Viktor Orbán

Viktor Orbán is the current Prime Minister of Hungary.

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Viktor Orbán (Orbán Viktor, Hungarian pronunciation: [orbaːn viktor]; born 31 May 1963) is the current Prime Minister of Hungary. He has held the position since 2010, and previously held it from 1998 to 2002. Orbán leads the Fidesz–Hungarian Civic Union party; in the 2010 elections, the party, together with the Christian Democratic People's Party, won 52.73% of the votes and a two-thirds supermajority of the seats in the parliament of Hungary.

Background

Orbán was born on 31 May 1963 in Székesfehérvár and spent his childhood in two nearby villages, Alcsútdoboz and Felcsút. In 1977 his family moved to Székesfehérvár.

In 1981, he graduated from secondary school, where he studied English. In the following two years he completed his military service, then studied law at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest. After graduating in 1987, he lived in Szolnok for two years, commuting to Budapest where he had a job as a sociologist at the Management Training Institute of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food.[1]

In 1989, Orbán received a scholarship from the Soros Foundation and spent four months in Oxford, where he studied at Pembroke College, Oxford University.[2] His personal tutor in politics was Zbigniew Pelczynski.[3] In January 1990, he left Oxford and returned to Hungary to win a seat in Hungary's first post-communist parliament.

Orbán is married to jurist Anikó Lévai. The couple has five children.[4] He is a Calvinist Protestant.[citation needed] He is very fond of sports, especially of football; he was a signed player of the Felcsút football team, and as a result he also appears in Football Manager 2006.[citation needed]

Political career



Viktor Orbán Prime Minister of Hungary 2010

In 1988, Orbán was one of the founding members of Fidesz (an acronym for FIatal DEmokraták SZövetsége, in translation Alliance of Young Democrats). The first members were mostly students who opposed the Communist regime. On 16 June 1989, Orbán gave a speech in Heroes' Square, Budapest, on the occasion of the reburial of Imre Nagy and other national martyrs of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. In his speech he demanded free elections and the withdrawal of Soviet troops. The speech brought him wide national and political acclaim. In summer 1989 he took part in the Opposition Roundtable.[5]

Three years later, he became leader of Fidesz. Under his leadership, Fidesz transformed from a radical student organization to a center-right people's party[citation needed]. In September 1992, he was elected vice chairman of the Liberal International. In November 2000, however, Fidez left the Liberal International and joined the European People's Party. During the time, Orbán worked hard to unite the center-right parties in Hungary. At the EPP's Congress in Estoril in October 2002, he was elected Vice President.[6]

First premiership (1998–2002)

In 1998, Orbán formed a successful coalition with the Hungarian Democratic Forum (MDF) and the Independent Smallholders, Agrarian Workers and Civic Party (FKGP) and won the 1998 parliamentary elections with 42% of the national vote.[6] Thus, Viktor Orbán became the second youngest Prime Minister of Hungary at 35 (after András Hegedüs), serving between 1998 and 2002.[7]

Orbán's economic policy was aimed at cutting taxes and social insurance contributions over four years while reducing inflation and unemployment. Among its first measures the new government abolished university tuition fees and reintroduced universal maternity benefits. The government announced its intention to continue the Socialist-Liberal stabilization program and pledged to narrow the budget deficit, which had grown to 4.5% of the GDP. The previous Cabinet had almost completed the privatization of government-run industries and had launched a comprehensive pension reform. The Socialists had avoided two major socioeconomic issues, however – reform of the health care and the agricultural system, these remained to be tackled by Orbán's government.

The new government immediately launched a radical reform of state administration, reorganizing ministries and creating a super-ministry for the economy. In addition, the boards of the social security funds and centralized social security payments were dismissed. Following the German model, Orbán strengthened the prime minister's office and named a new minister to oversee the work of his Cabinet. In the process thousands of civil servants were replaced (no distinction is made between political and civil servant posts, resulting in a strong "winner takes all" practice). The overall direction was towards centralized control.



