Viktor Orbán's diplomatic offensive in July


PETRA HALKÓ
International Analyst


Hungary is often accused of exerting an isolating foreign policy on the international scene. However, Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán had no better way to count down to the well-deserved summer break on his Facebook page than by listing his meetings with the world’s most influential political leaders, which touched on the relevant burning issues of global politics. So instead of trying to make sense of these critical voices, it is more worthwhile to analyse how such a small country, making up only 0.13% of the world’s population, is able to share its views so widely. The answer can be found within the most important rule of politics for a nation: by knowing its place. For the Hungarian government, Hungary comes first – the first step to understanding the international recognition that Hungary has received.

Hungary once saw its geopolitical significance decline to a point never seen before in its history. That is, until 2010, when Viktor Orbán and his government took over and prepared to pursue Hungary’s own political and economic interests, thus devoting themselves to the enhancement of the sovereign nation state. This approach is derived from the Hungarian government’s deep conviction that only a nation, even as part of an international community, has the right to make decisions about and to take responsibility for its own economic improvement, demographic growth or security. In this sense, it placed the Hungarian national interests at the forefront of its governing agenda. On one hand, this is the political doctrine adopted by the Orbán government that has been treading delicate ground, arousing much criticism at both the national and international level. On the other hand, this is also the political doctrine that is based on transnational dialogues and in which Hungary has been gaining more and more partners.

In early July, Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán held an intensive discussion with the Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel in Berlin where, despite their sharply different points of view on the migration crisis, the two politicians made their intention clear to continue seeking close cooperation on defending the external borders of the European Union. It was a remarkable meeting for Prime Minister Orbán to stand next to Chancellor Merkel – who is facing serious internal and external political challenges – as a political leader not only in national but in European terms whose visions on this issue cannot be ignored. At the 7th summit between the leaders of China and the 16 Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries, both Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán set a high value on the development of an open and unhindered cooperation. Indeed, Hungary played a key role in the partnership as the region's main exporter to China and its main recipient of Chinese investments, thus facilitating the competitiveness of not only the two concerned countries, or even of the two regions, but that of all of Europe. Next, Orbán attended Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s inauguration ceremony in Ankara, the only European leader to do so, thereby expressing how crucial political stability in Turkey is for the security of Hungary and the European Union. At the NATO summit in Brussels, the Hungarian standpoint found support from US President Donald Trump, who represented the only member state with a global military capability who similarly prioritises the preservation of citizens’ rights to live in secure and peaceful conditions in their own homelands. Another moment worthy of note was Orbán’s conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, where they stressed the bilateral economic relations between the two countries in the fields of nuclear energy, pharmaceuticals and engineering. At the last meeting, Prime Minister Orbán and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed a variety of 21st century issues such as the fight against terrorism and new anti-Semitism. The Hungarian government has taken guarantees for the Jewish minority’s security to the fullest extent, while Netanyahu affirmed again at the meeting that Israel stands by Hungary when it comes to national identity and sovereignty, expressing, therefore, mutual respect for each other’s countries.

All these diplomatic meetings clearly prove that the Hungarian approach does have a raison d'être in world politics, and that Viktor Orbán and his government have put Hungary back on the world map by consistently standing upon it. The incumbent government has always determined Hungary’s place on the political spectrum, according not to its size but to its performance. And a nation which was near collapse eight years ago but instead became an economic success story, which has been able to exert a defence policy of continental significance by itself, and which has demonstrated peerless political and social stability, does deserve to have a strong voice at the bargaining table. Fortunately, many other countries take this common stand, too.

At the same time, the Hungarian government never left out of the equation realistic assessments of physical ability when it comes to the determination of the country’s place. Hungary is a small country on both the European and world scale. For that very reason, the government has always pursued a humble policy aimed at making Hungary not bigger, but stronger. While Hungary has become a geopolitical factor, its Prime Minister and his government never forgot about the fact that the real force of sustainable Hungarian strength rests on its most important resource, the Hungarian youth. This makes it evident why Viktor Orbán's granddaughters have a justified place among the greatest political leaders on the Prime Minister’s list, at the last station of his meetings.