Over 100,000 Hungarians from several counties in Transylvania but also from Hungary took part in a protest march yesterday, forming a 54-kilometer-long human chain from Chichis locality, near the administrative border with Brasov County, to Bretcu, on the administrative border with Bacau County. According to the proclamation read by National Szekely Council (CNS) President Izsak Balazs, the Hungarians asked for the self-governance of the Szekely Land and the application of the norms practiced in the European Union so that the Szekelys could exercise their self-determination right through the autonomy of the Szekely Land and reaffirmed their “attachment to the provisional boundary line of the Szekely Land formed by 8 seats and 153 local authorities.
“Internal self-governance means regional power, which has deliberative authority constituted through democratic means, a wide autonomy, and the means necessary to exercise self-governance prerogatives,” the proclamation reads.
At the same time, the signatories of the proclamation are asking the Hungarian government “to demand” the Romanian government to respect the basic treaty between the two states “with a special emphasis on its Article 15/9.” The Sezkelys gathered at the Monument of Martyr Szekelys in Targu Mures on the Day of Szekely Freedom sent to the government a petition on March 10 too, asking for the Szekely Land to become a distinct development region. The petition was left unanswered. The participants carried placards with Romanian and English messages such as: “we want autonomy, not independence,” “Szekely Land, Romania’s other face,” “Romania is our country too,” “autonomy does not mean independence, it means efficiency.” The march was preceded by several religious services attended, according to CNS representatives, by 60-70,000 persons.
In a major new report, the International Network of Civil Liberties Organizations details a global crackdown on peaceful protests through excessive police force and the criminalization of dissent. The report, “Take Back The Streets: Repression and Criminalization of Protest Around the World,” warns of a growing tendency to perceive individuals exercising a fundamental democratic right — the right to protest — as a threat requiring a forceful government response. The case studies detailed in this report show how governments have reacted to peaceful protests in the United States, Israel, Canada, Argentina, Egypt, Hungary, Kenya, South Africa and Britain. The report’s name comes from a police report filed in June 2010 when hundreds of thousands of Canadians took to the streets of Toronto to nonviolently protest the G20 Summit. A senior Toronto Police Commander responded to the protests by issuing an order to “take back the streets.” Within a span of 36 hours, more than 1,000 people — peaceful protesters, journalists, human rights monitors and downtown residents — were arrested and placed in detention. We are joined by three guests: the report’s co-editor, Abby Deskman, a lawyer and program director with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association; Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union; and Hossam Bahgat, an Egyptian human rights activist and the founder and executive director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights. (Democracy NOW!)
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban launched another broadside against foreign investors and media on September 9, warning that the era of “colonisation” is over. The heightened rhetoric ahead of the elections next year will only raise worries amongst investors.
Orban and his ruling Fidesz party have been campaigning for some weeks now as they push to try to recapture the constitutional majority currently enjoyed at elections to be held in the spring at the latest. Opening the autumn session of parliament, the PM both boasted of his government’s economic prowess, reiterated promises to cut energy bills, and continued the pressure on the banks to take more losses from their foreign-currency loans.
“Hungary is an independent, sovereign country,” Orban proclaimed as he set out the agenda for the parliamentary session. “The era of colonisation is over. Utility price cuts, the elimination of the foreign currency loan regime and rescuing families and their homes are national causes for us.”
The resumed attack on the banks is the most immediate issue affecting investor confidence. As bne has reported, Fidesz effectively launched its election campaign in a sudden move in July, as it reopened an issue it had previously said was not in its plans. However, forcing the banks to shoulder more big losses from the hundreds of thousands of mortgage loans made in Swiss franc and euro should offer a clear populist boost at the polls.
Previously full of rhetoric concerning “negotiations” with the banks, the government upped the ante in early September. Following up ultimatums issued by officials, Orban told the lower house: “The banks abused their own position and [exploited] the people’s naivete. They were propagating [forex-based] loans while they were aware of the potential risks. They knew exactly what would happen if exchange rates went haywire, they [played down] the risks to customers in advance, [and] they made a deal that meant a huge profit only for them.”
