by Alexander Faludy
Tuesday, 9
November 2021
Spotted
11:58

Will Viktor Orbán’s Balkan gamble pay off?

The Hungarian PM is interfering in Bosnia's affairs
by Alexander Faludy
Viktor Orban — gambling again? (Photo by Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The timing of Viktor Orbán’s surprise trip to Banja Luka on Saturday, for talks with Bosnian-Serb leader Milorad Dodik, has been turning heads as Bosnia-Herzegovina teeters on the brink of disintegration.

Reporters were kept at a careful distance from the meeting, at which Orbán was accompanied by his foreign minister Péter Szijjártó. The encounter came as the internal affairs of the fragile West Balkan state looked set to erupt into a major foreign policy crisis for the EU. According to the first report of Christian Schmidt, the UN’s new High Representative for Bosnia-Herzegovina, the country “presently faces the gravest threat of the post-war period”.

President Dodik has announced his intention to execute unilateral withdrawal of Republika Srpska (RS) from involvement in key federal structures including the justice system, tax authority and, most ominously, the armed forces. Over the last three years RS has shown signs of developing separate military capacity, via the creation of a heavily armed gendarmerie and ‘independent’ militias trained by Russian irregulars. Dodik’s proposals are secession in all but name and risk a return to armed conflict. This presents a nightmare scenario for the EU and NATO which share responsibility for maintaining the Dayton Agreement, which put an end to the Bosnian Wars in 1995. 

What then was Viktor Orbán, the EU’s most provocative strong man, seeking to achieve for himself via this unexpected visit? An effort to calm the waters seems unlikely, especially given claims made by Dodik’s team following the meeting regarding ‘Hungary’s full support’ and Orbán’s announcement of a major investment programme in RS.

The unexplained transit, the same day, of a Hungarian 140-seat military transporter plane from Budapest to Banja Luka, via a stopover in Belgrade, raises its own questions. The eruption of a diplomatic crisis in the West Balkans could benefit Orbán in several ways, especially when it comes to gratifying Moscow.

Undermining the EU and NATO’s shared role in Bosnia-Herzegovina’s internal affairs has long been a priority for Vladimir Putin. Orbán is presently in Moscow’s diplomatic debt following the favourable renegotiation of Hungary’s 10 billion Euro credit line for construction of the country’s new, Russian-built Paks II Nuclear Power Plant and a separate contract for the delivery of an annual 4.5 billion cubic meters of Russian natural gas. 

A crisis could also benefit Orbán directly: a Balkan upset would distract the commission from dealing with Hungary’s rule of law issues and strengthen his negotiating hand, given that EU foreign policy action is still subject to unanimity. In furthering Russian interests in Bosnia, Orbán might also be helping his own.

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Martin Brumby
Martin Brumby
10 months ago

Not easy to see exactly what Orbán is up to, not least because he keeps his gob shut when our beloved woke media geniuses are about.
But it should be remembered that Hungary has had close relations with Bosnia & Herzegovina since Austria-Hungary invaded after Muslim massacres of Christians in 1878 (Treaty of Berlin). Controlled by the Army, Bosnia was controlled largely garrisoned by the Hungarian part of the Empire. (Herzegovina by the Austrians). On 5th October 1908, B&H was formally annexed by Austria Hungary and the situation was maintained until 1918 when the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats & Slovenes was formed (later Jugoslavia).Thus some background.
Hungary has made recently & repeatedly quite clear that it is not prepared to be bullied by the EU into becoming a woke whipping boy with open borders and welcoming in hordes of young male Islamists. Orbán has also seen how the EU treats Poland.
It seems more than probable that options are being explored. The EU wants to play hard ball in accordance with Soros’s plan? What would you do in Orbán’s shoes?
If no-one seems to mind Germany cosying up to Putin to buy Russian gas after even the thickest, most virtue-signalling politicians should be able to see that Ruinable Energy is useless, why begrudge Orbán seeing what’s on offer elsewhere? There is no benefit to Hungary in not being on good terms with Serbia across his Southern border and a Christian (if Orthodox) Country who wants to keep it that way. Just like Hungary. Republika Srpska is I guess, part of the deal.
If our Westminster clowns had enough sense to get out of a wet paper bag, Hungary & Poland would have been top of the list to talk to after Brexit.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
10 months ago
Reply to  Martin Brumby

