The future of Hungarian-Polish relations
Although many foreign observers primarily associate Hungary-Poland relations with the nations’ fierce and complementary opposition to Brussels’ far-reaching incursions into Member States’ internal affairsthe truth is that the two countries that joined European Union in 2004 share a much longer history of friendship.
Political and cultural ties between Hungary and Poland date back to the first millennium, when both nations adopted Christianity around the same time. The founding dynasties of Arpad House and the Piasts began a centuries-old history of cordial relations spanning personal unions and military alliances.
The first time a king ruled Poland and Hungary jointly was in the 14th century under Louis the Great. Her daughter, Jadwiga, becomes the first queen of Poland and started a new dynastyafter getting married Wladyslaw II Jagielo.
In the same century, the two nations fought side by side against the Tatars and the Teutonic Knights, somehow giving birth to modernity European quartet (“V4”) when they met twice at Visegrad Congress in 1935 and 1939.
The second time Poland and Hungary shared a ruler was in the 15th century during the reign of the King Wladyslaw III of Varna. The next was in the 16th century, when Stephen Bathory reign over Poland and Transylvania. Under his military guard, economic and cultural ties flourished.
Hungarian-Polish relations affected new heights in the 19th century during the Spring of Nations. After a failure rebellion against Russia in 1830, General Jozef Bem joined the Magyars in their fight against the Habsburgs in the War of 1848 Hungarian uprising and became famous for his heroic battlefield leadership. His heroism is at the heart of the two countries’ mutual friendship, as he symbolizes their common desire for freedom. Today, a statue dedicated to “Grandpa Bem” (“Bem Apó”) stands in Budapest, just across the Danube from the majestic Hungarian Parliament building.
The following century strengthened the ties between the two nations, as Hungary was the only country willing to help the Poles in their fight with the Red Army in 1920, offering arms and ammunition and eventually receiving more than a thousand refugees after the collapse of Poland in 1939. When the 1956 revolution broke out, the Polish side expressed its solidarity with the Hungarians by donating blood, ammunition and supplies to return the favor.
It should be noted that the friendship of nations resisted Hungary’s alliance with Hitler, since Hungary refused to allow the German Nazis to attack Poland from its soil and did not cooperate against its age-old friend.
“We do not want to participate directly or indirectly in armed action against Poland. By “indirectly” I mean here that we will reject any request that would lead to to the possibility of German troops being transported on foot, by motor vehicle or by rail through Hungarian territory for an attack on Poland,” wrote the Hungarian Foreign Minister at the time.
For brand “the many centuries of common history, friendship and cooperation between
the two peoples,” the parliaments of the two countries said in 2007 on March 23 as the Polish-Hungarian Friendship Day.
This year, the celebrations were to take place on March 18 and 19 in Bochnia, Poland. However, they were postponed due to President Andrzej Duda’s refusal to be seen in public with his Hungarian counterpart János Áder, while Azonnali.hu reported, citing diplomatic sources. Instead, the two politicians met online, while the Polish Sejm was illuminated in the Hungarian national colors and the Polish flag was attachon the facade of the Hungarian Parliament.
What is the reason for this sudden cooling of relations between the two countries?
It is no secret that Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has known President Vladimir Putin for 13 years, and, as Orbán himself said, “we both have the longest memories regarding the relations between tthe EU and Russia.
The Hungarian leader has managed to keep his country’s economy resilient during the pandemic by increasing bilateral trade with Russia by 30% last year. He also has secure two long-term contracts with Gazprom in September providing for the delivery of 4.5 billion cubic meters of gas at a price five times cheaper than the market price in Europe. These 15-year agreements supply gas via the Balkan Stream pipeline and pipelines in South East Europe, and there is a chance that Hungary could increase its supply of 1 billion cubic meters after Orbán asked as much during his meeting with Putin earlier this year.
The energy crisis in Europe is anterior Russian intervention in Ukraine. And like Jason Bardoff Explain in February in Foreign Police, Putin cannot be blamed for the continent’s own policies. So it’s understandable that Orbán wants to stick to the concept of “rezsicsökkentés” (introduced by Fidesz in 2013 and the key pillar of its popularity), which seeks to keep utility costs relatively low, especially given the fact that “85% of Hungarian homes are heated with gas and 64% of crude oil imports come from Russia.
