Author Archives: Sandor

A missed anniversary

Memories of the Avarffy trial1

Of course, one hundred and fifty is a dignified and awe-inspiring anniversary and we celebrated it more ways than one. Next to that a mere one hundred years may seem like some object of insignificance, but not this one. And yet, we have skipped by it, forgetting and not mentioning it, although it was much worthy of mention.

The story of the following chain of events began on the 6th of January 1921, when a parliamentary back bencher, one Elek Avarffy, published an article in the National Newspaper (Nemzeti újság), entitled ”A few words about the Galicianers and a bit of statistics.” The word ”Galicianer” referred to those Jews who had flooded into Hungary since the 1880s under anti-Semitic pressure in Russia from the province of Galicia. Which province, by the way, at this time was a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and therefore, those refugee Jews were really citizens and not ”migrants”. In fact, up until the early 1920s, most of them were transitory, eventually setting out for America; only a minority remained in Hungary.2 But in the anti-Semitic political climate of Hungary after World War One, even those few were far too many.

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Seasons Greetings

The Perspective is getting better

We are wishing all the best for the Holiday Season to all our friends, relatives, acquaintances and readers for Christmas and the New Year.

One of the many Christmas street cars.

I suppose, our writing passion is going to be somewhat dulled by all that food and alcohol we must consume in the service of celebrating these coming notable days. I also feel that the year left behind us was certainly not a banner year, there was not much to celebrate about it. All we can do is preparing for making a better one next.

For our part the Hungarian Perspective shall continue to strive to accomplish that.

Best wishes from

Janet, András and Sándor

Transparency in the dark

An international NGO

Here we are again, together, ready to celebrate the lights of Christmas and the joys of togetherness. Let us celebrate then! But before we do, perhaps we should celebrate another, darker kind of light, coming from a much more sinister, but also, much more unlikely source.

Let us first, my Dear Reader, get acquainted with Transparency International!

This highly respectable institution is present and working in more than a hundred countries around the globe; it is an international NGO. Now NGO usually means non-govermental organization, but in this case you may consider it an AGO, an anti-corrupt govermental organization. Transparency is fearless in confronting governments in its pursuit of ”ending the injustice of corruption by promoting transparency, accountability and integrity.” Yes, they do have a website and yes, it explains what they are doing, which is very nice, but there is much more to it than that. And this is what I wish to inform you about today. Because, naturally, we have our own homegrown subsidiary of this internatonal organization. In fact, if there is any country that is the richest soil for this organization to grow on, that is Hungary.

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Crime in slow motion

As the EU is passively looking on

The disagreeable minister of regional development in Hungary is trusted to negotiate with the European Union for the release of the billions withheld from Hungary for over a year now. The reason for the stern suspension of funds was the belated, but nevertheless, determined position of the European Union that Hungary ceased to be a lawful democracy and until this condition is corrected, payments shall be withheld. Minister Navracsics, formerly a professor of law and also one of the leaders of Fidesz party, was also appointed by prime minister Viktor Orban in 2014 as EU commissionaire. He was surrounded with suspicion and distrust in his position as commissionaire of a minor portfolio there. He failed to convince his collegues about his readiness to represent union interests as opposed to national Hungarian ones as demanded from him his ”master,” Mr. Orban. But now he is back on his old turf, as someone with connections to the Union bureaucracy, commissioned by Viktor Orban to be the sly fox that will eventually lure, cajole, or wrest the billions of Euros from the holding of the Union escrow. And Mr. Navracsics is busy, negotiating almost weekly in Brussels, trying to convince his interlocutors about the corrective measures the Hungarian government have done to comply with the twenty seven ”mile stones” the European Commission set for them as the conditions of releasing the funds. And while he is repeatedly assuring the Hungarian public about the imminence of the arrival of the funds, the truth is that the government is rather trying to sneak around the required changes than instituting any substantial improvements as demanded from them. All the changes are superficial, without really restoring in their effect the rule of law, or reduce the staggeringly rampant corruption in Hungary. And for a while it looked like the European Commission, (or for that matter the European Court of Justice), shall not be fooled and the stalemate remains.

