International conference in Budapest on soft power

International conference in Budapest on soft power

2012. 11. 28.



At the event organised by the New Society Salon, the state secretary said that the future of soft power is within civil society, which in the past has not been strong in Hungary. A deficit of almost fifty years must be made up for, as when communism made its appearance there was a campaign to eliminate the infrastructure of civil society. He said that the Soviets’ efforts in doing this were far more effective in Hungary than in any other socialist country, and so when the democratic transition came it was difficult to restore the strength of soft power based on civil society.

Mr Kovács said that under the current government, structural reforms in Hungary have begun and ‘we have transformed the country’; twenty years after the transition, civil society may now grow stronger.

György Schöpflin, European People’s Party MEP, said that soft power is gaining an ever greater role in the modern world, and is becoming more important alongside the basic means of power acquisition. He said that it is difficult to exactly define soft power, and the meaning which has emerged in the last few decades is similar to ‘influence, persuasion and debate’. He pointed out that every country has such a form of power, and that in today’s ‘competing world’ its significance is growing continuously. Mr. Schöpflin said that its goal is often the gaining of respect and recognition, but it can, for example, strengthen the image of a country, with appropriate lobbying and through culture.

Katalin Bogyay, President of the General Conference of UNESCO, said that soft power is the force of consensus, and hopefully in the future of international relations it will not be threats, military power or economic influence that are the deciding factors, but countries working together based on soft power in a spirit of mutual respect. She said that countries do not agree to cooperate as a result of force, but voluntarily. She pointed out that soft power is not only found in countries but in organisations, and UNESCO attempts to convince people of the importance of peaceful coexistence with the protection of cultural diversity and support for education and science.

In a video message sent to the conference, Joseph Nye, political scientist and former Dean of the School of Government at Harvard University, said that military and economic power is not everything, and the power of any country does not consist exclusively of these. A country can reach a position in which other countries do what it would like not only through threats, but with persuasion and influence. In other words, soft power is indispensable in the exercise of power.

(Ministry of Public Administration and Justice)