Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s speech at the inauguration of Bridgestone’s new plant
26 October 2017, Környe

Good Afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen,

Greetings to His Excellency the Ambassador, the representative of the Japanese government. Greetings to the representatives of Bridgestone’s international management, and greetings to Bridgestone’s local directors – particularly our kind host – and to the plant’s directors and employees.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In Hungary we are living in a period in which a new factory springs up every week. This plant, however, stands out among the newly established or expanded factories due to its size and technological level. I clearly remember when a few years ago we laid the foundation stone for this facility; it was when Hungary was fighting a Danube flood of record dimensions. I also remember it well because I arrived here to meet you straight from the flood defences, and still wearing my rubber boots.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

And in addition, 2013 is not only memorable because we had to protect Hungary with flood barriers. Perhaps you remember that there were debates, major international debates, on whether or not the path of economic crisis management, economic recovery and economic development that we embarked on in 2011–2012 would be successful. There was a debate on whether everyone around the world should do things the same way; or whether there are national idiosyncrasies, national interests and national differences which mean that every country should find its own path to success. At the time, we Hungarians decided to establish a Hungarian model, but in 2013 this debate was still far from over. We had to prove that the path we had chosen was rational and dependable, and that it would also be successful in the long term. And indeed when we began constructing the Hungarian economic model, we were setting out on an uncharted path. At that time Bridgestone already gave us encouragement. We have been allies with our Japanese friends since time immemorial, and it is generally true that whatever difficulties Hungary has happened to be struggling with, the confidence which the Japanese placed in Hungary never wavered for a moment. If we look back to 1989–90 – and there are people here who are the same age as me, and can remember that time – this was the case, at a time when internationally many couldn’t have cared less about the economic future of the former communist countries. At that time Japanese enterprises were among the first to express confidence in Hungary: they came here, they invested and they built factories. They told the Hungarians that they themselves had succeeded in recovering from a much more difficult situation – and if they had succeeded, then so would we.

This was also the case with Bridgestone. In 2013, while debates were in full flow, they put their trust in Hungary and began work on this new plant. Of course the Japanese are a little more modest than we Hungarians, as we all know. Here is this new plant, for example, which the Japanese simply call an expansion: I’m reading the official description. They say that this is an expansion. Perhaps there is a link between modesty and success, although that is not a topic of my speech today. Nevertheless I would like to say that for a Hungarian, if one sees the successful realisation of an 86 billion forint project that is twice as large as the existing plant, and which incorporates brand new technology and creates 500 new jobs, then we Hungarians don’t just call it an expansion, but a new factory. And we are celebrating it as if it were a new factory.

The fact that my fellow Member of Parliament Mr. Bencsik has spoken before me is a good opportunity for me to note that when we began and got down to the job – meaning the job of realising our political work – the future of Tatabánya was not at all so bright and encouraging. In the early 1990s few people would have bet on Tatabánya being an area which in 2017–2018 could be called one of the most rapidly developing in the country. The city suffered following the closure of its old, socialist industries, and it struggled for a long time before we saw the emergence of the new, modern Tatabánya that all of us in Hungary are so proud of. I feel that what my fellow Member of Parliament Mr. Bencsik said about the plant’s social utility is important. This relates to the business model that Hungary and Tatabánya have set out to realise. If you take a look at the modern global economy, then you will see that fundamentally there are two types of business model in the global economy that we call capitalist. One model is a speculative, casino-capitalist model, that makes money out of others failing and losing money, and which speculates on someone losing something and on the value of something consequently falling. In this model profits are channelled into private coffers and the losses are distributed among society. The other business model always thinks in terms of added value and creating value, and it seeks profits for the community, society and private owners alike. In Germany they call this a social market economy, but there is no separate expression for it in Hungarian. I am glad that both Hungary and Tatabánya have ended up committing themselves to the latter model. Here everyone engages in business activities that are not only good for the owners and investors, but also for the community of cities, villages and the whole nation.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This new production hall was completed in a period of four years. By 2020, the plant’s capacity will have quadrupled to over two million tyres per year. The plant’s most modern products will be manufactured here. The products you will manufacture here will be used on roads in Mexico, the United States, Germany and Turkey.