Viktor Orbán with Tamás Deutsch in 2000

In March 1999, after Russian objections were overruled, Hungary joined NATO along with Czech Republic and Poland. This ended Hungarian efforts to gain security in the post-communist Europe. The Hungarian membership to NATO demanded its involvement in Yugoslavia's Kosovo crisis and modernization of its army. NATO membership also gave a blow to the economy because of a trade embargo imposed on Yugoslavia.[8]

Despite vigorous protests from the opposition parties,[9][10][11] in February the government decided that plenary sessions of the unicameral National Assembly would be held only every third week.[12] As a result, according to opposition arguments, parliament's legislative efficiency and ability to supervise the government were reduced.[13] In late March the government's attempt to replace the National Assembly rule calling for a two-thirds majority vote with a simple majority, but this was ruled unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court.[14]

At the same time, the Orbán cabinet continued to strengthen the prime-minister-led political system and introduced the new institution of the constructive vote of no confidence.

The year saw only minor changes in top government officials. Two of Orbán's state secretaries in the prime minister's office had to resign in May because of their implication in a bribery scandal involving the U.S. military manufacturer Lockheed Martin Corp. In advance of bids on a major jet-fighter contract, the two secretaries, along with 32 other deputies of Orbán's party, had sent a letter to two U.S. senators to lobby for the appointment of a Budapest-based Lockheed manager to be the U.S. ambassador to Hungary.[15] On 31 August the head of the Tax Office also resigned, succumbing to protracted attacks by the opposition on his earlier, allegedly suspicious, business dealings. The tug-of-war between the Budapest city council and the government continued over the latter's decision in late 1998 to cancel two major urban projects: the construction of a new national theatre[16] and of the fourth subway line.

Economic successes included a drop in inflation from 15% in 1998 to 10.0% in 1999, 9.8% in 2000 and 7.8% in 2001. GDP growth rates were fairly steady: 4.4% in 1999, 5.2% in 2000, and 3.8% in 2001. The fiscal deficit fell from 3.9% in 1999, to 3.5% in 2000 and 3.4% in 2001 and the ratio of the national debt was reduced to 54 percent of GDP. Under the Orbán cabinet there were realistic hopes that Hungary would be able to join the Eurozone by 2009. However, negotiations for entry into the European Union slowed in the fall of 1999 after the EU included six more countries (in addition to the original six) in the accession discussions. Orbán repeatedly criticized the EU for its delay. As of Q1 2012, Hungary still does not meet the criteria for joining the Eurozone.



Mikuláš Dzurinda, Viktor Orbán and Günter Verheugen open the Mária Valéria Bridge across the Danube connecting the Slovak town of Štúrovo with Esztergom in Hungary.

Relations between the Fidesz-led coalition government and the opposition worsened in the National Assembly, where the two seemed to have abandoned all attempts at consensus-seeking politics. The government pushed to swiftly replace the heads of key institutions, e.g., the Hungarian National Bank chairman, the Budapest City Chief Prosecutor, and appointed partisan figures as heads of the H.N. Bank, the Hungarian Radio and Chief Prosecutor. While the opposition attempted to resist, e.g. by delaying their appointing of members of the supervising boards, the government simply ignored it and ran the institutions without the stipulated number of directors. In a similar vein PM Orbán failed to show up for question time in parliament, for periods of up to 10 months. His statements of the kind that "The parliament works without opposition too..." also contributed to the image of an arrogant and aggressive governance.

Orbán also came under criticism for pushing through an unprecedented two-year budget and for failing to curb inflation, which only dropped a half point, from 10% in 1999 to 9.5% in 2000, despite the tight fiscal policy of the Central Bank. Investments, however, continued to grow.

