We thank Prime Minister Garibashvili for his invitation. We are pleased to be here, and it is an honour for us.
We are here, first of all, to express the Hungarian people’s respect and appreciation for the Georgian people. We appreciate the centuries-long struggle to have a Christian state that you have been engaged in. It is a struggle that we Hungarians know well from our own history, and we have great respect for those peoples who stay loyal to their traditions and beliefs. Secondly, we are here to express our appreciation for the fantastic progress you have made in recent years. Everyone in Europe is struggling to keep their level of economic growth above water, in other words in positive territory; but here in your country we see fantastic economic growth. And if you can maintain this for a few more years, you will rapidly catch up with the European countries. That was the good news.
Our meeting, however, was overshadowed by the fact that, in the last thirty years, the global security situation has never been worse than it is right now. We therefore needed to discuss not only issues of cooperation between our two countries, but also important global security issues. This was a meeting between two governments whose historical experience is that peace is better than war; and this is why we must always strive in international politics to bring all conflicts to a peaceful conclusion as soon as possible. This merely creates the opportunity for development, and today we have had to conclude that the world is far from that today. But we – Georgians and Hungarians – will do our utmost to set an example through cooperation between our two countries, and we have therefore begun to implement the strategic cooperation agreement that we signed last year.
My friend Irakli mentioned that Hungary is a committed supporter of Georgia’s membership of the EU. This is partly because we see it as fair; but it is also in the European interest. I well remember that when in the mid-2000s the Central European countries joined the European Union, we were the saviours of the bloc’s competitiveness. If the Poles, the Czechs and the Hungarians had not joined, economic growth and dynamism in the European Union would have stalled. Most of the economic growth of the last twenty years or so has come from the Central European region. This shows that Europe always needs ever more dynamism, ever more energy, and ever more people who want to work, who want to create, who want to catch up, and who have ambitions. If Europe does not take in such peoples when the time is right, then the European Union will pay the price through loss of competitiveness.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In this context, because of the economic growth performance you have demonstrated, Georgia is particularly worthy of EU membership and candidate status. Today, therefore, it is in Europe’s interest to link the EU with the Caucasus region; and the easiest way to do this is with Georgia. This is why we were extremely saddened – and even angry – to see Georgia not being granted candidate status when that status is being granted to countries that are clearly far behind your country in terms of development. And we in the EU have to decide whether we see enlargement as a political process, or whether the truth is what we talk about, and what is spoken of in Brussels as a “merit-based process”. If it is merit-based, then what has happened is unfair – unfair to your country – and it needs to be rectified urgently. The EU must realise that we cannot modernise the European economy’s energy system without very serious and deep cooperation with your country. Joint programmes on infrastructure are particularly important, and the creation of the Azerbaijan–Georgia–Romania–Hungary green energy corridor is vital for the European Union. We are talking about a huge, major project that will bring economic growth for all the countries involved for many years to come.
I can also inform the Georgian public that we have concluded bilateral agreements. We have serious ideas for economic cooperation, including in agriculture, water management, pharmaceuticals and the financial sector. Here we have a flagship programme, Wizz Air, which is a Hungarian company; this is a market leader in your country. It is a good example, and can exert gravitational force on other Hungarian companies.
I would like to mention that every year we provide scholarships for eighty Georgian students, who come and study in Budapest. For us this is a great honour and an investment in Georgian-Hungarian friendship, as we hope that these students will be ambassadors of the friendship between our two peoples.
And finally I would like to underline Prime Minister Garibashvili’s statement that the deepest basis of friendship between our two countries is our shared Christian tradition. It is not easy to be a Christian in Europe today. Nor is it easy to be a Christian government in Europe today. We believe that our Christian tradition is a fantastic value on which to build, and attempts to build not on this but on something else are not likely to have much success. Therefore the preservation of Christian traditions is also a prerequisite for European competitiveness, and so we are delighted that countries are approaching the European Union which openly support this heritage – even if this means serious and difficult debates within the European Union.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We have come here with good intentions to build a strong Europe together and to ensure that the time is not far off when both countries will belong to the same political and economic community, the European Union.
God bless the people of Georgia! I wish you every success and further fantastic results. Prime Minister, thank you for hosting us here.