Speech by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán at the inauguration of the Tomori Pál Bridge

6 June 2024, Foktő

Good day, Ladies and Gentlemen.

I should keep this short or you will bake in the sun, but it’s so rare for us to hand over a bridge across the Danube that we have to mark the occasion. And so, in spite of your suffering, I will deliver a short address. Before I do so, however, and so as to avoid the sin of hypocrisy, I must remind everyone that we are in an election campaign, and we have a lot of work to do in the three days that remain. I know that you have worked hard. I see faces here that I saw at the Peace March at the weekend, when we stood together for peace and for Hungary. I know that you have worked hard, but an election campaign is like a sporting contest and, as Rocky said in that legendary film: “It ain’t over till it’s over.” So, as soon as the ceremony has ended, I would like to encourage you to go out and be so kind as to stand up for the Fidesz-KDNP candidates, and help us in the campaign. I know that everyone is tired, but, to quote another great, when I asked Schwarzenegger how many push-ups he does in a day, he said “I only start counting when it starts to hurt.” This is the stage we are at now. It is hurting for me, at least. I hope that it is for you too, but I would ask you to put everything you have into this campaign in the three days that remain.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

First of all, I would like to thank you all for coming. I would like to extend a special welcome to mayors Géza Filvig and Péter Szabó, and to Members of Parliament János Süli and Sándor Font. This occasion is the result of their joint work, and without them the bridge would not be here. In fact, the work that my two fellow Members of Parliament in particular have done for the bridge – both individually and together – is in itself a huge achievement. Good taste prevents me from quoting from the intense specialist discussions, full of vernacular language, in which the two Members fought like lions – during the period of COVID and throughout the doubts raised by the war – to ensure that the bridge would not be delayed. Thank you, Gentlemen, for your work! Similarly we should also thank László Szíjj, because it was he who had to build this bridge, which will benefit not only the people of Paks and Kalocsa, but the whole of Hungary. Dear László, thank you very much for your work!

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In recent years the Hungarians, especially the national government, have become professionals in bridge-building. Every government term has seen the handover of several bridges, of which Danube bridges are our speciality. I remember that we started with the Mária Valéria Bridge in 2001, but we also handed over bridges in Komárom, Baja, and another in Esztergom. Since 2010 we have overseen the building of nineteen bridges, but before that the socialists handed over only five. In this, too, we can clearly see the golden ratio of modern Hungarian politics: two-thirds to one-third. But at least this is a meaningful political contest. In Hungarian history the great bridge-builder may be Count István Széchenyi, but we are in the running for the title of the bridge-building government.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I do not know if you have ever noticed that the Hungarian people have the characteristic – I think the strength – of wanting to live, to exist, to fill space, to connect with their own and with the outside world in all directions. This is typical of plains peoples. This is unlike mountain peoples, for instance, who live in isolated little valleys, connected at best only by narrow passes with two-lane roads. The sense of space and geographical vision of mountain peoples is different from that of plains peoples – i.e. the Hungarians. This is why the Hungarian people cannot stand being shut in and isolated. They want to cross over, cut through, and connect separated areas. I am glad that this is what we have finally managed to do here. Kalocsa and Paks were not able to live together, they could not exist, fill space, be connected: the two settlements were separated as if by a mountain. If someone from Paks wanted to work in Kalocsa or someone from Kalocsa wanted to work in Paks, very realistic ideas, they would have to drive up to two hours a day there and back. This could be fairly said to be an extra quarter of a working day – even though they are able to see from one settlement to the other on a clear day.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This area, which lies on the left bank of the Danube, is called Kalocsai-Sárköz. This name roughly means “area west of Kiskunság, but east of the Danube”. It is one of the most beautiful places in the world. But as the name and the geographic description suggest, this region, Sárköz, is an intermediate area, an inland enclave of Hungary. Up until now the road network has reflected this fact, with the M5 motorway being a long way from here, preventing realisation of the area’s economic potential. And the Danube itself separates the region from the M6 motorway. We feel it is our task to free up these interior areas and link them to the country’s bloodstream. When we do this, we unlock the country’s hidden gold reserves – not only improving the quality of life of the local people, but also strengthening the Hungarian economy as a whole. When we returned to power in 2010, in terms of development there was a kind of West–East, Pannonia–Hunnia division in Hungary. The West was where the big factories were, and that area provided the lion’s share of industrial production and economic growth – including the Paks nuclear power plant. This was not only unnatural, but unfair and damaging to the country as a whole. It is why we built the Miskolc–Nyíregyháza–Debrecen industrial triangle in Northern Hungary, which unlocked the economic power of the region. Its huge developments are already underway, and their completion is within sight. Once completed, Northern Hungary will have a different economic landscape. But at the same time we can see that in parallel a development gap may emerge between Northern and Southern Hungary. We are working – and especially Minister János Lázár – to close this gap as soon as possible. Therefore our intention is to locate the maximum possible number of investments and industrial enterprises south of the Zalaegerszeg–Székesfehérvár–Kecskemét–Debrecen axis – in other words, to create an economic powerhouse. This requires roads and bridges. I am convinced that the importance of the southern Hungarian regions will increase in the future. A key role in this plan is played by freight and trade in goods between Serbia and Hungary, which in fact makes this region the gateway of the West. We are taking the M6 motorway to the border, connecting the Croatian–Slavonian areas and linking them with Hungary. The next step is to divert road transportation from Serbia and, as a result, bring logistics centres, investments and a significant number of production units to this area, thus connecting the area around Paks and Kalocsa to a rapidly developing region. Two of the country’s most important strategic investments are being built in this area. Firstly, new nuclear reactor blocks will be built in Paks. And secondly, the Budapest–Belgrade railway line – which is one of the most important elements in this Hungarian nation-building programme – will pass not far from Kalocsa. So, Ladies and Gentlemen, I have said all this at such length because today’s bridge-opening ceremony is part of a complex, well thought-out, long-term plan to develop the country and build the nation.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Your Excellency, 

The bridge that we are inaugurating today bears the name of Pál Tomori, who was Archbishop of Kalocsa and a Hungarian general. With this name this bridge is indeed not only a piece of transport infrastructure linking the two sides of the river, but also a reminder: a giant exclamation mark in steel and concrete, it is a reminder to us Hungarians of the dangers of disunity in general – but especially in times of war. It was Pál Tomori who, before the Battle of Mohács, devoted all his strength to the defence of his homeland, and then gave his life as the commander-in-chief of the Hungarian army. The life and heroic death of Pál Tomori at the Battle of Mohács is an enduring example of what happens when we Hungarians do not stand together. If we do not, we become the playground of foreign powers, our country is senselessly destroyed, and – because control over our destiny is taken out of our hands – we are written out of history for a long time. This warning is timely once again today, when Europe is in a state of preparation for war. We must preserve our unity. Unity can be preserved by declaring it again and again. This is why, in the name of national unity, this Sunday, 9 June, we must vote only for peace. Hungary is living through an era of peaceful construction, the Government of Hungary is the government of peaceful development, and the Government of Hungary is the government of bridge-builders. Now we also congratulate the bridge-builders on their great work, and we send them a message that it is possible to continue south along the river. Mohács is ready for you. The plans are in place, and the next bridge will be built there. I wish you well in your work!

Go Hungary, go Hungarians!