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Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s press statement at the summit of heads of government from the Visegrád Four and Western Balkan countries

Good afternoon,

Just a few short sentences. First of all, I wish to thank Prime Minister Babiš for his invitation. For a Hungarian, coming to Prague is always a difficult task, as although Hungarians don’t say it out loud, they see the Czechs as a benchmark country: it pains Hungarians for the Czechs to be doing better than us; we don’t want to undermine their performance, however, but catch up with them. So the Czechs are still doing better than the Hungarians. We’d especially like to beat the Czechs at unemployment, but for the time being Mr Babiš clearly has the advantage in this, because this country has the lowest unemployment in Europe. We Hungarians are in second place, but we won’t give up this fight. So we’re very happy to be here, because we can always learn something from our Czech friends.

The second thing is that we assessed the allocation of posts in the Commission, and we can say one thing without a doubt: the strength of the V4 has grown. If you compare the portfolios that the V4 countries have managed over the past five years to what we will be managing over the next five years, then the difference is obvious: we have grown in strength. This is made especially clear by the fact that we also now have two vice-presidents. Although generally people don’t understand the internal functioning of the European Union very well – because it is a complicated machine – I consider the task of the Slovak vice-president of the Commission to be the most important, because this portfolio is a “potentiometer” for setting up cooperation between the Commission and the Parliament. And most European affairs get held up by uncertainty about whether or not there’s successful cooperation between the Commission and the Parliament. You will see how important this portfolio is in the next few days, when there’s a debate about the candidacies and the future holders of portfolios. So I’m glad that it’s stayed with the V4. And of course we’re pleased that a Hungarian commissioner has the chance to manage such a fine, wide-ranging task as managing enlargement of the European Union. We’ve nominated a man who worked for many years in the Venice Commission, was a judge in the Constitutional Court of Hungary, and was Minister of Justice; so if there’s anyone who understands the intricate aspects of this whole issue of enlargement, it is our candidate. I truly hope that he gets the support he needs.

We also talked about the budget. Here the Hungarian position can be summarised in three sentences. New joint policies can be launched, but the funds for older policies must under no circumstances be reduced to finance them: so we support new common policies, but we cannot take money from the old ones, because they are needed. Our second point is that Member States need much more flexibility in how they use funds: the current proposal does not increase flexibility, but reduces it, and that is what we need to address; so, flexibility for Member States. And the third point is that Hungary will not reject the idea of new sources of joint revenue if the plan is to keep old policies while at the same time funding new ones.

Finally I’d like to say a word on enlargement. My position is that if the European Union hadn’t fallen asleep and had already admitted Macedonia, Northern Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia as Member States, then today there wouldn’t be many millions of illegal migrants in Western Europe, as together we would have been able to defend the Western Balkan route. However, the area between Greece and Hungary was left to its own devices, which was unacceptable. That space must be filled, the countries in the region must be admitted to the EU, and then the European Union will be able to defend itself. There are no migrants coming into the European Union through Romania, even though Romania is in the Balkans. They came through the territories of countries which are not Member States, and then we had to detain them in Hungary – with varying degrees of success. It’s clear from the history of the last few years that Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia – and, now that we are where we are, Albania – have an interest in being in the European Union, and it’s also in our interest for them to be members. In summary, what I’d like to say is that we believe that admitting the Balkan countries is not a challenge or a burden for the European Union, but a great opportunity. The European Union will be stronger if we admit the Balkan states. This is why, after successful negotiations for accession to the European Union, we will unconditionally support the EU membership of the states I’ve mentioned, and also of those that I haven’t.

Thank you very much for your attention.