Erm, not sure exactly why; they are hardly economic superpowers…..
Hungary’s and Poland’s arguments against the EU would be very much more persuasive were they to threaten to withdraw, especially now that its ever -centralising direction is clear. But of course, they like the enormous subsidies too much! He who pays the piper must be expected to attempt to call the tune…

Last edited 10 months ago by Andrew Fisher
Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
10 months ago

Undermining the EU and NATO’s shared role in Bosnia-Herzegovina’s internal affairs has long been a priority for Vladimir Putin.
I think the EU has been busy undermining itself there, too: https://carnegieeurope.eu/strategiceurope/85705

James Joyce
James Joyce
10 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Undermining the EU and NATO has long been a priority for Vladimir Putin. Period. Look at how well this is going on the Poland/Latvia/Lithuanian border.
This is an invading force that is scamming the EU, they do not respect EU or any laws. They don’t want “asylum,” they want a life with their relatives in Germany–they openly mock EU laws and procedures. They are all over the internet screaming NO to Poland–Germany! Perhaps Angela will say, yet again “Wir Schaffen das!”
How about the EU and NATO send troops to the border to keep them out. Not a single scammer should get in for any reason–not one. If even one makes it, more will come.

JP Martin
JP Martin
10 months ago
Reply to  James Joyce

Absolutely. These migrations are belligerent, coordinated actions that can only be repelled with some degree of force. And the border crisis in Belarus happens only because the EU encourages it through lax enforcement of laws and absurd social benefits that attract this menace. We subsidise our own destruction. Imagine if the EU handled borders with the same resolve it brought to starving Greek pensioners? Or the same malice it brought to the Brexit negotiations? We cannot blame our adversaries for exploiting our own stupidity.

JP Martin
JP Martin
10 months ago

“Orbán is presently in Moscow’s diplomatic debt (…)”
And what pushed him into the arms of Putin? The real problem is the EU posture towards Orbán, Serbia, and PiS in Poland. The EU created this situation out of sheer spite towards people who don’t fall in line with our masters in Bruxelles.

B Nikolic
B Nikolic
10 months ago

While this article pertains to a specific event, one has to wonder about the bias of it, especially when Erdogan’s visits to the Muslim contingent are ignored. This is not the fault of Unherd only, but it’s general ignorance/indifference of the Western media.
The West has long supported the Muslim hegemony of Bosnia who in turn have a tendency to override Dayton peace accords for personal benefit even to the point of electing Croatian representatives. So anybody who has any intention (real or sinister) to help is viewed as a welcome guest.

JP Martin
JP Martin
10 months ago
Reply to  B Nikolic

This is all very true. Few remember the unhinged anti-Serb animus of Madeleine Albright and the outrageous US policies that led to this situation. Even fewer seem to remember how many of the Gitmo detainees trained in Bosnia and acquired secondary Bosnian citizenship. Bosnia was an AQ sanctuary but this history has been whitewashed too. So much for the Global War on Terror…We hear ad nauseam about Serbian ‘war crimes’ but no one speaks of Izetbegović or the KLA. Handing the ancestral Serbian lands of Kosovo to Albanians is another historic crime. It is no more logical than declaring an autonomous Mexican state of Texas. What a disaster.

Peter Allen
Peter Allen
10 months ago

Orban is Putin’s envoy. It’s that simple.

B Nikolic
B Nikolic
10 months ago
Reply to  Peter Allen

Absolutely. But there are emissaries of all kinds, and this perpetual focus on one kind, borders on Slavophobia.

Last edited 10 months ago by B Nikolic