Ferenc Gyurcsány on the Merkel and Putin visits to Budapest

Reckless Despair

The first days and weeks of the new year are ideal for making promises, trying to find explanations, and perhaps also 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.

Obligation, contract, agreement Yes, lately the wind has gotten stronger but  I'm master of the situation

Obligation, contract, agreement
Yes, lately the wind has gotten stronger but I’m the master of the situation

For example, in his speech to the European Parliament on January 12, Italian Prime Minister 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 Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Union.

French Prime Minister 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, members of parliament – in a move unprecedented 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 Prime Minister David Cameron conducted negotiations in Washington with President Barack Obama concerning the new situation. Before, he had mentioned that he would be happy about an early referendum on Britain’s membership in the European Union. 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. It is hard to believe that the present situation in Hungary would be seriously raised and dealt with during more important EU discussions. Therefore, the German Chancellor’s visit to Budapest on February 2 will most likely not focus on the domestic political situation in Hungary. Should the well-known differences of opinion on this issue be raised, Angela Merkel will present them in private in accordance with diplomatic rules and in an extremely polite manner. Thus, expectations in Hungarian opposition circles should be lowered. It will not be Merkel who will accomplish the most important task of Hungary’s democrats, which is overturning the Orbán regime.

Will everything stay the same? I would not say that with certainty. Although there is still no alternative political force that could lead Hungary out of the crisis – which was precipitated by the Fidesz regime and the System of National Cooperation, leaders in the West – in Washington, Brussels and, of course, in Berlin – have also realized that the regime itself is the major cause of the crisis; so if someone wants to put an end to the chaos in Hungary, which is looming more and more as a result of the government’s measures, the Orbán regime must be changed. Replacing certain people in the government and reshuffling some institutions will no longer suffice. When the time comes, the whole direction must be changed, and it must be changed drastically.

What will show the way for the future is not what follows the visit of Angela Merkel, but what follows the visit of Vladimir Putin. The first visit might be viewed 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 Viktor Orbán understands the American and European message, which are becoming increasingly the same. Their message is not that they refuse Orbán’s domestic and foreign policy line, which has been well known to the Hungarian prime minister for some time, but that playing both sides is now over.

Putin wants to know the real content of Orbán’s proffer of friendship, which may have contained promises he cannot or no longer wants to fulfill. He wants to know whether he can 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 his promises, which hitherto have remained unfulfilled, continue to ring hollow? After all, when the chips were down Hungary always voted with the rest of the EU countries.

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 them, which will be slightly intrusive in the case of Merkel, and, by contrast, very dismissive in the case of Putin. They might also perceive the vacuum the prime minister got himself into as a result of selling his country’s interests for pennies on the dollar (instead of protecting them) and the audacious hopelessness with which the Hungarian people nowadays look toward their future. It will be an illuminating visit for both leaders.


Ferenc Gyurcsány is the chairman of the Democratic Coalition and former prime minister of Hungary. The original Hungarian appeared in Népszabadság on January 28, 2015.




  1. Good article. Orban has been playing with fire in trying to cosy up to both EU and Russia. He will need a lot of skill not to get burnt.

    All the anti Western rhetoric easily obscures the fact that Russia basically wants vassals, not equals. Ukraine shows what happens when the vassal tries to make any independent decisions.

  2. I believe Putin will not take it laying down if Orban wants to back away from his promises. From the outside it will may look like a friendly meeting but I bet anything that Putin has way to much on Orban…

  3. I don’t have confidence that Mr. Orbán has the political know-how to stand up to Mrs. Merkel and Mr. Putin. He has shown his ineptitude during the past few months including several stupid moves where he had to either retreat or upsetting a large proportion of the population, while building his hidey-hole in the Castle District and his “lovarda”, (what no football stadiums?) and putting up with his own and his friends’ corruption and the criticism.

    In fact the only stupidity which escaped him is the fact that he did not appoint Prince Phillip to become a “lovag” similar to his Australian counterpart. But he will continue to ruin the country and be an embarrassment in Europe if the opposition and the Nation allow it.

  4. Let’s forget all the high fallutin talk: Hungary’s political class is totally corrupt. Let’s forget about
    Gyurcsany: he had his chance and he bent like a reed in the wind. As for proof of corruption,
    how many of the present government have resigned? I believe there was one person in finance and Angyan. Two out of all the parliament. Kudos to the LMP Gabor who quit. In my mind, only Angyan, Bokros, and Gabor are fit to rule. The rest are vile criminals out to thieve the citizenry…and let the kids starve where they may.

