In a world of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act, George Orwell

Indignez-vous ! Stéphane Hessel

“Le courage c’est de chercher la vérité et de la dire ; c’est de ne pas subir la loi du mensonge triomphant qui passe, et de ne pas faire écho, de notre âme, de notre bouche et de nos mains aux applaudissements imbéciles et aux huées fanatiques ”.” – Djordje Kuzmanovic

lundi 27 octobre 2014

Blog Hungary’s Orban under the microscope [eng]

Hungary’s Orban under the microscope

Is a US inspired “colour revolution” or so called “ regime change” going to take place in Hungary?

Apparently, those who constantly throw together new ‘colour revolutions’ consider themselves ‘brilliant artists’ and simply cannot stop. 
Vladimir Putin, Valdai Club 2014

The turning point 

There have been a number of moves by the US and the EU underfoot, putting Hungary under the spotlight for its apparent unwillingness to uphold democratic values.  Victor Orban has been the Prime Minister of Hungary 3 times and was re-elected again in April 2014 with a majority of just over 44%.

The alarm bells probably started ringing loudly in the US and the EU when Orban gave a speech on 26 July 2014, where he stated that “And so in this sense the new state that we are constructing in Hungary is an illiberal state, a non-liberal state.”  He did also mention “similarly to the statements I quoted for you earlier, was also categorised as blasphemy by the liberal world. We had to state that a democracy does not necessarily have to be liberal. Just because a state is not liberal, it can still be a democracy.” He also quoted as “The stars of the international analysts today are Singapore, China, India, Russia and Turkey.Nb1

 Orban’s speech focuses on the alterative systems to the US led hegemony on so called democratic values. The EU minister of Norway, Vidar Helgesen recently stated in a twitter that “Hungary is failing the democracy test -- and the international community finally seems to be taking action”.  Nb2

The US angle

It has become noticeable that the US administration lately is getting more and hotter under their collar with regards to Victor Orban. Why is this so?  The answer is principally is because of his public recalcitrance towards EU sanctions against Russia. Orban stated back in August that the EU sanctions were like ““shooting oneself in the foot.” Some possible context to why he said this:

  •        Around 80% of Hungary’s natural gas comes from Russia, (via Ukraine);
  •       2.55 billion euros worth of exports to Russia in 2013 alone- (exports potentially slashed);
  •       10 billion euro contract with Russia company to upgrade the Paks nuclear plant, (now potentially in jeopardy);
  •       Heavy involvement with the $40 billion South Stream gas pipeline project, (on hold)

The Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto recently stated that Hungary was losing over $200,000 every due to the EU sanctions against Russia.   Despite this, the U.S. Chargé d’Affaires André Goodfriend publicly voiced in a news conference last week, the fact that Hungary “"stand firm with the EU, with EU sanctions." Nb3 He also criticised the Hungarian government for its involvement with South Stream, as well as the Paks nuclear plant contract. As absurd as it may seems, but this is not the only US official to publicly rebuke Hungary and tell it on how to behave within the EU.  Previously, it was the turn of Victoria Nuland, the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, back in September.  She lambasted Central Europe leaders, (and also taking a side swipe at  the Hungary government in particular) by saying “"How can you sleep under your NATO Article 5 blanket at night while pushing ‘illiberal democracy' by day; whipping up nationalism; restricting free press; or demonizing civil society?" Nb4

It is now very clear that the US administration is intensely hostile to the South Stream, only because of the source of the gas, Russia and not the route, since Andre Goodfriend said on the 24th of October: "We disagree with that approach, because we think that diversifying sources is what's important,” taking issue with the fact that Hungary is not trying hard enough to diversify its gas sources.  Two days previously, the Hungarian Parliament proposed new legislation on South Stream without the need for the EU’s oversight over this matter. Nb5

