Didn’t have time to read the news lately? Kafkadesk’s got you covered. Here’s our recap of what’s been going on and what you might have missed these last few days: Orban and his “useful idiots”, Slovakia’s defense deals, and more.
Hungary’s Orban apologizes for Lenin-inspired ‘useful idiots’ remark
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban sent an apology letter to leaders of 13 European conservative parties, all of which are part of the European People’s Party (EPP) and have called for Orban’s Fidesz to be expelled from the EU’s main political grouping.
Acknowledging differences of opinion on a certain number of issues, Hungary’s strongman wrote: “I do not consider it reasonable to solve such disagreements by expelling a party from our political family”, and also apologized for calling his critics “useful idiots”, an expression he said he borrowed from Lenin.
The letter of apology was one condition set by EPP leader Manfred Weber, who met with Orban in Budapest last week, to keep Fidesz within the EPP, the largest political grouping in the European Parliament.
Ryanair rebrands its Polish airline service as Buzz
Low-cost carrier Ryanair announced last Thursday that it would rebrand its Polish flight services as Buzz, thereby replacing its current Ryanair Sun brand. The change is expected to take effect in autumn later this year.
This rebranding is more of a resurrection: Ryanair had already owned the Buzz name since it acquired the low-cost operator from KLM in 2003, but stopped using the name the following year. Coming among the broader reorganization of the Ireland-based airline, this change confirms Ryanair’s new structure into four distinct services (Ireland’s Ryanair DAC, the U.K.’s Ryanair UK, Laudamotion and Buzz).
Although Ryanair has been present in Poland for many years, Ryanair Sun launched only in 2018 and now has a fleet of 17 Boeing 737-800’s. Ryanair announced that it would like to expand its fleet to around 25 planes by this summer, and hoped to make Buzz the leader of the Polish market. Last year, Ryanair launched new flight connections from Poland to different European destinations, while CEO Michael O’Leary came under fire for lambasting the new Warsaw mega-airport project as “a stupid plan”.
The carrier faced major strikes from flight crews and pilots last year over its plans to move part of its operations from Dublin to Poland in what analysts see as an attempt to cut labor costs to face competitors like Hungary’s Wizz Air.
Slovakia cuts short defence talks with Washington
On Wednesday last week, Slovakia’s Defense Ministry suspended negotiations on a Defence Cooperation Agreement with the United States. Defence Minister Peter Gajdoš announced that the talks were suspended over a planned U.S. financial aid of over 100 million euros for the modernization of Slovak military airbases, something “that can be considered as the establishment of a foreign military base”, the minister, member of the SNS party, stated (Poland, on the other hand, is lobbying hard to achieve that goal).
Coming only days after head of the SNS party and lower house speaker Andrej Danko threatened to quit the governing coalition if Slovakia accepted the deal, the decision was heavily criticized, both by the opposition and within the government. Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajčák criticized the lack of consultation over the decision, adding that Slovakia would be the only NATO country not to sign the Defence Cooperation Agreement.
After many postponements, Slovakia last year agreed to a 1.9 billion dollars deal to buy 14 U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets to replace its ageing Russian-made fleet of MiG-29s.
A controversial announcement coming at a pretty odd moment, as Slovakia’s three Visegrad Group partners (Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic) commemorated, 24 hours earlier, the 20th anniversary of their accession to NATO. Slovakia only joined the Alliance five years after its Central European neighbors, in 2004.