The major powers should have an interest in Hungary’s success
14. 02. 2019.
In an interview published in the Thursday issue of the weekly Figyelő – which was primarily concerned with foreign policy issues – Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said that it is Hungary’s goal to incentivise the world’s major economic powers to have an interest in Hungary’s economic success. The interview was conducted with the Prime Minister after US secretary of state Mike Pompeo’s visit to Budapest.

Asked why Mr. Pompeo should see the present time as appropriate for a visit to Hungary, bearing in mind the fact that no US secretary of state had visited Hungary in the previous seven and a half years, Mr. Orbán said: “Because we are allies”. According to the Prime Minister, while the Obama administration’s outlook significantly downgraded the importance of the entire Central European region, since President Trump’s arrival in the White House the region has once again become important for the United States.

Mr. Orbán also stressed that if one looks for opportunities for cooperation beyond NATO, “we must always bear in mind that for US foreign policy Central Europe presents no permanent political element.”

The Prime Minister said that he conducted political talks with Mr. Pompeo, while his ministers had discussions with the US secretary of state on detailed policy issues. Regarding the latter, he said that they had settled the terms of an agreement with the United States which will replace one concluded in the 1990s. This agreement lays down rules for the movement of US troops within Hungary and in an outward direction.

He said that “We have resolved militarily important technical issues while ensuring that Hungarian sovereignty remains intact,” and noted that ratification of the agreement will not require amendment of the Fundamental Law. He observed that he has personal experience of the significance of such an agreement, as – citing its right to sovereignty – in 1999 Hungary rejected a US request to open a front on Hungary’s southern border with Serbia, thereby backing up NATO’s land operations against that country.

“With regard to any military operation launched from its territory, Hungary must be and must remain a sovereign state,” the Prime Minister stressed.

Giving reasons for another agreement concluded with the United States on a medium-range air defence system, Mr. Orbán said that every country needs to be able to defend the strategic points within its territory, and to be able to repel airborne military threats. The Prime Minister said that in this area Hungary’s capability needs updating. He added that they have not yet reached the stage of discussing specific arms procurements, but it has now been agreed that Hungary needs such a medium-range air defence system.

He stressed that the procurement of this element fits into the multiannual process of developing Hungary’s military capabilities – which will result in the country having significant military capabilities, enabling it to independently defend itself against attack from any direction.

“I am one of those who believe that NATO is important, but I don’t believe that Hungary’s military security can be solely based on NATO. We must be able to repel attack on our own,” he said.

Regarding Russia’s reaction to this, the Prime Minister said that Russian-Hungarian relations are important, but Hungary’s military security comes first. He said that the two pillars of a good Russia policy are Europe’s ability to guarantee its own security without US assistance, and the maintenance of active economic relations with Russia.

Speaking about energy security, the Prime Minister mentioned the importance of the Russian-German gas pipeline and the construction of the Black Sea pipeline. With regard to the LNG terminal in Croatia, in which US liquefied natural gas would be stored, he said that “We are Hungarians, not suckers”: although Hungary is happy to cooperate, it will not buy energy well above the market price from anyone – regardless of any line of reasoning or pressure. According to the Prime Minister, it is therefore good news that the gas pipeline leading from Italy to Hungary via Slovenia is now finally on the list of priority EU projects. “We will build that too, and so we will have access to the Italian LNG terminal,” he added.

He highlighted that security of energy supply and reductions in household utility charges are stable features in Hungary’s energy policy, and they will not be changed.

On the subject of opening towards China, Mr. Orbán said that Hungary accounts for 1.2 per cent of EU-China trade, and therefore he rejects foreign policy analyses which claim that the US Secretary of State sees Hungarian-Chinese relations as an important issue.

The Prime Minister stated that “Hungary’s goal is to incentivise the world’s major economic powers to have an interest in Hungary’s economic success, and therefore we also continue to expect investors from China.”

According to the Thursday edition of the daily Magyar Nemzet, at a Fidesz-KDNP parliamentary group meeting Mr. Orbán said that Hungarian-US relations are heading in the right direction, and for the Government it is important that the Trump administration remains in office.