    I am utterly stunned that Hungarians can’t see this, and act upon it.

    I suppose that the most recent discovery in the basement labs of the KGB is an improvement
    on Machiavelli: not only do you inflict fear on the citizenry, but now you push them to the
    edge of desperation for their daily bread, placing them on the psychological level of concentration camp inmates whose focus ended with achieving scraps to keep their body

    Wellcome to the camp that is Hungary.

  5. The new composition of the Greek government may have changed the game a bit, Athens being potentially a much better Russian troll within the EU than Budapest.

    This may in the short term alleviate the Western diplomatic pressure on Hungary (it already did in the Western press), by re-classifying the regime as a ‘moderate russophile’ only.

    However, depending on how much blackmail the Syriza-Anel coalition intends to exercise, I’m not sure it won’t soon backfire against OV’s Eastern ambitions, as every bit of slack cut to Hungary may reinforce the Greek negotiating position.

  6. @Marcel Dé – I agree, though extreme problems with Greece are not new – they have just changed in nature. Greece got into the troubles it is in because its government lied about its financial data to get into the Euro, and lied to Brussels (and the Greek public) about its economic situation for years and years and years. The EU, then, somehow simply could not believe that any rational government would fudge the books. This has changed, though I have my doubts about the ability of any external body to deal with a government that falsifies economic data (who else can collect such data?)

    In my view, Merkel and the EU ought to be perfectly capable of dealing with Hungary and Greece. OUGHT to be.

    The Greek government’s flip-flops of the past three days suggest the continuation of a level of incompetence rare in EU politics. First the Greek government signed the declaration condemning Russia. Then the (new) Greek government said it wants to rescind its signature. Finally, however, the new Greek government said it supported the statement condemning Russia.

    The other flip-flop is even more important, because it is directly attached to previous Greek lies about the fiscal and economic situation. First the Greek government worked with the Troika on loan repayment and economic reform. Then the (new) Greek government said they would not even talk with the Troika about loan terms and reform, and turned back some policies agreed by the previous government. Now the new Greek Finance Minister says they never said they would not talk with the Troika, that in fact they are eager to talk with the Troika.

    It’s not just economic and f.p. that look dodgy, A previous Greek Def. Minister was imprisoned for corruption – so there is no question that there was incompetence and worse there. Yesterday, however, a new low point was reached when Turkish jets were scrambled after an unannounced fly-over by the new Greek Def. Minister of islands near the Turkish mainland.

    At this point, Greece’s expulsion from the Euro is not at all hard to imagine. The entire continent, outside Russia, has had it up to the gills. If the EU does not take a hard line with Greece, however, what can be expected of Merkel’s trip to Hungary?

  7. P.S. sorry for the poor editing of the long comment above. I should have removed the words “it is in” from the second sentence.

  8. Lies – lies – lies….

    Gyurcsany must be declared the man of the century.

    One that raised the awareness against lies.

    When will the other leaders match his brave act?

  9. @Webber:

    The key sentence in your comment is: “The EU, then, somehow simply could not believe that any rational government would fudge the books.”

    Is it not the same thing some of us have been writing about? And that Greek incident was a long time ago, yet it seems the EU and its leaders haven’t learned their lesson (of they have done so very slowly). Greece and Hungary etc. are not Western-Europe.

    Now, pray tell me why would any Greek or Hungarian government NOT lie and fool the EU?

    There is no downside for these people.

    Orban and his pals are lawyers so they correctly figured that as a matter of law they can’t go to jail even in theory and in practice they of course fully control the prosecution and the judiciary.

    They will still be getting the EU funds, the People’s party or whoever will still desperately need their votes in the Parliament, their votes in the council will still be needed, the EU leaders are anyway polite and smiling, so what IS the downside to their powers?

    Lack of trust and lack of investments as downside? As if any of these corrupt politicians would care…

    For “pragmatic” people like Orban the bottom line is that neither the EU nor any individual government has any powers over any misbehaving, corrupt government.

    So the incentives actually push these countries towards falsifying statistics, lying in the official communication with EU etc. and I have zero doubt that Orban and his people have been doing these and they still keep getting fatter and richer.

    EU politicians either stop being naive or they will go extinct soon.

  10. Webber: The Greek government’s flip-flops of the past three days suggest the continuation of a level of incompetence rare in EU politics. First the Greek government signed the declaration condemning Russia. Then the (new) Greek government said it wants to rescind its signature. Finally, however, the new Greek government said it supported the statement condemning Russia.

