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PM Orbán’s assessment of the EU summit

March 13th, 2017

Commentators across the political spectrum speculate on the future of the European Union, the Visegrád cooperation process, and other consequences of the Friday EU summit. They all agree that Hungary will have to make a tough choice if the EU is transformed into a two-speed union.

In an interview after the EU summit on Friday, PM Orbán said that despite all the difficulties it encounters, Europe is still the best place on Earth. PM Orbán explained that ‘European culture, civilization and economy have made great progress since the end of the Second World War. In order to preserve this progress, the sovereignty of its member states cannot be curtailed, he added. He described the idea of a multi-speed Europe as unacceptable. Concerning recent debates over migration (see BudaPost March 10), the Hungarian Prime Minister explained that putting asylum seekers into custody does not amount to detention, as they can at any time return to Serbia. He said that Hungary’s decision to keep them in custody is intended to make sure that they do not reach other EU member states before their application is processed. All this, PM Orbán claims, is fully in-line with the requests Germany and Austria have made. In an aside, he repeated his earlier statement that Hungary does not want to take in immigrants but wants to maintain its cultural and ethnic composition (see BudaPost March 3).

Magyar Nemzet’s Gábor Stier defends the Prime Minister’s decision to support Donald Tusk despite the fact that PM Orbán promised Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of Poland’s governing party that he would not do so. The conservative columnist thinks that voting against Tusk would have entailed no benefits for Hungary or PM Orbán. The Hungarian Prime Minister is often highly critical of Brussels, but he is still a pragmatic politician who stops before hitting the wall, Stier comments. As for the alliance of the Visegrad countries, Stier suspects that their divergent interest may make close cooperation unfeasible in the long run.

Népszava’s Róbert Friss thinks that the EU will inevitably be transformed into a two-speed union. The left-liberal commentator thinks that only tighter cooperation between member states can make the EU successful again, rather than a looser coalition of sovereign nation states as advocated by PM Orbán. If Poland opts to join the core EU states along with Slovakia and the Czech Republic, the Hungarian Prime Minister will be in a tough situation and risk marginalizing Hungary by resisting further integration, Friss speculates.

In Magyar Idők, Tamara Judi suggests that the more powerful EU member states want to determine the future of the EU, and smaller countries have little opportunity to influence such decisions. Bearing in mind the current crisis of the EU, it is not easy at all to decide if Hungary would be better off by becoming a member of the core EU, the pro-government columnist notes. Tamara likens the EU to an ‘elite club’, and hints that the decision whether Hungary becomes part of the first-tier countries in the two-speed EU may depend on Western EU member states rather than Hungary herself.

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