Allow me to welcome you all. Dear Mateusz, Dear Colleagues,
I congratulate Poland on its performance over the past year. The Polish presidency was hit by the most difficult year in recent decades, but it has managed to keep cooperation between our four countries operating, and not one of the four has been left to face its difficulties alone. We have worked together to bring home our citizens who were stranded abroad, to coordinate the distribution of supplies, to send doctors to one another when needed, and to provide vaccine assistance. Once again, Dear Mateusz, Honourable Prime Minister, congratulations to Poland!
The Hungarian presidency is aware of the fact that the strength of any team is only as good as the quality of its players, and that the manager has nothing to add to this, but can only do some organisational work. Our presidency is also aware of the fact that the world has changed after the pandemic, and that the status quo in world politics and the world economy has been redrawn. I would like to draw your attention to the fact that never before in economic history has the volume of trade between China and the USA been greater than the volume of trade between the EU and the USA. Nor has there ever been a time when the EU–China trade volume was greater than the EU–US trade volume. In the meantime the world’s largest free trade area has been created in Asia. In the meantime Brexit has become reality; this gives me – us, the organisers of our work in the coming year – a special task, because we do not want to lose Britain. The V4 considers it important to continue working with Britain after Brexit. Britain is a defining player in the security architecture of Central Europe, so we now need to build a good relationship with it as a non-EU state. And the world has also changed because of important things which have happened in the V4. If we look at the four countries as one entity, we are the seventeenth largest economy in the world – which would put us in the G20. We are growing at twice the rate of the European Union, and the public debt of our four countries is only 4 per cent of the public debt of the European Union as a whole. And, if you look at them as one entity, these four countries have a larger working population than any country in the European Union except Germany; so we have countries that are extremely industrious, ambitious and keen to work.
In the coming year the Hungarian presidency will work to ensure that in this altered situation we V4 countries are among those which win from global economic change. We have therefore identified three main goals. The first is the rapid relaunch of the four countries’ economies. This requires investment, and today we agreed that there is investment when taxes are low. This is why we do not support international initiatives that would lead to tax increases. We need infrastructure: we are at a competitive disadvantage, especially in the development of North-South infrastructure, in which we lag behind Western Europe; and we need to strengthen North-South routes. The second important issue this year will be security, which is closely linked to migration. In the context of migration, we do not favour compulsory distribution in any form; and we urge all EU Member States to exercise caution, because migration poses a particularly high risk in the current health situation that we are in. And today we also agreed that the challenges facing the Union cannot be addressed without the integration of the Western Balkans; we therefore urge for the European Union integration of the countries in the Balkan region. And when we talk about relaunching Europe – in English the Hungarian presidency will call this “recharging Europe” – we also mean intellectual recharging, an intellectual relaunch. So today we have agreed to actively participate in the debate on the future of the European Union, both individually and collectively. So I hope that we are entering a Hungarian presidency that will not only be exciting, but also successful. Excitement is certain; success remains to be seen.