Hungary is receiving bad press for multiple backroom deals and one freewheeling diplomat. Find below this and other news highlights from the week as well as stories that will be developing in the near future.


V4 a popular place for residence

New statistics published by the European Union’s statistical service, Eurostat, show that the Visegrad region continues to be an attractive destination for third-country residency permits. For 2018, the numbers regarding first-time residency indicate that:

  • Poland ranked first across the EU28 with 635,335 permits for nationals from outside of the Union
  • Czechia (71,201), Hungary (55,739) and Slovakia (21,040) were below the EU28 average (103,050) in absolute terms

However, the V4 region scored better when the number of residency permits is divided per capita (expressed as per cent).

  • Poland (1.67) outperformed the EU28 average (o.63), while Czechia (0.67) and Hungary (0.57) were in line with other member states. Slovakia (0.39) issued a smaller number of residency permits per capita

The V4 does particularly well when it comes to residency settlement for remunerated activities, outperforming other regions (when divided per capita).

Poland attracts both the largest numbers for educational and economic reasons, while family-related residency settlement is more prevalent in Western Europe.

Poland goes nuclear

Synthos, a owned by Poland’s richest man Michał Sołowow, has announced plans to build Poland’s first nuclear power station in a private venture with the US-based firm GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy. First of its kind in Poland, the nuclear power plant is intended to work on the basis of small modular reactors (SMRs), a more cost-effective but yet to be certified technology. If approved, the installation would be built within the next decade and have a capacity of 300 MW.

The private investment move led by Sołowow may push a discussion about Poland’s next generation of energy production, after coal, especially since the country is also negotiating with Denmark about a windmill farm in the Baltic Sea.

Other countries from the region have a more long-standing experience with nuclear energy. Czechia, which generates a third of its electricity through nuclear power installations, is set to expand capacity. Prime Minister Andrej Babiš appears keen to push the expansion through even if it means a violation of European law: “Energy security is our priority.”

The fallout continues in Slovakia

Following the latest revelations in the corruption case that concerns Marian Kočner, SME reports that Justice Minister Gábor Gál has decided to initiate a disciplinary proceeding against Supreme Court judge Štefan Harabin and ex-Justice Ministry’s state secretary Monika Jankovská.

The judiciary has come under increased scrutiny for controversial links with private interests and the close involvement with politics.

Russian spy network in Czechia

More information has been released in relation to last year’s news story that Czech intelligences agencies successfully broke up Russian spying activities in the country. The head of the Czech counter-intelligence agency (BIS), Michal Koudelka, explained to members of parliament earlier this week that the network was behind cyber-attacks aimed at various installations and institutions in Czechia and Europe.

According to Koudelka, there is little doubt that the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) was behind the network, with the possible involvement of other intelligence services.

BIS also notes that Russia continues to use aggressive means to influence politicians and the decision-making process.

All things rogue in Hungary

The recent encounter between Viktor Orbán and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, which took place in Baku last week, did not only produce cosy exchanges, talk about solid bilateral relations and gratitude for mutual support on the international stage. The Hungarian website HVG reports that the Hungarian army is buying armoured vehicles from Turkey through an intermediary company that has links to Prime Minister Orbán. Allegedly, the deal is worth more than 10 million euros.

This week also has seen other news stories of rogue behaviour that involves Hungary. According to American news outlets, Viktor Orbán sought to show Ukraine in a bad light with US President Donald Trump. Orbán’s gesture was due to long-standing tensions between Hungary and Ukraine over the Hungarian minority in the western Ukrainian region of Transcarpathia.

However, the behind-the-scenes move by the Hungarian Prime Minister risks to imperil bilateral ties with its neighbour.

Finally, Mr Trump’s diplomatic envoy to Hungary reportedly went rogue. In a recent New York Times piece, US Ambassador David B. Cornstein was depicted as someone who brokered private deals, including with Prime Minister Orbán, spent excessive amounts of money on parties, and in general has failed to toe the American foreign policy line.

Dr Quincy R. Cloet is Managing Editor of Visegrad Insight

Eastern European Futures

In 2009, the European Union and six of its Eastern neighbours launched the Eastern Partnership (EaP) with the stated aim of building a common area of shared democracy, prosperity, stability and increased cooperation. A decade on, however, progress has been mixed.

Visegrad Insight is published by the Res Publica Foundation. This special edition has been prepared in cooperation with the German Marshall Fund of the United States and supported by the International Visegrad Fund.

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