Viktor Orbán (L) with Petr Fiala
Hungarians are no longer surprised that Viktor Orbán’s speech at the Baile Tusnad summer camp this year was followed by a mighty outrage, resulting in a series of demarches, summoning of ambassadors and indignant tweets from representatives of neighboring countries.
Let everyone decide for themselves whether the speech in Romania had any genuinely provocative content, or whether we have just witnessed the obligatory European automatism of outrage that is these days almost inevitable in the case of Orbán’s speeches. At any rate, for the Czech government it was probably salt in the wound suffered during the vote on the migration solidarity mechanism in Brussels.
Viktor Orbán’s statement that Czech politics had switched to the side of the European federalists must have hit the Czech government extremely hard.
Not because Orbán said something outrageous, but because with a single word he shattered the carefully and laboriously constructed facade with which the Prague government was trying to mask the fact that it had uncritically and unquestioningly subordinated Czech foreign policy to the direction set by the ruling elite in Brussels.
Petr Fiala, through his spokesman Václav Smolka, expressed the opinion that “Prime Minister Orbán was used to something else… In this sense, one can understand his frustration. However, absurd labeling will certainly not help the necessary cooperation between Central European countries, which on the contrary requires mutual respect.”
Prime Minister Viktor Orbán (C) at Romania’s Baile Tusnad (Tusnádfürdő) on July 22. Photo: MTI/Miniszterelnöki Sajtóiroda/Benko Vivien Cher
Someone with a classical education in logic would point out how the above quote is itself seriously full of contradictions, but when Smolka’s sentence is placed in its current cultural context, it is clear that it is just a classic example of today’s Euro-Atlantic dialectic. Unfortunately for Peter Fiala, however, in Hungary we continue to cling to the Central European frame of mind, and interpreted from this, to accuse someone who expresses a legitimate opinion of “frustration” and “absurd labeling” is not an expression of mutual respect, but of disrespect born of irritation.
The reaction of Interior Minister Vít Rakušan to Orbán’s words that the Czech Republic has replaced former Prime Minister Andrej Babiš’s, and presumably Hungary’s, “opportunism” with constructive European politicking based on mutual values is not only extremely disrespectful towards Hungarians, but is also a textbook example of the typical European federalist mindset that he so vehemently tries to defend against.
And when he suggests that Hungary is approaching the EU with a ‘give us our subsidies and keep your wits about you’ attitude, it sounds eerily similar to a EU Commissioner Vera Jourová-type Eurofederalism.
The statement by Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský that “No one is forcing Hungarians to be in the EU if they feel uncomfortable in it” would probably not fit in with the Central European sense of mutual respect either. Perhaps Mr Lipavský would be happy with an EU where we either accept the rules of orthodoxy formulated in Berlin and Brussels or close the door behind us. However, we Hungarians, along with the Poles, still remember the pre-Jourová Union, where the sovereignty of nations was respected and the views of their elected representatives were listened to.
Nor is it a sign of respect when the Czech Embassy in Hungary, under pressure from the US Ambassador, signs a joint statement criticizing the host country, condemning alleged political rhetoric that stigmatizes LGBTQ rights. In addition to joining the initiative of a controversial diplomat who, within a month of his arrival, has brought US-Hungarian relations down to Cold War levels, the Czech embassy has also seriously violated the rules of diplomatic missions. However, most Hungarians understand that LGBTQ ideology is not genuinely intended to protect the rights of a particular minority, but quite the opposite, to control the majority. Nothing has so damaged the coexistence of sexual minorities and the majority society as the far-left LGBTQ movement, but unlike the Czech embassy, the average informed Hungarian can already tell the two apart.
The attacks from Prague, however, evoke the rhetoric of a government that has largely lost control over its own foreign policy and is only able to orient itself according to initiatives formulated from the outside.
Not only does the Prime Minister himself seem to have resigned his own influence over Czech diplomacy in favor of his radical left-wing coalition partners, but his statements give the impression that he is not even sufficiently aware of what is going on in the Foreign Ministry in Prague.
Prime Minister Petr Fiala with EC President Ursual von der Leyen. Photo: Facebook Petr Fiala
The EU is already, for the most part, an association of states that have lost control not only of their own foreign policy but also of the security of their borders and, therefore, of their future. Until recently, the V4 alliance was an exception, a rare island of Central European values and civic thinking. That is why the vast majority of Hungarians do not want the Czech-Hungarian debate to escalate permanently and will continue to look up to and trust the Czechs.
The article (edited) was originally published in the Czech Lidové Noviny on August 9.
Featured Image: Facebook Viktor Orbán