Péter Szijjártó’s foreign policy ideas

As I was searching for news on Péter Szijjártó, I found the following very funny headline on a right-wing site I had never heard of before called Jónapot kívánunk (We wish you a good day): “Péter Szijjártó will meet Fico in our old capital.” Why is it so funny? Because from the eighteenth century on the Hungarian nobles complained bitterly about the Habsburgs’ insistence on having the capital in Pozsony/Pressburg, today Bratislava, instead of the traditional center of the Kingdom of Hungary before the Turkish conquest, Buda. Pozsony/Pressburg was closer to Vienna and more convenient for the kings of Hungary to visit when the diet convened, which was not too often.

This trip to Bratislava is Szijjártó’s first since he became minister of foreign affairs and trade. During his quick trip he met Miroslav Lajčák, Slovak foreign minister and deputy prime minister, and Prime Minister Robert Fico. In the evening he visited the headquarters of Fidesz’s favorite Hungarian party in Slovakia, Magyar Koalíció Pártja (KMP). Fidesz politicians judiciously avoid Béla Bugár, co-chairman of a Slovak-Hungarian party called Híd/Most, meaning bridge. This party is not considered to be a Hungarian organization because its leadership as well as its voters come from both ethnic groups.

The encounter between Lajčák and Szijjártó must have been interesting: the Hungarian minister a greenhorn and Lajčák a seasoned diplomat, graduate of both the State Institute of International Relations in Moscow and the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. Just prior to meeting Szijjártó, Lajčák attended the conference organized by the Center for European Policy Analysis’s U.S.-Central Europe Strategy Forum in Washington and offered some introductory words following Victoria Nuland’s keynote address. This is the conference where the Hungarian participant, Zsolt Németh, had to withstand a barrage of criticism of Viktor Orbán’s government.

Péter Szijjártó and Miroslav Lajcák in Bratislava, October 7, 2014

Péter Szijjártó and Miroslav Lajčák in Bratislava, October 7, 2014

Szijjártó stressed the “strategic importance” of Slovak-Hungarian relations as the reason for his early visit to the Slovak capital. Mind you, “strategic importance” has become an absolutely meaningless concept in Hungary since 2010 since the Hungarian government signed perhaps 40-45 agreements of strategic importance with foreign firms. Szijjártó also pointed to “the success stories” shared by the two countries, such as cooperation in energy matters. The direct pipeline between Slovakia and Hungary is scheduled to open in January, although you may recall that before the election in April both Robert Fico and Viktor Orbán were only too glad to participate in a ceremony that gave the false impression that the pipeline was already fully functional. Most of the infrastructure projects, including roads and bridges, along the Slovak-Hungarian border are still in the planning stage.

Besides all the good news Szijjártó also talked about “hot topics” that should be discussed without “taboos.” Of course, what he meant was the Slovak law that bans the country’s citizens from having dual citizenship. This amendment to the original law on citizenship was designed to counteract the Hungarian decision to offer citizenship to ethnic Hungarians in the neighboring countries.

Miroslav Lajčák found the exchange “fruitful.” The Slovak journalists were less charitable and kept asking Szijjártó all sorts of embarrassing questions. For example, about the Hungarian fiasco in Brussels yesterday and about the delay in the construction of several bridges, one on the Danube between Komárom and Komarno and others across the Ipel’/Ipoly river. Construction of these bridges was supposed to begin three years ago. In brief, not much has materialized up to now that would constitute a true success story in Slovak-Hungarian cooperation. It seems that building football stadiums is much more important than constructing bridges across a very long river that defines in large part the Slovak-Hungarian border.

The day before his departure to Bratislava Szijjártó gave a lengthy interview to Origo. Here is a man who claims that old-fashioned diplomacy is passé and that he is primarily interested in foreign trade. After all, 106 commercial attachés will soon be dispatched to all Hungarian embassies, and some embassies will have multiple commercial representatives. Yet practically all the questions addressed to Szijjártó were of a diplomatic nature. For example, what about the rather strained bilateral relations between Romania and Hungary? The answer: “I recently met the economic minister of Romania. Our personal relations are good. And naturally I am ready to have talks with the Romanian foreign minister. I believe in reasonable dialogue.”