Numerous political scandals during 2001 led to a de facto, if not actual, breakup of the coalition that held power in Budapest. A bribery scandal in February triggered a wave of allegations and several prosecutions against the Independent Smallholders' Party (FKGP). The affair resulted in the ousting of József Torgyán from both the FKGP presidency and the top post in the Ministry of Agriculture. The FKGP disintegrated and more than a dozen of its MPs joined the government faction, which looked like a major coup for PM Orbán.

The level of public support for political parties generally stagnated, even with general elections coming in 2002. Fidesz and the main opposition Hungarian Socialist Party ran neck and neck in the opinion polls for most of the year, both attracting about 26% of the electorate. According to a September 2001 poll by the Gallup organization, however, support for a joint Fidesz – Hungarian Democratic Forum party list would run up to 33% of the voters, with the Socialists drawing 28% and other opposition parties 3% each. Meanwhile, public support for the FKGP plunged from 14% in 1998 to 1% in 2001. As many as 40% of the voters remained undecided, however. Although the Socialists had picked their candidate for prime minister — former finance minister Péter Medgyessy — the opposition largely remained unable to increase its political support.

The dark horse of the election was the radical nationalist Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIÉP), with its leader István Csurka's radical rhetoric. MIÉP could not be ruled out as the key to a new term for Orbán and his party, should they be forced into a coalition after the 2002 elections.

Hungary attracted international media attention during the year for its passage of the s.c. "status law" concerning estimated three-million-strong ethnic Hungarian minorities in neighbouring (Romania, Slovakia, Serbia and Montenegro, Croatia, Slovenia and Ukraine). The law was aimed at providing education and health benefits as well as employment rights to those, and was said to heal the negative effects of the disastrous 1920 Trianon Treaty. Governments in neighbouring states, particularly Romania, claimed to be insulted by the law, which they saw as an interference in their domestic affairs. The proponents of the status law countered, that several countries criticizing the law have themselves similar constructs to provide benefits for their own minorities. Romania acquiesced after amendments following a December 2001 agreement between Orbán and Romanian prime minister Adrian Năstase; Slovakia accepted the law after further concessions made by the new government after the 2002 elections.



Orbán with George W. Bush in the White House (2001).

A later report in March by the Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists criticized the Hungarian government for improper political influence in the media as the country's public service broadcaster teetered close to bankruptcy.

The elections of 2002 were the most heated Hungary had experienced in more than a decade, and an unprecedented cultural-political division formed in the country. In the event, Viktor Orbán's group lost the April parliamentary elections to the opposition Hungarian Socialist Party, which set up a coalition with its longtime ally, the liberal Alliance of Free Democrats. Turnout was a record-high 73.5%.

Beyond these parties, only deputies of the Hungarian Democratic Forum made it into the National Assembly. The populist Independent Smallholders' Party and the right Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIÉP) lost all their seats. The number of political parties in the new assembly was therefore reduced from six to four.

MIÉP challenged the government's legitimacy, demanded a recount, complained of election fraud, and generally kept the country in election mode until the October municipal elections. The socialist-controlled Central Elections Committee ruled that a recount was unnecessary, a position supported by observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, whose only substantive criticism of the election conduct was that the state television carried a consistent bias in favour of Fidesz.

In opposition (2002–2010)

Orbán was awarded the Freedom Award of the American Enterprise Institute and the New Atlantic Initiative (2001), the Polak Award (2001), the Grand Cross of the National Order of Merit (2001), the "Förderpreis Soziale Marktwirtschaft" (Price for the Social Market Economy, 2002) and the Mérite Européen prize (2004). In April 2004. he was awarded the Papal Grand Cross of the Order of Saint Gregory the Great.

In the 2004 European Parliament election, the ruling Hungarian Socialist Party was heavily defeated by the opposition conservative Fidesz. Fidesz gained 47.4% of the vote and 12 of Hungary's 24 seats.



Orbán and Hans-Gert Pöttering in 2006.

