In a letter published on his website on Monday, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán reflected on what a post-Merkel Germany would mean for his country. “The era of ambiguity, stealth politics and drifting has ended with Merkel,” he concluded, adding that “we now prepare for battle with our eyes wide open.”
Recalling her rise as chancellor, and his own party’s coming to power five years later, he enumerated the various challenges and events they both had to respond to—or, alternatively, only watch unfold, their hands tied: “We managed the financial crisis in 2010, we were partners in the fight to keep the European Union together, and together we watched helplessly and without recourse the European tragedy of the outbreak of the Russian-Ukrainian war. The loyal and disciplined Germans, the rebellious and reckless Hungarians, stood together for a common goal: a Europe in which all nations can feel at home.”
An initial cooling of diplomatic relations due to the 2015 migration crisis quickly devolved into an “open fracture,” however. “It became a Rubicon because it exposed the deep philosophical, political and emotional differences between us about the concept of nations, about freedom and about the role of Germany. It revealed that for Hungarians and other Central Europeans, the homeland is essential. The nation is the origin, without patriotism there can be no healthy emotional life. It turns out that Germans are on the other path of European civilization, towards a kind of post-Christian and post-national state.”
He went on to say that reconciling these two diverging outlooks would be a Herculean task: “We Hungarians have understood that the Germans do not consider this a problem. They do not consider this a civilizational disease to be remedied, but a natural, even desirable, and even morally superior outcome. The fabric of European unity was unravelling, and there was no stopping it. Migration, gender, a federalized European Union, the dehumanization of Europe. Restoring European cooperation will require superhuman efforts in the post-secular era.”
He ended with an ambiguous estimation of the soon-to-be former chancellor: “Did Angela Merkel open the door to trouble? Or, on the contrary, did she try to stand firm, but the pressure from the left pushed her aside? Today we do not yet know the answer to this question. Looking at the new, left-wing German government’s pro-immigration, pro-gender, federalist, pro-German Europe agenda, both answers to the Merkel mystery are possible. Time will tell. My only regret, as a former fellow fighter, is that her life’s work and 16 years as Chancellor have not even given us, her colleagues, the answers. One thing is for sure: the era of ambiguity, stealth politics and drifting has ended with Merkel. We now prepare for battle with our eyes wide open.”
Merkel’s successor, Olaf Scholz, will officially take office as chancellor on Wednesday, December 8th.