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Conflicting views on Hungary’s place in the world

January 10th, 2023

A speech by Prime Minister Orbán about Hungary’s efforts to avoid a new cold war and another by US Ambassador David Pressman exhorting ‘everyone to make their choice’ have prompted widely disparate commentaries from left-wing and pro-government columnists.

In an address behind closed doors before Christmas, the main points of which were revealed by his political director and namesake Balázs Orbán to Mandiner on Saturday, PM Orbán said Hungary must stay out of any eventual confrontation between two blocks, as a peripheral position in a new cold war would doom it to insignificance. Outlining his strategy for the forthcoming ten years, he said Hungary should, instead, try to become a ‘regional middle power’ and must therefore work on ‘connecting, rather than dividing’. In a speech commemorating the return of the Hungarian crown 45 years ago, Ambassador David Pressman said President Putin of Russia is ‘a holdover from a time that most of the world has tried to move beyond’, adding that ‘we must all decide which course to set during these turbulent times’.

Interpreting the Prime Minister’s strategy in Népszava, Miklós Hargitay accuses Mr Orbán of intending to stay out of the Western alliance and transform Hungary into ‘a ferry country’, endlessly travelling to and from between the East and West (a reference to a 1905 verse by Endre Ady). He also dismisses the Prime Minister’s vision of Hungary as a medium-ranked power as a daydream, as well as his fear of a peripheral position in the Western bloc, referring to Sweden, on the Northern periphery ‘whom we can only envy’ and Spain on the Southern periphery ‘whose per capita GDP is twice the size of Hungary’s’.

In Magyar Nemzet, on the other hand, pro-government blogger Károly Pósa describes the Ambassador’s words as an attempt to lecture Hungary. He agrees with Mr Pressman on the necessity for everyone to decide which course to set but adds: ‘let us decide on our own, after thorough deliberation and freely’. He quotes an unnamed Russian source who expressed criticism towards Hungarians, but at least ‘did so openly’. In his concluding lines, Pósa suggests that Hungary has ‘no business belonging to either of the two blocs’ – but must rather keep its own national interest in mind.

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