The Referendum That Couldn’t Fail

In February 2016, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán initiated a referendum in Hungary asking voters to respond to the following question (source in Hungarian):

Do you want the European Union to be able to mandate the obligatory settlement of non-Hungarian citizens in Hungary even without the approval of the [Hungarian] National Assembly?

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Prime Minister Viktor Orbán speaks to supporters following the referendum on the European Union migrant-resettlement quota (photo: index.hu).

This question refers specifically to the resettlement of 1,294 Syrian, Iraqi and Eritrean refugees from Italy and Greece to Hungary as part of a European Union plan adopted in September 2015 (see 2016 Referendum on European Union Migrant Resettlement Quotas).

The result of the referendum in terms of approval or rejection of the European Union migrant-resettlement quota for Hungary was never in doubt: opinion polls consistently showed that the number of voters who rejected the quota was many times larger than the number of voters who accepted it (see “Opinion Polls” section of the relevant Wikipedia article).

The only question was: would voter turnout exceed the 50-percent threshold required for the referendum to be considered legally valid?

This combination of factors impelled most voters who opposed the Orbán government’s initiative, regardless of whether they supported the European Union resettlement quota or not, to either boycott the referendum or to cast invalid ballots in the hope of preventing turnout from reaching the required 50-percent validity threshold.

However, the boycott/invalid-ballot strategy entailed the drawback of ensuring that referendum would produce a landslide victory for the “no” votes rejecting the resettlement quota.

The Orbán government was clearly prepared to emphasize the aspects of the referendum results that best served its political interests—the voting outcome, the turnout, or both—and to take legislative action of some kind to prevent the European Union from resettling migrants in Hungary regardless of the specific result.

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“Let’s Not Take a Risk! Vote No! October 2”: Orbán government anti-quota referendum sign in Budapest (photo: Orange Files).

On September 22, Prime Minister Orbán said in an interview: “If it [the referendum] is successful and of convincing strength, then it will produce steps of a different nature than if it is turns out to be scrawnier. This is why it isn’t worth speculating now. Although naturally the referendum will have consequences in terms of public law” (source in Hungarian).

The final results of the October 2 “Referendum against Compulsory Resettlement” permitted the Orbán government to emphasis only the outcome: 98.3 percent of those who cast valid ballots in the plebiscite voted “no” to the EU migrant-resettlement quota, while only 1.7 percent voted “yes.” The Orbán government referred only indirectly to the fact that voter turnout for the referendum was only 40.4 percent, nearly 10 percentage points below the validity threshold (source in Hungarian).

Thus the Orbán government’s intensive, seventh-month propaganda campaign, which included ubiquitous billboard signs, electronic- and print-media advertisements and brochures exhorting the electorate to vote “no” in the referendum—a campaign that the opposition website Átlászó.hu estimated cost 15 billion forints (48.7 million euros)—had no apparent effect on the outcome of the referendum, serving only to further elevate political tension in Hungary to nearly hysterical heights (see The Phony Realist).

And the referendum itself, in practical terms, was virtually meaningless: the speech that Prime Minister Orbán delivered in Budapest following the close of polls on October 2 could have been written six months ago as one of just two possible versions—that emphasizing the overwhelming majority of “no votes” and avoiding any reference to voter turnout and legal validity.

Below is an Orange Files translation of Prime Minister Orbán’s post-referendum speech (see video of speech in Hungarian).

Esteemed ladies and gentlemen! 

[. . .]

Thirteen years after we decided in a referendum by a large majority to join the European Union, tonight we Hungarians again made our voices heard with regard to a European issue. We achieved a magnificent outcome, because we surpassed the result of the referendum on joining [the European Union]. A total of 3,056,000 voted to join in the referendum on joining [the European Union] and now we’re at 3,204,000 and we still don’t know most of the votes from Hungarians beyond the borders. And perhaps I should say here as well that some 15 percent more people took part now than during the most recent European parliament election. Thus the weapon will be pretty strong in Brussels as well. 

Esteemed ladies and gentlemen! 

First I would like to congratulate everyone and express my recognition to those who, feeling the gravity of the issue, participated in the referendum. They came and contributed to the fact that this enormous agreement of more than three million could come about. With regard to the participants, today nine of ten people voted on the side of Hungary, on the side of Hungary’s right to make independent decisions. I feel that we can be proud that as the first and until now only European Union member state [to do so], the Hungarians were able to directly express their opinion regarding the question of immigration. This was the proper, even honorable thing to do. This question was not yet on the agenda during the 2014 parliamentary election. Therefore, citizens were not able to take a stand on this and could not formulate their opinion. However, esteemed ladies and gentlemen, this is perhaps one of the more important questions of the years ahead of us, one that is about the future of Hungary and the future of our children and grandchildren. Who we live together with, what will become of our culture, what will become of our way of living until now, our economic system that we restored with great difficulty, what will become of our Christian roots. 

