Press statement by Viktor Orbán after a meeting of the heads of government of the Visegrád Four

27 February 2024, Prague (Praha)

Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Like Prime Minister Donald Tusk, we like to come to Prague – it rejuvenates us. We used to come here when we were students. I do not know whether the U Fleků or Saint Thomas breweries still exist, but they were pilgrimage sites for Hungarian students in the 1980s. It is always good to come back here, because you can remember your own youth. This is needed. I have calculated that this is the fifty-second V4 prime ministerial summit that I have been able to attend.   

Of these fifty-two, this meeting has not been the easiest. I have been to a meeting like this one before – sometime after or around the time of our accession, when we also needed to have a meeting like this, full of self-reflection. Such was our meeting today. Every now and then one needs to ask the question of whether, as the world changes, there will still be a need for the V4 in the future – and, if so, in what form. After all, as Donald Tusk has pointed out, when the Visegrád Four was formed – then as the Visegrád Three – we set ourselves the goal of helping one another to take our places in Western structures. And after that had happened we had a meeting full of self-reflection, when we asked, “Now that we've achieved that goal, what next?” We decided that the four countries had many common interests, which they could represent within the Brussels structures and the European Union's institutions much more successfully together than they could separately. So we decided to continue with the formation of the V4, and that is how we went forward – right up until the Ukrainian-Russian war. The reason we have had to pause now is that the Russo-Ukrainian war is an issue that overrides everything else. And in such times it is legitimate to ask this question: If there are differences of opinion on the big issue that overrides everything, is it still possible to continue cooperation on lower-level issues? This is what we have had to examine today. I would like to thank my colleagues very much for the opportunity to participate in a very rare discussion, which was extremely stimulating, both intellectually and politically. We agree that the basis of the V4 was, and remains, freedom.  

As far as differences are concerned, we obviously have to talk about the Ukrainian-Russian war; but there are points of agreement there too – as the Czech prime minister has said. Firstly, we agree that Russia's attack was a gross violation of international law. We also agree that Ukraine needs help, and Ukraine must be helped. This is the right thing to do. From Hungary's point of view there is also a special aspect to be mentioned here: Hungary does not want a common border with Russia again. In our history there have been times when the Soviet Union and Hungary shared a border. We have bad memories of that period. So the most important basic principle of Hungarian national security is that there should be an entity to the east of us that is located between Russia and Hungary. And so we are also helping Ukraine because of Hungarian national interests. The difference of opinion between us is over how to help Ukraine in the right way. The Hungarian position is clear: we will not send weapons to Ukraine, regardless of the question of soldiers. But beyond this we will provide all the help we can: humanitarian aid; the training of military doctors, unarmed doctors; the reception of refugees; the operation and restoration of the Ukrainian energy system. And I could go on. After today's deliberations I can see that, despite differences of opinion on how to help the Ukrainians, it makes sense for the V4 to continue to cooperate.

There are at least four issues that have been important in recent years, and that will be with us for years to come. If we had not been united on these issues, today our countries would be worse off – individually and collectively. If, for example, we had not acted together decisively and robustly on illegal migration, today there would be tens of thousands – perhaps hundreds of thousands – of such people roaming the territory of the V4 countries. And since the issue of mandatory migrant quotas has not been taken off the agenda, migration is an issue on which it is worth working together in the future. Similarly, there is the issue of how to bring Ukraine's economy closer to our countries – and here I am not talking about membership. There is the question of agriculture, where I see that our positions are identical, or convergent. Or there are Brussels' regular efforts in the direction of tax harmonisation, which – if we were to give in to them – would undermine our competitiveness. So competitiveness and low taxes are also issues on which we should cooperate in the future. Another such issue is our energy security – because we all believe that there will be no secure energy supply and no “green age” without nuclear energy. This is a debate within the European Union, and here too we have shared positions.

Therefore I can tell you that today's meeting has convinced me that Visegrád is alive and Visegrád is important. Even when we disagree with one another's positions, we can acknowledge our differences with appropriate respect; and on shared issues there is room for cooperation. Therefore Hungary stands ready to continue cooperation.