László Köver: Hungary needs to find allies elsewhere

December 28, 2014


The Hungarian state news service (MTI) published a sanitized version of an interview appearing in pro-government Magyar Hírlap on Saturday.

This is the third interview this week by a leading government official reinforcing the notion that the United States is attacking Hungary for reasons having nothing whatsoever to do with official corruption or the “illiberal democracy” Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is building in Hungary.

On Monday pro-government Magyar Nemzet (reportedly owned by Fidesz oligarch Lájos Simicska) published an interview with János Lázár, the second most powerful politician in Hungary after Orbán, in which he claims that the United States is pressuring Hungary in order to acquire a market for its shale gas.  (A preposterous claim considering the United States lacks the infrastructure necessary to export gas overseas-ed.).

On Tuesday night Hungarian State television broadcast an interview with Orbán in which he accused the United States of using allegations of corruption as a “cover story” for gaining influence in the region so that it can tell Hungary and other Central European countries what to do.  He claims the United States is “sore” over the fact that Hungary awarded a contract to build two nuclear reactors to the Russian State Atomic Energy Corporation.

An interview with László Köver, president of the Hungarian parliament, published in Magyar Hírlap (owned by Fidesz oligarch Gábor Széles) on Saturday completes the trilogy from the Fidesz triumvirate.

We publish the Magyar Hírlap interview in its entirety without further comment.  When necessary and appropriate we have provided explanatory remarks.  However, some of Köver’s pronouncements are so outlandish as to defy rational explanation.

“The Americans may be thinking of a new SZDSZ”

László Köver: The point is not that we spoiled our renewal, the Americans have been playing the same song for twenty-five years.

“We are not what is at stake.  On the chess table the Americans have only assigned us the role of a pawn.  But we are playing like a pawn that does not want to play by the rules of the game,” Lászlö Köver, president of the parliament, told our newspaper.  He expressed that the Americans’ goal in Hungary may be the creation of a new SZDSZ (Alliance of Free Democrats, which collapsed in 2009 after a series of corruption scandals-ed.).  He thinks it may be a logical train of thought to build up a post SZDSZ by 2018 so that it will not be possible to form a government without it as opposed to Jobbik.

The US travel ban goes beyond the Vida matter itself  (lldikó Vida, president, National Tax and Customs Administration-ed.).  Pressure from the United States is increasing, while the European Union appears to be restrained and is not attacking us.  How do you interpret these events?

The recent pronouncements of American deputy foreign secretary Sarah Sewall are very revealing.  She has spoken openly and stridently about how the United States, interpreted quite broadly and specifically (sic), is devoting millions of dollars in the interest of national security to executing various action plans in two dozen Eastern-European countries.   Part of these are certainly EU member states, and the rest may be aspiring member states, although Sewall only mentioned the Czech Republic and us by name.   So far it appears that we are not the only ones to “put bad wood on the fire” but presumably Slovakia as well, but we cannot rule out the results of the Romanian presidential election playing a role in this. From this we can deduce a self definition of power that from the national security point of view there is not a square centimeter of area that falls outside of their interests.  From this it also follows that apart from them no other country can have sovereignty.  The recent events cannot be distinguished from when they monitored the conversations of the leading politician of the Western European alliance, Angela Merkel.  It is a logical assumption that among the United States’ allies, the field of activities that can be qualified as unconventional affect not only Hungary but all of Europe.  They boasted that they “invested” millions of dollars in changes in Ukraine.  We have to look at the problems of the free trade and investment agreement between the Union and America as well.  In this way it is apparent that a world political power struggle is under way, whose stake is not only the fate of Hungary but all of Europe, but the chance of European nation-state sovereignty and true democracy.

What can we do in this situation? Can we do anything at all?

We can shake off the moral burden of believing the solution is in our hands.  It is completely unnecessary, because it is hopeless, to make diplomatic efforts in the interest of proving to the Americans – to transpose the old communist phraseology to suit our situation today—we are not revisionist deviationists, and it is not necessary to send troops in the spirit of the Brezhnev doctrine to regulate us. (The Brezhnev doctrine held that when forces that are hostile to socialism try to turn the development of some socialist country towards capitalism, it becomes not only a problem of the country concerned but a common problem and concern of all socialist countries.-ed.)

