Your Excellency, Ladies and Gentlemen.
Today talks took place between President Sisi and the Hungarian government delegation. As you have seen, yesterday we met the President within the context of the Visegrád Four, while today we focused on bilateral relations and concluded several agreements. The basis for Egyptian-Hungarian relations is the unprecedented development – even by international standards – that Egypt has shown over the past seven years. We can all recall the turmoil in Egypt and the region affected by the Arab Spring following the events of 2011. That not only caused political turmoil, but also dislocation in economic life. I well remember meeting President Sisi for the first time in 2015, when he was kind enough to visit us here in Budapest. I also remember him presenting his plans for how Egypt would be transformed into a modern economic power. There were two great supporting pillars for this: by the grace of God, the country is blessed with a very favourable location and with a fantastic population – we are talking about 100 million people, which is a huge force. Six years ago, here in Budapest, I was able to see the President’s plans; and now we have been able to review what has happened since then. Of course I am now in my twelfth consecutive year as Prime Minister here, and we Hungarians can also boast about a few things. We should exercise modesty, but we can also show new things – development, full employment, and many other things. But this is development on the scale of a country of ten million people; the development that has taken place in Egypt over the past seven years is development on the scale of a country of 100 million. So the image of Egypt that we had in our minds during the Arab Spring – when we wondered what on earth would happen to it – has completely given way to the conviction that Egypt can be a fantastic partner for Hungary. It is a country ten times our size, with ten times our population, and one that is already a bastion of modern industry and technology. This is a completely new situation. So first of all I congratulate the Egyptian people and His Excellency on this great development, and I thank His Excellency for offering, during his visit today, the Hungarian economy the opportunity to participate in Egypt’s great developments over the coming decade. We have also agreed to appoint representatives who will table proposals on exactly what projects should be implemented in which areas.
Some areas have already been identified, and cooperation can now be built on the foundations laid earlier. One such area is agricultural cooperation. I can inform you that this year we have exported more than 7,000 Hungarian cattle. Hungarian agriculture has a fine reputation in Egypt, so we are also thinking about large joint projects in livestock, animal husbandry, and the production of cereals and seeds – both in the context of bilateral cooperation between Egypt and Hungary, and between Egypt and the V4. One of Hungary’s biggest industrial ventures is to supply Egypt with railway carriages. We have just now been able to thank His Excellency for this opportunity. This work is ongoing, and we are planning to relocate certain maintenance and production departments, in order for them to become part of the Egyptian economy. We have agreed to increase the number of students coming to Hungary from Egypt. This year the number of young Egyptians applying for Hungarian scholarships has been 700, and so we have decided that Hungary will increase the number of scholarships available to young Egyptians to 115. They will become good ambassadors for friendship between our two countries.
Although it is further in the future, we are also looking at gas sources in the Eastern Mediterranean. I can inform His Excellency that Hungary’s decision to access gas from the South rather than the East has caused a stir here in recent days. But this is also a great opportunity to connect Egypt’s future LNG capacities to the European gas network via Hungary. This could be a significant development for the security of the whole of Europe.
I would also like to reiterate that within the European Union Hungary will argue for a swift decision to be taken on providing financial assistance for border security operations supporting Egypt’s efforts to deter migration, and for making available to Egypt the modern military and border protection equipment that is currently subject to a European Union embargo. We ask Europeans to think about Egypt in the way they should think about Hungary. The security of Berlin does not begin in the suburbs of Berlin. The security of Paris does not start at the Franco-German border. The security of Brussels does not start in the suburbs of Brussels: it starts at the Serbian-Hungarian border – and in a broader context it starts down south in Egypt, at Egypt’s land and sea borders. The destiny of Hungary and Europe hinges on Egypt’s ability to protect both its land and maritime borders; and so we can only express our greatest appreciation when we say that no ship carrying migrants has been able to leave Egyptian territory since 2016. This is a great contribution to our security, and to that of Europe as a whole.
Egypt is proof that, if there is a will, both land and maritime borders can be protected. This is an important and valuable experience for Europe. Overall, therefore, I can say that there are no areas of contention between our two countries, and that we are both looking for opportunities to deepen and increase our cooperation by orders of magnitude. Today has been a good opportunity to do just that. We shall continue these discussions through our envoys, through our ministers and through our personal meetings.
In this Hungarian public forum I would also like to thank His Excellency for honouring us with his visit, and for offering the Hungarian business community the opportunity to participate in the development of the Egyptian economy.