The Helmut Kohl – Viktor Orbán meeting

I think the best description of the joint statement of Helmut Kohl and Viktor Orbán after their meeting at Kohl’s residence in Ludwigshafen is “baffling.” In Hungary at least, neither the right nor the left can decide what to make of it. The pro-government papers use the very first sentence of the communiqué “Europe cannot be the new home of suffering millions” as their headline while Népszabadság found another sentence from the text more to its liking: Kohl and Orbán “are in complete agreement with Chancellor Angela Merkel as far as her goals are concerned.” On balance, Viktor Orbán signed a document that goes against everything he previously stood for.

Until now, humanitarian considerations did not enter Viktor Orbán’s mind. Currently hundreds if not thousands of refugees camp outside the barbed-wire fence on the Serb-Hungarian border without food or drink for days on end. Last year the government made almost no effort to give food and temporary shelter to the refugees. Now, however, Viktor Orbán signed a document that emphasizes “the humanitarian aspects” of the question. What’s going on is about “the future of Europe and the peace of the world…. Angela Merkel’s efforts are toward these goals.”

The statement also talks at some length about the irresponsibility of politicians who try “to create political conflicts.” These conflicts certainly don’t help the handling of the refugee issue, which after all involves the fate of millions. Let me note in passing that, earlier, Viktor Orbán judiciously avoided describing the new arrivals in Europe as refugees.

There was an interview today on Deutschland Radio with Michael Rutz, a well-known journalist. In his opinion Kohl does not share Orbán’s policies, and therefore Rutz thought that Helmut Kohl would “send a signal of his concern at the meeting with Orbán.” From MTI’s summary of the statement it looks as if he did. My impression is that most of the conversation between the two men was about Europe today and tomorrow. Orbán seemed to agree with Kohl that “the fate of European people depends on the political union of Europe.” Also, Europe must urgently revive the idea of solidarity because the “unification of Europe” can be done together or not at all. The member states must work together. Kohl added that “solidarity is the most important prerequisite for solving the refugee crisis, terrorism, the stability of the euro and the Eurozone.

Kohl and Orban

Orbán’s answer to this lecture by Kohl was, at least in my reading, ambivalent because I don’t know what to make of the following: “Viktor Orbán again assured the former chancellor that Hungary naturally wants to contribute toward solidarity (szolidáris hozzájárulás).” This sounds to me as if the only solidarity Orbán has in mind is the amount of money he has already promised toward the 6 billion euros the EU member states will pay Turkey in exchange for giving shelter to additional refugees. As for his own thoughts, he offered his Schengen 2.0 plan as a constructive first step toward common action.

A few words about Schengen 2.0. First of all, trying to depict his ten-point plan as tangible assistance to a common policy borders on the bizarre. He himself said in Lisbon, where he presented his plan at a meeting of the Centrist Democratic International, that his proposals are necessary because the European Commission’s solutions are “wrong-headed.” The action plan is in no way a departure from Orbán’s earlier position. It is in no way based on common action. “We think that there are countries that want to solve their problems one way and there are others who think in different terms.” No solidarity here. Each nation according to its own selfish interests.

Yet after the meeting Orbán made some gestures, indicating that he might have been urged by Kohl to show a more positive attitude toward Angela Merkel’s efforts at solving the crisis. He gave an interview to Bild after the meeting in which he said, “I would like to wish all the best to Chancellor Angela Merkel. Hungary and I as the country’s prime minister stand by Berlin, and we will support Angela Merkel with further suggestions as our action plan shows.” I’m afraid his action plan is a non-starter, although Merkel graciously called Orbán’s meeting with Kohl “useful and sensible.” She found the topics covered indispensable.

Viktor Orbán has been a constant critic of Angela Merkel for years and rarely spared words when it came to the German chancellor’s refugee policies. The latest attack against Merkel came from Zsolt Bayer of Magyar Hírlap, one of the co-founders of Fidesz and a friend of Orbán. Bayer is well known for his unspeakable verbal attacks on practically anyone whose ideas or actions don’t appeal to him. It was only a few days ago that Bayer wrote a piece in which he called Merkel “a vile, lying, rotten wench … who dared to show her pharisaical mug” in the first row in the demonstration after the Charlie Hebdo attack. If Orbán wanted Bayer to stop his disgusting outbursts it would take only a telephone call. But obviously he thinks that Bayer can say certain things that he himself cannot. His old friend serves a useful political purpose: to keep the far-right of his party in line. But the somewhat more moderate pro-government paper, Magyar Idők, is not much kinder to Merkel. In one of its opinion pieces the author talks about the mediocre politicians who cannot be compared to Margaret Thatcher, Helmut Kohl, and others. In this article Angela Merkel is sarcastically called “the chosen representative of the Brussels aristocracy.” The author of another opinion piece in the same newspaper is outraged that Merkel didn’t apologize to Viktor Orbán for all those attacks on Hungary in the German press.

According to a long opinion piece that appeared in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung today titled “The Teacher and His Student,” Thomas Gutschker claims that while in Germany Orbán wanted to have meetings with Winfried Kretschmann (Green), minister president of Baden Württemberg, and Hannelore Kraft (Social Democrat), minister president of North Rhine-Westphalia, but apparently he was rebuffed by both. So, for the time being he will have to be satisfied with a meeting of the prime ministers of the Visegrád 4. Unfortunately, his staunchest ally, Robert Fico, will not be able to attend since he is recuperating in a Bratislava hospital from a heart attack. Next week Orbán is apparently planning a whirlwind trip to several capitals to promote his Schengen 2.0 plan. I’m curious who will be ready to meet him. Maybe his hearty greetings via Bild to Merkel was an opening bid for a talk. We will see whether he succeeded.