Esteemed ladies and gentlemen! 

A modern migration of peoples is taking place in the world. The waves of this have spectacularly and painfully reached Europe. The question now is, how will the European Union respond to this? The proposal of the union is that we let the migrants in and distribute them with obligatory force among the member states. And that Brussels decide about this distribution. Esteemed ladies and gentlemen, we Hungarians have today considered this proposal and rejected it. The Hungarians decided that only we, we Hungarians, can decide who we want to live together with. Brussels or Budapest, this was the question, and we decided that this right to decide lies exclusively with Budapest. Today we started down a path. And it will be a very long path. We took the first and most important step. Serious battles and difficult engagements await us on this long path. Now, following the celebration, we must do two things in order to assert our will. First we must invest the decision of the people with the force of public law. For this reason, I will place a proposed constitutional amendment on the National Assembly’s desk over the coming days. I believe that we must convey the will of the people expressed today. And we must place this in our Fundamental Law as well. The other urgent thing is to enforce the decision we made today in Brussels as well. 

My dear friends! 

Brussels stands before an important decision. Now it is the one that stands before an important decision. The European Union is a democratic community. Today in a member state 92 percent of the participants in a referendum declared that they do not agree with the intention of Brussels. The question is simple: can Brussels do this? Can the democratic community of European states force its will upon a member state, where 92 percent of participants are against it? I promise you, I promise all citizens of Hungary, that we will do everything under our power so that this does not happen. . . . 

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Propaganda Camp

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán prepares to speak at Tusnádfürdő on July 24, 2016 (photo: MTI).

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán prepares to deliver annual speech in Tusnádfürdő (Băile Tușnad) on July 24, 2016 (photo: MTI).

On July 24, 2016, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán held his annual speech at the Tusványos Summer University and Student Camp (Tusványos Nyári Szabadegyetem és Diáktábor) in Tusnádfürdő (Băile Tușnad), Romania.

Orbán, both as head of government and opposition leader, has long used the speech he makes at this camp in the predominantly Hungarian-inhabited Székely Land (Székelyföld) region of Romania to explicitly articulate his domestic political vision and his viewpoints on international affairs (see Proclamation of the Illiberal Hungarian State).

Prime Minister Orbán expressed two novel opinions in his 2016 Tusványos Summer University and Student Camp speech: first, he became the first leader of a sovereign state to endorse Donald Trump for president of the United States; and second, in answering a question following the speech, he advocated the creation of a common European military.

Below are Orange Files translations of several passages from Prime Minister Orbán’s July 24 speech in Tusnádfürdő (source in Hungarian).

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Thank you for permitting me to be here among you again with the passing of another year. The experience of seeing you again is, in itself, valuable and sets one’s heart in motion. This, in itself, would be a sufficient reason and motive for the existence of the free university [the Tusványos Summer University and Student Camp], although the free university has for many years—for more than two decades—performed another function that truly manifests itself here only when the incumbent prime minister of Hungary speaks to you. That is to say, a situation has come into existence, a free-university space in which it is possible to speak about politics in a different way, in which it is possible to speak about difficult and complicated matters in a different way from that which politics, as a profession, forces [one to speak] the other 364 days of the year. Problems arise from this afterwards as well. Because European politics has already made steady use of the form of speaking about politics and major European affairs that maybe nobody other than the speaker understands, but which at least does not bring trouble down upon the heads of the speaker. The world of a free university is, however, different. If we don’t speak frankly here in a way that we, too, can understand about the dilemmas that torment us, which incidentally are not just our dilemmas, but which, as you will hear later, are dilemmas tormenting all of Europe, then the free university isn’t worth anything, then it’s not a free university, but a propaganda camp.

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We would not have previously thought this [to be possible], but it is now looking more and more like they have pushed Hungary out of the European mainstream and they have tried to interpret everything that we have done as not being an accepted part of European politics. Be it our constitution strengthening Christian foundations, be it our demographic policies, be it cross-border national unification—now, in retrospect, with the passing of a few years, these look more like advantages than disadvantages. Nobody can at this moment say for certain that over the coming years the European mainstream won’t proceed [along the path] onto which they tried to drive Hungary away from the European mainstream. This is how the black sheep become the flock, how the exception becomes the main direction.

