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America, Germany, and Hungary: A New Relationship

Over time, relationships change for both internal and external reasons.


by Michael Czinkota

Interesting times bring continuous changes which in turn affect national linkages and alliances.

A pre-eminent example is a relationship between the U.S., Germany, and Hungary.


Take German domestic diversity. By comparison with the United States, Germans have had very limited exposure to Africans. Only after major migration waves does diversity permeate society more - yet there is very little official activity providing support to People of Color.

Take the use of words: the term ‘race’ in the German Constitution is seen, after more than 70 years, as troublesome, since it tends to imply discrimination. Substitution of the term is part of a major national debate instead of an ongoing threat from the Coronavirus.

Of concern to the reader is the lack of public German encouragement for the “pursuit of happiness.” This admonition which is so aptly reflected in the American Declaration of Independence is of major significance. Citizens of Germany should acknowledge and accept that directions for a citizen’s life path should not only consist of admonitions to work, but also include the opportunity for enjoyment, which the U.S. has in its “pursuit of happiness,” encoded in its Declaration of Independence.

The U.S. has problems, some of them major ones. In consequence, Europeans, particularly Germans, hasten to draw conclusions about European superiority. The jocular aspects are so profound that, as one can discover, there is not even room for debate. The U.S. (and its President, government, policies, and ambassador) are said to be just plain wrong, that’s all there is to it - from a European, and particularly German perspective.

Statements about U.S. policy makes life disconcerted. For example, President Trump announced the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Germany. Why exuberantly protect Germany with U.S. forces when a long-promised 2 percent German contribution to its military budgets had not been delivered? There was an uproar in Germany designating Americans as derogatory merchants only preoccupied with money. No comparison was made to much earlier visits by Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of the Treasury Jim Baker who, tin cup in hand traversed Europe with the slogan “feed, fund or fight,” thus stressing participation while giving every ally viable options. Even less was mentioned about commitments made and or kept. Nothing was heard about the fact that military payment of 2 percent of GDP represents an investment, not some wild and senseless expenditure.

Fascinating are the intra-European comparisons of nations, many of which have found their orbit around Germany. Concessions in one field then trigger sacrifices in another. For example, in many German rankings, Poland is relatively low. However, their help in bringing in the German asparagus harvest works as an important redeeming factor. For many Germans, the import of agricultural products has tended to be unimportant. However, after the renewed Covid-19 outburst in their key domestic butchering plant, procurement from abroad suddenly gained important priority.

How do these changes refurbish internal alliances? My bets are on Hungary. That country has, more often than not, hit rock bottom due to invasions but has always recouped, even though it sometimes did take much time. Some controversies surrounding Hungary exist. Just the other day I overheard a German parliamentarian comment, warning that some legislation would lead to Hungarian conditions in Germany. That did not appear in the friendly way of consuming kolbasz, Tokaji wine, or palinka, but rather a derogatory statement. Amazing it is, in light of many Hungarian Nobel prizes, toy, and machinery production. Also, one might not forget the 1989 opening of the Hungarian border to Germans by the Hungarian Foreign Secretary Gyula Horn who effectively set the stage for German unification.

Hungarians have always in history experienced the friction of being caught between East and West. Going back to the hordes of Mongols, Huns, and even Austrians, the country has been decimated. Nonetheless, there was consistency in Hungary’s desire to adhere to the West of Europe. Nowadays, Hungary takes on repeated leadership positions when it comes to policy design and implementation. Its the management of immigration flows has, over time, been adapted by other European nations. Its acceptance of marketing principles for its society leaves much room for other Europeans to learn. The pricing policies of stores and services continue to be reasonable. But whenever Hungary initiates an innovation, the rest of Europe claims to suffer. Credit for Hungarian progress is only rarely given. Almost similar to the United States now.

Over time, relationships change for both internal and external reasons. Take the US/UK relations which were always categorized as a special linkage between the two countries. Yet, the relationship is not quite the same anymore, particularly since Britain has left the European Union. Germany has its own set of problems. Many of its policies no longer reflect a firm economic and policy friendship with the U.S. If Trump wins the upcoming election, and it results in a restructuring of U.S. alliances, my conclusion for Europe is a special relationship between the U.S. and Hungary. When relationships between nations have more to offer each other, they will result in actions that strengthen each nation’s competitiveness.

Professor Michael Czinkota teaches International Business and Trade at Georgetown University. He has served as the U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce. His most recent textbook is International Business 9th edition. Professor Czinkota can be reached at czinkotm@georgetown.edu

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