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The Wekerle-plan for regional co-operation

September 7th, 2012

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s announcement of a cooperation plan with neighbouring countries is dismissed by left and liberal commentators as arrogant and unrealistic, while Magyar Nemzet defends it as an important initiative.

The government announced a regional cooperation plan, named after a turn-of-the-century Hungarian Prime Minister Sándor Wekerle, on August 27th. The plan aims at fostering „Carpathian-basin-wide economic growth for Hungary”, within a cooperative framework of East-Central European Countries. Diplomats and analysts of neighbouring Slovakia and Romania told Népszabadság on Wednesday they had never heard of the plan.

Zsuzsanna Körmendy in her editorial for Magyar Nemzet condemns the „glee” with which Népszabadság reported the reactions of foreign diplomats and analysts. She claims the daily picked unfavourable opinions, with some even protesting against the term „Carpathian basin”. Yet, she says, even the representative of the Slovak Economy Ministry acknowledged that „economic decisions have been taken” and a process of „substantial coordination” was launched at the meeting of the Visegrad Four (Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary). She also enumerates agreements to harmonize the implementation of the EU educational framework and foster joint road construction, as well as „vertical integration of local enterprises in the Carpathian basin.” The Wekerle-plan is a hand offered by Hungary to her neighbours; an opportunity that, one would hope, will find partners and good will. The Wekerle-plan proposes a kind of cooperation that could lead to a stronger East-Central Europe. If its critics are content with being „slaves” in Europe instead of equals, it is their choice – she concludes.

In Népszabadság, Zoltán F. Baka thinks that with the Azeri money gone and neighbouring countries showing no willingness to help Hungary grow above them, the government suddenly finds an IMF loan quite appealing again. Mihály Varga, who served as Finance Minister in the previous Fidesz cabinet and who now represents Hungary at the negotiating table, announced at the start of term ceremony of Corvinus University that „we cannot do without the IMF agreement.”  The attitude and the tone of the government is changing, says Baka, adding that this was not the first time such hopes were kindled only to be stamped out. After the Azeri debacle, the government perhaps realizes that there is no solution outside the EU. For the Wekerle-plan is a mirage, the author argues. Let us imagine the scene, suggests Baka,  where the countries of the region start polite negotiations over whose enterprises are to be favoured in a regional economic strategy – how long would such a talk last? Five minutes, perhaps?

(Meanwhile, PM Orbán has announced that Hungary does not want an IMF loan under the economic policy conditions now suggested by the International Monetary Fund.)

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