Some consider[citation needed] the election of Dr. László Sólyom as the new President of Hungary as the most recent success of the party. He was endorsed by Védegylet, an NGO including people from the whole political spectrum. His activity does not entirely overlap with the conservative ideals and he championed for elements of both political wings with a selective, but conscious choice of values.[17]



Orbán and Romanian President Traian Băsescu in 2008.

He was the candidate of Fidesz for the parliamentary election in 2006. Fidesz and its new-old candidate failed again to gain a majority in this election, which initially put Orbán's future political career as the leader of Fidesz in question.[18] However, on fighting with socialist-liberal coalition, his position has been solidified again, and he was elected president of Fidesz yet again for another term in May 2007.[19]

On 17 September 2006, an audio recording surfaced from a closed-door MSZP meeting which was held on 26 May 2006, in which Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány made a speech, notable for its obscene language. On 1 November, Orbán and his party announced their plans to stage several large-scale demonstrations across Hungary on the anniversary of the Soviet suppression of the 1956 Revolution. The events were intended to serve be a memorial to the victims of the Soviet invasion and a protest against police brutality during the 23 October unrest in Budapest. Planned events included a candlelight vigil march across Budapest. However the demonstrations were small and petered out by the end of the year.[20] The new round of demonstrations expected in the spring of 2007 did not materialize.

On 1 October 2006, Fidesz won the municipal elections, which counterbalanced the Socialist Party (MSZP)-led government's power to some extent. Fidesz won 15 of 23 mayoralties in Hungary's largest cities—although its candidate narrowly lost the city of Budapest to a member of the Liberal Party—and majorities in 18 out of 20 regional assemblies.[21][22]

A referendum on revoking government reforms which introduced doctor visit fees paid per visitation and medical fees paid per number of days spent in hospital as well as tuition fees in higher education took place in Hungary on 9 March 2008. Hungarian people usually call this popular vote social referendum.

The referendum was initiated by opposition party Fidesz against the ruling MSZP. The procedure for the referendum started on 23 October 2006, when Orbán announced they would hand in seven questions to the National Electorate Office, three of which (on abolishing co-payments, daily fees and college tuition fees) were officially approved on 17 December 2007 and called on 24 January 2008. It is assumed likely that the referendum will pass, but it is uncertain whether turnout will be high enough to make it valid;[23] polls indicate about 40% turnout with 80% in favour of rescinding the three reforms.[24]

In the 2009 European Parliament election, Fidesz had a big win, gaining 56.36% of the vote and 14 of Hungary's 22 seats.[25]

Second premiership from 2010



Orbán speaking at an EPP Congress in 2009

The European Parliament election results of 2009 foreshadowed a decisive victory in the 2010 parliamentary elections, where Fidesz won the outright majority in the first round on 11 April, winning 206 seats, including all 119 individual seats. After the second round of the elections they won a total of 263 seats in the parliament (out of 386), which is enough to change the Hungarian constitution.[26] The new cabinet began working on legislation even before its inauguration. The sixth National Assembly was established on 14 May 2010. The representatives accepted a bill of dual citizenship, granting Hungarian citizenship to every Hungarian in the Carpathian basin and around the world, purportedly aimed at offsetting the harmful effects of the Treaty of Trianon, and sparking a controversy between Hungary and Slovakia. Though János Martonyi, the new foreign minister, visited his Slovak colleague to discuss the issue of dual citizenship, Robert Fico nonetheless stated that since Fidesz and the new government were not willing to negotiate the issue, which would be viewed as a question of national security. Ján Slota, Slovak government member and leader of the extreme right Slovak National Party, fears that Hungary wants to attack Slovakia and considered the situation as the "beginning of a war". As Prime Minister designate, Viktor Orbán firmly stated that he considers Slovak hysteria part of a political campaign. In response to the change in Hungarian citizenship law, the National Council of the Slovak Republic approved on 26 May 2010 a law stating that if a Slovak citizen applies for citizenship of another country then that person will lose his or her Slovakian citizenship.



