In an interview published today by the Hungarian State News Agency, you stated that the Transatlantic Trade Agreement may be the reason behind the US putting pressure on Hungary.
Since as the chairman of the Hungarian Parliamentary Committee on Economics you obviously possess great insight into matters of US foreign policy, perhaps you would take the time to answer the following four questions:
1. If the Transatlantic Trade Agreement is so bad, then why is this the first time we’re hearing about it?
In February 2014 Prime Minister Viktor Orbán reportedly praised the treaty at a conference organized by the Hungarian National Bank. According to Hungarian daily online vs.hu, Orbán told those in attendance that the agreement is necessary for improving the competitiveness of the European Union, and that if the agreement did not come about, then the Union “could hardly maintain its current position in the world.” The same article points out that, according to the European Commission, the agreement would save Hungarian households an average of EUR 545 (HUF 172,000) per year.
That being the case, why should the United States feel the need to “pressure” Hungary by suspending the right of government officials and their cronies to enter the United States on allegations of corruption?
The Budapest Beacon has been covering Hungarian news for some 15 months, and this is only the second time we’re hearing a Fidesz Member of Parliament speak critically of the proposed agreement. (The first time was during the interview with Prime Minister Orbán broadcast on state television last Tuesday).
What changes to the proposed agreement took place between February and December of this year that you and Orbán should now claim the agreement is so disadvantageous to Central European countries that the United States must resort to applying “external pressure” on Hungary?
You are the chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Economics and have been for some time. What is your record on the Transatlantic Trade Agreement? How many times over the course of 2014 did you speak out over the grave threat this agreement poses to Hungary? If the answer is “many times but for some reason this was never reported”, then clearly Fidesz communications director Maté Kocsis is right and journalists should be required to submit to compulsory drug testing in the future.
Aren’t you and Orbán really saying that if the United States doesn’t stop pressuring Hungary to make good on its “zero tolerance” policy when it comes to official corruption, Hungary is not going to sign the agreement? If true, isn’t that an example of cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face?
2. What is really behind the US pressuring Hungary?
On Monday of last week Chancellor János Lázár claimed the United States was pressuring Hungary in order to “secure markets” for its shale gas. What is preventing US energy producers from exporting shale gas to Hungary (other than the fact that the United States lacks facilities necessary to liquify natural gas and load it onto specially designed boats)? If the United States could supply Hungary with shale gas for less than what it costs to purchase it from Russia or Austria, why wouldn’t Hungary happily purchase it?
Or better yet, why not arrange for a company registered in Switzerland to purchase the gas for fair market value and then sell it to the Hungarian state-owned gas importer the very same day for a huge profit? If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then perhaps MET Holding owners István Garancsi and György Nagy can enlighten you.
On Tuesday Orbán announced the US was pressuring Hungary over the decision to award the contract to build two nuclear reactors to a Russian company rather than the US. Finland, China, Turkey, India, Vietnam and Jordan are also building atomic energy plants using Russian technology, but the US State Department isn’t temporarily suspending the rights of any of their officials to travel to the United States. (Or if so, at least the international press isn’t writing about it.)
On Saturday the president of the Hungarian parliament, László Kövér, claimed the United States was pressuring Hungary as punishment for refusing to be drawn into “the Fourth World War” between the United States and the Soviet Union.
And now today you announce that the Transatlantic Trade Agreement may be behind the pressure.
So which is it? All of the above? None of the above?
3. What makes you think foreign powers and economic interest groups are behind the demonstrations of late?
While it is true that acting US embassy spokesman André Goodfriend was photographed observing the internet tax demonstration at the end of October, according to Goodfriend he also observed pro-government rallies in 2013 and 2014–the so-called “Peace March” demonstrations organized by the pro-Fidesz NGO Civil Solidarity Forum (CÖF). I’m sure Fidesz founding member and pro-government publicist Zsolt Bayer and his boss, Magyar Hirlap owner Gabor Széles, would be shocked to learn that they were marching at the head of a demonstration organized by foreign powers and economic interests.
4. Why aren’t the police investigating you for abuse of official power and corruption?
If former Budapest District 7 mayor György Hunvald should be arrested and held in preventative detention for two and one half years on suspicion of corruption relating to the sale of district-owned property, then why shouldn’t the same courtesy be extended to you in light of recent revelations that Budapest District 5 sold a ground-floor shop for half its actual market value (to the long-term girlfriend of a notorious underworld figure, no less) while you were mayor? I appreciate the fact that, upon learning of this, you immediately fired the district notary. (No doubt you were shocked–shocked!–to discover such things going on right under your very nose.) However, what are we to make of the fact that you appointed as his successor the former head of the district asset management company who prepared the actual sales agreement?
Richard Field, managing editor