Hungary is facing a value-oriented change

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

With the new conservative government, a value-oriented change is happening in Hungary, writes András István Türke, director of the Europa Varietas Institute, in a May study. With the country about to adopt a national law on dual citizenship, Türke warns that special attention should be paid to how to communicate this change to the international community.

This analysis was first published by EURACTIV Hungary.

''Usually, right-wing governments are supposed to be loyal representatives of the Hungarian minority beyond the borders of Hungary. The new government, respecting the result of the referendum on dual nationality in 2006 and despite its own misgivings about the institutional structure of the proposed dual nationality at the time, is offering dual citizenship to Hungarian minorities,'' wrote Türke just before a debate on dual nationality opened in the Hungarian Parliament.

Türke, a doctor of Sorbonne, predicts radical, value-oriented change, justified by the law on dual citizenship – adopted on 26 May – and by reactions in neighbouring Slovakia.

The international relations expert thinks that the foreign policy pursued by the new governing party, Fidesz-KDNP, may result in an alliance between Romania and Hungary as the new state secretary of foreign affairs, Zsolt Nemeth, has been ''seeking to strengthen relations with [Romanian] President Traian Basescu for years''.

Türke believes that the territory of Szekler (Székelyföld) has a good chance of gaining political autonomy as a consequence of the foreign policy of Fidesz. Nearly 700,000 ethnic Hungarians live in this part of Romania, which houses more than the half of the Hungarians living in the country.

Türke also believes that despite a souring in relations due to the debate on dual nationality and a law on the state language, Slovakia and Hungary will continue with their economic cooperation as it involves national interests for both parties – especially in their cooperation on gas pipelines. "It seems that the actions of the Slovak government against the Hungarian minority in Slovakia do not disrupt cooperation with Hungary in economic issues," stated Türke.

A friendly neighbourhood: Regional friendship

A new dual approach towards the region could emerge with Fidesz, Türke believes. While Slovakia cannot be a key political partner for Hungary – because of the problems between the two countries – the regional framework, especially Visegrad, will play an important role in the country's foreign policy.

''Believe it or not, besides bilateral cooperation, the new government is to follow its main foreign policy objective within the regional framework. Amongst their priorities, the government has a detailed vision of Central European politics with a strong Hungarian-Polish alliance,'' the expert claims.

Türke also cites incoming Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi, who sees the changeover in the EU Presidency from Hungary to Poland in 2011 as ''a remarkable, historic opportunity''. To fulfil the opportunity, it is vital that the two member states agree on common interests, such as ''establishing a common EU energy policy, the successful development of partnerships with Eastern countries and maintaining cultural diversity and language in the region''.

''Meanwhile, [the policy] could benefit from the support of Austria or Bavaria as well,'' commented the expert, ''although the intensity of this new regional policy depends on specific issues''. Nevertheless, different forms of cooperation must be realised in relation to the Visegrad group [Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia] and the Danube Strategy.

The East and South East

Enhancing regional cooperation is central to the EU's cohesion and neighbourhood policies. Regarding the Eastern Partnership, Warsaw began to compete with Budapest as it began to consider the initiative as its own. According to Türke, the main objective of the conservative Hungarian government is the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) in the East – which includes cooperation with Ukraine and Moldova – in order to separate Hungary's situation from the issues in Southern Europe.

An important issue is whether Poland will allow Hungary to take action in the Eastern area, as Warsaw already holds a position of dominance and treats the Eastern Partnership as its own initiative, where it has the privilege to act.

As Hungary's foreign policy strategy will change in the future, Türke added that stabilisation of the Western Balkan region undoubtedly remains a primary objective.

According to Fidesz-KDNP, ''in the next 10-20 years, that is to say in a foreseeable period of history, the Western Balkans will become the most important region of integration in the EU and Hungary will be trusted with the task of developing a new modality of accession for these states.''

Türke believes that there will be little change in transatlantic relations, but that there will be an ''opening'' in relations with Russia.

He believes a change in style should also be expected. Fidesz noted that ''if we want stable cooperation, it also means that we have to share mutual objectives and indicate the limits [which cannot be crossed]''.

''We must eliminate ambiguous mediators from the Hungarian-Russian trade partnership, exclude uncertain and obscure mechanisms such as prohibiting [the use of] odd foreign bank accounts and cease those inexplicable cases which excite public opinion,'' Türke quotes the foreign minister as saying.

Fidesz has not yet voiced its opinion on the Nabucco versus South Stream gas pipeline 'debate', which could very much influence relations between Hungary and Russia. But Türke believes that Fidesz will support the diversification of resources rather than the diversification of supply routes.

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