Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen, Honourable Mayor, Honourable Minister, Fellow Members of Parliament, Councillors of the City of Zalaegerszeg,
There is an old joke, which I shall tell you now. It goes like this: I have a speech composed for a foundation stone ceremony, but before I give that speech I would actually like to say something.
Hungarian industry is living through some important days. Today we are here in Zalaegerszeg to lay the foundation stone of a test track. If I’m not mistaken, Mihály, next week we are going to open a huge Samsung factory in Göd, and the week after we’re going to Szeged to open a large laser industry research centre, which will also be unique in Europe. I’m telling you this now because the project implemented in Göd is South Korean, the Szeged ELI project – the laser project in Szeged – is implemented from EU funds, and this test track is a project funded from Hungary’s central budget. I only present you with these facts to show you that we play every instrument. One of the enduring signs of the Hungarian inferiority complex is the claim that in fact there would be no economic growth in Hungary without EU funds. In the first quarter of this year we have just managed to increase our growth rate to above four per cent. I would like to remind everyone that this test track is living proof that we are not dependent on crutches, and we stand on our own feet: we have our own resources, our own abilities, and we can also perform to European and world standards when exclusively using our own resources. I would also like to remind everyone of the economic policy in our first term in government, between 1998 and 2002, under the leadership of Minister Varga – when EU membership was hardly visible on the horizon. We were able push economic growth to above four per cent, and indeed there was one quarter when we even managed to get it above five per cent. And I wanted to make it clear to you that when projects take place and there is growth in Hungary, every Hungarian should know that these achievements are not gifts donated to us: they are the product of our own talent, our own hard work, our own determination and our own courage.
Also, before I deliver my speech I would like to say something else in connection with the speech by my fellow Member of Parliament Mr. Vigh, because he mentioned some illustrious predecessors. He mentioned Béla Koplárovics in relation to Zalaegerszeg’s football team – but let’s cite him here, too, as someone who performed a historic feat. When one thinks about this part of the world or creates something here, one has the impression that one is adding to or continuing something: one is not starting from scratch. Indeed, some very talented generations from the past made this region, this county and this city great. And believe me, it is an uplifting feeling – and I hope you agree – that this generation can also add something to what Member of Parliament Vigh has spoken about here.
It is perhaps worth saying a few words about why Zalaegerszeg was chosen as the site of this project. We never talk about these things, as in our line of business the following is the most basic advice in politics: we display the sausage to our customers, but we never invite them in to see how it’s made. This is also true for the process of choosing development sites: we celebrate when we inaugurate something, but we never invite people in to witness the bloody debates over selecting a particular site from among the many candidates. Meanwhile, as sausage buyers, everyone knows that the decision was probably preceded by some heated discussions. I shall not deny this, and there were other options on the cards. But some years ago there was an agreement between the Mayor, the local Member of Parliament and myself, which can be traced back to the time when Flextronics started laying people off here. Residents of the city felt that the only truly significant, major business here was beginning to terminate – or at least downsize – its operations, and that this could even become an economic disaster. The least they feared was that a great many people might lose their jobs, and young people might receive the message that job opportunities here were shrinking, rather than expanding. For a city like this, which has an absolute interest in retaining young people, such a message would have been a disaster. Ever since then we have worked to find a major project – either foreign or Hungarian – which could be implemented in Zalaegerszeg, and which could send local people – particularly young people – the message that Zalaegerszeg has a future – and, indeed, a great future. In essence this project was made real by boys from Zala. Here I must mention the Honourable Member of Parliament, the Mayor and Minister of State Palkovics, who energetically represented the interests of his home region in the debates I’ve mentioned. And as I also had the good fortune to spend a year and a half here as a resident of Zalaegerszeg, I felt that this decision is perhaps right, and that I could contribute to it.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Mr. Vigh is right, we are talking about a project now; but in fact, we are thinking about the future, because this project will open up some new horizons, which we are as yet unable to fully explore. The Minister is with us here for a reason, and we have guests here from other automotive industry centres for a reason. Here I can see representatives from Suzuki, but I also see our friends from Kecskemét and representatives from Audi. There is a reason there are so many of us here: we all feel that a test track such as this not only represents an asset and an opportunity in itself, but also flings open the door to the future. And here, as we are indeed letting the new industrial revolution into the region of Zalaegerszeg and we can only partially assess the beneficial effects and future developments of this industrial revolution, we are also opening the gate to ever more opportunities which we are as yet unaware of. This is something great, Ladies and Gentlemen.
