Attitudes in central Europe to the US are divided but everyone recognises that a strong US is in their interest, the (Fidesz) head of parliament’s foreign affairs committee, Zsolt Németh, told a conference organised by the Nézőpont think tank on Thursday.
The US president often visits Europe, he said, and this is welcome from Hungary’s point of view, Németh said. Overall, things are moving in a good direction, and Trump’s visit to Warsaw provided added momentum, he added.
Referring to Wess Mitchell, assistant secretary of state responsible for diplomatic relations with Europe, Eurasia, NATO, the EU and the OSCE, he said Mitchell was a determining figure and he regarded central Europe as important and a friend.
It is generally agreed in central Europe that Russia is an aggressor, he said, adding that Hungary was not under any “direct threat”, however. “Still, it can’t be denied that NATO’s protective guarantee against Russia comes in handy,” he said.
Presenting a survey conducted in Hungary and ten other CEE countries by the Nézőpont research institute, Csaba Fodor, the think tank’s managing director, said that
countries in central Europe all supported NATO but viewed the US “slightly more unfavourably”.
Respondents said they expected more from US President Donald Trump, whose popularity in the region is low, he said.
Fully 56 percent of respondents in NATO countries declared that membership of the alliance was broadly beneficial to them. Outliers were the Poles and Romanians, who strongly supported NATO (92 percent and 86 percent, respectively). Hungarian support for the alliance was above average at 60 percent.
Perceptions of the US were less positive, with 48 percent holding a favourable opinion of the country as against 43 percent with a poor opinion, Fodor said. US-friendly attitudes are more pervasive in Poland and Romania, though, on balance, attitudes in Hungary are positive. One explanation for the less glossy view of the US compared to NATO is the low popularity of Trump, given negative media coverage of the president in central European countries, he said. Only 24 percent of people in the region view Trump positively; this measure rises to 41 percent in the case of Poles and to 28 percent in Hungary.