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.