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As I was listening to Bishop Tőkés [the previous speaker, Reformed bishop and Fidesz Member of the European Parliament László Tőkés] I realized that I shouldn’t have been at a loss for what to do last night [when I wrote this speech], but I should have called him up on the phone, because he provided the phrase that I should really be talking about here as my point of departure. He quoted Nehemiah: “Do not be afraid, but fight!”

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If I told an English, German or French young person that if you abide by the laws, respect your parents, finish your schooling normally and work diligently, you will surely get ahead, get farther and you will live better than your parents did, I am afraid that they would laugh at me. This is the promise of European life that has been shaken, which has been lost—and this will have serious consequences.

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Since we are members of the European Union, today I will speak about what the European Union must do differently in order for fear and uncertainty to disappear from the lives of Europeans. First of all, it must quit doing a few bad things. In the West they call one of these things denationalization, presenting in a positive light something which I think is a bad thing. In my opinion reducing national sovereignty in favor of [increased] European spheres of authority represents one of the greatest dangers in Europe today.

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The European Union has today become a regional player. At best, it is capable of influencing events that take place in its environment, though slowly we are seeing that [it is capable of] not even this this much, since the main player in the Ukrainian-Russian conflict is not the European Union, but the United States. We see that the European Union doesn’t play the main role in shaping events in the uncertain region of Syria, the Middle East and Iraq, but the United States and the Russians. Thus we must state that today the European Union is deceiving itself when it views itself as one of the global players in the global political space. We must recognize that today, if we even have the ability to influence world events outside our own territory, this is restricted to the region [immediately] surrounding us.  

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We [Hungarians] have no identity problem. Not even as much as the British, who don’t themselves know exactly if they are European or not. For a Hungarian, this is not a question: if you are Hungarian, then you are European. We have been, are and will be [European]—this is the motto of the camp.¹

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Migration represents a threat, it increases terrorism, increases crime; migration on a mass scale changes the cultural profile of Europe and migration on a mass scale destroys national culture.

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I am not Donald Trump’s campaign manager, I never would have thought that the notion would occur to me that among the full-fledged possibilities he would be the best for Europe and Hungary. I never would have thought it, but it is nevertheless the case that I listened to this candidate and I must tell you that he made three proposals to stop terrorism. I could have hardly expressed  better as a European that which Europe needs. He said that the world’s best secret service must be established in America, that this is the precondition to everything. I agree with this. [. . .] The second thing the straightforward [derék] American presidential candidate said was that the policy of exporting democracy must be stopped. I couldn’t have expressed this more precisely, because, in the end, why are a massive number of migrants coming to Europe across the Mediterranean Sea at this moment? Because the Europeans and later the Westerners [Western powers] acting under the auspices of the UN, they successfully—we successfully—managed to crush the undemocratic, though from the standpoint of border defense extremely stable, Libyan system without making sure that a new government capable of providing stability came into being. We did the same thing in Syria, we did the same thing in Iraq too. The notion is true, therefore, that if we continue to place democracy-building in the forefront instead of stability in a region in which the success of this is extremely doubtful, then we aren’t going to build democracy, but cause instability.

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This [the failure of democracy building] is a big lesson with regard to the current Turkish events as well, which I naturally do not want to qualify, though if they ask me what our greatest expectation is, what Hungary’s greatest expectation is toward Turkey, then we will put stability in the first place. Of course the quality of political life there is not indifferent for us. Neither are human rights indifferent for us, especially because it is a question of a country that formally still wants to join the European Union, where these are fundamental, expected preconditions, though all in all, from the perspective of current life, it is more important that several tens of millions of people not tumble down upon the European Union with no screening, control or impediment of any kind.

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This [data showing the projected population increases in Egypt, Uganda, Ethiopia and Nigeria by the year 2050] clearly show that the truly great pressure is going to arrive to the continent [of Europe] from Africa. Today we are talking about Syria, today we are talking about Libya, but really we must prepare for population pressure from the region behind Libya and the magnitude of this is going to be much greater than that which we have experienced so far. This warns us that we must steel our wills. Border defense, especially when fences must be built and people must be stopped there, is a difficult thing to interpret aesthetically, but believe me, we cannot defend borders and therefore ourselves with flowers and stuffed animals. We must face this thing. At the same time, it is very important, and for us also very important from the perspective of the image that the outside world formulates of us, that we make it clear that we are not heartless people, thus we are able to make a precise distinction between migrants and migration. In most cases the figure of the migrant—of course not including the terrorists— is a victim, whom the unfortunate situation, the increasingly difficult possibilities for subsistence at home, bad government, our bad, enticing migration policy and the human smugglers have made into victims. We understand this, we know this precisely. However, migration, as I said, is killing us. And migration is embodied in the person of the migrant, thus no matter how much we empathize with them and see them as victims, we must stop them at our fence and make it clear that whomever enters illegally must, according to the laws, be put in prison or expelled from Hungary. Esteemed ladies and gentlemen, esteemed free university, there is no friendlier form of defense. Of course [it must be] in a human, lawful and transparent manner, but we must resolutely do this.

