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Speech by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán at the inauguration of Rheinmetall’s new factory building

My greetings to the management of Rheinmetall and the factory delegation.

Mr. Chairman,

I welcome residents of Zalaegerszeg, the Mayor and the local Member of Parliament. I also warmly welcome all those present.

If only I could make such a prediction in the National Lottery. When I first met the Chairman three years ago, it was as he recalled: I said that in this decade the most important commodity will be security. And since the Hungarian army is struggling with many problems, only some of which can be remedied through new technology, in this decade the most important task is to have a force that can defend Hungary, that can assert Hungarian interests, and that can be deployed at any time in Hungary – and outside, if necessary. Three years ago this was not as obvious as it is now. Two months ago it was not as obvious as it is now. This is why I say that I regret not being able to make such a prediction in the National Lottery. But in truth I was not the first to look into the future with a crystal ball: that was Minister Palkovics. Even before I had met the Chairman, Minister Palkovics chose an opportune moment – in other words, when the Prime Minister was vulnerable – to corner me and present the idea that it was time to build a large new technology centre in Hungary. I am a lawyer, so to me this is hocus-pocus, but he said that it was very important, and that it should be called “ZalaZone”. And the fact is that both of our guests today – both the Minister and the Chairman – were more than 100 per cent right. Hungary really does need the unprecedented technological standard that is symbolised by or embodied in both the nearby ZalaZone, and this arms factory.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This does not mean that the Hungarians long for war. The Hungarians know perfectly well that the best war is the one that can be avoided. But since we are hosting our German guests, I will say that Bismarck is a popular statesman here; and, at the end of the 19th century, we learned from Bismarck that the stronger we are, the smaller the chance of there being a war. And the Iron Chancellor was right: the stronger we are, the less chance there is of us getting involved in a war. So when we build an army, produce armaments and build factories, we are of course preparing for the worst; but we are also in fact paving the way for a positive future.

Perhaps here it is worth saying something about the state of German-Hungarian relations. They are confused, but we hope that now they are smoothing out. Political relations are complicated, but economic relations are excellent. And now it looks as if there will be political support to back up stronger economic cooperation. This is important for Hungary – not only because the Germans are strong, not only because they are good engineers and good scientists, but also because Hungarians are able to cooperate with the Germans. We are not able to cooperate as well as this with everyone, and the Germans are not able to cooperate as well as this with everyone. A favourable cultural coexistence means that Germans and Hungarians are somehow able to work well together. There are cultural reasons for this. This is not a conference on cultural anthropology, so we do not need to delve deeply into this question. But I remember my father – who is an engineer – always telling me that if you want to know whether the locals living somewhere are decent people, whether a village is inhabited by decent people, you always need to look at the edge of things: you need to look not at the middle of the road, but at the edge, the verge. When you go into a room, you should always look where the wall meets the floor, and when you go out into the yard, you should look at the base of the fence; if it is in order, then those living there are decent people. And when I went to Germany when I was young, not only was the middle of things in order, but the edge of things was also always in order. So there is a seemingly ordinary but deep cultural understanding between Germans and Hungarians that things should be right – and not just more or less, but completely, not just in the middle of things, but also at the edges. And I am convinced that it is this cultural, anthropological similarity that provides the basis for Hungarians being able to cooperate with Germans, and for Germans to feel that they are not working with slovenly workers from a slovenly country. So there is something that helps this cooperation.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Of course it is important to have good equipment, but good equipment is worth nothing without good soldiers. So Chairman Papperger has set us a very difficult challenge, because this has become the new benchmark for the Hungarian army, and we must live up to it; not only through procurement or even production, and not only through development, but in the quality of our soldiers, in the quality of army leadership and in the quality of our training. So we need soldiers who are as good as our equipment. Over the next ten years this will be a big task for Hungary and for the Hungarian government of the day.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is also true that first one buys, and then one realises that it would be better to manufacture. This is the stage we are at now. For this we need a partner. Again I thank the Chairman, who not only wanted to sell us equipment, but was a partner in a larger joint initiative. It is a fine thing to buy something and hear the ring of the cash register; but how much finer it is to create joint production capacity, a factory, and shared industrial products. But we do not want to stop there. Of course, first this hall should be completed and the first machines should roll off the production line. But in fact we do not want to stop there, and this will be the subject of the upcoming talks with the Chairman: we want development, testing, training of the best engineers – and even of the best skilled workers – to be carried out jointly with our German friends. We want to go forward, not back.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Influenced by the Russo-Ukrainian war, in recent months the German government has taken one of the most important decisions in terms of the future of Europe. It could not have been an easy decision, because it was about German rearmament – a phrase that has long been taboo in European politics. Germans and weapons: a dangerous combination. But as soon as the war broke out and it became clear that Europe’s peace and security could not be guaranteed without the Germans, a great change took place: the German defence industry suddenly went from being perhaps a secondary sector to being one of the most important in Germany as well. This is the new reality that Europe must live with. And it is a reality that offers us a huge opportunity; because the Chairman can see that it was not just when things suddenly started to go well that we knocked on the door. When we entered into a cooperation agreement it was not when Rheinmetall’s star was suddenly in the ascendant and when everyone wanted to be friends with what is now a major player in the defence industry. Our cooperation started at a time when this industry was still just grudgingly accepted; we did not agree on cooperation with each other in the finest sunny weather, but in the rain and the wind. This means that there is a good chance that our cooperation will endure and will withstand all kinds of storms – because you can be sure that some more storms await Europe over the next ten years.

I would like to thank all those whose work has made it possible for us to be here today, particularly our German partners, representatives from the Hungarian government, the designers, the contractors and the construction workers – both skilled and unskilled. I thank the city of Zalaegerszeg for being a good home and host for this project. I thank my fellow Member of Parliament, László Vigh, for his excellent work which has helped us to get to where we are today. I wish everyone every success: every success for Zalaegerszeg, every success for Rheinmetall, and every success for Hungary. And do not stay at home next Sunday.

Thank you for your attention.