Orbán with Jyrki Katainen in at an EPP in Helsinki, March 2011

Orbán took the oath of office on 29 May 2010. With 261 votes, the Hungarian Parliament accepted him as leader of the ninth government since the end of communism. The opposition parties (MSZP, Jobbik and Politics Can Be Different) did not accept the cabinet's program (107 votes).[27][28] His first international visit was to Poland, as a symbol of establishing a central European alliance. Polish-Hungarian friendship has a long historical tradition.[29]

In the autumn of 2010, Parliament passed a new media bill,[30] setting up a new media council. The new members were immediately accused of being politically attached to Fidesz, since all members were elected by the two-third parliamentary majority. Their – factually non-existent – authority to supervise media, issue decrees, and issue fines of up to 200 million forints was also questioned, though all decisions of the council can be appealed at the Independent Court. Since 2010, these allegations are kept on board persistently by the international media [31] in spite of the fact that neither the media bill nor other Hungarian regulations have given such competencies to the media authority, see Hungarian Media Council head Annamária Szalai's reactions.[32] Still, the bill was widely criticized as jeopardizing freedom of the press in Hungary, however no specific provisions were named.[33]

The European Commission criticized Orbán's second cabinet for its lack of compliance with economic deficit goals in 2010 and 2011, the nationalization of the country's compulsory private pension scheme and the cutting of the salary of state employees to a maximum of 2 million Hungarian forints (6.700 Euro) per month, including the Hungarian National Bank's director, claiming the government potentially undermined the independence of that institution.[34]

Orbán's cabinet has held the presidency of the Council of the European Union from January to July 2011. Concerns have been raised about its performance, which has technically been good, the 6-pack of economic governance was almost approved the roma strategy was approved etc., but success was hindered by lack of political clout. This was partially caused by criticisms of the internal policies. like the ones relating to the controversial media law just passed in 2010, the Euroscepticism of the ruling coalition, and the lack of preparation of civil servants due to pervasive political patronage.[34] Hungary's six-month presidency of Council launched in the European Parliament on 19 January 2011. Orbán put the economy at the top of the agenda for Hungary's six-month presidency of the Council of Ministers when he outlined his priorities to MEPs on Wednesday morning. The debate became quite heated at times as Orbán came in for criticism over Hungary's controversial media law.[35] With the support of the Hungarian EU-Presidency, the EU finished the negotiations on the Croatian accession to the EU. Hungary elaborated the basic elements of a future European Roma-Integration Policy.[36] Since the beginning of the revolution in Libya, Hungary has been representing the EU and the USA in Tripoli.[37]



Orbán and Slovak PM Iveta Radičová during an EPP summit in September 2010

In 2010, a drafting process for a new constitution began to take place, was finalized by 11 April 2011, and was adopted by the Parliament on 18 April.[38][39][40] It was signed into law by Pál Schmitt on 25 April and went into effect on 1 January 2012. The new constitution, called Magyarország Alaptörvénye (Basic Law of Hungary), contains[41] an extended preamble called the National Creed which claims the period between 19 March 1944 (Nazi occupation of Hungary) and 2 May 1990 (first free election since 1945) Hungary had no self-determination. The preamble of the new constitution quotes the first line of the Hungarian national anthem 'God save the Hungarians', which has been evaluated as religious bias by mainstream media sources in Europe and in the United States.[42] The new constitution has also changed the country's official name from Republic of Hungary (Magyar Köztársaság) to Hungary (Magyarország), while the next sentence of the constitution has declared that the country's form of state is republic. This clause seems to be ignored by the critics. The symbolic act of changing the name of the country has led to fervent media allegations that Hungary has stopped being a republic.[43]

