A respectful welcome to everyone. My apologies for disrupting the usual order; the reason is perhaps well-known to those who read the newspapers. Although La Scala in Milan has hosted many major musical events, this is the first time that it has staged the world premiere of a Hungarian opera. I strive to follow the principle that wherever something is happening that is most important for the country, at which it is good for the Government to be represented – if possible by the Prime Minister – to enable such successes to be enjoyed by all of us, then at such times I usually go there myself. Accordingly I went there yesterday evening, and as a result I was unable to be here with you this morning. Once again I’d offer my apologies. Incidentally, La Scala in Milan was built by Empress Maria Theresa, so there is a link to Hungary; but we didn’t open up the issue of ownership rights during the interval.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The problem isn’t just that I’ve disrupted the usual order, but I didn’t hear the comments made by our leaders from beyond the borders. This problem is somewhat mitigated by the fact that I’m able to regularly meet most of them on a bilateral basis throughout the year – sometimes on several occasions. And so perhaps the situation I find myself in now is manageable. And if I my eyes don’t deceive me, there are no members of the press here – or, to be more precise, at least no reporters on duty. This means that I don’t have to speak to the camera, which is good news. Of course I’ll say three or four sentences like a schoolboy reciting his lines to the class, because reporters are never in short supply; but this event provides an opportunity for us to speak more directly with leaders who oversee or lead specific areas and who were elected beyond the borders. I think the simplest approach is to take things in order, if possible, and then I’ll tell you what the position of the Hungarian government looks like in relation to each given situation.
Perhaps we should begin with Partium and Transylvania. Not long ago, Hunor, you met me in your capacity as President of the RMDSZ [the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania], and we reviewed the development projects going on there. At the moment the most important thing happening there … apart from the comments on Hungarian football made by an entertainment industry icon called Gigi, which delighted us yesterday; it must be painful that a Hungarian third division team knocked Dinamo Bucharest out of the Romanian cup competition, but no matter, let us class that as an entertainment industry topic for now … so discounting this misadventure – if I’ve understood correctly, the most important thing happening there is that an agreement has been reached with the Romanians on our launching an economic development programme based on the German model. There are two crucial points attached to the launch of every economic development programme. One of these is whether we have money, and whether we can repel the opposition’s attacks here at home: the claims that the money should be given to someone else, because such people always have better ideas than the Government. That goes without saying. So the first point is whether there is money. The second, however, is whether the state which exercises supreme governmental power over a given territory will accept us channelling funding there – according to a certain order and conforming to the relevant legal regulations – fundamentally and primarily to boost the economic activity of the Hungarians living there. This is the second point. There is no point in launching economic programmes only for the state exercising supreme power to later retaliate against the businesses which have been given funding. This is why I’ve always asked – this has been my practice so far, and I’ll continue to do this in the future – the parties representing Hungarians in a given territory to negotiate with the majority nation in order to reach an agreement that is essential for approval of a Hungarian economic development programme. This agreement has been reached in Romania. We’ve also been fortunate there because there is a German model, the way the Germans do this, and we effectively adapted that model to our circumstances, mutatis mutandis, and so the Romanians accepted it. Therefore today we’re able to implement these development programmes – not perfectly smoothly, because there is no such thing and we know this characteristic of the Carpathian Basin – but effectively with the agreement of the majority nation. This is making good progress. We’ve carried out all sorts of calculations – in the parliamentary debates where we’ll present them, these will also no doubt come under attack – and according to our calculations each forint we spend on economic development programmes beyond the borders results in a two-forint increase in GDP. And if we don’t regard the state borders as the only existing point of reference, but think in terms of the broader concept of nation, I usually look at the economic output of Hungarians living in these territories – at least I always have access to such statistics – and add it to Hungary’s GDP, in order to gain a rough idea of the overall economic performance of