Barroso’s Letter to Viktor Orbán

UPDATE #2 (JANUARY): The leaking of Barroso’s letter has become a discussion topic in parliament – in an exchange which is worthy of note for the chilling message it sends to journalists. On Dec. 22, Máté Kocsis (also known as the Fidesz MP who introduced the criminalization of homelessness in Hungary) addressed a request for written information to Sándor Pintér, Minister of Internal Affairs regarding the leaking of the letter. In his response,  dated Jan. 6, 2012, Pintér suggests that Mong is responsible for a criminal act: violating the privacy of personal mail (in Hungarian: “levéltitoksértés”) and that criminal proceedings could be initiated against him. Both Mong and the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union consider this letter to be public information, and as such the proper subject matter of journalistic investigation. They both point out that Pintér’s suggestion constitutes an intimidation of journalists in Hungary.

Hungarian originals of Kocsis’ and Pintér’s letter may be found on Attila Mong’s blog here, report on this part of the story here.

UPDATE: Complete text of the letter may be found below.

A Hungarian blog is publishing the “warning letter” sent by Barroso to Viktor Orbán. It’s a document that reads so well that I thought it’s worth a repost. 

President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso addressed a warning letter to Hungary’s prime minister in which he speaks in no uncertain terms about his detestation for the radical political transformations taking place in Hungary.

Back in the day, Barroso and Orbán used to be quite chummy.

On Monday (Dec. 19), Hungarian internet news portal origo.hu reported that the letter demands withdrawal from the parliamentary debate bills containing radical changes to two cardinal laws of the country. One of these is a law for reorganizing the Hungarian central bank (and for demoting its president – as well as for making a way for nationalizing its currency reserves). The other problematic law is aimed at financial stabilization. Besides suggesting the withdrawal of these two bills from the law-making process if Hungary is receive a loan from the IMF, Barroso’s letter also contains remarks of a personal nature.

Attila Mong, the author of Origo’s news report decided to publish the letter in its entirety on his blog here (part 1)here (part 2) and here (part 3 – scroll down for the original English text) because the Hungarian government is questioning the truthfulness of his reporting. András Giró-Szász, the government’s spokesperson went as far as referring to Mong’s reported summary of Barroso’s letter as mere speculation in a radio show Tuesday evening.

Unless one relies solely on the Hungarian government for information, however, there can be no doubt that the Hungarian government’s spokesperson is trying to mislead the Hungarian public about Barroso’s letter. Brussels confirmed the existence of the letter on Tuesday morning. Though according to the European Commission the letter should not have been leaked, they were nevertheless willing to summarize its contents at a press conference held on early Tuesday afternoon, well before the statements made by Giró-Szász.

Mong is publishing the letter in three parts over the course of three days (and not necessarily in the order in which they follow one another in the original letter). As of today, all three increments are available. In one of them, posted on Tuesday, Barroso “strongly advises” against passing the two cardinal laws in question. In another, available since Wednesday, he speaks about preliminary negotiations between the IMF and Hungary. Yesterday, a third piece was made public to complete the letter with “remarks of a personal nature,” as Mong put it.

Mong posts the letter his blog in its original English there as well as in Hungarian translation – which, if the comments are any indication, remain to be hotly contested by Mong’s critics (some readers have questioned whether “strongly advises” does not just mean “recommends.” This is essentially the government’s tactic to explain away the letter, Giró-Szász himself joked that it is not possible to quote in Hungarian a letter that was written in English (!)).

At any rate, here is the letter (update: as of 12/23/2011, a facsimile of the letter is now available here):

Jose Manuel Barroso’s letter to Viktor Orbán

H.E.
Mr Viktor ORBÁN
Prime Minister
HUNGARY

Dear Prime Minister,

Thank you very much for your letter of 21 November requesting precautionary EU support, to be coordinated with support from the IMF, and for your letter of 5 December which arrived just in time before the European Council. I regret to note the lack of consultation with the Commission and Economic and Financial Committee, prior to asking IMF assistance. This is not in line with standard procedures and does not contribute to creating atmosphere of trust and predictability.

Nevertheless, the Commission responded positively to the request of your government to hold discussions about the support already in December, in order to prepare ground for formal talks scheduled for the beginning of January 2012. However, the talks had to be interrupted, given the lack of assurance on the side of Minister Fellegi that the adoption of two cardinal laws – Magyar Nemzeti (MNB) bill, and Financial Stability Law – would be postponed till we are certain they are compatible with the EU law.

These laws contain provisions which could be in contradiction with the Treaty and interfere with previously issued European policy advice. The Commission has serious doubts on the compatibility of the current version of the Magyar Nemzeti Bank (MNB) bill with Article 130 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. I also regret that the last drafts of these laws have not been subject to a consultation with the ECB which repeatedly expressed its concerns.

If the laws adopted are incompatible with the EU legislation, they will need to be changed. This creates atmosphere of instability. I would strongly advise you to withdraw the two cardinal laws (on the MNB and the financial stability law) from Parliament. Let us then work together to make sure they are compatible with the EU law.

Let me add one more general point. I agree with you that we should always take into account a wider context of the recent financial turbulences in Europe, but the origin of Hungary’s economic and financial troubles predominantly lies in the domestic policy decisions and measures. Therefore, a possible programme should carry appropriate policy conditionality. I fully share the ideas outlined and endorsed in the discussion of the Economic and Financial Committee include compliance with the Stability and Growth Pact and other issues related to central bank independence, the financial sector, fiscal governance, Country Specific Recommendations, and consultation on policy initiatives. Further conditions may be considered during the negotiation phase. I hope that on this basis the talks about precautionary assistance could be renewed. I am looking forward to a fruitful co-operation with you on these matters.

photo of letter posted on Attila Monk's blog


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12 Responses to Barroso’s Letter to Viktor Orbán

  1. Paul says:

    Thanks for this, unfortunately I can’t find the English version on Mong’s blog.

    Incidentally, his name is a bit unfortunate in English – in fact I had to check with my wife that ‘Mong’ was a real Hungarian surname!

  2. Laszlo says:

    Why is this bits and pieces publishing? Either you want to show something or not …..This does not create much trust at all towards… you mate, or who ever else providing the information.

    • Anonymous says:

      Dear Laszlo, Mong’s will can’t be questioned. The form of publishing is a game from one side, and from the other side a tool of journalism aiming to keep the interrest alive, alert. Sorry for this too clear explanation, but I felt it was a need.

  3. Gretchen Dunn says:

    I would need to have read many diplomatic letters to correctly understand the strength of such phrases as “I regret to note the lack”, “lack of assurance”, and “I would strongly advise”. However, they sound very strong to me and sound like ‘shape up or ship out’~~get in line with EU rules and spirit, or go your own way.

  4. aiecquest says:

    Present Hungarian government needs to decide, on behalf of Hungarian people, while you are aware of all the benefits of EU membership, are you aware of the responsibilities? And of course those who disagree with the EU will attack the messenger…… Maybe Orban wants to return Hungary to the Russsian orbit? He seems to be modelling himself on Putin……

  5. Leslie says:

    This letter is a fake. It’s too sophisticated, for a s.c. private letter, has too many words, a Hungarian English, written in Hungarian first, then translated into English.
    Are you too shy to show us the entire letter? Is anything original here? May be the signature?
    Who leaked it? Barroso?, Orban?
    Mong is a fake too! Take a leak somewhere else, it stinks!

    • M. says:

      Take it easy. The full letter can be found in a scanned version on Mong’s website. I’m sure you were too lazy to click on the link above, right?

  6. M. says:

    Nice try, though:)

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