Oops, diplomacy!

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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.