idiots. While they believe they are fighting an intellectual battle, they serve the power interests of others, of our opponents.

Welt am Sonntag: Critical Christian democrats are useful idiots?

Orbán: Those who prefer a division of the EPP to its unity—yes. I have no sympathy for our Scandinavian EPP members, but I would never propose to expel them. I know that this would only be grist to the mill of the left [. . .]

Orbán stated during the interview that the government would replace the image of Jean-Claude Juncker on the signs with that of Frans Timmermans, the European Parliament Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats party-group candidate for president of the European Commission:

In the next phase our party campaign will begin and then you will find someone else on the posters: Mr. Timmermans. We will send Mr. Juncker into retirement and Mr. Timmermans will replace him on our posters.

On March 3, Minister of External Economy and Foreign Affairs Péter Szijjártó made the following statement during an interview on the pro-government television station HírTV (source in Hungarian):

We are a nation that possesses over 1,000 years of statehood and which cannot be played around with just like that. This visibly moves them [members of the European Commission] out of their comfort zone and they don’t understand how it can be that a [country such as] Hungary dares to say what the European Commission is preparing to do. And in Hungary they dare to say that György Soros arranged the notation for the migration policy that the European Commission is implementing.

² The term useful idiot is commonly attributed to Vladimir Lenin and refers to somebody who unwittingly promotes the interests of a political force with which they are not affiliated.

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The Central European Press and Media Foundation

KESMA owner and technical director Gábor Liszkay (photo: hvg.hu).

The Central European Press and Media Foundation (Közép-Európai Sajtó és Média Alapítvány, or KESMA) was founded on September 11, 2018, to serve as a non-profit organization under which pro–Orbán-government private media in Hungary could be consolidated.

Orbán-government oligarchs, officials and their family members as well as pro–Orbán- government journalists and entrepreneurs have since transferred ownership of 476 media outlets to KESMA without financial compensation (source in English).

The official aim of the KESMA is “to promote those activities of the print, radio, TV and online sections of the Hungarian mass media which serve to build values and strengthen Hungarian national consciousness” (source in English).

Five pro–Orbán government lawyers and journalists lead KESMA (sources A, B, C and D in Hungarian):

owner and technical director Gábor Liszkay, who oversaw the government takeover of the daily newspaper Napi Gazdaság and the television station Hír TV;

manager Miklós Vaszily, the former CEO of the Media Services and Support Trust Fund (MTVA);

advisory board President István Varga, who served as Fidesz National Assembly representative from 2010 to 2014;

advisory board member Miklós Szánthó, director of the Fidesz-supported Center for Fundamental Rights (Alapjogokért Központ);

and advisory board member István Bajkai, the Orbán family lawyer who was a founding member of Fidesz and has served as one of the party’s National Assembly representatives since 2018.

The Lake Balaton summer home of Central European Press and Media Foundation owner and technical director Gábor Liszkay serves as the registered headquarters of KESMA (source in Hungarian).

The Central European Press and Media Foundation directly or indirectly received 469 of its 476 media outlets from the following seven people (source in English):

oligarch Lőrinc Mészáros;

oligarch and Orbán-government film commissioner Andy Vajna;

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s chief strategic adviser Árpád Habony;

House of Terror and the Twenty-First Century Institute (XXI. Század Intézet) director Mária Schmidt;

entrepreneur Ádám Matolcsy, son of National Bank of Hungary Governor György Matolcsy;

Austrian entrepreneur Heinrich Pecina;

and journalist Miklós Ómolnár.

KESMA’s media outlets, which generated composite revenue of  55.7 billion forints (180.1 million euros) in 2017, include the following major newspapers, freesheets, magazines, television stations and internet portals (sources A and B in Hungarian):

all 18 county-based daily newspapers;

the daily newspapers Magyar Idők, Világgazdaság and Nemzeti Sport;

the daily tabloids Bors and Ripost;

the freesheets Lokál and Lokál Extra;

the weekly magazines Figyelő and Szabad Föld;

the television stations Echo TV and Hír TV;

and the internet portals origo.hu, mandiner.hu and 888.hu.

