Fidesz – Hungary on the world stage?
Thursday, 29 September 2011 17:11
It has been in the news for weeks now that Hungary is pursuing an intensive campaign to become a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). Not so long ago – in association with Hungarian diplomats – György Habsburg attempted to make a positive impression on the leaders of several Pacific nations (which has been, until now, quite obscure to Hungarian foreign policy), while just recently, President Pál Schmitt tried to convince Caribbean, Pacific and African leaders in a bid to garner supporting votes for Hungary’s non-permanent membership in the UNSC.
Although this could be a tremendous opportunity for Hungary, there are widespread concerns that the current government of the country will not be able to take advantage of it.
The most important matter that needs clarification regarding Hungarian efforts to become a non-permanent member of the UNSC is a “bon mot” by former Minister of Foreign Affairs, László Kovács, i.e. “[We should] dare to be small!” These few words perfectly capture Hungary’s absolutely mistaken foreign policies of the past 60 years. They perfectly resonate with the notion according to which Hungarians should realize and accept them being an insignificant nation, that is why more ambitious Hungarian foreign policy objectives are completely nonsense; thus, the ever current government of Hungary should focus instead on keeping food prices low (especially in urban areas), and on subsidizing the price of gasoline in the summer when most people go on holiday e.g. to the Lake Balaton. This line of thinking is both the embodiment of eastern European provincialism as well as the traditional ideas of the Hungarian Left, which totally lack the understanding of the role of foreign policy.
In fact, Hungary is not a great nation, nor a major economic power. This fact, however, is not an insurmountable obstacle, nor shall it preclude Hungary’s participation on the European political stage, and, to some extent, not even on the world stage. Let us just think about Sweden, a nation nine million strong, which has been dominating the Scandinavian region for centuries; what is more, its political stance is still of importance all over Europe. Or one could also mention The Netherlands (a 16 million nation), which still possesses considerable influence not only in Europe, but also in South-East-Asia. Many other nations of similar size could also be mentioned such as Israel, Singapore or New Zealand to name but a few.
Thus it is not destined that Hungary cannot have a say in international affairs. Obviously, the present state of the country’s economy puts a definite limit on the strength of its say, however, one should not forget that the size of the national economy is only one factor that determines the effectiveness of a country’s foreign policy. That is why we think that the Fidesz government took a very important and otherwise necessary measure by revitalizing Hungary’s foreign policy, which were mainly passive and explanatory during the past decade.
Non-permanent membership in the United Nations Security Council could be a tremendous opportunity for Hungary because it could appear on the world stage. With the help of the membership, Hungary’s say – provided that its foreign policy makers were savvy enough – might even become influential in certain matters. On the other hand, membership in the UNSC would require a lot of work, given that Hungary’s (foreign) policy makers should take decisions almost on a daily basis on matters including the situation in the Middle East, global climate change or the problem of starving nations in Africa.
And that is the point where several concerns arise: Hungary’s ruling government does not even know in case of its domestic affairs what exactly it wants to do two weeks from now. Since it has radically different positions on almost any issue every other moment, and given that every step taken by the Orbán government suggests that the era of carefully analyzed and well-thought-out decisions in Hungarian politics is now over, it hardly could contribute to world affairs in a manner that would benefit the country.
There is another aspect to this issue as well. Another weakness of the same order of the political course pursued by Hungary’s Fidesz-led government is that every significant matter is decided by one man only, or only by a few people at best. In a corporate setting it is called micro-management (by prime minister Viktor Orbán, who is the CEO of the country). “Micro-management” means that the PM does not delegate any tasks to other people, because he wants to decide in every affair. Just think about the fact that one and a half years after the last elections numerous public institutions and organizations still cannot operate appropriately because “the Chief” has not had the time yet to make the necessary appointments. Then what kind of concept could the Fidesz government have regarding Hungary’s non-permanent membership in the UNSC, where it should take a stance on crucially important global affairs almost on a daily basis? Many are afraid that, even in the best case, the current government of Hungary would only be drifting.
Exactly that is the reason why Véleményvezér (literally: “Opinion Leader”, a major Hungarian opinion–forming weblog concerned with domestic as well as international politics) is of the opinion that Hungary’s UNSC membership is more of a concern, since the spotlight associated with the world stage would shed light not on our strengths and foreign policy capabilities, but it would make our weaknesses clearly visible in a short order. The reason for this is that the current government of Hungary is seemingly unable to make decisions on the basis of thorough analyses, and then stand firmly by those decisions – and also because most decisions depend upon the will and wishes of only one person –, this setting will hardly produce the desired outcome, i.e. a significant increase in Hungary’s international influence. And although there are only a few other things that we would wish more strongly than improved international reputation of our country, this time it might be better for our nation if – amid cut-throat competition for the status of non-permanent member in the UNSC, and with a relatively large number of votes in the country’s favour – Hungary would eventually not be voted for this position.