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Weeklies on PM Orbán’s strategic remarks

January 16th, 2023

Left-wing and liberal authors suspect that the Prime Minister is considering detaching himself from the Western alliance of which Hungary is a member, while pro-government commentators agree with his view that the international arena is increasingly characterised by opposition between rigid blocks.

In Magyar Hang, Szabolcs Szerető agrees with the Prime Minister about the importance for Hungary of building many-sided international relations, but finds it obvious that the Hungarian economy can only catch up with more advanced countries within the Western world and its system of alliances. Seeking alternative solutions seems to him a futile attempt. (For the Prime Minister’s views on Hungary’s position in the world, see Budapost, January 10.)

In his front-page Élet és Irodalom editorial, János Széky takes the war in Ukraine to exemplify his thesis that the Prime Minister’s strategy is unrealistic, because it attempts to reach irreconcilable goals. On the one hand, he writes, it is perfectly clear to Hungary’s ruling elite that the war in Ukraine is the result of Russian aggression – as Prime Minister Orbán and President Novák have said. On the other hand, he continues, the government cannot afford to tarnish its relations with Moscow because of what he calls ‘business considerations’. Meanwhile, however, as a member of the European Union, Hungary is officially considered by Russia as one of the ’unfriendly countries’. These contradictions, Széky suggests, are extremely difficult to solve.

Heti Világgazdaság’s Árpád W. Tóta believes that the Prime Minister’s strategy would only make sense if Hungary decided to leave the European Union, which is not the case. He thus concludes that for the moment, the Prime Minister’s ambition for Hungary to become a ‘medium-sized power’ which somehow doesn’t belong to any of the potentially clashing blocks, is nothing more than ‘feverish daydreaming’.

Magyar Narancs, on the other hand, interprets the Prime Minister’s words as meaning that he actually wants to leave the European Union. The headline of the cover story of the liberal weekly suggests that ‘Orbán is on his way out of the Union’. In one of their two editorials, the editors suspect that the Prime Minister knows that he will not satisfy the rule of law requirements set by the European Union and therefore Hungary will be definitively cut off from Union funds, whereupon the next step, they believe, will be ‘Huxit’.

In Jelen, left-wing MEP István Ujhelyi says that envoys sent by the Prime Minister to the Arab Gulf and China have been trying to find alternative financial resources for Hungary in case European funding is permanently suspended. He claims to know about ‘very serious’ tensions within the government, as Finance minister Mihály Varga and Tibor Navracsics, the Minister responsible for the talks with the European Union try to persuade the Prime Minister of the necessity to meet the requirements set by the European Union, lest Hungary lose EU funding. Ujhelyi, however, suspects that the Prime Minister has not given up on his search for alternative financial resources.

In Mandiner, Anton Bendarzhevsky, an expert on the countries of the former Soviet Union, finds the idea that increasingly rigid blocks are opposing each other in the world, reasonable. He also agrees with the Prime Minister in believing that the stark opposition of hostile blocks promises nothing good for Hungary in the forthcoming decade. He even fears that the blocks will introduce mutually incompatible technological systems and thus, exchanges between the two of them will become extremely difficult.

As an example of what a world divided into opposing blocks may mean for Hungary, Demokrata’s Zsolt Hárfás writes about how it is becoming increasingly difficult for European countries to cooperate with Russia on nuclear energy. As he sees it, America’s Westinghouse has lost in the competition with Russia’s Rosatom, but now countries are under political pressure to use American nuclear technology, nevertheless. Westinghouse has provided nuclear fuel to Czech, Ukrainian and Finnish Russian-made nuclear power plants, but its uranium rods have proved to be of lower quality although more expensive than the Russian ones, he claims. The three countries reverted to Russian fuel but Hárfás writes that the pressure is increasing on European countries to work with Westinghouse rather than with Rosatom. (Hungary plans to build two new nuclear power blocks under a contract with the Russian company.)

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