Opposition in Budapest dancing to Brussels tunes
Although the situation in Ukraine is not likely to be the central issue of the negotiations, it didn't go unnoticed by foreign observers. As the tensions between Russia and the West continue to rise, Putin's visit appears to be a challenge to the European politics launched by Hungarian government and personally Prime Minister Orban.
Budapest has enough grievances with the EU sanctions against Russia had an immediate negative effect on Hungarian economy for which Moscow is the largest trade partner outside the European Union. Moreover, the major part of Hungary's natural gas supplies also comes from Russia and cancellation of the South Stream pipeline came as yet another evidence that Hungary's national interests do not correspond with the EU policies.
Budapest response to the project cancellation was unequivocal. "The EU has worked ceaselessly to undermine this program," said Orban, comparing Hungary's struggle against the rest of the EU with the battle between David and Goliath.
The analogy is quite accurate: Hungary's largest European trade partner is Germany, the locomotive for the EU economy, who aptly exploits its dominance to put pressure on the disturbing East European neighbor. The recent visit of German Chancellor Angela Merkel to Budapest has only confirmed Berlin's intention to get Hungary back in line with the EU.
However, Orban, who is nicknamed 'Hungarian Putin', has again defied German directions and strongly rebuffed Merkel for her critique of his views on democracy.
After the German Chancellor said the she could not interpret the word 'illiberal' used by Orban to define democracy he decided to counterattack. "Those who say that democracy is necessarily liberal are trying to put one school of thought above the rest and we're not going to grant that privilege," said Orban.
Regardless, without substantial economical base behind its rhetoric Hungary is obliged to take into account the decisions made in Berlin and Brussels. The David's sling is simply lacking the rocks to hit the EU Goliath. This is where Russia could intervene.
If Moscow and Budapest manage to establish a political partnership, the EU will include one more country to confront implementing sanctions to isolate Russia. This will affect not only the economy diaspora of some 200 thousand Hungarians in Ukraine can not be ignored by Budapest and this means that Russia could have a new ally among the EU members bordering with the Ukrainian territory. With Orban's claims that Hungarian nation doesn't end at the country's geographical borders and his initiative for providing the right of vote in national elections for the Hungarians abroad in mind, it's not difficult to see that Budapest's position causes serious concern in the EU.
This concern didn't take long to manifest itself. On the eve of Russian President's visit the "100,000 against the internet tax" and "60,000 for private pensions" groups got the approval of the Budapest local authorities for a meeting under the "Hungarian, rise, No to Putin!" motto. The meeting will also be attended by the representatives of left-wing Liberal party, Democratic Coalition and a number of other organizations.
The "100,000 against the internet tax", as suggested by the name, was created during the mass protests against the introduction of a tax on Internet uses and was an immediate success. After the demonstrations that gathered scores, if not a hundred thousand people, the government suspended the idea. "60,000 for private pensions" has almost the same story, although the meeting that took place in the end of November last year was not so numerous and didn't get an appropriate reaction from the authorities.
The tie between Putin's visit, the internet tax and private pensions remains a mystery, just as the causes that urge Hungarians to 'rise'. However, the organizers of the meeting don't give up so easily a number of NGOs have already made a call for anti-Russian posters, which are supposed to condemn Russian position towards the Ukrainian crisis and expose corruptness of Hungarian politics supporting relations with Russia. The assignment is pretty explicit and leaves no doubts about the identities of the customer and contractor.