Jokes helped make communism collapse. “Anekdoty” as they were termed, helped dispel the climate of fear and highlighted the backwardness and stagnation that were the hallmark of central planning and the police state. The best ones were about people like Brezhnev; few found Stalin a good subject for humour.
Giving passports to these Hungarians, who now number around 2m, appeases the radical right in Hungary and also signals to other countries that the Magyar minorities have a protector. That does not matter much in places such as Serbia, Slovenia or Austria, where Magyars live happily alongside their fellow-citizens. But it is potentially explosive in Slovakia…
I have also been made International Editor, starting in September. However I will continue to write on the east European region for the print edition of the Economist, as well as running a new blog called Eastern Approaches.
Just in case anyone is interested, here is a video of me and Toomas Hendrik Ilves discussing Estonia after the euro. Part two is here and part three here
Yet for all that the uncertainty is welcome, because it brings the chance of a change in Britain’s outdated electoral system. This no longer delivers the one thing it is supposed to deliver: a clear result.