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The birthday of Budapest

To say that the year 1849 was a most peculiar one would be a major understatement. The previous year, 1848, was the year of revolutions all over Europe, but those slowly died down, having accomplished their main objective: the dissolution of the post-Napoleonic security system of Vienna, thus ushering in the era of rapid capitalistic progress. Not so in Hungary. The young, impetuous emperor, Franz Joseph, who approved and signed most demands of the revolution in 1848, insisted on the submission of Hungary and sent in the army. But the army proved useless in the face of Hungarian resistance; and a serious war ensued, which the Austrians were gradually losing. However, refusing to accept defeat, Austria called for Russian support, which did arrive and two hundred thousand Russian troops gradually overwhelmed the Hungarians. In August, 1849 the Hungarian army capitulated.

Faced with the reality of a threat from the encroaching Russian army, the Hungarian Parliament had legislated their main political objectives, as a last minute effort, in June of 1849. Most of these were not carried out then, but remained on the books, waiting to be realized in a better, more favourable time. Amongst them was the creation of a new, independent capital city: by uniting Pest, Buda, and Óbuda, the three neighbouring cities on either side of the Danube. On their own, each of them was quite insignificant; in fact, they were so different from each other that no sane person would have considered uniting them. But there was a new development, a new fixed bridge, that opened in the fall of 1849, that created a new condition in the life of these cities.

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Economics 101

The last of the free market

The streets of Budapest are teaming with homeless people. All of them at varying stages of disintegration. All this despite many draconian efforts by the city administration and the national government, who have gone as far as enacting an amendment to the substitute Constitution, effectively outlawing homelessness. But while legislatively everything was done against homelessness, at the same time maintaining a home has become ever more difficult. The rents and overhead expenses have been rapidly rising in the city.

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Ecstasy in the fall

1956, Revolution and national holiday

As we are sliding towards the national holiday of 23. October, I am being washed over by memories.

On the 22nd of October, 1956, the day before the Revolution, nothing was different from any other dull, gray days that were the norm in those years. Lining up at stores for the most basic food stuffs, hanging on the outside of street cars that were always too jammed, and the struggle of my parents to maintain our barely tolerable existence. We were the unwitting victims of the postwar poverty and the murderous communist terror, living in fear and deprivation. Of course, I knew nothing about those dire conditions, because despite it all, I was in the midst of a relatively happy childhood. However, the atmosphere of those days and years was stifling, filled with dread and hopelessness. That was on the 22nd.

The following day, on the 23rd  the weather was better, people were milling about and walking on the streets, and those who came to us reported that the youth are marching; and soldiers are tearing the red star from their head gears, throwing them on the ground, and joining the demonstrators. The pall of hopelessness was lifted in one instant, my parents were smiling and my grandmother was so touched by the events that she was shedding tears.

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A strange week

Like never before

Not only a strange but also an unprecedented week was the last one.

On Monday, around 11 AM came a casual announcement in the news that the medical Nobel Prize was awarded to Katalin Karikó, a Hungarian researcher.

It came as a tease after the last few years, when we all, or most Hungarians were receiving the news with indignation around this time of the year that the Prize was again denied to our personal candidate in favour of someone we never heard of, denying it from the truly deserving candidate, the tenacious and and deserving Katalin Karikó. What can be the problem, we wondered, that prevented the Karolinska Institutet of Sweden from recognising the true candidate deserving the Prize she so reachly deserved, after all that she has done for humanity and for defeating the Covid-19 virus? Not to mention the invention of a new kind of method of delivering medicine into the human body, so simple and so ingenious that the likes of it had not been invented since Salvarsan, if you know what I mean. But the Karolinska Institutet, the august body entrusted by Alfred Nobel himself with the awarding of the Prize, was not about to be pressured, or rushed into any decision; just overlooked our Hungarian candidate. Many people regarded this as some kind of revenge for not voting on Sweden’s accession into NATO by the Hungarian Parliament, a kind of subtle tit for tat.

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The ”other” twenty seven

Just a coincidence

A new subscriber, also a friend (and incidentally an economist), was wondering what the twenty-seven so-called milestones are that the European Union is setting in front of the Hungarian Government as the condition of restarting the transfer payments, that are presently withheld. (The terms of conditionality are laid out in the Country Specific Report 2022, and can be found in the document attached at the end of this article.)

It is a mere coincidence that the number of the members in the Union is the same as the so-called super-milestones set out for Hungary to pass. The ”magic number” is twenty seven.

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An untimely celebration

Barely two weeks ago the thirtieth anniversary of the re-burial of admiral Miklós Horthy took place. His ashes had been repatriated from their resting place in Portugal and  interned in the town cemetery of his birth place in Kenderes. The awkward event in 1993 was condoned by many members of the then Prime minister József Antall and his colleagues and all the followers of the nascent retrograde right-wing political class.

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