Jul 03, 2018 - Zoltán Kovács

A new chapter in Hungary-US political relations

Late last week, US Ambassador David Cornstein presented his credentials to President János Áder in Budapest. We’re delighted to have a new ambassador from the US, and Mr. Cornstein’s arrival comes at a time when relations between Hungary and the US seem to be entering a new era.

The sense of change was clearly in the air during Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó’s visit to Washington at the end of May and his meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Hungarian-American relations rest on three pillars, said Minister Szijjártó, and next to our economic and military cooperation – both of which have always “operated impeccably” – we now see the possibility to begin “a new chapter in Hungarian-American political relations.”

Addressing the US Senate’s Foreign Affairs Committee at his confirmation hearing in May, Ambassador Cornstein said his main goal will be to contribute to the strengthening of Hungary-US relations. He intends, he said, to work closely with the Hungarian government in discussing common security concerns, adding that Hungary’s economy is performing “extremely well” under Prime Minister Orbán’s leadership. 

Concerning those three pillars that FM Szijjártó highlighted, the pillar of economic cooperation remains strong and is even growing. The United States is the second biggest investor in Hungary – some 1,700 American enterprises employ more than 100,000 Hungarians.

The NATO pillar also stands strong. Hungary has proven to be a committed ally in the fight against terrorism and a member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. That’s not only in words but also in deeds as some 1,000 Hungarian soldiers fight shoulder-to-shoulder with American and other NATO troops. President Donald Trump has called on NATO allies to step up defense spending, and Hungary has made a firm commitment to do so. Under the Zrinyi 2026 program, Hungary is pursuing one of its biggest military development efforts ever. The program will raise Hungary’s military spending over the NATO guideline that calls for two percent of GDP, and by doing so, we will join a club of only six other NATO member states that cross that threshold. 

We have plenty of other reasons to be upbeat. We now have a number of direct flights between the two countries, linking Budapest’s Ferenc Liszt International Airport to New York, Philadelphia and Chicago. We have announcements of US investments in exciting industries like self-driving cars and the engagement of major US companies like GE and ExxonMobil in Hungary’s energy sector.

Regarding the third pillar, the political and diplomatic relationship, it’s fair to say that we’ve gone through some challenging times over the past few years, but things are clearly moving in a positive direction. “In comparison to previous years, now is the best opportunity for our political relations to grow up to the level of our economic and defense relations,” said Minister Szijjártó, who welcomed the appointment of Wess Mitchell as the United States’ Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs.

We’re keen to see all three of those pillars strong again. We welcome Ambassador David Cornstein to Budapest and we welcome the opportunity to begin a new chapter in Hungarian-American relations. And to our American friends, congratulations on the 242nd anniversary of the independence of the United States of America. Happy Fourth of July!