Viktor Orbán’s first foreign trip: Warsaw

I wrote twice about the foreign policy plans of Fidesz. First, on December 3, 2009, when I reported on a bizarre speculation that appeared in Heti Válasz. The article was about "Moscow's Nightmare" which was, believe it or not, the possible electoral victory of Viktor Orbán because, according to the author, Fidesz was contemplating the establishment of an anti-Russian zone that would comprise Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, and Croatia. The reason that such a zone hadn't materialized was the opposition of the Hungarian left-liberal government.

It is possible that originally Fidesz plans for a north-south axis had an anti-Russian edge because Viktor Orbán's relations with Russia were exceptionally bad between 1998 and 2002. But in the second half of last year Fidesz began to mend its relations with the United States as well as with Russia and China.

By February of this year Orbán's axis took a different shape. Zsolt Németh talked about a close relationship among only three East European nations: Poland, Romania, and Hungary. He added that it would be desirable to include Slovakia in this mini-alliance because geographically it is difficult to exclude her, but he immediately added that at present Fico's Slovakia cannot be a partner.

Reports about Fidesz's foreign policy plans were only speculations up to now, but it seems that analysts interpreted the plans of János Martonyi, Zsolt Németh, and Viktor Orbán fairly accurately because Orbán's first trip was to the Polish capital. A new prime minister's first foreign visit tells us a lot about his government's future orientation.

Robert Fico didn't like this Polish trip at all and said at a press conference that "Orbán's announced trip to Poland looks as if he symbolically jumped across his own territory and went to a country neighboring his own." Such a reaction borders on paranoia because I very much doubt that Orbán wanted to snub Slovakia with this visit. In fact, I'm almost certain that Orbán and his team don't give a hoot what the Slovaks or the Slovak-Hungarians think. Bad relations with Slovakia are an annoyance and an obstacle at the moment to creating a north-south axis, but perhaps Robert Fico will lose the elections and then the situation will be different. Or at least this might be Orbán's hope.

Let me state right at the beginning that I consider this axis not only a pipe dream, but also a totally superfluous construct that will not have any takers. These countries, with the temporary exception of Croatia, are members of the European Union and what purpose would such a mini-alliance serve in a Europe that in the next few years most likely will pull closer together out of economic necessity?

I have the feeling that Viktor Orbán didn't even mention his plan for an axis to Donald Tusk, the Polish prime minister. He most likely was a great deal less ambitious. Or at least this is what one gathers reading the reports of MTI. He mentioned three topics that are close to his heart. One is strengthening the bonds among the Visegrád Four: Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary. He added that cooperation among these countries cannot be weakened by "bilateral difficulties," clearly referring to the singularly bad relations between Slovakia and Hungary.

The second topic was "the special relationship between Poland and Hungary" arising from the fact that Hungary and Poland will be providing presidents to the European Union in 2011. In the first six months it will be Hungary and in the second half Poland. It is beyond me what is so special about such an arrangement. Orbán's explanation didn't shed any light on that special relationship.

Finally, Orbán mentioned a pet project of his to Tusk: north-south infrastructure. However, a quick look at the map shows that without Slovakia's cooperation building superhighways will be a very difficult proposition. Moreover, most of the roadways would have to be built by Poland and it is not at all clear whether there is enough movement of goods from north to south to warrant putting large amounts of money into road or rail construction. Although I am no expert on Poland's transportation needs, I would venture to say that for Poland at the moment east-west transportation is more important than north-south.

Moreover, there is something else afoot as far as infrastructure is concerned. It is a railroad connection between Russia and a future logistical center near Vienna through which Chinese goods could reach the large European market. It looks as if that railroad (built with wider tracks accommodating the Russians) will go through Slovakia and not Hungary. In comparison to this railroad connection, the north-south highways from Poland to Croatia, perhaps through Ukraine, don't seem to be very important. At least not now.

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Semper Fidesz

I see nothing unusual in visiting a soon-to-be neighbor. There are important issues to discuss with our longtime friends, such as dividing the territory currently occupied by Slovaks, and making better use of the Oświęcim theme park, etc. Happy days are here again…


Mr Martony is in Bucharest right now. Let me give you a quote from Teodor Baconschi, romanian formin: „The cooperation and political dialogue frame – Visegrad – can go on, but the number of votes at Romania’s disposal in EU affairs allows us to consider other complementary frames of cooperation, which we will analyse together”.
(from the press conference after the bilateral meeting)


correction: Martonyi.