Or what about the Visegrád Four and their diverging attitudes toward Russia? They are allies, Szijjártó asserted, which lends a certain strength to their cooperation. They hold different views, but that in no way negatively influences their relationships. “As far as the Ukrainian-Russian conflict is concerned, we must not forget that there are 200,000 Hungarians in Subcarpathia and that Russia is our third most important commercial partner.” What is happening now is injurious to Europe; speedy negotiations are in everybody’s interest.

As for the United States, all unjust criticism must be rejected and Hungary must make clear its point of view. “General government control of the Hungarian civil sphere is without any foundation.” I call attention to a slight change in wording. Szijjártó here is talking about “general control,” which strictly speaking is true. The control is not general. Only those NGOs that are critical of the government are intimidated and harassed. Where does Barack Obama get his information about Hungary? “I have no idea, but those who talked to him didn’t tell the truth.”

And finally, the journalist pointed out that very few important foreign politicians have visited Hungary lately and asked Szijjártó whether that might mean that Hungary has been isolated in the last four and a half years. Szijjártó found such an accusation laughable. He said that he spent four years “right next to the prime minister and therefore I could see in what high esteem the prime minister is held  abroad.” So, all is well. Hungarians don’t have to worry. Their prime minister is Mr. Popularity among the leading politicians of the world.

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Ovidiu
Guest
“what about the rather strained bilateral relations between Romania and Hungary? The answer: “I recently met the economic minister of Romania. Our personal relations are good. And naturally I am ready to have talks with the Romanian foreign minister. I believe in reasonable dialogue.” Well, Orban met Basescu few days ago in a “private meeting” in Bucharest. According to Basescu the purpose of the meeting was to talk about “the way some Hungarian politicians approach subjects which are related to the Romania’s Constitution” and “in general, even the risks of the good HU-RO relationship”. The relation is hardly a good one.It has deteriorated greatly since 2010 and now it is centimeters away from blowing up. One one hand Fidesz people make all sorts of provocative declarations and “political gestures” when they visit Romania while on the other hand the Romanian political class, in its entirety and deliberately, refrains from saying anything at all in reply. That’s because the political class knows that if they were to do such thing the would trigger a wave of nationalism and that won’t fit well into the EU&US framework.However it is also clear that this “pattern of interaction” can not go on forever. The… Read more »
tappanch
Guest

First good internet ad from the opposition this year:

Karl Pfeifer
Guest

Orbán & Co. must have studied Orwell’s 1984. Somebody in Hungary should write a new Dictionary Hungarian Newspeak – Orbán Newspeak and Plain Hungarian – Orbán Newspeak and Plain Hungarian.

Max
Guest

@ Ovidiu

Most interesting.

You may wish to contribute a longer commentary on the difference between London’s handling of the Scottish devolution and Bucharest’s response to the call for autonomy in Seklerland.

I would also appreciate your view on what these attitudes reveal about the political cultures and democratic realities in these two countries.

Thanks in advance.

buddy
Guest

@tappanch I like the black humor, but the main problem with this ad is that it doesn’t give a convincing case to vote for MSZP.

It was a similar case four years ago before the elections, when MSZP billboards popped up in my neighborhood saying simply “Fidesz government = mass layoffs”. This one makes pretty much the same point, but in a more humorous way. (Not that they’re wrong, mind you, but I’d like to hear why we should vote for them, not only what’s wrong with the other guys.)

D7 Democrat
Guest

“”He said that he spent four years “right next to the prime minister and therefore I could see in what high esteem the prime minister is held abroad.””

Yes, in places like Belarus and Uzbekistan.
Poodle Pete didn’t answer the question- how many visits has the regime hosted from EU PMs in the last 4 years?

kalmar
Guest

btw origo.hu is becoming a mouthpiece of sorts for the government…the articles which appear there are often ridiculous and not a bit propagandistic.

