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Hungary’s chances in the shifting global order

January 30th, 2017

Pundits across the political spectrum speculate about Hungary’s role and opportunities in the international order that is emerging after Donald Trump’s inauguration.

On Index Tamás Mészáros characterises PM Orbán’s Lámfalussy lecture (see BudaPost January 25) as proof that the Hungarian Right’s optimism concerning Hungary’s possibilities after Donald Trump’s inauguration is premature. When the new US president advocates national sovereignty, he means that the US will put American interests first, rather than supporting other nations in their own particular endeavours, the liberal commentator remarks. Mészáros suspects that Mr Orbán will try to cooperate with other minor partners including the Visegrad countries to secure more elbow room for Hungary, in its balancing act between the great powers. In a hint at Hungary’s failed “see-saw policy” in 1943, which aimed at swapping sides in World War Two, Mészáros writes that such a strategy did not play succeed in the past century.

Népszava’s Tibor Várkonyi also thinks that it is mistaken to assume that Hungary will be better off if the US becomes more focused on its own interests. The more assertive and determined the US becomes in pushing its own goals, the harder for Europe and Hungary it will be to pursue their own objectives, Várkonyi cautions.

Although multilateral international cooperation has been less successful than many hoped, Hungary may not be better off at all in a world defined by bilateral arrangements, Bence Földi writes in Magyar Nemzet. Földi recalls that in PM Orbán’s interpretation, Donald Trump has ‘allowed’ Hungary to pursue its own interest. This formulation indicates how much Hungary’s sovereignty and international opportunities are still dependent on the US, Földi thinks.

In Magyar Idők, Levente Sitkei points out that states have always put their own national interest first in the international arena. The conservative analyst claims that even in the EU, all member states have been pursuing their own interests, while playing regular lip service to EU integration. The Hungarian government’s acknowledgment that it too places national interest first does not mean that Hungary sees itself as a great power, able to enforce her interests on her own, Sitkei adds. If the EU gets over the rhetoric of recent years which vilifies national sovereignty, the Union can be redesigned and become a successful platform of cooperation among sovereign nation states, Litkei believes.

Magyar Demokrata’s editor-in-chief András Bencsik calls it great news for Hungary that Donald Trump wants to follow a patriotic policy line similar to the one followed by PM Orbán. The pro-government commentator thinks that the ‘victory of modern patriotism’ will serve the peaceful cooperation between independent states. Bencsik hopes that Russian President Putin’s visit to Hungary next week is a harbinger of global reconciliation.

It is wrong to assume that the US will become more isolationist under Trump, László Seres comments in Heti Világgazdaság. The libertarian pundit recalls hints by both Donald Trump and Secretary of State Tillerson that they consider both Islamist radicalism and Russian expansionism as serious threats. In light of this, Seres suggests that efforts by the Hungarian government to improve relations with Russia may not be welcome at all in the US.

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