Dear Japanese guests,

If we look at the presence of Japanese companies in Hungary, it is difficult to believe that Japan is eight thousand kilometres from Hungary. I checked the official data for 2016 published by the Japanese Foreign Trade Office, which shows that currently there are 151 Japanese-owned companies operating in Hungary. And those 151 Japanese companies provide jobs here in Hungary to thirty thousand people, meaning that Japanese investments are giving thirty thousand families the opportunity to make a living. This makes Japan the second largest non-EU investor in Hungary.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Over the past thirty years a close and deep-rooted relationship has developed between Japan and Hungary. One is always fascinated as to how such a deep and trusting relationship could have developed between Hungary and a country so far from it. This must certainly have deep roots stretching back into the distant past – and obviously not just the recent events and roots of the twentieth century – because the two countries have never been enemies and we’ve never found ourselves on the opposite sides of any international conflict. But perhaps there is something else worth mentioning here. I believe that the Japanese and the Hungarians share ideas on work and the family, and also on achievements. Both countries boast an excellent labour force, and both their workers and ours are highly respected in international competition. We know our own kind very well, but we are not an easy partner. We must be convinced that the orders we are given make sense and that the work we are entrusted with makes sense. But once we have been convinced of this and are pointed in the right direction, Hungarian workers can compete successfully with workers anywhere in the world. The companies that invest in Hungary could tell you much about this.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In line with the good relationship between our two countries, perhaps this is a good opportunity to congratulate Japan’s Prime Minister, because a few days ago there was an election in Japan, and just as with the Hungarian model, it resulted in a two-thirds majority. I would like to congratulate the Prime Minister on his victory and wish him success in the period ahead. According to a Japanese saying, people who do not venture into the lion’s den cannot get themselves a lion cub. Our simpler version might be: “Who dares, wins”. From this it also follows that those who do not dare, never win.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We also salute courage, because the company’s history is also a study in courage, as its founder set out in this industry when an extremely strong American presence controlled the worldwide market, and when nobody thought that a company with no experience in the sector could successfully compete globally. The facts show that this company now has over 180 production units and research centres in 26 countries, employs 140,000 people worldwide and realises an annual turnover of some 8.6 trillion forints (EUR 27.7bn). This shows that those who dare to enter the lion’s den will indeed be rewarded with a lion cub eventually. Congratulations to the company on this historic feat!

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We do not lack courage, either. For instance, in 2010, when the rate of unemployment was around 12–13 per cent, if someone had told us that within six, seven or eight years we would succeed in achieving a state of affairs in which everyone who wants to work in Hungary can find employment, then I am sure many would have laughed at them – and indeed they did laugh at us. But before coming here today I took a look at the job statistics and reports related to Tatabánya, and according to the figures for September the unemployment rate in this city currently stands at 2.7 per cent – which according to the logic of economists is effectively full employment. On this I would like to congratulate the Mayor of Tatabánya, to whom I extend a special greeting, and whom I thank for always being a good partner to the Hungarian government in terms of urban development projects and development of the city’s industry. I also wish the Mayor good luck in relation with implementation of the Modern Cities Programme. I must modestly mention – with Japanese modesty, I could say – that we too have contributed what was needed for realisation of this project, because the Hungarian government also contributed 2.37 billion forints (EUR 7.6 million). From this perspective, the project was realised with a large amount of Government funding.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

If we are talking about Hungary, I must also say a few words about Central Europe, in order to increase our self-confidence somewhat – which is something we are in need of. If you take a look at the economic map of Europe, you will see that Central Europe is the safest and most rapidly developing region in Europe today. I’m not saying that it’s as prosperous as the western half of the continent – that will not be achieved for a while yet. But the fact is that Central Europe’s economic growth, performance and competitiveness are outstanding, and we very much hope that this will remain the case. Yesterday I was in Germany, where I had to conduct a very difficult public debate. One of the key arguments in favour of our countries and their performance was that if someone looks at Central Europe’s economic importance within Europe, then they will see that if the four countries of the Visegrád Group did not produce this level of economic growth, then the European Union would have practically no demonstrable economic growth. We have reached a stage at which, for instance, trade flows between our four countries and Germany – the strongest country in Europe – are 55 per cent higher than trade flows between France and Germany. The Germans conduct more trade with us than they do with the United States or China. This is a clear indication that the Visegrád Group is on the right path historically, and that we can also regard Hungary as a developing region in the long term. We are not an island of success, but we are part of a whole region in Central Europe that is rising in unison, and which we hope will continue to achieve great success in future.

In closing, Ladies and Gentlemen, I must also say that not only are we proud of Tatabánya, but Tatabánya is now also proud of itself. If someone is not proud of themselves then they cannot expect anyone else to respect them either; but the old industrial pride has returned to the city of Tatabánya. It has become a modern industrial city, and this is something that the people who live here are right to be proud of. But we are also proud of the city, because it is home to companies – among which Bridgestone is outstanding – that also do their part in supporting the city’s cultural and sports scene. My notes tell me that the company also sponsors the local fire service, for which I would like to thank the plant’s directors.

It is very important that the factory exists here not as a foreign body, but as part of city life here in this geographical basin. And now, truly in closing, I would like to share a few thoughts with the plant’s workers and employees. Naturally this project needed government support, it needed an excellent historical relationship between Japan and Hungary, and it needed Bridgestone’s courageous industrial and development policies. And Tatabánya is undoubtedly in an excellent location. If you look at a map of Hungary, you will see that it lies in a favourable geographical location, but, as our Spanish guest said, all this is practically worthless without a trained workforce that can turn all these opportunities into reality. If we look for the reasons that Bridgestone is investing here, of all places, then my answer is that it is perhaps because Hungary’s best workers – or at the very least many of them – can be found here. Investments are of course realised by those with capital, but the question of where and with whom development projects should occur is primarily determined by the quality of available labour, and people’s commitment, integrity and work ethic. The fact that Bridgestone has realised this plant here in Tatabánya is a credit to the factory workers and employees who work here, as well as their managers. I would like to thank you for having created the opportunity to construct this plant here in Tatabánya through your work.

My wish for you is that this factory brings much joy, profit for its owners, and a dependable living and income for its workers, and that the plant’s directors also become internationally acknowledged, successful managers.

Thank you for your kind attention. God bless the citizens of Tatabánya!