Over the war in Ukraine, the Hungarian authorities have granted emergency powers to Prime Minister Viktor Orban, while Budapest continues to oppose the oil embargo, but an agreement will be reached, the EU officials assure.
Orban's strong hand over war in Ukraine
Hungary passed an amendment to the country's constitution on Tuesday. It is this amendment that gives the head of government emergency powers, DW reports.
The official reason for this move was Russia's attack on Ukraine. This decision actually prolongs the pandemic state of emergency due to expire at the end of May.
Orban himself stated that the war in Ukraine posed a constant threat to Hungary and that it was putting our physical security at risk and threatening the energy and financial security of the country's economy and families.
The state of danger declared by Budapest would allow the government to protect Hungary and Hungarian families by any means possible, the political leader assured on Facebook.
"The price for energy products continues to rise, and it is becoming more and more difficult and expensive to protect families. In addition, we must immediately enhance the defense capability," the politician stressed.
The government therefore decided to set up a Resistance Fund and a Defense Fund, he noted, requiring banks, insurers, major trade chains, energy and retail companies, telecommunications companies and airlines to deposit a large portion of their extra profits into them.
Danger of usurpation: From COVID-19 to war
The constitutional amendment passed will allow Orbán to continue to lead with the help of decrees and suspend laws without parliamentary involvement.
The outlet recalls that the same regime was in effect in Hungary from March to June 2020, and then was reintroduced in November 2020 and has been in effect so far.
Human rights activists inside the country have already criticized the decision of the Hungarian government.
"It will become the new normal, which will threaten the fundamental rights of all of us, and rule by decree will further diminish the importance of Parliament," activist Emese Pasztor stressed.
The Hungarian Human Rights NGO and the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union jointly announced the danger of extending the prime minister's powers during the crisis.
New old convenient government
If we talk about the prerequisites for the new amendment, then we should start with the composition of the Hungarian government, reshuffled on May 24 by the country's parliament, Dmytro Tuzhanskyi, director of the Institute for Central European Strategy, writes in an article for European Pravda.
The constitutional majority, consisting of Orbán's Fidesz party and its ally Christian Democratic People's Party (Christian Democrats), gained power for the fourth time in the country following the April 3 elections and formed a government convenient for the prime minister.
Orban himself was re-elected as head of the government a week earlier, for the fifth time in history and the fourth consecutive term. He emphasized that the new government should be able to protect the country from all dangers.
And there are such dangers. And although Orban, according to the author of the article, is a master at making threats and searching for Hungary’s enemies, this time everything is serious.
Election handouts and EU funds
There are nuances with dangers. In addition to Russia's war in Ukraine, it was the prime minister's government that provoked a number of threats before the re-election of parliament and the shuffle of the government.
This refers to the record inflation and financial instability — primarily because of the carnival of government generosity on the eve of the elections: the government and parliament abolished taxes, froze prices for social products, paid 13th pensions and allowances.
But that's not all: Hungary cannot get payments from the European budget for recovery from the pandemic.
Brussels officially blocked them due to problems with the Hungarian legislation, and the new sanctions procedure could leave the country without the main money from the EU.
Consequently, Orbán's party was able to hold on to power thanks to generous campaign handouts, but now the problem is how to save Hungary from catastrophe.
After all, in addition, there is also a catastrophic dependence on Russian energy resources and Russian investments.
"All this, after the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the reaction of the West, turns not only into a white elephant, but into a time bomb," Tuzhanskyi stressed.
Foreign policy based on Putin's narratives
Abroad, Orban has few friends, if we discard the Kremlin — since 2010, the entire foreign policy has been based on anti-European and pro-Russian narratives under the Keleti Nyitás brand — "Opening to the East".
The strategy assumed the extension of cooperation and trade with Eastern countries, and it should be noted here that it was not only about Russia, but also, for example, China and South Korea.
According to Tuzhanskyi, Orban is well aware that his old strategies came to an end after February 24, but he is not ready to admit mistakes and will cling to Russian oil and gas contracts to the last.
And it is precisely in this that the imposition of a "military emergency" from May 25 will help him. This move further dramatizes the state of Hungarian society and will be able to justify all the government's actions by "saving the country."
