Orbán and Kohl - united for Europe?
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán paid a private visit to former German chancellor Helmut Kohl on Tuesday. While the two voiced words of warning regarding Angela Merkel's refugee policy, they refrained from direct criticism. Many commentators view the meeting in a positive light, and blame Germany for being too quick to brand countries like Hungary as poor Europeans.
Has the master brought the pupil to his senses?
In view of the jovial tone of Orbán's remarks directed at Angela Merkel, the meeting between Kohl and Orbán apparently took the form of a lecture delivered by a teacher to his pupil, writes László Seres, columnist for the anti-government weekly hvg, presenting a fictitious scene from the meeting:
“At one point the master stood up in his living room - levitated almost - and brought home to his guest that he should not stab Europe's strong woman in the back. Aghast, the pupil then asked which chancellor he should support: the one who backs Germany's welcome culture, the one who wants to push through refugee quotas, or the one who stands for a united Europe. Helmut Kohl answered with an ethereal voice: 'Don't be a fool! Think of the of the EU's abundant cohesion funds! Leave the migrants to us; no one wants to go to Hungary anyway.' After which Kohl gently sank back into his wheelchair.”
Europe can still learn from Kohl
The Neue Zürcher Zeitung urges Europe to take Helmut Kohl's understanding of European unity to heart once more:
“Orbán brought along the freshly printed Hungarian translation of Kohl's 2014 book 'Out of Concern for Europe'. It contains a new introduction by Kohl in which he warns that a relapse into old, nation-state-centred thinking is not an option. Europe, he writes, must start acting more as a team once more, and everyone must stick to the common rules. More reliability and predictability is needed in the countries' interaction with each other. This can be understood as a warning both to Merkel, whose uncompromising open-border policy many in Europe considered an imposition, and to Orbán with his exaggerated nationalism. Europe would benefit greatly if it returned to Kohl's understanding of unity and solidarity.”
Europe has a Germany problem too
A meeting with Orbán of all people? Handelsblatt sees this as exactly the right approach:
“Because in reality Europe doesn't just have a Hungary problem. Europe also has a Germany problem. The German public, and by extension unfortunately also the German politicians, have a tendency to write off all those who have a slightly different view of the world than we do as 'bad Europeans'. … Orbán is a democratically elected head of government. Yet quite a few real dictators in other parts of the world have to listen to a lot less criticism from Germany than he does. To ensure that the European project doesn't collapse we Germans need to finally develop a more relaxed and trusting stance towards democratically elected politicians of other EU member states who advocate different values and policies than we do.”