Commentary

Orbán is taking his game to the next level: EU

Orbán lost interest Hungarian politics and announced his ambition to take his game to the European level. He is backed by Bannon (and vice versa) and Putin wouldn’t exactly try to stop him either. 

Orbán became bored of domestic politics long before the 2018 general elections. As he reached middle age, he achieved everything within Hungary’s borders: he has all the power and money. He controls politics, the media and the economy, even the judiciary. And there is no one who could take it away from him anymore.

A long and detailed report about his foreign policy views showed what everyone knew: how little he cares about Hungarian politics. He is fed up with domestic campaigning and local issues, he has greater things in sight. He wants to play with the big guys.

From a personal point of view it all makes sense. We all need new challenges from time to time, when we accomplished one thing and move on to the next. (Sadly, however, in an illiberal nation only the top dog can achieve anything and move on to bigger and better things. Ordinary mortals are reduced to helplessly hoping that the big man might lift them up on a whim. There is no room for individual initiative and you are no master of your own fortune. Orbán’s population will never get that satisfying feeling of having completed a life task and moving on to the next level because keeping people on economic survival level is an important strategy of strongmen. Not a bug, but a feature of authoritarianism. But I digress.)

For Orbán, staying in power is no longer an effort so he can look for new challenges, move on to higher planes. And what would make Orbán feel more vindicated than laughing in the face of those who dared to neglect him before.

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Juncker, who infamously bitch slapped him and called him a dictator before cameras. Angela Merkel, who doesn’t even pick up the phone anymore when Orbán calls – according to German officials talking to BBC. And most importantly, Orbán is desperate to meet Trump. In his effort to pique Trump’s attention and let him know about his existence, Orbán has attacked the Central European University (funded by George Soros), hoping it would get him an intergovernmental meeting to sort it out. (It didn’t, because the US doesn’t handle universities’ accreditation on a federal level, no matter what Orbán writes into his little law.) Orbán also hosted Steve Bannon for a long audience recently, and Bannon plans to wreak havoc in Europe this time, interfering in the EP elections next year. (Bannon said that much. He said he would rather reign in hell, than serve in heaven,” paraphrasing John Milton’s Satan in Paradise Lost – so he is apparently creating hell now.) 

As it happens, Orbán also shifted his attention to the EP elections and welcomed Bannon’s efforts to spread toxic, Russia-backed nationalism in Europe. In his annual pontification in Tusványos Free University in Romania, Orbán didn’t waste another breath on migrants, but spent most of his time talking about his little vision of Europe and the importance of the EP elections in 2019. He also explained how his brand of nationalist, nativist, illiberal Christian democracy will take over Europe. (Yes, he did explain that Christian democracy is simply illiberal democracy – take that Seehofer!)

Orbán didn’t talk about migrants at all, he mentioned Soros only once – even though he spent two years and billions of taxpayer money to vilify both migrants and Soros, as well as the EU – but he spent a good two-third of his speech on Europe and the importance of the 2019 EP elections. Which is odd, because the European Parliament elections are a traditional non-event in Hungary, their stakes are told to be low, and only retired or sidelined politicians get demoted to Brussels. The real money is at home, you see.

But not this time. Orbán has fixed his sight on the 2019 EP elections and wants to ride EPP into power. EPP is full of unprincipled “Christian” democrats who enjoy their majority more than they care for principles and they have always had a hard time getting rid of Orbán. They can neither swallow nor spit him out, even though he keeps taking them for a ride. And this time he may have delivered the ultimatum.

Rumor has it that Orbán set his sight on Juncker’s seat and if EPP can be blackmailed into nominating him as their Stipzenkandidat, it would take a miracle to stop him.

And that wouldn’t be against the desires of Putin either, whose court media, Sputnik, called Orbán Russia’s battering ram against the EU. And if Orbán would choose to run he would definitely enjoy Putin’s support – by all means that do not exist, of course.

Because the only person Orbán will never be able to take on is Putin. Orbán has been playing his infamous “peacock dance” to Putin for years, trying to appear a solid friend of NATO on Wednesday and saying the opposite on Sunday, repeatedly voting for sanctions against Moscow but calling them damaging when Putin summons him to an audience, trying to avoid becoming a nuclear vassal to Russia but signing to build a Russian nuclear power station nonetheless. Dragging his feet on the commencement of the works but promising to bring it forward when Putin makes him say it.

As of domestic politics, Orbán’s opponents have stopped fighting him, they are waiting for him to leave. It is treated as done deal that the brand of Orbán will move on to Brussels and leaves his beloved, all-important ethnic tribe behind (with a heavy heart, no doubt).

Since EU-funds stuffed him and his cronies full of resources and helped to keep him in power, all I can say to EU-decision makers: well done. And of course: you’re welcome!

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