Budapest, March 9 (MTI) – The expectation remains that Hungarian foreign policy should adjust to the new world order and understand it, but at the same time Hungary should pursue an independent policy, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said.

Addressing Hungarian ambassadors at an extraordinary meeting on Monday, the prime minister said the pursuit of an independent foreign policy could be at times “uncomfortable” but they should get used to it.

The prime minister said he had met ambassadors who had found it problematic that they were disliked in the country where they were stationed because they were expected to represent the standpoint that Hungary, in certain cases, did not agree with the policies of that state.

Orban told the ambassadors that Hungary is part of the West, and it makes no sense to create an opposition between western integration and opening towards the east or south. There is no such thing as “opening to the West” since Hungary is already a part of it; setting western integration against the policy of opening to the east or south “lacks all possible sense.” The most obvious part of western integration today is being a part of the western military coalitions, he said, adding that a proposal would be put to Hungary’s parliament for the country to join the western coalition in the fight against the Islamic State.

On the subject of central European cooperation, Orban said this “community of fates” was nearly as important to Hungary as its own national interests. However, he said at the core of Hungary’s foreign policy still lay the Hungarian national interest. He asked the envoys to find ways of making heavyweight countries interested in Hungary’s success.

Envoys should show a realist, commercial kind of “smartness” rather than taking a cerebral attitude to diplomacy, Orban said. Hungary’s economic and commercial interests must be served. Many countries of the West are much better at this than Hungary, he added. Hungarian foreign policy has always had an elitist streak but today a different quality of knowledge is valued, Orban said.

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Hungary’s envoys have a big role in ensuring that the country is even more successful in the forthcoming period, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said at the start of the two-day meeting.

He said the reason for now holding two meetings a year as opposed to a single one in the past is that changes taking place in the world are speeding up, and many developments are increasingly unpredictable.

Noting Hungary’s new trade-oriented foreign policy, he said it was worth now reviewing what has been achieved as a result and what must be done to make these outcomes even better. The ambassadors, he added, have a big role to play in this.

Orban said Hungary’s opening to the East had happened and “the gate is open” and now it is time to take a different direction and turn to the South and African and Latin American countires. He said if Africa succeeds in becoming stabilised then this will produce big opportunities for the global economy. This year’s foreign policy programme primarily focuses on Asia but the foreign minister has already embarked on the opening to the South, he said, adding that his own foreign visits would be directed accordingly next year.

On the subject of central European cooperation, Orban said this “community of fates” was nearly as important to Hungary as its own national interests. However, he said at the core of Hungary’s foreign policy still lay the Hungarian national interest. He asked the envoys to find ways of making heavyweight countries interested in Hungary’s success.

Envoys should show a realist, commercial kind of “smartness” rather than taking a cerebral attitude to diplomacy, Orban said. Hungary’s economic and commercial interests must be served. Many countries of the West are much better at this than Hungary, he added. Hungarian foreign policy has always had an elitist streak but today a different quality of knowledge is valued, Orban said.

The opposition Socialists said in response to Orban’s remarks that the prime minister had “humiliated” Hungary’s diplomats.

Attila Mesterhazy, of the Socialist Party’s foreign affairs cabinet, said in a statement that the government’s approach to the foreign economy lacked “any values of classical diplomacy” and expected diplomats to be merely “sales people” rather than “diplomats having ideas and analytic capabilities”.

Hungary’s eastern opening policy has been a failure, because the turnover of trade with most countries has dropped, Mesterhazy insisted.

According to the Liberal Party, Hungary had better resolve issues with its “friends and allies” rather than embarking on eastern or southern opening policies, party chair Gabor Fodor said. He argued that Hungary, since 2010, has “collected adversaries rather than allies”. The country indeed needs to adjust to a changing world order, but first it should reinforce its alliance with the EU and NATO, he added.

The Egyutt (Together) party said that the need to hold an extraordinary meeting six months after the regular meeting in itself indicates that the policy announced in August has failed. As examples for the government’s failures in the past few months, Egyutt board member Nora Hajdu referred to international reactions to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Budapest visit, Orban’s “extremely unsuccessful” talks in Warsaw, and an “unprecedented chill” in Hungary-US relations.

Hajdu said that the “series of failures” was rooted in Orban’s own failure to recognise risks around the Ukraine crisis and setting wrong directions for Hungary’s ties with Russia. She also blamed the government for “massive layoffs” at the foreign ministry and insisted that Hungary’s new and young diplomats “lack both the necessary skills and network”, and called for replacing the foreign minister.

Radical nationalist Jobbik welcomed the government’s “recognising that Hungary’s room for manouevre is determined by more than one pole”.

Marton Gyongyosi, Jobbik’s deputy group leader, interpreted the prime minister’s remarks as adopting Jobbik’s position of focusing on the “Germany-Turkey-Russia triangle” and not restricting the economy to exports by international companies.

On the other hand, Jobbik “firmly rejects” Orban’s advocating “the Euro-Atlantic grand coalition of the past 25 years” against the Islamic State, Gyongyosi said. “We cannot provide military support, since […] the West is responsible for the emergence of the Islamic State”, he insisted.

Photo: MTI

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