Press statement by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán following his meeting with Edi Rama, Prime Minister of Albania

16 June 2023, Tirana (Tiranë)

Prime Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen,

First of all, I would like to thank my friend Edi Rama for inviting us here to this extremely interesting country. Over the past thirty years it has always been a pleasure for me to come here. I have been here at least a dozen times, sometimes representing my party and sometimes on state affairs. I have always believed that relations between Albanians and Hungarians exist not only at a diplomatic level, but that there is a deeper relationship between the two countries, which is due to their shared history of suffering. Even though the form it took here was extremely brutal, we too had to live under a communist regime for forty years, and found it a painful experience. This shared experience never fades, and even after thirty years we remember it as a communal history of suffering that brings our two peoples closer together spiritually. This is why I am always delighted to come here, and feel at home here.

I am also personally happy to be here and to be a guest of Edi Rama. The whole world is moving towards standardisation, with hamburgers, smartphones and brands; this is also the case in politics, and so I am very happy when I find someone who stands outside the brands, who is original and authentic and can bring particular points of view – new points of view – to politics. Your prime minister is certainly such a leader, and so it is always intellectually refreshing for me to have the opportunity to exchange ideas with him. The one problem is that when one stands beside him one has a feeling of inferiority – but that is the difference between basketball and football.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As far as meetings are concerned, this visit comes at a very difficult time, because the world economy is undergoing major realignments, and Europe is being deeply affected by them. These realignments are exposing weaknesses in Europe that we have been very slow – or completely unable – to address in recent years, with the result that on the global stage Europe’s competitiveness is declining. And in this context the question is how we should view the Balkans and Albania’s membership of the European Union. Is it a problem or an opportunity? I always tell my colleagues in Western Europe that they should imagine the European Union today without Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia and Croatia as members. What would the EU look like? What would the European economy look like? What kind of growth would such a European Union have? There would be no economic growth! The only reason there is growth in the European Union today – not zero, half a per cent or one per cent, but perceptible economic growth – is because we Central Europeans have brought economic dynamism into the EU. And I think that this is the lens through which we must look at Albania, and through which we must interpret the Balkans. Europe has to ask itself where it has the reserves for growth. If it does not want to be left behind in the great global contest, where are the European Union’s growth reserves? And the answer is that the growth reserves are exclusively in the Balkans. No region other than the Balkans – including Albania – offers the European Union growth reserves. Therefore, although Albania is a candidate country and is applying to join the European Union, the situation is actually the reverse: if we do not urgently admit the Balkan countries – including Albania – to the European Union, we will be unable to stop the EU’s decline in competitiveness, we will be unable to gain momentum, and we will be unable to maintain our position in global competition. This means that the European Union can only regain its competitiveness if there are more of us. We must therefore expand the European Economic Area and strengthen it in economic and security terms. Therefore, with due courtesy, I have to say that the slow rate at which this enlargement process is progressing is unacceptable and shameful. Just now I have looked at the calendar, and I see that it has taken Albania thirteen years to get to the launch of accession negotiations. If the forecasts are correct, in ten years’ time no EU country will be among the ten largest economies in the world – or at most only the Germans will be. If we are expanding the European Union so slowly, how will we be competitive? This pace is quite simply unacceptable; it is a suicidally slow pace. This is why Hungary strongly supports the accession of the Balkan countries, and Albania’s membership. Albania can always count on Hungary to support your membership, for the reasons I have said here, out of friendship for Albania, and also in our own interest.

As regards bilateral economic cooperation, I was pleased to hear the Prime Minister’s assessment of the work of Hungarian investors in Albania. We also like to be well thought of – we are human after all, and recognition is always good. And I am also glad that Hungarian investors are behaving in a respectful manner. The size of our country is such that a lot of investment comes in from countries larger than us. And, of course, investment is investment. As the Romans used to say: money has no smell, but its owner does. So you can be a good investor or a bad investor. Some investors respect the local population, and some do not. And in the past thirty years Hungary has seen everything: there have been investors who respected us, and investors who did not; there have been investors who thought that the whole world is just one big global economy and that it does not matter who the natives are. We have suffered a lot from this, we know this attitude, and I am very confident that Hungarian companies will never behave in this way anywhere – including in Albania. They will always show respect to Albania, they will always acknowledge that this country belongs to Albanians, where we are welcomed as guests and where we must thank them for cooperating with us, even if we are bringing capital here. So, My Dear Friend Edi Rama, in the future you can count on this. Hungarians will be investors who respect local people, who respect your history, your ambitions and your future, and we will look for a form of cooperation that is good for you and good for us.

As far as tourism is concerned, I would like to make one more comment. Hungary is a country with no sea coast, yet tourism accounts for more than 11 per cent of its gross domestic product. This is not easy, and so we know something about tourism, we understand that industry. We are happy to share this knowledge with you. And Hungary has a foreign investment strategy with which we support Hungarian investment abroad. Today we have agreed that we will extend this investment strategy to Hungarian tourism investments in Albania. I hope that we can establish cooperation in this area which is as good as that we have established in the banking sector and the infocommunications sector, and as good as we are now developing in the energy sector and in water management. We have included tourism as a key area of cooperation between our two countries.

Prime Minister, Dear Hosts,

On behalf of Hungary, I wish you every success. Thank you for inviting us here.