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Weeklies on PM Orbán’s concession at the EU summit

December 24th, 2023

As they all went to print before the start of the EU summit the previous week, weekly newspapers try to make sense of the Prime Minister’s surprise move, one week on.

In Magyar Hang, Dávid Lakner describes the Prime Minister’s decision to leave the summit while all the other leaders voted to open accession talks with Ukraine as a humiliating capitulation. He justifies this conclusion because Mr Orbán had resolutely promised to veto such a decision. He believes concessions would be a better tactic to follow in the future as well.

Heti Világgazdaság’s authors, Viktória Serdült, Márton Gergely and András Németh on the other hand, predict that the Prime Minister will remain defiant towards the western mainstream at least until the US elections next year. He is gambling on the victory of Donald Trump, and if that comes about in November 2024, they write, he might destroy the whole world order which Mr Orbán experiences as a set of shackles.

In Jelen, Gyula Krajczár vituperates against the Prime Minister for continuing to oppose Ukraine’s membership, despite not vetoing the resolution starting accession talks. Krajczár concedes that Ukraine’s accession will be a contradictory and difficult process, but Europe has at least given Ukraine a signal that it wants it to join the Western world.

In Élet és Irodalom, Miklós Losoncz finds it immoral of the Hungarian leader to argue against Ukraine’s rapprochement to the European Union. He admits that many other countries also have reservations, for instance on account of the enormous cost Ukraine’s membership would involve. Those countries, he writes, were only too happy to see Mr Orban take the lead and allow them to remain in the background.

In its first page editorial, Magyar Narancs finds it counter-productive for the government to conduct a nationwide billboard campaign against the President of the European Commission, while the unlocking of EU funds destined to Hungary but frozen due to rule of law concerns would require friendly relations between the two sides. The editors also mention that with the change of government in Poland, Hungary may find herself alone if the withdrawal of her voting rights in the European Council is put on the agenda, because of what many countries consider her poor record on the rule of law.

In Mandiner by contrast, former justice minister Judit Varga suggests that the conflict between Hungary and the European Commission will disappear only in the event of a political shift in Brussels. For such a change to occur, she writes, a well-functioning and tested alternative is necessary, and this is precisely what Hungary offers to the other member countries. She invites fellow Hungarians to show the rest of the world the true nature of Hungary, a country where the values on which Europe was founded still exist.

In a very similar spirit, Mariann Őry writes in Demokrata that Hungary can become a keystone state in the world, connecting East and West. Introducing a new book by Balázs Orbán, the political director in the Prime Minister’s office which argues against ‘decoupling’ and in favour of ‘connectivity’, she writes that Hungary has a vested interest in preventing the fatal opposition between blocks, and therefore must try to act as a uniting element in international politics.