Repeating a chilling new demand that the banks should be ready to absorb the bulk of the losses in phasing out such forex loans, the PM added: “It is a moral obligation of the banks to modify the [loan/mortgage] contracts. We are calling on the banks to bear most of the losses stemming from the exchange rate changes themselves. If they do not comply voluntarily by November 1, the government will take steps [to do so].”
The case of Edward Snowden remains in the spotlight. Yet even in Europe, there’s little protection for those who point out corruption, crime and wrongdoing, explains Transparency International’s Mark Worth.
Deutsche Welle: With the current case of Edward Snowden there’s a lot of attention on whistleblowing across the world with the focus on the situation in the United States. There’s a lot of public sympathy for Snowden - but what’s the situation for whistleblowers actually in Europe? To which extent are people employed in the public or private sector protected from retaliation or being fired if they choose to uncover corruption, misconduct or crime in the company they work for?
Mark Worth: The only country in the EU that has a strong whistleblower law and where there is a somewhat well functioning enforcement system is the UK. Britain has had a law on the books since 1998 that protects employees in the public and private and also the non-profit sectors. So if you follow the procedure to blow the whistle on wrongdoing, corruption, crime and so forth and it is in the public interest, then you’d be legally protected from being fired, demoted, harassed, or being transferred against your will. That law has been on the books since 1998.
Hungary has a similar law that protects people in the private and public sectors but there’s no agency to receive the complaints and from what we’ve been able to determine it does not work very well in practice. But those are the only two countries in the EU that have an actual whistleblower law to protect employees.
Three other countries - Romania, Luxemburg and Slovenia - have laws that protect whistleblowers but the laws are more limited in scope and in the case of Luxembourg and Slovenia are included in broader anti-corruption legislation. The other 22 EU countries either have very limited or basically no legal protection for whistleblowers specifically.
‘Hungary decided to eliminate all plantations using GMO seeds from Monsanto. According to the Minister of Rural Development Lajos Bognar, around 500 hectares of corn crops were burned this week – equivalent to five million square meters. The intention is that the country has no produce originating from genetically modified material.
According to the information portal Real Pharmacy yesterday (23 May), the cornfields that were destroyed were scattered around the Hungarian territory and had been recently planted. Thus, poisonous corn pollen was not about to be dispersed in the air, and so there was no danger to the population.
The Hungarians were the first to take a forceful position in the European Union in relation to the use of transgenic seeds. During recent years, the government of Hungary has destroyed several plantations of crops derived from Monsanto seed. Minister Bognar says the country’s producers are required to ensure they do not use genetically modified seeds.’
by NIKOLAJ NIELSEN
Hungarian authorities will pass on the cost of EU fines through a tax on its own citizens whenever it breaches EU law.
Giving details of the new Hungarian initiative, EU justice commissioner for justice Vivian Reding told euro-deputies at the Strasbourg plenary session on Wednesday (17 April) that: “in practice citizens would be penalised twice: once for not having had their rights under EU law upheld and a second time for having to pay for this.”
The so-called ad hoc tax was introduced into Hungary’s latest constitutional reform in March, its fourth in the past 15 months.
The latest changes are said to undermine the rule of law by limiting the power of the constitutional court.
Hungary denies the charge.
Orban v democracy
Hungarian lawmakers on Monday overwhelmingly (265-11) approved a long amendment to the constitution which threatens democratic checks and balances. The biggest opposition party, the Socialists, boycotted the vote. The bill enshrines in the constitution policies that were previously struck down as unconstitutional by Hungary’s highest court. Among other things, it curtails the independence of judges, it wipes out 20 years of jurisprudence by banning the court to refer to rulings given while the previous constitution was in force, a law requiring students who received state scholarships to work in Hungary for years; a prohibition on political campaigns in private media; and a law allowing local authorities to fine or jail homeless people living on the street.
