Hungarian foreign policy takes a proactive stance in foreign relations with a central focus on European integration, transatlantic cooperation and a constructive neighbourhood policy.
Hungary seeks to promote peace, security, stability, her citizens’ well-being, economic development and the realization of the values of democracy. Hungarian foreign policy takes as its starting point the common values of its European Union and NATO partners based upon the Charter of the United Nations: respect for humanity, freedom, democracy, equality, rule of law, and the immportance of human and minority rights.
The need to transform Hungarian foreign policy
Decisive domestic changes: the end of the Cold War saw rapid changes take place across Hungary. With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, Hungarian foreign policy was no longer under external strain. At the start of the 1990s Prime Minister József Antall’s government determined three foreign policy goals, to which every successive government has adhered.
- Hungarian Euro-Atlantic integration, namely accession to NATO and the European Union
- The maintenance of good relations with neighbouring countries, a precondition for achieving the goal of Euro-Atlantic integration
- The support of Hungarian minorities living beyond the border. This aim has a close connection with the success of Euro-Atlantic integration and creating good neighbourly relations.
These aims were realised either fully or partially in just under a decade and a half. In 1999, together with the Czech Republic and Poland, it was among the first newcomers to NATO, and from May 1, 2004 it became a member of the European Union. Over the past fifteen years the situation of Hungarian minority communities living beyond the border and their opportunities to realise their interests have improved and Hungary continues to lobby within bilateral and multilateral frameworks for the formation of agreements aimed towards minority protection.
The transformation of external conditions: while the world entered into an unparalleled period of transformation affecting almost all walks of life - offering hitherto unseen development possibilities for individual countries - new challenges also emerged. Among these is mutual dependence between states and regions as a result of the intensification of globalization. Serious security and economic consequences also accompanied these changes. This necessitated a recalibration of Hungarian priorities set during the period of intense change of our political system. The end of the Cold War presaged significant changes in the international situation which had both direct and indirect impacts on Hungary.
Main tenets of Hungary’s current foreign policy
Soon after EU accession, a new process was launched in 2006 calling forth the creation of a revitalized external relations strategy. The Hungarian government adopted a new overarching security framework in February 2008. Accordingly, Hungarian foreign policy has three main strategic aims:
- A competitive Hungary in the European Union
- A successful Hungary in the region
- A responsible Hungary in the world
Hungary’s active presence in the European Union
The European Union is the primary framework for Hungary’s foreign policy activities. Our political, economic, social-cultural connections stitch us together to other European states, both inside the enlarged EU and across Europe as a whole.
Strengthening integration: our development and global competitiveness is colinked with the internal development and global competetiveness of the European Union. An important element of integration is accession to the Schengen zone. On December 21, 2007, Hungary joined the Schengen zone together with eight other new EU member states. With this important step Hungary fulfilled one of its main priorities.
EU enlargement: our vision of a future Europe includes the full integration of the entire European continent. It is in our strategic interest that ever more European countries fulfil the political and economic criteria and become full legal members of the Union. It is particularly important to us for the reason of securing the advancement of the democratisation process of the Balkans and Eastern European region, as well as for stability. Advancing the integration of our neighbours (Serbia and Ukraine) is of special importance for Hungary.
Activity in the EU foreign relations: Hungary plays an active and initiating role in the European Union’s Common Foreign and Security Policy. We regard the most important priorities to be European integration of the Western Balkans, which we continue to assist with substantive diplomatic initiatives. In the framework of the European Union’s Security and Defence Policy, we contriobute significant contingents to EUFOR in Bosnia and Herzegovina and as well as KFOR in Kosovo. We also regard strengthening the eastern dimension of the European Neighbourhood policy as an important objective and we regard Ukraine and Moldova as special partners in doing so.
Hungary and its immediate environs - a successful Hungary in the region
Hungary seeks to foster a balanced political, economic and cultural relationship with its immediate neighbours, thereby contributing to the country’s modernisation and realising the well-being of the Hungarian community living beyond the border.
