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).



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.


Mass Mobilization 101

Orbán's newest letter.

Orbán’s newest letter.

Citizens of Hungary have this week received another letter from Viktor Orbán, the sixth the prime minister has sent to all adults in the country over the past three years as part of his government’s National Consultation [Nemzeti Konzultáció] campaign. This letter informs them of “Hungary’s victory” in the “battle” to have the European Union lift the Excessive Deficit Procedure that had been in place against Hungary since the country joined the European Union in 2004.  Below is an Orange Files translation of the letter: 

Dear Compatriots!

I would like to share with you good news affecting all Hungarian people.

The European Union has been obliged to lift the Excessive Deficit Procedure it has maintained against our homeland since 2004. We therefore have access to all EU funding due to Hungarians. This means that Hungary was victorious in an important battle.  

The EU launched the procedure against us, because our homeland’s budget deficit significantly exceeded the permitted level every year at the time of the previous governments.

People decided in favor of change in 2010. With your mandate we have put the country’s financial affairs in order. As a result, we have met, in fact exceeded, stipulated conditions for the last three years.

The EU has bowed before the facts and finally recognized the achievements of the Hungarian people and the effectiveness of Hungarian crisis management.

We, Hungarians, have accomplished this success together. The work, effort, support and common sacrifice of every single Hungarian person was necessary for this.

I would like to thank you as well for contributing to Hungary’s victory.

With Regards and Esteem,

Viktor Orbán

Budapest, July 2013

The explicit message of this letterPrime Minister Orbán has led the Hungarians to victory in battle against a powerful foreign adversary. 

The implicit message of this letter: Hungarians should continue to support their leader, because there are more such battles to be fought in the future. 

The fundamental claim of this letter: The European Union was arbitrarily refusing to recognize that Hungary had satisfied the EU requirement for members states to have a government deficit of less than three percent of GDP. 

The reality not expressed in this letter: The European Union was not disputing the fact that Hungary’s government deficit had fallen below three percent of GDP, but the sustainability of the means used to bring it below the required level. 

The literal cost of this letter: 140 forints per letter, sent via priority mail to all adult citizens in a country of ten-million people. The online news website has calculated that the twelve previous letters the government dispatched as part of the National Consultation, including six sent to targeted groups of citizens, cost Hungarian taxpayers around 3.3 billion forints (11.1 million euros). 

The figurative cost of this letter: another authoritarian blow to the crumbling edifice of liberal democracy in Hungary. 


Swallowing the Frog

Orbán the Bullshitter

Prime Minister Orbán speaking to the National Assembly on July 4, 2013.

The Orbán government reacted in predictable fashion to the European Union’s July 3 approval of the Tavares Report criticizing it for undermining fundamental democratic rights in Hungary: the EU doesn’t really object in principle to what we are doing, but is engaging in petty party politics at the bidding of corporate lobbyists who want to get back at us for reducing exorbitant company profits to the benefit of the people.

Speaking at a session of the National Assembly on July 4, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said that the Tavares report is “unjust” and “hostile toward Hungarians” and that it “gravely insults Hungary” and “violates Hungary’s sovereignty.” Orbán also called the European Union “unjust” and accused the EU of “applying a double standard” toward Hungary and “abusing its power.” He claimed that corporate interests had instigated the report as a means of countering the government’s utility-fee cuts, which harmed the interests of European corporations that “for years collected as much money as they could from Hungarian families.”

Speaking during one of his regular Friday-morning interviews on state-run Kossuth Radio on July 5, Orbán asserted that the Tavares Report was a “left-wing action” taken against the government because it had written a constitution that “is not liberal” and because European left-wing parties “cannot swallow the frog” (literal translation of a Hungarian idiom meaning “to swallow the bitter pill”) of Fidesz’s landslide election victory over the Hungarian Socialist Party in 2010. The prime minister said that these left-wing parties are intertwined with “capital interests” that are attempting to reverse the government’s bank tax and utility-fee cuts. Orbán claimed that “Not since the Soviet Union existed has any outside force had the audacity to openly, choosing a legal form, limit the independence of Hungarians.”

Later on July 5, FideszChristian Democratic People’s Party (KDNP) National Assembly representatives approved a resolution submitted by Fidesz caucus leader Antal Rogán and two others entitled “On the Equal Treatment due to Hungary.” Representatives from the Hungarian Socialist Party and Politics Can Be Different boycotted the vote on the resolution, while the six representatives present from the Democratic Coalition and Dialogue for Hungary voted against it. Only Fidesz-KDNP representatives voted to approve document, which speaks in the name of the entire nation. The following is an Orange Files translation of the resolution (source in Hungarian):

We Hungarians joined the family of European nations more than one-thousand years ago with the foundation of the state and the adoption of Christianity.

We Hungarians have stood up for European values on many occasions.

There were times when we defended these values with our blood in the face of external attacks. In 1956 we took up arms against the communist dictatorship. In 1989 we contributed to the reunification of Europe through the dismantling of the Iron Curtain.

We Hungarians joined the European Union of our own free will.

We did this in the hope that we had joined a community standing on the foundation of law,  justice and freedom.

We Hungarians do not want a Europe in which freedom is limited and is not permitted to develop to its fullest. We do not want a Europe in which the stronger abuses its power, in which the sovereignty of nations is violated and in which the smaller must honor the bigger.

We had enough of dictates in the forty years spent behind the Iron Curtain.

We Hungarians have always honored the initiative of competent European Union institutions to engage in dialogue and have always been prepared to come to agreements conceived in the spirit of reason.

It is for this reason that we rightfully desire the respect and equal treatment due to Hungary from the institutions of the European Union.

We expect the European Union to honor the rights accorded to us following our accession just as it does with regard to every member state.

The Hungarian National Assembly voices its astonishment that the European Parliament adopted a resolution that it had no right to adopt and with which the European Parliament overstepped the boundaries of its authority. It arbitrarily establishes demands, arbitrarily introduces new procedures and creates new institutions that violate Hungary’s sovereignty as stipulated in the fundamental treaty of the European Union.

In this way the European Parliament is going against European values and placing the European Union on a dangerous path.

The fact that business interests are behind this abuse of power afflicting Hungary gives cause for further worry.

Hungary is decreasing the price of energy used by Hungarian families. This may harm the interest of several major European corporations, which used their monopolies to generate extra profit in Hungary for many years on end. It is unacceptable that the European Parliament is attempting to place pressure on our homeland in the interest of these major corporations.

The Hungarian National Assembly considers it dangerous for all of Europe if business interests are able to assert themselves without impediment within the European Union and are able to supersede the provisions of the fundamental treaty.

Today we approve a resolution aimed at defending Hungary’s sovereignty and the equality of Hungarian people within Europe.

We ask the government of Hungary not to yield to the pressure of the European Union, not to permit the rights guaranteed to the country in the fundamental treaty to be impaired and to continue the policies that serve to make the lives of Hungarian families easier.

The Orbán government’s claim that the European Parliament approved the Tavares Report at the behest of large energy companies seeking to reverse the government-imposed utility-fee cuts is especially absurd in light of the fact that the EP commissioned the report on February 16, 2012, more than nine months before Fidesz announced the mandatory ten-percent reduction in the price of household gas and electricity.