It is almost inevitable that when there is really big trouble, Gyurcsány's adrenalin surges.This was the situation in late 2005 and early 2006 when MSZP trailed far behind Fidesz and Gyurcsány launched an incredible campaign to sell MSZP and his program. Miracle of miracles the MSZP-SZDSZ coalition won the elections. In the process he even managed to rally the normally apathetic MSZP troops: for instance, a huge spirited crowd gathered at an outdoor meeting and enthusiastically sang the catchy campaign song.
A similar burst of energy can be observed in the last few weeks, especially in the last few days. Most likely because the European parliamentary elections are near, Gyurcsány's verbiage is becoming sharper. Until now he was very careful not to emulate the tone of Fidesz politicians, although Gyurcsány can be devastatingly sarcastic if he is aroused. He was merciless when he made fun of Tibor Navracsics in parliament on February 16 and yesterday when in a speech he called his opponents "political con-men."
Yes, Gyurcsány is full of ideas and spares no energy to promote them. His latest is that he wants the European Union to arrange a package of as much as 180 billion euros to help East European economies, banks, and companies survive the economic storm. Here he is competing for attention with Viktor Orbán who on February 22 in Vienna scolded the west for not keeping its end of the bargain by not helping eastern Europe. He referred to a "contract" that had been broken, though it is not at all clear to me what contract Orbán was talking about. A couple of days earlier he apparently had talks with the prime ministers of Poland and the Czech Republic about some kind of cooperation among the East European countries. Today Orbán had a 50-minute talk with Angela Merkel. Since Merkel said nothing about the conversation with Orbán we have only Orbán's description of the meeting. According to him, he made three suggestions. (1) Western banks should resume cash flow to their branches in the region. (2) The European Central Bank should sell euros under the same conditions to non-eurozone countries as within it. And (3) Western governments should urge their companies to continue their investments in Eastern Europe. He didn't divulge Merkel's reactions, though he remarked that "minds are already open but not the pocketbooks." Orbán is even more ambitious than Gyurcsány: he wants 350 billion dollars or 276 billion euros. I think one can count one's blessing if Gyurcsány's suggestions bear fruit. Orbán's surely won't. For one thing, however bright his political prospects may be, he is not currently a major player on the international scene.
Gyurcsány already gave a name to his 180 billion euro plan: the European Stabilization and Integration Program. It would include short-term financing for governments, restructuring of private debt, capitalization of banks, and liquidity for companies in twelve different countries. Gyurcsány will present his plan at the March 1 European Union summit in Brussels. The Hungarian government already warned the Hungarian public not to expect results at the summit. It is not enough to convince the Western European leaders of its necessity; the plan would have to be put in place, which as we know only too well can be a daunting task. The program would help Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Romania. In addition two non-EU countries would benefit: Croatia and Ukraine. Meanwhile the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the World Bank launched major lending programs. The EBRD will lend 11 billion and the World Bank about 7.5 billion euros.
Gyurcsány has another favorite plan: to shorten the waiting period for admission to the euro-zone. Hungary has substantially reduced its deficit in the last two years. Right now the deficit is under 3%, comfortably below the 3.5% insisted on by the European Union. Inflation not surprisingly will also be low. Most likely well under 3.5%. According to the current rules Hungary would have to wait two years while holding the current figures before admission. This is what Gyurcsány would like to change. It seems that Poland will support the Hungarian proposal to shorten the waiting period. Whether the proposal will find support outside of the region is questionable. But Gyurcsány can be very persuasive. If he manages to pull this off his chances at the polls in 2010 would greatly improve.