Original by Stanislav Stremidlovskiy published by IA Regnum; translated from Russian by J.Hawk
What did Hungary’s PM Viktor Orban talk about for six hours with Poland’s most powerful politician, the leader of the Law and Justice (PiS) party Jaroslaw Kaczynski?
On the day of the Epiphany, in one of the hotels in Nidzica in the south of Poland, two men met: Hungary’s PM Viktor Orban and PiS chairman Jaroslaw Kaczynski who today is considered to be the most powerful man in Poland. Orban was on a private visit. His discussions with Kaczynski lasted 6 hours, and it seems the length of the discussion was not something that was planned ahead of time. The POlish radio foreign service cited a PiS politician Joachim Brudzinski who wrote on his blog that “none of us expected in the morning the meeting would end only now. Since the meeting was unofficial, their press services did not comment on the meeting or announce what was being discussed. The secrecy caused an upheaval in Polish, Hungarian, and European press. There’s now talk of a conspiracy and plots in the best traditions of good old Europe of the early 20th century–and what more do the media need during the holiday vacation?
The air of intrigue was intensified by Orban who answered a question concerning the topic of his discussions with Kaczynski as follows: “If one looks at our biographies, it’s clear that the head of Poland’s ruling party and I are fighters for freedom of a certain kind. Therefore one could say we are old friends and I was very happy to visit my friend.” Orban cannot be accused of lacking sarcasm. Both he and his Polish “old friend” are now being targeted by “democratic forces” in their countries and in Europe. Orban, of course, has been dealing with them for a longer time. He has been accused for many years of authoritarianism, suppressing “freedoms” in Hungary, and failing to have a critical attitude toward Russia which outraged Poland already in early 2015.
IA Regnum wrote in February 2015 about how on the eve of his visit to Warsaw, Hungary’s PM said that the EU is deeply divided when it comes to Russia. On the one hand there are Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Austria: “we believe that we won’t be able to achieve our aims without cooperation with Russia.” And on the other hand there are the Baltics, Poland, and the United States: “Russia must be pushed out of cooperative projects with the EU.” Orban also criticized Angela Merkel’s protege, the European Council chairman Donald Tusk. At the same time, PiS blamed his “old friend” Orban in “acting against EU’s unity concerning its relations with Russia.”
Warsaw’s main front was then in the East. But today the new Polish government is having to defend itself against attacks coming from the West. Berlin means business and intends to attack PiS not only in Brussels. Deutsche Presse-Agentur reports that the Bundestag ruling coalition is considering introducing sanctions against the “conservative government” in Poland which is “violating the principle of rule of law, separation of powers, and freedom of the press.” The parliamentary coalition leader and Merkel’s “right hand” Volker Kauder announced that in the event of “violations of European values, EU member-states ought to have courage to introduce sanctions.” Orban is staunchly against anything of the sort. Hungary’s PM publicly stated Budapest would never allow the EU to punish Poland. That’s not a mere gesture but rather a demonstration of Budapest’s adopted political course. The Austrian paper Der Standard notes that Orban is at the head of “an axis of EU’s national states.” It believes that the governments of Poland, Hungary, and Great Britain are trying to slow down European integration. Budapest together with Poland and two other Vyshegrad Group countries, Czech Republic and Slovakia, are becoming a strong alliance whose objective is to strengthen “national politics” in the EU.
And their main opponent is in Berlin. It’s time to admit the obvious: we need a different Germany and different Germans. Chancellor Merkel unfortunately demonstrated that Berlin finds it difficult to consistently follow a moderate middle course. Germany either slides into Nazism or into a vulgar understanding of freedom and tolerance. Europe and the world needs more sensible Germans, more accommodating but at the same time capable of protecting Europe’s Christian values and the interests of EU citizens. That other Germany and Germans today could become Austria. History shows that the Austrian, and later Austro-Hungarian Empire excelled at carrying out reforms, pursuing masterly (and at the same time strict) ethnic and religious policy, and understanding what the Ottoman Empire represented. Vienna today is remarkably sensible, prompting the countries of Central and Eastern Europe to turn in its direction. In early 2015 in the Bohemian castle Slavkov the prime ministers of Austria, Czech Republic, and Slovakia signed the declaration announcing the establishment of the Slavkov Triangle. Its objective is to promote cooperation on transport infrastructure, the social dimension of EU integration, and countries neighboring the EU. Dariusz Kawan, an expert from the Polish Institute of International Affairs noted at the time that Austria is pursuing a consistent policy of “building bridges” between EU and Russia. Vienna actively participated in work on South Stream which would have allowed it to increase the importance of the Baumgarten gas node, and considered sanctions against Russia to be unnecessary.
As long as Poland under its previous government adhered to a strict anti-Russian rhetoric, it created problems within the Vyshegrad Group and in its relations with countries which did not wish to provoke a confrontation with Moscow. This might be a coincidence, but there is one more interesting nuance to the situation. If one is to consider the dominant religion, Europe’s Catholic countries are more favorably predisposed toward Russia than protestant ones. Until now Warsaw was one the only exception and anomaly. Now Poland has a chance to occupy a worthy position in the “axis of EU’s nation-states.” It will need Hungary’s and Orban’s help. Developing relations with Vienna will also show that the Poles can make reach agreements with Germans, no matter what Berlin thinks.