Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen,
Welcome to the CEO, owner and chairman of Rheinmetall. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Mr. Papperger, for being here – thank you for being here with us. I welcome the Mayor of the city, and wish him every success in the period ahead. I greet my fellow Member of Parliament, László Vigh. László, thank you for coming. I would like to extend warm greetings to all our guests and to all those who work here in this factory. I greet those who built this factory, and I greet those who will work in this factory. I greet the Hungarian workers.
Before I say anything, Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to add a few words to Chairman Papperger’s references to past times. Many people who are not involved in the defence industry might think that we are running to catch up with current events: they might think that we have set about developing the defence industry because there is a war. But that is not what has happened. It has happened as the President described, with us taking the first decisions in 2017. Today everyone is talking about the fact that there is not enough ammunition and explosives in the Ukrainian-Russian war. But – if I recall the Cabinet meetings of the time correctly, and Minister Palkovics, is here with us – the decision to build, to set up, our factory now under construction in Várpalota was taken in 2020: a good two years before the war. So everything you see here happened before other people realised that it was needed. This is a great lesson for Hungary, and underlines for us the historical experience that size matters. The Germans or other large nations can afford to be thorough, deliberate and slow countries – which even waste decades. A country of ten million people, like Hungary, cannot afford that luxury. Only the big ones can be slow; the small ones have to be fast – or not fast, but instead nimble and forward-looking. I think that what we are all celebrating here today is the result of the shared wisdom of Germans and Hungarians, the result of foresight, the result of a shared evaluation of Europe and of the world political situation. It is the result of a joint situation analysis by the Chairman and the Hungarian government in 2017 and 2018, in which we envisioned where the world was going, how the Hungarian army should react to it, and how the defence industry should react to it. My heartfelt thanks to the Chairman for these in-depth strategic discussions. I thank him for in recent times supporting the Government’s decisions – not simply with his factory or factories, but also with his ideas – and for enabling Hungary to be ahead of events rather than be running after them.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
For a restaurant, it is always good publicity to have regular customers. It shows that there is always a reason to return. In Zalaegerszeg, here at the Rheinmetall factory we are becoming regular customers. As the Chairman noted, we were standing here a year and a half ago. And what has happened in the last year and a half speaks for itself. Therefore there is no need for me to add a long explanation. The factory was completed, and we opened the building last spring. German Lynxes made on Hungarian soil – we are talking about combat vehicles made on Hungarian soil, with the help of Hungarian skilled workers and Hungarian engineers – will stealthily make their way through the factory’s gates. That is it; but to say only this much does not reveal the full details of the truth – and these details are very instructive. First of all, they are instructive because this factory will be run by Hungarian workers and Hungarian engineers. And we should also bear this in mind when we think of the much-criticised Hungarian education system. These engineers and workers will be working with the most modern technology in the world, all of them having acquired the basics of their knowledge in Hungarian schools. It is perhaps appropriate that we should also thank their teachers for the work they have done, the results of which are seen by those who work here.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In today’s world it is also instructive that, in line with the agreement with Mr. Papperger, there is not only production here, but also the training of engineers and skilled workers, together with research and development. Chairman Papperger belongs to the old school: when he promises something, he keeps his promise. This school is gradually going out of fashion. We are glad that the Hungarian government has a partner that keeps all the promises that we have agreed on and that it has made over the past year. This explains why we now have a test track next to the production plant, why you can see a test hall, and even a tunnel. Manufacturing, research and development in one place, with a significant degree of Hungarian ownership. And all this in Hungary: as it is written in the great book, “Made in Hungary” – in every sense of the phrase. When I say “Made in Hungary”, we must also remember that without German technology “Made in Hungary” would not be what it is. And of course this is true in both directions: from the automotive industry to the defence industry, German industry today knows exactly the extent of the role played in the global success of German global brands by Hungarian factories, Hungarian skilled workers and engineers, and Hungarian added value. Hungary, Central Europe and Germany are inextricably linked, and we are – and will continue to be – the most natural allies in maintaining competitiveness.
It is also instructive, Ladies and Gentlemen, for Zalaegerszeg, the site of today’s factory handover. Back in the 1980s I knew this town well. I know for a fact that if back then someone had told the people of Zala that one of Europe’s most important research and production centres for the automotive and defence industries would be located here, the claim would have been taken as a sure sign of that person’s unstable mental condition. And yet here we are. Zala County – which after the First World War was robbed of its supporting environs and marginalised – not only deserves our attention, but demands it. As well as Rheinmetall, many big names have made investments here, including Bosch, TÜV Rheinland, FLEX and AVL; and ZalaZONE, a science park and a drone research centre have been built. Zalaegerszeg has become a place from where you can see the future – at least as far as the automotive industry, military technology and electronics are concerned. And, Dear People of Zalaegerszeg, there are few places like this in Europe today.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
An agreement has been signed here which includes the Israeli company UVision. We are setting up a joint venture in Hungary to manufacture combat drones. It may be true that everyone is different, but if I heard about a country that produces and develops military technology jointly with Germans and Israelis, I would think twice about provoking it. And that is good news for every Hungarian. And, Ladies and Gentlemen, we are not stopping there. Next year one of Europe’s most modern ammunition factories will start operations in Várpalota – also in partnership with Rheinmetall. A year ago we handed over the Airbus factory in Gyula, where components for the most modern combat helicopters are manufactured. Earlier, the people of Békés Country would never have imagined such a thing! But we are not content with inviting foreign partners to Hungary: we are also looking abroad ourselves. We are even in the Czech Republic, with Aero Vodochody – which manufactures combat and training aircraft – now in Hungarian hands. So now we also have a Hungarian-owned aircraft factory.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The most important lesson, the most exciting part of the truth, is that although we have been in crisis mode for almost four years, we have not given up on our big plans. We have not given up on building an independent Hungarian defence industry, and we have not given up on putting Hungarian innovation and technology at the forefront of the world. And the war has only strengthened our determination: the Hungarian army must be renewed. This year our defence spending will reach the level of 2 per cent of GDP, and we will maintain this level next year – with the help of God, and if the Ministry of Finance keeps to the budget already agreed for 2024. This is not only important for Hungary’s defence, but it is also our duty, because we are a member of NATO. Not for the first time we are living in times of war, and in times of war we Hungarians know how peace can be preserved. And neither do we have to be taught how to be soldiers: Hungarian military prowess goes back to the old days, and our German friends are well aware of this. In wanting to create a strong Hungarian army again we are not building on sand. There are those who believe that the guarantee of peace is not strength, but weakness. Hardly anyone here in Hungary buys that nonsense. We know very well that peace does indeed require strength: spiritual, economic and military strength. Spiritual strength is needed to resist the pressure from the pro-war forces attempting to press us into war. With the utmost spiritual calmness, we must say that peace is the only moral and political position Hungary can adopt. We need economic strength to power through the problems caused by the war and the sanctions that are driving the European economy to the brink. And we need military strength so that everyone can see that in times of war we are able preserve Hungary’s peace and security, and that it is therefore better to be on good terms with us than to engage us in conflict.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In conclusion, all that remains for me to do is to thank you all for allowing us to be in this situation here today. I thank the city of Zalaegerszeg for playing host to this investment, and I congratulate the city on its spectacular development. May these factories stand and produce for many years to come, as proof that we Hungarians were, are, and will be destined for great things. May it be so!
God above us all, Hungary before all else! Go Hungary, go Hungarians!