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Hungary and Slovakia are two countries in a successful region

At the two prime ministers’ joint press conference in Budapest’s Parliament Building, Mr. Orbán said that Slovak-Hungarian cooperation and the partnership of the Visegrád Four (V4) contribute to Europe’s joint success. If there are successful countries which form successful regions, then Europe will be successful, he said, adding that the V4 is no longer an alliance of poor countries, but an alliance of countries characterised by economic growth, enormous development potential, disciplined finances, ambitious plans and governments which abide by European regulations.

Photo: Gergely Botár

In his words, “Central Europe is in an era of great creation, and we stand on the threshold of a true Central European renaissance”. The Prime Minister also thanked his Slovak counterpart for the assistance his country provided in Hungary’s border defence efforts, and for standing by Hungary “even at the centre of an international storm”. He stressed that “This is something we shall remember for a long time”.

Regarding bilateral relations, Mr. Orbán said that after having connected the gas pipelines between the two countries, experts are now also working on connecting the two countries’ electricity networks.

He highlighted that Slovakia is Hungary’s third most important foreign trade partner, with around one thousand Slovakian companies operating in Hungary providing jobs for approximately five thousand Hungarians.

On the issue of border relations, he said that the opening of new border crossing points means that the average distance between crossing points has decreased to twenty kilometres, and construction has started on a new bridge over the Danube at Komárom/Komárno, which will enable a significant increase in freight traffic.

Mr. Orbán mentioned the construction of a rapid rail link between Budapest and Warsaw – via Bratislava/Pozsony – as being among the joint goals of the V4.

Closing his address, Mr. Orbán welcomed the measures enacted by the Slovakian government related to the Hungarian community in Slovakia, including measures affecting small schools, multilingual railway signs, and grants provided through the minority cultural fund.

At the press conference the Prime Minister was asked about news reports that the new Italian prime minister is not allowing boats transporting migrants to dock at Italian ports. His response to the news was “Finally”. He added that for years it has been very disheartening to hear that maritime borders cannot be defended – a message which almost drains one’s zest for life. He cited Australia as a country which is able to defend itself.

Now, however, the will to defend the sea borders – something previously absent – has returned to Italy, he said, and this may bring about a change in European migration policy. At the same time, he reassured the new government in Rome of his full support.

Regarding the fact that German chancellor Angela Merkel has said that the Hungarian border fence also defends Germany, Mr. Orbán said that in his view Hungarian-German relations are in an excellent state, and he had never wanted the two countries or their leaders to confront each another.

At the same time he asked the German people to be tolerant towards Hungary, which – even against its own interests – accepts that there are Schengen Member States, such as Germany, which have admitted hundreds of thousands of migrants. He asked Germany to likewise tolerate Hungary’s stance on not taking in migrants, adding that “if we are tolerant of each other’s views, then strategic partnership relations can remain in place”.

Photo: Gergely Botár

The Prime Minister expressed his certainty that in German-Hungarian relations common sense will continue to prevail.

In answer to a question about the next EU multiannual financial framework, the Prime Minister said that there are preparations for this being the last seven-year budget in which the Hungarians will not be net contributors, and “after this we will join another club.” In the subsequent period, he explained, Hungary will pay more into the EU budget than it receives, because we will see the end of the historical era in which the Central European region needed to catch up with European countries with more fortunate pasts.ó

Therefore Hungary would now like the budget to be a fair one, he said. While it accepts that the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union means that the budget for everyone will be reduced, this process must be implemented fairly, with “countries in the same situation affected more or less the same”.

In his view, while every forint is important for the Hungarian economy, on the whole it has long since passed the stage when EU funding fundamentally determined the country’s situation. Indeed, the Prime Minster asserted, it can now be said that Hungary does not need Europe’s money, but its market, because “if we have a market, we will live from it”. Therefore he described the most important issue in the present debate as maintenance of the European Single Market, while it is secondary how a particular Member State accesses certain funding.

The Prime Minister described it as favourable that the budgetary battles in the EU will coincide with the V4 presidency of Slovakia, which he cited as a model country in terms of fiscal discipline and competitiveness.

Photo: Gergely Botár

In answer to a question concerning the large-scale review of the Hungarian constitution announced a few days ago, Mr. Orbán said that seven years have passed since adoption of the Fundamental Law, and it is necessary to review the experiences gathered during this period. In light of this it will be seen if there is anything to do – and, if so, what that should be. To this end, he said, a team of constitutional lawyers will be set up, who – if necessary – will make recommendations, with the whole process lasting between one year and eighteen months. “Once a decade it is wise to check whether the Fundamental Law is fulfilling its function”, he said, adding that he is more inclined to answer this with a “yes” than a “no”.