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Baile Tusnad youth camp: Who said what?

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The annual summer university and youth camp for Hungarians in Romania attracted perhaps more attention than in the previous 23 meetings combined, with seemingly everybody who is somebody in the Orbán administration, including the prime minister himself, making appearances at the event. Many politicos took the opportunity to make announcements, advance news storylines and/or give policy speeches.

So what happened? Who said what? Get out your scorecards, election fans, because the runup to the 2014 vote is apparently already in full swing – at least as far as ruling party Fidesz is concerned… Viktor Orbán’s visit to Romania got off to a bit of a rocky start, as a vehicle within the Prime Minister’s convoy was involved in a traffic accident on the way to Baile Tusnad despite Romanian police escort. Few details have been released regarding the incident, but we do know that five officials were traveling in the car.

Orbán himself was not involved in the accident and thus was able to make his scheduled televised speech – and a bombastic one it was. The prime minister was able to announce that he has given the order to pay off the remaining outstanding €2.86 billion due on the International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan taken by the country in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.

Calling past relations with the IMF and European Union interests a “fight for freedom,” Orbán attempted to aggrandize the loan repayment’s place in history: “Hungary is not a major power,” he declared. “It has been a permanent goal [for Hungary] throughout the centuries to defend itself from the major world powers' efforts to siphon off its resources and protect its political and economic sovereignty.”  

As Orbán sees it, the European Union itself will not be “capable of defending its cultural and political position amid its fight underway for economic and human resources with the US and Asia”; he reasoned therefore that each EU member state must act individually to strengthen the entirety of the Union.

A panel discussion held on Friday of government officials, including Deputy State Secretaries for Global Affairs Szabolcs Takács and Péter Wintermantel, reiterated the current plan to look eastward to increase and diversify Hungary’s export market.

The officials claimed that upcoming visits to and from Eastern nations will help serve the government’s strategic goal of focusing on export markets outside the European Union. Upcoming high-level visits include Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s trips to Japan and India in October, plus the arrival in Budapest of Vietnam President Truong Tan Sang, Singapore President Dr. Tony Tan, Japan Foreign Affairs Minister Fumio Kishida and Afghanistan Foreign Affairs Minister Dr. Zalmai Rassoul by year’s end.  

Takács added that the current government is going forward with plans to open diplomatic missions in Angola, Ethiopia, Ghana and Mozambique as well, while Wintermantel discussed the prospective openings of diplomatic/consular facilities in Vietnam and Mongolia by the Visegrád Four (Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Poland).  

Earlier this month, Foreign Trade Secretary Péter Szijjártó explained that the government’s current goal is to increase export volumes to these regions by at least 50% to reach €110 billion by 2020. By 2018, Szijjártó expects that one-third of all Hungarian exports should go to non-EU nations.  

Speaking on Friday at the Baile Tusnad camp, National Economy Ministry State Secretary Sándor Czomba pointed out some positives in the Hungarian economy due to the current government’s policies, but also warned that “enduring positive tendencies in employment are not possible unless the economy is put back on a path of tangible growth.”

Czomba claimed that “very few countries have been able to produce similar results” to those of Hungary’s – citing Austria, Germany, Luxembourg and Malta as examples – which has seen 154,000 more people employed since 2010. Some 50,000 of the new employees work in positions which were created by the government’s HUF 300 billion job protection scheme, according to Czomba’s figures.  

Finally, statistics divulged by a roundtable discussion on Friday have got to make one wonder if Hungarians abroad could swing the 2014 parliamentary elections. A 2011 law based on the “jus sanguinis” principle allows for foreign citizens with Hungarian parentage to apply for citizenship – and thus the right to vote – in Hungary.

So what might happen in the first parliamentary election with these voters? According to as-yet unpublished results of a survey taken by the Hungarian People’s Party of Transylvania (PPMT/EMNP), 35% of ethnic Hungarians in Romania will definitely vote in Hungarian parliamentary elections next year, while another 40% polled declared themselves “likely” to do so, claimed PPMT President Tibor T. Toro.

Hungarian Federation of Vojvodina (VMSZ) President István Pásztor added that a “vast number” of the Vojvodinans granted Hungarian citizenship will also be voting. According to Sándor Jakab, head of the Democratic Union of Hungarians of Croatia (DZMH), “most” with Hungarian citizenship will “support Hungary’s national government,” but representatives from Slovakia and Ukraine suggested turnout in those countries would be extremely low.

Fidesz Party Lawmaker Balázs Hidvéghi reported that nearly 500,000 applications for dual citizenship – about 60% from Romania – have been received by Hungarian authorities in the two years since the dual-citizenship law’s passage.  Questions of rhetoric and “interference” aside, it’s no wonder Romanian State Secretary for European Affairs George Ciamba claimed that the proceedings beforehand felt like “holding a session of the Hungarian government in Romania…” 

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