This interview was titled: Sziijarto sent a a hard message to ISIS (portrait picture taken from below to exude greatness).

There was a great article which “explained” the Navracsics story to the masses (by a Nézőpont analyst-propagandist), ie “it’s too complicated for the avarage joes, so it’s not important”.

Another one evoked the Olaszliszka lynching stating that catching of gipsies to Hungarians does not work, anywhere, the chasm between the two cultures is gigantic. And so on and on.

Magyarr/Deutsche Telekom is like a poodle, desperately wants to be liked by the gazdi.

tappanch
Guest

The latest scandal is that chief fidesznik “Mr 20%” Kosa’s wife owns an expensive real estate in Budapest.

1. Their combined salaries cannot explain the hitherto secret house.
2. He has “forgotten” to mention it in the mandatory, yearly asset disclosure for MPs for many years.

I do not think that either the chief prosecutor or the Hungarian IRS will investigate, since they are de facto Fidesz party vehicles.

http://rtl.hu/rtlklub/hirek/draga-lakas-kosa-felesegenek-neven

This real estate scandal comes after Rogan’s, his deputy’s, Szijjarto’s etc. recently.

kioel
Guest

@tappanch: and people are asking why strohmen are useful…

Berg
Guest

Smart urban kids love Vona, Jobbik is cool.

The Left is uncool, it’s for losers, you hear the name and you run for your life.

http://munchausenparokaja.tumblr.com/post/99421011366/vona-gabor-tudatos-magyar-fiatalok-gyurujeben

lower
Guest

According to Median, Fidesz is still very popular and stable, people still almost adore Fidesz and Jobbik’s coming up (21%), while MSZP is declining, with the rest being irrelevant.

Altogether 71% of the voters would vote for Fidesz or Jobbik.

The left is finished, Jobbik is getting more and more popular, its voters enthusiastic and is seen as the clean alternative of pros. The Russians invested well.

As to the funny campaign video of Ágnes Kunhalmi, it is uniformly deemed an idiotic failure similar to the Falus bucket challenge…

HiBoM
Guest

I beg to differ. I think it is a typically abysmal effort. The woman is standing in front of a camera reciting a written text in a depressingly wooden manner. It is soulless. There is no passion or sincerity, the qualities needed to win over those whose instinct is to resist. Why can’t the MSZP find someone capable of talking to a camera and sounding like they mean what they say?

buddy
Guest

@Eva “But it is not really about MSZP.”

Ok, then why don’t they make a video that gives us a reason to vote for them? Instead of just “please go out and vote,” which sounds simply vaguely civic-minded.

I think this ad is funny and memorable in a good way, unlike the Falus video. It’s just not very effective politically. And that slogan at the end – “last chance”? I feel they just don’t get it.

Meanwhile, Fidesz constantly communicate reasons why people should vote for them, whether these are actually true or not. I’d like to see that from the opposition too.

Reality Check
Guest

@HiBoM, seriously? She might not be a soul singer, but it is hardly soulless and she looked sincere to me.

Guest

We’ll probably hear more about this – amazing(ly stupid, Mr. Szijjarto …):

“The United States is Hungary’s friend and “we pay attention to the voice of friends,” Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said in interviews to two dailies on Wednesday.

In interviews to Nepszabadsag and Napi Gazdasag, the new foreign and trade minister reacted to questions concerning recent criticism from American officials.

Asked about comments by Bill Clinton and President Barack Obama, Szijjarto told Napi Gazdasag: “Whoever told them that there are general government restrictions in Hungary and pressure put on civil organisations is not telling the truth to them and are misleading them.””
http://www.politics.hu/20141008/us-is-hungarys-friend-says-szijjarto/
Of course, other NGOs like CÖF which is really a GONGO (Government organised NGO – nice acronym I also found on pol.hu …) are treated differently from Ökotars !

Guest

Just to give credit where relevant:

arpad haboni mentioned this in a comment on the last article – for those who missed it, the Hungarian link:
http://444.hu/2014/10/07/egy-berlini-moziban-trollkodtak-a-magyar-kormany-emberei/

And Marcel gave the German link – I read it, it’s funny in a way how Pröhle reacted – like a “Pawlowian dog”.

