Well then, let the ball begin - the EU and the IMF are going to start negotiations with us. My better self says: we must be happy about this. Evidently: in the interest of all Hungarians, there should be talks, the Forint should revaluate, and so on. We are all going to suffer of the new unavoidable austerity measures, so we do not need any financial market turmoil to make it even worse. But we should not get carried away with joy. Because there are two snags.
First: the economy. In spite of the start of the IMF negotiations, Hungary is not at all back on the map of Europe. All the critique as regards Hungary's economic policies, and, indeed, democracy, as voiced by the Council of Europe, the Venice Commission, the European Parliament and a number of leading European politicians, are still valid. And it is not only "pipsqueak liberals" who care about those. Investors do, too. As it happens, it's a very brave thing to invest in a country with no independent judiciary. To quote a concrete example from business that is personally known to me: not too long ago, one of our partners from an EU member state on the Balkans (!) was seriously hesitating whether they really should dare to invest together with an otherwise quite reputable and promising Hungarian high-tech venture - because of the way the Hungarian government relates to the market (keeping inventing new taxes, introducing retroactive legislation, and, time and again, resorting to forced nationalisation. Not to mention the recent renaissance of corruption.) And I certainly do not believe that - if our reputation is this bad even on the Balkans - Western investors will think differently. Do not worry: there will be enough new investments to ensure that Viktor Orbán can once in a while go to cut through some ribbons. But there won't be as many, by far, as there will be in neighbouring countries. And that should be just enough to make us feel quite miserable. To sum up: those who think that our economic woes are over, are very wrong.
Second: that matter of democracy. I know that most Hungarians could not care less about it. Or at least they think that "national independence" is more important. And, there will be more than a few to say that the EU's decision is a major fiasco for the opposition. Now it's been proven: our brave prime minister was right, after all. All that snivel by the commies and the liberals about over-aged judges, the central bank (clearly, before anything else, about the audaciously high salary of the off-shore knight András Simor) and some funny data protection ombudsman (who the hell is that, anyway, and why are we paying him?), the whole treasonous lot, has now been finally silenced. Forza Ungheria, we won't be a colony! It would be futile to deny: it is very much possible to read the Barroso Commission's decision this way. Whatever the front page of Népszabadság says, not to mention Captain Szanyi: those who think that Viktor Orbán has capitulated, are even more wrong.
The free world generally considers that every country, every people is responsible for managing their own affairs. And, generally, there must be very forceful arguments - yes: immediate and serious self interest - in order for anyone to intervene from the outside. Fortunately - yes: fortunately - for Hungary: Europe works a bit differently. European nations do not live the way Orbán, and Eurosceptics in general, would believe. There are not many issues that are still considered internal affairs in an EU member state. Democracy, the respect for human rights are certainly not among them. I do not hide it: personally, I do not understand today's decision by the Barroso team. Within one or two days there should be additional comments and explanations. Viviane Reding, the commissioner for fundamental rights, for example, wants to carry on with her fight. I am very curious what the EU Commission will do when it becomes clear that Orbán's bunch has not the slightest intention to deal with the objections of the Venice Commission in any serious way.
In the short term, any reasonable man must be happy that the EU and the IMF have finally come to negotiate with us. But there is no reason for any celebration. We are still where we were back in January. In the meantime, we have wasted a couple of dozens of billions on useless interest payments, and on the exchange rate, but the opposition is still in tatters - and Orbán is at the height of his power.