Similar to other Central and Eastern European countries, relations between the EU and Hungary until its formal application for accession in 1994 were viewed primarily as external relations (Denca 2008: 13). Although relations with the EU appeared to be as political in their symbolism as economic in their substance, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) emerged as the governmental center to coordinate and oversee the complex political, economic, and legal aspects of Hun gary’s accession negotiations with the EU. After the launch of accession talks in 1997, the technical and complex nature of the individual chapters of the negotiations enhanced the role, challenged the capacity, and stretched the functions of the MFA. The accession process turned out to be far more complicated, technical, and extended than Hungary’s diplomatic relations with any other international organization. The range of subject matters under discussion extended way beyond the spectrum of political and/or economic diplomacy known by Hungary (or any other candidate country) in its experience of engagement with and accession to other Western multilateral
institutions, such as NATO or the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Despite the prevalence of complex social, environmental, trade, economic, and legal questions in the accession process, the conduct of the accession negotiations remained the responsibility of the MFA. The Foreign Ministry maintained its central role as the platform for collecting expert opinions from the competent state institutions and amalgamating them into national positions for the successive rounds of the negotiations until they were completed. Thereafter, in view of the established practices in other EU member states, there were three possible alternatives for the orchestration of EU affairs in Hungary once it was an EU member:
• continued coordination by the MFA • a separate ministry of European integration • central coordination from the Prime Ministerial Chancellery.