Washington and Brussels are furious about the Hungarian government’s moves concerning Russian natural gas imports. Hungary stopped the reverse gas flow to Ukraine, supposedly for “technical reasons”, which left Kiev literally out in the cold, and extremely unhappy.  This happened just a few days after Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller met Hungarian PM Orbán on 22 September in Budapest. No doubt both these events were viewed dimly by both the EU and the US. Nb6

“The presumption that we will fall into the arms of the Russian bear is pure fear-mongering. We are NATO and EU members,” Victor Orban, July 2014

Hungary is in both the EU and in NATO, has committed some troops to the NATO Readiness Action Plan (RAP) in Eastern Europe, and is also upgrading the Papa airbase as a NATO base.  Additionally; there was a controversy that rumbled on in Budapest regarding the sale of T 72 tanks to Ukraine, via the Czech Republic.

Yet, the EU/ USA Mainstream Media Network (MSN) have been spinning their stories on Hungary and Victor Orban ever since he first raised objections to the EU sanctions back in March. 

Orban is quoted by the Huffington Times article, (20/07/14), as being Putin’s “nationalist right wing allies in neighboring Hungary.” The article continues to state that “Orbán has cultivated ties to none other than Vladimir Putin who already seeks effective partition of Ukraine.”  [Ed’s Note: Could this be the same partition that Sikorski, the ex-Polish Foreign Minister mentioned but then later retracted as being untrue?]. Nb7

First came the veiled threats from the US Administration. Victoria Nuland said on  2nd of October:  I ask the same of those who shield crooked officials from prosecution; bypass parliament when convenient; or cut dirty deals that increase their countries’ dependence on one source of energy despite their stated policy of diversification.” Two weeks later, the US administration in mid-October signaled their displeasure by slapping a travel ban on 6 Hungarians officials, citing “Proclamation 7750” on corruption ‘issues’.  Although a Reuters article on the subject deftly turned this reason on its head and gave the reason as being “as a warning to Budapest to reverse policies that threatened to undermine democratic values.

Reportedly, Hungary is the only NATO ally to have been affected by such an US travel ban. The Hungarian government was left perplexed and considers the travel bans as groundless until the reasons are revealed by Washington.  Nb8 Nevertheless, it has caused a stir in Budapest, which was quickly followed up the comments of the U.S. Chargé d’Affaires André Goodfriend, who said that “Hungary should move from guessing who has been banned from entering the United States towards trying to find ways to co-operate with the U.S. in combating corruption.”

EU angle

The EU Norwegian minister, Vidar Helgesen,  allegedly said, “When the Hungarian government is challenging these values it challenges the EU itself.” The EU, who are said to be losing patience too and in October, there were glimpses of this annoyance. The EU Hungarian political scene was muddied when EU MEPs blocked the Hungarian nominee, Tibor Navracsics, for the post of Commissioner of education, culture, youth and citizenship. This was because of Navracsis' doubious record on supporting a "civil society" in Hungary.

The Trans-Carpathian dimension

Victor Orban visited Transcarpathia at the end of September, located in western Ukraine, home to about 162,000 Hungarians.  He gave a speech about Ukrainian relations: “We need a strong neighbor. We hope that there will be peace in your country. We want an open dialogue and are willing to cooperate and support. Our doors are always open for you, we will help to solve the problems that you announce". Yet this provoked a negative response from the US official, André Goodfriend, as he said that Hungary "to understand the sensitivities on the ethnic nationalism question."   This was an oblique reference to Hungary’s interests in Transcarpathia, amongst other regions.

A lot of the Trans Carpathian Hungarians voted for Viktor Yanukovich in the 2010 Ukrainian elections, which doesn’t sit well with the likes of the uber-Ukrainian nationalist groups ‘Svoboda’ or ‘Pravy Sektor’, who unsurprisingly took over some public buildings in the region and proceeded to trash them “Maidan square style”.  The serious threat of Ukrainian nationalism is of extreme concern to the Hungarian minority and consequently they are fearful for their future.