Hungary’s regional policy has two inter-dependent, mutually pre-conditional and supporting pillars – state policy and political, economic and cultural cooperation pursued with the region’s states.
Nation policy, minority policy
The European Union accession of much of Central Europe has provided a new framework in respect of our relations with the communities of Hungarians living beyond the border. Of the seven countries bordering our nation, five—Austria, Slovakia, Romania and Slovenia, and Croatia—are already integrated into Europe, while Serbia remains in negotiations to achieve full membership status. The reunification of the Hungarian nation in the European framework offers a historic possibility for the renewal of the essence of national solidarity.
Nation policy in a new framework: Central and Eastern Europe, in terms of its ethnic, national and religious viewpoints, is strongly diversified. Like the area’s other national minorities, the Hungarian nation also has a diverse geo-political configuration. Hungary strives to continue to win room for the acceptance of community rights for these minorities across Hungary and Europe. It also supports educational, and religous institutional systems, with special attention to sustaining the region’s cultural diversification. This includes the preservation of its many languages and supporting the autonomy of minorities.
Hungary also supports the notion of a Europe region with permeable political borders. Our important aspiration is that the expansion of the Schengen area should not be accompanied by the descent of a “new iron curtain." This aim also serves the interests of the Hungarian communities living beyond Europe’s borders.
Minority policy: Hungary considers the wellbeing of minorities inside Hungary to be extremely important and guarantees the sustainability of their identity and culture through a system of legal safeguards. The most prolific example of this guaruntee is found in the Hungarian Constitution and the 1993 LXXVII Act, guaranteeing the rights of national and ethnic minorities.
The 1993 LXXXVII Act defines a national or ethnic minority as, “any ethnic group with a history of at least one century of living in the Republic of Hungary, which represents a numerical minority among the citizens of the state, the members of which are Hungarian citizens, and are distinguished from the rest of the citizens by their own language, culture and traditions, and at the same time demonstrate a sense of belonging together that is aimed at the preservation of all these, and the expression and protection of the interests of their communities, which have been formed in the course of history.” (1§ paragraph 2). On the basis of the law, thirteen national groups - Bulgarian, Roma, Greek, Croatian, Polish, German, Armenian, Romanian, Ruthenian, Serb, Slovak, Slovenian, and Ukrainian - are defined as national groups native in Hungary . On the basis of the 2001 national census, 314 060 people declared themselves as belonging to a national or ethic minority.
Furthermore, the Constitution of the Republic of Hungary recognises national and ethnic minorities as stateforming communities and guarantees their right to collective participation in public life. These minorities enjoy the protection of the Republic of Hungary: they have the right to nurture their own culture, use their own language, and study in their own language. The Constitution also guarantees the representation of national and ethnic minority groups and the setting up of local and countrywide self-government bodies. There is also a parliamentary commissioner appointed for the effective interest protection of national and ethnic minority laws.
Hungarian bilateral and multilateral relations in the region
Regional co-operation forums: In the areas of economics, politics and culture, Hungarian foreign policy aspires towards cooperation in the region. Hungary’s central and eastern European policy relies on the pull factors of the regions of South Germany and North Italy, on EU and regional cooperation, as well as on similar bilateral and multilateral tendencies outside the EU framework. Currently, Hungary is a participant in the following important regional cooperation forums: the Visegrád Group (Czech Rep, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia), Regional Partnership (Austria, Czech Rep, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and Slovenia), the Central European Initiative (18 member counties covering the whole region from Italy to Belarus), and the Quadrilaterale (Croatia, Hungary, Italy, Slovenia). We also participate in various forms of specific issue-based multilateral cooperation; for example, the Budapest-based Danube Commission.
