Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s speech at the Turkish-Hungarian Business Forum
30 June 2017, Ankara
Honourable Prime Minister, Dear Turkish Friends, Members of the Hungarian Business Community,
First of all, although he is not here with us, I must thank President Erdoǧan, who with his visit to Budapest in 2013 gave an enormous boost to friendly Turkish-Hungarian cooperation and business relations. Secondly I must thank the Honourable Prime Minister, whom I was able to meet briefly. We agreed to use this opportunity today as a ram to thrust Turkish-Hungarian political and economic cooperation towards a breakthrough. And thirdly, I also wish to thank Chairman Adnan Polat, who is a good friend and colleague of ours in terms of Turkish-Hungarian business relations. Thank you for the work you have done.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
If I were Turkish, I would not at first pay too much attention to the Hungarian people and the Hungarian economy. After all, forecasts show that Turkey will soon become Europe’s largest country: it is now a country of 80 million, and before long will become a country of 100 million. Its population is eight or ten times bigger than that of Hungary, and its territory is eight times larger than Hungary’s. Turkey is in a good location, and although there are now wars on its borders, strategically it is in one of the world’s most important locations. It has an enormous private sector. Why should it pay any attention to the Hungarians – aside from friendship and the intellectually intriguing question of common origins lost in the mists of ancient history? Why should any member of its business community divert their gaze to Hungary? I believe that there is one fact which even the most successful Turkish businesspeople would be wise to consider: Hungary is a country of ten million, and we are capable of generating exports worth 110 billion dollars; meanwhile Turkey is a country of eighty million, which is capable of generating exports worth 145 billion dollars. Hungary’s export performance draws attention to the fact that there is something in Hungary – there is something in Hungarian business life – that even enormous countries such as Turkey would be wise to take notice of. And what is that?
The first and most important thing I would draw your attention to is that Hungary is Europe’s safest country. I don’t need to explain to a Turk why security is important: if there is anywhere in the world where that is understood, that place is surely here, in Turkey. You can see the situation in Europe: public security is deteriorating, and Western European countries are also now living with the continuous threat of terrorism. Hungary is a country where there is order, security and predictability in every respect: both in public safety and in the legal system.
If I were a Turkish businessperson, I would also take note of the fact that Hungary has the lowest taxes in the whole of Europe. Companies pay 9 per cent tax on their annual profits, while if they invest in Hungary they benefit from allowances which reduce their actual tax burden even further. You won’t find any other country in Europe where this is possible. Hungary has one of the lowest personal income tax rates in Europe, and there is no inheritance tax. This clearly demonstrates that the Hungarians have decided to concentrate their energy on the economy and economic growth over the next few years.
And the country I’m talking about – Hungary – is a member of the European Union, thus forming part of a market of 500 million people: this is the market one enters when entering Hungary.
If I were Turkish, I would also consider the fact that Hungary is part of a special alliance system, known as the V4, comprising the Central European countries of Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. Today these four Central European countries account for the majority of European economic growth. Without Central Europe, growth in the European Union would be almost imperceptible – or non-existent. This clearly indicates that the economic centre of gravity is shifting from the Western countries towards Central Europe. Whoever is in Central Europe is at the very centre of European economic growth. So now I’m not just arguing in favour of Hungary, I’m not just drawing your attention to my country, but I’m also recommending the whole of Central Europe – because that is where the future lies. We’re talking about a region of 65 million people, and your population 80 million. So I believe that this Central European-Turkish cooperation will be large enough to have an impact on the entire European economy.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Hungarians like straight talk, and so I should also tell you that while in 2013 President Erdoǧan and I set the target of increasing our two countries’ trade volume to five billion dollars, we haven’t yet managed to do this. There are a number of reasons for this, and we’ve learnt a great many lessons. As far as we can see, there has not yet been a breakthrough in Turkish-Hungarian business relations: there has been some improvement, but no breakthrough. Together with the Honourable Prime Minister, we shall work to arrive at political decisions which can pave the way for a breakthrough in Turkish-Hungarian cooperation. We want to identify one or two flagships, which can bring smaller craft in their wake.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Hungary’s standing up for Turkey is not a one-off event, but the result of a strategy. Hungary is a conservative country which prioritises enduring human values. Money is, of course, important, and it’s good to have more of it than less. Business is important, and it’s good to realise that you have a stable footing, that you have a safe background. But Hungarians do not believe that business and money are the most important things in the world: it’s more important to have friends. And if you have friends, you are also bound by obligations: you stand by your friends, even though sometimes it might be uncomfortable. You can therefore rest assured that whatever anti-Turkish statements are heard in major European countries, Hungary will never add its voice to them. This is because Hungary is on the Turkish people’s side, and we believe that we Europeans should look at Turkey in the context of its imminent status as Europe’s largest country. Turkey is situated on the edge of Europe, protecting the continent’s interior. If you were not doing your duty, Europe would have been flooded by millions of migrants – who it would not have known what to do with. Today Turkey is protecting Europe, and it deserves respect and recognition for this. For our part, we shall always accord you that respect.
Finally, I would like to give you some “instructions for use” for the Hungarian people. It’s important to know that they are sensitive types, and if you want to do business with them I suggest that you avoid provoking them. The most important thing is not to lecture them. The Hungarians are like the Turks: if someone tries to lecture them, they automatically roll up like a hedgehog.
The next important thing is to show them respect. Although Hungary is a country of ten million, its history stretches back a thousand years, and that commands respect. You are aware that geopolitically Hungary is in a very difficult location. For a thousand years we have lived within the Berlin-Moscow-Istanbul triangle, and after a thousand years we’re still alive. Hungarians believe that our survival – the fact that we’re still around, our country still exists – is something which is worthy of recognition in itself.
The third thing to remember is that you should praise Hungarians – this really helps in business. The Hungarians have many bad characteristics, and so they’re happy when someone notices one or two good ones. I suggest that whenever possible you mention the few good things that the world knows about the Hungarian people. The first is that the Hungarian people have a special mentality. I’ll mention three things invented by Hungarians: the ballpoint pen, invented by a man called Bíró; the punched card system, invented by the father of the computer, a man called János Neumann; and your coffee’s greatest rival – the espresso – which was invented by a Hungarian engineer, called Ferenc Illy. This clearly shows that the Hungarians have a very special mentality. We have produced a large number of Nobel laureates and scientific breakthroughs, and mentioning these is always a good starting point for business. If you want to do business, under no circumstances talk about football – as at present we’re not doing well in that department. Finally, however, if there is an opportunity you may mention the fact that over the years Hungary has won 176 Olympic gold medals. Although we are a country of ten million, this figure places us in the front rank of the world’s nations, and is yet another achievement which Hungarians like to see as proof of us being great warriors who are capable of extraordinary things in difficult situations.
Well, Ladies and Gentlemen,
To sum up, we have the legend of common Turkish-Hungarian origins. We have mutual respect. We have an outstanding political and personal relationship between the leaders of the two countries. We have an enormous Turkey and a strengthening Central Europe. And we have a Hungarian investment and business environment without rival in Europe.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
If we cannot do business with this winning combination, then we cannot do business at all. And so I’m convinced that the conditions which politicians can create and that history has created are in place. With this unrivalled Turkish-Hungarian relationship as a platform, it is Turkish and Hungarian businesspeople who are solely responsible for what they can produce in the field of business. Thank you for your attention.
God preserve Turkey!