Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen. Honourable Prime Minister Robert Fico, Dear Slovak Friends,
Today Hungary is warmly welcoming to Budapest the delegation of Prime Minister Robert Fico. We have been looking forward to this meeting – we have been looking forward to this meeting for years. We are glad that it has happened. For my part, this is perhaps easy to understand. Since our first bilateral meeting in April 2012, Dear Robert, today is our thirty-third bilateral meeting. This could easily be a European record. And since we are living in a time when the most important political values are continuity, security and stability, I am convinced that such a long-term relationship will benefit both our peoples. Because of our long shared history, for us continuity, transparency, predictability and an approach based on mutual respect are also a given. I think this is good news for the citizens of both Slovakia and Hungary.
Furthermore, we are both aware that, although one of us may be linked to the traditions of the Right and the other to those of the European Left, in fact we are in a community of destiny in Central Europe. The histories of our two peoples cannot be separated, and deep down – even if we do not talk about it – there is a very strong civilisational link: both countries belong to the world of Latin Christianity, which is independent of whether one is from the Left or the Right. This is a cultural, civilisational base on which to build a policy of mutual respect.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We have conducted an overview of the relations between our two countries, and I can tell you that our interests are at least 99 per cent in alignment. Sovereignty is important for both countries. As far as Hungary is concerned – and I feel that on this there is complete concurrence – we are not happy with the superstate initiatives of Brussels. We are not at all happy about efforts seeking to legitimise illegal migration. We want to protect our borders and we want to say who we allow into our countries. The truth is that relations between our two countries have never been better than they are at the moment, because our two countries are linked within the EU by the fact that we strengthen each other. We strengthen each other in terms of physical security, in terms of economic security, and in terms of energy security.
On the subject of physical security, here I will take this opportunity to thank Prime Minister Fico, because on the basis of an agreement made with him many years ago, Slovakian police officers have been helping to defend Hungary’s southern borders on a regular basis. And I have checked the figures: in recent years, Slovakian police have helped to stop 20,000 illegal migrants on Hungary’s southern border. If the Slovak police had not been there in the south, there would be 20,000 more illegal migrants today – perhaps not in Hungary, but in Austria and Germany. So, Dear Robert, on behalf of Hungary I thank you very much for the help you have given us in recent years, and we ask you to continue to provide it in the future. In return, we are happy to contribute to physical security by cooperating in airspace policing tasks in Slovakian airspace from the beginning of this year.
As regards economic security, we have fantastic data. The development of relations between our two countries has led to Slovakia today being Hungary’s third most important trading partner, with our volume remaining stable in the region of 15 billion euros. I will quietly say that for years we have been sweating blood to somehow bring our figure with Türkiye – which is a country of more than ninety million people – into the 5- to 6-billion-euro range; whereas between Slovakia and Hungary the figure is 15 billion euros – and here we are talking about a country of ten million people, and another of six million. In terms of economic security, Hungary provides transit for Slovakia’s oil supply; but in return, a quarter of our electricity imports come from Slovakia. Thank you very much for this too!
We have arrived at this point, Ladies and Gentlemen, because in recent years both governments have given priority to the expansion and development of interconnections. We have built bridges, railways, roads, ferries, gas pipelines and electricity lines. In 2014, when we started working together as prime ministers, we concluded an agreement which we have fully implemented on both sides of the border. And thanks to this agreement and the governmental work to implement it, the number of border crossings between the two countries is now forty, while at the time of signing the agreement it was somewhere around twenty. I am not now calling this a political achievement, but for the people who live along the border just imagine how much it means in their lives that they do not have to travel twenty, thirty, or sometimes fifty kilometres to manage their affairs and promote cooperation. I am convinced that, as a result of the cooperation in the earlier period, both of us – both of our governments – have made a significant contribution to a tangible, perceptible improvement in the quality of life of people living along the border. Living along the border is a special situation, a special life situation, which can be both bad and good. Since we have been working together, it has been good rather than bad, because we both have an interest in ensuring that the border does not divide the communities on either side of it, but rather brings them together: that the border brings us together. Today we have reached a convergence of intentions to create a second major cooperation package, following the previous major cooperation package. What we have agreed to do is to set up a preparatory committee to draw together the most important issues that in the coming years – hopefully as a result of our long parallel periods in government – will be implemented for the benefit of both countries. There will be such a development package, and we will talk about it at the next meeting.
Once again I would like to thank the Prime Minister and his delegation for coming here, and I wish him personally, his government, and the people of Slovakia much strength, success and many years of promise.
Thank you for being here with us, Robert!