Friday night Christine Lagarde gave an interview on CNN. The segment on Hungary was fairly short but to the point. The IFM and EU refuse any compromise with Hungary. So, if Viktor Orbán thinks that Tamás Fellegi will be able to "negotiate" with the IMF, I'm afraid he is wrong. There will be not only financial oversight but also a political price to pay for the handout. Here is a link to the video.
Well, one can say that this is far too inflexible a position. Surely, both sides must give a little. However, it seems that the IMF doesn't see it that way. The EU and the IMF have certain demands: Hungarian laws that conform to EU standards. If the Hungarian government wants to have a loan it must change the whole political thrust of the Orbán government. As it stands now, Orbán refuses to give in. Just today he granted an interview to MTI in which he reiterated that he sees no reason whatsoever to change any of the laws, for example, the much criticized law on the status of the central bank but otherwise "he places no precondition to negotiations." So, this is where we stand.
More and more commentators are predicting that Viktor Orbán's days are numbered as prime minister of Hungary. Orbán squandered his credibility. No one believes him any longer and therefore any promises he would make would be worthless. Moreover, by now leading politicians in the European Union and in the United States are convinced that Orbán's democratic convictions are highly questionable. But who could follow him?
János Martonyi might be a candidate. János Martonyi, the foreign minister, is a man who is highly regarded abroad. He is considered to be devoted to the idea of close ties with the European Union and good relations with the United States. This is all well and good, but if he is truly committed to these ideals how it is possible that he serves under a man whose ideas about Hungary's foreign policy orientation are diametrically opposed to his own? A man who is true to his convictions should have resigned by now. In fact, he should have done the same between 1998 and 2002 when the situation was very similar to the current one. Martonyi talked a lot about euro-atlantic cooperation and good neighborly relations, but everything Viktor Orbán did during the same period worked against what Martonyi was talking about.
HVG, famous for the excellence of its covers, published the following picture of the relationship between the two men in the first Orbán government in May 2002.
Between 1998 and 2002 I actually felt sorry for Martonyi but by the end I had to ask myself: why did he stay? Today, I no longer even ask the question because when the chips are down Martonyi seems to be a staunch supporter of Viktor Orbán. I mentioned that the message of the French Foreign Minister, Alain Juppé, concerning the lawfulness of the new Hungarian constitution was "categorically rejected" by the Hungarian Foreign Ministry the very next day. The answer was anything but diplomatic. However, Martonyi didn't stop there. A couple of days later he repeated his displeasure in an interview with Le Figaro. The paper entitled the interview "Viktor Orban n'est pas un dictateur!" The interviewer, Stéphane Kovacs, asked Martonyi about Alain Juppé's letter to him, and Martonyi announced that they are always ready for "friendly consultations" but he "refused to accept any questioning of the Hungarian government's commitment to European values." He found Juppé's attitude "unacceptable" and asked for "understanding and respect for the country and the people."
Martonyi in the same interview defended the law on the national bank and sided with Viktor Orbán in his belief that the law in no way threatened the independence of the central bank. He even denied that Orbán had compared Brussels to the Moscow of the Soviet period and kept insisting that Orbán is wholly committed to European integration. He added: "If I were not convinced of that I wouldn't be his foreign minister." Too bad that he didn't tell the truth to the reporter of Le Figaro. Orbán several times compared Brussels to Moscow and he opposes closer integration within the Union.
In any case, Martonyi was obviously offended that anyone dared to question their "commitment to democracy" because he repeated his outrage at a meeting in Esztergom where he gave a speech at some function relating to Saint Thomas à Becket's memory.
Here he expanded on the favorite themes of Viktor Orbán: No one understands the Hungarians. Outsiders don't understand "our sorrows and psychological wounds." He added that "we are asking the world for more understanding."
The rest of the speech was spent justifying the inclusion of Hungary's Christian roots in the constitution. Without Christianity there would be no Hungary, said Martonyi. As for European values, he borrowed a phrase from Viktor Orbán. Hungary wants to belong to that common European world "even if Europe doesn't always recognize its identity and its soul." And as long as Europe "doesn't find its soul, it will not find the common direction without which no really successful community can be built."
I think here we can see a different János Martonyi from the one who is usually a gung-ho enthusiast for the European Union. Martonyi is telling us that something is wrong with Europe. This is the same as the Orbán criticism about the values, almost exclusively Christian ones, that Europe lost but that are so important to Hungarians and Hungary. The European Union's current problems, according to this view, have nothing to do with the lack of tight cohesion but rather with some unidentified lost soul that should be found (and perhaps saved).
All in all, I wouldn't consider János Martonyi's vision of the world to be fundamentally different from that of Viktor Orbán. If János Martonyi had any political sense he would try to distance himself from Viktor Orbán. But we mustn't forget that Martonyi's assessment of political situations is rather poor. How else could he have joined the communist party (MSZMP) in 1989, only a few months before the whole regime crumbled?