Hungary Continues to Call for Peace, Worries About Blocs

Ukraine Crisis

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Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has merely capped a series of events that led to a crisis in the Western-centric order during a speech at the Christmas dinner of the Széll Kálmán Foundation outlining Hungary’s strategy for the next decade.

As a consequence of the West’s diminishing influence, due to the rise ofprospective rival national models likeChina, Orbán said that Cold War-era blocs were reemerging.

“In such a setup, all economic, political and cultural transfers take place through the bloc’s leading states,” Orbán said.

Considering Hungary’s “particularly bad experience with blocs,” the prime minister concluded that Hungary’s primary task for the next decade must be to advance from being a medium-developed country to emerge as a regional middle power within Central Europe.

U.S. Ambassador to Hungary David Pressman also made a contrasting reference to the Cold War in his remarks at the 45th anniversary of the return of the Hungarian Holy Crown on January 6. The crown had been held by the United States following the end of World War II but was returned during the presidency of Jimmy Carter while Hungary was still under Communism in 1978.

During his speech, Pressman called Russian President Vladimir Putin “a holdover from a time that most of the world has tried to move beyond […] who can only lead through fear and intimidation.” While Putin believed the Ukrainians would again submit to that leadership style, Pressman declared that “the Ukrainians, much like the Hungarians decades earlier, had already made their decision.”

Peace is the Path

Meanwhile, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó has repeatedly emphasized that achieving peace in the conflict in Ukraine is in the interest of both Hungary and other partner nations. He recently announced that Hungary would finance the shipment of 10,000 tonnes of grain from Ukraine worth some USD 3.5 million to the Democratic Republic of Congo as part of efforts to solve the global food crisis.

Upon receiving his Congolese counterpart Christophe Lutundula Apala Pen’Apala in Budapest, the Hungarian foreign minister stressed that although there is a significant geographical distance between the two countries, global security threats affect both sides.

“Both countries have an interest in peace and an early end to the armed conflicts that are gripping the world, and we urge the necessary dialogue, ceasefires, and peace negotiations to achieve this,” Szijjártó said.

Szijjártó later echoed these statements following his meeting with his Serbian counterpart Ivica Dačić, saying that the prolongation of the armed conflict in Ukraine goes against the interests of both his country and Serbia and has a negative impact on their respective economies.

“We are both interested in bringing peace to Ukraine as soon as possible [.…], as the possible escalation of hostilities creates serious risks for bothcountries,” Szijjártó said.

This article was first published in the Budapest Business Journal print issue of January 13, 2023.

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