The Central European Press and Media Foundation therefore owns all but the following four major pro–Orbán-government media outlets:

the Andy Vajna–owned television station TV2;

the Gábor Széles–owned daily newspaper Magyar Hírlap;

the András Bencsik–owned weekly magazine Demokrata;

and the internet portal pestisracok.hu.

In December 2018, the Orbán government issued a decree declaring the consolidation of the 476 media outlets into the Central European Press and Media Foundation to be of “national strategic importance” (nemzetstratégiai jelentőségű), thus exempting their concentration under KESMA ownership from media-competition regulations enforced through the Hungarian Competition Authority (GVH) and the Media Council (source in Hungarian).

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The Sargentini Report

MEP Judith Sargentini receives ovation following the European Parliament’s adoption of her report on “the situation in Hungary” (photo: AFP).

On September 12, 2018, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) of the European Union adopted a resolution asking the Council of the European Union to determine if the government of Hungary has initiated measures and engaged in activity that present “a clear risk of a serious breach” of the fundamental values of the EU (source in English).

This resolution was contained in a report articulating concerns about the state of democracy, the rule of law and civil liberties in Hungary submitted to the European Parliament (EP) by MEP Judith Sargentini of the Netherlands, a member of the Greens-European Free Alliance EP political group.

The European Parliament’s endorsement of the so-called Sargentini Report was the second of three steps in the European Union’s warning mechanism specified in Article 7 of the Treaty on European Union.

Article 7

Article 7 of the Treaty on European Union (also known as the Maastricht Treaty), one of two main agreements upon which the EU is founded along with the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (also known as the Treaty of Rome), establishes mechanisms for the EU to warn and sanction member states determined to have violated the fundamental values of the European Union.

Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) specifies the fundamental values of the EU: “respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities” (source in English).

The European Union established the sanctions mechanism of Article 7 via the 1999 Treaty of Amsterdam that amended the Treaty on European Union (source in English). The European Union introduced this mechanism one year after beginning negotiations regarding accession to the EU with post-communist countries of Eastern Europe in order to provide the union with a means of penalizing these future member states if they reverted to authoritarian political practices in violation of the fundamental values stipulated in Article 2 of the TEU (source in English).

The Article 7 sanctions mechanism represents the European Union’s most severe means of penalizing a member state. Suspension of voting rights in the Council of the European Union and the European Council (see “European Union Political Institutions” below) represent the harshest penalties that can be imposed on an EU member state via this sanctions mechanism. The European Union has no institutional mechanism for expelling a member state from the EU.

The European Union established the warning mechanism of Article 7, known formally as the “preventative mechanism,” via the 2001 Treaty of Nice that again amended the Treaty on European Union (source in English). The European Union introduced this mechanism one year after the formation of a coalition government in Austria that included the Jörg Haider–led far-right FPÖ party in order to provide the EU with a means of warning member states found to be at risk of violating the fundamental values of the union rather than penalizing them via the sanctions mechanism (source in English).

The European Union’s Article 7 warning and sanctions mechanisms are independent of one another: that is, engagement of the sanctions mechanism against an EU member state does not require the prior warning of that state via the preventative mechanism (source in English).¹

European Union Political Institutions

There are four European Union political institutions, all of which play a role in Article 7 procedures. These institutions are composed of two legislative bodies—the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union—and two executive bodies—the European Commission and the European Council.

The European Parliament is composed of 751 MEPs distributed proportionally among European Union member states according to national population. MEPs are affiliated with eight different political groups that represent the socialist, green, liberal, conservative, Christian democratic and nationalist ideologies. The European Parliament is the equivalent of the lower house in a bicameral legislative system.

The Council of the European Union is composed of one cabinet minister from the national government of each European Union member state who deals with the specific policy domain under consideration, such as foreign affairs, economic and financial affairs, agriculture, justice, etc. The Council of the European Union is the equivalent of the upper house in a bicameral legislative system.

The European Commission is composed of one representative from each European Union member state and functions under the leadership of a president. The European Commission is the equivalent of a government cabinet and the president of the European Commission is the equivalent of a prime minister in a dual-executive system.

The European Council is composed of the heads of state or government of each European Union member state. The European Council is the equivalent of a president or collective presidency in a dual-executive system.