the Hungarian nation in the Carpathian Basin. This clearly shows that the economic development programmes serve as a reasonable means of boosting the overall GDP of the entire Hungarian nation. So I think we’re doing well in this department. There’s little we can do about political instability in Romania, little we can do to help reduce it. In this we always have to rely on the wisdom of the RMDSZ and other allied Hungarian political organisations in determining when to reach what agreement with whom. The previous president and the current one can testify to the fact that we’ve never intervened in this process. Whenever we’ve been given the opportunity to engage in consultation we’ve been happy to take it, but in this respect the RMDSZ has always adopted its own decisions. This is also true now, and so I wish them every success in adopting sound decisions amidst what is clearly a permanent state of instability in Romania. Let me just inform you that when the European Parliament staged its farcical attack on Hungary, all the members of the party of the President of the Romanian Senate voted in favour of Hungary, and against the proposal to censure Hungary. This is despite the fact that those Romanian representatives belong to the Liberal group in the European Parliament: the group that initiated the procedure against Hungary. And I believe that this is a fact that we must bear in mind when building our relations. Accordingly, when in Brussels this week a parliamentary resolution was hurled at Romania, all the representatives of the Hungarian government party voted for Romania and against this attack, in the same way as the party of the President of the Romanian Senate had done for us. So we returned the political support and gesture that we received from them. We don’t see this as a party political issue: we belong to the European People’s Party, they belong to the Liberals, but in this case this means nothing, because in essence the European Parliament adopts resolutions against nations. And in this instance in Brussels we stood with Romania – or at least the majority of Hungarian MEPs stood with Romania – as a show of solidarity. I only say this to make it clear that gentlemen are not scoundrels: this is the principle that the Hungarian government follows. So this is how I see this matter. I think personal relations are in order. Cooperation between the RMDSZ and the other Hungarian parties is making some progress, the usual prods and jabs notwithstanding. We must be able to live with this situation. Looking back over the past twelve months, I think that 2018 has been a successful year.
There’s something which is generating political debate in Hungary: the elections to the European Parliament. Naturally this debate primarily concerns Serbia and Ukraine. We’ve been under pressure from the European Parliament, or perhaps the Commission: we’ve adopted a rule which allows Hungarian citizens who do not live in the territory of the European Union to vote in the elections. We’ve recently created the legal conditions for this, and this clearly shows that for us the elections to the European Parliament are not party elections, but rather a vote across the entire Hungarian nation. Incidentally, those citizens are regarded as being outside. When I fight in various battles out there, then naturally there are a number of European People’s Party representatives with us, because on such issues meaningful cooperation with the opposition hasn’t emerged yet. Anyway, we have a certain number of People’s Party representatives, and there are Hungarian organisations beyond the borders which also belong to the People’s Party, whose representatives can be numerically added to ours for the assertion of Hungarians’ interests. So precisely how many votes we have, our influence and the issues on which we can make a decisive contribution depend not only on the result of the elections to the European Parliament in Hungary, but also on the performance of the RMDSZ or the other Hungarian parties in the European Parliament elections in their home countries. Perhaps that’s all we can say about the Transylvanian dimension. As far as I see, cooperation with the historical churches is in order. I think that it has been a very long time since Hungary last had the capacity and financial strength that it now has to fund policy promoting Hungarian identity in Transylvania on a clearly long-term, legally watertight basis. Church property is, after all, an issue in which this is important. I would like to inform the RMDSZ, and the other two Transylvanian Hungarian parties, that at the Hungarian government’s Wednesday meeting one of the items on its agenda was the issue of collective ownership in Transylvania, because we can see the emergence of a process which seeks to create a very dangerous legal precedent: collective ownership in Transylvania is being debated. I believe you have spoken about this, Hunor, so I don’t need to repeat it here. Anyway, your report brought home to the Hungarian government the nature of this problem and its magnitude. We discussed it, and the Hungarian government is ready to consult with you on the details. This is a matter of legal representation and legal defence, so if you contact us we shall be at your disposal.
