Hungary falls two places in this year’s Soft Power 30 index, down to 28. Home to a rich cultural and historical tapestry, Hungary is known for its beautiful landscapes, exciting nightlife, and impressive architecture. But international perceptions of the country have suffered a major setback following Victor Orban’s anti-EU, anti-immigrant drive. The nationalist rhetoric endorsed by the Hungarian government has been off-putting for tourists and world leaders alike, while draft changes to election laws have provoked concern and prompted complaints from the European Commission. And a recent national campaign against the pro-globalisation Hungarian philanthropist George Soros has received significant international attention and condemnation. Turning towards the Digital sub-index, Hungary holds steady at the middle of the table, indicating a solid performance in both digital infrastructure and digital engagement. It’s a shame that Hungary’s abundant soft power assets are being overshadowed by domestic politics. More emphasis on promoting the many positive aspects of Hungary is critical to ensuring the government doesn’t do irreparable damage on the world stage.
Hungary is a cultural and historical gem. Home to the largest lake in central Europe – Lake Balaton – and a number of spa towns and hot springs, it’s no wonder tourists from around the world are so eager to experience the Hungarian landscape. But with the country ranking at the bottom of the Culture sub-index, there’s room for promoting these cultural assets more broadly.
Hungary undoubtedly suffers from a perception problem. It’s increasingly apparent that tension rising from heightened political debate is damaging Hungary’s international image. Hungary has also fallen to the bottom of our Education sub-index following weaker performances in academic publishing and number of top universities.
A bipartisan effort is required to promote, foster, and invest in Hungary’s cultural assets on an international scale. Doing so will mitigate some of the damage caused by tensions around migration and EU policy.