Hungarian Hypocrisy

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Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán would make an excellent magician. While he diverts people’s attention with one  hand, he  steals with the other. Often literally.

For instance, he and his government lead an extremely anti-immigrant policy. To keep people seeking asylum out of the country, with the help of the companies owned by government cronies, a border fence was built by the taxpayers’ money. The state’s rhetoric brands immigrants as Muslims who increase the risk of terrorism in Hungary. In order to save Europe from them, Hungarian authorities violated human rights by not complying with international agreements and physically assaulting immigrants. In 2016, Hungary granted a refugee status to only 155 people.

On the other hand, the state was ankle-deep in a scheme under which Hungary sold settlement bonds to people in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. The companies involved in this precedent  are registered offshore, so they do nott pay taxes in Hungary, but instead they stuff the pockets of the close friends of the Hungarian government. With the help of this scheme 1344 people immigrated to Hungary in 2016, some of them are criminals.

Despite of his desire “to protect Europe from terrorist immigrants”, Orbán had business ties with Ghaith Pharaon, a recently deceased Saudi businessman wanted by the FBI in connection with aiding terrorists. Pharaon bought a villa next to Orbán’s home.

It therefore seems that the Hungarian government has no misgivings about people who actually support terrorism. It is only a show Orbán is putting on to win votes. And while securing the votes of xenophobes, Hungary signed a nuclear deal with Iran, a country the U.S. is accusing of being radical and dangerous.

However, Iran is not the only dangerous country Hungary is cozying up to. As US-Russian relations are getting colder, Orbán (who used to be renowned for his anti-Soviet, anti-Russia, and anti-Communist stance in the past) is denouncing his former ways and tries to emulate Putin in many aspects. In 2014, Orbán declared he is constructing an illiberal state, using Putin’s Russia as a point of reference. He has been deepening the Hungarian ties with Putin ever since.

Despite of his former anti-Communist attitude, Orbán is busy blaming the West – just like the communists used to – and does not care about the fact that actually some of the former communists are now working for him.

Just like his role-model in Russia, Orbán and his government are preparing a law to brand foreign-funded NGOs as foreign agents. A different law aimed at dismantling Central European University has already been passed. The scapegoat on both occasions is Hungarian-born billionaire, George Soros, the founder of CEU, who supports a number of NGOs in the region. The fact that Orbán himself benefited from Soros’ money when he was studying abroad on a scholarship funded by Soros, or the fact that Orbán’s spokesman studied at CEU, or even that many people around him benefited in one way or another from Soros’s generosity, doesn’t seem to bother the Hungarian government.

It is also worth mentioning that Orbán’s opposition to the EU does not extend to the large amounts of financial support coming from Brussels. Nevertheless, the Hungarian government floods the country with posters featuring slogans as e.g. “Stop Brussels”. Needless to say, this also came out of the taxpayers’ pockets.

Before Orbán, socialist Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány angered citizens by admitting to having lied and cheated about a leaked tape. Back then, Gyurcsány’s great (and justified) unpopularity contributed to Orbán’s victory. However, although now Hungarians know for certain that Orbán is also lying, they at the same time find Gyurcsány (who wants to rise to power once again) just as irritating as before. Of course, in the forthcoming election the voters will have to decide against Orbán, but it would be helpful if the EU stopped fueng his illiberal regime.

Mate Hajba
Free Market Foundation