As regards Felvidék [the Hungarian-populated region of Slovakia], there’s a thorn in our side: a thorn in the shape of a “bridge” [Híd, the Hungarian-Slovak party]. The existence of this party isn’t a problem for us, as in the past [its leader] Béla Bugár has displayed his merits: some people like him, others don’t, and one can have any of a number of views on the matter. Our problem is a structural one, because the existence of a mixed ethnicity party in Felvidék raises the question of whether from the viewpoint of strategy for the nation it is necessary, good and desirable to have parties in the Carpathian Basin which are formed on an ethnic basis, or if it is better to form mixed ethnicity parties. To date this government’s position – which I suggest we maintain – is that it would present an existential danger if we switched from ethnically-based political representation to mixed ethnicity political representation. I think that this is a very grave danger and a trap which we must avoid stepping into – even if sometimes it breaks one’s heart to see fine Hungarians running as candidates for Híd, whom we should oppose by supporting an ethnically Hungarian party. Our opposition is not a matter of personal preferences – although that is not irrelevant – but primarily because structurally we mustn’t allow representation on an ethnically mixed basis to supplant single-ethnicity representation. Over there, where you come from, elections – and there have been municipal elections and we’ve seen the results – are a complicated business. As I see it, the situation is the same as it is in Hungary: everyone won. That’s the nature of municipal elections. So I congratulate everyone: please pass on the best wishes of the Hungarian government to everyone you meet in Felvidék. I’ve seen figures which clearly show that the MKP [Party of the Hungarian Community] has strengthened; so, speaking seriously, please accept our recognition of that.
If we move on to Serbia, we see that we have to deal with a key issue. István, we wish to congratulate you, too, on the national council elections. For many years now, we – the Hungarian government together with you – have been creating an unprecedented situation there, which seeks to raise Serbian-Hungarian relations to a high-priority strategic level. This is quite an achievement in light of the historical facts – including the events at the beginning of the nineties, or rather the mid- and late nineties. At that time Hungary, as a member of NATO, played an infrastructure role, and thus played a part in NATO’s bombing of Serbia. So taking all past events into account – not only those from a hundred years ago, but also these recent ones – I believe that the rebuilding of relations has been launched against a very difficult background and from a very difficult starting point. But I believe that the gestures of historical reconciliation made by the Hungarian and Serbian presidents have opened several doors, and since then we’ve made good progress in passing through these doors. So I can say that the efforts we’ve been making to build Serbian-Hungarian relations have been outstandingly successful. I’d like to congratulate you on this. I also believe that it was great news that in the national council elections in Serbia there was no interference of any kind: they remained a Hungarian internal affair, and the Hungarians were able to independently decide – without Serbian influence – what representatives they place their trust in. We would be happy if the Serbian legal regulations were extended across the entire Carpathian Basin, because the statutory solution in Serbia effectively provides autonomy in the cultural sphere. And as we’ve established good relations there, that was where we’ve had our economic development programmes approved first. The Serbian government and the Serbian president have personally taken part in business events with us which marked the completion of projects implemented within these economic development programmes. This means that he has legitimised the economic development programmes which we can now implement in Vojvodina [Vajdaság] today – and sometimes even outside Vajdaság – not simply with declarations, but also with his personal presence. I’d like to indicate that a recurring request from the Serbs has been that Hungarian projects should be implemented not only in Vojvodina, but also south of Belgrade. In order to do this we’ve activated all the means at our disposal – and the Hungarian government does have some; and so several developments and projects have also been implemented south of Belgrade. So I believe that we, too, have made some gestures to the Serbian government which make it easier for it to support Hungarian economic development programmes – and to explain this support to the Serbian public. And as far as I see, good progress is being made on this also. So let me congratulate you one more time.