——–

After all this I must state, summarizing what I have said so far, that Europe has lost its global role, has become as a regional player, is not capable of defending its own citizens, is not capable of defending its own external borders and is not capable of keeping the community together, since the United Kingdom has just left it. What more is needed for us to say that the European political leadership has failed. It cannot achieve a single one of its objectives. Thus when we convene in Bratislava in September, we don’t need beauty spots, sweeping under the carpet and whitewashing, but we must clearly state that we must come together and talk about the future of Europe because Europe’s present political leadership has failed. We must make it clear that our problem isn’t in Mecca, but in Brussels; for us, the Brussels bureaucrats represent the obstacle, not Islam.   

——–

Today “old Europe” means Europe that is incapable of change. They [old Europe] are the founding members of the European Union, they are they are the ones who introduced the eurozone and are very visibly stagnating. And there is another Europe, those whom were admitted to the European Union later, whom are said to be the “new Europe.” This, on the other hand, is viable, full of energy, capable of renewal and is looking for answers to the new challenges and thus forms an important part of our continent. This is why I think that perhaps the differentiation between the old and the new Europe is much less offensive for us now than it was previously.

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Today in Poland there is no economic crisis. In Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary—I don’t dare comment on the case of Romania—young people think that the old European dream is still valid: if they abide by the laws, if they respect their parents, if they listen to them and their advice regarding the future, and if they work diligently, then a Polish, a Czech, a Slovak and a Hungarian young person will certainly live better and get farther ahead than his [or her] parents. This is the European dream, this is still valid in the new Europe, in Central Europe.

——–

In response to a question following his speech, Prime Minister Orbán stated that NATO, though an “important and good thing,” is no longer capable of guaranteeing peace in Europe, thus he advocates the establishment of a common European army that could function “without the Anglo-Saxons [the United States and the United Kingdom] and the Russians.”

Orbán also expressed support for the creation of a common Visegrád Group army, though rejected the notion of expanding the number of members in the alliance composed of Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary.

The prime minister said that the prospective common European and Visegrád Group armies were needed to defend Europe in the “east and south” and would be closely connected to defense of the continent against terrorism and migration (source in Hungarian).

 

¹ The motto of the 27th Tusványos Summer University and Student Camp: “We were, are and will be at home here in Europe” (Itthon voltunk, vagyunk, leszünk Európában).

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Prime Minister Orbán’s March 15 Speech

Prime Minister Orbán waves to audience following his speech on March 15, 2016 (photo: MTI).

Prime Minister Orbán waves to audience following his speech on March 15, 2016 (photo: MTI).

On March 15, 2016, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán delivered his annual speech outside the Hungarian National Museum in Budapest commemorating the anniversary of the 1848 Hungarian Revolution against Habsburg rule. Below is an Orange Files translation of the speech (source in Hungarian).

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Esteemed celebrators!

Europe is not free, because freedom starts with the statement of truth. Today in Europe it is forbidden to state the truth. Even if made of silk, a muzzle remains a muzzle. It is forbidden to state that those who are currently arriving are not refugees, but that a mass migration threatens Europe. It is forbidden to state that immigration brings crime and terror into our countries. It is forbidden to state that those who arrive from other civilizations represent a danger to our way of life, our culture, our customs and our Christian traditions. It is forbidden to state that instead of assimilating, those who arrived earlier have built a separate-entry world for themselves with their own laws and their own ideals that pry the millennial European frameworks apart. It is forbidden to state that this is not an incidental and unintentional chain of consequences, but a planned-out and guided action, a mass of people directed upon us. It is forbidden to state that in Brussels they are currently scheming to transport foreigners here as quickly as possible and to settle them among us. It is forbidden to say that the objective of this settlement is to redraw the religious and cultural patterns of Europe, to rebuild its ethnic footings, thereby eliminating the nation-states that represent the last impediment to the Internationale. It is forbidden to state that Brussels is today stealthily swallowing more and more slices of our national sovereignty, that in Brussels many are today working on the plan for a European United States for which nobody ever granted them the authority.

See entire speech.

