Mon May 19th, 2014 at 01:40:36 AM EST
Hungarian far-right MEP suspected as Russian spy | EurActiv
The Hungarian chief prosecutor has sent an official letter to European Parliament President Martin Schulz, with a request that MEP Béla Kovács, from the far-right party Jobbik, be stripped of his parliamentary immunity, in order to allow the judiciary to investigate him over suspicions of spying for Russia.
The extremity of the far-right's new Russia-friendliness notwithstanding, I think this story is best interpreted as an experimental election campaign attack on Jobbik by authorities completely in the control of PM Viktor Orbán's ruling Fidesz. In general, the EP election campaign in Hungary is interesting for lopsided positions.
The article continues:
The Hungarian press reports that the letter has been sent at the request of the Hungarian counter-intelligence, which has informed the prosecution of its suspicions in early April.
Kovács, who is number 3 in the European elections list of his political force Jobbik, has reportedly denied the allegations. According to opinion polls, Jobbik is likely to come second in the election, after the ruling Fidesz party of Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
Kovács is reported to have had frequent contacts with Russian diplomats and has been travelling to Moscow once a month.
...The Hungarian MEP is also the treasurer of the far-right Alliance of European National Movements (AENM), according to its website. Its member include Bruno Gollnisch of the French Front National, Nick Griffin of the British National Party, Valerio Cignetti from Italy's Tricolour Flame and Dimitar Stoyanov, a Bulgarian former member of Ataka.
As far as I know, the guy went to a university in Russia, and thus certainly had good ties to the country to justify travelling there once a month without being a spy. Then again, the FSB can make use of the EU far-right even without actually employing its members as spies. At any rate, the information against him seems rather superfluous, and Jobbik & allies aren't pro-Russia over Ukraine just because of this guy only: the attacks of Ukrainian nationalists on ethnic Hungarians in Westernmost Ukraine has more to do with it. And here the government is not much different: Orbán recently talked about territorial autonomy for ethnic Hungarians, eliciting a protest from the PM of Poland.
Earlier I wrote about reports that before April's underwhelming national elections, Fidesz strategists refrained from a negative campaign against Jobbik because they feared that it could have an opposite effect. However, the EP elections are apparently insignificant enough to do experiments, because Fidesz media brought out the guns this time, and I think the accusation against Kovács is part of this.
As for the EP election campaign in general, it's pretty weird: looking at posters, you would be forgiven to mix up which local party is EPP-aligned and which is far-right.
Fidesz's slogan is aggressively and hypocritically Eurosceptic-nationalist: "Our message to Brussels: Respect for Hungarians!"
A strong Fidesz vote will of course change nothing about the respect for Hungarians (or for Orbán's autocracy) in Brussels, what it will do is strengthen Juncker's faction, but what that will lead to in the EU, is no campaign theme.
As for Jobbik, which (successfully) tried moderation and social populism in the national election campaign, went even further in that direction, with bland centrist posters and slogans no more radical than "European Rights, European Wages At The Centre of Europe!" (A web version of this poster even had the EU flag in the background!)
The moderation strategy, which most connect to Jobbik leader Gábor Vona, caused significant friction in a party which used to burn the EU flag. One stalwart of the radicals preferring street politics to parliamentary politics recently organised a small protest against an ethnic Hungarian politician from Serbia whom he considered a traitor to the nation, which ended in his followers verbally insulting and spitting at the guy. Jobbik officially denounced the action and declared that the man who was their MP until a week earlier has no ties to the party any more, but their EP list leader (the woman on the poster above) participated and refused to denounce "her good friend".
As part of the new anti-Jobbik negative campaign strategy, the above event got the full attention of Fidesz media. I caught a segment on public TV which emphasized the contradiction between the party press release and the EP list leader's position in a comically excessive, spoonfeeding way.
As for nominal and real left-of-centre parties, they amount to a sideshow in the campaign. Where I live, the Socialists already focus on the local elections later this year, distributing a leaflet denouncing the (truly disastrous and idiotic) mayor in strong terms.
What all this amounts to at the election booth on 25 May remains to be seen. I expect a low turnout.