September 07, 2012
I don't know about you, but I would label my
personal knowledge of Hungary as wanting, if not painfully incomplete.
It's not an easy country to come to grips with,
not least of all of course because Hungarian doesn't look like any western
language we know with the possible exception of Finnish.
I did visit just after the Wall came down, and
remember huge contrasts, almost paradoxes, between rural poverty and a
capital, Budapest, that was much richer than other capitals such as Prague,
a leftover of Budapest's status as meeting place between western and eastern
diplomats and businessmen.
The riches were not for all, though, the city
center was full of beggars and panhandlers, mostly Roma. To keep up the
paradox, Mercedes sold more luxury models in Hungary than just about
anywhere else back then, reportedly mostly also to Roma; just not the same.
In the years since, precious little attention
has been and is being devoted to the former eastern bloc countries in the
Anglo press. We know most of the countries are now members of the European
Union, but only a few have been allowed to enter the hallowed grounds of the
One thing I did pick up on last year was the
news that Hungary's PM Victor Orbán had thrown chemical, food and
Monsanto out of the country, going as far
as to plow under 1000 acres of land.
Now, I have little patience for Monsanto,
infamous for many products ranging from
Agent Orange to
Round-Up, nor for its ilk, from
DuPont to Sygenta, all former chemical companies that have at
some point decided they could sell more chemicals than ever before by
applying them on and inside everyone's daily food.
Patenting nature itself seems either unworthy of
mankind or its grandest achievement. I don't care much for either one. So
Orbán (who has a two-thirds majority in parliament, by the way) has my
tentative support on this one.
This is from July 22, 2011, International
Hungary Destroys All Monsanto GMO Maize Fields
In an effort to rid the country of
Monsanto's GMO products, Hungary has stepped up the pace.
This looks like its going to be another slap
in the face for Monsanto. A new regulation was introduced this March
which stipulates that seeds are supposed to be checked for GMO before
they are introduced to the market. Unfortunately, some GMO seeds made it
to the farmers without them knowing it.
Almost 1000 acres of maize found to have
been grown with genetically modified seeds have been destroyed
throughout Hungary deputy state secretary of the Ministry of Rural
Development Lajos Bognar said. The GMO maize has been ploughed under,
said Lajos Bognar, but pollen has not spread from the maize, he added.
Unlike several EU members, GMO seeds are
banned in Hungary.
The checks will continue despite the fact
that seed traders are obliged to make sure that their products are GMO
free, Bognar said. During their investigation, controllers have found
Pioneer and Monsanto products among the seeds planted.
It's remarkably hard to find sources on this,
It’s even harder, even more ironically, to find
anything that mentions the Wikileaks report on the connections between the
US government and the chemical/seed industry. Which is curious, in my
opinion; it's not as if there's nothing newsworthy in the topic.
Just about the only thing I could find was this
from Anthony Gucciardi at NaturalSociety.com.
US to Start ‘Trade Wars’ with Nations Opposed to
Monsanto, GMO Crops
The United States is threatening nations who
oppose Monsanto’s genetically modified (GM) crops with military-style
trade wars, according to information obtained and released by the
Nations like France, which have moved to ban
one of Monsanto’s GM corn varieties, were requested to be ‘penalized’ by
the United States for opposing Monsanto and genetically modified foods.
The information reveals just how deep Monsanto’s roots have penetrated
key positions within the United States government, with the cables
reporting that many U.S. diplomats work directly for Monsanto. [..]
Perhaps the most shocking piece of
information exposed by the cables is the fact that these U.S. diplomats
are actually working directly for biotech corporations like Monsanto.
The cables also highlight the relationship between the U.S. and Spain in
their conquest to persuade other nations to allow for the expansion of
Not only did the Spanish government secretly
correspond with the U.S. government on the subject, but the U.S.
government actually knew beforehand how Spain would vote before the
Spanish biotech commission reported their decision regarding GMO crops.
It doesn't look like Orbán and Hungary have a
lot of support in their fight against Monsanto and GMO in general on the
political front. But that still does little to explain the radio silence.
