New Hungarian foreign minister

New Hungarian foreign minister Péter Balázs was quick to point outthat his main priority will becommunicating PrimeMinister Gordon Bajnai's crisis-management program.

Holding his inaugural press conference less than 24 hours after being sworn in, the new Hungarian foreign minister, Peter Balazs was just as quick in pointing out his main priority as communicating the government's crisis-management program and seeking foreign support for its implementation. “Diplomacy must gain trust abroad with the help of focused campaigns in order to win support for this program,”he said.These campaigns will target the United States,the European Union, Russia,China and the seven countries bordering Hungary. “We have tasks in the latter countries,which others cannot carry out for us, especially in view of the Hungarian national minority living there. We must function as a parent country for all those who,for one reason or another,live beyond our borders but feel and act as Hungarians. A further opportunity of successful campaigning will arrive when Hungary takes up the annual presidency of the Visegrad Four grouping from July 1, “working with our natural partners who are made for each other.” In the European Union, Hungary’s continuous interest negotiation efforts will be complemented by the challenge the country faces with the EU Presidency in 2011. “Preparations are progressing well but will require unanimous backing from the political parties, a goal served by regular parliamentary consultation,” he added. The budgetary constraints that form part of the government’s program also affect the finances of the Foreign Ministry, as does the recent weakening of the Hungarian currency that makes the Ministry’s foreign operations even more expensive. Peter Balazs stated that the operability of the now existing 118 diplomatic missions could not be assured. He does not wish to dismiss anyone from the Ministry in Budapest. The new foreign minister has called for the strengthening and the extension of consular protection services for Hungarian citizens to cover the whole globe. This can be managed by employing roving ‘laptop’ diplomats where there is no need to operate heavily staffed consulates. Hungarian diplomats could also help out in the neighborhood of the countries they are stationed at. As a topical example, he mentioned the case of Hungaryís ambassador to Argentina who flew to Bolivia to represent the interests of Hungarian nationals arrested or killed in a presumed armed conspiracy against the president of that country. Consular agreements between European Union members can also be of help. Peter Balazs referred to his first proposal in the Parliament as minister: the draft agreement on visa issuance with Germany. Under its terms, German diplomatic missions will issue visas on behalf of Hungary in six Asian and nine African countries.

Sándor Laczkó

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