Key Issues

The state of Hungary was originally founded at the end of the 9th century, and was converted to a Christian Kingdom in 1000 AD. For centuries, Hungary was a European middle power and relatively stable part of an otherwise ever changing continent, but later the country lost its independence to the Ottoman and later the Habsburg Empire.

After World War I, the country suffered a tragic loss: according to the Treaty of Trianon, over 70 percent of its land and two thirds of its population was annexed by neighboring states. Following two decades of liberty during the interwar period, Hungary was once again occupied by foreign powers, first by Nazi Germany, then by the Communist Soviet Union. In 1989 Hungary was once again declared a republic, the first free elections were held in 1990 and the last Soviet soldier left the country in 1991.

Perhaps due to the painful centuries lived under foreign domination, Hungarians were always a rebellious and freedom-loving people. Even though their endeavors were often unsuccessful, the country never failed to revolt against injustice and oppression. On the other hand, Hungary was always naturally drawn to the West. After four decades of being torn out, for the first time in history, of the Western world, Hungarian dreams of returning to the Euro-Atlantic alliance had become a reality: Hungary was invited to join the NATO and the EU.

After the difficulties caused by the transition and made worse by the global financial crisis, Hungary finally managed to overcome its economic woes, and became one of the biggest success stories of recent European history. The country managed to accomplish a rare feat: simultaneously decreasing external debt, government deficit and inflation, while achieving enviable economic growth, continuous real wage growth and an unprecedented trade surplus – all without any foreign aid and political instability.

About Prime Minister Viktor Orbán

Viktor Orbán’s political career dates back to his years in the anti-Communist opposition: as a law student, while being constantly harassed by state authorities, he organized and participated in protests, and established Fidesz, a small party consisting mainly of university students in their 20s. A year later, in 1989, Orbán gave a remarkable speech at the reburial of 1956 martyrs, demanding free elections and the withdrawal of Soviet troops. His bold stance earned him nation-wide recognition and popularity, and helped Fidesz get invited to the roundtable talks that eventually led to the transition to democracy.

In the first free elections, Fidesz managed to secure its place in the National Assembly of Hungary, and under the leadership of Orbán, became one of the most popular parties in the following years. In 1998 Fidesz, which was by then an established center-right people’s party, won the parliamentary election, and Viktor Orbán, then 35 years old, became the youngest Prime Minister in Europe. During his first four-year term, Hungary joined the NATO and started accession negotiations with the EU. After a surprise defeat in the 2002 elections, Fidesz spent two terms in opposition, never failing to get less than 40 percent of the votes.

Following a highly unsuccessful and unpopular Socialist government, Fidesz won an unprecedented number of votes, earning them a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly and allowed the adoption of a new Fundamental Law of Hungary. During the campaign, returning Prime Minister Viktor Orbán promised to end the transitional period and reshape the crisis-ridden country. Building on his strong popular support, as well as Hungary’s economic and political stability, Prime Minister Orbán entered the international stage as a resolute vanguard of a strong Europe – one that is based on strong member states and the Judeo-Christian traditions shared by European nations.

The robust relationship that exists between the United States and Hungary is defined by the mutual commitment to promote and strengthen our shared fundamental values of democracy and universal human rights. While our formal alliance was officially secured with Hungary’s accession to NATO in 1999, the origins of the U.S.-Hungarian friendship can be found in the initial wave of Hungarian immigrants that came seeking freedom and prosperity in the United States following the Revolution of 1848.

To this day, the United States is home to roughly 1.5 Million Americans of Hungarian descent, making it the largest concentration of Hungarians outside of Hungary. These Hungarian-Americans not only remain deeply connected to their Hungarian culture, but also continue to contribute significantly across all aspects of American society.

Hungary Insights’ mission is to educate about the strategic, economic, and cultural importance of the U.S.-Hungarian relationship and by doing so, strengthen the longstanding friendship of these two great nations.

Key Issues for Hungarian-American Relations

Membership in international organizations

Along with the USA, Hungary is a member of the United Nations (UN), the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC), the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization (WTO).



Military cooperation within NATO

Since its accession in 1999, Hungary has been a reliable military ally of the United States.

  • US and Hungarian troops continue to fight as brothers-in-arms around the world. After contributing to the ISAF mission in Afghanistan from the start, the Hungarian Defence Force has stayed active in the subsequent Resolute Support Mission. Furthermore, there are around 200 Hungarian soldiers in Kosovo, participating in the KFOR peacekeeping force.
  • As a member of the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL, Hungary provides military aid to US-led forces in Iraq and Syria.
  • The Hungarian Air Force participates in the Baltic Air Policing mission with four Gripen fighters based in Lithuania.
  • Hungary provides contributions to NATO’s capabilities in the form of the Pápa Air Base, which is part of the multinational Heavy Airlift Wing unit within the Strategic Airlift Capability program, and the NATO Force Integration Unit in Székeshérvár.



Trade relations

For Hungary, despite the geographic distance, the United States is the second largest trading partner after the EU28 (both in merchandise trade and trade in commercial services) and a top investor. Hungary serves as a regional financial hub for Central and Eastern Europe with cumulative foreign direct investment totaling approximately $60 billion since 1989, the United States is one of Hungary's most important economic partners. The U.S. is the 10th largest investor in Hungary and investments by U.S. companies account for over 9 billion dollars. More than 600 American companies, many of them Fortune 500 listed, have subsidiaries in Hungary.