December 8, 2014
(Sigmund Graff, a German writer)
Hungarian politician Victor Orban started his political career on the tide of anti-soviet rhetoric in the late 1980s, when communist regime lived out the remainder of its days in Hungary. At those times the young democrat’s attitude towards Russia and Russians was very negative and even aggressive. When Orban became a prime-minister in 2002 he gave preference to follow a Hungarian political tradition: The authorities maintain friendly relations with Moscow; opposition criticizes the authorities and is hostile to Russia. Orban’s active cooperation with Russians was quite productive. When Orban moved to the opposition camp, his party “Fidesz” launched active anti-Kremlin campaign again. Orban repeatedly stated that he had slammed the door in Russia’s face. He stressed again and again that Hungarian government had to do its best not to give Russians the opportunity to climb in through the window. Orban returned to power in 2010. Shortly after being appointed the prime-minister, he forgot completely his oppositional orations and announced “The Eastern Winds Doctrine” to strengthen relations with countries to the east of Hungary. Russia has been assigned a prominent part in the framework of this strategy. Many instruments of cooperation between two countries have been created or restored; contacts at the highest level have intensified. Orban pretends not to realize that his “friendly pragmatism” policy towards Russia is a part of Moscow’s strategy aimed to weaken Brussels through bilateral talks with an individual Member State.
Orban’s government internal policy actions have also given rise to amazement. “Fidesz” had pushed advantageous to it amendments to the Electoral law through the parliament and secured itself comfortable existence for a few election cycles. Opposition was deprived of key positions at all important state institutions. The governing party has gained control over judicial system, law enforcement bodies and media.
The EU doesn’t fully understand Hungarian maneuvers. Democracy is one of the cornerstones the EU is built on. However, the Hungarian leader affirms “The new state that we are building today is not a liberal state … freedom doesn’t make its core element”. It is clear that Orban has found the country he wants to follow the example of. “There are not western in nature and not liberal, and may be they are not even democratic systems, and yet they are successful, like … Russia”. It’s not surprising that Orban with his particular seeking-out-a-new-form-of-state approach has enlisted Putin’s full-scale support. They share the views and the values.
Budapest is impeding (with enthusiasm) European initiatives aiming to limit the Kremlin’s ambitions in exchange for Russian investments and credits. Official Budapest reaction to the Crimean crisis was rather unfortunate. Orban’s government has also made decisions that have been awkward for the Eastern Partnership initiative.
In line with friendly pragmatism strategy, Hungary allowed Russian company “Rosatom” entrance to its market. Budapest received 10 bn euro for its Paks nuclear power plant. However, the implications of the deal may be troublesome to Hungary in the context of EU integration of electricity sector as in the long run it will facilitate expansion of Russia to other EU markets. The Russia’s generous gift makes Hungary dependent on Moscow and its whims for many years to come. Hungary should always remember that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Russia with its disastrous economic situation is not in the position to be engaged in charity. Putin will compel Hungary to work off every euro.
Since Victor Orban took his chair, Hungary has undergone difficult times: economic situation has become grave, street protests have often taken place. Citizens of Hungary demonstrate their grievances against Orban’s administration, their dissatisfaction with the “Fidesz” political leadership and Orban’s dictatorship, corruption, suppression of opposition and independent media, impoverishment and unemployment growth. The extraordinary incident took place recently. The USA rejected to issue visas to 6 government officials suspected of money laundering. It was quite a situation. Washington is not used to treat its NATO allies this way.
Friendship with Putin and Russian money cannot compensate failures of Orban’s policy. The Eastern opening of Hungary should be subordinated to the growth in prosperity of the Magyar people.