freelogoOur objective is to provide English speaking readers interested in Hungary with a well balanced view of political activities in Hungary by featuring contents from various printed and online sources together with our own commentaries. We are convinced that Hungary is built on all sorts of different ideas, thoughts and opinions and, despite of the new Media Law, our aim is to provide an alternative and reliable source of information – contrary to the one-sided press of the government – for those who want to hear the voice of a free Hungary.

This is what they say - Hungary in the international press

Flat Tax Hungary: Born of Tension and Division
Some people are getting excited about paying tax. They’re salivating at the prospect of European Transaction Tax, which, though continuing to face opposition from the UK under both Labour and Conservative governments, is widely seen as a just way of increasing government revenue and enabling social justice. As readers to SEJ would know, a European Transaction Tax is seen as enabling progressive taxation and undermining speculation. The new French government has also implemented progressive tax measures, in order to ensure that the most vulnerable bear less of the cost of austerity. We can question the cause of all cutbacks, and the best way to address the ongoing crisis, but the concept of the richest paying their fair share seems to be part of a growing consensus, and it’s getting some of us quite flustered.;utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+SEJColumns+%28Social+Europe+Journal+%C2%BB+Columns%29&utm_content=FaceBook


Hungary Gets First Prize for Creative Deficit Reduction

You have to hand it to Hungary's ruling Fidesz party. They are way out front when it comes to finding ingenious ways to plug the country's gaping deficit -- while not doing what the International Monetary Fund and common sense say they should.The latest proposals include one to borrow at least 60 billion forint ($272 million) from Hungarian citizens by selling them euro-denominated bonds. Another would grant residency to foreigners willing to buy 250,000 euros of Hungarian government bonds.

True, deals that trade visas for investment aren't unique: The U.S. fast-tracks green cards for foreign job creators, and a new Senate proposal calls for foreign investors in residential property to get visas to stay in the U.S. But trading residence for loans, especially if the deal provides access to another 25 countries, would be new.

The Eurobond issue would prove problematic and costly. The bonds will pay an interest rate of euro-area inflation plus 2.5 percentage points, or today about 5.2 percent. That's more than what Hungary would pay to borrow far more significant sums from the IMF. But because Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his government don't want to sign up to IMF conditions, Hungary has to pay more.

The other problem with the plan is that it's likely to exacerbate Hungary's credit drought. The government introduced some radical economic policies on taking power, including a flat income tax that promptly reduced tax revenues and grew the budget deficit, while failing to stimulate the economy. The government responded with special measures, such as an extra tax on the country's mainly foreign-owned banks. The banks responded by reining in corporate lending, further cutting the country's growth prospects.

Hungary's far right party gains as it targets Roma

Decades of animosity between Hungarians and ethnic Roma in this small town in western Hungary had attracted little attention until the far-right Jobbik party saw an opportunity to score a few political points.A protest rally organized by the party, a little after a brawl between a Roma family and some local people, turned into a running street battle that has left the town thoroughly shaken but which Jobbik was able to exploit for its own ends.

"Hungary is being held hostage by an outdated tyrant"- Viktor Orbán's government is returning the country to totalitarianism.

Hungary is a country on the edge. In the last twelve months it has undergone profound political reform and economic collapse but has been given almost no profile in Britain.The Constitution has been amended ten times in one year and then replaced all together. The Constitutional Court has been expanded and packed with allies of the Prime Minister. 200 judges have been forced to retire whilst a former party official now gets to decide which judge hears which case.

Election boundaries have been redrawn to ensure the ruling party would have won the last three elections (even the two they lost). Abortion and gay marriage is banned, whilst 238 churches were "de-recognised", leaving only 14 behind. The multi-party Election Commission has been removed and replaced with five party officials. An ominous Media Board has been given draconian powers to keep the press in check and impose vast fines for ambiguous offences.

To top it all, the President's private bodyguard is now the head of a new "anti-terror" force with unlimited powers to conduct secret surveillance, demand financial and medical records, and listen into phone calls without a warrant. All of this in contravention of a landmark 1989 court ruling that marked the end of the Communist secret state.

It was a cold dark day in late December and the clocks were striking thirteen.

In the name of tackling government inefficiency and the legacy of Communism, Prime Minister Viktor Orban's constitutional reforms undid two decades of democratic progress on 1st January 2012. In the heart of Europe, the rights and norms that underpinned the politics settlement have changed beyond recognition.

Orban's Fidesz Party won a super-majority of seats in the 2010 elections as the result of popular frustration and a disproportionate electoral system. But they used their position to systematically remove checks and balances, install political cronies, and ensure that such a sweeping popular change could never happen again.

Hungary has a proud tradition of democratic progress and the changes did not go unmarked.

There had been relatively few protests during the two decades of democracy, and so tens of thousands of people marching through the bitter winter cold demanded attention. Orban smiled and waved his hands.

