How do you evaluate the relationship between the V4 countries, and particularly between Hungary and Slovakia?
Prior to the collapse of the communist regime it was quite obvious that we have the same fate. I think the culture, especially our film-makers, novelists, the people of the intellectual life, already created a common understanding of where we are and why we are there. So after the Second World War it was obvious that we were different but we suffered the same fate: we suffered the same occupation on behalf of the Soviet Union, we suffered because of the lack of freedom in individual life, in public life – even in the economy. So we have a common understanding what the fate of Polish guys was over there, of the Slovakians living in Bratislava and the Czechs, who are living in Prague, suffering exactly because of the same reasons. So we had a common understanding of our history. And then, that is the reason why, when we managed to have our revolutions all around the region, they were linked to each other like a chain. It happened quickly and in reaction to each other immediately. The celebration today here is for Slovakia of course and for the Czech Republic, because it is your anniversary. But the reason why I am here is to pay tribute to Slovakia and to the Czech Republic as well as for what they have done bravely on those very important dates and days and months. And it was important for Hungary as well. I think you contributed to the Hungarian freedom a lot, so we appreciate that.
How do you consider your collaboration with our Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini?
The point is that now it is obvious that Central Europe is strong again. After the collapse of the Soviet Union we suffered a lot with how we should transform our societies to a free society, how to transform our economy to a free economy. So it was not easy, we suffered quite a lot. I was active in politics even in that time: I started by becoming a member of the Hungarian parliament, let’s say thirty years ago, or something like that. I do remember vividly how difficult that was. But now we are in a good shape. I can say that Slovakia is a successful country, the other V4 countries are successful countries economically, and we are catching up with the more lucky West European countries. The cooperation between our countries is quite good, and you know, success cannot be separated from persons. If you don’t have good leadership you cannot be successful. And you have good leadership, so the Slovakian success is related to his success as well. And plus, as a Hungarian, I have to pay tribute to him – I mean to Peter – because he is very much committed to have a good relationship between Hungary and Slovakia; and I think he is a friend of the Hungarians, ethnic Hungarians who are living in Slovakia nowadays. I think he is a good friend to the Hungarians, I am happy to cooperate with him.
Thank you very much.
Prime Minister, what sort of future is there for a strong Central Europe, and what opportunities will it be able to take advantage of?
Well, we’re facing a difficult challenge now, because all forecasts predict that Western European economies are heading for colder, gloomier times, and we hope that we’ll be able to stand on our own feet. We’ll see whether or not this will be the case. We’ll find out how much independent room for manoeuvre Central European countries have, regardless of developments in Western Europe. Naturally we can’t cut ourselves off altogether as, for instance, 85 per cent of our exports go to the Western countries of the European Union. So we can’t afford to have any illusions. This will have an impact on us, but the next year or two will show how strong we are in reality, how resistant we are, and how much we’re able to defend what we’ve already achieved. I myself look forward with excitement to finding out what we’re capable of, but I believe that we’re in good shape: I believe that Hungary’s in good shape, and I believe that the countries of Central Europe are in good shape. I also believe that the V4 countries are in good enough shape to continue producing economic growth of at least 2 per cent above the average of the Western European countries, and of the EU. So I’m optimistic, but the years ahead of us will be harder than those which went before them.
Prime Minister, in an economic sense, how do you think Hungary is able to contribute to the strength of the V4 countries?
This is a geographical region which extends from the Baltic Sea to Hungary’s southern border: this region extends to Serbia, to the Hungarian-Serbian border. It has superb cultural and economic diversity and, if I’m not mistaken, there’s an increasing number of Slovak-Hungarian joint ventures, Czech-Hungarian joint ventures and Slovak-Polish joint ventures. So the actors of the Central European economy are also beginning to link up with one another. This is fantastic, and it’s important, particularly at a time when – and I repeat – we want to free ourselves from developments in the outside world – or at least when we don’t want our fate to be determined from outside. I envisage an increasingly convergent, unifying Central European economic region, and this fills us with hope.
Thank you very much.