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Holiday Tidings from Viktor and Co.

In the days prior to Christmas, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, National Assembly Speaker László Kövér and Prime Ministry chief János Lázár—the most powerful officials in the Orbán administration along with Prime Ministerial Cabinet Office chief Antal Rogán—conducted long interviews with the pro-government newspaper Magyar Idők, the pro-government website PestiSrácok.hu and the opposition newspaper Népszava, respectively. Below are Orange Files-translated quotes and excerpts from these interviews published between December 22 and December 24, 2015.

Prime Minister Orbán in Magyar Idők (source in Hungarian).

Regarding the Political Affiliation of Migrants

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán (source: Magyar Idők).

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán (source: Magyar Idők).

“According to available surveys, the large majority of immigrants will be left-wing voters. This factor upsets the entire system of European party-politics that developed from Christian foundations. In ten years, the people who have been let in now will be citizens along with their family members. We must clearly understand that the person who has come from Islam will not vote for a Christian-based party—we wouldn’t do this either in the opposite case—but will gravitate toward the left wing, because there it will at least not be necessary to come to terms with the Christian foundations. After a certain amount of time, if there are enough of them [migrants], they will organize their own political interest representation, which for the same reason will work together with the left wing. The traditional political balance of our continent, which is founded upon intellectual and political competition between the left wing and the right wing, will be overturned.”

Regarding Orbán Government and European Union Migration Policy

“We would have been happy if the majority of our European Union partners would have agreed from the beginning with what the Hungarian government thinks about the [migration] situation. If it would have been this way, today there would be a couple tens of thousands of genuine refugees in Europe, not one million migrants. However, most European leaders espoused the philosophy of Willkommenskultur and by the time they could modify their opinions the crisis had become unmanageable.”

Regarding Merkel Government Migration Policy

“Angela Merkel has been forced to govern in grand coalition since the most recent German elections. Not only does her Christian-democratic party, the CDU, not have a majority in the Berlin parliament, but the right wing, itself, does not have a majority either. Although the CDU won the elections, the only reason it can govern is that the left wing parties cannot come to an agreement with one another. I think that the German and European left has forced upon the German chancellor the migration policy that she is presently compelled to pursue.”

Regarding Hungary and Proposed European Union Migrant Resettlement Quotas

“Letting the migrants in is hardly a correctable mistake. Moreover, [there exists] this question of principle: can somebody from outside Hungary tell us ‘you Hungarians must live with people you don’t want to live with.’ This doesn’t depend on whether this means ten, one hundred or one million people. Here we are defending our national sovereignty. If the Hungarian parliament decides to do so, then we will accept refugees, though we will never under any circumstances allow Brussels to force a quota system upon us.”

Regarding European Union Integration

“The Eurozone is the core of the European Union—they [members of the Eurozone] must achieve new successes. For a long time these countries proceeded in the direction of deeper integration, though this process has faltered. If they can escape from this pitfall, then the future of the European Union could be beautiful. If not, then we must confront some truly serious issues throughout Europe.”

Regarding National Sovereignty

“The first [objective] would be to increase our national sovereignty. For the Hungarians, there is no European mass that represents a guaranteed better future in which we would be better off than as a strong nation. This is an important matter for us emotionally, historically and materially as well.”

Regarding Hungary’s European Union Developmental Funding

“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.”

Regarding Eastern Europe and Same-Sex Marriage

“There exists a dividing line that begins in the Baltics and runs all the way along the western borders of Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Slovenia [sic]. To the west of this line lie countries that, for example, have already abandoned family protection; everywhere to the east of the line, on the other hand, family-friendly policy has prevailed and nowhere is same-sex marriage accepted.”

Regarding Democracy and Freedom of the Speech in Hungary

“With regard to the alleged democracy problem, it is enough to say open one or two newspapers, surf around the internet and they will immediately see that the freedom of speech and opinion that represents the foundation and central element of every democracy is living and thriving and indeed is broader and deeper than in Western Europe—something which, by the way, I never would have believed [would be the case].”

Regarding Jobbik

“With regard to the right-wing opposition [Jobbik], one must simply show the truth—the criminal background that was always characteristic of the radical world in Hungary.”

Regarding China

“We must face the fact that China will become the number-one economic power in the world in the near future. A few years, and this will be true of its military power as well. Does anybody know, perchance, what kind of world this will be? What will our world be like if Anglo-Saxon dominance dissipates? How will the Chinese assert their interests? Will Europe be the rear courtyard or the front garden of this [process]?”

For more quotes from Prime Minister Orbán see Notable Quotes: Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

National Assembly Speaker Kövér in PestiSrácok.hu (source in Hungarian).

