This project has received funding from the European Research Council under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme
(Grant Agreement n. 669194)
(Grant Agreement n. 669194)
The European Economic Community (EEC) as a foreign trade and foreign policy issue emerged on the party’s agenda no earlier than 1962, when the Hungarian Workers’ Socialist Party (HSWP) ordered an analysis of commercial relations with developed capitalist countries from the Ministry of Foreign Trade. In October 1966, the HSWP Political Committee requested new policy papers with different options on how to launch talks with the EEC, and called on the Ministry of Foreign Trade and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to effectively represent Hungarian interests in tariff and discrimination issues abroad. In September 1968, the Department for Economic Policy of the HSWP Central Committee informed the Political Committee in detail about the latest developments in reform debates within the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (CMEA). Nevertheless, the Political Committee simply took notice of the report without debating it.
Five years passed before the issue came back on the Politburo’s agenda. In May 1973, the HSWP Political Committee discussed a letter from the CMEA secretary regarding the possible manner, form and content of contacts between the CMEA and the EEC. Although party leader János Kádár personally put his trust in Rezső Nyers (the leading figure among the reformists in the party) to handle the issue, the top party leadership did not analyse it in its complexity.
The matter of relations with the EEC appeared in the 1977 foreign economy strategy, which was drawn up after two years of inter-ministerial work. This document intertwined three main aims of Hungarian economic policy: crisis handling, structural adjustment and opening towards the non-CMEA world. Relations with the developed Western countries were presented as an important national interest and as a key part of the policy to foster peaceful cooperation between the two economic systems. The rapporteurs argued that Hungary should urge for negotiations between the CMEA and the EEC, aiming to improve Hungary’s trade policy position. In April 1977, the HSWP Political Committee accepted this document as a resolution, and it also received support from the older generation party apparatchiks (like Antal Apró and Károly Németh). However, the party leadership did not proceed to discuss the substantive issues involved. In June 1978 the party gave its political permission to launch technical negotiations with the EEC Commission when it authorised the preparation of a textile agreement.
The reformist younger generation in the party elite (for instance, István Horváth, Miklós Németh and Gyula Horn) desired a shift from the outdated position. In March 1981, the Department for Economic Policy of the HSWP Central Committee drew up a top-secret report on relations with the EEC. In a memo addressed to Ferenc Havasi, the secretary of the Central Committee responsible for economic issues, it proposed concluding an all-embracing agreement with the EEC to simultaneously resolve economic and commercial issues. Havasi took the idea on board, and during a visit to Bonn in November 1981 clearly stated that the Hungarian party believed in equally developing bilateral (Hungary-EEC) and CMEA-EEC relations. A month later, in a letter addressed to First Secretary János Kádár, West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt warned the Hungarian party leadership that the EEC member states were not ready to change their position and that, moreover, the Soviet Union and its allies would disapprove of such a Hungarian initiative. This unpleasant intermezzo did not discourage the reformist group: the idea of a rapprochement was presented in Paris and in London during the following six months.
As the CMEA-EEC talks stagnated, at a meeting of the HSWP Central Committee in June 1982 the doyen of the reformist wing, Rezső Nyers, argued that Hungary could not wait any longer and should initiate negotiations with the EEC and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). The Central Committee finally passed a general resolution on foreign economic policy providing political permission. Subsequently, the state organs took the formal decision to enter into exploratory negotiations with the EEC Commission. The talks broke off inconclusively in May 1984, and the Political Committee took the view that Hungary should not initiate any further step towards relations with the EEC until it suspended its discriminatory and protectionist regulations. However, the Department for Foreign Affairs of the Central Committee urged for links to be informally built with the largest most respectable countries in the EEC to win support for changing the EEC Commission’s attitude. These Hungarian endeavours were well received in West Germany, and a German Christian Democrat Member of Parliament, Axel Zarges, promoted special treatment of Hungary in the European Parliament.
* This text summarises some of the research findings of PanEur1970s team member Pàl Germuska, which are published as a chapter in PanEur1970s’ academic edited book. For a link to the e-book, please see Hungary’s “Overview” webpage of this map.
The Eighties and Hungarian Foreign Policy
MNL OL M-KS 288. f. 32/b cs. 105. ő. e. 66-87. | 10/83
The document highlighted new opportunities for Hungarian foreign policy. It supposed that Budapest would have real a chance to prepare a proper framework agreement with the EEC. Moreover, it stated that Hungarian foreign policy could prepare the ground for Hungary’s accession to EFTA. - Available here.
Engere Zusammenarbeit zwischen Ungarn und den Europäische Gemeinschaften. 18. Dezember 1981,” (letter from Helmut Schmidt to János Kádár)
MNL OL M-KS 288. f. 47. cs. 765. ő. e. 210–214 | 12-18
Schmidt stated that the political risks of Hungary’s stronger attachment to the European Community were evident. He argued that any attempt to establish closer links with the EEC would have far-reaching implications of high political importance. - Available here.
Minutes of the 18 October 1966 HSWP PC meeting: Issues regarding the Common Market
MNL OL M-KS 288. f. 5/407. ő. e. | 10-18
HSWP Political Committee requested new policy papers with different options on how to launch talks with the EEC, and called on the Ministries of Foreign Trade and of Foreign Affairs to effectively represent Hungarian interests in tariff and discrimination issues abroad. - Available here
Proposal to the Political Committee: On the proposition sent by the Executive Committee of the CMEA
MNL OL M-KS 288. f. 5/610. őe. 139-140 | 00589/NGKB/73
Hungarian Socialist Workers' Party Political Committee discussed the CMEA Secretary letter regarding “the possible manner, form and content of contacts” between the CMEA and the EEC. - Available here
Proposal to the Political Committee: Guidelines for long-term foreign economic policy
MNL OL M-KS 288. f. 5/715. ő. e. 29–112 | Gpo/718
The easing of tensions in international relations was favourable to expand the East–West cooperation, therefore the proposal wished to intensify more dynamically business links with the world economy. - Available here
Memorandum to the PC on trade policy negotiations with the EEC and its member states
MNL OL M-KS 288. f. 5/915. ő. e. 4., 48–54 | 07-02
The Political Committee embraced the statement that Hungary should not initiate any further step towards the Community until Brussels would not suspend its discriminative and protectionist regulations. - Available here
No. 20 022/1968 resolution on our relations with the Common Market
MNL OL XIX-A-90-a 83. d. | 20022/1968
The Committee for International Economic Relations passed a resolution requiring Hungary to initiate, within CMEA, a re-evaluation and better coordination regarding CMEA–EEC relations. - Available here.