Press statement by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán after his meeting with Milorad Dodik, President of Republika Srpska

22 June 2023, Banja Luka

We have come with a proposal for cooperation, and we envision it as a cooperation between equals. We came and summarized everything in which we see an opportunity for equal cooperation in the future. The truth is that we should have come earlier, and perhaps we could have reached this point some years ago. But COVID was here and there is a war; so there is an excuse for why we did not develop this close cooperation earlier. I consider it an unnatural state of affairs that cooperation between us is not closer than it is to be. 

I also told the President that today we have come to the West. If you look at the map, you will see that Banja Luka is to the west of us Hungarians. You are the only country to the west of us that is not a member of the European Union – with the exception of Switzerland, of course. This clearly shows that the situation we are in is not natural. You should have been admitted to the European Union a long time ago, and you should have belonged to the large development zone of the Central European region over the past decade. And I am not only talking about Hungary, but about Central Europe: if you look at the last ten or fifteen years, this has been the decade of a rising Central Europe – from Poland, through the Czech Republic and Slovakia, to Hungary. And in our opinion Republika Srpska is also a natural part of this zone. This is why we have made offers of cooperation here today – so that your country, if the leaders so decide, can join a great Central European development story. 

I was able to tell the President that Hungary has a sovereign foreign policy. We are members of the European Union. There are aspects of foreign policy for which our position is the same as that of the EU, and there are areas for which it is not. So Hungary is a country which pursues sovereign foreign policy. This is important for you, because in essence Republika Srpska and Hungary are neighbours separated by just a few tens of kilometres. And for you the sovereign foreign policy of a country of 10 million is not irrelevant. I was able to talk about this with President Dodik today.

Our foreign policy seeks Bosnia and Herzegovina’s rapid accession to the European Union, and we object to the fact that the EU is making slow progress in this regard. In our foreign policy, EU cohesion and financial resources must be given to those countries – including yours – that we want to see catching up, even before membership is achieved. Our foreign policy rejects the sanctions approach. We do not support any sanctions, nor will we. We reject sanctions not only against you, but in general. And finally, we believe that the essence of our foreign policy is that sooner or later the international actors must also withdraw from this part of Europe, and that life, political decisions and political affairs must be left to the peoples living here. In this direction our foreign policy is the following: fewer powers at international level, and more powers at national level. 

Of course we talked about economic cooperation, and we will do so again tomorrow. We managed to identify the areas in which we see great prospects: energy, infrastructure, agricultural cooperation; and tomorrow we will definitely identify some more. We also agreed to create a special committee that will report on the progress of economic cooperation every three months and give the President and me the opportunity to move forward at a faster speed with rapid, personal decisions.

Finally I would like to say one more thing. Of course we Hungarians see the battles that you are fighting. We see the disputes that the Republika Srpska has within Bosnia and Herzegovina, and I think we understand these disputes. We are also a warrior people, we know how much energy this takes, how much time, energy and attention, and we know that these battles cannot be avoided, and must be fought. But the nature of these battles is that they keep one down, because this is a world of grappling on the ground, and in it you have to fight. In this we Hungarians can help you, so that there can be another dimension above the level of everyday battles: development, strengthening, economic cooperation, growth, the dimension of big things. Because it is not good to become stuck in everyday battles. It is important to not only have legs, but also wings. And if we conduct cooperation well and can start great things, then I think that you can be successful, regardless of the battles. Hungary will gladly participate in this success and will gladly contribute – especially now that, after long and difficult years, Hungary is finally a strong country again, and the Hungarian economy is also a strong economy that wants to be a reliable partner for Republika Srpska.

Mr. President, thank you very much for your invitation.