Dissidents who led the underground movement against dictatorship and who helped the country transition to democracy pleaded with the EU not to "sit back and watch as [Hungary] is being held hostage by an outdated, provincial tyrant". Orban smiled and turned away.

Typically softly spoken Brussels bureaucrats issued sweeping denunciations and Hilary Clinton voiced grave concern. Orban smiled and carried on as before.

When Fidesz was swept to power in 2010, their campaign effectively channeled popular frustration. The economy was deep in recession and relied on IMF support to avoid bankruptcy, unemployment was soaring, and even the beleaguered euro was preferred to the forint.

The far-right ultra nationalist Jobbik party used similar campaign tactics. Their leaders railed against the EU, Roma, and Jews. Far from being shunned by the electorate, they were returned as the second largest party in Parliament and boasted one of the highest youth membership rates.

In 2010, Hungary was clearly demanding a dramatic change. However, in exchange for two years of sweeping reforms and stringent cutbacks, they have not said goodbye to hard times, merely their right to demand better. The economy is in such bad shape that last November the vehemently anti-IMF Orban was forced to go cap in hand to the very institution he derided. Not coincidently, his dramatic constitutional changes distracted attention from the stumbling pirouette.

This is the Hungary of today; constitutional manipulation, bubbling extremism, and economic crisis. However, the EU and IMF are in a strong position to promote change. In January, Orban dared the EU to act on their criticisms of the constitutional manipulation. On 6th September, this political brinkmanship was repeated with his rejection of a 15 billion euro IMF deal. But the economy is falling and popular frustration is rising.

Orban famously points to ghosts in the system – conspiracies outside, Roma within, and Communists everywhere. Rather than searching behind for the pantomime villain, Hungarians need to see the one right in front of them.

The EU and IMF are just prolonging the Orban charade by demanding cuts to pensions without making a tough stand for transparency, accountability, and the constitutional integrity of Hungary. They have the leverage to lift the curtain, but do they have the courage?

Hungary: going it alone?

Does Hungary want a deal with the IMF or not? Based on the latest evidence, the answer is: Maybe, but not at the IMF's price.

Hungarians Stage a Fast Over Rules for Voters

The dispute seems arcane, but in Hungary the passions behind it are running high — high enough that a former prime minister has begun a hunger strike over it.

Developments in Hungary have highlighted the fact that, though the European Union can wield significant influence over a country when it is applying to join, and can oblige the applicant nation to adopt reforms, it has much more limited leverage once the nation is admitted.

"We believe that these steps are not to make the elections more democratic, but instead are to limit the ability of people in Hungary to throw out the government democratically," said Ágnes Vadai, a parliamentary ally of the hunger strikers.

"We are here not just because of the government's changes but because we want to call the attention of the people to how the government is bringing down democracy," Ms. Vadai said.

Hungary, Armenia and the axe-murderer - Blunder in Budapest

On one level, the diplomatic crisis is surprising. Hungary's diplomats are usually smart, supple and well-informed. During the Libyan crisis, while most diplomats fled, the Hungarian embassy in Tripoli stayed open. By the end of the seven-month conflict Budapest was representing some fifty absent governments.Hungary brokered the release of four western journalists and even managed to get Talitha von Zam, a Dutch model and former girlfriend of one of Colonel Gaddafi's sons, out of the war-zone.

But it seems that the Safarov affair was masterminded by Viktor Orbán, the prime minister, and Péter Szijjártó, the minister for external economic relations, rather than the foreign ministry.

The extradition also raises questions about the EU's credility. It has just pledged €19.5 million ($25m) to reform oil-rich Azerbaijan's justice and migration systems. So far, Catherine Ashton, the EU High Representative, has expressed only a tepid statement of "concern".

Hungarian opposition demands the resignation of Justice Minister

Hungarian opposition "Democratic coalition" party demands the resignation of Vice-Prime Minister of Hungary, minister of Justice Tibor Navracsics. In response to the question of Armenpress from opposition, left wing party mentioned that Hungarian Government did not act neutrally towards Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict."The Government of Victor Orban by extraditing Ramil Safarov shows that human life is not estimated in Hungary as a blood-mad who murdered a man with an axe has been released" informed from the party. The party demands to call an out of turn session of Hungarian Parliament.

The clubbing of Klubradio

A clampdown on a leading independent radio station shows that Hungary has no intention of heeding EU calls to improve media freedom. In most EU countries, it would be reasonable to expect a state agency that has been handed a clear court order to comply. Not so in Hungary, where a media regulator has ignored binding court decisions in its licensing dispute with a leading independent radio station.

The ongoing fight by Klubradio and efforts by the Media Authority to silence it illustrates clearly the threat to media freedom and the rule of law in Hungary today. It also shows why the EU needs to stiffen its spine in its dealings with the conservative Fidesz government.


