Address by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán at the “One Belt, One Road” Forum

18 October2023, Beijing (北京)

Honourable Vice Premier, Presidents, Prime Ministers, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I thank President Xi for honouring me with the invitation to be here. This is the third time that I have had the honour of participating in this Summit. 

I have come here from Hungary. Hungary is a member of the European Union. The fact of the matter is that here I am the only head of government from the European Union. Given the state of the world, it would have been natural for many European leaders to be here. But they have not come. There is a reason for this, which is difficult for non-Europeans to understand. For, Ladies and Gentlemen, today Europe is facing a huge dilemma. To us the end of the Cold War seemed to usher in an era which, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, would be dominated by the West alone: financially, economically and technologically. In our European home we were preparing for a world that would operate under our Western hegemony. That did not happen. Today, thirty years later, everyone can see that the era of Western competitive advantage is at an end. The Eastern world has grown stronger. In terms of its contribution to world economic output, China has taken over second place from the European Union. And I could cite many more examples. It is no wonder, we should not be surprised, if many in Europe are disappointed. What should Europe and the European Union do, how should it react to this new situation? The European dilemma is whether to comply with the division of the world economy into blocs, or to compete; to be protectionist or to seek the opportunities for cooperation and interconnectivity offered by a new era. 

Distinguished Colleagues,

In Brussels today this is the debate with which we are preoccupied. The European debate is complicated by the fact that, because of the war in Ukraine, Europe has cut its ties of cooperation with Russia. It has also taken a huge step towards dividing the world into blocs. And leaders who are in favour of such blocs want to go even further. Today there is much talk of decoupling and de-risking, which means isolating the European and Chinese economies from each other. Proponents of connectivity, including Hungary, reject the policy which promotes blocs. We see the policy of seeking de-risking as the real risk itself. Hungary is not alone in this. We live in Central Europe. This region suffered from the existence of blocs for several decades. 

Distinguished Colleagues,

For twenty-six years I lived in a country affected by the world’s division into blocs. It was not good. It was irrational. It was inhuman. Our competitiveness plummeted. We were left behind in the technological race, and eventually impoverished. For decades we lived far worse than we could have. This is why, instead of the formation of blocs, we Hungarians would like to see a period of connectivity. I am convinced that connectivity would give Europe a chance to regain its competitiveness. 

Distinguished Colleagues,

Moreover, division into blocs also brings the risk of new wars. It would be desirable for the nations of the world not to match the strength of one another’s weaponry, but to combine the strength of their economies. Our history, our national history, proves that an international policy based on interconnections and mutual respect can bring peace and economic development. This is what we in Hungary have based our political and economic strategy on. Our goal is to make Hungary a meeting point between the economies and technologies of the East and the West. Today our country is the meeting place in Europe for the most important investors from the East and the West, who are transitioning to a new technological era. We are proud that Hungary is now the number one destination for Chinese business investment in Central Europe. We thank President Xi for this! 

Distinguished Colleagues,

The One Belt, One Road Initiative is currently the most comprehensive initiative in world politics. Its achievements to date speak for themselves. Thanks to President Vučić, we Hungarians are also working hard with our Serbian friends. We are building a railway line that will be the fastest transport route between the ports of Greece and Western Europe. We want Europe to be strong and competitive again. To do this, however, we must not isolate ourselves, but must strengthen cooperation and connectivity. 

Honourable Vice Premier,

Hungary is ready for further cooperation with China and all countries that support connectivity. 

Thank you for your kind attention.