May 21, 2019 - Zoltán Kovács

Postcard from Washington: “It was a good day for Hungary”

Despite the concerted efforts to derail it.

After thirteen years, the prime minister of Hungary was received last Monday in the Oval Office in Washington by the president of the United States. As Prime Minister Orbán said in a video posted to his Facebook page following the meeting, “It was a good day for Hungary.”

“President Trump knew everything he had to know about Hungary and his goal was to forge a good cooperation between Hungary and the United States,” said the prime minister. This president, he added, “has a different mindset, resulting in a more ambitious and bolder leadership.” President Trump knows precisely, said PM Orbán in the Friday radio interview, “that 1,700 American companies are operating in Hungary, knows the Hungarian-American foreign trade numbers, the Hungarian economic model, and of course what he knows best is that Hungarians put a stop to migration coming by land.”

“It was a meeting with an excellent atmosphere, based on mutual respect,” said the PM.

“Hungarians regard the United States as a strategic ally,” FM Péter Szijjártó said prior to the meeting. That strategic relationship means that the two sides talked about energy security and the need to push forward with Black Sea gas extraction as soon as possible; defense and security cooperation, including Hungary’s interest in acquiring mid-range, anti-aircraft weapons; Hungary’s commitment to and participation in NATO missions; and, of course, the prime minister said, “how we could cooperate in the fight against migration at international forums in the future”.

The invitation to Prime Minister Orbán followed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s tour through the region in February, which put an end to the era when the US, as he said, had been “prone to forgetting about Central Europe and abandoned this region.” Former US Ambassador to Hungary April Foley put it more bluntly when she wrote recently that the meeting marks “the end of a decade-long period of high-level diplomatic isolation of Hungary”.

It wasn’t easy. Our politically motivated critics and detractors were working overtime to derail the meeting and undermine the positive outcomes. It was clearly a concerted effort.

Over the last couple of weeks leading up to the meeting and just after it, we witnessed a remarkable amount of attention from the liberal mainstream media, including The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Atlantic, Foreign Policy, the Financial Times, and even The Wall Street Journal, among others. The establishment machinery went into overdrive to obstruct the meeting, pushing claims, for example, that Prime Minister Orbán doesn’t belong in the White House or that the PM is “liquidating the intelligentsia” like “Pol Pot or Josef Stalin”. While a certain amount of this was to be expected, as I wrote last week, the blatant imbalance of the Atlantic piece surprised even me.

Nevertheless, the meeting took place, and “it was a good day for Hungary.” Our two nations can now return to working on the things that really matter to both of us: NATO, energy security, defense cooperation, and stopping illegal migration.

Photo credit: MTI