Antal Rogán: Transatlantic free trade agreement behind US “pressure” on Hungary

December 29, 2014


As if on cue Fidesz parliamentary caucus leader Antal Rogán gave an interview to the Hungarian State News Agency (MTI) in which he speculates that the Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement may be behind US attempts to “pressure” Hungary.

Rogán’s comments come in the wake of interviews with Chancellor János Lázár, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and Speaker of the parliament László Kövér published by pro-government media outlets over the past eight days promulgating the general thesis that the United States has ample reason to pressure Hungary other than the explanation offered by the US for temporarily suspending the right of six Hungarian officials to enter the US: official corruption.

In the interview Rogán called developing a country defense action plan one of the most important tasks of 2015, claiming that “when Hungary comes under attack from abroad” its “government and parliament are somewhat defenseless against them”.

He mentioned as one such “attack” the “provocation” organized by “citizens of a third party country” in the form of a white supremist conference that was to be held in Budapest “before the third election” which, according to Rogán, Hungary “barely managed to obstruct.”

He also mentioned the fact that “many economic entities active in Hungary do not generate public wealth” as “the profit automatically goes abroad”. He proposed that a law be passed requiring that taxes be paid in Hungary after revenues generated in Hungary.

In response to whether the country defense action plan would contain reprisals to the American travel ban, he answered that this might be one of the elements, but not the most important.

He said the governing party would hold a caucus in early January to discuss, among other things, the “country development concept” according to which 60 percent of the EU development funds received during the current seven-year cycle are to be used to develop the economy “in the interest of strengthening the domestic manufacturing sector along with strong Hungarian suppliers”.  He added that the caucus, to be held somewhere in eastern Hungary in early January, will also be used to discuss holding banks to account, the conversion of FX loans to forints, and the creation of public utility companies in the interest of maintaining decreased household expenses.

Looking back on 2014, Rogán called a “new phenomenon” the fact that it was no longer merely opposition parties and organizations that opposed Fidesz, but “foreign powers” as well, which he described as economic interest groups and other governments that would have preferred a different Hungarian government. He told MTI that since they were not able to accomplish this “using electoral methods”, “great power or economic interest groups” were now attempting to exert pressure on the government through the organizers of the demonstrations of the past few months.

Rogán speculates that behind US attempts to pressure Hungary is the Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement, about whose advantages and disadvantages it was “necessary to speak honestly.” He said the agreement cannot be “forced” on Central Europe. It appeared that American diplomats did not want to debate matters openly but rather wanted to force ratification of the agreement on every European country. He said that, at opposition party LMP’s suggestion, he was certain parliament would debate the agreement sometime in February.

Rogán believes a bad free trade agreement would have the same consequences for Hungary as a bad IMF agreement. He added that the proposed agreement had advantageous points in that it would provide access to the US market for Hungarian companies capable of exporting, but care had to be taken to ensure “the expected disadvantages not kill off the potential benefits”.
On the subject of internal disputes within Fidesz, the caucus leader said there were always such differences, but “family disputes should remain within the family.” He said that when the the opposition launches personal, unjust attacks on Fidesz politicians, everyone must decide “whether to defend the others or publicly criticize them”. From the point of Fidesz there were long-term benefits to resolving disputes within internal forums. He said Fidesz chairman and Prime Minister Orbán had always strived for this, resulting in his winning a two-thirds parliamentary majority in 2010 and 2014.