Another new recording emerged in which government commissioner for Roma relations, Attila Sztojka, can be heard once again promising benefits for those “in this circle,” adding both that “there is a saying within the government: if you are part of the family, you are treated as part of the family,” and that he as an Interior Ministry official knows “everything about everyone, down to the smallest details.” In another development, the National Roma Self-government’s (ORÖ) incumbent president claims that Sztojka blackmailed him.
On the first leaked recording, the Orbán-led government’s Roma commissioner can be heard offering working contracts for Roma representatives who “are in the circle” in exchange for political and professional performance. He also says that as an official of the Interior Ministry, he “knows a lot of things about everyone.” Parts of his speech were published by leftist daily Népszava.
After parts of Sztojka’s speech were made public, opposition parties called for an investigation and accountability, saying that it was unacceptable that a government commissioner would try to bribe Roma representatives, while also making vile threats. Independent MP Ákos Hadházy even announced he would file a police report.
The Interior Minister has also since reacted, insisting that the election campaign had not started. Minister Sándor Pintér also refuted that Sztojka could know everything about everyone as, according to Pintér, he doesn’t have that kind of access.
The government’s Roma commissioner’s second leaked speech to Roma politicians had the same message, although more details surfaced. Népszava reported that this was recorded at another meeting between Sztojka and Fidesz-ally Roma party, Lungo Drom officials, who are also members of the National Roma Self-government (ORÖ).
According to the leaked recording, Sztojka can be heard saying:
- It wasn’t ORÖ that appointed him to this position but it was “the party, Fidesz,” at the request of Prime Minister Orbán, who undertook to further strengthen relations with Roma in the government.
- He also reassured that all those present “are all linked to the right-wing, to Fidesz.”
- “I cannot leave you alone.” Sztojka said, adding that while Hungary is facing great opportunities and “billions are flowing over your heads that you are missing out on, you are picking up the crumbs.”
- “Maybe in this circle I can tell that Fidesz will win the elections”
- “You have one advantage: within Fidesz, I represent you if you are partners.” He said that securing a livelihood and a family’s livelihood is important, “so whatever opportunities arise, those will come to you first and foremost.”
- The alliance of Lungo Drom continues to enjoy Fidesz’s partnership, “only and exclusively this circle.”
- Probably referring to the National Roma government elections in which the Fidesz-supported candidate did not win, but the ruling party seems to want to change this situation, Sztojka said “it can be expected that no one’s material existence, livelihood” would be at risk. It is not fair to “ask [something] but not provide security, stability [in exchange].”
- “It is also true that the change that is happening now to save ORÖ cannot jeopardize your family’s livelihood. Therefore, we want to give you every opportunity that serve your security.” However, he emphasized that there is no “free money,” because that would be a criminal act. “You will not get money because you don’t have to do anything. You will get money because you have been doing things without money. Now you’re going to get paid for it.”
- After this, similar to the first recording, he stated that as someone who works for the Interior Ministry, he knows everything about every one of them. “As I’m at BM [the Interior Ministry] , we know everything about everyone. Even what you wouldn’t think: who, when, how much, how, to what (…) they know everything about everyone down to the smallest details.”
- “There is a saying within the Ministry and even within the government: if you are part of the family, you are treated as part of the family, but no one outside can feel this. To educate someone means that we do it because we expect it and love it. As long as they are part of the family. If he’s not part of the family, we can’t vouch for him.”
New details of the recording: Roma issue “will either be taken over by Jobbik or by the gays”
More recently, further details were made public by Népszava on this second recording, on which Sztojka even explicitly speaks about the desirable party affiliation.
Despite him saying “I don’t want to intervene and I will not,” he gave instructions on what steps should follow in ORÖ. As part of political tactics, for example, “you shouldn’t be given the finance committee’s presidential position, but you should be given the majority in the finance committee. Because it’s not who leads it, it’s who controls it.” (Népszava notes that this is exactly what occurred in ORÖ eventually as Fidesz-ally Lungo Drom gained majority in the body).
Sztojka was also complaining that in his opinion payments in ORÖ weren’t in order. “I will say it in this circle, I will not say it elsewhere,” he stated. In addition to the representatives’ honoraria, there is “another contract for you or your dependents” in the employment agency. The tragedy, he explained, is that “it’s incompatible, it’s misappropriation.”
“If the Orbán government doesn’t go ahead, the Roma issue will be over,” he also claimed at one point, arguing that in his view, things may go two ways: the Roma issue “will either be taken over by [former far-right party] Jobbik or by the gays,” as “gay lobby’s essence is to legalize itself by sitting on the Roma issue” (he draws this from the fact that, according to him, the ‘gay situation’ is also covered in the EU’s cohesion strategy). “And Jobbik wants nothing else than “to take it down”, he stated.
Agócs: Sztojka blackmailed me
In another development, ORÖ’s incumbent president claimed on Saturday that Sztojka had blackmailed him. “A few months ago I had a private conversation with Attila Sztojka, when he said that if I did not support his candidate, Félix Farkas, he would do everything in his power to bring me down.”
Opposition wants Sztojka to be removed from his position
In reaction to this latest recording, the Socialists (MSZP) want the Interior Minister and PM Viktor Orbán to remove Sztojka from all his positions.
“Fidesz, with the leadership of Attila Sztojka, aims to run the Roma Public Academy as a payout point for those “inside the circle.” This case also shows that Fidesz’s cunning knows no boundaries, as they even use social opportunities to buy the loyalty of politicians close to the party,” they commented.
In addition, according to stance regarding the Roma issue of the opposition’s PM candidate Péter Márki-Zay’s Everyone’s Hungary Movement, Sztojka views ORÖ members as unconscious individuals who sell out their own values for money. Independent opinion and thinking are not necessary, loyalty to the government is enough – at least for Sztojka, Béla Lakatos said, who argued that the quoted sentences sound like they are from a mob movie.
Gypsy people are being monitored, then blackmailed and intimidated, he also said. “We are being humiliated, looked down upon, enough of this kind of Roma business. The self-respect of Roma society must be restored. (…) These people are crooks, who want to buy Roma honor for money.”
The government is not investigating the issue
The case was also brought up at the PMO Head’s regular press briefing on Thursday, during which Gergely Gulyás revealed that the government wasn’t investigating the issue and stated that the recordings could be cut, manipulated, and taken out of context. Although he did say that he didn’t hear them, and therefore wished not to comment on the matter. According to him, there is no reason why Sztojka should be removed from his position.
Reacting to the government official, independent lawmaker Ákos Hadházy pointed out that he had published the entire recording much earlier and urged for both the government commissioner’s removal and Gulyás’s resignation, “because the recording can only be interpreted as abuse of office and blackmail.”
featured image via Szilárd Koszticsák/MTI