Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó popped into Washington last week to take part in an event entitled “Simultaneous Challenges in Europe and a New Era in Hungarian-American Relations – the Priorities of the Hungarian Visegrad Presidency“. The event was hosted and organized by conservative think-tank, the Heritage Foundation.
“You know, in my country we have a very small government. We have only 11 ministers,” Szijjártó remarked at the beginning of his speech, before segueing into an explanation of his dual role as the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
“The name of my ministry is the Ministry of External Economic Relations and Foreign Affairs, which, and sequencing counts, which shows that our foreign policy is an economy-driven foreign policy. It’s a pretty new phenomenon that’s very rare, globally as well, that foreign affairs is being combined with investment promotion, with financing, Eximbank, and with the trade development network. You know, this has been shaped on the basis of rationality,” Szijjártó said.
“In order to be able to be successful on foreign policy, number one we have to be realistic. And having the size and the capacity of our country, if I put it politically correct, I would say no one expects us to resolve the major crises around the world. If I put it more rational, I would say no one cares what we say about the big crises all over the world,” Szijjártó continued.
According to Szijjártó, this fact prompted him to “give another function to foreign policy than purely the existence of our foreign policy, so we put economy in the strategy.”
“We use our foreign policy not as a goal, but as an instrument — an instrument to realize and verify our national economic interests,” he said. “Our diplomats and ambassadors are being measured on the basis of the opportunities of export markets and on the new investments brought into the country from that given relation where they serve. So it’s a pretty new approach.”
On Hungary’s relationship with Russia
Szijjártó acknowledged that “it’s always exciting here in DC to elaborate on the relationship between…Hungary and Russia and how we, you know, how we are friendly to Russia and all this kind of stuff.
“You know, there I would like to argue in favor of a rational debate again. I can speak to you from an angle or perspective of a small Central European country. Okay? So, we are not an ocean far away of the Russia – unfortunately, an ocean far away from the US – but we are definitely not an ocean away from the Russia. We don’t have nuclear weapons. We are a small country, small economy. Our pure Hungarian interest is to have a much better, much more balanced relationship between Russia and the United States than currently. Why? Because we have a very simple understanding of history. Because history teaches that whenever there was a conflict between East and West, Central Europe lost. No matter when it happened. No matter of the formation of the countries which were in conflict. No matter of the alliances that were put together. We always lost. And I think it’s not too much to ask not to be a loser again and not be a loser anymore. So, when I say that we are really crossing fingers for your President to be able to build a better relationship than currently, then we don’t say this because we are pro-Russian. We don’t say because pro-American (sic). We are simply pro-Hungarian,” the minister said.
Szijjártó went on to talk about Gazprom’s great successes in Europe in recent years, and complained about the “double standard” being employed against Hungary for its close political ties with Russia when Western European companies are allowed to do business with Russia.
Fidesz and Jobbik have nothing in common on migration policy: D
Former US Ambassador to Hungary Nancy Brinker (2001-2003) was also in attendance at the Heritage Foundation event. She asked Szijjártó to explain the role of Jobbik in understanding Hungary’s response to the “migration issue”.
“I think it’s very obvious that the best way to avoid more support to the far-right parties is to have strong center-right parties, strong straightforward, honest center-right parties, which are able to speak the language of the people and which are able to address challenges as they are, not to describe them but to speak about them directly,” he said.
Szijjártó then said that Jobbik and Fidesz have “no common point on migration”, which, as anyone who follows the politics of Hungary actually knows, is utter hogwash.
The US spy case
Another guest asked Szijjártó to explain the situation regarding two civilian businessmen on trial for spying against Hungary on behalf of the US. Szijjártó dodged the question and declined to go into detail about his own relationship with one of the defendants, but did say the two men would receive a fair trial because the rule of law exists in Hungary.
The full video of Szijjártó’s address to Heritage can be seen below: