Hungary’s Eastern Opening Policy as a Long-Term Political-Economic Strategy
Gabriela Greilinger: Hungary’s Eastern Opening Policy as a Long-Term Political-Economic Strategy, AIES Fokus 4/2023
Over the past decade, Hungary found itself increasingly isolated within the European Union due to the populist radical right Fidesz government’s Eurosceptic rhetoric, controversial policies, and violation of fundamental EU values. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s announcement in 2014 that he seeks to remodel Hungary into an illiberal state, based on the model of countries like Russia and China1 further deepened concerns over Hungary’s democratic erosion and the ideological incompatibility of the Orbán government’s plans with the EU’s system which is based on liberal values and human rights. Against this background, Hungarian foreign policy has, over the past decade, been marked by the open pursuit of closer relationships with Eastern states, in particular China, Russia, Turkey but also Central Asian countries, most notably Azerbaijan. These foreign relations now fall under the government’s “Eastern Opening Policy”. While the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 further united governments across the EU in helping Kyiv defend itself, the Orbán government, which seeks to preserve its beneficial political-economic relationship with Moscow, stood out from this unified Western response. Criticised by its Western partners and supposed allies, Hungary is increasingly isolated in the EU. These circumstances further reinforce the importance of Hungary’s Eastern Opening Policy as a crucial economic cornerstone of Fidesz’s foreign policy and underpin the Orbán regime’s ideological reorientation away from Western liberal values.