Backstory: Given Fidesz government ambitions to realize a reckless deepening of Hungary’s reliance on Russia’s nuclear sector, Orbán’s commitment to oppose those sanctions is a near certainty. To wit: We have previously reported of the the close relations between Viktor and sidekick FM Szijjártó with Rosatom. Less certain is whether Orbán will apply a “higher inflation = we veto” standard of review for other proposed sanctions in 2023. Rough seas on the Danube.
No more Erasmus for you, HU
Universities with public interest foundations are no longer eligible for grants from Erasmus+. The European Union’s marquee education and exchange program, Hungary’s exclusion from its beneficence is the political equivalent of a Brussels calling a red card on the pitch. Since the ascension of new Member States formerly under the Moscow’s yoke, this flagship initiative has connected millions of Europeans in over 5,000 schools in 38 countries.
As about 80 per cent of universities in Hungary are now connected to a public trust fund, a total of 21 institutes of higher learning, as well as Corvine University and the Hungarian Dance Academy, will bear the brunt. More a spanking than a wrist slap.
How did Hungary work itself out of one the EUs arguably most successful programs? Look to Fidesz’s tawdry standards in public procurement, which can be summed up as suspiciously opaque, dismissive of COIs, and with ”a high rate of single bidding procedures.” Hardly suprising that the EU doesn’t like politicians turning EU public funds into ill-gotten gains for their substandard cronies.
The measure will negatively affect the quality of education and undoubtedly limit students' opportunities at home and the rest of Europe. Orbánis considering a lawsuit and wants to fund the exchanges from the Hungarian budget.
Unsure who would win, it’s abundantly clear who loses – Hungary’s bright young minds. Way to go, Viktor.
Military manoeuvres à la Turc
An overhaul of the highest levels of the military has announced via a decree that eases rules for the dismissal of tired-and-tested officers, impacting hundreds in uniform. According to the Minister of Defence and the government line of communication, these “reforms” are to provide opportunities for younger generations with greater international and language skills. Hungary’s opposition fears that it is just another chapter in Orbán's means to further consolidate power. Reflecting on Orbán’s political restructuring of Hungary’s judiciary, they have good cause.
Perhaps more ominous, Orbán’s latest move feels like a page torn from Turkey President Recip Tayyip Erdogan’s playbook when he most recently ousted Western-trained officers in the wake of the 2016 coup d’état attempt. In their place came the pan-Turkic mediocrity which now comprises Ankara’s military leadership. Perhaps Orbán aims to show to his affinities for newfound friends at the Organisation of Turkic States. After all, he has described Hungary as “Christian Turkish lands.”
HUNGARY – U.S., U.K., AND WORLDWIDE
Another angle on Fidesz’s ‘Eastern Opening’
Foreign Minister Szijjártó stated that the current strategic partnership between Hungary and Azerbaijan would be raised to the level of a ‘key strategic partnership’ during the visit of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev this month. That proposal has just become a reality on Monday, January 30. Meanwhile, Finance Minister Mihály Varga held negotiations with Kazakh government officials, proposing a Hungarian bridge to increase the diversification of EU energy sources. Given Vladimir Putin’s grip on Orban, his claims are at best dubious.
CPAC again in Budapest
The American Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) will hold its second major event in Europe this spring. Under the uniquely memorable slogan, "Together We Are Strong," Hungary will be hosting CPAC’s second conference in as many years this May. And once again Viktor is pining for any foreign legitimacy he can get, even if from a waning has-been like CPAC. After all, at its annual conference in Dallas last August, Orbán declared that, “We need to regain control of the institutions in Washington and Brussels” with a standing ovation in return.