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The decline of the West?

July 26th, 2011

PM Viktor Orbán suggests that Hungary should focus less on the declining West, where sovereign debts have become unmanageable, and concentrate instead on introducing a labour-based economic model, whilst strengthening ties with Central European countries. Pundits ponder the possible implications of the PM’s new vision.

Viktor Orbán has re-invented Europe. What we heard (from him) was the geopolitical remodelling of Hungary, the nation and Central Europe” – suggests an editorial in Magyar Hírlap.

At the annual Fidesz summer university at (Băile Tuşnad) in Transylvania, PM Viktor Orbán said that Western welfare states, crippled by debt, are in decline, and the future belongs to the work-based Eastern economic model. According to Orbán, his country is “accelerating away” from a troubled West which is even now running deeper into crisis.

According to the right-wing daily, the success of the region depends on cooperation among Central European countries. “We may experience the extraordinary rise of Central Europe, if all states in the region realise that the centre of the new European economic era will be in Central Europe, not in the West.” Instead of following the Polish government  strategy of “cuddling up to Berlin”, Central Europe should also open up to Chinese investments as Hungary did before, Magyar Hírlap suggests.

“The West has been pronounced dead many times since the time of Oswald Spengler, but it does not want to give up the ghost. And although we agree that an adjustment to the welfare state is necessary, we would still rather belong to the declining West,” – notes Ádám Kiss in Hírszerző. “Hungarian, Polish and Romanian employees, and millions of  young people, feel that they would be better off in a declining and struggling West, where  what they need  – money, a home, health care and whatever is necessary for a decent life – is more accessible.” The liberal columnist wonders what could reverse the trends and attract Hungarians back to their own state.

Orbán is right in recognizing a change of historical proportions, but the conclusion he draws reflects a complete misunderstanding of the world,” Róbert Friss writes in the left-wing Népszabadság. Friss fears that Orbán’s vision will in practice prove catastrophic for Hungary, and thinks that Orbán wants to replace parliamentary democracy with a strongly authoritarian state, in the mistaken belief that this will help tackle the ongoing crisis.

It is excellent if a Prime Minister has a clear vision. … And it is also understandable if his vision keeps changing,” – writes Gábor Török in his blog. According to the liberal conservative commentator, Orbán has not so much expressed the entrenched views of his party, but rather the desire to shape them. Only the future will tell if Orbán will be able to convince his allies and his voters that the future indeed belongs to the East, Török suggests. “If Orbán succeeds, and his vision becomes the predominant one on the right, then a new structural division between zapadniks (pro-Westerners) and slavophiles (as in 19th century Russia) will separate the right and the left.” But Orbán may eventually also have to face the dissent of right-wing ‘Westerners’,  Török concludes, who would still prefer to remain in the sphere of influence of Western Europe and the United States.

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