A celebration of Hungary

Professor Michael Czinkota, Ilona Czinkota and Ambassador Plenipotentiary of Hungary to the United States Szabo Laszlo

On October 21st 2019, in celebration of the 1956 Hungarian revolution against the Soviet regime, and on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of Hungarian freedom, the Hungarian Ambassador Plenipotentiary to the United States Szabo Laszlo received close friends of Hungary in the new “Reach” edifice at the Kennedy Center for Performing  Arts. Ilona Czinkota presented the Ambassador with a copy of the book A Man of Honor and Nation’s Pride, dedicated by the author, her cousin Professor Robert Haddad. 

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.

Language Matters in Ukraine’s Educational Reform | Commentary

john-mark-kuznietsov-134302 (1)Recently, the Washington Post wrote about the law restructuring Ukraine’s education system and establishing Ukrainian as the main language in schools. The new law concerns neighboring countries such as Russia and Hungary about the rights of ethnic minorities.

Why do I consider that important? In addition to creating political tensions in the region, this action may lead the country to a lack of unity and economic inefficiency. By reducing the role of other languages, even though they are clearly present in the country’s cultural mix, the new law segregates between those who speak Ukrainian and those who don’t. It can create an identity problem since language is one of the key-factors that compose one’s sense of belonging.

The new law can have economic consequences as well. It may limit work and educational potential by excluding a part of the population. According to the Post, about 30 percent of Ukrainians called Russian their mother tongue in the 2001 census. There are about 150,000 ethnic Hungarians in the country, accompanied by other minorities such as Romanians and Moldovans. Everyone who does not speak the official language may start facing inequality of payment and lack of work opportunity.

Instead of imposing limitations, it may be worth to embrace the different ethnicities and harness the diverse heritage from its people. Doing so may help inducing an inclusive educational environment and offer steps to guarantee an even more rich economy in the coming years. Just imagine all the business Ukraine can do in Hungary and Russia.

International marketing is a useful answer to a population which benefits from diverse capabilities.

(Click here to read the Washington Post article.)

Hungary’s Unacknowledged Leadership

Hungary has a strategic position in the heart of Europe. The country offers a highly developed logistics system. Its traditional role as a trading post makes it important as a regional production and distribution center.  Porsche, General Motors, and Audi are now producing many of their cars in Hungary – with other suppliers working for and close by. A recent investment by Mercedes Benz re-affirms the auto cluster formation in Hungary. The significant development of industries like information technology, electronics and automotive has attracted Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) at a rising rate.  Hungary’s acceptance as a member of the European Union and the Schengen Zone further boosted its own and its European partners economic, social and political development and stimulated more R&D activities.

All this is now jeopardized because of major EU internal strife over immigration policies. I observed the early stage of human flow between Serbia and Hungary which was then a 200-kilometer long green zone. Groups of 30 to 50 men, women and children slowly walked across the border. The local chief of police shrugged since he neither had the manpower nor the physical resources to round up or process the waves of humanity. In 2015, more than 400,000 people entered Hungary from Serbia, aiming to settle in Germany, France or Britain. The march through Hungary used to encounter an ostrich policy of “carry on and ignore”. But the people who immigrate were worn out and not any less hungry because they were in Hungary. To rest, or feed themselves, they trespassed on property and took fruits and other food. Locals were weary and talked about organized protection for their harvest. Pressures and complaints are like sparks in a tinder box.

The government of less than 10 million Hungarians has only limited resources to respond to the clashes. A wall has been built to stop the immigration flow across the most accessible border areas. The public response in Europe to Hungary’s defensive measures have been complaints, accusations of government over reaction, and lack of sympathy towards restriction of mobility. Prime Minister Orban, a democratically elected head of government was accused of a lack of sentimentality and guilty of behaving like a political winner (DUH)!

Today, Hungary is again encountering its traditional environmental ambiguity. In history, the country has been too far East to be part of the West, and too far West to be integrated into the East. There have been long-term occupations by the Tatars, Ottomans and Austrians. The treaty of Trianon, removed large portions of Hungary’s population and resources. During the Cold War Hungary kept conditions at least lukewarm with its Gulyas communism, and was often at the forefront of clamoring for change, for example, with its 1956 revolution against the Soviet Union, and the 1989 opening of its borders to help escaping East Germans.

Again Hungary has been an early proponent of the need to monitor refugee access to a country for purposes of justice, information, planning and control. Given its small size and population, repercussions of new factors are simply felt more quickly and demand more rapid actions than for nations which have lots of reserve resources to deal with new conditions. Even those players eventually recognize the need for new policies.

Accusing the Hungarians of inhumanity for their regulation of migration is unwise. To protect nations many walls have been built: just think of the Roman Hadrian or the Chinese Qin Shi Huang 2000 years ago. Walls are still being built today, by Austria, Serbia and now also by Turkey. Doing so is not a disregard for human lives, but rather an institutional requirement for control of the distribution of resources. Even Herculean effort is to provide food, shelter and security for migrants can fail if there is no timely count and assessment of human needs and the direction of the massive flow of people. It has not been sensible to overburden Hungary with expectations and demands for accommodative actions which, as we can see now, has shaken up major countries as well. In today’s times, leaders are all-to-often confronted with asymptotic conditions, where they encounter major demands for actions by outsiders who are shouldering neither the political burden nor are paying for all their wonderful suggestions. Later on, those who earlier decried and dismissed responsible government action often turn about and imitate the once so deployed steps. Particularly in groups of nations which disagree about idealistic policies, one winds up with the unfortunate constant of politics: foresight and early implementation of corrective action has no international payoff. No gratitude, no memory, no long term, no acknowledgment, just like an unhappy couple.

View on migrants entering Hungary

Hungary has been the spotlight of the news recently with reports of the maltreatment of migrants entering and passing through the country. While I do not agree with the drastic measures taken, Hungary’s short-term solution is mainly about concern for its own economic stability.

I spoke with CCTV’s Asieh Namdar regarding my thoughts on the issue. You can view the video here: http://youtu.be/A6X4m-aWP-8