Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen, Honourable Prime Minister.
Indeed, today has seen a meeting between two optimistic prime ministers. We are in a very good mood, mainly because overall both of our countries are among those which have successfully defended themselves, and our economies are coming out of this crisis stronger than they went into it. This is despite the fact that we have been battered by the pandemic, that we have lost many things and many lives, and that, of course, this has taken its toll on all of us. There are few such countries, but we both belong to that group. So I congratulate the Prime Minister on this achievement. Although Slovenia is a richer country than Hungary, we too have somehow managed to organise our economic policy measures so that we emerge from the crisis stronger than when it first hit us.
I believe that the agreement we have just signed is important, not only because what it contains is very important for the people living here, but also because it is good for all Slovenians and all Hungarians – even those living in more distant regions. This is because it strengthens the friendship and the alliance between our two countries. We are living in times – and in the future this will be even truer, Dear Slovenian Friends – when friendship is the most valuable currency, and sincere friendship and a shared sense of historical fate are the most valuable assets. In the future we will face very many challenges, one of which is the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. There will be other major problems of a different nature; you only have to look at the debt levels of some of the major European countries, or the global economic realignment shifting advantage away from the West and towards the East. These will all be major challenges. And it will be easier to find answers to them collectively rather than individually.
Prime Minister, you mentioned the thirtieth anniversary. I can tell you frankly that when I come to Slovenia to meet the Prime Minister I always do so with special feelings. He is, after all, an iconic figure of the whole Central European struggle for freedom: when great things were happening, I was there and doing something, but I was not a government figure – unlike the Prime Minister. So one must say that there are few veterans in politics today that are more experienced than me, but Janez Janša is undoubtedly a more experienced veteran than I am. And so there is always a special atmosphere in our negotiations. We deal with specific issues, but there is also a historical dimension: we look back thirty years, and we hope that if we can do so, we can also look forward at least that far. So there is always a very special intellectual and strategic content to our negotiations, for which I am ever grateful.
I can tell you that the situation has also changed in Europe. A few years ago we thought that the Central European economies could not function without the Western economy. Perhaps this is still true, but this truth has been complemented by another truth: the Western European economies can no longer function without the Central European economies. If you compare Germany’s trade with the Central European states – including with Hungary and Slovenia – to German-French trade, you will see that Germany now trades more than twice as much with Central Europe as it does with France. If it were not for us, the German economy would not function; and if it were not for us, the Western European economy would not function. Of course the reverse is also true. So, in terms of economic strength and interdependence in the EU, our position is much more equal than it was earlier. This is one of the reasons for something that you see from time to time: Hungary’s increased courage in standing up for the truth as it sees it, for its own ideas, and for its own plans. We are not troublemakers: we are simply stronger, and we are aware that in Brussels our voice must be heard at least as much as that of the Western European countries. And the more the Central European countries cooperate, the stronger their voice will be.
I also thank the Prime Minister for his cooperation on illegal immigration, and I thank the Slovenian presidency (of the Council of the European Union), which coincided with the Hungarian presidency of the Visegrád 4. We were able to cooperate well on issues with the results that you can see here. Indeed, Europe will face an interesting month in April. There will be four important weekends: in addition to Easter, there will be a Hungarian election, a Slovenian election and a French election. These weeks will set this year’s agenda for Europe.
Finally, I would like to say how happy I am that we Slovenians and Hungarians are on the same page in terms of seeing our minorities living on each other’s territories as a source of strength – and no longer as a source of conflict. We believe that these communities will add to our strength: they will make both Slovenia and Hungary stronger and, if we work together, they will make both of us stronger at the same time.
Thank you, Prime Minister, for my being able to sign this agreement with you.