Thank you. I hope it is allowed to speak Hungarian. Igor, yes? Very good. Excuse me. So I have two possibilities: one is to choose the path that old footballers tend to choose, entertaining the audience with recollections of past battles. The other is not to do that, but try and say something considered to be clever and important. I’ll now try to combine these two approaches.
So I’m glad to see you, Igor, here in Budapest. We’re both old veterans, as even back in 1989 we stood in the same city square. And then, as you may have heard, Igor wrote a book about me that didn’t portray me in as favourable a light as I deserved; but he wasn’t aiming for a Nobel Prize in literature. He’s Polish and I’m Hungarian, we’re anti-communists, we saw the fall of communism and so on; and so we have a shared historical fate, understanding and feeling. But in addition to this, the reason I gladly accepted his invitation and am here now is because – as they say in English, and there’s no good word for it in Hungarian – we’re both “self-made men”. We both created something out of nothing: one of us this, the other that. Which path each of us followed and what we did after the fall of communism can be best deduced from the weight division each of us is in. Businesspeople always look more or less like him: as we’ve heard, youthful, self-made businesspeople are always feisty, they’re always lean and fast; politicians, however, tend to be powerful and heavy, so they won’t be blown away by headwinds. So this more or less explains what we see here now. But this doesn’t alter the fact that after communism the whole of the Central European region – and within it our homelands of Poland and Hungary – were required to create something out of virtually nothing. And this was only possible because – this is another similarity to football – good fortune lined things up and good generations came on the scene: somewhere around the end of the eighties saw the arrival of virtuous, determined generations with good genes. We have here, for example, the President of the Hungarian Chamber of Commerce, who was born around the same time as me, and we can say that this generation took over the business. A new generation emerged in the arts – we think of Ákos, say, in music. And the list goes on. What we had in our countries wasn’t simply political and cultural change: a new generation arrived on the scene. Naturally that generation also had a left-wing section, who were the communists’ intellectual heirs; but it also had a conservative, nationally-oriented element. We belong to that element. And as time went by, this generation – theirs in Poland, ours here in Hungary – found its voice and gained influence in shaping our countries’ fates. This is our personal story, and therefore I’m pleased that Igor and his colleagues have come to Budapest.
I would have been very disappointed if they hadn’t been the first to come, because in politics Polish-Hungarian cooperation is good; indeed it’s excellent, and personal cooperation between our politicians reaches the level of friendship. We also have cooperation in culture. The area in which we have the least cooperation is the economy, however. This is despite how close we are. Okay, Warsaw isn’t close, but Kraków is, for example. On the road up through Slovakia, one only drives for around an hour before one is no longer in Hungary, but Slovakia. Driving down from Kraków the same is true: from Poland one only needs to cross Slovakia. So we’re close to each other. Today the V4 countries are cooperating well, but if I look at Polish-Hungarian economic relations, they’re very poor. In my view, the reason for this is fundamentally personal in nature: we don’t speak each other’s languages. They’ll never speak ours, and we’ll never learn theirs. Ours is almost impossible to learn, or is at least a somewhat hopeless enterprise, and so we have to use some other language. None of us want to speak Russian, that was the past; and they don’t want to speak German. So basically we’re left with English. As a result, sooner or later the Hungarian and Polish business elites will have to use the English language to somehow build up a system of very close relations similar to that which we’ve already built up in politics. This won’t happen automatically. It will only happen if there are people who invest energy, time and money in it. I’m glad to have this successful young Polish team here in Hungary, because we hope that this is what they’ll create. If Poles give Hungarian businesses and politicians advice – and I hope they’ll give as much as possible, mostly in the economy, which I’ll also apply for, as I need it too – then personal relations will also rapidly develop in the economic sphere. We’re in great need of that.