The New York Times quoted a very worried Peter Hack, a leading professor of constitutional law at ELTE University in Budapest: “We are not yet North Korea, but this amendment is extremely alarming because it removes constitutional control and checks over the legislature. It is a bald and dangerous power grab.”
Thousands of Hungarians protested in central Budapest on Saturday against imminent changes to the country’s constitution that they fear would curb democratic rights, echoing worries this week from the European Union and the United States.
Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s ruling center-right Fidesz party has used its unprecedented two-thirds parliamentary majority to make laws that critics say limit citizens’ freedoms.
Parliament is scheduled to hold a final vote on the constitutional changes on Monday.
Decisions of the country’s top Constitutional Court made before the new constitution entered into force in 2012 will no longer be valid, discarding an important body of law often used as reference before. Restrictive new regulation may now appear in higher education, homelessness, electoral law and family law.
“We really have had enough of this,” said 17-year-old student Luca Cseh, adding the changes limited her prospects of going to university as state subsidies would only be available to students who pledge to work in Hungary after graduation.
“They oppress students, but also the homeless or homosexuals,” she said.
In a phone call on Friday, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso told Prime Minister Viktor Orban that his government and the parliament should address concerns “in accordance with EU democratic principles”.
Orban sent a letter to Barroso after the phone call in which he pledged Hungary would conform to the norms and rules of the European Union, without offering specifics, according to a copy of the letter posted on the state news agency MTI’s web site.
Earlier this week the European institution responsible for defending human rights, the Council of Europe, urged Budapest to postpone the vote, fearing for Hungary’s democratic checks and balances.
The government rejected that request, and Justice Minister Tibor Navracsics sent a detailed explanation of the laws to the Council defending the changes and offering further discussions.
The U.S. State Department and human rights organizations also expressed concern.
However, the leader of the Fidesz party’s parliament group, Antal Rogan, told a news conference on Saturday that external pressure on Hungary was unacceptable.
by Elad Benari
The first Hungarian convicted under a new Holocaust denial law has been given a suspended 18-month jail sentence and has to visit Budapest’s memorial museum, Auschwitz or Yad Vashem, a court ruled Friday.
AFP reported that in addition to visiting Budapest’s Holocaust Memorial Center three times the man, Gyorgy Nagy, has to write down his thoughts. Alternatively he can go to the Auschwitz former death camp in Poland or the Yad Vashem memorial in Jerusalem.
The sentence, which also bans the unemployed computer technician from attending political rallies or events, is the first conviction since a new law came into force in 2010.
Attending a political rally in Budapest in 2011, the 42 year-old held up a banner with the Hebrew-language inscription, “The Shoah (Holocaust) did not happen.”
The banner was visible for around 15 minutes before Nagy was detained by police, the weekly newspaper HVG reported.
The denial of the genocide committed by the Nazi regime was declared a crime punishable by a maximum three-year prison sentence by the Hungarian parliament in February 2010, AFP reported.
Later in 2010, the denial of crimes against humanity committed during Hungary’s communist era was also declared a crime by the incoming right-wing government led by Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party.
Orban has however been accused of pandering to nationalists and of stoking anti-Semitism, amid renewed tributes to Hungary’s wartime leader Miklos Horthy, an ally of Adolf Hitler, and the rehabilitation of some anti-Semitic writers.
In 2012, Nobel peace laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel returned Hungary’s highest state honor because of what he called a “whitewashing” of history in the European Union member state.
Last month, residents of the small Hungarian town of Gyomro failed to stop a park from taking on Horthy’s name, after too few voters turned out for a referendum on the issue.
The park was named after Horthy last year, following a motion by the far-right nationalist Jobbik party, the third-largest in parliament. Angry locals forced the referendum, but it was declared invalid after only 18 percent of eligible voters cast ballots.
