picture of Timothy Garton-Ash

With a governing coalition emerging in Germany that appears more willing to take action against elements threatening democracy and the rule of law in Eastern Europe as well as human rights and media freedom, it is hard to imagine that the Orbán regime will manage to remain in place for another ten years, British historian Timothy Garton-Ash, professor of European studies at Oxford University, told HVG360.

The historian often talks about the fact that the Hungarian government’s confidence is largely guaranteed by the financial resources of the European Union. On this point, he said that the outcome of the disbursement mechanism could be expected in May or June at the earliest, which would not affect the Hungarian elections in April.

Nevertheless, as a process, it shows that you cannot forever bite with impunity into the hand that feeds you, and Europe will not forever feed those who bite the hands of the European core values ​​enshrined in its laws while putting billions of euros in their pockets at the same time.

-Timothy Garton-Ash stated.

Of the post-communist period, he said that there has been a period of regression for more than ten years, with one crisis on top of another. However, he mentioned:

What we do not see yet is whether we are at the beginning of a new period, with a further decline in democracy, whether we are at the beginning of the advancement of authoritarian powers and extreme nationalism, or whether there has been a turning point and a democratic restoration is about to take place in remaining part of the 2020s. This is not yet clear.

He recalled that he first met Viktor Orbán in 1988:

Even then, we recognized in him one of the most established politicians who stood out among the Central European actors of the age. We were not mistaken. At least in this. On the other hand, we have not seen that he will use his abilities in this direction. The systematic erosion of the democratic system after 2010 would not have taken place without Orbán. I don’t even see a comparable figure in Central European politics right now.

The historian believes that Viktor Orbán is one of, if not the most, influential Hungarian leaders in modern European history:

He is now the symbol of a conservative, ethno-nationalist, xenophobic Europe, celebrated not only by his European comrades overseas but also by right-wing politics and the media there. The question, of course, is whether this will still remain the case throughout the rest of the 2020s.

Garton-Ash, who was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2005 by Time magagzine, said he fears the election will be rigged. It is conceivable that if the opposition wins by a small margin, the current authorities would turn this into a close struggle and nevertheless declare Fidesz the winner, Timothy Garton-Ash told HVG 360.

[Index]

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By Steven N.

Steven is the editor-in-chief of Hungarian Politics. He has been following the political scene in Hungary and the Central European region more or less since 1994.