Monday, 17 January 2011

What will happen to the Pető Institute now?

Caught up in major political forces

It serves me right for looking. Late last night I stumbled upon a recently published posting from a German-language blog:


On it I read, for the first time, of the Hungarian Government's radical shake-up under way for 35 'foundations' established by previous Hungarian governments over the years. One of these – indeed the oldest of them all, if what I was told at the time was true – is the Internationale András Pető-Stiftung, the International Pető Foundation, that owns and runs the Pető Institute, the 'World Famous'.

This is the first that I had known of what has been going on. None of this is in the least surprising but I have been easing back from CE from 1 January, happy enough taking my eye off the ball. As ever, I therefore assumed that I was the last to hear. – but I would check (in CE, always check, assume nothing!).

What was on the Internet in English about all this? As far as I could see, nothing. What about in Hungarian? At first sight, lots, but on further examination much of this has comprised the same article, repeated verbatim over and over through different media outlets. 'Tis ever thus!

I posted quick mention on Facebook, on Twitter and here on Conductive World, to register my interest, and went to sleep. I did not hold my breath in anticipation of a response. This is, after all, Conductive Education.

What has been happening?

I am now rather surprised (or am I?) to find that people in Conductive Education, Hungarians and non-Hungarians alike, seem unaware of the developments currently surrounding the Pető Institute and its future.

This is the story as I think I currently understand it. I do not hope to understand Hungarian politics and society and it would be truly remarkable if I were to be getting this right! So please, please, please, correct me if you know better.

The new Hungarian Government took power in April, with a landslide majority. The governing party, Fidesz, is usually termed 'centre-right'. This is of course a comparative statement, and the comparison is Hungarian. I hope that neither that government nor its supporters would mind its being described as 'right-wing' by some other countries' standards.

In July, the Hungarian Government announced that it was going to be taking a hard look at alapítványok, 'foundations'. that had been created by its predecessors. Foundations are not exactly charities, not quangos, not not-for-profits, not philanthropies, as generally understood in the English-speaking world. They are semi-independent bodies, established, backed and owned by government, in receipt of government funding, governed by boards of government-appointed trustees but free (nay, encouraged) to receive money from other sources, to sell their services, to trade, and to a considerable degree to govern their own affairs. The Nemzetközi Pető Alapítvány (International Pető Foundation) that owns and runs the Peto Institute is such a body.

As far as I can work out, an official advisory board is being established to determine the futures of particular foundations. This has to happen by the end of April 2011. It is intended that non-profit and central organisations (ministries) will take over foundations' responsibilities. I have to admit that this, the most important issue of all, is the part that I understand less. Do please plough through it yourselves, and offer any contrary interpretations:


The Hungarian economy is in no great shape (is anyone's, you might ask!). In this context, Fidesz is expected to look at radical reform of the whole economy – indeed that is what it was elected to do.Will all these 35 foundations even survive at all and, if so, under what form of 'management' and with what goals and what results?

No wonder that the PAI people were looking down in the dumps in Hong Kong.

Where are we now?

An article was published in the Hungarian press on 29 December – a good day to bury bad news. Here is the headline:

Harmincöt alapítványt és közalapítványt szüntet meg a kormány

This means: 'The Government is getting rid of thirty-five foundations'. If you put the whole title in a Google search you will see in how many places this appeared. There is nothing on the PAI website. I have not checked the websites of other affected foundations. This seems the major public source of information on these developments.

In the real world, the PAI should be making a public announcement. That would be the proper way to behave. Maybe it still will do the decent thing – maybe it will just be like Br'er Rabbit in the Briar Patch.

This is a funny, nadir time of year. The mid-winter break is over, and reality is back upon us. Among other things this means that already foregone conclusions and decisions can begin erupting into the public domain. The PAI is not the only part of CE's salient topography currently strongly rumoured to be rather more than at risk.

It will not be long before change ceases to be a matter of intention and anxiety, but one of factual report.

