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Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s speech at the formal opening of the first phase of the ZalaZONE automotive test track

Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I’m pleased to see you here. I especially greet the Mayor, my fellow Member of Parliament and ambassadors from various European Union countries. Our Austrian friends cannot be with us, because they’ve announced an impromptu hunting season; this reminds us of the importance of political stability in the life of every country.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would especially like to greet László Palkovics. He has a special link to this project, to which he has contributed his personal talents. The concept itself arose because some time in 2018, when we were considering the philosophical basis for the formation of our government. People tend to think that governments simply appear, created by elections. But for a country which practices courageous and long-term thinking, governments are formed for a purpose and with an aim in mind other than their mere existence. In 2018 we came to the conclusion that we had arrived at an era in the history of the Hungarian economy which demanded a paradigm shift, and that this could not reasonably be implemented within a traditional governmental structure. Therefore we created the Ministry of Innovation and Technology, which is the strongest ever ministry in Hungary linked to the economy. The powers and budget it possesses are sufficient to give the Minister the strength to kick open the doors of the future.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I’m also expressing special greetings to the Mayor, because in politics stability and continuity are of the utmost importance. One can clearly see that in Hungary the duty of the current government is not only to launch projects that lay the foundations for the future, and its duty is not to only provide temporary stability: it’s equally important to pave the way for the next political generation – the generation which will be able to continue the work which people like us started when communism fell. Given the biological limitations that apply to politicians just as much as everyone else, stability demands that both in economic policy and party politics there is continuity. I’m pleased to say that across the country we have a number of young mayors who in time will also be ready to take on a national role – provided, of course, that they win in the upcoming local elections in the autumn.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This is how I planned to greet you all. If you’ll allow me, I’d now like to say a few words about this project. If I only had a single sentence in which to sum up what the opening of this test track means, I would say it means that the future has begun. This requires some courage on my part, because it was exactly this phrase that we used as our slogan in the 2002 parliamentary election – which we lost. But one never gives up: one starts over and over again. Since then the essence of the phrase has not changed: around us the future has begun, and it’s called “the digital economy”, or “Industry 4.0”. And indeed this is the feeling that one gets, despite the fact that one may not understand every word here in the opening speeches and on the screen. Regardless of this, one feels that whether we simply stay on the sidelines or enter this future – which we may not precisely understand – is completely up to us. We Hungarians believe that this project here is the first ticket that we have bought on the journey to this future. We are opening a test track on which it will also be possible to test vehicles which, by force of habit, we refer to by their traditional name: cars. On the way in I saw a vehicle with four wheels, and felt that when talking about it there could be no reason to use the same word that we use to describe the vehicles in which we take the driving test. At any rate, Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s clear that we must get to work and act boldly if we don’t want to be left out of this development which will entirely transform our everyday life in terms of transport.

The choice of location for this project was no accident; and while earlier I only spoke about its personal aspects, if you take a look at the map you’ll immediately see why this test track was built right here. This is a special place in Hungary, with three neighbouring countries within easy reach: Croatia, Slovenia and Austria. And although in the minds of the Hungarian people Hungary’s western region has always been synonymous with a higher state of development, in fact there are major differences between the various parts of this western region. For a long time Zalaegerszeg had the misfortune to be a border city: the benefits of being in the western region were erased by its location near the border. This prevented it from developing as dynamically as, say, the interior part of the Transdanubia region, which was less militarily important. Such misfortune was only compounded by some of us – including myself – being garrisoned here during our national service.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

