Helping Hungary helps us all

Hungary is a frequent sacrificial  lamb on the altar of international conflict. Hungarians  well remember the occupation by the Ottomans and Islam. Those 150 years brought de-population, destruction of land and buildings, uncontrolled migration and major displacement of resources, but kept Western Europe safe from the Ottoman empire.

On many other occasions, Hungary has taken risks, invested its youth and subjugated its own political ambitions for the sake of Western security. The gratitude for such dedication and depletion of resources has been scant. Occasions where the West shares resources, offers equal treatment or a partnership, remain mostly absent. Hungary continues to suffer from being too close to the East and too far from the West, while being damaged by any conflict between the two.

After centuries of suffering, one would expect today a new era for a united Europe. Since its founding, the European Union was to be driven by cooperation and cohesiveness. Not an easy task since joint undertakings with a large diversity of regions and people require adjustment and flexibility. In a  U.S. comparison, our century and half absence of any break-up is no coincidence. Rather, the fact that overall we stick together is the result of accommodation, restraint , and, in case of conflict, not to insist on a ‘winner takes all’ outcome.

The European Union would do well to learn from the United States and avoid internal separation. Right now, this large group of states is taking punitive measures against some of its own members, particularly those from Central Europe. Sanctions are to demonstrate displeasure with immigration restrictions, judicial appointments, retirement policies and the regulation of  foreign universities. Hungary and Poland are most exposed to EU attacks, particularly for restrictions of immigration.

Three years ago,  migrants started to stream into the EU by the hundreds of thousands from Libya, Syria and Lebanon . Most entered via the first open southern border which was in Hungary. When that country did not receive any outside help or relief,  Hungarian prime minister Orban sharply reduced and controlled the flow of humanity by applying EU rules on registration, documentation, and restriction. He believed that a small country with very limited resources needs to understand, plan and structure for massive population displacements. For his actions, he was thoroughly scolded by many fellow EU members.

It turns out that even large nations with ample resources cannot disregard the consequences  of unplanned for massive migration. Years after complaining about the ‘Hungarian Way’ the EU  imitates what by now have turned out to be  the sound policies of Hungary.  Germany now learns to recognize how fallacious its migration missteps are and will continue to be.

One might assume that Chancellor Merkel would express her gratitude for Hungary’s leadership in policy and implementation. Alas – the contrary is the case. EU debates concerning Hungary are typically rich with displeased looks, invisible barriers and ignominious ignorance. No matter the country’s strong democratic elections and popular support, things in Hungary are seen as ‘just not right’.

The EU’s negative politics towards Hungary are wrong. Many of the loudly pronounced disappointments are nothing but envious efforts to retain local votes in upcoming elections. Some of the EU steps might even reflect an unwillingness to develop and tolerate new approaches and change. The U.S. government should not accept such overpowering opposition to homegrown priorities. It should recognize Hungary as an important ally when it comes to innovation, immigration and intellectual property. Hungary’s government represents, similar to the United States, a country of adjustment with creative directions and a new emphasis.  We should support Hungary in light of the overwhelming and unjustified pressures to which the country is exposed. It is not automatically wrong for a nation’s democratically elected government to move beyond traditional policy boundaries. “No bullying” also applies to the smaller members of the EU. Hungary has the right to pursue its happiness. To Europe we can offer insights from a successful cohesive policy outcome. To Hungary, we should smilingly help when it takes steps which have made America so successful.

Professor Czinkota (Czinkotm@Georgetown.edu) teaches International Business and Trade at Georgetown University and the University of Kent in Canterbury. His forthcoming book in October  is “In Search For The Soul of International Business.

Trump fostering a new era of prosperity for US-EU relationship

The walk over burning coals with tariffs rattling has been completed and soothing coolness has returned. EU Commission President Juncker came to Washington with a publicly pronounced low level of expectations. But, as could be expected, when it was all said and (hopefully) done, acerbic argument gave way to collegial progress. The United States will be able to sell more of its products to Europe, and, in exchange, the treat of prohibitive tariffs will be eased.

Some believe that these developments were unexpected – like Manna from heaven. Not so! The Trump Administration had undertaken many steps to indicate that trade was a key concern. Unlike the experience of other administrations, President Trump persisted in his intent to support American business domestically and internationally. The shot across the bow of the ship Europa helped to concentrate the minds of policy makers. Yes, they still have other problems, such as NATO, Household deficits, Brexit, migration, and more. However, with the imposition of significant tariffs, Trump made it clear that trade had to move up on the list of important policies to consider.

After much hesitation, the adjustment steps began to take place. And rightfully so, when one considers that it has been more than 70 years, three generations , since the setting in place of U.S. sponsored world trade mechanisms such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. Back then, the principal dimension was the strengthening of European economies in order to improve local standards of living and achieve a meaningful defense against the then Soviet Bloc. In support of these goals, the U.S. willingly accepted its leadership cost to a growing excess.

The world changed, as did its opportunities and threats. But the U.S. negotiation approach stayed the same, support others, don’t worry about the drawbacks to the privileged U.S. firms. Over time, the U.S. started to fall behind – lots of imports, few exports, and still no major support from the government. When Trump took on his campaign, he promised changes in the trade picture, and he even lived up to that goal after he won the election. He started to use an anvil and hammer approach to break through old fashioned restrictions and chains. When other nations complained, he warned them of the sparks that could fly during the hammering in a larger forging process. His watchword was ‘reciprocal’ relations.

Now, it has worked out. With reason on both sides there will be progress and stronger linkages. It is gratifying to see how past barriers can be converted into linkages. Decades ago, for example, the river Spree in Berlin clearly marked the distance and separation between East and West Germany. Today, the very same river offers easy crossing and pulls the two river banks together. Its flow encourages rather than inhibits linkage.

The willingness to acknowledge shortcomings and engage in the collaborative implementation of solutions is a new engine for growth. Trump has coached this right, the EU and Juncker are good co-captains. Let the new game begin!

Professor Czinkota (czinkotm@georgetown.edu) teaches International Business and Trade at Georgetown University and the University of Kent. His forthcoming book in October 2018 is In Search for the Soul of International Business.

This commentary was published first by The Hill; Washington D.C. On July 29, 2018