Article 7 Warning Mechanism Procedure

The Article 7 warning mechanism is composed of three steps: one, either the European Parliament (EP), the European Commission or the Council of the European Union must “determine that there is a clear risk of a serious breach by a Member State of the values referred to in Article 2”; two, the European Parliament must endorse by a two-thirds majority of votes cast and an absolute majority of all MEPs the finding of the EP, the European Commission or the Council of the European Union that such a risk exists; and three, the Council of the European Union must confirm the existence of this risk by a four-fifths majority in a vote in which the representative of the member state in question cannot participate (sources A, B and C in English).

Article 7 Warning Mechanism Procedure against Hungary

Step One

On May 17, 2017, the European Parliament adopted by a vote of 393 in favor to 221 against with 64 abstentions a resolution submitted by socialist, liberal and green EP political groups to trigger the Article 7 warning mechanism against Hungary (source in English).

A total of 67 members of the European People’s Party EP political group to which the parties in Hungary’s governing alliance—Fidesz and the Christian Democratic People’s Party (KDNP)—belong voted in favor of the resolution, while 93 members of this conservative–Christian democratic political group voted against the resolution and 40 abstained (source in English).

The text of the resolution, which stated that “developments in Hungary have led to a serious deterioration of the rule of law, democracy and fundamental rights over the past few years,” specifically requested that Hungarian authorities repeal the Law on National Education (Lex CEU) and withdraw the subsequently enacted Law on the Transparency of Organizations Supported from Abroad (the NGO Law).

The resolution instructed the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs to draw up a report on “the political situation in Hungary” to serve as the text for a subsequent EP vote to determine if there exists a clear risk that the country’s government will violate the fundamental values of the European Union.

The European Union had never previously launched its Article 7 procedure—neither the warning mechanism nor the sanctions mechanism (source in English).

Step 2

On July 11, 2017, the European Parliament Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs appointed Judith Sargentini of the Netherlands, a member of the Greens-European Free Alliance EP political group, as the rapporteur responsible for writing the report on the political situation in Hungary (source in English).

On June 25, 2018, the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs adopted the report that Sargentini had written over the intervening period by a vote of 37 in favor to 19 against. Of the 37 committee members who voted to approve the report, 8 belonged to the European People’s Party (source in English).

On September 12, 2018, the European Parliament approved by a vote of 448 in favor to 197 against with 48 abstentions a resolution contained in the Sargentini Report asking the Council of the European Union “to determine, pursuant to Article 7(1) of the Treaty on European Union, the existence of a clear risk of a serious breach by Hungary of the values on which the Union is founded” (source in English).

A total of 115 members of the European People’s Party EP political group to which Hungary’s Fidesz-KDNP governing alliance belongs voted in favor of the resolution, while 57 voted against it and 28 abstained (source in English).

Step 3

On October 16, 2018, the Council of the European Union discussed the next steps to be taken in the Article 7 warning-mechanism procedure against Hungary. The representatives of Hungary at the meeting stated that the Orbán government would provide a “written contribution” to the issues raised in the Sargentini Report in accordance with the Article 7 stipulation that the council “shall hear the Member State in question” before deciding if it is at risk of violating the fundamental values of the EU (sources A and B in English).

The Sargentini Report

The Sargentini Report grouped “concerns related to the situation in Hungary” into the following 12 categories (source in English):

-functioning of the constitutional and electoral system;

-independence of the judiciary and of other institutions and the rights of judges;

-corruption and conflicts of interest;

-privacy and data protection;

-freedom of expression;

-academic freedom;

-freedom of religion;

-freedom of association;

-right to equal treatment;

-rights of persons belonging to minorities, including Roma and Jews, and protection against hateful statements against such minorities;

-fundamental rights of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees;

-economic and social rights.