So we had a reason for selecting this site. If we do things well and we indeed manage to do what we’ve planned, then this may become a regional centre for industry. Minister Palkovics has never concealed the fact that the plans here are more ambitious than the development of Zalaegerszeg and its surroundings. We believe that the gravitational effect of this project will be felt not only in Hungary, but across the entire region. Indeed I’ve checked up on where there are similar test tracks in Europe, and I have to say that while there are undoubtedly other test tracks, they were all built earlier – and therefore represent a different level of technology. Therefore it’s not far-fetched or arrogant to say that the effect of this project might be felt not only at a regional level, but perhaps even at a European level.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We are opening the first phase. For a politician this is a nightmare: to attend an opening ceremony before the work is finally complete. In fact everything is on schedule, but we’ve divided the project into two phases, and now we’re opening the first phase. The plan is for the second phase to be complete by 2020. We did this because the idea put forward by Minister Palkovics is for research work to be conducted in the facilities provided by the first phase while the second phase is still being built: neither phase will interfere with the operation of the other. So I think that the decision to divide this project into two phases is justified.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Looking at this project from a greater distance – or height – I can say that there are 620 automotive industry businesses operating in Hungary today. We have 620 such companies, and represented among them are fifteen of the world’s top twenty – or let’s say most influential – vehicle manufacturers and suppliers. Nowadays these automotive industry companies are in fierce competition with one another. And it’s in our national interest for these giants to see Hungary not only as a place where they can assemble their cars, but also as a place where they can partly or wholly develop them. We’d like them to think of Hungary as a country where they can gain a competitive advantage not only in the fields of production and assembly, but also in that of development. This doesn’t seem like such a far-fetched plan either, as today Hungary is much more than an assembly shop. I’d like to emphasise that currently there are ten thousand automotive development engineers in Hungary. There are ten thousand automotive development engineers working in Hungary, and there are also around ten thousand engineers working in the telecommunications field: twenty thousand development engineers in total. Meanwhile, in Hungary today there are forty automotive industry research facilities, and during the current seven-year EU financial framework Hungary has spent a total of 800 billion forints on the operation and development of these automotive industry research facilities.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today this automotive industry strategy is being augmented by a new element for which the Hungarian state budget has allocated 45 billion forints. I ask the Commissioner to ensure that this sum is not exceeded if at all possible: nowadays price rises in the construction industry lead to every project significantly overrunning its original budget. I ask the Commissioner to kindly spare Finance Minister Varga such a shock.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I’d also like to say that this event today is also worth viewing in a wider context: in a few days’ time – in six days – there will be elections which are important for the future of the European Union. We should keep in mind that we’re not doing well: Europe is not doing well. For instance, this project started three years ago: just around the time when the Brexit referendum took place. And the financial and migration crises, culminating in Brexit, also remind us that unless we’re careful – unless we elect the right leaders, make good decisions and take bold steps – Europe could even experience long-term decline: after many centuries our continent could be forced from the ranks of the world’s important players. On a daily basis one receives the impression that this process is already under way – and it is one that we truly need to stop.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As far as we Hungarians are concerned, after a series of European crises – financial, migration and Brexit – we’ve concluded that we must focus on three things: firstly we must preserve our identity; secondly we must protect our security; and thirdly we must further strengthen our competitiveness. As Hungary sees it, these three things are connected. The preservation of the European way of life, the European economic model and the world’s largest internal single market all form part of the protection of our identity and borders. Of course it is important to protect the achievements and results of yesterday, but that will be not enough to win tomorrow; this is why we have had to switch from defence to attack. For Hungary the main lesson of the economic crisis was that it isn’t enough to be on the defensive: we must also take the initiative. Therefore in 2010 we embarked on construction of a Hungarian economic model: first we stabilised the economy; then we put our finances in order; and finally we set the economy on a course of growth. Every such step comes with risks: perhaps it will pay off, perhaps it won’t. At this point in time we can say that the figures are vindicating our actions: after economic growth last year of almost 5 per cent, the figure for the first quarter of this year was 5.2 per cent.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This means that now we’re standing at intersection between the past, the present and the future. We’re standing where the knowledge that Europe has accumulated over the centuries meets the technological challenges of a new age, and also meets engineers, developers, IT engineers, start-ups and legendary large corporations all seeking answers to these challenges.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Hungary is also making progress on the path of research and development. This year, 2019, the Hungarian state budget has allocated more than 140 billion forints to research, development and innovation – mainly through calls for proposals. Next year we will increase the state funds available for research, development and innovation. Mr. Palkovics has written in a note to me that we will increase them by 40 billion forints, but I think that’s too much … by 30 to 40 billion forints, because budget negotiations are currently in progress, and the Hungarian state budget for 2020 will be complete some time in the first week of July. That’s when we’ll see the final numbers, but we shall increase funding for research, development and innovation by at least 30 billion forints – and probably by more. This clearly shows what’s behind the dispute with the Academy [Hungarian Academy of Sciences]: the question is not what should happen to the Academy, but what in fact should happen to Hungarian research, science, innovation and development. Once we’ve decided that we want to spend more money on it – though so far we’ve spent more than earlier – we obviously want to use those sums well and effectively.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I’m convinced that the funds we allocate to innovation, research and development give Hungary the chance of gaining a competitive advantage both internationally and regionally.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today we’re sending the message that we Hungarians have faith in the future of Hungary and our region – and even of Europe. We’re sending everyone the message that we want to strengthen our competitiveness by building on and developing the knowledge and achievements created in earlier times. And this project also shows that we Hungarians believe that European industry has a future.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We must not only take these steps in Hungary, but also across the whole of Europe, in order to keep up with others on the path towards the digital era. We must make available the necessary funding and infrastructure, or else Europe will not be the winner in the digital era, but the loser. Europe must preserve its sovereignty, including its digital sovereignty. It’s not right for us to be storing the modern era’s most important raw material – data – in clouds provided by others. And I believe that it’s also not necessarily healthy that these systems are controlled remotely, from tens of thousands of kilometres away. This exposes us to the danger of manipulation.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We trust that in a few days’ time, after the European elections, Europe will have leaders who want to strengthen the security of its citizens, the social and economic situation of citizens, and also Europe’s sovereignty.

Finally, Ladies and Gentlemen, Honourable Mayor,

I would like to thank the people of Zalaegerszeg for delivering precisely what they committed to. I thank everyone who took part in the construction of the first phase, and I wish you much success with work on the next phase. Such state-of-the-art developments usually inspire one to say all sorts of high-flown things. Instead I would like to aim for modesty. In conclusion I’d rather just say that one thing is already certain: the name of Zalaegerszeg will soon feature on the map of European automotive development. Congratulations on that!

Thank you for your attention. I wish you all every success.