Paradoxes between President and Prime Minister
Of course, Hungary will have to change in order to survive because a paradoxical situation has now developed in the country's foreign policy, according to the article of the director of the Institute for Central European Strategy.
It is easy to see how the newly elected president of the country, Katalin Novak, publicly expresses support for Ukraine and condemns the actions of the Russian Federation with its intentions to return the USSR back.
This is in parallel with how Viktor Orban and Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto are trying to mention the Russian Federation less, delivering ultimatums to Brussels and calling Volodymyr Zelenskyy their opponent.
In addition, the choice of ministers for the new government also points to the effort to adapt to new conditions.
EU money, defense, and Orban's successor
There are five new faces in the government, although this novelty is conditional, since at least two ministers have already worked with Orban.
For example, Tibor Navracsics previously worked as a European Commissioner, and now has got the Ministry of Regional Development and must prove that Budapest can use EU funds transparently.
Another key personnel decision is the return of Janos Lazar to the government. He previously headed Orban's office and himself aspires to become prime minister. Now he has become Minister for Construction and Investment.
Another important newcomer is Kristóf Szalay-Bobrovniczky, the new defense minister, who previously worked at the Hungarian embassy in the UK.
Not so long ago, he appeared as a co-owner of the railway business with the Russians and also invested in the military-industrial industry in the Czech Republic.
Now his key task will be to purchase a large number of new weapons for the Hungarian army and to establish their production in Hungary.
Responsible for Zakarpattia and Szijjarto
The fourth newcomer — János Csák — became the Minister of Culture and Innovation.
Another conditional newcomer, Márton Nagy, will help Mihály Varga, the Minister of Finance, who remains in his post. Prior to this, Nagy was an adviser to Orban.
Other ministers remained in their former positions. Zsolt Semjén, First Deputy Prime Minister, is called the one of the most interesting for Ukraine. He will be responsible for religious issues, national politics and, in fact, the Hungarian diaspora in Zakarpattia.
According to Tuzhanskyi, Kyiv could use relations with Semjén to its advantage, since the official was not distinguished by too harsh statements against Ukraine after 2017.
Of course, Peter Szijjarto, Foreign Minister and Trade Minister well-known in Ukraine, who makes regular statements about why Hungary cannot agree to the oil embargo, also remained in his position.
Together with him, Tuzhanskyi emphasizes, the entire baggage of the Ukrainian-Hungarian disputes of recent years remains in the Hungarian government.
Russian contracts and friendship with EU
So far, the task of the head of the Foreign Ministry and trade will be to preserve as many Russian investments and contracts as possible, and President Katalin Novak will try to maintain a balance between East and West.
Her first speeches were surprisingly pro-European and anti-Russian, which could console the Poles on the eve of Novak's visit to Warsaw, but this is unlikely to balance foreign policy or turn it around 180 degrees.
As for relations with Ukraine, they will remain difficult, but Budapest has already assured several times that it will not block Ukraine's accession to the EU and even NATO. However, in terms of an embargo, everything looks much more complicated.
Price for Hungary's refusal of oil
The EU's push to phase out bloody oil imports from Russia still faces a blockade of Hungary, The Washington Post analyzes the situation.
Ahead of the European Council's special session in Brussels, the bloc attempted to push the European Commission's proposal for an oil embargo, but failed to get Budapest involved.
As the May 30-31 summit approaches, Orban and his subordinates made it clear that Hungary's support for the sanctions would come at a price.
has already reported that Budapest has requested for itself 15-18 billion euros of investments to modernize the oil infrastructure.
Some of Orban's concerns were outlined in a letter to European Council President Charles Michel.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen appears to have reduced her expectations from the meeting in Brussels. In Davos, she acknowledged that there was no guarantee that an agreement would be reached next week.
Some EU officials and diplomats sympathize with Hungary because it is heavily dependent on Russian oil, but many see Orban's words and actions as an attempt to wrest more concessions.
At the same time, Charles Michel is confident that the agreement will be signed sooner or later, according to his Twitter message dated May 25.
"We know it's important to end our dependence on Russian fossil fuels. The transition is difficult, but we are working," he assured.
Michel added that there would be an embargo on Russian oil despite Hungary's objections. He still hopes that a compromise will be reached in Brussels on May 30-31.
- Earlier we reported that Britain had found a way to overcome the world's dependence on energy resources from Russia.