Hungarian opposition raises spectre of communism in pipeline debate
Mar 30, 2007, 14:07 GMT
Budapest - The head of the main right-of-centre opposition party in Hungary, a former Soviet satellite, on Friday raised the spectre of communism as he warned against the government getting too friendly with Russian gas giant Gazprom.
Hungary was known as the Soviet Union's 'most cheerful barracks' in the later years of communism, and Fidesz leader Viktor Orban used this phrase to evoke a vision of Hungary once again falling under the sway of Moscow.
'Those young people following us should not allow Hungary to become Gazprom's most cheerful barracks after we freed ourselves from the fate of being the Soviet system's most cheerful barracks,' Orban said in a speech to mark his party's 19th anniversary.
'The Fidesz generation is sending a message: we did not show the door ... to the Russians, to the Soviet Union, to communism only for them to climb back in the window,' he continued. 'Oil may come from the east, but freedom always comes from the west.'
Orban, a fierce opponent of warming up relations with Moscow that had until recently been decidedly chilly, has been outspoken in his opposition to any collaboration on energy issues.
However, Hungary's gas behemoth MOL has agreed to team up with Gazprom on extending the Blue Stream pipeline from Turkey into Europe and has also agreed to cooperate on building a 10-billion-cubic-metre storage facility in Hungary.
The Blue Stream pipeline is seen as a rival to the EU-backed Nabucco pipeline, which aims to cut the dependence on Russian gas by bringing in Middle Eastern gas through Turkey.
Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany visited Moscow last week to discuss energy issues with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and he has faced accusations of undermining the Nabucco pipeline by backing the Blue Stream project.
MOL and Gyurcsany have refused to rule out the possibility of buying into both pipelines, although both have criticized the Nabucco project for taking too long to get underway.
The Hungarian government responded immediately to Orban's speech, accusing him of beginning a 'diplomatic rampage.'
'This harm's the country and the economy,' the government spokesperson's office said in a statement. 'Instead of responding we are going to attempt to minimize the damage.'
Fidesz has been trying to oust the government since last September, when a leaked recording of Gyurcsany admitting he lied to the nation sparked riots.
Gyurcsany has hung on through large-scale demonstrations and a vote of confidence, and Fidesz has shifted tactics to calling for referenda on key government policies and hammering home the communist past of the party.
The right wing often plays up on the fact that Gyurcsany was a communist youth leader and claims his Hungarian Socialist Party is simply the communists in new clothing.
Moscow ruled over Hungary from just after the Second World War until the first free elections in 1990.
The darkest days came in 1956, when Soviet tanks brutally suppressed the Hungarian uprising, killing thousands and sparking the flight of hundreds of thousands of refugees.© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur