Receiving the Order of Merit of the Republic of Serbia from you today is an honour. People are rarely honoured while still in office. I do not consider this to be notice of dismissal, however, but an encouragement; by this I mean that I have been awarded this medal not for what I have done so far, but for what I will do in the future in the interest of Serbian-Hungarian friendship. Hungarians like to give titles to their outstanding leaders. In Hungary there is the title of “the greatest Hungarian”: an honorific earned in the mid-19th century by a leader named Széchenyi, whom we have called “the greatest Hungarian” ever since. He once wrote a letter to your freedom-fighting prince, Miloš Obrenović, in which he wrote the following: “The interests of Serbia and Hungary are so closely intertwined that, whether we like it or not, we must be friends.” So when the current Hungarian government – and I personally – work for Serbian-Hungarian friendship, I am acting in accordance with Hungary’s very old recognition of this fact. Hungary is a country that must be friends with Serbia. This historical imperative is made easier if Serbia has leaders with whom we can also build friendly personal relations. And I thank you, Mr. President, for honouring me not only with this award, but also with your friendship in recent years; and for this I am also grateful to my counterpart, the Prime Minister. The friendship suffers in only one area, but one in which we can do nothing about: water polo. In that respect there can only be one winner at a time, and there we have to battle each other in the pool. As far as politics is concerned, Mr. President, the Serbs and Hungarians have a common cause. Sometimes we forget this, but at other times history reminds us of this common calling. This common cause is that together we must defend Europe’s southern gate. For Serbia and Hungary this is both a mission and a responsibility. It is no coincidence that together, defending the southern gate of Europe, the sons of your military nation and Hungary’s valiant knights scored one of their greatest joint successes right here in Belgrade – or Nándorfehérvár, as we call it. And as migration returns in new forms, again and again, it is our joint responsibility – Serbs and Hungarians – to steer this historical process in the right direction.
We are bound together by geography, history and centuries of shared destiny and friendship. I am grateful to you and to the Serbian people for finding me worthy of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Serbia. I wish both Serbs and Hungarians much strength for the tasks ahead of us.
God save Serbia!