Moving from the personal dimension to the political, in the current game the stakes are high. The only way I can describe how high they are is to say that they centre on whether the peoples living in the region between the Russians and the Germans will arrange their own life and become independent players. They cannot achieve this on their own, as not even Poland is big enough for that – even though it’s outstandingly large. In other words, either we jointly organise this world and become actors in the current global realignment, or someone else will organise this region for us. And there are always plenty of candidates for that task: sometimes they’ve come from the South, and if we look up to Buda Castle, we know what happens then; sometimes they’ve come from the East, which we know from 1956 and 1945; and sometimes they’ve come from the West, from where they arrived in Hungary in March 1944. So if the nations living in this region fail to organise it for themselves, there are always plenty of candidates who will organise it for them. This is what’s at stake. We’ve taken this process a long way in political terms; now we expect the same to happen in economic terms, and we expect this region to be able to organise itself.
Igor spoke about potential. I’ve just looked at the figures. In recent years it’s been a rather important part of my job to use numbers to try to understand the economic foundations of the global realignment. I don’t want to bore you with them, but some time around 2006–2007 more than 80 per cent of investment in the global economy came from the West, with just over 10 per cent coming from the East. Today 54 per cent of investment in the world economy comes from the East, and less than half from the West. Something is happening. If I look at these numbers broken down by nations, I see that German-Chinese trade, for instance, is increasing significantly. But if I look at the expansion of trade and economic relations between Germany and the V4, I see that they’re growing faster than German-Chinese trade relations. So the V4’s trade relations with Germany are growing faster than trade relations between Germany and China, the world’s fastest rising region. This bears out Igor’s point about our region being the place where one sees dynamic development, one sees the future and one sees growth, and that the V4 must seize this moment and try to grow and strengthen together. If the V4 countries are able to do that, then there will be a Central European player in the world economy, a Central European player in world politics, and it will be an influential player in European politics. This depends on Polish and Hungarian businesspeople being willing and able to talk to one another, to cooperate, to do business and to build relations. Because numbers in themselves are of no help: we need people, relations and shared interests.
So, Igor, I wish you all the greatest success possible. Let’s work together for a Central Europe and a Europe which has clear answers to life’s two most important questions: what we want our income source to be, and how we want to live. Today Western Europeans’ answer to the question of their income source is debt – the management of the present crisis, too, is being financed from massive amounts of debt. Our answer is work: we want our source of income to be work, and we believe this is possible. We want to live off work and enterprise. And if the V4 are able to provide content for this answer, then the V4 will be successful – no matter what crises emerge in the European economy. The answer given by one half of Europe to the question of how we want to live is completely different to the answer given by the other half. One half – the western half – feel that they are still in such a dominant position that they, rather than us, can answer the question of how we Central Europeans want to live. In Europe there’s undoubtedly an attempt at intellectual oppression, which one can trace through the debates on migration, on freedom of the press, and on the rule of law. And unless we stand together, unless we state together that we want to live in a way that’s consistent with our Polish and Hungarian history, unless we clearly state that we want to preserve our cultures and the ethnic composition of our countries on a national basis, unless we clearly state that we see values like nation and family as the foundations of our future and for how we want to live, others will tell us how to live differently. That is something we must avoid. What I’m saying is that there’s a collective Central European answer to the question of how we should finance our life, and another collective answer to the question of how we should conduct that life. We’ll be able to realise this if we organise ourselves and jointly represent this. And as the numbers show, we will then remain the world economy’s most dynamically developing region.
Naturally Hungarians must accept that this is the 21st century and not the 19th century. There’s a significant difference in size between the two countries. Size matters, in politics too, and so Hungarians must accept that if we want to participate in the organisation of Central Europe, then we’ll have to do that as a fleet centred around a Polish flagship. We’ll need to intelligently array ourselves around a Polish flagship, while the Polish will have to accept the associated responsibility to project their strength across the whole of Central Europe.
I hope that you’ll contribute to this historic mission, Igor. Naturally you all see numbers, profits and the like. All that is very important, but please allow us to see these higher spiritual elements as also being part of your work. And allow me to wish you great success in both making money and serving higher causes.