2015. május 13., szerda

The rare sincere voice of the unknown neighbour of Kiprich

Jelte Wiersma says goodbye to a Brussels spokesperson who comes from the wrong country, career-wise

Márton Hajdú (36) was the spokesperson of Hungary's Permanent Representation to the European Union. Despite the low ranking of his country, his good-bye party was attended by the most influential Brussels jounralists.
Such as Peter Spiegel (54) from the Financial Times. "After the Greeks, Marton had the hardest task. But he never lied or spun." said Spiegel at the reception organized at the Embassy.

Hajdu became spokesperson in 2010 because Hungary took the rotating presidency of the EU from 2011. "It was a rough ride" he says. For it was in the same year that Viktor Orban became Prime Minister, who often caused disturbance in Brussels. And explaining that was Marton's task. Says Peter Gyorkos, the Hungarian ambassador: "He absolved this without accidents."

Hajdu grew up in the town of Tatabanya. Until 1989 he was neighbours with the soccer player Jozsef Kiprich . He then moved to play at Feyenoord in the Nethelrands and earned the moniker "Wizard from Tatabanya". Hajdu: "As children we'd often played with the headlight wipers of his Lada."


American volunteers who taught in Hungary expanded Hajdu's world:  'I learned from them a differetn way of thinking." Hajdú was then also a good discussion partner for those Americans who wanted to understand Eastern-Europe. He learned about Western Europeans as a student in Breda (NL).
He would have liked to continue as a spokesperson and applied to be one at the European Commission, but was rejected. 'Of course it has nothing to do with my country,' he says with an ironic smile.
Orbán's bad reputation has consequences in Brussels for his compatriots. Hajdú will now become again an official at the Competition Department (of the Commission), where he worked before, until 2010. There he cannot speak publicly. Brussels loses a sincere voice.

NL original:

2015. május 12., kedd

Elsevier cikk nyersforditas

Jelte Wiersma bucsuja egy brusszeli szovivotol aki karrier szempontjabol rossz orszagbol jon
Márton Hajdú (36) Magyarorszag EU melletti allando kepviseletenek szovivoje volt. Hazaja alacsony befolyasa ellenere bucsubulijara a legbefolyasosabb brusszeli ujsagirok jottek el.
Mint peldaul Peter Spiegel (54) a brit Financial Timestol. "A gorog szovivo utan Martonnak volt a legnehezebb dolga. De o sosem kodositett es sosem nyomott propagandat" mondta Spiegel a nagykovetsegen rendezett fogadason.
Hajdu 2010-ben lett szovivo mivel 2011-tol Magyarorszag lett az EU soros elnoke "Kemeny menet volt" mondja. Ugyanebben az evben lett Orban Viktor miniszterelnok, aki sokszor okozott felhordulest Brusszelben. Amit megmagyarazni Hajdu feladata volt. Gyorkos Peter, a magyar nagykovet: "Ezt hiba nelkul teljesitette."
Hajdu Tatabanyan nott fel. 1989-ig a focista Kiprich Jozsef szomszedja volt. O akkor atigazolt a Feyenoordhoz es kierdemelte a "Tatabanyai Varazslo" becenevet. Hajdu: "Gyerekkent mindig a Ladajanak a fenyszoro-torlolapatjaval jatszadoztunk."


Amerikai onkentesek akik Magyarorszagon tanitottak kitagitottak Hajdu vilagat: 'Megtanitottak az amerikai gondolkodasmodra.' Hajdú akkor is hasznos beszelgetotars volt azoknak az amerikaiaknak, akik Kelet-Europat akartak megerteni.
A nyugat-europai gondolkodasmodot bredai diakkent tanulta meg. Szeretett volna szovivo maradni es jelentekezett az Europai Bizottsagnal, de elutasitottak. 'Ennek persze semmi koze nincs ahhoz, hogy melyik orszagbol jovok,' mondja ironikus mosollyal.
Orbán rossz hire kovetkezmenyekkel jar brusszeli honfitarsaira. Hajdú most ujra tisztviselo lesz a Verseny Foigazgatosagon, ahol 2010-ig dolgozott. Ott nem beszelhet nyilvanosan. Brusszel elveszit egy oszinte hangot.

