The Head of the Hungarian Tax authority, Ildiko Vida, is suing the Charge d’Affaires at the United States embassy in Budapest, M. André Goodfriend, for defamation after it emerged that Ms Vida was one of six Hungarian officials banned from entering the United States over alleged corruption. This followed the Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán, saying that Ms Vida sould be relieved of her role if she did not undertake legal proceedings. US-Hungary relations have been strained for some time over the banning and were recently exacerbated by Senator John McCain's description of Hungary as "a nation that’s on the verge of ceding its sovereignty to a neo-fascist dictator". While Budapest awaits the arrival of the recently confirmed US Ambassador, Colleen Bell,(former producer of the The Bold and the Beautiful and fund raiser for President Obama) FIDESZ's popularity has fallen dramatically in recent months. A large protest march is planned (link in Hungarian) for this Sunday. . This follows large scale protests in October when the Hungarian government announced an Internet tax.
The Association of Hungarian Jewish Congregations (MAZSIHISZ), has announced that it is boycotting government-sponsored events to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Holocaust. This decision follows recent controversies over how the government of Viktor Orbán is choosing to mark the anniversary. [more inside]
Famed Hungarian film director, Miklós Jancsó, has died at age 92. Winner of Cannes in 1972 for Red Psalm/Még kér a nép[SLYT, NSFW], which deals with a doomed uprising of farm workers, he also directed The Round-Up/Szegénylegények [SLYT, entire film], widely regarded as the greatest Hungarian film of all time. Hughly influential, he made great use of the long take with Elektreia/Szerelmem, Elektra having just 12 shots in its 70 minutes. Béla Tarr, another exponent of the long-shot, called Jancsó the greatest Hungarian film director of all time. [more inside]
The status of Roma in Hungary has been brought into sharp focus with a controversial article [link in Hungarian] by prominent ruling-party FIDESZ member, Zsolt Bayer, in which he says, "a significant part of the Roma are unfit for co-existence. They are not fit to live among people. These Roma are animals and they behave like animals." The Guardian reports on the growing anger at the article, The Hungarian Spectrum, and well-known poet and translator of Hungarian literature George Szirtes weigh in with English translations of some of Bayer’s article. Many leading Hungarian politicians condemn the article. [more inside]
Hungarian mid-wife, Dr Ágnes Géreb, is headed for jail after nearly 18 months of house arrest, for 'neglient malpractice'. This follows her sentence being increased after an unsuccessful appeal. The Royal College of Midwives has called for her release and the BBC's Central European correspondant Nick Thorpe, whose five children were delivered by Dr Géreb, has written extensively on the case. More information is available at http://www.freeagnesgereb.com/.
An expert committee has found that the President of Hungary, Dr. Pál Schmitt, is not guilty of plagiarism, despite extensive parts of his doctoral thesis being copied from multiple sources. The fault, the committee claims, was not his, but that of his supervisors. The Contrarian Hungarian and The Hungarian Spectrum have detailed analysis of the allegations and the committee’s report, while the Urban Dictionary has coined a new term in honor of the scandal. Other European politicians have faced with similar claims recently with differing results.
Previously. On 1 January Hungary's new Constitution came into effect which, amongst other things, entrenches the power of the current ruling party, FIDESZ, and enshrines social issues such as the right of the unborn child. Many so-called cardinal laws have been passed in Parliament which requires a 2/3 majority to change. The president of the EU, José Barroso wrote to the Hungarian Prime Minister, Victor Orbán, requesting a rethink of two such laws which impact the political independence to the Central Bank. This was rejected by the Hungarian government. Economically things are tough with Hungary requesting additional IMF assistance but they withdrew from informal talks, citing concern over the independence of the central bank. Hungary's debt was downgraded to junk status with rating agencies citing concerned at the relationship with the IMF. [more inside]
As Hungary takes over the Presidency of the European Union, a new media law also comes into effect that centralizes control of the media in ways many consider is anti-democratic. The central media authority can issue decrees and apply financial penalties to those media, including internet portals and blogs who for "politically unbalanced reporting". The first test for the new Authority is Ice T following the broadcast of his songs, "Warning" and "It's On". Local media responded with blank pages by way of protest. Many see this as the latest example in the increasing authoritarian and anti-democratic nature of the Orban-led FIDESZ government. They point to the privatization of pensions, the diminution of the powers of the Constitutional Court and the imposition of wind-fall taxes on multi-national companies, as examples of this trend. The Washington Post calls it the "Putinizantion of Hungary", while The Guardian laments "One-party rule" in Hungary. The German newspaper, Spiegel describes it as a "A Slow Poison Attacking Democracy" while quoting those who refer to Hungary as a "Führer state". Local critics include the prominent economist János Kornai. English readers can keep up to-date with developments at the Hungarian Spectrum blog and politics.hu. On the hand, some see Hungary as a World of Potentials (SLYT).
First there was the State Language Act that many Hungarians and EU observers claim discriminates against the significant Hungarian minority in Slovakia. The Slovaks were predictably indigent. The issue isn't new though. Relations soured further when the Slovaks recently refused entry to the Hungarian President. Clearly, there is much history to overcome.