Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s press statement after his meeting with Prime Minister of Ukraine Volodymyr Borysovych Groysman
24 November 2016, Budapest

Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Welcome to our distinguished guests, the Prime Minister of Ukraine and the delegation of the Ukrainian government. I would like to remind ourselves that in September we met in the very important Polish town of Krynica, and there we agreed on a few things. Two months have gone by since then, and in those two months we have made progress on everything which we agreed on there. We have successfully organised this official Ukrainian-Hungarian government meeting, we have designated the tasks which we seek to accomplish, and today we have also reached a few agreements which are equally beneficial for Ukraine and Hungary. The prevailing atmosphere at today’s meeting was the feeling that Hungarians and Ukrainians share a common fate, and that they see their own and their nations’ lives within a shared community of fate. As a consequence of this, we regard Ukraine’s sovereignty as the most important issue, we respect it unconditionally, and we are ready to offer the help Ukraine may need to buttress its sovereignty.

We are speaking about two friendly nations. You are familiar with Hungarian literature, and are aware of the history of Hungarian intellectual life; from this one can clearly see that there has always been friendly solidarity between Hungarians and Ukrainians, and there has always been a firm readiness to cooperate.

Going beyond grand statements, this must now also show itself in specific action, as Ukraine has set itself the goal of becoming a part of the Western world, of moving closer, and indeed of occupying its own well-deserved place in the community of the European peoples and the European Union. I would like to state with absolute clarity that Hungary supports Ukraine’s accession to the European Union. It is true that currently this issue is not on the agenda, because we must take a few further steps before we reach a situation in which we can speak about Ukraine’s membership, but we would like to make it clear that when we take those steps, our vision of Europe is one in which Ukraine is a full member in its own right. I am afraid, however, that nowadays two important issues – two issues which are decisive for Ukraine – are being blocked by some European countries. This is despite the fact that these are two issues of the utmost importance: the issue of visa-free travel, and the issue of the free trade agreement. I would like to inform members of the press that on these two matters today the community of the Visegrád Four are advocates for Ukraine, and we are proud to be among those speaking up for Ukraine in debates within the European Union.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We can also say that in today’s meeting we have agreed on the most important economic and infrastructure programme in the two countries’ history. Hungary will make available 50 million euros for implementation of the programme, and to enable the launch of the implementation stage. This year Hungary is offering HUF 2 billion for the development of Ukraine’s economy, and next year we will offer another HUF 5.2 billion. I must also inform you that over the last two years trade between the two countries has suffered a major setback. This is linked to the economic sanctions imposed on Russia. Ukrainian-Hungarian trade has declined by 33 per cent, and this is an enormous loss. The good news is that in the first eight months of 2016 we experienced an increase, a significant increase, of 11 per cent. This means that Ukrainian-Hungarian trade has begun to climb back to the level at which our decline began – or to an even higher level. In order to keep this growth as a steady, ongoing trend, we made a promise and an undertaking that by 2020 we shall extend the relevant Hungarian motorway as far as the Ukrainian-Hungarian border.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

For Hungary, granting Ukraine and the Ukrainian people visa-free travel to the European Union is a moral issue. One can cite economic arguments, security arguments and many different types of arguments for and against this. But one thing must not be called into question: after the three hard years which Ukraine has endured, and which it has undertaken to endure in the name of European values, the European Union has a moral duty to grant Ukrainians visa-free travel. Regrettably, as I have mentioned, this is being blocked, and therefore Hungary has decided that, regardless of other circumstances, from today we are making national, “Category D” visas available to Ukrainian nationals, free of charge. I respectfully ask the Honourable Prime Minister to look into when this same privilege could be extended, on the basis of reciprocity, to Hungarians working in Ukraine.

This year we have treated twenty injured Ukrainian soldiers in Hungarian hospitals, and we remain ready to receive more in the future.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In our meeting we agreed that Ukrainians living in Hungary and the Hungarian national minority in Ukraine are special assets to both countries, and we are committed to the strengthening of these communities, and the strengthening of their educational and cultural identities. I expressly asked the Honourable Prime Minister to act as an advocate, patron and protector of Hungarians living in Ukraine on issues which are important to the Hungarian community there.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to publically thank Ukraine for having supported Hungary’s election to the UN Human Rights Council for the 2017–19 period.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In summary, today we have made important and substantive progress on diplomatic relations, free movement, the issue of minorities and economic cooperation. I would not deny that I think these achievements are closely linked to the fact that Ukraine has a new prime minister. He is, perhaps, less well-known in Hungary, but one should note that he was a highly successful local government councillor, mayor and leader in Ukraine, who became famous for an ability to resolve the most difficult practical matters within the shortest possible time. And as far as I can see, this efficiency, this principled approach, will also characterise intergovernmental relations between the two countries in the period ahead. I would therefore like to take this more public opportunity to thank the Honourable Prime Minister for having enabled us to make this much progress – in just two months – on matters which are important to us.

I wish the Government of Ukraine and the people of Ukraine every success.