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Press statement by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán following his working meeting with Prime Minister of Ireland Leo Varadkar

Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Today Hungary has the honour of hosting the Prime Minister of Ireland. This is a strong start to the year: the prime ministers of two EU Member States have visited Budapest within the space of two days. Our meeting today was held in a positive atmosphere, stemming mostly from the fact that we Hungarians usually have a positive attitude towards the Irish. This is not something that’s discussed in politics, but every nation has an opinion, an image, of other nations. If someone asks Hungarians what they think about Ireland, I’m convinced they will only hear positive things. Hungarians mostly talk about Ireland as a freedom-loving people, with a great deal of self-respect, and are right to do so; few nations in the European Union are prouder than the Irish. And, general speaking, love of freedom and pride are characteristics that the Hungarian people respect. This is also true for Ireland. In Hungary the other aspect of Ireland that immediately comes to mind is that it is a successful country. I remember the years of 2008–2009, when Ireland had to address very serious financial challenges. If you compare the current output of the Irish economy with the situation back then, you will see that Ireland has come a very long way; and so Hungary has every reason to salute Ireland on its performance. I think it is fair to say that today we have had the honour of hosting the prime minister of one of Europe’s most successful nations. I can also tell you that the two countries have similar views on important issues – perhaps the most important issues, the ones that determine the future of Europe.

I would now like to briefly outline the topics that we touched upon. First of all, we agreed that we can make the European Union strong – and that’s what we seek to do – if each of the national economies comprising the European Union is individually successful and strong: there can be no such thing as a strong European Union if at the same time the Member States – the nation states – are weak. If we want a strong European Union, everyone must put their own house in order. The second important question that we touched upon was the issue of taxation. We Hungarians think that taxation is an important element in competition, and the reduction of taxes is both a good policy and a good direction in general. Therefore we would not like to see any EU regulations on fiscal policy – either on corporation tax or any other tax – that would tie Hungary’s hands. We don’t see tax harmonisation as a desirable direction, and this is what I told the Honourable Prime Minister at our meeting today. We also spoke about the issue of migration. By trying to clarify the historical and cultural aspects of this issue, I sought to show the Honourable Prime Minister why migration is such an important issue for Hungary. And I wanted to state very clearly that Hungary is not against anyone, but simply insists on its own identity, culture and achievements, and sees the issue of migration from this specific angle. At the same time, however, Hungary stands on the foundations of legality. We never celebrated the chaos and anarchy that accompanied the defence of Europe’s borders in 2015–2016. At that time we said what we are saying now: the Schengen regulations must be observed, and the EU’s external borders must be protected; because if we leave the EU’s external borders open, sooner or later we’ll have to close its internal borders. The goal should be the exact opposite: the external borders must be protected and kept secure, while the internal borders must remain open. This is the only way to maintain and defend the achievements of Schengen.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Agriculture is important for both countries, and we spoke about the issue of agricultural subsidies, on which we agreed. I stated my view that Hungary has a vested interest in the material issues concerning the European Union’s agricultural policy remaining as they are now. In fiscal planning for the years ahead, agriculture across the whole of Europe – including in Hungary – should be given the same level of funding as it has received in the past. And naturally we touched upon the withdrawal of Britain from the European Union: Brexit. You all know that there is a specific relationship between Ireland and the United Kingdom – a close tie. Therefore one of the sensitive and important points in the Brexit negotiations is how it will all affect Ireland. I listened to the Honourable Prime Minister, and I believe I understood the special Irish standpoints which he represents. On behalf of Hungary I said that our country will support the assertion of these special Irish standpoints in the Brexit negotiations.

Thank you for your attention!