Press statement by Viktor Orbán following his meeting with the Prime Minister of Vietnam

18 January 2024, Budapest

Honourable Prime Minister Phạm Minh Chính, Dear Guests from Vietnam, Ladies and Gentlemen,

In order to understand the significance of this meeting and the Prime Minister’s visit, we need to offer a recapitulation of the situation in which the world now finds itself in. Here in Hungary everyone knows that ten or more years ago we announced a policy of opening up to the East. This, Prime Minister, was born from the notion that we felt the world would change and undergo rapid transformation. Things would not stay the way they had been up until then. Positions would not remain as they had been, international power relations would change, and Hungary would have to provide some kind of response to the rise of Asia. We call this “Eastward Opening”. And in this context your visit is extremely valuable for Hungary. This is because you have come from a continent that is rising inexorably; and if one looks at the figures for the Vietnamese economy, one sees that there is an unprecedented rate of development not only across the continent, but also in Vietnam itself. And it is easy to predict that Vietnam will be one of the countries that emerge as the winners of the coming era. Any such transformation is both an opportunity and a risk. In this new situation for the global economy we see a huge opportunity for Hungary. This is because Hungary is, in its origins, an Eastern nation: we belong to the West, but we come from the East. We understand that world, and the values that are important there are also important for Hungarians: respect, equality, family, and service to our nation. So the cultural basis for Hungary to develop good relations with the world’s rising countries exists in every respect.

If you look at Hungary’s economic data, Prime Minister, you will see that in the last ten years or so Asian countries have caught up with – and then overtaken – the Western countries that have traditionally been active in Hungary. And we see this trend continuing. We have received the Prime Minister here today in the hope that Vietnam will join the ranks of those Asian countries that have been successful in Hungary, and that we will not only trade with each other, but also invest in each other’s countries and be able to significantly increase the volume of our bilateral trade. We have a good chance of achieving this, because the political positioning of the two nations on the world map is very similar. Both our countries are faced with similar, large, difficult foreign policy questions that we must answer; and in our similarly difficult situations, we both have to find our place on the world map according to our national interests. We feel that in this process of positioning the discussions we are having with the Prime Minister can be of great assistance.

Perhaps it is because of the similarity of our situations that we think in similar ways about peace, and in similar ways about war. I said to the Prime Minister – and I repeat it now – that Vietnam lives by winning its wars, and for this reason we respect it. Meanwhile the Hungarians live by surviving their defeats. This is also a virtue – different from yours, but a virtue. And today we are both standing here talking about how we can work together in the future. I congratulate your government on its achievements, Prime Minister. I am looking at your figures, and in five years, you have created 28 million new jobs in Vietnam. You have successfully concluded a tremendous free trade agreement with the European Union. As Hungary is a very open and export-oriented country, this is very important for us. I congratulate you on your free trade agreement with the EU. By 2030, 99 per cent of bilateral trade will be duty-free. We have also concluded an investment protection agreement. There are still some countries in the EU that have not ratified it, but Hungary has already done so. In the second half of this year Hungary will hold the Presidency of the Council of the European Union; and we would like to persuade those countries that have not yet ratified this reciprocal agreement on investment protection to do so before the end of the year.

I would like to inform the members of the press that I have encouraged the Prime Minister to support the emergence in Hungary of Vietnamese investment in the largest possible volume and across the widest possible range. Our trade volume is growing, but we would like to see it complemented by the capacity and performance of mutual investment, so that cooperation between our two economies is not limited to trade, but also includes production in each other’s countries and participation in each other’s scientific and research work.

Here I would like to mention that at the moment there are more than nine hundred Vietnamese students studying in Hungary with Hungarian state scholarships. Every year we announce two hundred new scholarships, for which the number of Vietnamese applicants is twice the number of places available. So, all in all, if I add cultural and academic cooperation between our two countries and our investment promotion opportunities to traditional economic areas such as medical equipment and agricultural exports, we have a very large package showing that the volume, depth and value of Vietnamese-Hungarian economic cooperation is extremely significant.

And, finally, I would like to say a few words about the most important thing – because both our countries have been stricken by war. We know what war is, and therefore it is perhaps unsurprising that our two countries have the same position on peace. Today we have welcomed the government of a country which, like Hungary, considers peace to be the most important foreign policy value to strive for. This is why, in relation to conflicts emerging in the world, up to now we have always found it easy to agree on the issue of peace, and easy in international forums to establish cooperation on these difficult issues. When cooperating in international forums we are a good partner for Vietnam, and Vietnam is a good partner for Hungary. In the coming period also, we shall stand up for peace separately, but also together when necessary.

Our wish for ourselves and for the world is that the war in Hungary’s neighbouring country can be suspended as soon as possible with a ceasefire, and brought to an end as soon as possible with a peace agreement.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Once again, in front of the Hungarian public I would like to thank Prime Minister Phạm Minh Chính for visiting Hungary, for honouring us and for giving us the opportunity to meet at a business and economic forum tomorrow afternoon.

On behalf of Hungary, we wish the Vietnamese people and the Government of Vietnam great success, peace, security and good health. Thank you very much, Prime Minister.