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President Putin to visit Hungary

January 10th, 2015

The leading left-wing daily fears that Vladimir Putin’s March visit, announced this week, is another indication of the Hungarian government’s Eastern orientation. A conservative analyst points out that Hungary needs to maintain good relations with both Germany and Russia. Another left-wing commentator suspects that PM Orbán may want to revise the 1994 Budapest Memorandum on Ukraine.

Putin’s visit to Budapest in March will act as a counterweight to Merkel’s February visit, Népszabadság comments in a front page editorial. The leading left-wing daily suspects that Hungary will lose all that remains of the trust of its Western allies without gaining anything from strengthening cooperation with Russia. Given the geopolitical implications of the visit, it would be best if Putin did not come this time to Budapest, Népszabadság contends. In an aside, the daily notes that Putin’s visit is likely to spark a new wave of pro-democracy protests in Hungary.

Magyar Hírlap’s Gyula T. Máté  believes that Chancellor Merkel’s and President Putin’s visits cannot be juxtaposed as indicators of strengthening Western and Eastern partnerships. The pro-government columnist finds it disappointing that the Hungarian Left expects Angela Merkel to strengthen the opposition by criticizing the Orbán government. Left-wing demonstrators have already announced that they will hold an anti-government rally during Chancellor Merkels visit. Socialist MEP Tibor Szanyi in a Facebook comment demanded that Merkel should publicly tell PM Orbán that he has no place in the community of democratic politicians – the comment was later deleted. Máté believes that Merkel will not interfere with Hungarian domestic issues, apart from trying to defend German investors’ interests and asking for a reduction of taxes levied on energy providers, banks and telecommunication companies. As for the geopolitical ramifications of the matter, Máté remarks that Hungary needs to maintain good diplomatic and economic relations both with Germany and Russia.

In Népszava, Róbert Friss wonders if PM Orbán is planning to surprise everyone by announcing something important at the time of President Putin’s visit. Friss speculates that PM Orbán has in mind brokering a deal on the 1994 OSCE Budapest Memorandum, in which Russia guaranteed the territorial sovereignty of Ukraine and other Soviet successor states in return for getting the nuclear warheads stored in the former Soviet republics. Such a diplomatic achievement would help stabilize the Ukraine crisis and normalize relations between the EU and Russia, which have seriously deteriorated as a result of US geopolitics and Russian expansionism.

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