The Hungarian government claims that the European Commission (EC) uses double standards as almost all criticized regulations can be found in similar or more limiting forms in other EU country legislations. Acknowledging this no discrimination argument, the EC has first requested only modest changes on the media bill, which the Hungarian party has rectified in early 2011. In early 2012, the EC has come up with the additional request that the Hungarian regulations has to be in line with the 'spririt' of the European regulations. This spiritual alignment is a precondition of EU’s approval on granting a circa 15 billion Euro standby IMF loan that Hungary badly needs to repel speculation against its national currency. The Orbán government has been repeatedly asking the EC to specify in concrete terms the legal measures the EC requests. The government refers to a press briefing on 10 April 2012 when EU spokesman Olivier Bailly has explicitly turned down the idea of formulating a definite list of requirements, stating that the government has to restore an environment in which investors can feel secure.[44][45] However, Bruxinfo compiled the list based on previous official communication of which the government is totally aware.[46]

The National Assembly passed a Fidesz constitutional amendment motion on 7 June 2011 that will effectively end early retirement for men. The amendment is primarily intended to send back to work retired law enforcement officers under 57 as well as those under 62 who are claiming disability benefits, but will not cut the preferential pensions of women, miners, chemists and artists. The Socialist Party declared its solidarity with the law enforcement unions and invited them to consultations to jointly formulate the basic principles that the Socialists could represent if they regain power. Jobbik said before the vote that it would appeal to the Constitutional Court on account of discrimination if law enforcement employees are deprived of their pensions.[47] Law enforcement and fire services unions said they would go ahead with a planned demonstration for 16 June as talks with the prime minister on 8 June morning failed to bring an agreement over pension changes. Géza Pongó, head of the Independent Union of Police Employees, and Judit Bárdos, head of the Union of Law Enforcement Employees, agreed that the government’s proposal for pension changes is unacceptable.[48] Two days earlier Orbán said in a TV interview concerning a series of demonstrations staged by trade unions of policemen, fire fighters, prison, guards and other employees in law-enforcement and disaster management, it was unacceptable if “keepers of public order throw smoke bombs or damage fire hydrants, thus violating laws and making threats.[49]

Wen Jiabao, the Chinese Prime Minister, arrived on a two-day official visit to Budapest on 24 June 2011.[50] He was the first premier from China who visited Hungary since 1987 (when Hungary was still under communist rule). China will buy “a certain sum” of Hungarian government bonds and extend a one billion-euro credit line to Hungary, Wen Jiabao said in Budapest at a joint news conference with his Hungarian counterpart Orbán, who said Hungary had now entered into a new and major alliance with China.[51] The meeting had also controversies: deputy chairperson of parliament’s human right’s committee Tímea Szabó has called for the leaders of Budapest’s police force to give evidence to the committee in connection with their handling of people who protested in support of Tibet. Szabó told MTI in a statement on 25 June that she would investigate personally on what basis the immigration authority (BAH) had called in to its office Tibetan refugees who were living in Hungary legally and had residential and work permits. The Politics Can Be Different (LMP) deeply condemns the police’s treatment of Tibetan refugees and activists demonstrating in support of Tibet. The Help Tibet Society wrote in a separate statement that staff of the BAH on 24 June evening had taken in to the BAH office Tibetan refugees living in Hungary. Further, police had blocked demonstrators from the site of a visit by the Chinese premier.[52]



Orbán and Hillary Clinton in the Hungarian Parliament Building (June 2011)

On 17 November 2011 the Ministry of National Economy said government is starting negotiations on a new type of cooperation with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in the course of scheduled consultations.[53] Vice President of Fidesz Lajos Kósa said Hungary must not give up its core ambitions and can only sign an agreement for budget financing that will essentially not reduce the government’s economic control and independence.[54] The Hungarian forint was rebounding on word that the nation is in talks on an IMF deal. Hungary’s currency had been battered of late by concerns about its high exposure to foreign-currency debt, which has hit households hard given the forint’s weakness. The euro was down 2.2% against the forint to HUF308.19, while the dollar slid 2.8% on 17 November.[55] In the previous week Standard and Poor's and Fitch said they are weighing whether to downgrade it further, raising pressure on the government. Orbán said on public radio on 18 November that an IMF agreement will in no way lead to any limitations on Hungary's economic sovereignty, since the country can still finance itself from the markets, and said that investor confidence hasn't waned.[56]