    I beg to differ. Greece wasn’t happy about the statement regarding Mariupol issued on 27/01 and neither was Cyprus, the only difference being that the Greek government did publicly state their discontent. As far as I know, they haven’t changed their position. However, they did vote on 29/01 in favor of extending the current sanctions for six months, which is a different matter.

    While I agree that the inexperience of the new gov’t may be of concern (for contrary to what gergely wrote above, there is a price to the failings of Greece’s traditional political class: they all have been given the sack), that’s not what’s bothering me most. What does is the long-standing ties, both personal and ideological, of its Foreign & Defense ministers with the USSR & Putinist Russia.

    As I don’t think Mr. Tsipras is an idiot, I suspect that although the coalition with ANEL may have been based upon a common anti-austerity stance, the fact that these particular portfolios were given to Messrs. Kotsias and Kammenos is a clear sign of his willingness to build a stronger bargaining position by using a pro-Russian stance as leverage. Should it be confirmed, wether Greece stays in the Eurozone or the EU doesn’t matter that much compared with the catastrophical consequences such an attitude may have in terms of geopolitics – no to mention the effect on Ukraine.

    I can only hope that the risk has been assessed by other member States, and that they’re working hard on neutralising that threat asap. If they do, it won’t be good for Mr. Orbán. If they don’t, or if they fail, he may posture as the ‘good boy’ and pursue his little bargaining on his own… and then God bless Hungary.

  11. OT and personal: I don’t cheat or/and lie because it will have unpleasant consequences – downsides, if you will -, or I would be caught doing it, I don’t lie because according to my moral principles it’s wrong.

    Similarly I don’t steal either, not because I’m afraid of punishment, I don’t take someone else’s property simply because it isn’t mine.
    These are only a few of basics, but important ones, and I hope it gives a general idea.

    As it happens, I take that every other civilised people lives by the same principles and I treat everyone accordingly, as long as they prove me wrong. (What comes after such event is a different matter entirely.)

    Consequently, from my book such expression totally missing like “the end justifies the means”, and I don’t feel ashamed for the absence. Go figure.

    If you are at it, do yourself a favour and look up the word “moral”.
    Will help to understand the above.

    You’ll find, however, that naïveté has nothing to do with it.

  12. Must be something quite peculiar about the Hungarian character.

    People quite happily accept that former communists change, being ‘reformed’ and now the are cheerfully call their former colleagues “commie traitors”.

    People happily accept, that a formerly liberal atheist politicians turn to be ‘nationalsocialist christian’ heroes, – no contradiction here either.

    People gladly repeating all the bullshit coming from all the above mentioned politicians, even knowing that every word that they about to utter has no even remote relation with truth and reality!

    – But they never seem to accept when a politician declare that there is no more lies from now on, and he lives up to his words.

    Yes, people, I’m talking about Ferenc Gyurcsány.

    As much as I know he never changed religion.
    As much as I know he never changed moral values.
    As much as I know he never changed ideology.
    As much as I know he never changed political side.
    As much as I know he never changed moral values.

    He did left a party, which wanted to keep on going on the same old path of lies and corruption.

    And this is a deadly sin in Hungary, obviously.

    One more thing, what I asked before and didn’t get any answer, but as it seems I have to ask again: what corruption has been Gyurcsány involved, what qualify him to call “corrupt”?

    (Please, spare me from mentioning Sukoró, the whole Fidesz-driven prosecution couldn’t came up with anything – and not because of lack of trying, so forget this one, please!)

    Anything else?

  13. spectator:

    Naivite comes in when one trusts Eastern-European, Balkan politicians as one would trust a Western-European politician.

    You don’t want to appear to yourself as racist, prejudicial, condescending to think that these politicians will be like their reputation and that they might not be ready for democracy, for joining the EU.

    On the other hand a Putin, an Orban, a Lazar would never trust any opponent. Never. That’s how they got into the positions where they are now. As Andy Grove famously said only the paranoids survive. Moreover, coincidentally all three are lawyers and a lawyer always assumes that the other party will try to take advantage of him many steps down the road and so he always prepares for that — primarily by not trusting the other party. That’s how a lawyer is socialized especially in the East.

    Unfortunately, however, Western Europeans – as webber referred to it – just didn’t have the imagination that Eastern/Balkan politicians would lie them in the face (though Obama did that too with Merkel) or falsify statistics for years or that they personally would steal EU money by the billions. I hope it is by now perfectly clear who these people are, but I still have my doubts. Western politicians don’t want to give up the trusting, cooperative, non-confrontational approach to things with which they grew up and I understand them. It’s so much nicer and easier. But that approach will lead them nowhere in the East.

