Viktor Orbán unwelcome visitor in Washington

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is hardly being welcomed with open arms, as he plans a trip to the United States for this coming October. According to media reports, not only will Mr. Orbán be unable to meet President Barack Obama, but he stands little chance of a photo-op with Secretary of State John Kerry. The Hungarian prime minister would instead have to contend with a handshake from a deputy secretary of state, which is perceived both in Budapest and elsewhere as a clear slap in the face.

Prime Minister Orbán snubbed by Washington.

Prime Minister Orbán snubbed by Washington.

Mr. Orbán has been in power since May 2010 and has been unable to secure the all-important Oval Office photo-op with Mr. Obama. The Fidesz government’s overt weakening of its transatlantic and western commitments and the shift in its foreign policy to a greater reliance on despotic regimes in Central Asia and Russia, as well as the fact that it ignored concerns expressed by Hillary Clinton during the first Obama administration and by  the American embassy in Budapest surrounding the state of the rule of law and parliamentary democracy in Hungary likely contributed to the fact that there is no interest in meeting with Mr. Orbán in Washington.

The Fidesz government, however, intends to press on with its pro-Russian, eastward-focused foreign policy. Following the government’s re-election during the parliamentary elections of April 6th, 2014, the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (previously led by the more European Union-friendly and generally western-oriented János Martonyi) was handed over  to Tibor Navracsics and Péter Szijjártó, both of whom are committed to the eastern focus, at the expense of longstanding ties with western liberal democracies. Since Mr. Navracsics took over as foreign affairs minister, the Hungarian MFA has been largely gutted of its professional, western-oriented diplomats and replaced with party loyalists who were previously employed in the Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry of Justice.

The MFA’s decks were stacked by over 200 party loyalists in the months following Mr. Orbán’s re-election.


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