Martin Schulz, the leader of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament, visited Hungary over the long weekend. He participated in the Hungarian Socialist Party's celebration of the Hungarian national holiday commemorating the 1848-1849 revolution and war of independence. While in Hungary he gave an interview to Népszabadság in which he expressed his dismay that it is not Viktor Orbán, the rotating president of the European Union, who is speaking in the name of the nations of the union. Instead David Cameron, Nicolas Sarkozy, and Angela Merkel speak independently of one another.
Schulz was not quite accurate. Viktor Orbán spoke at least twice on Libya. First on March 11, after the Libya summit held in Brussels, he gave a brief press statement. Orbán informed the journalists present that the members managed to develop a common position but "naturally, differences remained." Some member states, including Hungary, think that "nothing would force Europe to go to war with the Arab countries." Moreover, he stressed that "military operations that could result in losing the trust of the Arab nations must be avoided."
Orbán didn't seem to be terribly concerned about the fate of the Libyans and instead emphasized the potential danger of increasing migration pressure on Europe. It would be nice if the "Arab countries would be able to keep their sons and daughters at home." However, "the Arabs themselves [should] decide the fate of the Arab world." He continued: "We must be very careful with every move, even every sentence, that the Arabs may construe it to mean that the Christian world, i.e. Europe, is about to interfere in one way or another and would be willing to go as far as to apply means." The Council decided on a more muted wording of the statement and Orbán personally was satisfied.
The next day, on March 12, by that time in Budapest, while the foreign ministers were having another meeting in Gödöllő, he expanded on the theme. Orbán likes to entertain far-reaching concepts, ideas that he thinks will prove historically significant. Instead of simply looking at the problem at hand, a civil war in Libya, he talked about "the historical opportunities that are waiting for Europe." Europe must act wisely because if Europe conducts a prudent policy, Christian-Muslim or European-Arab cooperation will be established for a long time to come. "But if Europe makes a mistake now this cooperation will not be possible for decades."
It says a lot about the confusion over Hungarian foreign policy that on the very same day that Orbán talked about Europe's historical opportunity in the Arab world János Martonyi, the Hungarian foreign minister, expressed an entirely different point of view on the question of Libya. He wisely distinguished between short-term and long-term policies. In the short term, the problem is Libya and Qadafi. The question is "how to stop the bloodbath in Libya and how the West can save the people of Libya from their own government." He emphasized that military action must not be ruled out.
Interestingly enough, Orbán's reluctance to intervene on behalf of the Libyan rebels resembles the opinions of the pro-Qadafi elements within Libya. Someone with the initials R.T. wrote a piece in the Eurasian Review entitled "Libyans Want the World To Keep Out." He quotes Libyans as saying that "Libya and Gaddafi are one. Long live Gaddafi. Let him stay in power for life." Another Libyan claims that "the Libyan people don't want another army to come into Libya." According to R.T. foreign nations seem to be paying little attention to what Libyans themselves actually want.
The author of the article quotes Dennis Kucinich, a Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives and a well known advocate of peace at any price, according to whom "if Washington intervenes in Libya, the country will be lost to tyranny." Kucinich maintains that "the right of self-determination is an inherent right. But it doesn't become self-determination … if another nation intervenes on one side or the other." Translation: if Qadafi is the stronger force he will win and massacre his own people. That is called self-determination.
Kucinich, who is the co-chairman of the Congressional caucus representing the interests of Hungary, naturally liked Orbán's non-interventionist stance on Libya and said so. He expressed his regret that the United States doesn't seem to take Orbán's warnings to heart.
That was three days ago, but what do we read in today's papers? The Hungarian government is in complete agreement with the decision of the United Nations Security Council that last night authorized military action and the imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya. János Martonyi added that he personally would have been happier if the decision had been reached earlier.
What on earth is going on in Hungary as far as foreign policy is concerned? Do Martonyi and Orbán ever talk to each other? Who is in charge? The situation doesn't seem to be any better in matters of foreign policy than in domestic affairs.