Future Hungarian foreign policy?

Even ordinary Hungarian citizens not necessarily conversant in foreign affairs took notice: the United States is going to build missile interceptors in Romania, and Traian Basescu announced only a couple of days ago that Romania was ready to accept ground-based interceptors as part of an antiballistic missile defense system. The system could be working by 2015. It seems that ordinary Hungarians feel left out. Although no one said it to me openly, I sensed a certain regret in the voices: Why Romania? Why not perhaps us?

On the other hand, Fidesz foreign policy experts should be quite pleased because, as it became known already in mid-December, the latest Fidesz plans include some kind of quasi alliance system starting in Poland in the north and ending up somewhere in the Balkans. Viktor Orbán talked about developing the necessary north-south infrastructure, I assume superhighways, that would facilitate cooperation among these countries. This corridor was not only an economic “cooperative” but also a kind of cordon sanitaire with an anti-Russian edge. See what I wrote about it on December 3, 2009, under the title “Moscow’s nightmare: The Hungarian opposition leader?” Orbán himself talked about this “corridor” that would end up in the south in Croatia.


Here is the map that was attached to the original article.


As you can see, it didn’t include Romania, and therefore it was somewhat surprising that a couple of days ago Zsolt Németh, surely someone with an important future role in a possible Fidesz foreign ministry, talked about a close relationship among three East European nations: Poland, Romania, and Hungary. He added that it would be desirable to include Slovakia in this mini-alliance because geographically it is difficult to exclude her, but he immediately added that at present Fico’s Slovakia cannot be a partner. In addition to Croatia he also mentioned Serbia. Thus, the newest Fidesz plan is even more ambitious than the original one in Heti Válasz.

As far as Poland is concerned, relations with that country have always been particularly warm and close. No common border, no minority questions, and a fairly similar social structure ensure peaceful relations. With Romania the situation is obviously quite different, and the relations between the two countries during the Orbán period were anything but close. It was therefore somewhat surprising when Viktor Orbán and Trajan Basescu campaigned together just before the Romanian elections in the Hungarian counties of Transylvania.

Surely, Orbán’s grandiose anti-Russian cordon sanitaire has been abandoned, most likely because someone managed to convinced Orbán that such a policy would not be to Hungary’s advantage. Hence his trip to St. Petersburg where he had a conversation with Vladimir Putin. He is also making a concerted effort to win over Washington. János Martonyi and others who visited the United States lately must have given assurances that Hungary will consider the United States its most important ally. Thus, Németh stated that Hungarian troops will remain in Afghanistan and in Kosovo. Mind you, he added that in U.S.-Hungarian relations “no servility” is acceptable.

But then there is the Fidesz resolve that come hell or high water Hungary will give dual citizenship to Hungarians living in the neighboring countries. The citizenship requirement will be based both on the citizenship of the applicant’s forebears and on his knowledge of the Hungarian language. If I had to predict, Fidesz’s unbending attitude on the question of dual citizenship will stand in the way of closer relations with Romania and Slovakia, with or without Fico. That is a non-starter, and therefore I cannot take the whole plan terribly seriously. Moreover, if such a corridor is not built against Russia, then what it is for?

Németh also used the word “accommodation” in a negative sense and promised a more “distinctive” Hungarian foreign policy. I have no idea what that means. I assume Fidesz is striving for something more productive than a simple continuation of the foreign policy during the Orbán period when after four years Hungary had only two friends: Berlusconi’s Italy and Tudjman’s Croatia. Nothing to be proud of.

One difference I could detect in this Németh interview is that Fidesz is ready to give up its visceral anti-Russianism and is ready to turn to China, a country the Fidesz government totally ignored when Fidesz was running the show. As Orbán said so poetically in his speech on Friday: “although Hungary is sailing in western waters the winds come from the east.”

As for the north-south axis, nothing will come of it as long as Hungary is determined to give dual citizenship to Hungarians living in the neighboring countries. I can’t imagine that either Slovakia or Fidesz’s new friends in Romania will ever agree to such a Hungarian demand.