There is one other thing I would like to mention. When the Government decides on a project, a regularly recurring consideration is its appearance or position in European rankings. The Government usually concludes its deliberations with the thunderous warning that the project should be at least as good as it would be if it were in Austria. I can see that the Ambassador of Austria is also here, whom I would like to warmly welcome. I must confess that in terms of quality – appearance, structure and a sense of order and professionalism – we still look to Austria as a yardstick. If a project falls short in those terms it is simply not worth implementing, because we aim for the standards which our neighbour a few kilometres away from here has achieved historically.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would now like to deliver my speech. If I were to sum up the significance and weight of this project in a single sentence, I would say that the future has found Zalaegerszeg. Today we have gathered together to lay the foundation stone for this test track, and when it is completed it will not only be unique in Hungary, but also in the whole of Europe. If I’ve read the maps correctly, there is one other similar test track, somewhere in Spain; and even that one is built to lower technical standards than ours – which is understandable, as it was built earlier. With this forty billion forint project Zalaegerszeg will put itself on the world map of vehicle industry research, development and testing; and we Hungarians will take a step towards becoming one of Central Europe’s automotive industry strongholds. This project simultaneously provides an opportunity for the automotive industry companies present in Hungary, specialists looking for positions in the sector, research workshops and suppliers.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is important to keep up with development, and to pay attention to the countries which dictate the pace. Germany is at the forefront of the new industrial revolution, so we should pay attention to that country, both as the leader of the emerging industrial revolution and as Hungary’s most important and most loyal economic partner. Cooperation with Germany has made the automotive industry one of the drivers of today’s Hungarian economy. The performance of the vehicle industry has greatly contributed to Hungary now being in the top five fastest growing countries in Europe, as shown in figures for the first quarter of this year. But as a breed Hungarians are hard to satisfy: they are like an athlete who accepts his medal as he stands on the podium, but who on the way down is already thinking about the next contest. So we are not content with fifth place. By the end of the year we would like to be among the top three fastest growing economies.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Our economic growth rate and the fall in unemployment indicate that we’re doing well, and we’re making progress at a fair speed. But as we’re now talking about a modern project, I must say that in itself speed is not enough. We not only have to make good progress, but we must also be heading in the right direction. I am convinced that this is a project which will point out the right direction for the development of the Hungarian automotive industry. It is perhaps also worth mentioning that we refuse to accept continually disparaging comments related to Audi, Mercedes or Suzuki plants, which refer to Hungary as a country for vehicle assembly. I do not in the least undervalue the fact that a country is able to make Audi, Mercedes and Suzuki vehicles; indeed we can be proud of this. But there is some truth in these criticisms, because we want more than to merely manufacture these cars. We would like these cars to be at least partly designed and developed here, and, if possible, for all of them to be tested here.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
For this project to meet our expectations, we naturally still have a great deal of work to do here in Zalaegerszeg; and we must also implement some additional projects in order to maximise the opportunities that are inherent in it. In addition to construction of the test track, we must build a road connecting the M7 motorway to Zalaegerszeg and its test track. We’ve just seen a film about this. We’re convinced that the Finance Minister will not be ungenerous when in the coming days the Government decides on raising the necessary funds – which are as yet unavailable – for these projects. Planning has already started, and we can keep the deadlines, but we will have to finance a part of these projects from our own resources – and in this we hope to secure the Finance Minister’s good graces.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
