Forest fires and storms plague Europe

When Prime Minister Victor Orban recently explained his vision for Hungary’s borders, he joined a club of expansionist leaders such as Russia’s Vladimir Putin, China’s Xi Jinping and members of India’s power elite who define the borders. of their country in civilizational rather than national terms. .

Speaking on Romanian territory in the ethnically Hungarian town of Baile Tusnad in Transylvania, a former Austro-Hungarian possession home to a Hungarian minority, Mr. Orban echoed the worldviews of MM. Xi and Putin.

These views are set out in the South China Sea and Ukraine, as well as in statements by the Russian leader on other former Soviet republics.

It is a worldview also embraced by members of India’s Hindu nationalist elite who endorse a country’s right to extend its internationally recognized borders to lands inhabited by their ethnic kin or to territories and waters that were historically theirs.

Unlike Russian and Chinese leaders, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been careful to avoid public support for Akhand Bharat’s civilizationalist concept embraced by his ideological alma mater.

The concept envisages an India that stretches from Afghanistan to Myanmar and encompasses nuclear-armed Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

Mr Modi’s silence did not stop Mohan Bhagwat, leader of the powerful ultra-Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sang (RSS) or National Volunteer Organization, from recently predicting that Akhand Bharat would become a reality within 15 years.

Mr Modi has been a member of the RSS since the late 1960s. However, he is believed to have last referenced the concept of Akhand Bharat in a 2012 interview when, as Chief Minister of Gujarat, he suggested that “Hindustan, Pakistan and Bangladesh should join”.

However, unlike his more recent silence, Mr. Modi approached India’s Muslims, the world’s largest minority and its largest Muslim minority, in the same way that Mr. Orban envisions a racially and religiously pure Hungary.

The Hungarian Prime Minister sparked outrage in his July speech when he rejected a “mixed world” defined as one “in which European peoples are mixed with those arriving from outside Europe”.

Mr. Orban asserted that the Métis countries “are no longer nations: they are nothing more than conglomerations of peoples” and are no longer part of what he considers “the Western world”. Mr. Orban refrained from identifying these countries, but the United States and Australia would do.

Romanians are perhaps more concerned about Mr Orban’s racial remarks than his territorial ambitions, described by one Romanian observer of Orban as a “little man with pipe dreams”.

The Romanians may be right. Mr. Orban’s ability to assert his claims militarily is much more limited than those of his Russian and Chinese counterparts. Nevertheless, one underestimates at one’s peril.

Mr. Orban shares Mr. Putin’s and Mr. Xi’s resentment of perceived historical wrongs that must be righted regardless of international law and the consequences of a world whose safeguards are dictated by force rather than by the rule of law.

His speech seems to promise to reverse what he sees as an unjust diktat. His revanchism may explain why Russia’s forcible modification of national borders in Ukraine does not bother him.

Mr. Orban left no doubt that his definition of the Hungarian homeland included Transylvania and other parts of the Carpathian Basin beyond the borders of Hungary populated by ethnic Hungarians.

Insisting that the world owed Hungary, which would eventually repay its debt, Mr Orban said his country was driven by the idea that “more has been taken from us than we have been given, that we have submitted invoices which are still not paid… This is our strongest ambition.”

Mr Orban implicitly suggested a revision or cancellation of the 1920 Treaty of Trianon, which deprived Hungary of much of its pre-World War I territory.

Two months earlier, Hungarian President Katalin Novak has ruffled diplomatic feathers when she posted a photo of herself scaling a mountain peak in Romania’s Alba county, standing by a disputed milestone painted in Hungarian colors.

At the time, Ms Novak told Romanian Foreign Minister Bogdan Aurescu that it was her duty to represent “all Hungarians, whether they live inside or outside the borders”, a claim rejected by Romania.

Mr Orban’s grievance and racist nationalism may be one reason the Hungarian leader has been Europe’s strange man in refusing to fully sanction Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.

Breaking with the policy of the European Union, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto met with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Moscow on the eve of Mr. Orban’s speech to request additional gas supplies.

Unlike the EU, which wants to remove Russia as a supplier of its energy, Mr Orban insisted that “we don’t want to stop getting energy from Russia, we just want to stop we get it exclusively from Russia”.

Orban’s speech is unlikely to make things any easier for Tibor Navracsics, Hungary’s regional development minister and former EU commissioner. Mr. Navracsics arrived in Brussels this week to persuade the EU to release 15 billion euros into covid recovery funds amid an unprecedented disciplinary process that could lead to the suspension of EU funding over Hungarian rule of law violations.

So far, Mr. Orban’s support for Russia has isolated him in Europe with the de facto demise of the Visegrad 4 or V4 in its current form following the invasion of Ukraine and the threat of an economic recession.

Bringing together the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, the Visegrad 4 were united in their opposition to EU migration and in their rejection of what the Hungarian leader described as “internal attempts to build empire” of Europe, a reference to the efforts of the European Commission to stop the movements. which are emptying the democracy of Central Europe.

Leaving Mr Orban isolated, Slovak Prime Minister Eduard Heger has pledged to use his current six-month presidency of the European Council to bring Visegrad 4 back to the roots of its founding in 1991, as the four countries emerged from communism: respect of democracy and a commitment to European integration.

If successful, Mr. Heger’s V4 will likely be a V3 with Hungary out.

According to Mateusz Gniazdowski, an analyst at the Warsaw-based Center for Oriental Studies: “Attempts to use the V4 brand ideologically harm mutual trust and do not contribute to building a strong Central Europe in the EU.”

Mary I. Bruner