Regarding the Enemies of the United States

National Assembly Speaker László Kövér (source: PestiSrácok.hu)

National Assembly Speaker László Kövér (PestiSrácok.hu)

“As a Hungarian political official and legislator I gradually and with even greater surprise faced the fact that the United States requires an enemy number one. Since the Soviet Union collapsed, it was necessary to find an enemy elsewhere. There was a time when everybody had to fight on the side of the USA against members of the Russian-speaking underworld, for example Semion Mogilevich. Subsequently there came an even more effective chief villain in the person of Osama bin Laden. Then after a period of uncertainty, they succeeded in identifying in the image of Russia a common enemy that would hold the empire together, thereby provoking a protracted conflict in Ukraine which—just coincidentally—divided Europe. Then the faceless demon of corruption appeared as the chief enemy threatening the national security of the USA from Alaska to Patagonia, from Greenland to the Antarctic.”

Regarding the Government Policy of the United States  

“I would be a mistake to moralize excessively regarding the unscrupulousness of American policy because it has a foundation in principle: the unrelenting representation of the business interests that stand behind the American government.”

Regarding the Pax Americana

“Many hoped in vain that after 1989, when the USA overwhelmed (legyűrte) the Soviet Union, that the liberal world peace, that is, the Pax Americana, had arrived. This is not what happened. There is a need for newer and newer enemies, conflicts and artificial disorder so that the military mechanism can remain in motion.”

Regarding the Military Intervention against the Islamic State

“Can anybody tell me which side is pursuing precisely what objectives in the campaign against the Islamic State? The countries of central Europe are playing the role of pawn in this game of chess, though it is fortunate that they are finally beginning to recognize their own interests. All of this began with the story of Cain and Abel and whoever has the most power always plays the role of Cain. Because he wants even more power.”

Regarding the Cause of the Migration Crisis

“None of this would have occurred if they [the West] hadn’t to bombed to pieces viable, though undoubtedly not overly elegant, states. Thus none of this would have taken place if the most important foundation of traditional world politics had prevailed—the maintenance of the status quo—and the West had not become entangled in adventurist actions that brought even more deadly chaos upon the liberated peoples in place of the murderous régimes. Still I can’t believe that the fact that Europe hasn’t been so weak for a long time causes a big headache for the United States. It [Europe] has hardly recovered from the global economic crisis, which, nota bene, the United States again dumped on our heads, and the second unsolvable crisis is already here—migration.”

Regarding the Motives for Settling Migrants

“The president of the Daimler concern made it clear not long ago: they need migrants for maintaining economic growth and to somehow counterbalance the consequences of the country’s [Germany’s] demographic catastrophe. Of course, it will not be big industry that will pay the social expenses of migration—for them it is enough if ten percent of the immigrants are capable of undertaking work. The taxpayers will support the rest. And here is where the twist comes: the mass of migrants represents not only cheap labor, but at the same time the electoral base that means survival for the left wing which everywhere is being squeezed from the vicinity of power.”

Regarding Left-Wing Political Strategy

“Permanent liberation is the vital component (lételem) of the left wing. They always want to coax more and more multitudes of people into the status of oppressed pariah in order to produce the possibility of ‘liberation.’ I would not like to offend migrants of the Muslim faith, but with regard to the liberateable (felszabadítható) masses, there is no difference between them and, let’s say, transgender people in the eyes of the left wing.”

Regarding the Social Responsibility of Raising Children

“Under what right do those—and I am not thinking of people who cannot raise a child due to circumstances beyond their control—who do nothing for the birth of new generations expect anything from the community? . . . Those who regard emphasis on the importance of raising children in itself to represent unacceptable interference in the intimate sphere should not when old and sick ask anything of those who responsibly and affectionately raised tax-paying children who are capable of sustaining society.”

Regarding the Private vs. the Public Sphere

“I consider the demand that nobody interfere in the lives of others to be a strange attitude. What are the legal and continually dwindling moral rules regarding social coexistence all about if not that the community and society ‘interfere’ in the lives of its members.”

For more quotes from National Assembly Speaker Kövér see: National Assembly Speaker László Kövér.

Prime Ministry Chief Lázár in Népszava (source in Hungarian).

Regarding Hungary’s European Union Developmental Funding

Prime Ministry chief János Lázár (source: Népszava).

Prime Ministry chief János Lázár (source: Népszava).

