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Speech by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán before a joint tree planting ceremony with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Turkey’s National Forestation Day

Your Excellency, Your Excellencies, Honourable Members of the Turkish Government, Ladies and Gentlemen,

There has been a fortunate alignment of events. I am here for a bilateral meeting – a high-level meeting – at the invitation of your president, President Erdoğan; and tomorrow we will go together to Istanbul for a meeting of the Turkic Council. But on all the television and radio stations yesterday I also noticed that Kemal Atatürk was being commemorated on the anniversary of his death. And today is Turkey’s National Forestation Day. Here three events have coincided. Few people know it, but we in Hungary remember and are proud of the fact that the chief gardener of the great founder of your state, Kemal Atatürk, was a Hungarian. He created the garden commissioned by your first president. We are talking about Mr. Ormos, a renowned Hungarian landscape gardener. We are proud to have contributed to the creation of modern Turkey – at least with as much as some trees.

Your Excellency,

It feels good to plant a tree: it fills one with happiness. Planting a tree is something more mysterious than one might think. Of course we think that if there are more trees the air is cleaner, and if the air is cleaner, life is better and the world is cleaner. But for us Hungarians, planting a tree means something else: for us planting a tree – especially when we do it together with someone else – is a sign of friendship. We Hungarians believe that friendship strengthens and enhances life. We never plant a tree with enemies, because enemies and hostility destroy life; but to celebrate planting a tree together, as we will with Your Excellency, is a sign of friendship. And friendship is something good. We Hungarians also recognise that what we see of a tree – its crown – has exactly the same extent as its root network. This is the order of life. The Hungarian way of looking at this is that it is not simply biology, but also the order of human life. When we see a tree, we need to recognise that today we are able to live like its crown and branches as a result of the work done before us by our parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and their parents before them. A nation is precisely as strong underground in its past – in its roots – as it is in its crown. This is why, for us, planting a tree is also an expression of respect for our ancestors.

And finally, Ladies and Gentlemen, Your Excellency,

Traditional Hungarian culture features a tree which reaches up to the sky. A tree is something that can even grow tall enough to reach the sky. This reminds us Hungarians that our life, our earthly life, must be connected to the sky: to eternal life. I think that this is a symbol that is understood by both Muslims and Christians. We express the link between earthly life and eternal life in the [Latin] expression Sursum Corda: “let us lift up our hearts”. My wish is that Turkish-Hungarian friendship also burgeons, and that its tree grows to the sky!

Thank you for your attention.