The Sargentini Report identified the following specific issues, frequently in reference to previous findings of the Council of Europe,² the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, within the above-listed areas of concern (source in English):

-“the endangerment of the separation of powers and the weakening of the national system of checks and balances”;

-restriction of the authority of the Constitutional Court and the changes to the procedure for selecting judges that have made it possible for the Fidesz-KDNP governing alliance to appoint all the judges on the court;

-excessive power of the president of the National Judicial Office;

-“serious irregularities” and “conflicts of interest” with regard to EU-financed public-procurement tenders to install LED street lighting at various locations in Hungary that a company operating under the ownership of István Tiborcz, the son-in-law of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, won in 2014 and 2015;

-insufficient legal guarantees against possible unlawful secret surveillance for national security purposes (see Counter Terrorism Center);

-inadequate guarantees of freedom of expression in the Law on Freedom of the Press and the Fundamental Rules of Media Content and the Law on Media Services and Mass Media adopted a few months after the Fidesz-KDNP governing alliance came to power in 2010;

-procedures regarding the election of the Media Council that fail to ensure fair representation on the body and the political neutrality of its members and president;

 -provision of the Hungarian News Agency MTI with the “exclusive right” to provide news for public television and radio;

-public television and radio news regarding the 2018 National Assembly election campaign that “clearly favored the ruling coalition”;

-the publication in the pro–Fidesz-KDNP weekly Figyelő on April 11, 2018, of the names of 2,000 people in Hungary who are allegedly working to “topple” the Orbán government;

-constraints on academic freedom via the 2017 Law on National Higher Education (Lex CEU);

-“stigmatizing rhetoric used by politicians questioning the legitimacy of NGO work in the context of audits [of] NGOs which were operators and beneficiaries of the NGO Fund of the EEA/Norway Grants”;

-the apparent “attempt to discredit certain NGOs, including NGOs dedicated to the protection of human rights in Hungary” and restriction of foreign donations from NGOs in Hungary via the 2017 Law on the Transparency of Organizations Supported from Abroad (the NGO Law);

-stipulations in the 2018 “amendment of certain laws connected to measures against unlawful immigration,” unofficially known as the “STOP Soros law,” that serve to “deprive people who are forced to flee their homes of critical aid and services, and further inflame tense public discourse and rising xenophobic attitudes”;

-“the constitutional ban on discrimination does not explicitly list sexual orientation and gender identity among the grounds of discrimination”;

-“ women are underrepresented in political life and there are no legal requirements to promote gender equality in elections”;

-“deterioration of the situation as regards racism and intolerance in Hungary, with anti-Gypsyism being the most blatant form of intolerance, as illustrated by [. . .] violence targeting Roma people and paramilitary marches and patrolling in Roma-populated villages. [Also] despite positions taken by the Hungarian authorities to condemn anti-Semitic speech, anti-Semitism is a recurring problem, manifesting itself through hate speech and instances of violence against Jewish persons or property”;

-“the Roma community continues to suffer from widespread discrimination and exclusion, unemployment, housing and educational segregation”;

-“the prevalence of hate crimes and hate speech in political discourse, the media and on the internet targeting minorities, in particular Roma, Muslims, migrants and refugees, including in the context of government-sponsored campaigns”;

-“policies and practices that promote intolerance and fear and fuel xenophobia against refugees and migrants [and] the increasing number of allegations of abuse in Hungary against asylum-seekers and migrants by border authorities, and the broader restrictive border and legislative measures, including access to asylum procedures”;

– “restrictive practices of admission of asylum seekers into the transit zones of Röszke and Tompa often make asylum-seekers look for illegal ways of crossing the border, having to resort to smugglers and traffickers”;

– “asylum procedures, which are conducted in the transit zones, lack adequate safeguards to protect asylum seekers against refoulement to countries where they run the risk of being subjected to treatment contrary to [the] ECHR [European Convention on Human Rights]”;

– and the stipulation of the 2018 amendment to the Fundamental Law that “designates many public areas as out-of-bounds for ‘sleeping rough’ and effectively punishes homelessness” (see Orbán Government Homeless Policy).

Orbán Government Reaction

On September 17, 2018, Minister without Portfolio in Charge of the Prime Ministry Gergely Gulyás announced that the Orbán government would submit a challenge to the validity of the European Parliament vote on the Sargentini Report to the European Court of Justice on the grounds that abstentions should have been counted as “votes cast,” thereby reducing the proportion of MEPs who voted in favor of the report to under the two-thirds majority required for its adoption (sources A in Hungarian and B, C and D in English).