Hillary Clinton and Orbán shake hands in June 2011

Economy minister György Matolcsy said in October 2011 the return to talks with IMF would be a "clear sign of weakness".[57] He also said in the Parliament on 14 November 2011, just four days before the ministry's announcement, in a response to a Jobbik politician, "the government forming its economic policy against this three-letter institution [IMF]."[57] The Hungarian Socialist Party welcomed the decision and said the government admitted the failure of its economic policy.[58] Gábor Vona, leader of Jobbik stated the Orbán cabinet failed. The one and half-year austerity policy, which the cabinet bled almost all sectors and social groups, forced to people for a meaningless sacrifice. He also said Viktor Orbán and his government must resign.[59] According to András Schiffer (LMP) when Fidesz announced "war of economic independence", in fact conducted an "adventurous policy" which failed. Schiffer called for resignation of Matolcsy.[60] Gyurcsány's Democratic Coalition (DK) said Orbán's policy which is hostile-looking to the world and has isolation tends, failed. Gyurcsány demanded establishment of an new government in and the next budget is to be withdrawn.[61]

Tens of thousands of people have been protesting in Budapest over Hungary's controversial new constitution on 2 January 2012, a day after it came into force. Opponents say it threatens democracy by removing checks and balances set up in 1989 when Communism fell. The protest was organized by independent NGOs, while opposition parties (LMP, MSZP, DK, 4K!) showed their support. The European Union and the United States had also asked for the law to be withdrawn. The dispute has cast doubt over talks on a new financing agreement with the EU and IMF, seen as vital for market confidence in the Central European country. However Fidesz said the new constitution, or basic law, improves the legal framework of life in Hungary. "Despite political debates we think it is an important value that for the first time, a freely elected parliament created the Basic Law," said Fidesz MP Gergely Gulyás, quoted by the Reuters news agency. Gulyás co-wrote the new law and shepherded it through Parliament.[62]

The European Commission launched legal proceedings against Hungary, said José Manuel Barroso on 17 January 2012. The procedures concern Hungary’s central bank law, the retirement age for judges and prosecutors and the independence of the data protection office, respectively.[63][64] One day later Orbán indicated in a letter his willingness to find solutions to the problems raised in the infringement proceedings.[65] On 18 January he participated in plenary session of the European Parliament which also dealt with the Hungarian case. He told "Hungary has been renewed and reorganised under European principles". He also said that the problems raised by the European Union can be resolved “easily, simply and very quickly”. He added that none of the EC’s objections affected Hungary’s new constitution.[66][67]

There was a hot debate in the session: Joseph Daul (EPP) noted that Hungary has undertaken many reforms in the past and is emerging from a period of poor economic conditions and severe problems of corruption. However, newly elected Socialist leader Hannes Swoboda (Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats) said that essential issues, like the independence of judiciary – a breach of European values of democracy – are at stake. Guy Verhofstadt (Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe) recalled different international organizations (such as Amnesty International) have raised serious concerns about the new Hungarian constitution, media law, and the central bank law. Daniel Cohn-Bendit (Greens-EFA), one of Orbán's largest critics said he should remember that the EU is a house that we are building all together because we are fighting for freedom and democracy here. Orbán should also remember that even if he has the majority, "the minority has the right not to live in fear".[68] Several Hungarian MEPs also addressed: Socialist MEP Csaba Tabajdi said that it was the policy of Orban’s government and not the European Union, as the government claims, that was “punishing the Hungarian nation”. József Szájer (Fidesz) stressed that Hungary is a European democracy. Speaking on behalf of the Conservatives and Reformists Group, Lajos Bokros said that “the rule of law had been exposed to carpet bombing” in Hungary.[69] On 21 January hundreds of thousands marched to express their support for the Orbán-government called "March of Peace for Hungary", asking the European Union an unbiased treatment for Hungary.[70][71] On the 15 March, however, the number of participants on the pro- and anti-government events were about equal. In a speech to a conference organised by a think tank "Szazadvég", leaning toward the government, he said: "We need to very definitely walk our own way and resist pressure to introduce measures that are disadvantageous for Hungary in a very circumspect operation, in which elements of agreement, consensus, defiance and resistance need to be mixed, in a very complicated string of tactical actions,... This peacock dance of turning one down must be performed in a way that suggests that we want to be friendly." [72]

