Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s speech marking the transfer of the Visegrád Four presidency
19 June 2017, Warsaw (Warszawa)
Thank you very much for the gift. We have always held the Polish people in the highest regard, but if over here the fillér coin is minted into such a large piece of silver, that regard is especially justified.
I would also like to say a few impromptu words. First of all, I would like to thank Beata, your prime minister, who over the past year has been guiding us with gentle empathy. Although it is something I cannot promise to succeed in, I will always try to coordinate the work of the V4 with focus and tempo.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
You have seen the work accomplished over the past year, which has been a most spectacular one. A cooperation such as ours can be judged on the reputation it commands in the outside world. I have to say that in Europe today there is a deficit of cooperation, there is a deficit of united action, and this makes ours all the more precious. Central Europe today shows itself to be a region which is full of vitality, which has common goals, and which comprises countries that are eager to act. I would like to thank all three of my fellow prime ministers for having provided Hungary with assistance in the defence of its borders over the past two years. We can now say – though modestly, without any historical emotion, and factually – that the four of us have succeeded in defending not only the borders of Hungary, but also the southern borders of Europe. And had these four countries not acted in unison, hundreds of thousands would still be charging, unimpeded, towards the safe life of the European peoples. For this not to happen, for me to dare to undertake protection of the borders, the support of the other three prime ministers was necessary. I have always felt the support of the three prime ministers behind me, and I knew that Hungary would not be left alone in fighting for the right to protect its own borders.
Ladies and Gentlemen
The Polish presidency has been extremely successful, and it will come to a worthy conclusion when, under Mrs. Szydło’s leadership, we meet France’s new president in a few days’ time.
As regards the Hungarian presidency, the best way I can reassure you is by pointing out that I have been involved in the Visegrád cooperation over a period of twelve years. This should give us the hope that I won’t be liable to making big mistakes. But the truth is also that the Hungarian people are in love with the Central European idea. We have always thought that Central Europe is the region where we are best understood, this is the region in which there are hidden treasures that the world does not yet know about, and this is where we hold Europe’s cultural and economic reserves. Once mobilised, these reserves will turn every head in Europe – indeed every head in the world. And if today you only look at the primary economic figures, you will also see that our countries’ growth is more than double that of the European Union; you will see that when it comes to security we have nothing to be ashamed of; we have nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to the vitality of our cultural life; and we have nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to the quality of our democracy. So I believe that the European Union has gained greatly by admitting the countries of Central Europe as Member States, and that it can expect plenty more from this region.
The Hungarian presidency will revolve around four underlying concepts. Using a modern turn of phrase these are the following: European Visegrád, Regional Visegrád, Digital Visegrád and Global Visegrád. We have systematised the tasks in hand. I have asked my fellow prime ministers that, while we doing our work, building diplomatic relations, enhancing our countries’ reputations and encouraging economic cooperation, we should lay special emphasis on culture and the young generation: we should set up scholarships and organise internship programmes. Now that this region has so clearly become successful, and as there is cooperation and harmony among the political leaders, we should also make it possible for the young generation to experience first-hand that which we call the Central European experience: “Central Europeanness”. I learnt about Central Europe when in the eighties we tried to get to jazz festivals in Poland on the train to Krakow. I learnt about Central Europe at a time when Prague was the Number One in the world for university students like me. And we learnt about Central Europe when a trip to Bratislava was something historic. So there is a Central Europe.
We want young people to experience in a modern way this fraternal feeling, the cohesion that exists here in Central Europe. We want them to see for themselves that we’re not just talking about nostalgia or about history, we’re not just talking about the culture of ancient times, but we’re also talking about the future and four modern states: a modern Central Europe. I’m convinced that if we can avoid mistakes – and there’s a good chance we can – Central Europe will in the long run remain Europe’s most rapidly growing region. We shall dedicate the year of the Hungarian presidency to this goal. So I take this opportunity not only to wish the Hungarian presidency every success, but also success to Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. I hope that Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic can give today’s young generation the same experience that our generation was given thirty or thirty-five years ago.
I wish us all every success.