The neo-Nazi Jobbik recently made headlines for several anti-Semitic statements by its officials. In late November, a far-right deputy from the party called publicly for the resignation of a fellow MP who claimed to have Israeli citizenship.
At a press conference, deputy Elod Novak called for the resignation of Katalin Ertsey, of the small opposition party LMP, saying that it was unacceptable that she had kept her dual Hungarian-Israeli citizenship secret.
He later told news portal Index, “Israel has more deputies in the Hungarian parliament than they have in the Israeli Knesset.”
The comments came after another member of Jobbik In released a statement saying that a list should be compiled of all of the Jewish members of parliament and government.
The prime minister of Hungary and the International Monetary Fund are not friends any more, and that’s official.
Viktor Orban ‘defriended’ the IMF from his official facebook profile and posted a video criticising the agency’s terms for a loan it made to Hungary. He said that the IMF’s list of conditions “contains everything that is not in Hungary’s interests”.
The IMF is preparing to lend recession-hit Hungary up to 15 billion euros to help get its economy back on its own two feet. But in return it is asking for pension cuts, a reduction in the number of public sector employees and the eradication of a bank tax.
Just the day before Orban had announced that negotiations with the IMF had been going according to schedule and the two sides were headed for an agreement.
It just goes to show how quickly things turn sour when money comes between friends.
As a rising star in Hungary’s far-right Jobbik Party, Csanad Szegedi was notorious for his incendiary comments on Jews: He accused them of “buying up” the country, railed about the “Jewishness” of the political elite and claimed Jews were desecrating national symbols.
Then came a revelation that knocked him off his perch as ultra-nationalist standard-bearer: Szegedi himself is a Jew.
Following weeks of Internet rumours, Szegedi acknowledged in June that his grandparents on his mother’s side were Jews — making him one too under Jewish law, even though he doesn’t practice the faith. His grandmother was an Auschwitz survivor and his grandfather a veteran of forced labour camps.
Since then, the 30-year-old has become a pariah in Jobbik and his political career is on the brink of collapse. He declined to be interviewed for this story.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban attacked the European Union for imposing political conditions on an EU-IMF loan desperately needed by Budapest, in an interview on Friday.
“Creating political conditions — for example over the justice system — would amount to blackmail, which is unacceptable within the European Union,” Orban told national radio MR1 in his weekly interview.
“The International Monetary Fund (IMF) does not set financial conditions, but the EU is flirting with the idea of imposing political conditions,” Orban added.
“Hungarians will not live as foreigners dictate, will not give up their independence or their freedom, therefore they will not give up their constitution either,” Orban said.
The premier made the remarks on Thursday during a speech to thousands of people who gathered in Budapest’s Kossuth Square to mark the anniversary of the country’s 1848 revolution against Habsburg rule.
“Freedom means that we decide about the laws governing our own life, we decide what is important and what isn’t. From the Hungarian perspective, with a Hungarian mindset, following the rhythm of our Hungarian hearts. We will not be a colony,” Orban told the cheering crowd.
He added that Hungary would defend its new constitution and would not allow EU to treat Hungarians as second class European citizens.
Orban’s conservative government is at loggerheads with EU over a series of new laws passed by the two-thirds majority of Orban’s Fidesz party.
The EU says the laws implemented in the new constitution would hurt the independence of Hungary’s judges, its central bank and its data protection agency, and threaten the country’s democratic footing.
The union has also threatened to take Hungary to the European Court of Justice if the country does not amend the newly introduced legislations.
The dispute has escalated tensions between Budapest and and the EU as Hungary is negotiating fresh financial aid from the 27-nation bloc and the International Monetary Fund.
On Monday, finance ministers of the EU countries decided to withhold 495 million euros (650 million dollars) in EU development funds from Hungary in 2013, citing the country’s failure to get its budget deficit under control and violating EU rules on fiscal rigor.
