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Neither yes nor no from Hungary in Brussels

December 12th, 2011

Left-wing commentators condemn Prime Minister Viktor Orbán for refusing to join the new fiscal deal of the European Union. A right-wing columnist thanks Prime Minister David Cameron of Great Britain for rejecting the package and thus winning time and space for others to ponder what to do.

Orbán’s suicidal act has only harmed Hungary, not the European Union” – veteran political analyst László Lengyel contends in Népszabadság. He believes “Orbán’s Hungary will end up excommunicated, whether it ultimately rejects the deal or joins it.” If Hungary stays away from the common fiscal policy outlined in the pact, then its forthcoming vital negotiations with the IMF will be doomed. If, on the other hand it reluctantly agrees to the terms of the agreement, then the IMF-EU-side “will demand a new and more credible negotiating partner,” Lengyel claims.

In Népszava, Tamás Katona, a former (Socialist) State Secretary of the Finance Ministry also believes Mr Orbán has gone too far and may risk his own job. EU member countries have understood that they have to give up part of their national sovereignty, for the sake of stability and growth. “The Hungarian Prime Minister has apparently not resolved to do so. But beyond a certain point economic actors in Hungary and abroad will understand that they will have to negotiate with Orbán’s successor.”

In Magyar Nemzet, Zsombor György explains why the talks were followed by a disturbing silence on the Hungarian side. At first Hungary was in fact reported as siding with Great Britain, in an outright rejection of the agreement, and the Prime Minister only declared six hours later that Hungary simply intended to submit the issue to Parliament before making a final decision.

“That long silence looked like a serious blunder, but tense consultations were going on in the background to bring the non Euro-zone countries (apart from the UK) to a common denominator: they will all ask their parliaments to decide by March next year.”

György believes Europe is not competing for global primacy any more, “the real stake is just to remain afloat”. He cautions against anti-Europeanism, saying “what is bad for the Union, is also bad for us”. Hungary has to understand that rough times are ahead: and “next year will be even tougher than 2011 has been.”

Thanks, David!” – This is how Magyar Hírlap’s Mihály Szalontay expresses his gratitude to Her Majesty’s Prime Minister, for preferring “splendid isolation rather than accepting the Franco-German rules of the game”. By doing so, David Cameron made it possible for smaller countries to express their reservations as well. In fact, a closer co-ordination of fiscal policies might hurt the interests of these nations. Szalontay contends that independence in taxation is vital for emerging countries, because they could not attract foreign investment without offering tax advantages.  But he also cautions against confronting the Euro-zone. Hungary is too deeply integrated into the European economy and her exports to Germany are practically the only hope for GDP growth in the near future. Szalontay also warns the right-wing audience of his newspaper that the development grants Hungary gets from Brussels are subsidised by the countries of the Euro zone. On top of it all, the subsidiaries of Western banks and industrial companies are part and parcel of Hungary’s economy. “We have to be at the table where the rules are being forged in order to stand up for our own interests, and should the great powers sweep them off the table, we must be there to be in a position to find out how to survive nevertheless.”

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