Orbán’s foreign policy: a boogeyman that just won’t go away
Thursday, 01 September 2011 16:12
A successful EU presidency combined with defending the national interests and those of the minorities were the main characteristics of the rotating presidency. At least this is what supporters of the present government would have you to believe. Critics say that the media law, the new constitution and our more than disturbing relations with Slovakia cast a dark shadow over our presidency. Hungarian ambassadors from around the world will have the opportunity to hear the prime minister’s opinion on the country’s foreign policy.
Last year Orbán surprised his audience when he didn’t even mention Hungary in relation to our upcoming EU presidency. What many foreign policy experts found interesting though was the prime minister’s opinion on the role of the west. According to Orbán, the west, which is losing more and more political weight, should come to terms with Russia. Of course, this rapprochement should not be happening at the expense of Central and Eastern Europe. Indeed, a strong Central European axis that would involve Warsaw, Budapest and Bucharest, featured in the election manifesto of the government. But, for understandable reasons, the Polish premier Donald Tusk did not want to unnecessarily offend his southern neighbor. Anton Pelinka, a political scientist teaching at the Central European University, said that relations between Hungary and Slovakia have improved. This improvement is due to the change of government in Slovakia. The populist and conflict-ridden policies of Robert Fico were replaced by those of the calm and reasoning Iveta Radicova. This change contributed to the normalization of relations. Although the concept of dual citizenship is known within the EU, issuing passports to citizens of another state without consulting its government is a highly unfriendly gesture, to say the least. According to Pelinka, Orbán managed to find a common voice with Romania. Romanians and Hungarians walk in the same shoes regarding the question of dual citizenship. According to estimates, more than one million former Soviet citizens from Moldova are waiting for their passports. Pelinka said that the Visegrád Cooperation between Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary was supposed to counterbalance the nationalist sentiments of the revolutions towards the end of the 1990s. However, with the disintegration of Czechoslovakia, the project lost its political weight. Of course, this doesn’t mean that the four countries do not have common interests for which they could lobby together, or which they could represent together. According to Pelinka, there is one negative aspect to US and Hungarian politics. Unfortunately, the successes of both countries’ foreign policies are measured by the successes of their domestic policies. So, in the case of Hungary, the undoubted successes of Croatia’s EU negotiations are dwarfed by the controversies that surround the media law and the new constitution. Pelinka also added that the ruling party didn’t have a good press as it is frequently confused with the right-extremist Jobbik. The professor pointed out that the government deserved credit for making the integration of the Roma a central issue.