There was more international reporting earlier
this year, when Orbán again faced up to two other major forces, in this
the IMF and the EU.
On January 1, the Hungarian parliament and
president signed a new constitution into law. And it contains a number of
things that the Troika members don't like. In particular, they are probably
at odds with taxes levied on bank transactions, and especially central bank
transactions. Not the kind of thing the IMF is likely to ever agree with.
It all gets clad in protesting (the EU even
threatens with courts) the independence under fire of the central bank, the
media and other parts of Hungarian society.
The IMF and EU, like the tandem team of Monsanto
and Washington before them, act like schoolyard bullies. It's become their
standard MO, and it usually works.
Portraits of Orbán as a fool, a reckless
idiot and a dangerous populist, on par with that of Hugo Chavez
or newly found international enemy Rafael Correa, are much easier to
find than those links to
Wikileaks Monsanto cables.
It would be good to see Orbán continue to stand
up to the IMF bullies, but he may not have that choice. They can simply
financially bleed him dry, like they have so many other countries and their
leaders. It's a time tested model.
So maybe we’ll have to do with a good and hearty
chuckle, and enjoy his announcement yesterday:
Hungarian prime minister unfriends IMF on Facebook
Hungary's prime minister has long had a
testy relationship with the International Monetary Fund - and on
Thursday he used Facebook to unfriend the agency and reject its
allegedly tough loan conditions.
Prime Minister Viktor Orban said in a video
message on his official Facebook page that Hungary could not accept
pension cuts, the elimination of a bank tax, fewer public employees and
other conditions in exchange for an IMF loan that other officials have
said could be about €15 billion ($18.9 billion). The IMF's list of
conditions, Orban said, " contains everything that is not in Hungary's
Orban's announcement took the markets by
surprise, in part because just a day earlier he had said loan
negotiations with the IMF and the European Union were going according to
schedule and both sides were willing to reach an agreement. [..]
In late 2008, under a Socialist government,
Hungary became the first EU country to receive an IMF-led bailout. The
Orban government, however, decided not to renew the loan agreement in
2010 so it could implement its economic policies without IMF control.
But the increasing weakness of the forint,
the Hungarian currency, and investors' growing loss of trust in the
country's economy made the government abruptly change its mind late last
year, when it again sought IMF help.
Basically, what the IMF demands is what it has
always demanded through the years from countries it lends money to:
cut pensions, cut the public sector, cut
benefits yada yada, and then privatize, open markets, and open financial
systems, so international operating conglomerates can move in and divvy
up the spoils - "create a more 'business friendly' environment to boost
The IMF is the poster child for disaster
capitalism, no matter how you twist and turn it.
And Orbán can see clearly what is being done to
Greece, which is just around the corner from Hungary.
Hungary - Orban’s horror show
A “list of horrors”.
That’s how Hungary’s prime minister Viktor
Orbán described on Thursday the conditions given by the IMF/EU for a
deal, via a video on his Facebook page. [..]
Orban blamed the “long list” of onerous
conditions that had, supposedly, been leaked to Magyar Nemzet, a
slavishly pro-government daily, on Wednesday.
The list contains a number of Orbán’s most
sacred political themes, including cuts in pensions, family allowances
and transport perks, an increase in the age of retirement, the
introduction of a property tax, the abolition of the bank and financial
transaction taxes, and modifications to the flat-rate, personal income
And here's a bit more:
Hungary PM rejects IMF/EU terms, hopes fade for deal
Hungary threw hopes for a new loan to prop
up its sagging economy into disarray on Thursday as Hungarian Prime
Minister Viktor Orban rejected what he called unacceptable IMF
conditions, crushing prospects for a fast agreement.
Orban, in a video posted on his Facebook
page, cited demands from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a
raft of changes that he said were too high a price for Hungary to pay.
"From cutting pensions to reducing
bureaucracy to scrapping the bank tax and the funds to be made
available to banks, everything is in there that's not in Hungary's
interest," Orban said.
"The parliamentary group meeting (of the
ruling Fidesz party) took the view, and I personally agree with it,
that at this price, this will not work," he added. [..]