We are not what is at stake.  On the chess table we have only been assigned the role of pawn.  But we are moving like a pawn that does not what to play by the Americans’ rules.  Seen in this dimension, the situation can result in two things.  Either we fall into doubt, or sit back calmly.  We need to choose the latter solution since we cannot influence the situation into which we have come.  May we need to get used to it.  This is not a new experience for us, since Hungarian history has really been about this dilemma since the honfoglalás (Hungarian occupation of the Carpathian Basin some 1100 years ago-ed.).  There were historical dimensions when it was necessary to go to war, when it was necessary to agree, and when it was necessary to wait for better times to come.  We were never too good at diplomacy.  We needn’t work on making the Americans love us now either.  We need to find allies elsewhere.  Those with whom “we row in the same boat”, even on the lower decks. They are the Eastern and Middle European countries.  Resolving the Hungarian question in Slovakia and Romania should not be the policy of the first order.  We may consider whether they share with us the most important challenges—economic and social problems.  Having won membership (in the EU) is it not our mutual goal to emancipate ourselves within the framework of the European Union?   Hungarian diplomacy must concentrate on this and a strategic cooperation with Germany.

Do the Americans represent the logic of war?

It seems totally irrational logic is starting to run the world.   Petty, selfish people not suitable for the political arena are twisting the fate of countries and peoples from North Africa to the Central-East back to Europe, according to what appears to be a long-term strategy, but is really only according to momentary interests.  On the subject of the logic of war, such theories exist that the First World War did not end, but continued with the Second.  To continue this thought, the Second did not end, but continued as the Cold War.  And looking back on the past twenty-five years we can establish that the Fourth World War is under way.  We had some peaceful years when it was possible to believe that a unipolar world system had emerged.  But now we see that this is not the case, and that the United States must still fight the emerging, formerly third world powers, and new rivals and Russia.  They do not want to be subordinate, and neither does Europe.  So the Pax Americana has not come to pass.  The current conflicts arise from this.  In the same way the Americans pushed aside at the time of the Iraq war their allies, NATO, and placed in brackets both international law and human rights, which they used by the way as a political club.   Over ten years ago, I visited the United States in 2003 with some Fidesz colleagues, where we met some members of the foreign ministry apparatus.  A young person who worked there said with sympathetic honesty that there was an ongoing discussion whether they should punish those allies that do not stand in line against Iraq in the “coalition of freedom”.   He thought it was a bad discussion, the belief that who does not join them does not exist.  This tells a lot in the light of today’s events.
The relationship with the Americans on the part of the Hungarian right has always carried tension with it.  How did this come about?

Mark Palmer’s (US ambassador to Hungary 1986-1990-ed.) favorite in 1990 of course was the SZDSZ.  From the first minute they viewed the Antall government (1990-1994) with suspicion, especially the MDF.  During the Horn-Kuncze government (1994-1998) the American ambassador of that time sent home exclusively negative information about the whole Hungarian opposition, from the Christian Democrats to the Small Holders to Fidesz.  I remember before the 1998 election when it was not possible to rule out the possibility that there would be a change in government, they invited the right-wing politicians to the US embassy while the ambassador was away.   The ambassador not only did not consider us to be partners, but people neither.  He held all of us to be nationalists, extremists, antisemites, and from Washington’s viewpoint this appeared to be more and more counter-productive.   But I might also mention the barely concealed resentment that we got when the first Orbán government (1998-2002) did not flip sides when it came to purchasing fighting planes from the Swedes who gave a better offer.  In all fairness we note that, for example, Charles Thomas, George Herbert Walker III, Peter Tufo, April H. Foley and the previous ambassador Eleni Tsakopoulos Kounalakis were correct ambassadors, at least until they were disciplined by the American foreign ministry.  In general, it can be said that when the country had a “civilian government” (Fidesz calls itself the “civilian party” as opposed to the Socialists-ed.), we represented a “problem to be solved”.  So there is no question of our spoiling our renewal.  For twenty-five years the Americans have been playing the same tune, with varying volume, sometimes in a minor key, sometimes in a major key.   So-called civil organizations with less and less murky backgrounds are continuously buzzing in the background

But what is their goal?