Also on September 17, 2018, Gulyás and Fidesz National Assembly caucus leader Máté Kocsics submitted a resolution “on the defense of Hungary’s sovereignty and the rejection of slander against Hungary” (source in Hungarian). In addition to voicing rejection of the Sargentini Report, this resolution asked the Orbán government to take legal action aimed at nullifying the European Parliament’s adoption of the report:

The Sargentini Report attacked the decisions, Fundamental Law, legislation and personal decisions that the democratically elected Hungarian parliament ratified within its own sphere of authority. With this, it [the report] transcended its sphere of authority and violated Hungary’s sovereignty.  [. . .] We reject the slander contained in the mendacious pro-immigration indictment called the Sargentini Report. We reject this report which attacks Hungary because it did not admit immigrants, rejected the quota, built a legal border barrier and made the organization of illegal immigration punishable.    [. . .] We call upon the government of Hungary not to submit to blackmail: reject the false accusations against Hungary and take legal measures against the fraudulently adopted report slandering Hungary!

On October 16, 2018, the National Assembly adopted this resolution by a vote of 129 in favor to 26 against with 18 abstentions (source in Hungarian). All Fidesz-KDNP National Assembly representatives and four independent representatives who recently withdrew from the nationalist opposition party Jobbik voted in favor of the resolution, while all representatives from socialist, liberal and green opposition parties voted against the resolution and Jobbik representatives abstained (source in Hungarian).

 

¹ The European Union member-state rights that may be suspended via Article 7 are not specifically defined. Some argue that imposition of the Article 7 sanctions mechanism might also entail suspension of EU Cohesion Fund, Regional Development Fund and Common Agricultural Policy subsidies (source in English at bottom of page 4).

² The Council of Europe is a 47-member international organization that aims to uphold human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Europe and to promote European culture. It is not the same as the European Union, though all members of the EU are also members of the Council of Europe.

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Notable Quotes: Prime Minister Viktor Orbán

Fidesz Revolution

“It is not simply a matter of the sixth free election in Hungary. A much more important thing happened on this day in Hungary. Today a revolution took place in the voting booths.” 

—April 25, 2010, speaking after the Fidesz-Christian Democratic People’s Party alliance secured a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly following the 2010 general election (source in Hungarian).

“In 2010 Hungary pulled itself together and carried out a revolution.” 

—March 28, 2014, during an interview with the pro-government journalist Zsolt Bayer, referring to the 2010 National Assembly election that brought the second Orbán government to power (source in Hungarian at 4:29). 

“Over the past four years a revolution truly has taken place in this country. This revolution has taken place not on the streets and squares, but in the soul. It was fought not with swords and blood, but with the heart and faith.” 

May 10, 2014, after taking his oath of office as prime minister (source in English).

Duration of Power

“To tell the truth, I have always seen the 20 years between 2010 and 2030 as a unified era.”

May 10, 2018, after taking his oath of office as prime minister (source in Hungarian).

Restitution

“We are gentle and cheerful people, though we are neither blind nor are we pushovers. After the [2018 National Assembly] election we are naturally going to seek restitution—moral, political and legal restitution.” 

March 15, 2018, speaking at commemoration of the outbreak of the 1848 Hungarian Revolution (source in Hungarian).

Minority Government

“I have never led a minority government and I never will . . . It is not good for democracy. We need a majority government. If I do not have a majority, then someone else must form a government. If no one else is capable of doing so, we will go to new elections. There will not be a minority government, which in my view would be terrible for Hungary.” 

May 3, 2013, during interview with the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth (source in English).

Becoming President 

“The chance that I will be president of the republic are under zero.”

May 26, 2015 (source in Hungarian).

Christianity

“The way in which Christian origins, traditions and outlook upon life are not sufficiently acknowledged in the institutions of the European Union still hurts millions of European people to this day. Christianity is not only a religion, but is also a culture on which we have built a whole civilization. This is not a choice, but a fact. If people feel that European politics are fighting against their own origins and are ashamed to admit that we are really a Christian continent, this will only alienate more people from the European Union.” 

May 8, 2014, speaking at the European Forum Conference in Berlin (source in English).

“We openly divulge and acknowledge our objectives. We want a Hungarian Hungary and a European Europe. This is only possible if we also affirm that we want a Christian Hungary in a Christian Europe.” 