NGOs raided

At the beginning of September, the Hungarian authorities made moves against a number of foreign-back “civil society” NGOs based in Hungary, over alleged financial mismanagement. This triggered a wave of criticism including the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU) who released a press statement with the following heading: “The EU Cannot Remain Silent About the Putinization of Hungary Any Longer”. Nb9

Two NGOs were specifically targeted, Ökotárs and Demnet, both connected to Norway NGO Grant, thereby provoking a diplomatic spate with the Norwegian government. Interestingly, Okotars is also the civil society implementing partner in Hungary of the U.S. Agency for International Development, (USAID). A week later, Hungary got a special mention in a speech made by President Obama back in September, where he said: “From Hungary to Egypt, endless regulations and overt intimidation increasingly target civil society.” The only EU and NATO country to be mentioned, along with the likes of Russia, China, Venezuela, Cuba and Burma.

The last word from the US

If that trend continues it may reach a level where the United States can no longer cooperate with Hungary as an ally.” Statement made by André Goodfriend.

The precedent has been recently set in Ukraine, where a democratically elected leader was violently overthrown, simply because he did not fit into the “international community’s democratic values”, by not respecting the wishes of the Maidan “civil society” groups and NGOs in February 2014. Indeed, the Euro-Atlantic bloc, along with the rest of the so called “international community” were so desperate to  bring in Ukraine into their sphere of influence, that they allied themselves with zealot anti-Russian ultra-nationalists and fascists Ukrainian groups. 

Internet Tax Protests

Not long ago, the Hungarian government proposed a new law on taxing the use of the internet, which has resulted in massive protests in Budapest on Sunday. The protest rally organizers of '100,000 against the Internet tax' have called the proposed law “anti-democratic” and also  described the proposals as the move  “… follows a wave of alarming anti-democratic measures by Orban that is pushing Hungary even further adrift from Europe.”

Moreover, protestors have attacked the offices of Orban’s Fidesz ruling party. All of the Western press has heaped criticism on Orban and his government.  Is this the start of a new Maidan in Budapest? 

It has come to my attention that one of the participants in Sunday's event is none other than Andre Goodfriend; was he merely an observer or was there more to his attendance. It seems that on face value, the US administration's signal is crystal  clear. Another noteworthy attendee was the ex Budapest mayor, Budapest Gabor Demszky from the SZDSZ party.  András Bencsik,
chief editor of the newspaper Demokrata, reacted to the event by comparing the rally to Ukraine: “football hooligans and liberals, just like in the case of the Kiyv Maidan”.Nb10

Another Twitter message of support came from none other than the EU  Vice-President of the European Commission Neelie Kroes:

The first shots of an US - Hungarian diplomatic fallout have already rung out in October.  Could the internet tax protest be the catalyst for what ultimately could be a US sponsored regime change, right in the heart of the EU and NATO hegemony?

 References and Notes:

  • Nb1a
    “    "This, Ladies and Gentlemen, is the explanation for the fact that the most popular topic in thinking today is trying to understand how systems that are not Western, not liberal, not liberal democracies and perhaps not even democracies, can nevertheless make their nations successful. The stars of the international analysts today are Singapore, China, India, Russia and Turkey.”

    1b -

Nb 4

Nb 6 -  Interestingly, Hungarian officials cited that additional gas supplies were being stored in preparation for winter consumption, as well as for neighboring states to buy. Several days after this was announced, Dusan Bajatovic, the chief executive of Serbia's Srbijagas stated that it was looking to secure supplies from Hungary. Moreover, at that time, gas flow to Serbia was down by 20 percent. Interesting turn of events.

 Nb 7a -

7b  “He wanted us to become participants in this partition of Ukraine. ... This was one of the first things that Putin said to my prime minister, Donald Tusk, when he visited Moscow,” Sikorski was quoted as saying in a 19 October interview with Politico magazine.


Nb 9a


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