Wednesday, 01 August 2018 14:35


Janos Szeky, Radio Lemberg, 01.08.2018        Переклад українською тут


Each summer, during the hottest days, when normally there should be a lull in the political turmoil, we have a crucial event in Hungarian public affairs. It is Viktor Orbán's regular yearly speech at the Tusványos /ˈtuʃvɑɲoʃ/ summer camp. 


The full official name of the festival is the Bálványos Free University and Students' Camp. It takes place in Tusnádfürdő (Băile Tușnad in Romanian), a Hungarian-inhabited spa town in Transylvania, Romania, where it was moved from its original location, another spa called Bálványos. “Tusványos” is the contraction of the two place names. 


The camp was founded right after the Romanian revolution of 1989. The Ceaușescu régime, whose policies had been both Stalinist and ethnicist, was doubly repressive for the large Hungarian minority (concentrated in Transylvania). When the nightmare officially ended, young ethnic Hungarians hoped for political freedom and minority emancipation, so the summer camp was intended to foster free political dialog within the Hungarian community itself, and with open-minded Romanians. 


By 2002, when Orbán Viktor's Fidesz party suffered a surprising defeat at Hungary's national elections, Tusványos had been largely turned into Fidesz's propaganda channel to promote the party's special brand of Hungarian nationalism. More precisely, it had become a venue where Orbán, the possessor of ultimate political knowledge in the eyes of his followers, could expound how to see the world and how to behave in it during the following year. 


There have been some memorable “Tusványos” speeches, like that of 2014 (note the year!), when Orbán, recycling the ideological line of Dugin's The Fourth Political Theory (without mentioning the name), extolled illiberal states like Russia as being the most competitive in the international scene, and derided the decadent liberal Western democracies as losers who deserve their fate. 


This years' speech, made last Saturday, can be seen as a new departure. Orbán's position within the European Union is changing. On the one hand, it is weakening because of his continuous undermining of fundamental rights and rule-of-law principles, from press freedom and NGO rights to  government control of the judiciary, as well as his relentless attacks on “Brussels,” meaning the European Commission and even centrist politicians of his own party alliance, the European People's Party. Systemic corruption, often involving EU funds, has reached a post-Soviet level. 


So far the EPP has generated an effective shield every time Orbán mocks some political, legal, or moral principle. The EPP needed Fidesz's and its satellites' numerous votes in the European Parliament. But recently patience has begun to wear out, and there is more and more talk of Fidesz being expelled from the EPP.  Also, there is a danger that in the new EU budget cycle, beginning in 2021, with the possible advent of a two-speed Europe, Hungary would receive significantly less funding than now. 


On the other hand, apart from the sympathetic Polish government and his old Bavarian cronies (like Horst Seehofer, who failed to dethrone Merkel just a few weeks ago), Orbán has new powerful allies in Austria and Italy, who concentrate on migration as the main political issue and work to undermine the post-World War II liberal democratic consensus.


Orbán, an experienced political gambler, chose to make a tough move. “The days of the European Commission are numbered,” he reassured his audience at Tusványos. Next year European elections will be held, where “Christian” and illiberal forces should defeat the “liberal elite,” and the new European Parliament will elect a completely new Commission. Needless to say, he would be a figurehead of this change. 


Another move would be “rebuilding the Carpathian Basin”. For a Hungarian audience it is perfectly clear that the Carpathian Basin is the physico-geographical name for the area of the pre-1918 Kingdom of Hungary, and “rebuilding” implies some kind of Hungarian economic hegemony in the region that includes the whole of Slovakia, Transylvania of Romania, and Transcarpathia (Zakarpattya) of Ukraine (the Hungarian name is Kárpátalja, or Subcarpathia, as it is not beyond the Carpathian Mountains seen from Hungary). 


To Romanian, Slovak, or Ukrainian ears this may sound provocative, but we can reassure our non-Hungarian friends beyond the borders: Orbán is clever enough to say to nationalists in vague terms what they want to hear, but not to challenge taboos like territorial revision. Although recently there have been some journalists in pro-government papers toying with the thought, he takes care not to do that, and at Tusványos he explained this means improving transportation lines between neighbouring cities, which, frankly, can often be terrible right now. 


What Orbán says about Russia and Ukraine is more disconcerting. First he compliments the Kremlin for “keeping its promise,” that is, building new gas pipelines avoiding Ukraine. Then this: “Russia doesn't consider itself a safe country if it is not surrounded by buffer zone. [...] Ukraine is one of the victims of this [pursuit]. The Ukrainians decide they've had enough of this fifty-fifty arrangement of western and Russian influences, they wanted to join the western world, and therefore to secede from the Russian zone, get closer to, or maybe even join the NATO, the European Union, and build modern Ukraine. I see no NATO membership, real chances for an EU membership are almost zero, and rather than a new Ukrainian state, I see an Ukrainian economy drifting towards debt slavery. The Russian's purpose to tilt back to the earlier status doesn't look unrealistic to me.” All this about the developments of the year to come.  


One cannot decide whether this is his own assessment, or if he delivers a message from the Kremlin. It might not matter either. It is also not clear whether he sees “no NATO membership” as the sure result of his policy of “blocking and vetoing”, or if that policy is not intended to influence Ukrainian behaviour but simply to disrupt NATO-s workings.


Orbán also calls the EU's policy of sanctions “primitive,” not “articulated” enough, as they do not distinguish between nations that feel the security threat, like Poland, and those who do not, like Hungary, Slovakia, Czechia, or Western Europe. Now there is a trick very characteristic of Orbán; his arguments are perfectly logical but only for an audience which is not familiar, or does not take the pains to recall, the real facts. The reason for the sanctions is not the “security threat” to Poland or the Baltic states, but the aggression against Ukraine (and, on the United States' part, the fusion of the state and its favoured oligarchs, and  organized crime, as manifested in Magnitsky's case). 


Hungary's Prime Minister ignores this, either deliberately, or because it falls to his blind spot. And he recommends this ignorance to the European Union. 


The answer to cui prodest? is obvious.


Photo from Orbán's official Facebook page: Viktor Orbán sits between Zsolt Németh (left), a founding member of Fidesz, Chairman of the Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, and Calvinist Bishop László Tőkés (right), MEP, the figurehead of the '89 Romanian revolution.

Csárdás /ˈtʃɑːrdæʃ/ — a traditional Hungarian folk dance, the name derived from csárda, old Hungarian term for tavern. It originated in Hungary and was popularized by Romani music (Cigány) bands in Hungary and neighboring lands of Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Austria, Croatia, Ukraine, Russia, Poland, Romania, Czechia, and Bulgaria.

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