2015. március 13., péntek


Statement of the Hungarian Government Spokesperson concerning press reports about the Paks nuclear project 

"In accordance with the energy strategy of the Government of Hungary and its efforts to strengthen the country’s energy security, decrease carbon-emissions and establish affordable resources of energy, in early 2014 the Cabinet concluded inter-governmental agreements to maintain the domestic nuclear electricity generating capacities of the Paks nuclear plant. Maintaining the Paks capacities would also help to decrease Hungary's dependence on external gas supplies.

These inter-governmental agreements were presented to the relevant EU authorities who, after due and careful survey of the material provided, put forward no objections.

Following this, the authorised Hungarian organisation, entered into three implementation agreements with the authorised Russian organisation, a Rosatom subsidiary, on December 9, 2014. All required notifications were made to the European Commission prior to the signing of these agreements.

Further to the EURATOM (Treaty), the EURATOM Supply Agency (an EU agency) has also reviewed one of the implementation agreements, namely the fuel supply agreement, and has requested certain modifications. Ongoing talks about addressing these observations, however, do not block the project and have no effect on the validity and enforceability of the Engineering, Procurement and Construction Agreement (EPC) that came into force on January 1, 2015.

Our expectation is that, following intensive negotiations, the fuel supply contract will be finalized in line with EURATOM requirements in a matter of weeks.

The above facts clearly demonstrate that yesterday’s announcement by the Financial Times and its “sources” are false and completely misleading. Since any further details on the documentation and ongoing talks constitute classified material and data we cannot provide you with any further information at this point."

2014. november 21., péntek

PM Orban calling for strong commission&president

Excerpts from the speech of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán delivered at the 4th meeting of the Hungarian Diaspora Council
20. November 2014, Budapest

One thing we can say, perhaps I should start with this [is] that in the Eastern neighbourhood of the EU, in Ukraine, there is a war-like situation, and this results in a  „cold peace” inside Europe.
I would like to make clear for all of you that we consistently stand by the territorial integrity and sovereignty of our Eastern neighbour. Not only because … there is one single anchor for us, namely international law … and we cannot lose this point of reference, and, consequently, we must stand by the Ukrainians, but there is also an element of national interest in there, not only an abstract respect for international law. [Averting a geopolitical situation in which there is no independent and sustainable] Ukraine between Hungary and Russia … is in the Hungarian national interest.  We do not deduce our interest from the American, or Russian, or even Ukrainian position … and the Hungarian interest is clearly a sustainable, sovereign and democratic Ukraine, that we hope can be home to the 200 thousand strong Hungarian ethnic minority there. A Ukraine that confers those rights on this community which can be expected from a country looking towards the West.
We need to pose the question: “what is the Hungarian interest?” and not „whose side should we take?” … Hence I suggest we remind ourselves that we are a member of NATO and we fulfilled our duty always without hesitation. We went to Afghanistan, which was not our war, but we went nevertheless because we decided that the US was the subject of a terrorist attack and it must be followed by an appropriate response.
… We went to Iraq as well … outside the NATO framework, because the US, which is our friend, asked that we take part in an international operation
Now things are happening here, in Central Europe, and hence we expect all our allies to represent the Hungarian position. Here, in Central Europe, is where we live, this is our life, our fate … we ask all our allies to help the Hungarian interest, just like we helped them in achieving their goals … For this we must define precisely what is the Hungarian geopolitical interest here in Central Europe [which] can be summed up in three words: peace, energy [security] and trade
Let me now say a few words on the situation within the EU … The [European] project seems to have come to a halt. I quote [from the UK PM article the other day]: „six years on from the financial crash that brought the world to its knees, red warning lights are once again flashing on the dashboard of the global economy” and „as I met world leaders at the G20 in Brisbane, the problems were plain to see. The eurozone is teetering on the brink of a possible third recession, with high unemployment, falling growth and the real risk of falling prices too.” So, this is not a Hungarian assessment, which malicious commentators often describe as EU-sceptic position. The HU position is not EU sceptic, but realist … Certain things flow from this assessment. The first and most important, is that we must reinforce our European institutions, because we won’t be able to avert the coming wave of recession banging on our door without strong European institutions. For that we need a strong Commission, and strong Commission President. The debates around the President are well known. This is the time when Hungary – irrespective of the fact that we did not support his election – must make clear that we need a strong and operational Commission, which cannot exists without a strong President. Juncker is our President, we must support his work, because otherwise we all – Hungarian economy included – will suffer serious losses

