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Hungary’s foreign policy in focus

November 3rd, 2014

A liberal columnist contends that the US is pressurizing Hungary in order to protect its own geopolitical interests. Centrist and liberal conservative commentators warn of the consequences of diplomatic isolation and call for reconciliation with the US and the EU. A liberal weekly speculates that PM Orbán is already on his way out of the EU and NATO.

On Index, Gábor Miklósi believes that by banning Hungarian officials from the US, Washington wants to exert pressure on the Orbán government which it sees as being increasingly pro-Moscow. The liberal columnist maintains that the US Secretary of State does have the legal option to inform the Hungarian government of the names of officials it accuses of corruption (see BudaPost October 20). By withholding that information the US wants to create the impression that the country as a whole is corrupt. If the suspects were named, the authorities could save face by going after and punishing corrupt individuals, and thus send the message that no corruption is tolerated here.

Magyar Narancs in a front page editorial claims that the US is concerned over Hungary because the Orbán government’s cooperation with Russia, Iran and China has become a security consideration for Washington. Thus the US is worried about Hungary’s geopolitical realignment rather than about corruption and the weakening of democratic institutions, Magyar Narancs holds. The liberal weekly speculates that unless the government changes its foreign policy course, PM Orbán will become the target of the US. Magyar Narancs suspects that the US will accuse the PM’s closest circle of corruption, while Russian President Putin may also try to “blackmail” him. Magyar Narancs, however, is sceptical whether a U-turn in Hungary’s foreign policy can be expected. On the contrary, the liberal weekly suggests, PM Orbán has already started the process of leaving both the EU and NATO.

Mandiner’s Ákos Balogh cautions against combatant and arrogant rhetoric in foreign affairs. The centrist blogger points out that getting involved in a diplomatic spat with the US and European states does not serve the national interest, by any stretch of the imagination. Hungary needs allies, among other reasons in order to help ethnic Hungarians living in the neighbouring countries, Balogh notes. He urges the Hungarian government to realize that in the increasingly tense geopolitical situation provoked by events in Ukraine, it cannot follow its economic rapprochement with Russia. In conclusion, Balogh proposes that the government should backtrack, abandon some of its iconic projects with Moscow, and withdraw either from the South Stream pipeline construction scheme or the Paks nuclear power station project.

Writing in the same blog, ‘Dobray’ surmises that the Hungarian government went too far in what it calls it’s ’Eastern Opening’. If Hungary is unwilling to make symbolic gestures towards its allies even if this does not pay off financially, the US and the EU will retaliate, the liberal conservative blogger holds. As a new cold war is in the making, Hungary should reconsider the policy of Eastern Opening if it wants to remain part of Western civilization, ‘Dobray’ contends.

In Magyar Demokrata, Péter Farkas Zárug finds it counterproductive that the government dismisses all criticism by claiming that it is all motivated by foreign powers defending their economic interests. The conservative analyst welcomes the government’s efforts to protect Hungarian economic interest even at the price of conflicts with the US and EU member states. But the government should not create unnecessary diplomatic tension with its allies by claiming that any anti-government criticism is orchestrated by foreign powers trying to colonize the country, Zárug suggests.

Recent criticism from the US, the EU, Germany and the Visegrad countries indicates that Hungary is becoming isolated internationally, András Stumpf suggests in Heti Válasz. Heti Válasz in a separate report claims that the European Commission will within days start a set of new procedures against Hungary and might even suspend the payment of structural funds with the aim of removing PM Orbán from office. The moderate commentator suggests that in light of recent geopolitical developments the government should consider revising its pro-Russian foreign policy, in order to consolidate its relations with strategic allies including the US. Regardless whether the accusations from the US and the EU are justified, Hungary will lose a lot if it does not resolve the current diplomatic conflicts, Stumpf concludes.

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