The situation related to Ukraine is a difficult one. It’s not my style and not to my liking to make derogatory comments about the elected leaders of other states, but the truth is that we’re not making progress with the Ukrainians. In my experience, which goes back some time, it’s quite rare – but not entirely unprecedented, because I’ve also worked with Romanians – to agree on something on Monday, and then on Tuesday hear the other side claim that we didn’t agree on anything. And it’s rare to agree on what to do on Wednesday, but then on Thursday find that the opposite is happening. So even in my experience such a situation is virtually unprecedented. The problem is that this is the situation with the Ukrainians. This means that there is no solid foundation of trust enabling us to take our negotiations with them seriously. I always feel that in every meeting the only thing that is important for them is the next morning’s statements and media headlines. Beyond that they do not serve to create or build any kind of stability, trust or reliability. So like you I’m in a very difficult situation. Naturally you are the ones most directly affected, but at present even the most basic political preconditions needed to improve the situation are missing. We’ve needed to take some difficult decisions, but we’ve had to make certain things clear – not only because of the nature of the Ukrainian education Act, but also because we know about the bills already before the Parliament in Kiev on regulating language use and other issues outside education. And from this point of view the situation is deteriorating. So rather than remedying the problems that have emerged so far, the continuing series of new bills are creating ever worse situations. The Ukrainian intelligence services have been used – indeed overtly – against Transcarpathians who have Hungarian citizenship or are presumed to have dual citizenship. This definitely stretches beyond breaking point the limits of tolerance we’ve generally accepted up to now in the Carpathian Basin. There is no doubt that there are such operations, and these services have a duty to do their jobs. But for them to act openly and publicly with intent to intimidate is a new phenomenon in the history of bilateral relations in the Carpathian Basin. So we’re in a difficult situation. Hungary can do one thing, and I have done it and will continue to do so with ever more determination: we shall make it clear that Ukraine’s path to NATO and the European Union can only lead through Hungary and Budapest. End of story. Incidentally, there’s a large question mark over whether that path even exists, and whether or not geopolitical realities will allow it as a realistic option; but let’s leave that to one side here. It follows from this that, in response to the discriminatory laws affecting Hungarians in Transcarpathia, we’re blocking cooperation with Ukraine at every European Union and NATO forum. We do not consent – in fact we veto – any cooperation, including the convening of the Ukraine-NATO council: it cannot take place. We consent to informal meetings below that level, but there will be no Ukraine-NATO association council meetings – or any committee meetings, whatever their names are – because we have the right to block them. And we do block them. So I think that from the viewpoint of nation building the current state of affairs is decidedly unfavourable. If one were to ask me how to evaluate the current state of affairs in terms of nation building in Transcarpathia, I’d have to say that it’s extremely unfavourable, and it undermines our work. Now that we have strength, and the potential to use this strength – whether in terms of the economy, education or cultural development – these conflicts prevent us from doing so. Therefore in terms of nation building the current situation is the worst possible one. But we cannot resolve this situation with some kind of a gesture, agreement or handshake, because the other side is not one which will honour such agreements. This is why at present the only option open to us is a policy of force. And as in Ukraine next year there will be an election – a presidential election – we’ve started building relations with the political forces which may play a role in the election and after it, and when building relations we’re beginning to prepare for the post-election period. This is where we stand at present. Minister Szijjártó has full authority to conclude any agreements on specific issues. So if he takes the view that in this apparently hopeless general context it is possible to come to an agreement on one issue or another, he may do so; because through regular meetings between the two sides – which are extremely unsuccessful and frustrating – Péter Szijjártó has gained the experience entitling him to exercise this privilege on behalf of the Hungarian side. This is more or less how I see things. The fact that there have now been attacks on Ildikó Orosz, that they have started harassing Ildikó – a well-known, prominent participant in nation building in Transcarpathia – because of her speech delivered at a commemoration event in Budapest on 23 October, clearly shows that all previously mutually accepted boundaries have been crossed. There is one thing we shall not do. We shall not attack Ukrainian business interests operating in Hungary. We have not crossed this red line – and I would prefer not to cross it if possible: such actions would not benefit either the rule of law in Hungary, or the long-term prospects for bilateral relations. There are major Ukrainian investments in Hungary. Not all of these can be described as above reproach, but as far as we know they operate within the law; and so at present we haven’t placed them under any form of investigation, in order to avoid the assumption that Hungary wants to provoke all-out confrontation with Ukraine. Let me just quietly add that in Helsinki – or wherever I was recently – I had the chance to taste some chocolate with the brand name “Budapest”. It’s made by a Ukrainian company in Kiev. So that’s all I have to say on how those things stand.