April 19, 2016
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wombat
Guest

“Maybe his hearty greetings via Bild to Merkel was an opening bid for a talk. We will see whether he succeeded.”

I hope not, but Merkel and Western politicians are always open to a “reset”. They are happy to forget and forgive. They always happy to appease, so why not now?

Orban is a thoroughly corrupt tyrant, overseeing a mean, vile power conglomerate — all the while Hungary is lagging behind.

Orban should be compartmentalized as much as possible, I just hope neither Merkel nor others give him as much as a photo opportunity.

Guest

Kohl says it quite clearly:
Europe is more important than the small old-fashioned National States!
The FAZ has another interesting comment on the meeting:
http://www.faz.net/aktuell/feuilleton/orban-zu-besuch-bei-kohl-wahre-freunde-14185443.html

A bit OT – an older story but still relevant:

Some years ago O wanted to visit Stuttgart to have a look at the Mercedes and Porsche production facilities there. But the Green Mayor of Stuttgart told the Hungarian government that he would ask some questions about democracy in Hungary first …
So O didn’t travel …
And now we Schwabs are very proud to still have our green prime Minister Mr Kretschmann – with the Christian Democrats as a minority partner …
Another first in Germany, maybe even in Europe!

Istvan
Guest
Mr. Kohl I believe is 86 years old and exited active politics in 2002 after he became fully embroiled in a slush-funds scandal, he has been required to use a wheelchair for some time and his speech severely impaired after his jaw was paralyzed in a fall. His book “Out of Concern for Europe,” which now has a Hungarian edition is no masterpiece and his tapes transcribed as Legacy: the Kohl Transcripts are far funnier. Really only could the Hungarian media turn a private dialog between Orban and Dr. Kohl into a major international event. But there is a common thread between Orban and Kohl, corruption. Between 1993 and 1998, Kohl was found to have received cash donations worth around two million deutschmarks. Investigators also looked into suspicions that the privatization and sale of the East German oil refinery Leuna to the French oil giant Elf in the 1990s was accompanied by bribes of 50 million deutschmarks to German politicians. Former German deputy defense minister, Ludwig-Holger Pfahls was implicated in the scandal and was on the run for five years until his arrest in Paris. Kohl is not an esteemed elder statesman, he is an old corrupt politician. But what… Read more »
Guest

Istvan, you are absolutely right with your assessment of Kohl – Mrs Merkel turned away from him after the corruption details came out and he would not say who gave those millions of Marks to his party.

On the other hand he’s not an evil monster – his son marrieda Turkish girl with his father’s blessings and he even was best man when one of his advisors married his old friend – also a man!
The German press at least is treating this visit low key, as a really private thing.

Guest

London Calling!

Orban Saves!

So what are the ten points?

I can’t find them anywhere.

We must be careful when we refer to ‘Schengen 2’ to make it clear that it’s Orban’s Shengen 2.

It’s most likely that Schengen will be modified in the light if recent events. So it’s important that Orban can’t claim to have been the instigator in his self-serving propaganda machine – as he most certainly will.

And then his trolls will perpetuate the myth.

Istvan
Guest
re teachers strike: Magyar Nemzet has an extensive interview with PSZ president Gallo, it can be read at http://mno.hu/belfold/gallone-nem-szereti-ha-kikosarazzak-1338360 Basically she asks Orban to personally intervene to make a deal to end the conflict with the teachers. In the interview she states that the PSZ does not make “anti-government propaganda,” and notes that her union’s membership includes teachers from all political perspectives, no doubt inclusive of Fidesz. When pressed by the interviewer as to her perspectives on Fidesz educational policy since 2010 she stated that it is “typical of all political parties in power that they love their own ideology and want to display the content of that ideology in the area of education.” Effectively she argues that MSZP or Fidesz, all parties want to implement their perspectives in the field of education. She did argue that the current centralization of schools runs contrary to decentralization of schools in other European nations. Népszabadság reports on the five minute solidarity action in Budapest today, including by the newspaper’s own staff, the Hungarian Taxi drivers union (which is being destroyed by Uber’s increased presence), and even some judges. The paper discusses the impact of the strike on schools in Budapest and around… Read more »
Istvan
Guest

The Index documents attempts by Fidesz to limit the Teachers strike see http://index.hu/belfold/2016/04/20/zsarolassal_probaljak_elijeszteni_a_sztrajktol_a_pedagogusokat/

Observer
Guest

This is just.
Orban’s latest photo op, there’s nothing more to it (eg. the Obama one earlier).

“Hungary and I as the country’s prime minister stand by Berlin, and we will support Angela Merkel”
It takes a gypsy (for such brazen lies), goes the non PC saying. Again, Orban has no intention, it’s just a peacock dance (small show) for gullible Europeans.

Que uque tandem…

Guest

Quo usque tandem – as a student of Latin for many years I just had to correct this.
Anyway Kohl is a very sick old man (the local newspaper gave a hint that it’s his new wife who does the talking …) and no real, active politician will talk to O – except his populist friends in Eastern Europe.

Observer
Guest

@wolffi
Mea culpa for the spelling mistakes, I typed on the phone.
The rest stands.

webber
Guest

OT – I’ve just heard a rumor of an epidemic of meningitis (agyhártyagyulladás) in Budapest. It seems possible, because I know a child in the hospital being treated for the disease – but one child does not make an epidemic, so I’m asking: Has anyone else heard anything?

webber
Guest

I’ve just heard from Serbia that there is an outbreak there, as well. If there truly is an outbreak here in Hungary, the government should announce it ASAP.

Reality Check
Guest
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