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A lack of preparation has meant that Istvan Hiller, the minister responsible for religious affairs, has not been received in the Vatican. Hungary is supposedly trying to come up with a coherent, modern foreign policy strategy. This strategy supposedly calls for an effective and skilled diplomatic corps whose opinions are listened to by the decision-makers. Kinga Goncz has a huge task ahead of her: she must come up with this strategy, and then build up the institutions that will implement it.

How should Hungary react to the "catastrophe coalition" that has just taken the reins of government in Slovakia? A few years ago, it should be remembered, the EU and the civilised world condemned the Austrian government for including Jorg Haider's Freedom Party, which was notorious for its xenophobia. There has been no talk of an "educational" suspension of relations in Brussels this time, but Hungary should perhaps not have been so quick to legitimise the new government in Slovakia. The Slovak foreign minister, Jan Kubis, was received in Budapest a few days after being sworn in.

The Papal State, employing all the finely honed tools at a diplomat's disposal, lost no time in making clear to Istvan Hiller when he turned up in Rome that he should expect no discussion of weighty matters if he turned up without prior preparation in the head of state's absence.

It has been reported that nobody in the Eternal City was available to meet with the Minister for Religion, who was forced to leave the Italian capital without completing his mission.

We could point out that this would not have happened if the Hungarian government were always on top of things. We can only hope that the foreign policy advisory committee currently being set up alongside the Foreign Ministry to advise the prime minister will be able to put a stop to these kinds of affronts.

Civil servants are working in vain on plans for a coherent foreign policy strategy. It is never the bureaucrats who do this, but politicians, who rely on expert analysis. When implementing a strategy, it is advisable to bear in mind the formal and unwritten rules of diplomacy, according to which the order in which goals are listed has significance.

It would also be helpful if the prime minister could provide clearer guidelines to the country's ambassadors and consuls so that they know what Hungary's foreign policy aims actually are. It is possible the Hungary's foreign policy priority will be to open up towards South East Asia and China, but as an EU member state, we would be wise to keep a European perspective and to make our relations with our neighbours the number one priority.

-thl-

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Morvai v Peto

The war in Lebanon has drowned out the sound of another battle that has since come to an end. Krisztina Morvai, the Hungarian delegate to CEDAW, a UN organisation that fights discrimination against women, has managed to prevent her designated successor Andrea Peto, a historian and sociologist from taking her seat on the commission next year.

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Tolerable difficulties

What do the multinationals think of Hungary? What benefits do multinationals see in setting up shop in Hungary? HVG polled directors of the 50 largest-turnover companies.

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Hungarian real estate

People are having to get used to the idea that their main asset, their house, flat or land, is declining in value in real terms, and that this process will accelerate as a result of government spending cuts.

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Not such an excellency

After his first year in office, we know what kind of president Laszlo Solyom does not want to be. Over the summer, his influence and popularity have sunk to new lows. Up until now he has barely been able to show the positive sides of his presidential style.

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Exclusive Interview with National Bank President Járai

The 2010 deadline for adapating the euro cannot be reached, but as of now a later date has not been set. The so called Convergence Plan is under construction, but how and by whom still remains a mystery. The economic program devised by PM Gyurcsány is fundamentally flawed, it is based on raising taxes and prices instead of cutting expenditures. Zsigmond Járai, President of the Hungarian National Bank provided this picture in an ex exclusive interview to hvg.hu

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"Diplomacy is not the same as foreign policy"

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.

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