Putin’s visit to Budapest – a failure of European diplomacy

    The EU leaders’ informal boycott was abandoned, by Hungary’s yield


    Russian President Vladimir Putin was in Budapest on Tuesday, for a meeting with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, in a diplomatic approach with major impact on the economic and geopolitical situation in the region.

    Putin is trying to get out of the economic and political isolation generated by the military offensive against Hungary and the border policy change. Viktor Orban is trying to find allies outside of the EU, after the self-isolation imposed by the autocratic and nationalist policies, and to ensure the supply of energy resources.

    Romania’s stake is a very important one, in the context in which Hungary is getting closer and closer to Moscow’s strategy on several topics: revision of borders, territorial autonomy imposed by external military intervention, bypassing Romania with new gas transport projects, keeping Russia as a monopoly on the gas market of Central Europe.

    At the same time, Romania is in a difficult situation, given that Russia is exerting a strong influence, accepted or not, on all of the neighbors of neighboring countries: Moldova, Ukraine, Hungary, Serbia and Bulgaria.

    Bloomberg says that Orban is trying to materialize the efforts of getting closer to Moscow through a long-term, flexible energy agreement, while the gas supply contract for 20 years expires this year. During discussions with parliamentary groups, Orban excluded the possibility of a long-term contract. Another topic will be the conflict in Ukraine.

    „Orban is seeking to exploit Russian proximity. The best way is by providing cheap gas to Hungary”, declared Tomas Boros, director of the Policy Solutions think-tank in Budapest.

    Within the EU, Orban repeatedly justified the opposition for tougher economic sanctions against Russia, through Hungary’s dependence on Russian gas. This is Putin’s first bilateral visit in an EU state, after June, 2014.

    Monday night, over 2.000 people protested in Budapest regarding Orban’s strategic decision, the main slogan being “No Putin! Yes Europe!”

    Orban entered the public space in the 80s, when he stood out as leader of the students, in an anti-Soviet speech.

    Jozsef Tobias, the leader of the socialist opposition in Budapest, stated that all EU leaders have cancelled every meeting with the Russian leader, and Hungary is the only one still in this position.

    „With this visit, the Russian President wants to show that he is not at conflict with the EU states”, said Tobias, quoted by MTI.

    He referred to a recent survey, according to which 60% of Hungarians don’t agree with the development project of the Parks Nuclear Power Plant, based on a non-transparent credit of 10 billion EUR from the Russian state. According to a project of the Budapest Parliament, the terms of this contract should remain secret for 15 years.

    Former Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany, leader of the DK opposition, said that Putin’s visit is a “failure” of European diplomacy. He noted that, after the G20 reunion in November, no European leader wanted to have a bilateral meeting with Putin and that this visit is only in the interests of the Moscow leader, who can demonstrate that he caused a breach in this boycott policy. Gyurcsany declared that Orban should end this dance between Moscow, Brussels and Berlin, „because Hungary is tied to alliances within the European Union”.