When we talk about the new industrial revolution and digitalisation, we are primarily talking about the inherent opportunities. In this context, however, we must remind ourselves that there are also risks involved. The European economy is on the verge of a major realignment, and we cannot see all its consequences clearly. It is clear, for instance, that digitalisation and mechanisation will relieve humans of many jobs that can be performed by machines. The question is what will happen to those people. The new industrial revolution has a number of implications that we must clearly address. Where should we try to use the old-new members of the labour market who lose their jobs through robotisation and digitalisation? What opportunities can we offer them? We must also prepare ourselves for the threats of digitalisation which enter our homes and affect our lives together and the education of our children. I would like to confirm that the Government is aware of these risks: we are not unconditionally enthusiastic about industrial development, and not blind to the issues which industrial development brings to the Hungarian nation, to our communities, to our families and to Hungarians seeking employment. We are aware of these issues, we are dealing with them, and we shall do all we can to both fully exploit the opportunities inherent in the new industrial revolution, and to minimise the risks involved.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is perhaps worth saying a few words about the fact that competition in Europe today is not only for investment – though there is competition for that, too. I think credit is due to Ministers of State Palkovics and Lepsényi for having found a niche in the European automotive industry’s cutthroat competition in which we can be the best. So there is cutthroat competition, but meanwhile we must also remind ourselves that, in addition to economic competition, there are also competing visions of Europe: the Europe that will be our home ten, twenty or thirty years from now. Projects like this and the way we approach them also provide an answer to this question. Our vision of the future is of a traditional European life which seeks to build Europe’s future on work, innovation and performance. Our vision of Europe in twenty or thirty years’ time is one which our children and grandchildren will be able to recognise in the same way our parents and grandparents did. And against the background of development and growth of every kind we must also provide for the preservation of values. So while we welcome industrial development, we must stand up for our conventional European values: for families, for national communities, for church communities, for the conventional forms of child-rearing, and for the traditional family model. In general it is worth standing up for everything – every European tradition – which can be combined with inevitable and extremely rapid industrial development. A rather amusing but accurate description of the problems is the image of a desirable European life as driving a BMW while wearing Bavarian lederhosen. Here this mental image may seem a little exaggerated, but it accurately illustrates the essence of the matter: we want a Hungarian Hungary; when we speak about new work force we want to mobilise our existing resources. We do not want immigrants, we do not want migrants. We are aware of the threat facing Hungarian families: that not enough children are being born. It is therefore all the more important that we combine the most cutting-edge industrial policy with governmental family policy which seeks to protect the conventional family model: policy which supports children, young people and families. It is important that, when we speak about development, money, the future and prospects, we should also say a few words about the life we will eventually have – one in which we seek to enjoy the advantages, the benefits and the profits of this project. Therefore I would like to make it clear that we look to the vision of a European future that is based on performance, hard work, innovation and traditional values. We are convinced that in such a Europe we Hungarians will be able to hold our own.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Finally, I wish to thank everyone for the work they have done in launching this project. I wish to thank everyone whose efforts have made it possible for us to lay this foundation stone here today. I wish to thank the Honourable Mayor for his cooperation. I recall an earlier conversation, when I first met him as mayor, when I asked him what he wanted this city, the city of Zalaegerszeg, to be like. He said that of course there are a great many questions to be answered, but the most important goal is for the city to regain its economic dynamism. He said he would like his term as mayor to be remembered by posterity as a period in which Zalaegerszeg saw implementation of its greatest economic modernisation projects.
And I also recall my conversations with my fellow parliamentarian Mr. Vigh, with whom I have worked together for a very long time now. He always reminds me that Zalaegerszeg is very important. But we must think in terms of the whole of Zala County, and we must implement projects which also create schools and job opportunities for people who do not live in the centre of Zala County, but in the surrounding villages, by keeping alive the traditional Zala way of life so that they have living standards and a quality of life that are comparable with those enjoyed by the residents of Zalaegerszeg.
I sincerely hope that the quality of life that we wish for every Hungarian will be provided by this project to not only the people of Zalaegerszeg, but to the whole of Zala County.
Thank you for your attention.