To reverse that momentum, Orban is pushing a
300 billion forint ($1.33 billion) job saving plan, partly funded by a
new tax on central bank operations, a key sticking point in the IMF
talks, which the European Central Bank has also criticized. [..]
"Junk"-rated Hungary faces a repayment hump
in the next five quarters, with the equivalent of €4.6 billion Euros
falling due from its previous IMF/EU bailout alone.
It's enough of a David vs. Goliath fight, or a
Little Red Riding Hood vs. the Wolf, to make one question the bullies.
Now, I don't really know Victor Orbán,
all I know is western media descriptions of him, not a very reliable source,
and he could well be a bully himself. But I still like the Little Red Riding
Hood story (and dislike Monsanto and the IMF) enough to give him the benefit
of the doubt for now.
And besides, it's as refreshing as it is high
time to talk about something else than Greece or Spain.
We'll have to get back to them soon enough,
after Draghi's unlimited buying bailout boondoggle yesterday.
Protesters in Thessaloniki, Greece, hold a shark
balloon meant to represent the International
Monetary Fund. Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras
says a final round of austerity measures contains
painful and unjust cuts but is necessary to restore
Greece's credibility and allow the country to
receive funding from creditors.
Hungarian Prime Minister
Facebook Page to ‘Unfriend’ IMF, Rejects Alleged Loan Conditions
by Associated Press
September 6, 2012
Hungary’s prime minister has long had a testy
relationship with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) - and on Thursday he used Facebook to unfriend the agency and reject its allegedly tough loan
Viktor Orban said in a video message on
his official Facebook page that Hungary could not accept pension cuts, the elimination of
a bank tax, fewer public employees and other conditions in exchange for an
IMF loan that other officials have said could be about €15 billion ($18.9
The IMF’s list of conditions, Orban said,
“contains everything that is not in
Orban’s announcement took the markets by
surprise, in part because just a day earlier he had said loan negotiations
with the IMF and the European Union were going according to schedule and
both sides were willing to reach an agreement.
The forint, Hungary’s currency, initially weakened 1.5 percent against the
Euro after Orban’s Facebook video, while the benchmark index of the Budapest
Stock Exchange fell from over 18,000 points to below 17,700 before closing
at 17,949 points.
Orban said his government would work on an “alternative negotiation
proposal” because both he and his Fidesz party agreed that a deal under such
IMF demands would be unacceptable.
The IMF did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday but at
the end of loan talks in July, the Washington-based fund outlined some views
about Hungary’s economy.
The IMF said Orban’s government needed to focus on,
“measures to encourage labor participation,
advance competition, reform loss making state-owned enterprises, notably
in the area of transport, and put in place a regulatory level playing
field for all companies.”
Experts said only the European Central Bank’s
announcement Thursday of a new bond-buying program meant to ease Europe’s
debt crisis and ensure the future of the joint Euro currency prevented
Hungary’s currency and stock market from falling more.
“There have been many U-turns in the IMF
story in the past, surprises are kind of part of the game already,”
analyst Gabor Ambrus of London’s 4Cast said about Orban’s latest
In late 2008, under a Socialist government,
Hungary became the first EU country to receive an IMF-led bailout.
The Orban government, however, decided not to
renew the loan agreement in 2010 so it could implement its economic policies
without IMF control. But the increasing weakness of the forint, the
Hungarian currency, and investors’ growing loss of trust in the country’s
economy made the government abruptly change its mind late last year, when it
again sought IMF help.
The Hungarian economy is in a recession and contracted an annual 1.2 percent
during the second quarter of 2012, while the country’s annual inflation rate
stood at 5.8 percent in July, the highest in the EU.
Still, Hungary has been able to keep financing itself through bond sales.
The government has repeatedly said it only wants
a precautionary loan from the IMF for emergency funds.
“The market movements will be the main
influence on what the government does,” said analyst Zoltan Arokszallasi
of Erste Bank in Budapest.
“If the state auctions of forint-denominated
bonds are unsuccessful - and this is not at all the case right now - the
IMF deal will become more important.”
not to accept IMF deal on current conditions, says PM."