Hungary’s goal is for the world’s major powers to have an interest in its economic success, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said in an interview to business weekly Figyelő. Asked why it had been in US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s interest to visit Hungary now, seven and a half years after the last visit to Hungary by a US secretary of state, Orbán said: “Because we’re allies”. The prime minister said that while the Obama administration had assigned less importance to central Europe, President Donald Trump’s administration paid closer attention to the region.
But Orbán warned that when exploring the potential for cooperation with the US outside the confines of NATO, “we must always remember that US foreign policy has no long-term political element when it comes to central Europe.” Orbán said that whereas his talks with Pompeo on Monday had focused on politics, his ministers had discussed policy issues with the secretary of state. He noted that Hungary and the US had finalised the update to a bilateral defence cooperation agreement signed between the two countries in the 1990s on the status of American soldiers in Hungary.
“We settled the technical questions in a way that ensures that Hungary’s sovereignty remains intact,” Orbán said, adding that the ratification of the pact would not require a constitutional amendment. “Hungary must be, and remain, sovereign in the event of any military operation launched from its territory,” the prime minister said.
Orbán justified the need for the bilateral agreement on the intermediate-range air defence system by saying that all countries must be capable of defending themselves against airstrikes and protecting strategic points on their territory. He added, however, that talks on arms sales were not yet on the agenda. He said the acquisition of such a system dovetailed with Hungary’s multi-year military development programme. Orbán added that once the scheme is completed, Hungary would be capable of defending itself against attacks from any direction. “I’m one of those people who consider NATO important, but I don’t think Hungary’s security should be based solely on NATO,” Orbán said. “We need to be capable of defending ourselves against attacks on our own.” Asked how Russia could react to this, Orbán said that though Hungary’s relationship with Russia was important, “Hungary’s military security comes first”.
Commenting on the issue of energy security, and specifically the importance of a Russian-German gas pipeline, the construction of a pipeline in the Black Sea and the issue of Croatia’s LNG terminal, Orbán said Hungary was glad to cooperate on energy security but it would not be pressured into buying gas at above-market prices from anyone. This is why, he said, it was “good news” that Hungary and Slovenia had succeeded in getting the European Union to consider their joint bid for EU funds to interconnect their gas networks, so that Hungary can import LNG from Italy.
Asked about his government’s strategy of opening to China, Orbán said analyses to the effect that Hungarian-Chinese ties “hold any weight in the eyes of the US secretary of state” were “fatuous”, noting that Hungary’s annual trade volume with China only accounts for 1.2% of EU-China trade. “Hungary’s goal is for the world’s major powers to have an interest in its economic success, therefore we welcome investors from China, too,” Orbán said.