Western Balkans: we are a proactive, committed supporter of the Balkan countries’ Euro-Atlantic integration. These countries’ integration, the creation of economic stability, and the promotion of democratisation processes are in our primary security, economic and national policy interests. On the basis of the European Union’s Thessalonica Programme, Hungary extends active and tangible support supplemented by the Szeged Process. We also participate in the region’s peacekeeping operations. Currently there are almost 700 Hungarian soldiers serving in the Balkans in NATO and EUFOR missions. We are also significant participants in Balkan projects of economic reconstruction. More than fifty percent of Hungary’s foreign direct investments (3 billion euros) are directed at the Balkans; Hungary’s big investors are present in every Balkan countrie (National Savings Bank-OTP, Hungarian Oil Company-MOL, Hungarian Telecom and real estate developer, “TriGránit”).
Moldova and Ukraine: we consider cooperation with our eastern neighbours very important. In the case of Ukraine, the Nyíregyháza Initiative is the primary framework in which we strive to promote the country’s aspirations in the direction of Europe through. We place a large emphasis on co-operation with Moldova, too. In 2007, Hungary opened an EU Common Visa Application Centre at its Chisinau embassy, whose operation is exemplary.
Russia’s current and future role - Russian relations with Hungary seeks to primarily overcome sensitive issues and difficult periods of conflict from our common past. Russia is of key importance from the point of view of securing Hungary’s energy supply and it is in our primary interest that balanced, interest-based relations are maintained. At present we can count on the volume of economic-trade relations expanding at a fast pace. It is also important that Hungarian businesses expand their investment opportunities in Russia.
Regions of primary importance for Hungary
The United States has a privileged position in Hungary’s network of foreign economic and diplomatic relations. We continue to encourage U.S. and Canadian companies to invest in Hungary, promote scientific cooperation and widen social and person-to-person relations, in which a sizable and successful Hungarian community in North America plays a pivotal role.
President Bush’s visit to Hungary in 2006 strengthened the relationship of trust and the commemorations of the 50th anniversary of 1956 gave a new and positive boost to Hungarian-U.S. and Hungarian-Canadian relations. A visible result of all of was the draft memorandum on Hungarian citizens’ visa-free travel to the U.S.
Relations with Asia: the Asian continent has considerable weight in Hungarian foreign relations and diplomacy. We are developing enterprising, multi-faceted, economy-oriented foreign relations with Asia. Following the objectives set out in the Hungarian government’s program, we are in the process of strengthening cooperation with fast-developing Asian countries. One particular aim is to improve competitiveness to reach new markets for Hungarian companies and securing capital investments for modernizing and revitalising the economy. We aim to boost political ties in every country of the region whose system of values is on a par with those of the European Union and Hungary’s democratic norms. Together with our EU partners, we set out to enhance democracy and gain ground for human rights. In co-operation with the Asian region, high-level meetings are of utmost importance. Such meetings have been regular over the past two years with China, India, Republic of Korea and Singapore. In the framework of the Hungarian Season organised in China in 2007 and 2008, we had a chance to present economic and tourism-related opportunities.
On the African continent: the bulk of Hungarian foreign policy is directed at countries of the North African region. Our main aim is to deepen economic cooperation, to create a positive political atmosphere in which this co-operation takes root, involve the region in the diversification of energy as well as promoting Hungarian investments.Hungarian-African bilateral trade in 2006 exceeded one billion US dollars, a 40 percent increase compared to 2005. (Hungarian exports accounted for 95% of that amount). We have expanded our cooperation in tourism, education and culture. High-level meetings have contributed to enhanced economic co-operation. All our embassies in Africa operate as offices for commerce, too. In Sub-Saharan Africa, embassy-level relations are maintained with the Republic of South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya.
The Middle East and the Gulf region have affluent markets with huge excesses in capital in the closest proximity to Europe. Ongoing economic relations with these regions are steadily expanding and play an important role in maintaining Hungary’s trade balance, in addition to contributing to Hungarian energy needs in the long-term. In 2006 Hungary’s exports to the region totalled 1.4 billion U.S. dollars compared to imports of just below 50 million dollars. Annual exports to this region grew twice as fast as the rate of Hungary’s average total exports. Substantial Hungarian investments have been launched in the region, among them those brokered by Hungarian Oil Company, MOL.