More than 5,000 people attended the rally organized by the Hungarian Solidarity Movement at Kossuth Square in Budapest on Saturday.
The demonstrators accused the government of corruption, inefficiency and lying. Calling for new elections, they also urged Prime Minister Viktor Orban to leave office. Elections are next scheduled for early 2014.
Viktor Orban represents a “lying, endlessly corrupt autocracy,” Solidarity co-founder Peter Konya said.
The EU is pressing Budapest to change controversial legislations on its central bank and judiciary, and even threatened to suspend vital EU funds to Hungary if Orban does not make budget deficit cuts sustainable.
Across Eastern and Central Europe, as unemployment surges and the European Union dithers, nationalist conservative and far right parties are on the march. Emboldened right-wing leaders are resurrecting debates around abortion and other reproductive services, even in countries like Hungary, one of the first European countries to explicitly legalize abortion.
“There is a very strong pronatalist [anti-choice] current in Central and Eastern Europe and that goes along with nationalist tendencies in many of these countries,” says Johanna Westeson, the European regional director for the Center for Reproductive Rights. “One of the things that is very visible is the so-called demography argument. Birthrates are very low in Central and Eastern Europe and in an attempt to increase birthrates women’s reproductive rights are being [restricted].”
In some corners of the region, socially conservative policies quickly emerged after the collapse of Communism. Poland’s intense Catholicism—89.8 percent of Poles are Catholic, with about 75 percent practicing—resulted in one of the continent’s harshest abortion laws and most limited access to contraceptives (this did not improve Poland’s birth rate, which lags far behind countries with liberal reproductive rights laws, like the United Kingdom and the Scandinavian nations). In most other nations, including Hungary, abortion laws remained within European norms.
Then, in 2010, Hungary’s right-wing nationalist Fidesz party swept to victory and quickly acted to entrench their position. The conservative government infringed upon the independence of the judiciary, the central bank, the media, election boards, and installed party loyalists in institutions ranging from courts toopera houses. In March 2011, Fidesz and its Christian Democratic allies presented a new constitution, with no input from opposition parties.
Hungarians celebrated joining the European Union eight years ago by chopping through the barbed wire that separated them from Austria, eliminating a final vestige of the Iron Curtain. But after years of financial crisis, many here in Europe’s heart are questioning their westward ties.
As membership in the E.U. becomes ever more a dour pledge to cut spending while opening borders to economic competition, anti-E.U. politicians in many countries have surged in popularity, capitalizing on the anxieties of voters who see dimming hope for the future. Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban has been at the front of the pack, passing electoral and economic revisions that critics say are far outside of European norms but that he says put his country’s interests first.
Other countries could soon be following Hungary’s path in what has until now been a mostly one-way road toward tighter economic integration. Near-bankrupt Greece could be kicked off the euro, or even out of the E.U., if it fails to make enough progress in grappling with its problems. Even politicians who support the union as a whole are questioning the wisdom of the fiscal pact agreed to on Monday that binds together the 17 countries that have adopted the euro in a solemn vow of austerity and that will slowly draw in eight other countries, including Hungary, if they join the euro zone.
More than 100,000 people have marched in the Hungarian capital in support of Viktor Orban, the Hungarian prime minister, who is under fire from the European Union and at home over controversial reforms.
The demonstration, which headed for the parliament in Budapest, was organised by Orban’s ruling centre-right Fidesz party.
The long procession dubbed the “Peace March for Hungary” left Heroes’ Square at 4pm (15:00 GMT) on Saturday and began arriving two hours later at the Neo-Gothic legislature on the banks of the Danube River.
The European Commission has given Hungary a month to change some laws, particularly those related to the independence of the central bank.
The laws have impeded talks with the EU over a $25bn credit from the bloc and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Orban is to meet Jose Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission, in Brussels on Tuesday.
The prime minister has said that “a political agreement” will likely be reached at that meeting.