September 16, 2017, during speech at meeting of the Alliance of Christian Intellectuals in Budapest (source in Hungarian).

“Out of either carelessness or naiveté, the Western half of the not-so-long-ago still strong and Christian Europe is giving up its churches and getting rid of its religious symbols one after another and turning its back on its own culture, not even noticing that with this it is throwing away its own future.” 

October 1, 2017, during consecration of Hungarian Reformed church in Szászfenes (Florești), Romania (source in Hungarian). 

“We offer grateful thanks that divine grace has compensated for our weaknesses and our infirmities and has carried away our flaws. We also see God’s help in the fact that even though we must enter the fray against heavy forces, even global forces, we are still standing, we are still standing on our own feet. We regard the essence of our God-ordained responsibility in our government work to be the preservation of the life outlook which on the basis of Christ’s teachings has made Europe and the Hungarians [magyarság] great, has shielded them at times of danger and helped them through spiritual, intellectual and national crises.”

October 31, 2017, speaking at a commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation (source in Hungarian).

“They [George Soros and his “army”] believe in a multi-cultural Europe. They don’t like Christian Europe. The don’t like the traditions of Christian Europe. They don’t like Christians at all.” 

June 8, 2018, during interview on state-run Kossuth Radio (source in Hungarian from 00:29).

The Persecution of Christians

“The truth always begins with stating the facts. It is a fact that today Christianity is the most persecuted religion in the world. It is a fact that today 215 million Christian people in 108 countries suffer some form of persecution. It is a fact that four out of five people who are oppressed because of their religion are Christians. It is a fact that in 2015, a Christian was murdered in Iraq every five minutes due to his or her religious conviction. And it is a fact that we see very little news about these events in the international press and it is a fact that we must use a magnifying glass in our search for political expressions [megnyilvánulás] condemning the persecution of Christians.” 

October 12, 2017, during speech at conference in Budapest regarding the persecution of Christians (source in Hungarian).

See entire article (193 quotes).

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Updated: Lajos Simicska

Lajos Simicska was regarded as the most powerful oligarch in Hungary from the time Viktor Orbán formed his second government in 2010 until his dramatic public rift with the prime minister in 2015 (see The Fury of an Oligarch Scorned).

Lőrinc Mészáros has supplanted Simicska as the most powerful oligarch in Hungary since the latter year.

Following his rupture with Orbán, Simicska turned against the FideszChristian Democratic People’s Party (KDNP) governing alliance and began to openly support the nationalist party Jobbik.

On July 4, 2018, Simicska sold nearly all the companies under his ownership to his longtime business partner Zsolt Nyerges (source in Hungarian). The opposition newspaper Népszava reported that Simicska had sent his 26-year-old son, Ádám, to the United States to prepare the ground for continuing his business activities there (source in Hungarian).

The term oligarch in its contemporary, Eastern European sense denotes a businessman (and rarely a businesswoman) who acquires significant wealth and political influence through his (or her) connections and allegiance to the government and uses this wealth and influence to provide the government with various means of support.

Background

Simicska was born in the city of Székesfehérvár (central Hungary, pop. 98,000) in 1960.

He attended the same high school in Székesfehérvár as Viktor Orbán, graduating in 1979—two years before the future prime minister of Hungary.

Simicska and Orbán then performed their mandatory service in the Hungarian People’s Army together in the city of Zalaegerszeg (western Hungary, pop. 60,000) in the years 1981–1982 (see Siss-boom-BANG!)

Simicska—as Orbán—subsequently attended the Loránd Eötvös University School of Law and Political Sciences in Budapest in the 1980s, though it is not known if Simicska graduated. While at the university, Simicska and Orbán both lived at the special residence hall for law students called the Bibó College (Bibó Szakkollégium). Simicska participated in the formation and early activities of Fidesz at the Bibó College, though was not among the 37 founding members of the party in 1988.

Political Career

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and ÁPEH President Lajos Simicska in March 1999 (photo: MTI).

Simicska assumed his first formal political position in 1993, when he became financial director of Fidesz (source in Hungarian). He then served as president of Hungary’s internal revenue service ÁPEH for just over a year at the time of the first Orbán government in 1998 and 1999.

