"The Austro-Hungarian Monarchy had common Foreign-, Defense- and Finance Ministries. It is frustrating that European integration is not there yet 150 years later."
According to Péter Márki-Zay, Hungarian interests are better served by a stronger European Union, and the country should follow a common foreign policy with its western allies. The prime ministerial candidate would support EU sanctions against Russia and China if he formed Hungary's new government in 2022. As for joint European debt, he believes that the taxpayers of more economically prudent communities should not be punished for the irresponsibility of other nations. Interview series, part five.
Interviews with other candidates:
- Klára Dobrev: “I would make the EU and Hungary stronger on the global scene”
- András Fekete-Győr: “Huawei is such a large national security threat that is simply not offset by the low price of its 5G network”
- József Pálinkás: "Today, not a single EU member state can represent its interests alone"
- Péter Jakab: "The precondition of a common EU foreign policy is that each European citizen could identify themselves with it."
- Gergely Karácsony: "The first step should be the termination of the Paks contract."
The original responses in Hungarian can be found at the following links:
- Dobrev Klára: „Megerősíteném az EU és Magyarország világpolitikai súlyát”
- Fekete-Győr András: „A Huawei olyan nemzetbiztonsági kockázatot jelent, amit egyszerűen nem ellensúlyoz az általuk kiépített 5G-rendszer alacsony ára”
- Pálinkás József: „Ma egyetlen EU-tagállam sem elég erős ahhoz, hogy az érdekeit egyedül hatékonyan tudja képviselni”
- Jakab Péter: „A közös uniós külpolitika feltétele, hogy minden európai polgár ugyanolyan mértékben magáénak érezze”
- Márki-Zay Péter: „Az Osztrák-Magyar Monarchia már 1867-ben eljutott a közös külügy, hadügy, pénzügy koncepciójáig, elkeserítő, hogy 150 évvel később az európai integráció még nem tart itt"
- Karácsony Gergely: „Első lépésként a paksi szerződést kell felmondani”
Recent events have shown that the European Union (EU) often moved as a lame duck on the foreign policy scene, as unanimous decision-making in the field means a single member state’s rejection is enough to block an EU statement or policy decision. The European Parliament (EP) called for moving towards qualified majority voting in the field of foreign policy – at least in human rights cases – multiple times. Would your government support making EU foreign policy decisions with qualified majority voting?
Yes, it is outrageous that a politician like Viktor Orbán, who betrays the values of the Christian West, can veto the EU’s common statements on human and civil rights for the sake of his business partners, primarily Eastern dictatorships.
Is there actually a need for the Union to follow a united, strong foreign policy or is it preferable to allow all member states to choose their own strategies with minimal EU-level cooperation?
Yes, the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy implemented the concept of a common foreign-, defense-, and fiscal policy already in 1867. It is frustrating that European integration is not there yet 150 years later. The interests of the Hungarian nation are better served by a stronger European Union, whose values are shared by the overwhelming majority of Hungarians. Hungarians condemn welcoming the Russian spy bank and a Chinese university, getting indebted to pay for a Chinese railway and the Russian power plant, paroling the Azeri axe murderer or Russian weapon dealers, or welcoming migrant criminals in the Golden Visa Program.
Would your government support the EU strengthening, expanding sectoral economic sanctions against Russia? Why or why not?
If the decision-makers of the EU and our allies judged it necessary, yes, I would. It is unacceptable that Russia provokes military conflicts violating international agreements and its neighbors’ sovereignty, influence EU member states and US domestic politics with fake news propaganda campaigns, and assassinate its citizens who fought for their freedom within EU borders. Before 2009, Viktor Orbán courageously stood up to Russian aggression in Georgia and considered commerce with Putin based on classified agreements as treason. Thus, we are right to require him to act in accordance with his previous declarations even today.
Do you believe that Hungary should expel Russian diplomats to offer its solidarity to Czechia because of the explosion in Vrbetice? If not expelling diplomats, what would be the right “answer”?
Hungary has to show solidarity to its allies in the EU in the first place and not to international crime associations, terrorists, or corrupt dictators. A unified and proportionate response to terrorist attacks committed on EU soil should be given on the EU level.
Would your government stop the construction of the two new nuclear blocks in Paks? How would you replace the energy production of these blocks?
Given the classified nature of agreements, it seems reasonable to suspend the construction and revise the contracts. It is unacceptable that Viktor Orbán contracted Rosatom without an open tender, making our country indebted for decades under a debt agreement less favorable than market conditions would have permitted and a construction contract that favors almost exclusively foreign enterprises. It is not an accident that nuclear plan projects are being halted in Europe; green energy enables more economical energy production, while the rates of return of nuclear plants look pretty bad. A new nuclear plant can produce energy at a higher price than current international electricity prices; thus, both renewables and imports are economical alternatives to nuclear energy.
What are the solutions for Hungary’s heavy dependence on Russian energy?
First, with the help of energy-saving, the real overhead reduction: building insulation, passive houses, heat pumps, intelligent systems, energy-saving solutions. Second, by further increasing renewable energy production, solar energy plants, and household mini-plants. Third, by diversifying the sources of import energy. We would need connections to Croatian and Polish LNG terminals, build new electricity interconnectors, while fossil fuel usage will reduce by the growth of electric vehicles and towing. Finally, it is worthwhile to rely on joint EU energy purchases than on bilateral agreements.