Btw, wasn’t Pröhle just in Vienna in a meeting of the extreme right wing “Identitarianists”? This guy goes everywhere …

HiBoM
Guest

It isn’t just me that finds the Kunhalmi video embarrassing. The Vastagbőr blog on Átlátszó describes it as “Minden idők legrosszabb kampányvideója” (the worst campaign video of all time.). Imagine if someone knocked on your front door and talked to you in the way Kunhalmi talks on that video… she is talking AT you, not TO anyone. You would slam the door in her face. At least, I would

JGrant
Guest

This so called campaign video with Kunhalmi is a clear symptom of MSZP’s decline into complete shambles. It is talking at people and like some haughty schoolmarm telling them to go and vote. I.e.: if the Fidesz wins, it will be the electorate’s fault, not the useless left’s fault or their patent inability to make a proper appeal to the electorate with clear ideas which could engender support. Very pitiful, indeed!

tappanch
Guest

Orban and Merkel met in Milan today .

Ms Merkel smiled at Orban, who looked satisfied and happy after their meeting.

His autocratic rule is OK’d again by the only person who could stop him.

http://444.hu/2014/10/08/orban-viktor-annyira-megorult-angela-merkel-kedves-mosolyanak-hogy-gyakorlatilag-kacagcva-tancra-perdult/

Proletar
Guest

@tappanch:

Merkel admires Orban. Orban is a dictator, so he is free. People want to be free and this is why they admire dictators, at least they, the dictators were successful in this.

It’s another matter that most people couldn’t really live with freedom, it causes anxiety for a lot of people, but that’s running ahead of ourselves. We admire people who are freer than us.

Merkel is no different.

Forget Merkel, she will keep paying via the EU and keep Orban in power for ever.

Orban and the right wing realized long ago what you haven’t: that one could never count on the West, it will never help and will maintain jolly good relationships with any dictators when that suits them, so you might as well occupy that position yourself.

There is no help, there is only total indifference (kudos to the Norwegians though) coupled with some subsidies.

Orban used this wisdom and he is getting filthy rich and keeps his power.

KTP
Guest

The MSZP campaign video is ruthless exploitation of children nothing else and it is universally condemned within Hungary by both the left and right wing press.

When you use children and attempt (badly) to run a hate campaign with children how do you expect that to be sympatethic to the voters? The fact that tappanch thinks it was an effective campaign video makes me sad. Alternative reality.

KTP
Guest

Proletar this is one of those painful moments when reality hits. It was nice building an alternative reality which said, Orban is not taken seriously by anyone. The alternative reality builders said, nobody will meet with him nobody will negotiate with him. The problem is the pain is when this fake reality is shattered.

When Merkel the most powerful EU politician is meeting Orban it is a big blow to those who want to continue building this story about nobody meeting with Orban.

There are many narratives that are similar in nature.

Some people are very interested in harming the US-Hungary relationship and completely ignore and underreport any positive developments in the relationship of these two countries. Positive events like Honeywell one of the biggest US companies making a huge investment in Hungary a few days ago don’t even get mentioned in some places.

zoli
Guest

prof Balogh, I would disagree with the idea that normally the pendulum swings back. It may, but it may not. Are NY and Texas normal? Or California? There is no amount of crisis which could change these one party states to vote for the other party. Rain or shine, in Mexico or Japan the very same party has been in government, except for a few years, for 70 years. Once people realize that they are conservative (don’t like gipsies, foreigners, gays etc.) as opposed to liberal and want protection from capitalism and a strong state intervention (as opposed to more competition) and that this is a combination that is on political offer, they will never go back to a more liberal and more capitalistic (conformist) left-wing. The left will live on, for sure, only it will be a Peyer-like pseudo ideology, which will act as a pseudo-oppositon, which is the case already. The possibility that perhaps in 50 years the left wing can gain a majority (but not one that would be enough to change the basic law) is not really relevant to me.

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