As regards Croatia, I would say that there is a thorn in our side there also. It is not a thorn of our own, like the one in Felvidék, but a true conflict of a business nature. This is a problem for MOL, and during my talks on this with the Croatian prime minister my strategy is for us to regard the MOL dispute in terms of economics and companies. Despite all requests to the contrary, I’ve tried to explain to them that raising the MOL problem to the level of Croatian-Hungarian bilateral relations would justify more robust action by the Hungarian state, and that would immeasurably damage Croatian-Hungarian relations. Because if we need to fight, we do so, and that’s not an easy situation. So both of us will be much better off if we in Hungary regard this conflict – which they have already exacerbated by raising it to governmental level – as a company-level legal conflict, which naturally must be investigated. This is why the various international courts exist; there are a number of cases in progress, and we will accept the decisions adopted for resolution of the situation. But let’s not raise this to the highest level, even if one part of the legal action related to MOL – which we in Hungary knew nothing about and which has made no progress – seeks to involve a large section of the Hungarian economic elite, as the most prominent, internationally recognised players in the Hungarian business elite are on MOL’s supervisory board or are active in one body or another of the company. So general proceedings have also been brought against them, but there has been no progress in the case. The Croatians have enacted the harshest measures against Hungary, but despite this I recommend that we keep the MOL issue within the sphere of business, corporate affairs and international law, and do not raise it to the level of intergovernmental relations. This is one of the reasons that it’s been a long time since we’ve had official bilateral visits between the two countries. The Croatian prime minister recently contacted me, I accepted his suggestions, and we met somewhere in the world. If everything goes to plan, at the beginning of December there will be what I think is called a Central Europe summit. This is an old form of international cooperation for the countries of Central Europe which played a major role back in the 1990s, but which has since largely lost its importance. Everyone’s in it, from the Italians all the way to the Bulgarians, and they will have a meeting in Zagreb in two weeks’ time. Taking advantage of this summit, I’ll go there one day early, and we’ll hold an official Croatian-Hungarian interstate meeting. I think it’s good for bilateral relations if the MOL case is not forced into the sphere of interstate relations, which would mean that our meeting is more likely to succeed than fail. This is what I’ll be able to say there. In addition to this, it greatly pains me to say that the South Baranya region happens to be one of Hungary’s most problematic regions, while Slavonia happens to be one of Croatia’s most problematic regions: these are two neighbouring areas. It would be perfectly logical for us to combine what we have – our financial resources and our plans – and launch a major cross-border regional development programme for South Baranya and Slavonia. It has become an underpopulated area, with very many people from the Croatian region leaving the country, while on the Hungarian side there are scattered small villages and a significant Roma population. As a result of the old tendency for single-child families there in the Ormánság region of Hungary, it too is struggling with the phenomenon of depopulation. So we have shared problems. We could launch a major economic development programme, and achieve significant results with relatively little funding. I’m continually suggesting this to the Croatians, but clearly they’re transfixed by business conflicts and are afraid to develop any kind of Hungarian-Croatian economic cooperation, because they’ve turned their conflict with MOL into a political issue – and through this also their relations with Hungarians. This in turn slows us down in the area of economic cooperation. So on the whole this is the situation, and this is what I can tell you about Croatia.
Turning to Slovenia, there we’re in an acclimatisation stage, because this is the first time in my not especially short political career that I’ve encountered a situation in which a comedian has been elected prime minister. I’ve seen the opposite, in which a prime minister has become a comedian – there’s more than one example I could mention. But for their version of Fábry [Hungarian TV host and comedian] to stand in an election, win that election and become prime minister is something that we’ve not yet got used to. I have to say, by the way, that the Prime Minister obviously receives high-quality training back home, because in all international forums he holds his own faultlessly. So, despite the fact that he comes from the world of the arts and the stage, whenever I’ve met him and at every meeting that he’s spoken at he’s faultlessly articulated and represented Slovenia’s national interests. And it seems that perhaps we’ll be able to cooperate with him. As far as I know, you support his party, so an agreement of some kind has come into being. He told me that he’s managed to obtain your support. Clearly on the issue of migration he represents a current which is different from ours: if I’m not mistaken, he has called upon everyone to openly support the UN’s migration compact; while we’re among those who openly reject it. But regardless of this, nothing in our relations has been damaged. What has been damaged – and cannot be repaired – is Hungary’s participation in the development of the port at Koper, and in the extension of the strategically important railway line leading there. We would have liked this to happen, but there was even a referendum against that. Even our sister party in the EPP supported the referendum organised against Hungary’s involvement – although not openly. So we’re in a rather complicated situation; but as far as I can see this will come to nothing. This is why in terms of gaining access to the sea the Government has decided to put Koper on hold, and now we’re conducting negotiations for port acquisition and investment in Trieste – for which the prospects are good. I’m sorry to say that I don’t see the point in wasting any more time and energy on attempting to gain access to the sea via Slovenia, or on the projects related to that. We’d only have received a minority share anyway – but in Trieste it is possible to acquire a majority stake in certain parts of the port, and create a sea access route for Hungarian goods which is far safer than the present one. Later on, one or two government terms in the future, if the opportunity arises, we might try to relaunch Hungarian maritime transport. This is one of the losses for the Hungarian national economy, by the way, because even without a coast Hungary had maritime transport, as it’s a transport activity, it’s a shipping capability issue; but we’ve completely lost that capability. Maybe at some point the time will come, due to the Hungarian economy’s development, when we can rebuild that capability, but also in order to transport goods we need some kind of access to the sea. In our first term, between 1998 and 2002, we tried this with the Croats in Rijeka, but with very little success. Then between 2014 and 2018 we tried with Slovenia, again with very little success. So between 2018 and 2022 we’ll try with the Italians, and we’ll see where we can get. But on the whole I believe this is going well. In the areas of Lendva [Lendava] and the Őrség which are part of Slovenia we’ve perhaps managed to launch some economic development programmes. This is a smaller area, and we’re talking about smaller sums of money, but we’ve perhaps managed to start them, and so I sincerely hope that the Foreign Ministry is following through on them thoroughly. Your problem has always been a problem from school days: it’s always the shortest child who has to stand at the end of the line in the gym, and who is always exposed to the wind. Somehow, due to the size of their community, the Hungarians in Slovenia were always classed as also-rans. But in the past few years I believe we’ve changed this, and we’ve adopted decisions. Now all that is needed is that these must be seen through.