“We indeed receive resources and assistance necessary for our catching up (felzárkózásunk) through the EU Cohesion Fund. We get this because in 2004 we said the free flow of capital, people and goods can take place, we provided access to our markets, we have no protective tariffs. This was very much worth it for the European Union. Nine trillion forints is a lot of money, of which we paid in three trillion forints, thus five-six trillion forints is what Hungary receives in net terms from the EU. We also pay [contributions to the European Union], for example, in that we cannot protect our own products with tariffs, that there are few Hungarian banks and so on. We relinquished a significant portion of our national self-determination. We will never know how much the German economy gained from the 2004 central European enlargement. [It was] very much. Much more than they give to us.”

Regarding European Union Integration

“Let there be no misunderstanding—we do not want to deepen integration any further. From our standpoint, the EU is primarily an economic community of values and interests—not a political one. However, they now want to force political values upon us. I accept that for them this is a value and I respect this as well, but Hungarian society cannot and will not accept this [idea] as its own. There was no question of this in 2004.”

Regarding European Union Integration

“The Visegrád Group [Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary] regards the new level of integration with concern. Brussels wants to shove deepening integration down our throats and is using the immigrants to do this. We do not want to surrender any more of our sovereignty. The most important question over the next ten years from Hungary’s point of view is how much independence it will be possible to preserve. This is the essence of Fidesz policy—everything must be seen in this light. We want more Hungary and less Brussels.”

Regarding Founding Members of Fidesz within the Party Leadership

I am prepared to recognize that there is strong cohesion among the founders of Fidesz—they can truly finish one another’s sentences. I don’t see dictatorship of opinion in this: they are just this way—they think alike. One of the greatest experiences of my political career was the meeting of the Fidesz presidium at which we debated the draft of the Fundamental Law. The participants in the debate—Viktor Orbán, László Kövér, János Áder and József Szájer—were not only capable of finishing one another’s sentences, but represented a haute école of politics.

Regarding Political Refugees vs. Economic Migrants

“Everybody quickly recognized that these [the 2015 migrants to Europe] weren’t political refugees. We do not want to accept economic immigrants.”

Regarding Non-European Migration to Europe

“We must support [the notion] that everybody be allowed to prosper in their own homeland. We cannot permit part of the world to depart for Europe just because they live worse in 150 countries than they do in the European Union.”

Regarding Immigration to Hungary

“Hungary is in a special situation. If we need labor or tax payers, then we can call Hungarians home from Subcarpathian Ukraine or the Vojvodina (Délvidék). We don’t need to undertake the social and cultural risk of accepting massive groups of immigrants since there are no linguistic or cultural differences with our compatriots beyond the borders—they are us.”

For more quotes from Prime Ministry chief Lázár see: Minister in Charge of the Prime Ministry János Lázár.

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Hell-lo Dictator!

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban is greeted by President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker on the second day of the fourth European Union (EU) eastern Partnership Summit in Riga, on May 22, 2015 as Latvia holds the rotating presidency of the EU Council. EU leaders and their counterparts from Ukraine and five ex-Soviet states hold a summit focused on bolstering their ties, an initiative that has been undermined by Russia's intervention in Ukraine. AFP PHOTO / JANEK SKARZYNSKI

Prime Minister Orbán returns greeting from European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker at the Eastern Partnership Summit in Riga, Latvia          (photo: AFP).

On May 21, 2015, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, the top European Union-level official, individually greeted the heads of all delegations attending the Eastern Partnership Summit in Riga, Latvia.

Standing on stage between Prime Minister Donald Tusk of Poland and Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma of Latvia, Juncker commented in a loud, jocular voice as Prime Minister Viktor Orbán of Hungary approached: “the dictator is coming.” Juncker then extended his arm to shake hands and addressed Orbán directly as “dictator” and playfully slapped him on the side of the head (see video of greeting).

Many Hungarians, even those who oppose Orbán, voiced objection to Juncker’s condescending treatment of the prime minister. President Gábor Vona of the radical-nationalist Jobbik party wrote on his Facebook page (source in Hungarian):

I am also the leader of an opposition party, and I also have innumerable problems with Viktor Orbán and his policies, but this is an instance when I think that I must set my political affiliations aside. As a simple Hungarian citizen, I protest that which took place.

Obviously there are many lessons, everybody can draw their own. Two now occur to me:

1. Do they look at Hungary and its leader like this in the EU?

2. As Europeans, should we regard this person [Juncker]  as an authority and a leader?

At the other end of the political spectrum, Márk Herczeg of the liberal-democratic website 444.hu, one of the most popular and influential anti-Orbán media outlets in Hungary, wrote the following (source in Hungarian):

One does not have to be a specialist on protocol to see: Jean-Claude Juncker is a true moron. . . . Juncker has fallen to a level of boorishness unprecedented in the history of the EU, one that calls to mind Latin American dictators. . . . Who is leading Europe now, a lunatic or an enormous bumpkin? The scariest and most likely answer: both.

