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Sep 03, 2020

Press statement by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán After the Bled Strategic Forum

31 August 2020, Bled

What you’re asking of me is no easy task, because we discussed a wide range of topics. One group of these comprised discussions on some of Europe’s most important issues over the next ten years. The second was the issue of Central European cooperation, as seven Central European prime ministers are present here. Then I had a meeting with representatives of the Hungarian community living in Slovenia. And I also conducted bilateral talks, which I will continue tomorrow. So these have been fine tasks for today. What’s perhaps most interesting for an international audience is how Central Europe’s elected political leaders envisage the future of Europe. The discussion itself was an interesting civilisational conflict, because a journalist came here from a well-known British neo-Marxist newspaper, The Guardian. He attempted to interrogate us about what’s happening with reference to the Western European system and using its linguistic terminology. It emerged that we describe reality differently from how he does, using different words; we see reality differently, and as a result we also see issues for the future differently. This was another interesting aspect of this forum. 

At any rate, it has become clear that Central European leaders see three important issues as shared tasks for the decade ahead. The first of these tasks is that we must unhesitatingly admit Serbia to the European Union as soon as possible, because without Serbia Europe’s security structure is not complete. There is a gap in the system. To give you a tangible example, this is also where migrants are coming through. So that is a country which should belong to Europe and the EU; but instead it is in limbo. And the EU is responsible for this state of affairs. The Serbs would be happy to join, it is possible to talk with the Serbs, and everyone knows that the Serbs are important. The EU does not have the political courage and leadership decisiveness to cross this important line, to cross this Rubicon, which would render the European security system complete. Serbia’s soonest possible accession to the EU is a fundamental interest for Hungary, and – in addition to the fact that we respect the Serbs – this is why we support them in every way possible. 

The second issue is one of security, but beyond Serbia. This brings us to the economy. Around the world we can see that the big boys – and there are only two of them, the Americans and the Chinese – have overtaken us: the European Union, which was once in the sphere of leading nations or leading organisations, has been left behind. This is because they have the military capacity which makes continuous scientific renewal possible. The modern world’s greatest inventions, these technological inventions and modern gadgets – the internet, GPS, iPads – which determine the pace and development of the modern economy usually enter the civilian sphere from defence industry research. It doesn’t work the other way round. The notion that we’d be able to compete with the Chinese and the Americans through high-tech research in the civilian sphere was widespread in Europe ten years ago; but that approach has failed. We won’t be able to rise to the same level as the great powers that determine the speed and direction of technology until there is a European army and a corresponding background research capacity. In Europe at present any aspirations in this regard are extremely rudimentary, and require a European military force. 

And the third issue is competitiveness – not in relation to great inventions for the future, but in the simple world of the production of goods. Why don’t European goods sell well? Because their standards are not as high as they once were, or because the standards of our competitors’ products are higher, because the prices we charge for them are too high, our taxes are too high, and bureaucracy abounds. So the European economy must be streamlined to make it competitive with the countries that are increasingly catching up with us – or are even overtaking us. I remember that at some point in 2012 a European Union think tank produced an important study about the future. This was eight years ago. Back then they predicted that by 2050 Europe’s share of world economic production would fall from the 2012 level – which was around twenty-something per cent – to between 15 and 17 per cent. Today it’s 16 per cent – and we’re nowhere near 2050. So it’s clear that the problems are old and we’ve identified them, but in recent years we’ve failed to provide the answers that could bring competitiveness to Europe as it stands. This is bad news. But the good news is that an economic success story is promised by the whole of the Central European economy: the entire V4, with Slovenia and Croatia around them, under the leadership of the Polish – because the Polish economy is the most robust in Central Europe. We, too, were hard hit by COVID, this pandemic; our economies also sprang a leak, and we must fight for every single job and every single investment. But on the whole this region is much more promising – in terms of competitiveness, international competitiveness – than the rest of the European Union. This is the good news, and the best news is that we live in this part of Europe.

Prime Minister, you’ve just met Ferenc Horváth, leader of the Hungarian community in Prekmurje [Muravidék] and our Member of Parliament. What issues did you discuss? What are the problems, and what opportunities are open to us?

I can summarise cooperation in Muravidék between Hungarians there and the Hungarian government by saying that at last we have set out. After such high-level ceremonies, handshakes and warm-hearted backslapping – which I don’t underestimate at all – it seems that at last in everyday life there is the feeling that a person belongs to a Hungarian community: in nursery schools, elementary schools, cultural centres and where real life is being lived. There, too, in Muravidék one can feel that there is a motherland which looks after the Hungarians living there, and cooperates with them wherever possible. At the same time, the winds have also changed in Slovenian politics; because, for some reason that is hard to fathom, the wind is always against us when a government of the Left is in office here. Now there is a government of the Right, a nationally-oriented government, but nationally-oriented in a way that is open to cooperation. 

So we’re close to working out the details of a programme with Prime Minister Janez Janša. According to this they will support Muravidék with a larger sum of money, while we will support the Rábavidék [Porabje] region – where Slovenes live in the territory of Hungary – with a larger sum of money. Thus the leaders of the two countries are committing themselves personally to slowly but surely bettering the lives of Slovenes in Hungary and Hungarians living in Slovenia. This is good news. We’re making much better progress and we’ve found a smoother form of cooperation – one built on mutual trust and national friendship – with the present government. Of course here the latter is under constant attack from the Left. Here, too, there is a bitter struggle, just like in Hungary; here, too, when you do something you’re attacked from your flank. But, in summary, cooperation between Slovenia and Hungary today is better than in the past, and this is also becoming ever clearer to Hungarians living in Slovenia.