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Andrea Hossó: Could Hungary fall victim to another EU-led coup?

Andrea Hossó is a Hungarian, working in the City and who has lived in the UK for over 25 years.

Over the past several months, I have been reading with ever growing stupefaction the avalanche of increasingly hysterical articles and dispatches in the mainstream international media warning about the allegedly unfolding "dictatorship" in Hungary, an EU and NATO member in the middle of Europe. How can that be, how could I have missed it, I ask? Something is fundamentally wrong with this emerging dire picture. I am reasonably knowledgeable about the country where I was born, raised, and very often visit. The country that I know and the one that emerges from the diatribes are not the same.

I have worked in the City of London for a long time, and financial upheavals are happening in the market everyday: Greece defaulting, Eurozone falling apart, US debt crisis and political impasse nearly leading to default, UK banking crisis and nationalization, the threat of financial meltdown all over. First I try to take the hysterical reports in my stride. After all, Hungary with her open, export-dependent small economy has always been vulnerable to economic-financial downturns in the euro zone and world markets and politics in general.

The hysteria over the Hungarian situation in the last few weeks, however, has reached fever pitch. Articles by Paul Krugman and Kim Lane Scheppele in the New York Times evoke the picture of a country on the brink of descending into totalitarianism.

There is also a Népszabadság interview with Mark Palmer, a disgraced former US ambassador to Hungary, who was ordered by then Secretary of State James Baker III to leave his Budapest post within 24 hours for cashing in what he called the "gold rush" following the demise of the communist rule in Hungary. He suggests the re- launching of the Hungarian language service of the now defunct Radio Free Europe of the Cold War era, and threatens Hungary with expulsion from the EU: an interesting thought coming from a non-EU country.

Then there is one Charles Gati, an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University, who had the effrontery to publicly threaten the incumbent Orban government with "regime change" in the manner of the Arab Spring. As Krugman, Sheeple, Palmer, and Gati would have you believe; Hungary under Viktor Orban is fast descending into an undemocratic, dictatorial, and increasingly isolated country, and as such should be kicked out of the EU. The good professor himself was forced to resign after serving less than a year from his State Department position as a member of the policy planning staff to avoid an official investigation for security reasons.

The professor assures us that all means are acceptable, including the removal of Viktor Orban from his position serving as prime minister after the Hungarian electorate gave him and his civic Fidesz party a virtually unprecedented two thirds, i.e., super majority, in the Hungarian Parliament. Our professor takes it upon himself to portray the Prime Minister as a demon, a deranged politician, who runs the country single-handedly against all accepted norms of democracy.

Curiously, the mainstream Western media echoes this by crying that the end of the world is upon us as under Orban a new dictatorship is unfolding in the middle of Europe. This overt call to arms for the downfall of a legitimate government goes way beyond sensationalism and meddling. This is an open call for "regime change" in a supposedly sovereign country, an offensive without the tanks -- at least for the time being. Clearly, certain sinister elements in the US and the EU seem determined to crush a small European country that dared to try to take her own initiatives in a timid attempt to start serving her own national interests.

This sort of freedom of action, of course, is allowed to be taken only by the powerful big countries. Even so, it beggars belief that certain American private figures with no official standing over matters involving a sovereign European country publicly advocate the removal of a freely and democratically elected prime minister and his government. Of course, the world remembers the Bush doctrine, i.e., the US is free to attack preemptively any country perceived to pose a real or imagined threat against US national interests whether on US soil or abroad.

One had thought this was linked to terrorism. Now it appears that in certain neocon/neolib quarters the doctrine of preemption could also be used to remove a democratically elected government of an EU member state simply because that government in pursuit of its mandate seeks to exercise a modicum of economic policy independence in its effort to overcome the heavy legacy inherited from the communist era. The orchestrated broadside media attacks keep repeating ad nauseam what a monster the Hungarian government is. Yet there is little concrete proof and few arguments are offered to support the sweeping charges. One of them is the passing of a new Hungarian constitution; another is the law on the National Bank of Hungary. 

What a stupefying experience it is to see the democratic West lamenting the replacement of a patched-up Stalinist "constitution" that was forced upon Hungary in 1949 by the infamous totalitarian communist government that was put in power by, and in the shadow of, the occupying Soviet army. Would the free and democratic countries of the West prefer the patched-up Stalinist diktat of a "constitution" to one written and passed by a freely and democratically elected parliament after conducting a nationwide survey of the citizenry about its constitutional preference?

How puzzling if not dumbfounding it is to see the EU so worried about the Hungarian National Bank allegedly losing its independence due to the expansion of its Monetary Policy Council [MPC] by two or three members appointed by the Prime Minister and the President. As if central bank "independence" depended on the number of MPC members. As if central bank "independence" were a sacrosanct value akin to the protection of human life from conception (now part of the new constitution) rather than merely a theory of economic policy which Western countries have ignored when necessary.

Can we regard as independent a Bank of England that tolerates an inflation rate well above its declared inflation target because a higher interest rate would deepen the recession and cause even more hardships for debt-laden British homeowners? How independent is the US Federal Reserve with its consecutive bouts of Quantitative Easing, or the European Central Bank with its new venture into buying up hundreds of billions of Eurozone bonds to keep the big project afloat? Has anyone read the CityAM December 5, 2011, editorial exposing how central banks have become politicized, ostensibly in response to the current economic malaise?

In the midst of the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression, are the US and the EU in a position to pronounce infallible judgments on a minor modification of the law on the National Bank of Hungary? Even if they were, does it entitle them to demonize a freely and democratically elected government? Or are there some other motives at play here? Alas, one fears the answer is yes. Following the veritable barrage of the mainstream Western as well as the allegedly muzzled mainstream Hungarian media, one is led to believe that Armageddon is happening in Hungary and the intimidated citizenry cannot wait to regain its freedom.

This is an absolutely false impression that does not serve the interests of the Western public. Any objective observer could not but detect the well-orchestrated campaign masterminded by a greatly reduced internal Hungarian opposition and its Western supporters. This particular interest group is having a hard time accepting its resounding electoral defeat leading to the diminution of its political dominance and fears of losing its ill-gotten wealth amassed during the nontransparent fire-sale like privatization of the past two decades.

The fact is that, notwithstanding the hysterical political campaign coupled with open threats of financial squeeze, the Orbán government and its policies continue to enjoy the support of a wide voter base. The government¹s two-thirds majority is real even if every effort is made to ignore or vilify it as something deeply undemocratic. Those who advocate the removal of this Hungarian government are, in effect, seeking to nullify the democratically expressed will by a huge margin of the Hungarian electorate, the protection of which would surely constitute the very essence of democracy. Should such an undemocratic attempt succeed against Hungary, it could happen to any democracy at any time. "And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee."


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