Hungarian foreign policy is based on national interest, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said on Monday at a conference in Budapest to mark the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Hungarian Institute of International Affairs (HIIA).
In his speech, the prime minister pointed out that countries with the status of great powers, with sufficient military and economic strength, can earn respect without having to make it clear to their partners. “We Hungarians are not a great power, but we still have a claim to an independent foreign policy, and we expect others, including those bigger than us, to accept this claim,” he said. He added that this is a difficult task, because “our relative strength is low,” but at the same time a country of this ambition and size has no choice but to rely on its own strength and its firm stance.
Viktor Orbán stressed that
Hungary’s most successful political product in international waters is precisely the fact that although it is a country of only ten million people, it is still capable of pursuing an independent foreign policy.”
He also pointed out that whenever Hungary has been able to pursue a sovereign and independent foreign policy in its history, it has always been a foreign policy centered on the prime minister. In his opinion, countries that are destined by history to set themselves more ambitious goals than their size or economic strength would allow must hold the “reins of foreign policy.”
Among the cornerstones of an independent and pro-active foreign policy, Orbán said that if a country with no relative advantages wants to have an independent foreign policy, it must take a radical stance. Therefore, it must have a grand vision, long-term but ambitious and concrete goals, plans and strategies for becoming a strong country that is respected by others, he argued.
As an example, he pointed out that the Hungarian government does not argue about the mechanism for the distribution and integration of migrants, because these are technical, not substantive issues.
The substantive issue is whether migration is a good thing, while the debates in the West never go that far, he explained. He said that despite all the rumors, the Hungarian foreign policy practice of “asking the questions in a substantive way” does not damage Hungary’s prestige, but rather raises it. The fact that other countries do not talk in this way does not mean that they are not concerned about these issues, the prime minister noted. There is a widespread belief that radical essentialism leads to isolation rather than prestige, but this idea is not matched by experience, he pointed out, adding that in a century, Hungarian foreign policy has never been as active and as wide-ranging as it has been in recent years.
Prime Minister Orbán stressed that
a foreign policy based on national interest combines the best elements of idealism and realism.
“The word ‘national’ in this context refers to the idealistic element, since a nation is first and foremost an ideal. The word ‘interest’ is itself realism, the collective noun for what is necessary, useful, and practical,” he explained. In his opinion, the most important task of a foreign policy based on national interest is to define what the national interest is in every situation and to act accordingly. “Such a foreign policy has intellectual content, it contains principles and values, but it also requires constant flexibility and adaptability.”
Via MTI, Featured image: MTI/Miniszterelnöki Sajtóiroda/Fischer Zoltán