One was overcome with a strong sense of vicarious embarrassment just watching a video on a news portal of Fidesz luminaries and petty figures, all confused by journalists’ questions, trying to flip-flop and distance themselves from Putin with sentences following the pattern of “on the hand and on the other,” while at the same time denying the peculiar Kremlin-friendliness of the past twelve years.
It was difficult for them, because they had trained themselves and their followers to believe that Putin is nice, Putin is good, Putin is our friend. Well, no, he isn’t. Not in the least.
However, Fidesz is so far only a militant pro-peace party and an active participant in joint European action against the Russian aggressor in honeyed words and phrases written on billboards, because when it comes to action, Fideszers tend to walk away with their tails between their legs.
I understand that it is difficult to meet the demands of the illiberal mafia and simple human and moral requirements at the same time. If Viktor Orbán were really serious that, after some detours to Moscow, he has found his way back to European values and the unity of the Union, he would also prove it with tangible, credible decisions. He could start by suspending the diplomatic immunity of the Russian ‘spy bank’, by freezing cooperation with Rosatom, or by reviewing the residency bonds of people linked to senior Kremlin officials, such as the family members of the head of Russia’s foreign intelligence service, Sergey Naryshkin, who was involved in the operation of the war in Ukraine.
But Orbán could also start with something simpler to demonstrate his commitment to Europe. For example, by breaking off all formal and informal ties with political forces that are not only superficially but also formally cooperating with Putin’s party in Russia.
It is time, for example, for Viktor Orbán to say publicly that, as the leader of Fidesz, he will break off all friendly and political ties with Matteo Salvini and the Northern League, which he leads and which signed an actual formal cooperation agreement with Putin in Moscow in 2017. Fidesz could also make a clear and unequivocal break with Marine Le Pen and her National Rally party, as Le Pen’s party has received concrete financial support from Putin in the past (as, unusually, MKB, a bank owned by Lőrinc Mészáros, has just given them a 10 million euro campaign loan), but the French party has such close ties with the Kremlin that one of Le Pen’s MEPs, for example, employed the daughter of Putin’s spokesperson as an intern in Brussels. Orbán could also publicly terminate Fidesz’s relations with the Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ), whose former president, Heinz-Christian Strache, forced to resign because of a scandal, was received and presented as an important political ally in a spectacular setting.
Well, although the FPÖ has not (since Strache’s downfall) extended its formal cooperation with Putin’s party, it was still an important part of the framework agreement with the United Russia party under Strache. Once you are part of Putin’s political mafia, they don’t just let you walk away.
No matter how much Orbán and Fidesz try to shake off the excessive Putin-friendliness and entanglement of the last twelve years with the European far-right political actors financed and obviously largely controlled by the Kremlin, this is no longer possible with words and flip-flopping dance moves.
If Orbán and Fidesz really want to belong to Europe and act as defenders of European values, they must take substantive action against the Russian aggressor and visibly and clearly disassociate Fidesz from the political actors operating in Putin’s dark shadow. In recent months, Orbán has been trying to build a far-right, EU-sceptic new party coalition with, among others, the above-mentioned actors, but his plan has failed thus far. Now it is time to put this plan in the drawer for good and make a clear break with his current allies. If he does not, he will confirm that he is still part of the political mafia system of Putin who started the war, and that he has no intention of leaving it. It is as simple as that.
Member of the European Parliament
13 March, 2022.