It seems that they will not be satisfied with another government taking the place of the current one, but are thinking in terms of changing the entire elite of the governing party and the opposition.  Until its disappearance SZDSZ was the party that served the policies of the United States and was their advocate in Hungary.  When they fell, the Americans tried to bring (upstart liberal party “Politics Can Be Different”) LMP to life.  Those who politicize with them until this day until the party split in two did not believe us when we told them what America actually considered them to be.  Then they had to be astonished when in 2012 those left the party who were sent there at the outset how they understand “politics can be different”.  They stood next to Gordon Bajnai who became the Americans’ favorite.  After this project also failed, the next season of the soap opera could come.  (Here Köver is making an oblique reference to the fact that America’s next ambassador to Hungary is to be prime-time soap opera producer Colleen Bradley Bell-ed.).

Have you seen such potential politicians from which it is possible to create the next elite?

Perhaps they want to draw them from the wage strikes of doubtful means of support in their  USSR pullovers, Lenin hats and promoting the liberalization of drugs.  Or maybe their role is just to maintain continuous tension until, at the right movement, they put the new Bajnai onto the stage.  They appear to be well provisioned with munitions, and they are portrayed as representing an entire generation.  I don’t believe serious experts believe that the power relations can be changed to such a degree in 2018 that a new governing power can emerge.  It is not certain that this is their goal.  However, they can believe that the vacuum left by the collapse of the SZDSZ can be filled with a new party.  In the position of “disproportionately influential minority party” on the balance scale will be a created party without which it is not possible to govern.  For twelve years, with other actors, the project worked well in which a small party (SZDSZ) was able to dictate to and blackmail its coalition partner (MSZP), which was a large party.

But Jobbik did not exist then.

Let’s just play with the thought!   Now that the radicals now exist with measurable support, this can be useful to such a contrived script.   Jobbik has gained just as much advantage from the demonstrations of the past months and from the weakening of Fidesz.  The more stronger the unpresentable, exclusionary, anti-Semitic, and for this reason considered unworthy of joining a coalition, the easier it is to cobble together a governing alliance on the other side, in which Fidesz itself may be the (minority coalition partner exercising) disproportionate influence.  The point is not to be able to form a government without the post-SZDSZ as opposed to Jobbik.  In the case of realizing such a script for them it is a good strategy if the radicals strengthen, and we weaken.  This is of course just a hypothesis, but one that can be deduced.  The point is not that such a scenario will follow, since the voters will decide.  But all of this is starting to appear dangerous.

You mentioned the Fidesz loss of popularity.  Recriminations over excessive living between (Fidesz politicians) János Lázár and Zoltán Pokorni do not appear to be a good solution to arresting this.  You also reacted to Lázár’s words.  How long can this dispute go on?

Western Europe did not have fifty years of communism, and for this reason the civilian world was not destroyed.  There social and material differences and differences in social rank were considered nature, and nobody questioned whether this was equitable.  Twenty-five years after the system change there are those people who can show assets within correct circumstances.  I don’t belong to that group, but I accept the situation.  If someone is affluent, why should he drive a Wartburg (former East-German car-ed.) as if he were a young socialist politician?  They also had Mercedes– they took the property of the Young Communist League–except that their fellow party members who drove Trabants for the sake of appearance told them that it does not look good if they park in the parking lot of the local government in a large car.  Then the following week they rolled up in the same place in their GDR wonder.  We have to see that public opinion defines where this kind of pretense ends and where “living high off the hog” (urizálás) behavior begins, and the actors of the age would do well to pay attention to them.  As well as the fact that not every open debate is used to move the matter forward.  And it is especially good, if we perspicaciously choose the tone.  Not to mention our opponents:  we needn’t look for them, if we don’t have to – we have enough of them as it is.

What do you expect of 2015?

I already stated how I see things during the European parliamentary and local election campaigns.  The next four years will not be easy either, as the ones we leave behind us.  They will just be difficult in a different way.   On the one hand, I expect the year to be one of struggle, in which parliament will be full of tension, but especially that created by the opposition outside of parliament.  On the other hand, by using appropriate tactics both the government and the (Fidesz parliamentary) delegation will be able to further concentrate on its tasks in response to this:  in the first cycle we laid the basis for trends that seem encouraging, strengthened by once again extending the prospect of social inclusion to even more people and families, in a way that the voters understand that the decisions serve this purpose.  Meanwhile we must not lose sight of our long-term goals either, since every government step is such a means for regaining the sovereignty of the Hungarian state.  All of our energy should be devoted to preserving the life of the nation, so that in the decades to come the Hungarian community can protect belief, hope and self-identity.