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It is wrong to see values and the national interest as being in opposition to each other in the field of foreign policy, according to Matyas Eorsi, the 52-year-old president of the Parliamentary European Affairs Committee, who has little faith in the EU as far as human rights and minority affairs are concerned.

There has been some controversy recently about the future of Hungarian foreign policy. It would seem the government has noticed, announcing that it is developing a new strategy. Where do you expect this to lead?

The loss of confidence resulted from the fact that we achieved most of the foreign policy goals that we set ourselves at the beginning of the 1990s. We have to ask ourselves if there are new goals. Saying, "We must defend our national interests," doesn't get us very far, because we are not clear about what "national interest" means. Just one example: nobody talks any longer about the desirability of protecting our national independence - this is now guaranteed by the North Atlantic military alliance and the United States in particular. That is why I was a strong supporter of our involvement in the Iraq war back then.

Others say Hungary just deepened European divisions by taking this decision, instead of helping to build a consensus. It looks like we're going to face a similar decision soon: Russia seems keen to set the various EU countries against each other when it comes to energy policy. What should the government's response be?

Europe was divided over Iraq regardless of our position. Hungary was in no position to deepen the divisions. Our freedom for manoeuvre was restricted to deciding which side to stand on. The debate was less about Iraq than it was about Europe's relationship with the US. I continue to believe that Hungary should adopt an Atlanticist position. As far as Russia is concerned, there is a false assumption that we have to choose between a foreign policy based on the values of freedom and democracy and one based on our economic interests. It is clearly in Hungary's interest that it should have secure access to Russian gas, but it is also has a strategic interest in promoting the institutions of democracy in Russia. Our dilemma lies in the way we go about doing this. I have not advised the Hungarian prime minister to take the opportunity of a bilateral summit with President Putin to teach him about proper democratic procedure. But we can help international institutions like the OSCE to exert greater pressure on Moscow. In both the long and the short term, however, I believe our interests are best served by a common European position, whether the issue is Iraq or Russia.

Why has the Hungarian foreign policy establishment been unable to produce the kind of figures who can be called upon by international organisations to help solve problems in times of crisis? Martti Ahttisaari, the former prime minister of Finland, represented the UN at the Kosovo negotiations, and Javier Solana asked the Slovak Miroslva Lajcak to help deal with the Serbian-Montenegrin divorce.

We have outstanding diplomats. But diplomacy is not the same as foreign policy. Foreign policy is a vision. Diplomacy is the execution of that vision. Without a foreign policy vision, our diplomats are unable to awake people's interest, and nor can they effectively promote our national interests.

The winds of change are blowing through the Parliamentary European Affairs Committee. At the June EU summit it was decided that parliaments would in future receive draft laws directly from Brussels, not via their governments. If a third of the national parliaments suspect the European institutions are overreaching, then the European Commission will be forced to revisit the law. What will the effect of this be?

The idea is to make the EU's activities more visible for the citizens of the Union. I and the Committee will have nothing to with it. The real problem is that what is most important to people, things like employment and competitiveness, are areas where the EU can do very little. All the important decisions are in the hands of the member states, yet Brussels is blamed for the failures. This is unsustainable. The arguments are mostly about whether more power should flow to the member states or whether it should pass into the hands of the EU. I am in favour of the latter.

At the June parliamentary assembly of the European Council, where secret CIA rendition flights were being discussed, you asked why Poland and Romania had been criticised when Hungary had not. What was your concern?

The report did not criticise Hungary, Amnesty International did. When? Immediately before Bush's visit. Since then there has been absolute silence.The European Council report highlighted Poland and Romania without any proof. It is hard to avoid the thought that the countries with the most pro-American foreign policies became targets. We have to stand up against all illegal acts. Bush's policies can and should be criticised, but anti-Americanism is unacceptable in my opinion.

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