Many marchers carried Hungarian flags, candles, torches and signs expressing their support for Orban.
Al Jazeera’s Rory Challands, reporting from Budapest, said that Orban had before him a very difficult choice.
Poor Tamas Fellegi. Hungary’s envoy to the International Monetary Fund had to spend last week enduring endless lectures on democracy and fiscal responsibility from the unelected head of an international financial organization that is largely funded with money stolen from the US taxpayer.
And poor Viktor Orban. Just over twenty years ago the young Hungarian had the temerity to stand up at the reburial of the hero of the 1956 uprising todemand that Soviet troops leave and that the communist regime agree to hold free and democratic elections. The communists didn’t like him very much. Orban and many other anti-communists of that era were fighting unelected Moscow-based occupiers who stole his country’s sovereignty and ruined its economy for ideological reasons. Now, as Hungary’s prime minister, he is fighting against an unelected Brussels and Washington-based force that seeks to steal (what’s left of) his country’s sovereignty and ruin its economy for ideological reasons.
The Europeans — and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — are bearing down on the Hungarian government, attacking its “authoritarian tendencies” and demanding that Orban restore democracy. Charles Gati, a State Department official in the administration of Clinton’s husband, has gone even further, opining in the pro-opposition news weekly 168 Ora that, “there are opportunities indeed to remove this (Orbán) government — if possible in a democratic way, if not then in some other way.”
Poor Tamas Fellegi. Hungary’s envoy to the International Monetary Fund had to spend last week enduring endless lectures on democracy and fiscal responsibility from the unelected head of an international financial organization that is largely funded with money stolen from the US taxpayer.
And poor Viktor Orban. Just over twenty years ago the young Hungarian had the temerity to stand up at the reburial of the hero of the 1956 uprising to demand that Soviet troops leave and that the communist regime agree to hold free and democratic elections. The communists didn’t like him very much. Orban and many other anti-communists of that era were fighting unelected Moscow-based occupiers who stole his country’s sovereignty and ruined its economy for ideological reasons. Now, as Hungary’s prime minister, he is fighting against an unelected Brussels and Washington-based force that seeks to steal (what’s left of) his country’s sovereignty and ruin its economy for ideological reasons.
Thousands of Hungarians have protested against the European Union, urging their country to pull out from the bloc while Budapest seeks EU’s backing to evade insolvency.
People gathered in front of the European Commission offices in Budapest on Saturday in a street protest called by the rightist Jobbik Party — the second biggest opposition party in Hungary’s parliament. “This week the EU declared war on Hungary in a very harsh and open way,” said Csanad Szegedi, a Jobbik member of European Parliament, addressing the protesters.
He paid youths to attend his speech and clap. He championed laws to silence critical journalists. He rammed through a constitution aimed at remaking Hungary on conservative Christian values.
Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who made his name protesting Hungary’s communist dictatorship, is now confronting protesters chanting “Viktator!”
As a student radical, Orban wrote a stinging analysis of the dirty tricks communists used to cling to power. He now faces accusations of playing by a similar handbook as he consolidates power for his right-wing party and erodes the democracy he once fought for with zeal.
Orban’s Hungarian critics are alarmed by a creeping move in the EU nation toward centralized one-party rule under his Fidesz party.
EU Threatens Hungary Over Refusal to Implement Austerity Policies and ‘Authoritarian’ New Constitution
The European Union has stepped up pressure on Hungary over the country’s refusal to implement austerity policies and threatened legal action over its new constitution.
The warnings escalated the standoff between Budapest and the EU, as Hungary negotiates fresh financial aid from Europe and the International Monetary Fund. Over the past months, the country’s credit rating has been cut to junk by all three major rating agencies, unemployment is 10.6 percent and the country may be facing a recession.
But bailout negotiations broke down after Budapest refused to cut public spending and implemented a new constitution reasserting political control over its central bank.