    Perhaps if the EU realized the dangers 5-8 years ago, it could’ve better prepared for the dangers it is now facing on several fronts.

  14. @Marcel Dé – The Greek government changed their position. This is a matter of fact, not debate. Look here:


    Note – today the decision is “yes.” Now tell me they haven’t changed their position.

    And for another change, look here:

    And then look here:

    You can think whatever you like about the new Greek government. Quite a lot of people supported it when it came to power. What you can’t say is that they have been consistent, or that they have been professional over the past few days since they took power. They’ve been scandalously inconsistent and unprofessional.

  15. @Dilbert
    Perhaps I am fortunate enough to live in part of the planet when “don’t spit at the floor” signs valued unnecessary, – already since a hundred or so years.

    It may even mean that people here around clearly unprepared for the event when someone walks in, seemingly part of the society, and promptly defecating to the middle of the floor, with the intent to smear the matter all over the surroundings, the more the merrier…

    I wouldn’t actually say, that in such event the people who assumed that the newcomer has grasped at least the minimum requirements of civilised interaction are wrong, even if they are in clear disadvantage as to handle the uncivilised act, but I may even be wrong about it.

    In the long run it will become clear that the evolution – in spite of temporary glitches – keep on going toward the “Homo Sapiens”, even if some of other Neanderthals trying to gain the upper hand.

    Nature takes care of herself for sure.
    Sometimes it just hard to survive while it takes course.

  16. Did anyone listened to Gyurcsány’s speech wholly?
    What your take on it?

    I’ve stumbled upon accidentally – I assume sometimes around the middle – and I’ve found quite impressive.
    Statesman – like.

    Actually I don’t agree with the last part – that we’re supposed to accept that there are radically different views coexist from our own – say democracy and nazism’? – but hey, we have heard the most open minded political statement since ages!

    And now all the trolls are very welcome to explain to me, that he is a corrupt liar and all that crap, just show me one single person who comes close, let alone better.

    It must be easy, isn’t it?.

  17. @Webber

    Re: Greece & Russia. Is it possible you may be confusing Tuesday’s EuCo statement, which they have disowned, and Thursday FAC decision on sanctions, by which they stood?

    As for the two other subjects (debt negotiations & Turkey) I’ll trust your word for it. I just won’t comment if you don’t mind, because I don’t think the Greek government’s behavior in these matters has the capacity to affect Hungary’s relations with the EU or NATO, contrary to their pro-Russian inclination.

    An anecdote perhaps: in 1981 the current FM, then a communist, published a book entitled ‘Poland and Us’ in which he praised Jaruzelski cracking down on Solidarity. This is really going to play well by Tusk… 🙂

  18. @Marcel Dé – Some fear that the immediate problems with Greece will distract attention from problems in Hungary.
    Today the news is that the Greek government has announced that it will not take any more EU-IMF loans. If they cannot raise funds elsewhere, the estimate is that they have roughly a month left before bankruptcy. They might try to sell state bonds, but those have an 11% yield at the moment (and rising). Given the amount of money Greece needs to raise this year alone (9.0 bn Euros), funds raised through bond saleswill be unpayable at that interest rate. China and Russia are the only two sources of funding I can think of. Europe has a serious problem if Greece continues down this road. If Greece does an about face and says it will take EU-IMF money after all, then this government will have been shown to be incompetent indeed, or at least a lousy liar and awful poker player.

  19. Gyurcsany to me still did not dismiss the notions that he is a racist.

    He personally was the one who nominated Albert Pasztor for mayor of Miskolc. Pasztor made several racist statements about the Roma being criminals and “small adorable Roma children growing up to be thugs”. Gyurcsany embraced Pasztor fully. it was also Gyurcsany’s minion called Eorsi who talked about “Roma crime” as something that cannot be denied. Fully racist.

    It was Gyurcsany’s Party that beat up NGO activists who protested against Gyurcsany’s racism regarding the Roma question at one of the protests.

    Gyurcsany might show himself to be decent and honorable but when he smells an opportunity (“we can get the position of Miskolc mayor”) he will betray all his ideals and turn to full racism.

    These type of racists are the most dangerous.

  20. crit – the unqualified reply to you, Gyurcsany is a racist, a thief, a liar according to the FIDESZ PR.

    Do you subscribe only to a FIDESZ illiberal PR?

    Victims of the FIDESZ PR are more hazardous to the health of Hungary than Gyurcsany.

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