Academic journal article The Polish Quarterly of International Affairs

"Make Hungary Great Again:" Do Hungarians Need the Three Seas Initiative?

Academic journal article The Polish Quarterly of International Affairs

"Make Hungary Great Again:" Do Hungarians Need the Three Seas Initiative?

Article excerpt

It is 11 December 2009. At Collegium Iuridicum Secundum, Warsaw University Library, Viktor Orbán, the leader of Hungarian opposition party Fidesz, is promoting his book The Nation Is One. For three years, Fidesz has led in pre-election polls and now, five months before the election, it can be confident of coming to power after eight years of rule by the Social-democratic-Liberal coalition MSZP-SZDSZ.1 As part of the book launch, Orbán makes a speech which he calls "Does Patriotism Make Sense in a United Europe?"

Orbán voices his reflections on the strengthening of cooperation within the Visegrad Group, a project which in Poland, the natural leader of this initiative, is at this time receiving neglectful treatment, to say the least. He speaks of visions of the search for stronger cooperation in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), quoting his conversation with resident Nicolas Sarkozy of France, who reportedly asked Orbán why the CEE countries were not tightening their cooperation by investing in the modernisation of roads, the construction of north-south connections, and joint projects in the energy sector. Such undertakings would have strengthened the competitiveness of the region, which consists of more than the Visegrad Group alone.

As expected, Orbán won the election. In the first two years of the government formed by the Fidesz-KNDP2 coalition (2010-2011), Hungary's foreign policy was oriented toward Western Europe and the United States. From 2010 to 2014, this policy was implemented by János Martonyi, who had also been minister of foreign affairs in the first Fidesz-MDF-FkgP3 government in 1998-2002. In 2014, after Fidesz's second consecutive victory, the markedly more pro-Russian Péter Szijjártó was appointed foreign minister.

Changes proposed in 2010 following the Fidesz victory extended to systemic issues, made possible by the party's constitutional majority. Yet the scope and pace of these changes encountered ever stronger opposition from the EU institutions, including the European Commission and the European Parliament (which go in Hungary under the name of "Brussels bureaucrats"4). Doubts were voiced concerning Hungary's new constitution, the law limiting the autonomy of the National Bank of Hungary, changes in the judiciary (including to the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Tribunal), the new media law, and so on. Another factor determining the re-orientation of foreign policy was the adoption by the European Parliament, in July 2013, of the "Tavares Report" on the threat to the rule of law in Hungary. It was then that the foundations of the present-day EU-related rhetoric were laid down.

To better understand the changes underway in Hungary, two caveats need to be made. The first is connected with the Programme of National Cooperation (Nemzeti Együttműködési Programja),5 a legal document in the form of a new social accord to which the government issued an [implementing] regulation.6 The ruling majority insisted that this "accord" legitimised the changes brought in by the Fidesz-KDNP coalition. The Programme of National Cooperation states, among other things, that by voting as they did the Hungarians opted to build a new political system. What is more, it has been treated as having originated from the nation in its sovereign capacity and, as such, validating any reform. The second caveat concerns the title of this essay. "Make Hungary Great Again" is taken from a translation into English of a part of the Hungarian Basic Law reading: "... We believe that our children and grandchildren will, by their talent, perseverance and strength of spirit, will make Hungary great again ..."7 Taken on its own, the title becomes a paraphrase of U.S. President Donald Trump's electoral campaign slogan; when, set in the broader context of the political situation in Hungary, it shows pointedly how the manner in which Hungary identifies itself on the international scene has changed. A nostalgia for the former "Great Hungary," construed as the Kingdom of Hungary at the pinnacle of its glory at the turn of the nineteenth century, is translated into concrete political decisions. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.