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Attila Ara-Kovács Diplomacy of the Orbán Regime The Crisis of the Hungarian Model According to the rhetoric of the current government, the change of system has failed; the past twenty-five years have seen not the development of a democratic system, but a socially unjust society, which has lost its national character. This last trait is emphasized through the reduction of Hungarian sovereignty by it joining the European Union. On this point the opinions of the Hungarian far left and the increasingly radicalized right wing, Fidesz included, are in far-reaching agreement. Could this really be the case? In light of the current turmoil in the Ukraine it is safe to say: definitely not. In light of the news reports detailing Russian troops invading the Ukraine, which are reminiscent of the 1956 and 1968 invasions, it is even more terrifying to think what would happen if Hungary were not a member of NATO and were outside the European Union. The best, I emphasize, the best scenario to characterize the near future, is the escalation of a new cold war. Only worse possibilities can come to pass. A war is still a war if it is not “hot” but “cold.” Many of us have vivid memories of this. But luckily today we stand on the other side. After 1989 the Hungarian political elite were still sober in their assessment of the country’s capabilities and the political parties of the government were able to reach a consensus. At that time joining the Euro-Atlantic nations was considered a priority. This goal was not merely an aspiration toward a European Union perspective but also heavily emphasized our transatlantic obligations. This coincided with the intentions of Western i6 Maffia II 00 book.indb 611 2016.12.07. 15:47 612 TWENTY-FIVE SIDES OF A POST-COMMUNIST MAFIA STATE democracies at the time, since for them it was equally obvious that Europe’s political borders should be stretched as far as possible. When the above-mentioned doctrine was worded (1990), the Soviet Union was still in existence; when Hungary became a member of NATO some ten years later (1999), it was no longer. Even if serious doubts about Russian intentions were not discussed then, we are forced to face these aggressive expansions now, so caution must have seemed a justifiable approach at the time. Currently the interests of Western nations and Hungary, conversely those of the Hungarian government and Hungary, do not coincide. The Orbán government is attempting to create internal political power by giving up the sovereignty that we gained through alliance with the EuroAtlantic nations. This is not a newly conceived attempt, since the dictatorial systems in Hungary throughout the twentieth century did much the same: first Germany, then the Soviet Union guaranteed, through systems of closed political alliance, that in exchange for the sacrifice of foreign political sovereignty and integration into the economic sphere of interest the currently ruling cast would get free reign to stabilize their political power, for the growth of a narrow ruling class and to the detriment of the majority of society. Fidesz successfully deterred the Hungarian model of 1989 from the path offered by the change of regime. This happened when after losing the 2002 election Viktor Orbán announced “the homeland cannot be in opposition,” and with this he began a sort of civil cold war. This is when the Hungarian recession began—not the recession of the societal model, but of everything that came after the change of regime. The past four years (2010–14) have made this process lethal and perhaps irreversible. The hundreds of thousands who fled the country based on sober and painful decisions exemplifies this the most. The Character of Orbán’s Politics The answers given for the recession and the will to maintain power at all costs often gave birth to movements in Europe and its peripheries that pin their liberal ideals and politics on their flags while rebelling against the internal systems of open societies. This society stripped them of being the sole player and made of them a political party or movement among many i6 Maffia II 00 book.indb 612 2016.12.07. 15:47 613 Diplomacy of the Orbán Regime others.1 The others, as products of nationalism, were quick to surround their movement with efficient—i.e., supplicant and loyally eager—political groups. They attempted to spread their political influence over the economy by radically reforming the...


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