Hungary chamber festival: expect the unexpected

This picturesque southwestern Hungarian city, flanked by rolling hills and cornfields parched by a heat wave, is more famous for painters and playhouses than musicians, but this month it was one of the stars of the chamber music universe. By sheer force of personality, contacts and bravado, husband-and-wife violinists Katalin Kokas and Barnabas Kelemen, who play together professionally in the Kelemen Quartet, assembled about 50 of the world's best, mostly young, chamber-oriented musicians for the third Kaposvar International Chamber Music Festival, Kaposfest ( for short.

The Rubik’s Cube of Hungarian Politics - An On the Ground Perspective on Hungarian "Democracy"

Last week, I learned that Erno Rubik, inventor of the Rubik’s Cube, is Hungarian. Since then, I’ve been thinking a lot about the Rubik’s Cube, its absolute solution, and what the Cube might represent in context of Hungary’s extreme political tendencies.The Rubik’s Cube is a physical manifestation of logic. This is why Erno Rubik calls his invention an “improvement on life.” While life is filled with imperfect puzzles, the Cube provides a challenge with one pure solution. Its finished sides flash the colors of absolute truth. According to TIME Magazine, the puzzle’s perfect solution also explains the toy’s popularity. The Rubik’s Cube offers players “order and stability in an uncertain world.” It’s no surprise that during the recession the Cube remained a Top 20 seller.


“Hungarian trap” for Basescu: Hungarians put the revision of borders in Transylvania

Then what exactly is the interest of Hungary to Basescu orbanovskoj? The latest in the interview States: “traditionally, Viktor Orban and I support each other in elections. In addition, with Victor Orbanom we communicate and out of politics.” It turns out that it is, as much as the personal relationships between the two leading politicians of the two countries. In an interview with Romanian President seeks and political base of mutual interest. He explains that he and Orban are one and the same “European political family”, that is, one must understand the European people’s Party. True, and PD-L Basescu Romanian and Hungarian Orban are to the Fidesz. But, we have just created the Hungarian party autonomists (actually the separatists) in Romania, Transylvanian Hungarian people’s Party (EMNP) László Tokeša must fall exactly in this Association. As its name suggests. In addition, the Hungarian Democratic Union of Romania (RMDSZ)-the leading Hungarian party of Romanian Transylvania is also the European people’s Party.





An Olympic legend finds a sense of peace by Israel's sandy shores























One of the world's most decorated Olympians is living quietly in Israel, a country that just wrapped up its participation in the world competition without a single medal. Ágnes Keleti, now 91, won 10 Olympic medals in gymnastics, including five golds, for Hungary in the 1950s before defecting and emigrating to Israel.

Budapest airport: the drop-off race is on
Good and bad news from Liszt Ferenc Airport.
The good: the German-owned operator has introduced an “improved” and “more efficient” parking system.The bad: you, dear travellers, tourists and business folk, will be paying for it – unless, that is, you can scramble out of your car or taxi, collect you luggage, kiss the spouse, pay the driver and get a receipt – all in less than three minutes flat.

Hungarian government 'traps' graduates to stop brain drain
Hungarian students receiving state-sponsored university places have been told they must remain in Hungary for at least 10 years after their graduation - but does this move to halt the country's brain drain violate EU freedom of movement laws? This February, just a week before the deadline to apply for university, tens of thousands of Hungarian teenagers got a nasty surprise.As part of its austerity measures, the right-wing government announced it was cutting the number of state funded university places by almost 40%. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán argued that the country had too many graduates chasing too few jobs and announced that the state would continue to fund subjects like engineering, but would drastically reduce support for other subjects like economics and law. Even for the lucky students who can study what they like and get a free state-sponsored place, there is a catch in the new higher education law. They have to sign a contract promising to stay in Hungary for several years after graduation. The idea is to pay the state back for investing in their education. The longer they study, the longer they have to stay. For example, the annual fees to study medicine is around two million forints (£6,000; 7,175 euros) and most young medics will be grounded for at least a decade, considering the length of their study.

Hungarian Athletes Do ‘Miracle’ at London Games

After political turmoil and economic debates at home and abroad, Hungary has made global headlines for all the right reasons: beating every expectation, the Hungarian national team closed the 2012 London Olympic Games with an outstanding result and finished ninth in the overall medal rankings.Hungarian sports fans are over the moon in the wake of the games, where the country’s athletes claimed 17 medals, including eight gold, four silver and five bronze in a variety of events.

Hungary commentary: Orbán's ill wind could blow his house down
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán's recent remarks, welcoming an "Eastern Wind" that can blow in a mix of economic dynamism and authoritarian politics from places like China and Kazakhstan are but the latest in series of worrying moves by the increasingly anachronistic leader of the Fidesz ("Young Democrats") party.Given Europe's economic woes, Orbán is not alone in his admiration for Chinese economic strength, but the worrying noises of approval he has shown for its politically repressive corollary has set him apart.