Simicska did not appear in public for a period of 15 years from the time of his resignation as president of ÁPEH in August 1999 until attending the official inauguration of an equestrian center in western Hungary in September 2014. The weekly Magyar Narancs published the first updated photograph of Simicska in over 13 years on the magazine’s cover in December 2012.

Business Activities  

Simicska spent the next decade quietly building an opaque business empire centered on the formerly state-owned construction company Közgép (“Public Machine”). Simicska was so secretive about his business activities that although it had long been speculated that he had acquired a majority stake in Közgép, definitive proof that he actually owned the company emerged only in documentation submitted as part of a public tender in 2012 (source in Hungarian).

During this period, Simicska also acquired partial or total ownership over broadcast and print media including the news television station Hír TV, the radio stations Lánchíd Rádió and Class FM, the daily newspaper Magyar Nemzet, the weekly news magazine Heti Válasz and the weekday free sheet Metropol. These media explicitly supported Viktor Orbán and Fidesz.

In addition to construction and media, Simicska focused his business activities on outdoor-advertising, primarily via the companies Mahir Cityposter and Publimont.

Becoming an Oligarch

Simicska attained immense wealth following the return of Viktor Orbán to power as prime minister in 2010, primarily through the large number of state construction contracts awarded to Közgép beginning that year.

Közgép won 179.4 billion forints in public tenders from 2010 through 2013: 1.2 billion forints in 2010; 31.6 billion forints in 2011; 17.6 billion forints in 2012; and 129 billion forints in 2013 (source in Hungarian).

Közgép’s revenue rose almost threefold from 44.8 billion forints in 2010 to 129.8 billion forints in 2014 (source in Hungarian).

Simicska’s pro-Fidesz news media—Hír TV, Lánchíd Rádió, Magyar Nemzet and Heti Válasz— also began to generate significant profit during this period, much of which proceeded from government advertising. The aggregate post-tax profit of these four media nearly doubled from 876 million forints in 2012 to 1.7 billion forints in 2014 (source in Hungarian).

Simicska was ranked the tenth-richest person in Hungary in 2015 with estimated wealth of 73 billion forints (source in Hungarian). He had not previously appeared in the annual Napi Gazdaság ranking of the 100 wealthiest Hungarians due to the lack of transparency surrounding his business operations.

See entire article.

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European Union Net Funding to Hungary, 2011–2016

The European Union provided Hungary with 26.54 billion euros in net funding (gross funding from the EU budget minus contributions to the EU budget) during the first six years in which the second and third Orbán governments were in power for the entire year (2011–2016).

Hungary’s average population was 9.9 million in the years 2011–2016 (source in English). Hungary thus received per-capita net funding of 2,681 euros over this six-year period.

Source: European Commission data on “operating budget balance” for the years 2007–2013 and 2014–2020.

Hungary received the highest amount of per-capita net European Union funding among all 28 EU member states in the years 2011–2016. During this six-year period, 17 member states of the European Union were net recipients of funding from the EU (see table below), while 11 member states were net financial contributors to the EU.

Sources: European Commission data on “operating budget balance” for the years 2007–2013 and 2014–2020; and Trading Economics population data.

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has claimed that European Union funding to Hungary serves to counterbalance the profit that Western companies derive as the result of the opening of the country’s markets to them. Prime Minister Orbán said during an interview published in the pro-government daily newspaper Magyar Idők on December 24, 2015 (source in Hungarian):

It is worthwhile to clarify whether we are really getting their [the European Union’s] money. After forty years of communism, central Europe undertook competition with the capital-rich big Western companies. We opened our markets in such a way as to provide Western companies with an enormous advantage and they were able to gain profit-generating positions in our economies that we could never acquire in theirs. In spite of the legal possibility of competition, the difference in the scale of capital has long made this an illusion. We get the sums [of money] that we get in order to counterbalance this. Moreover, the business profit that leaves Hungary for the West reaches the magnitude of the amount of support that arrives from there.

Germany was the greatest net financial contributor to the European Union in the years 2011–2016. During this period, Germany made a per-capita net financial contribution of 945 euros to the EU (see sources A, B and C in English).

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