The Hungarian prime minister has had a busy schedule since he decided to visit all twenty-seven capitals in the European Union. Wagging tongues claim that this "innovation" by the incoming "rotating president" of the Union came about because the new Hungarian prime minister didn't get too many invitations to visit the member states. In any case, it was about a month ago that Orbán came up with the idea of meeting all the prime ministers of the EU. Since then he has visited France, Portugal, Malta, Poland, Denmark, Lithuania, Latvia, Greece, Cyprus, Austria, Slovakia, and, today, Great Britain. Do you remember the funny film about the worldwind European tour organized for Americans called "If it's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium"? Well, even that tour was less frenetic; it was a nine-country, eighteen-day bus trip from London to Rome.
In any case, most of these trips are totally useless. Nothing important is discussed. Orbán spends an hour or even less with the prime minister and perhaps the president where he tells them about the ambitious Hungarian plans for the six months during which Hungary will be the center of important meetings of the member states and back he goes to the airport.
The Slovak trip was somewhat different because in Bratislava the discussion focused not on the rotating presidency but on the rather strained relations between Hungary and Slovakia. The last time I wrote at some length about Slovak-Hungarian relations was on the occasion of the Hungarian parliament passing the bill that would allow ethnic Hungarians living in the neighboring countries to apply and receive Hungarian citizenship without actually moving to Hungary and living there on a permanent basis. The passage of the bill coincided with the Slovak elections, and the Hungarian parties of Slovakia–Magyar Koalició Pártja (MKP) and Híd/Most, a Slovak-Hungarian party–were anything but thrilled about the timing. They feared that the new Hungarian law on dual citizenship would strengthen the nationalist party of Ján Slota. As it apparently did.
Fidesz in the past, as at present, is constantly meddling in the affairs of the Hungarian communities in the neighboring countries, and it certainly has its favorites. Now that Fidesz is in power the Orbán government has the means to give financial support to favorite political groups and strip others of even minimal assistance. This is what's going on in Ukraine and in Romania where this policy can easily backfire. But the most interesting situation occurred in Slovakia.
Here the favorite of Fidesz was MKP, which was practically the Slovak arm of Fidesz. The "enemy" was Béla Bugár's Híd/Most. But then came the elections and MKP for the first time since Slovak independence didn't get enough votes to be represented in parliament. Híd/Most, on the other hand, is part of the ruling, although quite shaky, coalition government. Common sense would dictate that the Hungarian government should change its attitude toward Híd/Most but, no, Budapest decided that Híd/Most is a party that is ethnically mixed and therefore inevitably leads to assimilation. Hence, the Orbán government will not deal with them.
There is a body called Magyar Állandó Értekezlet (Máért/Permanent Hungarian Council) which as far as I'm concerned is one of those pointless organizations that gets together perhaps once a year. The delegates of various Hungarian civic and political bodies from the Carpathian basin listen to boring speeches. Ferenc Gyurcsány became so tired of the anti-government propaganda of Máért that he simply suspended its activities. Of course, the Orbán government immediately announced that Máért will convene again and because Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjén is in charge of national and church affairs, the conference was to be held under his leadership. Already in June, Semjén made it clear that Híd/Most is unlikely to be able to participate because each organization must declare that its membership is ethnically Hungarian. Surely, Híd/Most was not welcome there.
Máért held its ninth congress in early November and Új Szó (Bratislava) wrote: "This new congress didn't prove that Máért is indispensable." In brief, nobody missed it in the last few years.
Meanwhile Fidesz politicians were paying visits to Slovakia, had friendly encounters with MKP, and acted as if Híd/Most didn't exist. Viktor Orbán followed suit. Yesterday when he had a brief meeting with Prime Minister Iveta Radičová and with the leadership of MKP, he refused to meet with Béla Bugár, head of Híd/Most. Considering that Híd/Most received 180,000 votes from the Hungarian minority, the prime minister's tactic seems to me more than odd. I would say insulting. Meanwhile, according to the liberal Slovak paper, Sme, MKP is in trouble because the closer it moves to the "leftist and nationalist Fidesz" the less chance it has to be able to form any kind of coalition with other Slovak parties. And in this case MKP will not be very useful for the Hungarian minority. The commentator thinks that, knowing Fidesz, money will still pour into the coffers of MKP, but it will be throwing good money after bad.
A truly devastating editorial appeared today in the same Sme with the title "Ria, ria, Argentina." The author, Peter Schutz, described the trip as utterly insignificant even though in the last nine years no Hungarian prime minister paid an official visit to Bratislava. In his opinion, Hungary's rotating presidency is a gift from heaven because with it Orbán can turn attention away from all the horrors he is creating at home with the assistance of the two-thirds majority. According to Schutz, Radičová shouldn't even try to find common ground with Orbán. Sure, the relationship between "the two countries should be correct, but not at the price of ignoring that Slovakia's neighbor is moving away from Europe and heading toward Argentina, Venezuela, or perhaps Russia."
In another comment that also appeared in Sme Peter Morvay practically warns Radičová not to try too hard to find common ground with Viktor Orbán because of the devastating foreign opinion of the Hungarian prime minister and his regime. He predicts that there will be no possibility of coming to an understanding on the question of dual citizenship: Orbán will not back down because he has nothing to lose and Radičová hasn't got the foggiest idea what to do about it.
The cold war between the two countries continues and may become even frostier as time goes by.