Have we reached the end of the list then? There are no Austrians here, so there’s nothing to discuss there. In that context I should perhaps tell you that at the Diaspora Council I spoke to Hungarians living in Austria, who were represented there. And we can now move to another dimension of this discussion. The situation is that west of Vienna the demographic situation is hopeless. I’m not saying that anything is final, because that is very rare in politics; and likewise I wouldn’t say that it is irreversible. Over the course of time things may happen to change one’s way of thinking, and therefore one’s political decisions. But at the moment, the consequences of the acceptance of multiculturalism in cities to the west of Vienna have set in motion sociological processes which are almost irreversible. We will have to reckon with these. These do not need to be put on the agenda of the current meetings, as we have another five or six years; but when there is a change in the structure and order of political representation in Western European cities the results will be spectacular. Perhaps a month ago the secretary-general of the CDU – the Christian Democratic Union of Germany – said in an interview that everyone knows that this will happen: no one should be surprised, and the fact that in German cities everywhere there will be an Islamic majority should not be turned into a political issue. It is only a question of time, and in some cities this will happen in the near future. This is a topic which at present the world west of Vienna treats as a clear mathematical fact. This will result in all sorts of complications and consequences for the Hungarian community across the entire Carpathian Basin, given that the dividing line between those areas where these phenomena have been allowed to spread massively and those areas where they have not been allowed to unfold is located right here, on the former frontier between East and West. So The Czechs, the Poles, we Hungarians, the Slovaks, the Croats and the Slovenes are on this side of the line, where these phenomena have not intensified; meanwhile on the other side of Vienna they seem to be unstoppable.
If you’ll allow me, perhaps I’ll say a few words about Central Europe. Citing some unexpected and surprising figures, last time I also said that over the next few years Central Europe – including the entire Carpathian Basin – will be the engine of European economic growth. Back then I quoted statistics on trade with the Germans which show that the volume and value of trade between France and Germany is a mere fifty per cent of the trade volume between the V4 and Germany. This is a remarkable thing, because – regardless of the outcome of World War II – there has never been much doubt about the fact that Germany would be and would remain the European economy’s most important and central player. And this is also the case today. Since the reunification of Germany, this question has not even arisen: at present it is a country of 83–84 million people. As regards the eastward and westward impacts of this enormous economic potential, until recently the European
Union largely depended on the economic axis of France and Germany. Today, however, in terms of trade volume – which is not the only indicator, and not all indicators are quite so positive or rapidly moving in our favour – the Germany-Central Europe axis is more important than the Germany-France economic axis. Naturally, this is not yet the case in terms of the total volume to GDP, because the French GDP is substantially higher than the V4’s combined GDP; but the gap is narrowing, and it will not be long before the balance tips in our favour. So we’re living through a historical process in which, both in terms of political power and economics, Germany’s economic force will form its strongest links with Central Europe. This will enhance the role of the entire region in relation to the traditional German-French axis. This process is taking place today, and I don’t see any developments that would reverse it. With regard to this process, it is extremely important to maintain cooperation among the V4 and the countries of Central Europe; because naturally, if we compare Hungarian-German relations or Czech-German relations separately with the French and German economies, in themselves they are obviously not competitive. But if we look at the V4 as a whole, with a population of more than sixty million, if there is a united V4 – which can be seen as a political and economic unit capable of working together – then the entire European geopolitical situation presents itself in a different light. This is why it is important to create the cultural background and preconditions for cooperation in Central Europe, and for its emergence as a unitary economic and political element. Therefore our very strong commitment to the V4 can be explained