2014. október 1., szerda

Europe is Hungary’s only choice

Why Hungary wants to remain part of an integrated Europe, despite its treatment by the EU.

Hungary has been reprimanded by the European Commission on several occasions in recent weeks. Most recently, the Commission pronounced that Hungary should forgo €495 million in EU funds for meeting its budget-deficit targets via measures that it regarded unsustainable. Other member states, including the Spanish government, missed their targets altogether but escaped punishment.
Why has Hungary been singled out? Perhaps because of the tensions within the EU between ever closer political union and the notion of national sovereignty.
Many of the founders of the European project viewed nationalism as the cause of the world wars, and a hostility to nationalism has made some of Europe’s current political elite suspicious of the nation state. That suspicion is at times openly expressed and targeted at Hungary.
Hungary, though, believes it is possible to be a proud defender of the nation state and of the right to decide one’s own affairs, and, at the same time, to be an enthusiastic participant in Europe’s institutional and political life when it is in its interests to be so.
National identity is distinct from belligerent nationalism. Indeed, national sentiment is the pre-condition of our independence. Without national sentiment, it is difficult to maintain the democratic process and the rule of law: both depend upon people recognising their togetherness and their duties to each other. In particular, after the collapse of communism, the peoples of central Europe have needed a chance to redefine their identities.
That is why, in 2010, Hungarians voted for a centre-right government and gave it a mandate to produce a new constitution establishing Hungary’s identity and independence.
There is a threat of belligerent nationalism in Hungary, expressed in parliament through the Jobbik Party. But, in Fidesz, Hungary has a governing party that can combine national identity with an allegiance to a liberal jurisdiction and a rule of law that offers constitutional protection to all ethnic, religious and linguistic groups.
We therefore make no apologies for our strong attachment to national sentiment. But, at the same time, we will remain a dedicated and active member of the EU, and for the following very good reasons.
First and foremost, we have no geopolitical alternative. We experienced decades of subjugation. So, when asked whether Hungary should remain part of an integrated Europe, the question we implicitly ask ourselves is: “would it be better once again to be part of the Russian sphere of political, economic and cultural influence?”
As a result, there is no real cleavage in Hungarian politics over EU membership. Only Jobbik has begun to articulate an anti-EU position. In fact, support for membership is one of very few issues that have consistently enjoyed genuine cross-party support.
Secondly, membership serves Hungary’s national interests. Within Hungary, it is widely acknowledged that the tragic consequences for central Europe of the world wars can be fully and finally resolved only within a common European political framework.
Thirdly, EU funds remain crucial to our economic development. Hungary’s farmers, builders and researchers rely heavily on the EU’s support. EU-funded projects contribute to the modernisation of our public administration, and speed up the inclusion into society of minorities and marginalised groups. These are reasons why this government stresses the need to accelerate implementation of EU-backed projects.
Fourth, the advantages of being part of the decision-making process are immeasurable. During the communist era, Hungary had the misfortune of being decided for; now, we have a say in international decisions.
We are a proud people. We believe that, just as Europe is an asset to us, so we are an asset to Europe. In many fields of artistic and intellectual endeavour we have made a disproportionately large contribution.
Hence our indignation when European institutions retail some of the left’s lies and exaggerations. We are not happy with the increasing tendency towards standardisation within the EU. Nor are we happy with the double standards exemplified by European commissioners who criticise our democratic practices while remaining far removed from European voters themselves.
But our calculation is clear: we have our frustrations, but we remain committed to the values and goals of an integrated Europe.
Tibor Navracsics is Hungary’s deputy prime minister.