Viktor Orbán in the media

Viktor Orbán is usually depicted by foreign media as a mainstream Hungarian politician and mention his anti-communist past. Left-wing and liberal journalists often label him a populist.[73][74][75] In January 2007 The Economist criticised his "cynical populism and mystifyingly authoritarian socialist-style policies".[76]

The most stormy incidents generating indignation happened in 2001. That April Magyar Hirlap made public a letter written by a reader that stated, "the killing of Orbán would do good to our nation". Also that month on TV channel RTL Klub, reporter Tamás Frei interviewed a Russian hitman, asking him for how much money would he kill the Hungarian prime minister (then Orbán). Right-wingers thought it a provocative question. Later it turned out that the interview person wasn't a real hitman, but an actor paid by Frei.[77] After this scandal, RTL Klub apologised to Orbán, and the Luxembourgian owners of the channel began an inquiry. Frei subsequently lost his job. Political scientists and right-wing publicists call these phenomena "orban(o)phobia".[78][79]

Trivia

He played the bit part of a footballer in the Hungarian family film Szegény Dzsoni és Árnika (1983).[80]

Orbán has played football from early childhood; he is currently one of the players and main financiers of Hungarian football club Felcsút FC.[81] He had a prominent role in the foundation of Ferenc Puskás Football Academy at Felcsút where can be found Hungarian football’s modern training facilities.[82] His only son, Gáspár Orbán learns and trains here.[83] FIFA president Sepp Blatter visited the facilities at the Puskás Academy in 2009. Blatter, together with the widow of Ferenc Puskás, as well as the founder of the Academy, Viktor Orbán, announced the creation of the new FIFA Puskás Award during that visit.[84]

In a 2005 interview Orbán stated that his favorite band is Creedence Clearwater Revival.[85]

Books published in Hungarian

  • Egy az ország. Helikon Könyvkiadó, Budapest, 2007. (translated into Polish as Ojczyzna jest jedna in 2009)[86]
  • Rengéshullámok. Helikon Könyvkiadó, Budapest, 2010.[87]

References

Citations
  1. Orbán Viktor életrajza a Parlament honlapján parlament.hu (Hungarian)
  2. Orbán Viktor 1996-os életrajza parlament.hu (Hungarian)
  3. http://www.rhodeshouse.ox.ac.uk/files/Fulbright_report.pdf
  4. Orbán Viktor családja Official Website (Hungarian)
  5. Martens 2009, p. 192-193.
  6. Martens 2009, p. 193.
  7. Kormányfői múltidézés: a jogászok a nyerők zona.hu
  8. Bell 2003, p. 315.
  9. A parlamenti pártokat még mindig megosztja a háromhetes ülésezés. Népszava, 3 March 2000.
  10. Bírálják az új munkarendet. A háromhetes ciklus miatt összeomolhat a törvénygyártás gépezete. Népszava, 4 March 1999.
  11. Lajos BODNÁR: Marad a háromhetes munkarend. Az ellenzéknek az őszi parlamenti ülésszak idején sem lesz ereje a változtatáshoz. Magyar Hírlap, 23 July 2001.
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