not simply by current figures, but also by our vision for how Central Europe – and within it Hungary – can increase in geostrategic importance. And this is where we can see why I think that we should support the European Union’s enlargement towards the Balkans. I ask you, Ladies and Gentlemen, to help us in this; because, regardless of the fact that the V4 comprises only four countries, in terms of Central Europe as a whole there are other countries which will add – mostly through the Hungarian economy’s integrative capabilities – to Central Europe’s overall performance. Therefore, it will be an important milestone in Central Europe’s geopolitical rise when we finally admit the Montenegrins to the European Union sooner or later, and then the Macedonians and the Serbs. This will increase the importance of the region – including that of Hungary. Therefore the reunification of the Balkans is also in Hungary’s national interest: it is in the interest of the EU; it is in the interest of Central Europe; and it is also in the interest of Hungary. I think I’ve said everything I could possibly say in this setting.
Perhaps here we should say a few words about the centenary. Perhaps last year we tipped our hats to Hunor Kelemen and his colleagues in recognition of the witty slogan on policy beyond the borders which runs thus: “A thousand years in Transylvania, a hundred years in Romania.” This more or less sums up the situation from which we should view these anniversaries. I believe that the Romanians have declared the whole year to be some kind of memorial year, while here in Hungary it is perhaps Jobbik – if I am not mistaken – that is attempting to have the anniversary of Trianon declared a memorial year. We did not support this idea. Instead we have extended the commemorations of World War I by two years, as from Hungary’s point of view World War I did not end with the ceasefires of autumn 1918, but with the peace treaty. As a result, without effectively making a separate gesture – which, I believe, would have resulted in disruptions in regional policy, rather than in advantages – we’ve extended the existing commemoration process. So the anniversary of Trianon will be among the official memorial years without any separate announcement, and we’ve also added the necessary funds to the financial allocation of the World War I memorial year. As a result, the work connected with this will continue: it will not end this year, but commemorations will continue in 2019 and 2020 – along with the economic, cultural and political work that goes with them. With a government resolution, the Hungarian government adopted the position of congratulating the Polish on the one hundredth anniversary of the establishment – or re-establishment – of their country. I sent a letter in which I wrote that while naturally for Hungary World War I is a painful subject, among all the bad things that happened to us then, one good thing did happen, something that we can both look upon with joy: the rebirth of the independent Polish state. We congratulate them on this, and wish them great success. Our attendance at events held in relation to the anniversary – not the Polish anniversary, but the other anniversaries related to World War I – was low-profile. At the fine gathering held last week in Paris, for instance, Hungary was represented by the Hungarian Ambassador. I myself was invited to all sorts of places, like Prague, but I naturally declined. Instead everywhere our representation was at a lower level and more subdued – which I believe was right. We absolutely owe it to ourselves not to make fools of ourselves, but we also didn’t want to build it into some kind of powerful public act of national defiance. We simply wanted to behave in a manner which we believe befits a self-respecting nation: given that we lost that wretched war and had to suffer all its consequences, of course we won’t celebrate together with them, but naturally we’ll find a way to prevent it rebounding on us diplomatically. I believe we’ve positioned ourselves quite well so far, but of course the next year and a half will be more difficult; this has been the easier part. I advise everyone to keep calm, and to try to make straight and honest decisions without causing unnecessary political risks. This is the attitude I suggest we adopt. Let us be firm, if you like, though now that we’re strong again – and as I see it Hungary is strong again – our slogan should be this: let us dare to be Hungarian. We should dare to be Hungarian not only when that’s enjoyable, but also in these complicated situations. And let us behave as Hungarians should do in such complicated situations, taking full responsibility for our own history. This is what I advise Budapest, and this is what I advise the Hungarian leaders of territories beyond the borders as well.
Thank you for your attention.