Prime Minister Viktor Orban described his talks with Slovak counterpart Peter Pellegrini on Tuesday as a “meeting of two successful countries in a successful region”.
Slovak-Hungarian cooperation and the Visegrad Group partnership contribute to the success of a common Europe, Orban told a joint press conference in Parliament after the meeting. The V4 is no longer an alliance of poor countries but composed of countries whose economies are characterised by “dynamism, financial discipline and great plans”, he added.
“Central Europe is in a period of great creation; we stand on the verge of a true central European renaissance,” he said.
Orban expressed thanks to Pellegrini for Slovakia’s help in border protection and for Bratislava standing in support of Hungary “in the midst of a great international storm”.
Commenting on bilateral relations, he said that after linking the gas pipelines of the two countries, work has now started to connect their electricity grids.
On the subject of border relations, Orban said that with the two countries having opened new border crossing stations, the average distance between border crossing points has dropped to 20km. The construction of a new Danube bridge connecting Komarom and Komarno is also under way, he noted, adding that this additional link between the two countries would help increase bilateral trade turnover.
As regards joint V4 goals, Orban mentioned the construction of the high-speed railway connecting Budapest and Warsaw that will also pass through Bratislava.
The prime minister expressed his satisfaction over the Slovak government’s measures concerning Slovakia’s ethnic Hungarian community. These have included steps to keep Hungarian-language primary schools running, the display of dual-language signs at train stations and subsidies provided through the minority cultural fund, Orban noted.
Meanwhile, asked about the Italian prime minister’s decision not to allow a rescue vessel crammed with migrants to dock in Italian ports, Orban said: “Finally!” He said it had been “so depressing” to hear for years that it was impossible to protect Europe’s maritime borders that “one practically lost the will to live”. The prime minister pointed out that Australia, too, was capable of protecting its borders. But now the will to protect the maritime borders that had been missing in Italy has returned, Orban said, adding that this could bring about a change in Europe’s migration policy. Orban assured the new Italian government of his support.
Asked about German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s comment that Hungary’s border fence also protects Germany, Orban said Hungarian-German relations “are in great shape”, adding that he had never been in favour of pitting the two countries or their leaders against each other. Orban asked Germany to be tolerant of Hungary, arguing that — though it is against its interests — Hungary accepts that there are Schengen countries — like Germany — that have taken in hundreds of thousands of migrants. Germany should be tolerant of Hungary’s decision not to allow migrants onto its territory, Orban said. “If we are tolerant towards each other, we can preserve our strategic partnership,” the prime minister said. He said he was convinced that common sense would continue to prevail in German-Hungarian relations.
Asked about the European Union’s draft budget for the 2021-2027 funding period, Orban said Hungary was treating this budget as the last one in which the country would not be a net contributor. “After this one, we will transition to another club,” Orban said. After this next funding cycle, Hungary will be paying more into the EU budget than it will receive, the prime minister insisted. He argued that the end of the next funding cycle would coincide with the end of a historical era in which the central European region had to catch up with the “historically more fortunate” European countries.
Hungary therefore wants a fair EU budget, Orban said. It also acknowledges that “everyone’s budget will shrink” after Britain’s exit from the bloc, but this should be implemented in a fair way so that “it affects countries in similar positions in similar ways”, he said.
Orban said that though “every forint counts” for Hungary, the Hungarian economy was “long past the stage when EU funds were fundamental in shaping the country’s situation”. In fact, it can be said that Hungary is more in need of a market than money from Europe, Orban said, arguing that “if we have a market, we can make a living from it.” The prime minister called the preservation of the common market the number one issue in the current debate, saying that the amount of funds to be distributed to member states was only secondary.
Asked about the government’s planned revision of the constitution announced last week, Orban said that since it has been seven years since the adoption of the constitution, it was time to evaluate the fundamental law and see if there was anything to be done with it. The government will set up a team of constitutional lawyers to carry out the revision and make recommendations if necessary, he said. The prime minister noted that the revision will take a year to a year and a half. “Once every decade it’s worth evaluating if the constitution serves its function,” Orban said, adding that in his opinion the answer was “more yes than no”.
Source and photo: MTI