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Critics trying to capitalize on Azeri scandal

September 5th, 2012

Népszabadság, the leading opposition daily publishes the third front page editorial in a row accusing the government of immoral behaviour and calling for heads to roll, while the extreme right Jobbik leader lectures the government on foreign policy. Independent analysts warn that Hungary has become laughing stock without any tangible results in the balance.

On his Facebook page, far-right Jobbik party leader Gábor Vona comments on the developing story of the Azeri officer who murdered an Armenian soldier in Budapest, eight years ago, was transferred to Azerbaijan to serve his life sentence there but was immediately pardoned by his president and promoted. Somewhat distancing himself from his party’s stance in approving the government’s decision to transfer the convict to Azerbaijan, Vona says the Hungarian, the Armenian and the Azeri governments are equally guilty in fostering international tensions.  Hungary has very good reason to maintain good relations with Azerbaidjan but by mishandling the case, it has harmed its previous diplomatic efforts.

Conservative-liberal Velemenyvezer believes the government must have bypassed the Foreign Ministry in handling the affair. He asks who is actually in charge of foreign policy. Foreign Minister János Martonyi seems to stand hapless by, while János Lázár, the Prime Minister’s new chief of staff meddles with Hungary’s international relations. Ill-conceived action is inevitable, he claims, when the government relies on a small circle of informal advisers and party loyalists instead of listening to foreign policy experts who would surely have warned about the dangerous consequences. Viktor Orbán, who is known for his impatience with bureaucratic decision-making, seems to have decided to take foreign policy into his own hands by elevating Péter Szijjártó, his spokesperson, to the position of state secretary responsible for foreign and international economic relations within the Prime Minister’s cabinet. It is no accident, Véleményvezér thinks, that it was Szijjártó who first made a statement concerning the Azeri extradition – not to mention that he is about to celebrate the opening of a new sports arena outside Budapest with an Azeri-Hungarian football match. (The match has been cancelled since.)

Commenting on Portfolio, star-economist István Madár, says after negotiating with potential Arab partners, the government must have learned that interest in Hungarian bonds can only be expected from countries that have rich economic and political ties with Hungary. Azerbaijan does not happen to fit this category. It does not take much diplomatic finesse to foresee that Azerbaijan is unlikely to reciprocate a gesture from the Hungarian government with substantial investment. It got what it wanted and has no reason to prop up the Hungarian economy.  In the final analysis, Hungary has failed in another attempt at unorthodox sovereign debt management, while losing credibility in the international markets.

HVG.hu argues that the Azeri leadership acted legally, under the same treaty invoked by Hungary as proof that the Azeri government should have kept Safarov in prison. If someone in the Ministry of Justice and Public Administration could read more than four pages, the liberal weekly asserts, they could have discovered that the 12th paragraph of the 1983 Strasbourg agreement allows for presidential amnesty for transferred convicts. The government therefore cannot fairly claim it was deceived by the Azeris who simply wrote in their letter that they would follow the rules prescribed by international law. The author argues that this is exactly what they did. Considering such serious mistakes on the part of the Hungarian government, one would expect that some heads will roll, or at least that some apologies will be uttered, HVG concludes.

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