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Bully for "bully" Orbán's decision to stand up to the IMF and EU brutes (Adam LeBor )
Extracts for learning English, you can find the article here: July 26, 2010

The original article is only available to subscribers of the Times here:
The Times July 26, 2010
The howls of outrage are echoing from Brussels to Washington DC. Like the simian slaves in Planet of the Apes, Hungary has uttered the forbidden word: No.

Viktor Orbán, the Prime Minister, has rebuffed the demands of the IMF and the EU for more budget cuts and austerity measures. The moneycrats went home muttering about collapsing currencies and fiscal irresponsibility. To which Budapest's glorious answer was: God speed. The forint, Hungary's currency, slid, recovered and slid again but the country is holding firm.

Instead of cutting services and welfare, the Government will go for growth by slashing taxes, whitening the economy and simplifying Hungary's byzantine business environment.

Of course, after the 2008 20 billion EU bail-out package, the EU and IMF have a right to negotiate over Hungary's financial plans. And after the IMF-induced privatizations of the early 1990s turned much of this region into an economic wasteland, Hungary has a right to stick to its guns.

But there is a wider issue at stake here: national sovereignty, especially of smaller nations. In today's globalized world, and a streamlined Europe where Brussels and Strasbourg engage in an unprecedented appropriation of political and legal power by stealth, national sovereignty has somehow become a dirty word. Our destinies may be increasingly shaped by globalised financers and multinational institutions, but I don't remember anyone voting for this process, or even being given the option. Ironically, these supranational bodies use the same tactics as the Communists in postwar Europe - stealthily slicing away independence and sovereignty until nobody notices that it's all gone.

But now somebody has. Admittedly, Mr. Orbán, Hungary's pugnacious premier, seems an unlikely people's tribune. Since his centre-right Fidesz party won a two-thirds majority this year, his government has rammed a series of bills through parliament that, critics say, have packed formerly independent institutions with party placemen and threaten the checks and balances of democracy.

Opposition politicians say that independence of the media, the constitutional court and the state audit agency are all under threat, although few doubt that a shake-up was needed after eight year of sloth and corruption under the Socialists. The joke now in Budapest is that democracy has been replaced by a "Viktatorship." Yet perhaps it takes a Viktator to stand up to the IMF and the EU.

Not content with telling the financiers where to go, parliament has just passed a stringent tax on the banks, causing fury and fear among Europe's financiers: fury that Hungarian banks will have to pay a levy of 0.5 per cent of bank assets as they stood at the end of 2009, and fear that this could set a dreadful precedent, with Hungary's neighbors quickly following suit. Let's hope so.

The bank tax is well deserved. A good part of Hungary's economic travails can be blamed on the bankers. An incredible 70% of all domestic and business lending is denominated in foreign currency, much of it in Swiss francs. During the boom years the bankers extended easy and cheap credit, in exotic currencies, to virtually anyone who asked, even though the borrowers were paid in forints. Consumers were hustled into credit packages with risks they barely understood, but which were, however the markets behaved, guaranteed to bring hefty profits for the banks. Mortgages that cost 100,000 EU are now debts of perhaps 140,000 EU, with little if any hope of ever being repaid.

So hooray for Hungary, standing up to the IMF and EU bullies. In 1956, Hungarians rose against Soviet tyranny, hoping to trigger a chain reaction. That didn't happen, but perhaps Hungary's stand against capitalist despots will spark one this time.

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