There is no official document in Hungary that has the term ‘whole-of-government approach’ in its title. Nonetheless, there are several governmental decisions (particularly regarding EU affairs) aimed at fostering effective intra-departmental cooperation, information-sharing and decision-making, drawing lessons and accountability. The decision-making mechanism is multi-tiered, which enables the concerned governmental structures to act in concert and to harmonise any diverging views and positions. It also provides sufficient space for discussing and resolving conflicting positions.
The current practice of the Hungarian Government ensures coherence and consistency as well as an integrated, coordinated and holistic approach to decision-making regarding external relations. The national approach is in line with the political objectives, spirit and ambitions of the EU Global Strategy, particularly in the domain of common defence policy.
In practice, national and bilateral interests occasionally prevail over the principled common EU approach in Hungarian decision-making. In implementing the principle of human security, the Hungarian government gives priority to joint activities when the security of Christian communities is at risk.
The main objectives and direction of governmental decisions are to ensure the exercise of a ‘central’ political will. The modifications introduced in the governmental setup and decision-making mechanism in recent years have enhanced the lead role of the Prime Minister’s Office, encouraged the centralisation of power, and ensured more space for the top-down approach even though the bottom-up approach continues to be the basic direction of decision-making.
Hungary’s political leadership has justified the shifts by citing the dramatic changes in the international balance of power, a need for more effective representation of the interests of the whole Hungarian nation at both the global and European levels, and a need for better linkages between responses to external and internal threats.
While the top-down approach theoretically allows for subjective decision-making, a lack of impact studies and potential collateral damage, high-level interventions and ‘political steering’ have also helped to effectively cope with the usual disagreements within the system, to take swift decisions and to effectively address some global challenges, such as migration and the protection of ‘core’ national values.
The integration of foreign policy and relevant economic tools within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has greatly contributed to the application of a WGA approach. However, there is a gap between the proactive conflict-preventive approach of the EU institutions and the basically reactive decision-making principles and mechanisms in Hungary. Sharing WGA-related best practices between the EU and national levels could prove useful for further developing Hungary’s capabilities.