This is not the first time Juncker has publicly humiliated Orbán: in January 2015, the head of the European Union led Hungary’s prime minister off stage by the hand following a photo op in Brussels as if he were a child (see Back in the Fold?). In Juncker’s defense, he welcomed most delegation leaders to the May 2015 Eastern Partnership Summit in uncommonly casual and chummy terms (see video of all greetings). However, he reserved his only politically charged comment for Prime Minister Orbán, whom he—as many European Union officials—manifestly regards as an authoritarian renegade who has spurned the organization’s fundamental democratic ideals. Orange Files wonders based on the indignation that Juncker’s off-color greeting of Orbán in Riga aroused among Hungarians of diverse political stripes if growing European Union criticism and potential ostracism of Hungary’s prime minister might actually serve to enhance his political power rather than to undermine it?

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Back in the Fold?

On January 23, 2015, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán held talks with European Union officials in Brussels during which they discussed his recent comments against non-European immigration (see Je Suis Viktor) and the impending official visit to Hungary of Russian President Vladimir Putin (source in Hungarian).

After the talks Prime Minister Orbán and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker shook hands and smiled for the cameras. However, instead of loosening his grip at the end of the joint photo-op, Juncker said “Let’s go now!” and led Orbán off stage by the hand in a gesture calculated to symbolize the assertion of European Union authority over the previously defiant, euro-skeptic prime minister of Hungary (see video below).

 

 

Until recently, Orbán would not have allowed himself to be placed in a position of such blatant and humiliating subordination, particularly toward an official from the European Union. 

However, over the past couple of months his position has weakened considerably both internally and externally:

According to all five major polling companies in Hungary, the popularity of the prime minister’s FideszChristian Democratic People’s Party (KDNP) governing alliance has declined sharply among Hungarian voters since October (source in Hungarian);

Unprecedented public conflict has taken place among Fidesz government and National Assembly officials since November, suggesting that the Orbán administration’s previously rock-solid internal cohesion is diminishing (see Another Cleft in the Monolith);

Officials from the dominant countries within in the European and Euro-Atlantic alliances that provide Hungary with vital developmental funding and military protection—Germany and the United States—have sent strong messages to the Orbán government that they will no longer tolerate its autocratic and explicitly illiberal domestic policies (see Proclamation of the Illiberal Hungarian State) and reluctance to support collective measures designed to penalize the Putin administration for Russia’s occupation of Crimea and proxy attacks on Ukraine (see Teutonic Shift and The Spectacular Fall);

And the main foreign-policy endeavor of the Orbán government, building (economic) ties with the rapidly developing states of Asia, Eurasia and the Middle East through in what it refers to as Eastern Opening [keleti nyitás], has failed to produce the anticipated results (source in Hungarian).

The above factors, coupled with the greater emphasis that European states have placed on internal unity to combat Jihadist terrorism following the Charlie Hebdo attacks in early January 2015, have apparently compelled Prime Minister Orbán to at least temporarily steer Hungary back toward the western political sphere.

The political force in Hungary that stands to benefit the most from Orbán’s volte-face: the radical-nationalist Jobbik party, which opinion polls show has gained popularity among Hungarian voters as that of Fidesz-KDNP has declined (see source in Hungarian and 24 Bastions). Jobbik will likely generate significant political profit from the anti-liberal, anti-capitalist, anti-European Union, anti-West sentiment that Prime Minister Orbán has so proficiently incited among Hungarians over the past five years in order to legitimize his authoritarian domestic policies, though now appears ready to moderate or abandon.

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Sign of Things to Come

The Orbán government has recently put up signs like that shown below all over Budapest, ostensibly in response to the European Union’s suspension of developmental funding for Hungary until it receives more detailed information regarding the country’s administration of such EU support since the Prime Ministry assumed this task from the National Development Ministry late last summer (see source in Hungarian).

DSC_0909

LET’S TELL BRUSSELS: RESPECT THE HUNGARIANS!

This is the same tactic the Orbán government used during its frequent conflict with the European Union during the 2010–2014 parliamentary cycle: attempt to rally support among the population by suggesting that the EU has attacked or disparaged the Hungarian people as a whole. This ominous sign suggests that the Orbán government’s relations with the European Union are likely to remain just as bad or perhaps become even worse over the next four years as they have been over the past four years.

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