In addition, to secure Hungary’s energy future, the country has engaged Rusatom Corp. modernize its only nuclear power plant, Paks, in a 12.5 billion euro project ($14 billion).
With regard to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the message was clear from day one: “We must do everything to avoid war. Hungary must stay out of this conflict, this military conflict, because the security of Hungary is the most important interest.
Since that time he has proven to be incredibly persistent and managed for maintain a “strategic calm”.
Orbán presented his geopolitical assessment of the situation in a global way interview with the political weekly Mandate:
How did the war happen? We are caught in the crossfire of major geopolitical players: NATO is expanding eastward and Russia is becoming less and less comfortable with it. The Russians made two demands: that Ukraine declare its neutrality and that NATO not admit Ukraine. These security guarantees have not been given to the Russians, so they decided to take them by force of arms. This is the geopolitical significance of this war.
During the same conversation, when asked about the possible impact of the Russian-Ukrainian war on the Visegrád group, the Prime Minister added that the main difference in visions remains between Hungary and Poland:
The Poles want to push the frontier of the Western world to the frontier of the Russian world. They feel safe if this is achieved and NATO, including Poland, can deploy sufficient forces on the western side of this border. This is why they vigorously support Ukraine’s accession to NATO. But the essence of Hungarian tactical thinking is that the area between Russia and Hungary should be of adequate width and depth. Today, this region is called Ukraine.
While Victor Orbán was busy rallying his supporters three weeks before the recent legislative elections and giving the speech on the 174th anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution and the 1848-49 War of Independence, stating that “the country’s interest is to avoid being a sacrificed pawn in someone’s war another” and reiterated his government’s decision not to allow the transit of lethal weapons to Ukraine via Hungary (which was expressed in a decree signed by Orbán in early March), former Polish Prime Minister and President of the European Council Donald Tusk been hustle against his re-election during the parallel rally in Budapest organized by the opposition.
As much as Tusk’s open interference in Hungarian political processes is detestable (and partly Guided by domestic politics in Poland), more disappointing is the behavior of the politicians of the Law and Justice party. They not only failed to show empathy for Orbán’s position, but attempted to undermine his authority ahead of this crucial election.
Notably, just after Victor Orbán rebuffed President Volodymyr Zelensky’s emotional blackmail to cross his “red lines” during speech during the European Council on March 25, President Duda decided to join the chorus of condemnation and castigated Hungary for refusing to support Ukraine as Poland was and warned that “This policy will be… very costly.
After these remarks, Hungary was forced to cancel a meeting of defense ministers of the Visegrad Group, which was to take place in Budapest on March 29, because of Poland and the boycott of the Czech Republic. This boycott could have been inspired by Joe Biden’s recent visit to Warsaw, as former Polish Ambassador to the United States Ryszard Schnepf suggested.
“We have a problem with a common vision on a very important issue, and that worries us all very, very much,” Polish Foreign Ministry spokesman Łukasz Jasina said. mentioned of the Polish decision not to take part in the summit. “We insist very strongly on our position towards Ukraine. Unfortunately Prime Minister Orban and Hungarian politicians point to theirs.
Fortunately, despite many setbacks, Orbán managed to achieve a historic victory by remaining in line with the European majority in terms of the scale of the punishments and official NATO answer to Russian aggression. More importantly, Orbán remained true to his ideals, and put his country’s national interest above others – proving that “Hungary is first!” is not just an empty slogan.
As for Hungary’s future relations with Poland, to paraphrase old sayingthis remains an open question, as at the moment they do not wish to fight or party together.
Adriel Kasonta is a London-based political risk consultant and lawyer. He is a former chairman of the international affairs committee of the UK’s oldest conservative think tank, the Bow Group, and a member of the editorial board of the Central European Journal of International and Security Studies in Prague. His work has been published in Forbes, National examthe national interest, The American Conservative, and Antiwar.com, to name a few. You can follow him on Twitter @Adriel_Kasonta.