Methodical minister

Tibor Navracsics, Hungary’s deputy prime minister, has been rewarded for his loyalty.

Loyal, methodical and almost always punctual, Tibor Navracsics, Hungary’s deputy prime minister, was hailed on his appointment last year as a competent administrator and adept technocrat who would ensure the smooth implementation of a radical government programme.
It was a sign of the confidence placed in him by Viktor Orbán, the prime minister, that Navracsics was given a vast portfolio, combining elements of the old justice ministry and prime minister’s office, was also entrusted with civil-service reform and government communication. It was said that Orbán had learned during his previous stint in office, between 1998 and 2002, that his own strengths were as a strategic thinker and leader. Navracsics, sitting at the apex of government in his ministry for public administration and justice, was to take care of the day-to-day operation of government, leaving the prime minister to do what he does best.
The appointment was a huge coup for a man who joined Orbán’s Fidesz party long after it first took shape in the late 1980s as an almost counter-cultural student opposition group centred in a university dormitory. It was a mark not just of Navracsics’s standing, but also of changes in the party’s politics and in its praetorian guard. Other than Orbán, few of the original dissidents have a central role in the current government: several have been dispatched to the European Parliament, another serves on the constitutional court.
Navracsics’s rise through the ranks since he joined Fidesz in 1994 has been unbroken, but it owes much to the ruptures caused by a sequence of catastrophic defeats for the party. He was brought into the party by János Áder, a party founder who is now an MEP, to help identify the causes of the party’s unexpected rout in the 1994 elections. When Orbán took office in 1998, the young political scientist became the prime minister’s press chief. After Fidesz unexpectedly lost the 2002 elections, his unflappable, methodical style once again made him the natural choice to analyse the causes of Fidesz’s defeat, and Orbán made him his chief of staff. When Fidesz once again lost, unexpectedly, to a resurgent Socialist Party in 2006, he was made head of Fidesz’s parliamentary group, becoming the face of the party during its increasingly rancorous campaign against Ferenc Gyurcsány’s Socialist government.
“In 2006, I was the only one who wanted the job,” he recalls of the moment of unrelieved gloom for a party that had, once again, snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. That willingness to step into the breach turned Navracsics from a backroom player into a politician with a national profile.
The son of a teacher and a librarian, Navracsics was born in the western city of Veszprém in 1966. His family was apolitical. “It may seem strange today, but that was normal in the [János] Kádár era,” he says of the period between the 1956 revolution and the collapse of communism in eastern Europe. A self-professed moderate, he attributes a carefully cultivated non-confrontational style and his belief in a “civic Hungary with a strong middle class and market economy” to the influence of his staid but pretty hometown, an ancient and prosperous city near the shores of Lake Balaton. “Western Hungary has always been less radical than the east,” he says, adding that the populist, conservative party that Fidesz became from the mid-1990s onwards was more appealing to him than the liberal student movement was at its inception.
It was while studying law in Budapest in the late 1980s that he first came into contact with Orbán and Fidesz. “It was partly a generational thing, and that they were from the provinces too. They were the most appealing party for me at the time,” he says. “But they were doing very well without me, and I didn’t think I had anything extra to bring to the table.” Already a politics junkie, he busied himself sampling the many new political groupings that were emerging during the “exciting time of the regime change”. Acquaintances from that era remember him leafleting enthusiastically for a Trotskyite cell, though he says it was just one of many different political groupings at the time.
“I read all the samizdat,” he says, describing the development of his political convictions. “I knew about the UK Conservatives and the German Christian Democrats.”



