At a joint press conference following their meeting in Budapest, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said that he and his Polish counterpart had agreed that the strengthening of cooperation between members of the Visegrád Group (V4) is a mutual goal. In the coming years the success of the whole of the European Union hinges on the success of the Central European region, because “if we are not successful there will be no economic growth in Europe”, the Hungarian prime minister highlighted.
On the subject of Polish-Hungarian bilateral relations, which he described as a “historic alliance”, Mr. Orbán also stated that this is a tried and tested friendship which goes back hundreds of years, and that this friendship is not dependent on politicians; if history so demanded, it would continue to exist despite politicians.
“I would like to make it clear that Madam Prime Minister and Poland can count on Hungary’s solidarity in the face of any form of double standards, from whatever source, and any kind of unfairness towards Poland”, he emphasised.
On the subject of the bilateral economic issues which were at the centre of the negotiations, the Hungarian prime minister said that it is important to strengthen ties between Polish and Hungarian enterprises. To this end Mr. Orbán and Mrs. Szydło have agreed to link the eastern industrial regions of the two countries with dual carriageways, he announced; he highlighted the city of Miskolc, which would be connected to eastern Poland via Košice in Slovakia. The parties also agreed to improve rail connections and increase the number of direct flights by establishing Budapest-Katowice and Budapest-Krakow routes, for instance.
With reference to the EU reform proposals put forward by the United Kingdom, Mr. Orbán said that he and his Polish counterpart had confirmed that they agree with the majority of the British proposals, but there are points on which further discussion is necessary. The goal is for the countries of the Visegrád Group to represent a joint standpoint at the next Brussels summit following next Monday’s V4 meeting, he stated.
The Prime Minister also said that he accepts with understanding Poland’s commitment to having transatlantic military units and equipment stationed in Central Europe. Every country has a right to voice such requirements, he added.
Another topic at the meeting was migration, and in this regard the Hungarian prime minister confirmed that Europe is unprotected from the south and that Greece is incapable of protecting the continent. In light of this the Hungarian government believes that a new line of defence is required along Greece’s borders with Bulgaria and Macedonia.
In reply to a question from the press concerning migration, Mr. Orbán also said that in the West “the wind of change” can occasionally be heard on the issue, but “we shouldn’t let this deceive us”, because we mustn’t forget that most of the western countries supported the current wave of migration. Migration “didn’t enter Western Europe by force; the doors were flung wide open”, and in fact people were sometimes transported to Western Europe in an unmonitored manner, he said.
According to the Prime Minister, a significant proportion of Western European political leaders regard migration as a positive phenomenon, just as they did six months ago. And as a result, he continued, the problem is far from being over, because immigration cannot be stopped until European leaders recognise that it is a bad thing.
Prime Minster Orbán argued that the West should join Central European efforts to establish a southern line of defence.
Mr. Orbán also noted that the western part of Europe does not fully appreciate the burdens borne by Central Europe related to refugees from Ukraine. Poland deserves special acknowledgement, because it has managed to handle the situation without financial support from the European Union, he pointed out.
“When it comes to solidarity, we would ask that efforts conducted in the interests of refugees from Ukraine should also be evaluated within the context of Europe as a whole”, he indicated. In reply to another question, the Prime Minster said that he believes a debate should begin on what kind of EU we want, and the V4 will undertake this task within the next year or two.
Poland will always support Hungary
“Poland will always support Hungary on political and economic issues, and it is grateful to Hungary for its solidarity”, Mrs. Szydło said.
The Polish prime minister stressed that Poland is committed to the development of a joint V4 standpoint on “Brexit”: the possible exit of Great Britain from the European Union. Negotiations with Czech and Polish partners will also take place prior to the Prague summit on 15 February, she said.
The Prime Minister of Poland said that the most important issue is the proposal on social benefits, which is unacceptable in its present form. The V4 will not allow the proposals to be put forward for interpretation at EU level, she indicated, adding that their final joint standpoint is still under development.
Mrs. Szydło also stressed the importance of a joint V4 standpoint on the issue of migration, stating that Poland’s position is clear: the southern border of the Schengen Area must be reinforced and the solution to the problem must be found outside the borders of the European Union. Poland is making serious preparations for the protection of its eastern border, and every state has the sovereign right to choose what forces it allows to police its borders, she added.
The Polish prime minister stressed that she hopes the V4 will succeed in agreeing on more and more joint standpoints within the European Union. There is a need for as many Visegrád projects as possible which serve the interests of our citizens, she added.
In reply to a question from the press concerning the fact that Venice Commission representatives will be visiting Warsaw on Monday, Mrs. Szydło explained that the body’s visit had been prepared in detail and Commission experts will have full access to all facts and specific documents. The Venice Commission will be meeting representatives of the Government and the Constitutional Court of Poland, and the visit is a good opportunity to explain the changes which needed to be implemented with relation to the Constitutional Court, she stated.
In reply to a question, the Polish prime minister also mentioned the fact that in the next few days the Polish government will introduce a reform package in order to realise its election promises. A four-year plan to increase economic growth has been developed and at Tuesday’s cabinet meeting they will be discussing how to support families, she said.
The Polish are among the most hard-working of people, yet they earn very little, and this is something which definitely has to change, the Polish prime minister said. To this end, the Polish government is seeking ways of providing additional funding from the state budget. As examples, she cited a possible bank tax and the introduction of taxes on enterprises with large trade volumes, but the legislative proposal on this issue has not yet been adopted, she said. The position of the Polish finance minister is not in danger, she added.
On the subject of Hungarian-Polish relations, Mrs. Szydło said that Warsaw is counting on closer economic and political cooperation with Hungary, because it is important to both of them that Central Europe and the region should develop as much as possible and play an important international role. She mentioned rail, road and energy development projects among immediate opportunities for Hungarian-Polish cooperation.