Hungary Vexed by Specter of Anti-Semitism

Now that Csanád Szegedi, the leader of the controversial right-wing Hungarian nationalist party Jobbik, has resigned, it is worth looking into the complexities of Jewish life within Budapest.Szegedi, 29, is Hungary's far-right lawmaker who stepped down last week at the request of the party's leaders.  The Anti-Defamation League has described the Jobbik Party as "openly anti-Semitic."  "Effective immediately, I resign from all my posts and functions in Jobbik," Szegedi wrote in a communiqué released last week.  "The resignation is meant to prevent further attacks against Jobbik by enemy forces."


Old and nasty - Ghosts from Hungary’s tortured past
While the far-right swaggers, Jews feel increasingly uneasy. Some leading figures say the atmosphere is the worst they can remember since the collapse of communism.In April a representative of the extremist Jobbik party gave a speech in parliament reviving the medieval blood libel, that Jews use the blood of Christian children. A spate of Holocaust-memorial desecrations and other outrages followed. Pigs’ trotters were placed on a statue of Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat who saved thousands of Hungarian Jews. Orthodox Jews say they face gibes on the street. Some Jewish families are considering emigrating.

Hungary-IMF: still no deal
“If you cannot bring good news, then don’t bring any,” so sings Bob Dylan in his song “Wicked Messenger”: it seems the European Union – International Monetary Fund (EU-IMF) negotiating team take a similar line when it comes to negotiations with Hungary about a new credit facility.
The team left Hungary on Wednesday amid a an ominous storm of silence – no press conference or communique – after a week of preliminary talks with the government and a wide variety of partners, including the central bank.
That’s eight months – and two visits by the negotiating team – after the government of Viktor Orbán first requested what he calls a “safety-net”, now put at €15bn, needed to support Hungary’s struggling economy.

Love Loses Its Balance at This Dacha - ‘Uncle Vanya’ With Cate Blanchett at City Center
Love has no dignity — no, not a shred — in the Sydney Theater Company’s glorious “Uncle Vanya,” which runs (and lopes and dances desperately) only through Saturday at City Center. In Tamas Ascher’s heart-bruising production, part of Lincoln Center Festival 2012, people who reach out to touch someone are likely to find their balance in jeopardy. An attempted kiss can trip them up as effectively as any banana peel, while gentle caresses somehow turn into body slams that knock over their recipients like ninepins. Eros makes klutzes of us all, it seems, and no one is immune.
Mr. Ascher, a Hungarian director who has seldom worked in English before, has delivered what may be the most profoundly physical, and physically profound, interpretation ever of this 1897 play, which Chekhov disarmingly subtitled “scenes from provincial life.” Working with a cast that dares to spend most of its time onstage somewhere way out on a limb, Mr. Ascher solves the eternal Chekhov conundrum that often brings strong directors to their knees.;pagewanted=1

Hungary, Trying to Keep Up With the Neighbors, Falls Back

The trouble with Hungary is that it desperately wants to be like Austria, its old partner-in-empire, but is looking far too much like Greece.  This Austrian aspiration is on display when you drive into Budapest, as I did this month, on a road trip from Istanbul to London.The city's extraordinary wealth of architecture from Ottoman to Art Nouveau has been lovingly cleaned and restored to the point that it's looking as smart as Vienna.  Which is as it should be, from a Hungarian perspective. The two countries shared an empire with a dual monarchy from 1867 to 1918. It was Hungary's absorption into the Soviet bloc that forced it to fall behind, so the expectation after 1989 always was that Hungarians should catch up again with their wealthy neighbors.











Olympics Water polo: Hungary out to confirm super power status








































Water polo super power Hungary are gunning for their fourth consecutive Olympic gold medal but having gone four years without winning a major title they have something to prove at the London Games. The men's water polo event in London, which will see what the Victorians called "aquatic football" return to the country of its birth, is tipped to be a more open contest than at previous Games."This is going to be one of the most competitive Olympic water polo tournaments ever. I think there's six or seven teams that all have the chance to win medals," U.S. coach Terry Schroeder, a winner of two silver medals at the 1984 and 1988 Games, told Reuters by telephone. "It all depends on who peaks at the right time."


Israel has a tough time finding a Hungarian leader not identified with anti-Semites
Last month, Knesset speaker disinvited his Hungarian counterpart over his attendance at a memorial for an anti-Semitic author; as it turns out, his replacement, Hungary's president, did the same.

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin is having a difficult time finding a suitable Hungarian representative to attend an official ceremony honoring the righteous Gentile, Raoul Wallenberg, at the Knesset, due to the support shown by senior Hungarian government officials for known anti-Semites.

Last Updated on Friday, 30 August 2013 09:11

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