Would your government support EU sanctions against further Chinese officials for their role in human rights abuses against the Uyghurs or anti-democratic actions in Hong Kong? Why or why not?
Yes. Hungary has to follow a common foreign policy with its European and Transatlantic allies. It is not acceptable if China ignores climate protection, human and ethnic minority rights, international agreements. China should implement policies that comply with rules and respect all the other nations of the world.
Do you believe that Chinese companies, like Huawei, should be banned from the development of Hungary’s 5G network even if it would raise construction costs?
If Western concerns are justified about Chinese technological espionage that allegedly hands over our citizens’ and enterprises' data and business secrets to unauthorized people, they should be banned from the tender and the cheapest bid should be selected afterwards.
Would your government put an end to the renovation of the Budapest-Belgrade railway and the construction of the Fudan University campus in Budapest? What would you spend the money allocated to these projects on?
Yes. It is unacceptable for Hungary to become indebted for generations to serve Chinese interests via unfavorable Chinese loans and corrupt purchases. A high-speed train would be a good idea on the Subotica – Szeged – Budapest line. Instead of the Chinese communist university, the money should be spent on developing Hungarian higher education.
China and the EU agreed on an investment agreement in December 2020, which could help European companies on the Chinese market. This needs to be ratified by the EP, but it has not done so due to Chinese counter-sanctions against some MEPs and human rights concerns. Do you believe that the ratification of this treaty is in Hungary’s interest? Do you think that the human rights situation needs to be taken into account when developing the EU’s relationship with China? If yes, can you explain how?
In this question, we also have to show solidarity with the common European position because it is in the interest of every European and every Hungarian that China respects human and minority rights, environmental regulations, and intellectual property rights.
Do you believe that disinformation – especially the manipulative rhetoric spread by Moscow and Beijing – constitutes a national security threat? What steps would your government take on the national and EU level to fight disinformation?
Hungary, like Finland, should prepare its citizens for the fight against fake news. We should read daily news critically and evaluate the information received, keep people informed and enlightened against hate-mongering propaganda.
Fourteen EU member states are proposing to create a 5000-man-strong, well-equipped quick response military force. Hungary, based on media information, is not among the fourteen. Would you support creating such a force and potentially deploying it even to conflict zones? Do you believe that the deployment should take place after a unanimous agreement or would qualified majority voting be enough?
As a NATO member state, Hungary agreed to spend 2% of its GDP on defense policy and support common international decisions. In the EU’s case, the consensual requirement makes it easy for Eastern dictators to meddle with EU decision-making. It is enough for them to blackmail or buy a corrupt EU premier – that is why we need a majority requirement instead of consensual decision-making.
It was revealed recently that Hungary is not planning to withdraw the HUF 3300 billion allocated to it in preferential loans in the frames of the Recovery and Resilience Facility, although it could access it any time until 2023. Would your government take these loans? If yes, would you use the entire credit line? What would you spend these resources on?
It would be helpful to draw the loans with favorable interest rates or interest-free aids for short-term return investments and developments but not for pointless projects. We would spend these resources on energy-saving, renewable energy production, the expansion of industrial parks, modernization of health care, a digital and interactive education instead of a print-based textbook monopoly, electronic and more automatized governmental administration, and cutting red tape.
The EU took loans for the first time with joint member state responsibility for the debt. Some are on the opinion that this should become more than a one-time scheme, which is supported – for instance – by the Greek and Spanish prime ministers. Northern member states and Germany reject this idea. Which side should Hungary be on in this debate?
Prudent fiscal policy should be the basis of every governmental activity, and according to the principle of subsidiarity, every level should be responsible for its own debts. In the case of joint EU projects, developments should be financed by the EU. In the case of national investments, member states should be responsible. In the case of local projects, it should be the local self-government that assumes responsibility. The common currency and standard monetary policy require an extraordinarily prudent fiscal policy. No taxpayer of an economically prudently member states should be punished for the irresponsibility of another one.
Which policy areas are the ones where you believe closer EU integration is necessary and what are those where member stated should hold the competencies?
Based on the example of well-functioning federal states of the world (e. g., Canada, USA), we need closer integration on law enforcement, border protection, anti-terrorism; and the creation of a European FBI should be a priority. The example of Viktor Orbán warns us that in the absence of an effective EU response, a corrupt dictator can suppress free media, independent justice, and effective law enforcement. In addition, it can hinder the access to and application of international scientific knowledge about health care, pandemic protection, IT, education, transport management, environmental protection, etc.
Although centralization on the EU level would offer many advantages for Hungary, the community of nations should be built on the principle of subsidiarity just like local governments: the problems should be addressed on the level where they emerge and, taking effectivity into account, as much autonomy should be left for local communities as possible.
Our interview with Péter Márki-Zay is the fifth in the series. We sent our questions to all prime ministerial candidates partaking in the opposition primaries to know more about their foreign policy views, especially in the European dimension. We are publishing the answers in the order of receiving them after minimal editing.
This is the English translation of the original, Hungarian-language interview.
Political Capital and its partners from Bulgaria, Czechia, Poland, Austria, Slovakia and Romania are researching value-based foreign policy preferences and the prevalence of authoritarian influence in the EU institutional system with the support of National Endowment for Democracy.