Hungary is an open and friendly country, says Orbán to Arabic bankers

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s capacity to tell an audience one thing with seemingly deep conviction and dramatic rhetorical skill, and then tell another audience the polar opposite, with a straight face and without batting an eye, is singular, surreal and disturbing all at once. The Fidesz government has just launched a rabidly racist campaign with hundreds of billboards, suggesting that immigrants and refugees were a danger to Hungary’s national culture, that they were criminals and terrorists, and that they were trying to steal jobs from Hungarians. Defacing these billboards has effectively turned into a sport among liberal and left-wing activists, while Hungary’s satirical Two-Tailed Dog Party (Kétfarkú Kutyapárt) managed to raise 3 million forints ($11,000) in just seven hours, after it announced that it wanted to launch its own billboard campaign, to counter the government’s racism.

In the shadow of hundreds of government billboards, Mr. Orbán told the Union of Arab Banks, which happens to be holding its International Arab Banking Summit in Budapest, at the Hilton, that countries must not turn inward, but should be open to the world, in order to succeed. The UAB is based in Beirut, but also operates in Egypt, Jordan and Sudan, with the involvement of some 300 financial institutions in the Middle East. The stinging irony of all this is that the conference’s theme is “Financial Inclusion for Social Development and Stability.” Mr. Orbán’s government is hardly known for promoting a sense of social justice and financial inclusion.

In his speech. Mr. Orbán spoke about how Hungary is “an open and friendly country,” which welcomes foreign investors. One cannot say this about every nation, he added. He said that one of the positives about Hungary is that it doesn’t have the sort of ethnic and immigrant “ghettos” that exist in western European countries. But that’s not the only way in which Hungary is different from western Europe. In Hungary, “the culture of respect” still dominates. That cannot be said of much of the western world, where they “no longer respect God, family and nation.”

The prime minister added that Hungarians have a “profound respect” for Islam. “We see Islam as a great structure,” he added, then turning to the words of Pope Francis, who had suggested that Christians should read the Quran for themselves, in order to gain a better understanding of the Islamic faith.

Prime Minister Orbán speaking at the summit organized by the Union of Arab Banks, at the Budapest Hilton. Photo: Szilárd Koszticsák/MTI.

Prime Minister Orbán speaking at the summit organized by the Union of Arab Banks, at the Budapest Hilton. Photo: Szilárd Koszticsák/MTI.

Mr. Orbán suggested that western Europeans were often condescending, because they have an absolutist view of democracy, and think that they need to proselytize about this to other parts of the world. In contrast, Hungary’s government “does not believe that democracy would work well everywhere.”

“Everyone has the right to choose the framework in which he/she wants to live,” added Mr. Orbán, somewhat awkwardly suggesting that people had the right to decide if they did not want to live in a liberal democracy.

Prime Minister Orbán then told the UAB delegates that Hungary’s national currency, the forint, forms part of the backbone of the country’s financial stability, confirming yet again that discussions about joining the euro are off the table.

In concrete terms, Mr. Orbán seems to be encouraging UAB members to invest in Hungarian real estate, noting that prices are still undervalued at the moment, making it a buyer’s market. He also highlighted the energy sector.

Years ago, Hungary’s tourism board used the slogan “open hearts, open minds” to promote travel to the central European country. Mr. Orbán focused on this theme as well, as he enticed investment from the Middle East in the Hungarian economy. The liberal 444.hu new site summarized it the best, when one of the regular contributors, Sarkadizs, noted that while the Orbán government has no time for poor, persecuted migrants, it will do just about anything to attract wealthy foreigners. “The government doesn’t hate immigrants, it just despises the poor,” added Sarkadizs.

And that just about summarizes so many of Mr. Orbán’s domestic policies and statements as well, when it comes to those living on the margins of Hungarian society. In Mr. Orbán’s mind, one must respect power and strength, but must shun weakness.

6 Comments

  1. Charlie London says:

    Only one problem?

    Two-faced Orban knows nothing about Democracy.

    Junker’s next joke for Orban is “You know, Orban, the thing we like best about you is your faces”. (Slap, slap!)

    Orban’s only an expert on: Kleptocracy, Commocracy, Illiberalism, Oligarchy, Autocracy, Dictatorship, Mafiosi and Communism. Yes Communism. With a special expertise in Corruption.

    Plenty of ‘Ocracy’s’ but Democracy is not among them.

    Presumably because the ‘East-facing’ strategy has been a complete failure (did you hear that all you Football-Abassadors?) with less trade than before the initiative was announced – Hungary is desperate for trade with the Middle East now.

    It’s good to hear about the billboards being defaced.

    I’d willingly contribute to the defacing campaign, just as I’d contribute to the egg-throwing campaign for that hideous eagle and Gabriel statue – not to mention Horthy in his glass box in the church (the church!) around the corner.

  2. Charlie London says:

    One of my partner’s colleagues, a very conscientious black nurse – when invited to our lovely house by the Danube in Northwest Hungary asked:

    “How do they treat black people in Hungary?”

    My partner gave a bit of an equivocal response, knowing black people are often stared at and made to feel uncomfortable in Gyor.

    She had already stated she wanted to visit Hungary, but changed her mind.

    Sad.

    • Christopher Adam says:

      I can’t even imagine what it would be like to be a visible minority in small-town Hungary. I think that nowadays in Budapest, the population is generally more tolerant and more accustomed to diversity, despite the awful rhetoric coming from Fidesz and Jobbik. Things have probably improved in the capital, in this regard. I recall that in the nineties, when I lived in Budapest for seven years, and attended the American International School of Budapest (AISB), I had two African American classmates. We were all teenagers, but in one case, my classmate’s father was not comfortable with his son riding on public transportation in Budapest.

    • Hungarians still call the black “néger”. And produce a chocolate that has brand name “négercsók”. I know they don’t do it with malicious intent only out of ignorance but explain it to the black.

  3. Did he coordinate with Putin before opening another door to another direction? Or new players are in the game? Not difficult to guess what kind of trade he is planning to facilitate with the Arabs while blathering about democracy and culture. Does he want to be a transporter or a key-keeper?
    He might as well be contented seeing that the world considers him a schizophrenic fool and explains his crimes with that, instead of gathering intel to look deeper into his activities.

  4. Liz Aucoin says:

    It is interesting double talk again. He says that he welcomes Arabs and Muslims to Hungary to invest their money, but doesn’t want them to live there? The billboards talk about people coming from other cultures not being welcome because of this huge threat of Hungary losing its culture. He has even mentioned terrorist and criminals being amongst them. But now he wants their money? He even has the balls to refer to “ethnic and immigrant ghettos”, that supposedly plague the west. Any one of those “investors” could have a business and home in a ethnic neighborhood in the west and he wouldn’t know that he just insulted them. What an idiot.

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