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Jan 06, 2018 - Zoltán Kovács

Poland and Hungary: We pull our weight in Europe as an engine of economic growth

“We are the economic engine of the European Union,” Prime Minister Orbán said, standing next to his Polish counterpart, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, at their joint press conference in Budapest on Wednesday. Central Europe, he emphasized, is the fastest growing region within the EU.

"We want a labor-based, performance-oriented economy, and we do not want to live in an empire again,” Prime Minister Orbán continued. “The Union must be an alliance of nations.”

The message that Prime Ministers Orbán and Morawiecki were sending was clear: Poland and Hungary make an important contribution, and the two countries should carry a commensurate weight in EU matters.

The concentration of economic growth in the European Union has been gradually shifting eastward over the last few years as Central Europe has become an engine for the Union’s economic growth. Pulling greater economic weight would normally translate into greater influence on debate and decision-making in Europe, but as we’ve seen, that’s not always the case in the EU.

While the economies of the countries of this region have been producing, the immigration policy of the Union has failed, Prime Minister Orbán said. He emphasized again that the external borders must be protected, that migration must be stopped, and that help should sent where it is needed. The prime minister thanked Poland for its assistance in protecting the Hungarian border – which is an external border of Schengen. It shows, he said, that protecting the southern border is not simply a matter of Hungary’s internal affairs but a European matter.

The two prime ministers discussed a number of areas of cooperation, including a proposal to start a Visegrad development bank together with the other V4 members, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, and stressed the importance of developing the north-south energy and transportation infrastructure.

They also touched on the issue of Brussels initiating an Article 7 procedure against Poland. Prime Minister Orbán suggested that the dispute between the EU and Poland has its roots in Central Europe’s growing influence in the bloc. Many have not yet come to accept that the driving forces behind Europe’s growth have changed. The West must come to terms with it, Prime Minister Orbán said in an interview broadcast on Polish public television TVP on Wednesday night, because we have arrived at a point where a fruitful Germany-V4 cooperation is at least as important for Europe as a smooth Germany-France relationship.

It’s difficult to see how launching such a procedure would have any benefit to the Union and the spirit of cooperation. Hungary’s support for Poland is in the interest of Central Europe, and we oppose this kind of activism from the Brussels institutions. We expect to have a say in matters of common EU interest that’s fitting with the economic impact we have, and, as we’ve said many times before, we have no intention of supporting this procedure against Poland.

While some Western member states are trying to navigate Europe to a post-Christian or post-national era, we stick to our roots and adopt a different stance on migration. In fact, it is not our job to convince the West, but they should “allow us to remain Christians, Polish and Hungarian,” Prime Minister Orbán said.

Poles and Hungarians remain committed Europeans because European is who we are, and together we will continue to fight for a strong Europe as an alliance of nations.