The Prime Minister congratulated his counterparts on reviving the United Nations Special Programme for the Economies of Central Asia (SPECA) initiative.
He said he has been in international politics for 33 years, and he can therefore share his experience that the last 10 years have been completely different from the previous 20. There was a financial crisis, Europe has been affected by an immigration crisis for eight years, a pandemic came, war broke out in Ukraine, and most recently, a security crisis erupted in the Middle East, he listed.
He highlighted that “we must prepare for having to find the solutions that promote the advancement of our countries amidst stormy affairs also in the future.” The revival of SPECA could be of great help in this situation, Mr Orbán added.
He said Europe had found itself on the frontline of the challenges mentioned; there is a war in Europe, its competitiveness is deteriorating, there are parallel societies in ever more European countries, and the threat of terrorism is on the rise.
In the previous three decades, European economic growth rested on stable foundations, the idea was simple, but all the more brilliant: advanced western technology was combined with cheap and easily accessible eastern, mostly Russian energy carriers, he pointed out, adding that due to the war and in consequence of the answers given in response thereto, however, this cooperation has fallen apart, additionally, in such a way that in the meantime no new strategy of any kind had been devised to replace it.
The Prime Minister said this is why there is a big debate under way in Europe about how Europe should connect to the world East of us. In this debate, there are two schools: one seeks to detach itself from the East, while the other one seeks connection, Mr Orbán said.
He observed that vehicle production constitutes the backbone of the European economy, and now that we must change over to a green period, large western manufacturers are dependent on eastern suppliers.
He recalled that earlier the whole of Central Europe had been on the receiving end of the development of blocs. Therefore, “we want the world economic era now unfolding before our eyes to be determined by connections and cooperation based on mutual respect.” Without connecting Central Asia and Europe together, “we are unable to create a new successful European economic strategy,” he stated.
He said, therefore, the role of Central Asia has increased significantly from a European point of view, and in order to have connections and civilised East-West cooperation during the period ahead, we need mediators. “We – from Europe – look upon Central Asia as a territory that connects the European and eastern transport, trade and digital routes together,” he said.
Mr Orbán observed that the existence of a safe, predictable and modern transport route between Europe and Asia is also a fundamental interest for the Hungarian national economy.
The strategy of our national economy is based, he said, on turning Hungary into a meeting point for the most advanced eastern and western companies. Hungary boasts the highest percentage of Asian investments, and the role of energy carriers coming from Central Asia in the operation of our economy is increasing, he added.
He stressed that they wanted to strengthen this process in the future; therefore, they support all initiatives which strengthen Central Asia and supports the cooperation of the region’s countries. With this in mind, Hungary did not only support, but was a co-signatory of the UN resolution praising cooperation, and on Monday when it was adopted by the UN, Hungary was represented at the level of its foreign minister, he recalled.
The Prime Minister also said they are building not only “a gas friendship,” but also a brotherly friendship with Azerbaijan. “We are brotherly nations,” but in the past few years we have also succeeded in forging strong energy cooperation between the two countries, he stated.
He said the volume of Azeri-Hungarian trade is going to break a new record this year, ever more Hungarian companies are going to Azerbaijan to implement investments, and the first gas consignments have also arrived in Hungary from Azerbaijan.
Hungary will be happy to take part in the work seeking to promote the economic cooperation of Central Asian countries also in the future, Mr Orbán highlighted.