“Both Poland and Hungary support Ukraine in the war. Nevertheless, the difference between them is significant.” one of our readers, Marek Szymkiewicz, a Polish national wrote us recently. Below you may read his letter unchanged.
What is the state? If not to talk in political science terms, let’s say that the ideal state is a structure or mechanism, whose objective is to protect the interests of its citizens. It is the main word in the previous sentence. The other things aren’t so relevant. Especially if we talk about such a state department like the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It has its own objectives and rationale, such as developing foreign policy strategy, promoting friendship with other states, coordination of international activity of other state institutes, protecting security and sovereignty of the country, promoting peace and stability in the region. Once again, the main thing is protection of citizens’ interests.
Today we look at the Hungarian and The Polish foreign policy actions from this point of view. Both countries are the EU and the Visegrád Group members and this puts certain commitments on them. At first glance, there are a lot in common between countries: the similar geographic position, membership in the same international organizations, and taking action in global processes. Both Poland and Hungary were seriously damaged by the ongoing economic crisis. Both Poland and Hungary depend a lot on EU financial help. Both Poland and Hungary support Ukraine in the war.
Nevertheless, the difference between them is significant. At least, it is well noticed in their executives. Péter Szijjártó and Zbigniew Włodzimierz Rau both are powerful and influential politicians. But their approaches to publicity are different. The Hungarian Minister constantly appears in the media unlike his Polish counterpart. Péter Szijjártó looks like a man who is closer to the people, who understands society inquires and responds to them. Zbigniew Włodzimierz Rau looks like a secret mastermind. The confrontation is obvious: the man representing the interests of the majority and the man representing the interests of the ruling class.
Now let’s mention the foreign policy. It’s impossible to disagree that every country looks for its own benefit and plays its own game on a political stage. There is a good rule in a civilized society which says the freedom of one ends where the freedom of the other begins. This rule must be followed in politics too, otherwise wars, for example, will be inevitable. It’s important to be ready for communication, for making compromises, it’s important to be fair. The Hungarian politicians are much wiser than their V4 colleagues.
If we come back to the Ukrainian war, we can find some important aspects for comparison. The first one is the attitude to sanctions. Poland actively supports them and is one of the main initiators of sanctions towards Russia. At the same time, Hungary vetoed new packages of sanctions a few times for different reasons. In fact, unfortunately, sanctions didn’t stop the conflict, didn’t eliminate tensions between countries, and didn’t lead to the negotiations. Vice versa, the Europeans suffered instead. Inflation and the energy crisis heavily strained the wallets.
The second thing is the support of Ukraine. Hungary helped Ukraine from the beginning of the conflict but that help was just humanitarian, not military. Poland actively supplied armament and military vehicles besides humanitarian aid. But the thing is that those supplies are permanent but little. It makes an impression that Poland is interested not in Ukrainian victory but in the prolongation of the conflict. If they wanted Ukraine to win, they would send much and much more.
That’s the main distinction between states. Hungary is always for the peaceful conflict settlement; meanwhile Poland seems to be interested in the armed conflict. This war shouldn’t be examined like a geopolitical conflict. Understand that it is a disaster against humanity: millions refugees, thousands killed and injured, wiped off villages and cities, devastated economic situation. And in this case the wish to end the war by peace negotiations will be reasonable. Until that, the war tends to be prolonged.
We know that Poland and Hungary have a lot in common historically, economically, and culturally. However, now their foreign policies have diverged. Despite that, fortunately, the countries promote friendship and partnership.
To sum up, the proper balance between pan-European agenda and traditional values distinguishes Hungarian foreign policy. The Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs certainly takes care of their citizens more than other countries, promoting its own policy which doesn’t violate peace and stability in the region. Hungary is being hardly criticized for that but its actions definitely make sense.