Gyurcsány: Reckless despair

gyf 1  The first days and weeks of the new year are ideal for making promises and explanations, and perhaps also for posing questions of great importance, i.e. strategic questions. This is all the more so in the discourse of leading Western European politicians. On the one hand, the beginning of the new year, and, on the other hand, the tragedies and challenges that happened in the first days of this year have drawn their attention - just as their voters' - to a number of questions. For this very reason, they have been mainly occupied with European issues, while putting their own domestic policy issues onto the back burner.

For example, in his speech to the European Parliament on 12th January, Italian PM Matteo Renzi - besides evaluating the Italian presidency of the EU in the second half of 2014 - called for the strengthening of European solidarity. He also criticised populists and the pessimistic views concerning the future of the Union. In addition, he called attention to the benefits stemming from the economic stimulus of the European investment plan unveiled by EC president Jean-Claude Juncker.
French PM Manuel Valls gave a rousing speech to the French National Assembly - interrupted multiple times by the warm applause of the parliamentary caucuses. Even right-wing parties
described the speech as 'historic'. The session was opened with a minute of silence in remembrance of the victims of the Paris terrorist attacks. After that, the MPs - in an unprecedented move since 1918 - spontaneously sung the Marseillaise.
In a speech delivered onboard the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle (which was just leaving a French port), the President of the French Republic, François Hollande promised to review the decision on the reduction of the national armed forces. He called attention to the fact that terrorism must be fought wherever it rears its head: if needed, beyond the borders of France, but if necessary, within France as well. Hollande's decisive action following the Paris terrorist attacks was praised by French newspapers which argue that now Hollande truly has become the President of France, in spite of the fact that he is still unpopular in certain segments of French society.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel - in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin - talked to the leading figures of the German political landscape about the importance of Europe's and Germany's unity. British PM David Cameron conducted negotiations in Washington with US President Barack Obama concerning the new state of affairs. Before, he had mentioned that he would be happy about an early referendum on Britain's membership in the EU. Meanwhile, British newspapers published articles saying that Europe's very essence has been attacked.
Thus Europe's political leaders will not focus on Hungary in the coming months, but on preserving the continent's security, freedom and its democratic system. Therefore, it is hard to believe that the present situation in Hungary would be seriously raised and dealt with during more important EU discussions. As a result, the German Chancellor's visit will probably also not focus on the domestic political situation of Hungary. Should the well-known differences in opinion be raised nonetheless, Angela Merkel will present them face-to-face, in accordance with diplomatic rules and in an extremely polite manner. Thus expectations should be lowered. It will not be Merkel who will accomplish the most important task of Hungary's democrats, which is overturning Orbán's regime.
So everything will stay the same? I would not say that with certainty. Even though the alternative force that could lead Hungary out of the crisis - which was precipitated by the Fidesz regime and the System of National Cooperation - is still not ready, leaders in the West - in Washington, Brussels and, of course, in Berlin - have also realised that the regime itself is the major cause of the crisis; so if someone wants to put an end to the chaos, which is looming more and more as a result of the government's measures, then the Orbán regime must be changed. Replacing certain people and reshuffling some institutions will not suffice anymore, but the whole direction must be changed, and it must be changed drastically.
What will show the way for the future is not that which follows the visit of Angela Merkel, but that of Vladimir Putin. The first visit might be considered as a test probe by the West, but the Russian President's visit is no less important. Let us see what we can expect.
The West wants to know whether Orbán understands the American and European message, which is becoming increasingly the same. And not that they refuse Orbán's domestic and foreign policy line - which has already been well-known to the Hungarian premier -, but that playing both sides is now over.
Putin also wants to know the real content of Orbán's proffer of friendship to Russia (which might have been too successful). Can he expect Orbán to serve - in the long term as well - the interests that guide the Kremlin's anti-European and anti-American policies, or will unfulfilled promises continue?
Merkel and Putin will face a Budapest that expects too much from the former, and wants less and less from the latter. Both leaders might appreciate the emotions shown to them, which will be slightly intrusive in case of Merkel, and, by contrast, very dismissive in case of Putin. They might also perceive the vacuum the PM got himself into as a result of selling his country's interests for pennies on the dollar (instead of protecting them); and they might also be able to perceive the audacious hopelessness with which the Hungarian people nowadays look into their future. It will be an illuminating visit for both leaders.
The author of this article published in Népszabadság is Chairman of the Democratic Coalition and former Prime Minister of Hungary