PM Orban: Hungary Lays Claim to Independent Foreign Policy

Hungary's independent foreign policy must be accepted by larger countries, Viktor Orban said in his speech that concluded the conference marking the 50th anniversary of the Hungarian Institute for International Affairs.

2023. 12. 05. 16:48
MKI 50 Konferencia Orbán Viktor
MKI 50 Konferencia Orbán Viktor. (Fotó: Havran Zoltán) Fotó: Havran Zoltán
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In the future, the Hungarian Institute for International Affairs (MKI), will help the prime minister in his work through the PM's political director and the Prime Minister's Cabinet Office, as Viktor Orban noted in his address concluding the event marking the 50th anniversary of MKI's foundation.

The MKI will provide useful background knowledge to support the government's decisions, PM Orban said. This change marks a return to traditions, he said, because whenever Hungary pursued a sovereign and independent foreign policy centered round the prime minister, foreign policy guidelines were set by the prime minister and the foreign affairs minister implemented them.

With this arrangement, we are returning to traditions, which is usually a sensible move, and for a country with such a long history, it means that traditions are useful and not something that evolved accidentally,

Viktor Orban said.

"Hungary is sentenced by history to setting more ambitious goals for itself than what would otherwise follow from it size or economic strength. Therefore, the country cannot afford to let go of opportunities in foreign policy, but has to have a tight hold on the reins of foreign policy," Hungary's prime minister explained. 

He highlighted that 

one can never be clever enough alone.

And this statement is the most obvious in foreign policy.

MKI 50 Konferencia Orbán Viktor
Photo: Zoltan Havran

There are some countries that can be easy-going partners in the world and can achieve things, receiving constant agreement. These are usually countries in great power status with a size that has a deterrent power, and if that power exists, they are able to command respect.

We Hungarians are not a great power; nevertheless we lay claim to an independent foreign policy, and expect others – including countries bigger than us – to accept this claim of ours,

Hungary's premier emphasized.

"Our relative advantage is low.  A country of the ambition and size of Hungary must maintain a stance of strength. It must not run scared in a tough situation but rather square up to the conflict. This can also lead to a relative advantage and we can do it. Hungary is only a country of ten million, it is nonetheless able to pursue an independent foreign policy, Viktor Orban stressed. 

He insisted that a country with no relative advantages that wants to pursue an independent foreign policy must take a radical position. Such countries, he said, should have specific long-term goals and a broad vision.

"'Let us dare to be small' ... the previous government proclaimed with the view that some scraps will be thrown to us from the generosity of the big guys... If we take this stance, then something is certain to trickle down, but ultimately others will be deciding on the issues that are important to us over our heads," the prime minister said, emphasizing that

Hungary does not want to be another follower of some other power, but wants to be its own master.

To be successful, you have to adopt a radical stance tactically, as this is how you can yield somewhat during a negotiation.

Radical in Hungarian perhaps means something different than in most Western languages, it means to take a fundamentally different position that captures the essence. "Hungarians are elated when they find and are able to call a thing for what it is, by its name," he said and stressed:

"Hungarian radicalism is a phenomenon of a mental nature."

We Hungarians are not arguing about the mechanism in which migrants should be distributed and integrated, these are irrlevant questions in and of themselves.

The actual question is whether migration is a good thing at all.

The Hungarian premier explained that although many do not dare say aloud what we Hungarians say, many are interested and listen to what we are saying. Perhaps they don't want the derision that we receive after the voicing of some Hungarian positions, but according to PM Orban, Hungary's "soft power" lies in our ability to form alliances on various issues thanks to our open and straightforward talk. This has now become our signature mark.

Many say that this radical view of the essence leads to isolation, however, for centuries Hungary's foreign policy has not been as extensive as it is now, he noted. "Intensive Western relations and a booming opening to the East and South, this is not isolation," he emphasized, and added that Hungarian foreign policy is based on national interests. The PM noted that personally neither value- nor interest-based foreign policy inspires him. In his view national interest-based foreign policy combines the best parts of both approaches to foreign policy.

National interest-based foreign policy amalgamates the best of realism and idealism,

he said.

The word national is an essential word, it refers to the idealist, and interest to the realist approach, and this requires a specific way of thinking. A national, interest-based foreign policy can never be dogmatic, nor can it become so, explained the prime minister and highlighted:

The most important task is to recognize and grasp what the national interest is in every situation and to act based on it. 

Cover photo: Viktor Orban speaking at the conference commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Hungarian Institute for International Affairs (Photo: Zoltan Havran) 

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