Oh dear

Maybe all this is no more that the Hungarian equivalent to David Cameron's very British 'Bonfire of the Quangos'. I do not know the objective problems of these Hungarian foundations – nor, apart from the fate of the PAI, need any of this be of any interest to me. And just maybe 'the Institute', whatever it comes to be called, just might be enhanced in some way by whatever becomes of it. We shall see. Another 'State Institute'?, What might that imply?

But oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. Maybe is am paranoid, prejudiced, panicky but, looking through the much republished official statement (for which I gave just one newspaper URL), what are the concerns of the 35 foundations in question? They include the following categories, with more than one foundation per category:
  • Jews
  • Gypsies
  • the handicapped
  • history
  • books
  • art
  • human rights
Oh dear. As I said, I do not understand Hungarian politics. It is just unsettling to see these categories being dealt with together again. Many societies in the West have benefitted enormously in previous times from  waves of Hungarian emigrants. In a way, CE already is, let us hope for Hungary's sake that it does not become more general..

By the way, I also sincerely hope that other bloggers, Facebookers etc will now take this matter off my hands. They certainly would, outside in the real world!

The Hungarian election

Previous postings on Conductive World:


Thank you, Tünde, for your invaluable advice in my trying to read and understand.

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6 Comments:

Anonymous Andrew Sutton said...

APOLOGIES: TECHNICAL PROBLEMS

Something had gone wrong with the settings for the Comments to his site, and I had not realised. I am very sorry if you could not post something on this important piece of news. If you tried, and failed, then do please post again.

Meanwhile, Emma McDowell writes –

Will there be another Pető or Hári there to fight for the survival of an institute which cares for people who are not at all important from either a political or - most definitely – an economic point of view in a country struggling with fundamental market forces?

Were those people in Hungary (who used to be called mozgássérültek) better off in their earlier, marginal status, maintained by the modest Villányi establishment, and protected by the Iron Curtain? In the days when conductors were not famous or sought-after world-wide – just unique, very good professionals dedicated to their job in their own country? I think the present government might think so.

This is a moment when retired people should voice their opinions. As I do, this way…

Actually, I am – unfortunately - not really retired, since I have just been called off for an urgent interpreting assignment… and besides, I never retired from being a conductive parent, either.

What can we do?

Emma

Wednesday, 19 January 2011 at 17:45:00 GMT  
Blogger Andrew Sutton said...

TECHNICAL PROBLEMS REPLYING TO 'CONDUCTIVE WORLD'
NOW SOLVED
(I HOPE!)

If you wanted to respond about what is happening around the Pető Institute, you can now do so. It might even be easier!

Apologies to those inconvenienced. Facts, opinions, comments etc are still very welcome. This matter is not going to go away.

In the meantime, Emma McDowell writes –

Will there be another Pető or Hári there to fight for the survival of an institute which cares for people who are not at all important from either a political or – most definitely –an economic point of view in a country struggling with fundamental market forces?

Were those people in Hungary (who used to be called mozgássérültek) better off in their earlier, marginal status, maintained by the modest Villányi establishment, and protected by the Iron Curtain? In the days when conductors were not famous or sought-after world-wide – just unique, very good professionals dedicated to their job in their own country? I think the present government might think so.

This is a moment when retired people should voice their opinions. As I do, this way...

Actually, I am – unfortunately - not really retired, since I have just been called off for an urgent interpreting assignment… and besides, never retired from being a conductive parent, either.
 
What can we do?
 
Emma

Thursday, 20 January 2011 at 09:17:00 GMT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear All,

As a Hungarian who's been working in the CE field for years, let me share my thoughts on this matter. I leave the specifics about the Pető Institute for someone else as I'm not familiar with the circumstances, but I am with the dirty political plays that evolve around Hungary lately. Without having at least a small sight into the political climate in Hungary, it will be really hard to understand what's going on. The first article cited above is far from objective to begin with anyway.

First of all: Fidesz, a "right-wing" party, in some regards, by lets say current American political standards would be closer to the Democrats, if not called straight up "socialist". Take their view on the national healthcare system for example or taxing. So any labeling in that regard in a way is pointless and does not help to understand their take on anything.