1966: Born, Veszprém

1985-90: Studied law in Budapest

1990-92: Legal work at Veszprém City Court

1993: Civil servant at Veszprém County Council

1993-97: Assistant professor in political science, Budapest University of Economics

1996: Visiting scholar, University of Sussex

1997-: Lecturer, then professor in political science, ELTE University, Budapest

1998-2002: Press officer, Fidesz

1999: Doctorate in political science

2002-03: Head of Fidesz’s political analysis department

2006:        Elected to parliament
2006-10:   Leader of Fidesz parliamentary group
2010-:       Deputy prime minister, minister of public administration and justice
He was briefly a judge, but soon returned to teach political science in Budapest, spending a year at the UK’s University of Sussex in what he describes as a formative encounter with Anglo-Saxon political thinking. Famously popular with his students in Budapest, many of whom now work for him in government, he taught right up until his appointment as a minister.
He is widely regarded as a well-briefed technocrat, able to prepare himself for a meeting during a short car journey. His excellent English and businesslike tones have made him popular abroad. But he showed a more pugnacious face as parliamentary leader. For several years after Gyurcsány’s admission that his party had lied about the state of the economy to win the 2006 elections, Fidesz MPs would leave the parliamentary chamber whenever the prime minister spoke, leaving only Navracsics there alone to respond: it was his searing attacks on the government that sealed his reputation as a loyal and effective political operator. But the clashes were often absurdly personal and bitter: when Gyurcsány’s wife implied that the anger was theatrical, recalling that Navracsics had once dined at their house, Navracsics responded with a blog post describing the prime minister as a “poor host” and an “aggressive” personality.
“It was a very confrontational period, and Gyurcsány himself was very confrontational,” Navracsics says of that time.
Despite the steady hand that Navracsics is famed for, Fidesz’s year in office has been stormy, with clashes over windfall taxes on multinationals and, most recently, with the European Commission over the media law. “Of course there are things we could have done more elegantly,” he says, “but cabinet loyalty prevents me from being specific.”
His rise to date may have seemed effortless, but he is adamant that he will not try to take the final step to the top job. “Politicians burn out, and my colleagues will tell me when that happens. When it comes, I’ll go back to the university.”

2014. szeptember 15., hétfő

Another way of looking at gas storage levels in Europe

With various operators reporting lower gas supply levels from Gazprom and against the backdrop of the Ukraine standoff, gas storage facilities and their storage levels became the focus of media attention, and rightly so.

The importance of gas storage is obvious - with falling imports (whatever the reason), gas needs must be met either from increased production or by reaching for previously stored "backups".

Gas Infrastructure Europe provides a handy table on gas storage levels here and I have reason to believe that most journalists reach for this resource when writing their reports, such as this one in the Wall Street Journal. (paywall)

While it's a good starting point, I have a major problem with it, because it merely looks at how much gas storage tanks are filled up, and completely disregards their relation to gas consumption. My country, Hungary, is a case in pont - report after report shows Hungary with a meagre fifty-some percentage storage level, which is indeed worst in class.

However, this doesn't mean that Hungary is waiting for the coming winter with shields down, far from it. It is because Hungary invested massively in energy security in the past few years, creating, on the one hand, the EU's 4th largest gas storage capacity, and building, on the other hand, interconnectors with our neighbours in key directions.

This mega-storage capacity means that we can store much more in relation to our gas needs than most other countries, hence the lower figure for storage levels.

To put this into perspective, I created the table below based on open source data that shows that in relation to gas needs, Hungary is actually the 4th best prepared country in the EU. It also shows the Netherlands as the "worst prepared", even though their storage tanks are 98% filled, but then again, they are also a special case, with large natural reserves to rely on.

Stored gas % Full Stored/Consumption
Latvia* 1.775 77,2 120%
Austria 4.435 94,8 52%
Slovakia 2.983 93,6 51%
Czech Republic 3.225 98,6 38%
Hungary 3.622 58,7 38%
Baltics* 1.775 77,2 32%
Denmark 941 94,6 25%
France 10.865 90,9 25%
Germany 20.069 91,9 23%
Italy 15.459 93,4 22%
Romania 2.500 - 19%
Croatia 461 83,5 14%
Poland 2.515 99,6 14%
Bulgaria 418 76,0 14%
Spain 2.234 100,0 7%
UK 4.461 97,3 6%
Belgium 730 98,6 4%
Portugal 178 74,5 4%
Netherlands 500 98,1 1%
*Latvian storage facilities store gas for the three Baltic states
Ammounts in million cubic meters
Consumption: (2013 where available, 2012 otherwise)
Storage: (14/09/2014)