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Merkel’s visit – all sides satisfied

February 4th, 2015
Left and right-wing commentators draw up an equally positive balance sheet of Chancellor Merkel’s visit, but for opposing reasons. The former believe the Chancellor taught PM Orbán a lesson, while the latter suggest that her one day visit was a show of basic unity despite disagreements on some matters.

In Népszava, Róbert Friss says he was favourably surprised by what he interprets as Merkel’s critical attitude towards the policies of the Hungarian government. He describes the two leaders’ joint press conference as a ‘smile-less event’ and concludes that the critics of the Hungarian government received more encouragement from the German Chancellor than they could have hoped for.

In a similar vein, Világgazdaság’s Iván Sztojcsev writes that the Chancellor’s visit was the expression of tense relations between two countries which are “supposed to be allies.” He quotes what Merkel said at the press conference about the importance of the media, the opposition and civil society, as well as her defence of liberal democracy, which gave “a peculiar flair” to the event. Even if, he adds, it will take a long time to figure out what actually happened behind the scenes.

In Magyar Hírlap, Gyula T. Máté writes, on the contrary, that Ms Merkel “brought no gifts” to the opposition, “no matter how eager they are to overthrow the Orbán government with foreign help.” The two countries, he explains, follow the same sober attitude, refraining from arms sales to Ukraine, unlike ”their Polish colleagues who enthusiastically toe the American line”.  Efficient co-operation, Máté concludes, is not hindered by “what adjectives the two sides use to describe democracy”.

Magyar Nemzet’s Gábor Stier also suggests that “Merkel didn’t let herself be dragged into the marshlands of Hungarian internal politics”. She came to discuss economic relations and international matters now that Hungary “is on the geopolitical map as a frontline country”, as well as to make “differences in accents” clear. He admits that there have been statements by the Hungarian side recently that could be “mistaken for signs that Hungary is following a separate road”, but now the German Chancellor could convince herself that Hungary is not confronting Europe on the Russian issue, it is just being pragmatic in its approach to Moscow.