The key is that there were a good number of foundations in recent years that did not use their funds the way they should have. The Roma Self Government and it's leader was one of them, and they have been doing this for years with the support of the former government in exchange for votes. It has nothing to do with race, in fact if we think about it, they stole the money from the Romas they were supposed to represent. An other example from earlier is the Together For Eachother foundation, that was charged with tax evasion, was involved in more than suspicious money operations, and had really warm relations with current (at that time) and former National Security staff. I include here the most recent scandal involving the philosophers who took millions in government and EU grants, for works that are more than questionable. The list goes on. I think it's only reasonable that the current government would like to see clear.

I would have a lot more to say about the political mess that is surrounding Hungary, but maybe some other time. My main suggestion is: Let's wait it out and in general, let's not buy into political propaganda flooding western news, originating from certain political circles in Hungary. Let the results speak for themselves. We consider Conductive Education a Hungaricum, a national treasure. I would not assume for a second that any Hungarian government, left or right, would do anything to harm it.

Peter

Friday, 21 January 2011 at 01:02:00 GMT  
Anonymous Andrew Sutton said...

Dear Anonymous Peter,

Thank you very much for this. I am sure that, as you say, the more that one knows and the deeper that one digs then the murkier the situation must seem (I am intrigued by the notion of those fraudulent philosophers, what on Earth were they up to, I wonder).

For most of us outside Hungary, however, it is probably enough to be reminded that the social sector within which the International Pető Foundation developed has been a rum do, and yes, we can applaud an intention to clear it up. Right-wing or left may be a matter of secondary importance here.

We outside Hungary can can be aware of how personally distressing and disruptive this process may be for those personally involved across this sector in Hungary. After all, many of us may be facing analogous social reconstructions of our own services and work-places at home. But with specific respect to the Pető Foundation anyway, those inside Hungary should note the word 'International' that is part of ts full title, and the wider responsibilities that this implies, Hungaricum or not.

I am not alone in hoping that more private individuals like yourself (and Emma MacDowell, who is as Hungarian as you are but never anonymous) will come forward in public forums to offer further perspectives on this business. But it is already time for public statement, even if just a holding statement at this point, from any or all or the following bodies: the International Pető Foundation, the Pető Institute, relevant officials and/or politicians.

We outside Hungary might find in this some reassurance that we are indeed entering a new phase.

Andrew Sutton.

Friday, 21 January 2011 at 16:40:00 GMT  
Blogger Viktoria said...

All,
trying to understand Hungarian politics from western newspapers is like trying to understand conductive education from certain 1989 medical journals...The more you read, the less you'll know, and what you think you know is just simply ain't so.

Peter--right on, and thank you for taking the time to comment on this. It would unfortunately fill not a comment space, not even books, but libraries if we wished to straighten out the the western-newspaper notion which basically says "right-wing nazi-esque Hungarian government trying to get rid of jews, gypsies, disabled people, which totally horrifies us, the 'Developed West', arrgh, those damn nazis."
The reality is something totally different, it's actually much worse, and there's no western journalist who can even fathom a fraction of it: there's a total lack of democracy in Hungary, there has been since after WW2, the current government (or any other government since 1990) has neither to do anything with it nor is able to help it in any way. That's where it starts...
The games the Peto Institute had to ALWAYS play for its survival will continue to have to be played, and I suspect they will be played. I wouldn't be too worried just quite yet.

Sunday, 23 January 2011 at 01:10:00 GMT  
Blogger Andrew DSutton said...

Emma McDowell writes –

You have never been a particularly “retiring” man, Andrew, although always admirably modest, and self-deprecating in style. A true Englishman, in the sense that I had learned about in my excellent English language books in the 60s. Pity that not so many ever personified the myth.

Hungarians are (characteristically) NOT like this. You simply must accept (and love?) them in their own way. (Or not.)

I, too, got used to democracy here – and Vicky is right, this thing is not really known in Hungary, although they have always been talking about it, first People’s Democracy (a farce), now Orbán’s democracy! – but this has analysable historical reasons.

I was listening to Orbán’s speech in the European Parliament (the “Duna” transmitted it in full, I happened to catch a repeat last Sunday) during the debate on the demonized Media Law, he is a very impressive orator.

But not a Hitler!

Emma.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011 at 21:46:00 GMT  

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