Strengthening security and multilateral diplomacy with a broad outlook
The key to managing challenges - new or existing – lies in interpreting security holistically. This concept no longer simply implies military security; it includes political, social, human and minority rights, economic, technological and even environmental issues. The security of our country is indivisible from a feeling of security from our citizens.
Such threats and challenges as international terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, international organised crime, the spread of infectious diseases over borders, growing illegal migration, food safety, access to safe drinking water, man-made natural disasters, and climate change are all phenomena that affect the the of the global community. Solutions and action are difficult to administer without multilateral cooperation from the international commnity. For that reason Hungary’s primary interest and responsibility remains taking an active role in global cooperation initiatives.
NATO and our security: the best guarantee for Hungary’s security and external protection is NATO. Hungary participates in several NATO missions and Hungarian military nd civilian (e.g., UNPOL) units serve across the globe, thus contributing to the reification of global security and stability.
Hungary has pledged to permanently provide 1 000 men for foreign missions, including the provision of their logistics. The largest number of Hungarian troops take part in NATO missions, especially in the Balkans and Afghanistan. Hungary’s commitment to the goals of the alliance – creating security and stability worldwide – are evidenced by its own Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Afghanistan’s Baghlan province.
Our mission in the Balkans and particularly in Kosovo is even more important. Hungary as lead nation was one of the first to recognize Kosovo and has an active command role in KFO, the multinational combat battalion which operates in Western Kosovo. Our long-term commitment to proactivity in the North Atlantic Alliance is also highlighted by the decision to deploy the NATO Strategic Airlift Capability fleet at Pápa Airbase in Western Hungary.
Multilateral diplomacy and security: Hungary finds multilaterialism and the strengthening of multilateral forums and enforcing international laws the most effective form of diplomacy. The UN has a determining role and responsibility in maintaining international peace and security and in protecting human rights and basic freedoms and in dealing with global challenges. Hungary takes a proactive role in these UN activities, namely taking part in peace promotion operations launched by the UN or in programmes of UN-accredited institutions.
Hungary is not only an active participant of NATO and UN security operations, but also takes part in security-related cooperation within other frameworks. In addition, Hungary takes part within the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Hungary contributes to democratic changes in member states, as well as to the enforcement of human rights and basic freedoms.
Hungary’s successes in multilateral diplomacy: as a result of Hungaty's committment to and sucess using multilateral diplomacy, several international organisations have moved their regional or functional offices to Budapest: the European centre of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies; the administrative and service centre of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees; the FAO’s regional office for Europe and Central Asia; FAO’s Joint Service Centre and as of a recent decision and the European Union’s Institute for Innovation and Technology; As a result of hard lobbying, several Hungarian representatives have gained important international posts: Dr Mária Herczog was appointed member of the United Nation's Children's Rights Committee, Dr Imre Tarafás is vice-governor of the Council of Europe Development Bank, Miklós Haraszti is OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dr Judit Solymosi is President of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Experts on Issues relating to the Protection of National Minorities, Dr István Valkár is General Director of the Danube Commission’s Secretariat, while István Venczel is OSCE Project Co-ordinator in Uzbekistan.
Hungary and international development cooperation: Hungary and its office of international development support the aims of the international donor community in line with the UN’s Millennium Development Goals and the proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – the efforts towards meeting global challenges with primary focuses on alleviating poverty, supporting disadvantaged regions, reducing hunger, epidemics and infectious diseases, securing education, women’s equality and sustainable development. In cooperation with appropriate institutions of European Union and in line with EU norms, we have completed several projects in developing countries. We are concentrating our efforts on our immediate region – Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Moldova – due to our interests related to regional stability and development needs, and on Vietnam, because of our strong tradition of cooperation. Our goal is to help create democratic state structures based on the observance of human rights in all 16 partner states to reduce poverty by improving education and health care and modernising agricultural production. We have also been responsible for large, coordinated development projects in Afghanistan. These include modernising medical facilities and classrooms and strengthening economic production capacities.