Mixed reception for Orbán in Warsaw after Putin visit to Hungary

February 20, 2015

Poland“Even in such difficult times as during World War II, when we Hungarians were allied with Poland’s enemies, we found a way to maintain the Polish-Hungarian friendship.”  – Viktor Orbán, Hungarian Prime Minister, speaking in Warsaw on Wednesday

“In a frank and difficult conversation, the kind which friends usually have when you speak your mind looking straight into someone’s eyes, I told Prime Minister Orbán that the unity of the European Union countries and the Visegrad Group is of paramount importance to the situation in Ukraine.  . . . In our common history, Poland and Hungary always lost when, in international politics, rights were supplanted with power.” – Ewa Kopacz, Polish Prime Minister

At a joint press conference held in Warsaw on Wednesday just one day after Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin paid an official visit to Budapest, Polish Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán briefed members of the international press about discussions held earlier that day.

The Polish Prime Minister recounted that “in a frank and difficult conversation, the kind which friends usually have when you speak your mind looking straight into someone’s eyes, I told Prime Minister Orbán that the unity of the European Union countries and the Visegrad Group is of paramount importance to the situation in Ukraine.”  She also said that “countries such as ours became independent 25 years ago thanks to the help from foreign [powers], thanks to the support of Western democracies,” adding that “now [our countries have a chance] to help those who are denied the right to independence.”

Kopacz warned Orbán that “In our common history, Poland and Hungary always lost when, in international politics, rights were supplanted with power.”

Her comments indicate that the Polish government expressed in no uncertain terms its concern over Orbán’s meeting with Putin and visibly closer ties between Hungary and Russia.

According to Western news outlets attending the joint press conference, Kopacz likened the present war situation in Ukraine to that of Hungary in 1956, when Soviet troops were called in to crush the armed Uprising aiming for the country’s independence from the Soviet bloc.

In his comments, Orbán reportedly avoided talking directly about Hungary’s relationship with Russia, merely stating that Hungary fully supports the Minsk agreements on the Ukraine ceasefire, and that “Hungary and Poland always supported each other and always supported freedom.”  He also expressed his hope that despite deep-rooted differences in foreign policy, Poland and Hungary could retain their special relationship: “Even in such difficult times as during World War II, when we Hungarians were allied with Poland’s enemies, we found a way to maintain the Polish-Hungarian friendship.”

(That Orbán would say such a thing is only testament to the fact that he is incapable of learning anything from history.-ed.)

In its coverage of the event, Bloomberg noted that Europe faces a very difficult situation with regards to its policies towards Russia. Visa bans and restrictions imposed on Russia are set to expire next month, and wider economic sanctions have only been approved through July. If not all 28 member states agree to prolong them, the EU sanctions on Russia could be lifted by mid-2015.  And yet Putin appears to have convinced both Hungary and Greece not to support the prolongation of sanctions.

Hungary’s independent press was almost unanimous in criticizing Orbán for putting Polish-Hungarian relations at risk. According to Index, his attempt to damage-control the Putin visit with an immediate trip to Warsaw afterwards “did not work out.” They also mention that Jaroslaw Kaczynsky, previously a close ally of Orbán whose supporters participated in pro-government Peace Marches in 2012, refused to receive the visiting Hungarian prime minister, saying that by receiving Putin Orbán had “stabbed the EU and Poland in the back.” Bertalan Havasi, personal spokesperson to Orbán, however, told Index that Orbán “did not have any plans” to meet Kaczynski in the first place.

Index also gave an account of the speech Orbán delivered at the Polish Chamber of Economics where he was presented the “Golden Umbrella” for his efforts to lead Hungary out of the economic crisis after 2010.  In a half-hour speech reiterating many of the themes of a speech delivered in Germany last year, Orbán announced that “Poland could always count on Hungary” but that “the huge project called the EU is at a standstill” and “Europe is losing the global competition.”

Hungarian state media emphasized the award ceremony in its coverage, glossing over the Polish Prime Minister’s critical comments.  It later published news of “mass protests in Poland” against government policies in agriculture that “were joined by the Polish Solidarity.”

Referenced in this article:

http://www.hirado.hu/2015/02/19/varsoban-es-tobb-lengyel-regioban-a-kormany-ellen-tuntettek-az-agrarszakszervezetek/

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-02-19/hungary-s-orban-gets-cold-shoulder-in-poland-after-russian-deal

http://index.hu/kulfold/2015/02/19/orban_udvarias_akart_lenni_de_nem_jott_ossze/

http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/polish-leader-holds-difficult-talks-hungarys-orban-29073107

http://www.thenews.pl/1/10/Artykul/197620,Hungarian-PM-Orban-in-Warsaw

http://www.hirado.hu/2015/02/19/orban-a-nemzeti-toke-megerositese-szabadsagkerdes/