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Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s speech at the 6th Annual Forum of the EU Strategy for the Danube Region

Good morning everyone. If you would be so kind as to allow me, I would like to speak in Hungarian. It would be better for all of us.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We can also do without words – this is what we experienced in the performance we’ve just seen. As the dancers demonstrated, we are countries whose representatives can also understand one another without words, should fate make it necessary. Allow me to welcome you to Budapest. Thank you for visiting us at the annual event of the Strategy for the Danube Region.

Dear Friends,

No other river in the whole world runs through the capital cities of four nations. And naturally if we were to ask the mayor of each capital city, they would immediately declare that the Danube is at its most beautiful in their city. And in such a situation, every one of them would be right. In this we Hungarians are no exception. And over here we usually add the words spoken by a dyke supervisor in a famous Hungarian feature film: “The Danube must be closely watched, because the Danube is always coming”.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It fills us Hungarians with pride that the representatives of the fourteen countries of the Strategy for the Danube Region have gathered here in Budapest. The fact that this many of us have gathered together is important. First of all, in my view it indicates that regional cooperation plays a significant role in the European Union today. It also proves that the countries of the Danube Valley form a smoothly operating economic and cultural unit, just as we did in the more peaceful periods in centuries past. This is obvious when one considers that our fate is shared, our responsibility is shared, our challenges are shared, and so too are the threats that we are all facing. Our cooperation also symbolises the fact that Central Europe, our home, extends from the Black Forest all the way to the Black Sea. Indeed in a wider context, it may even be said to cover the territories of the Carpathians. We would therefore be delighted if our Polish friends managed to create a Carpathian Strategy; we would welcome this initiative. What belongs together grows together – in my view this is the essence of the strategies uniting entire regions within the European Union. The Strategy for the Danube Region was conceived as the second such strategy, following the Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region. We Hungarians look upon it – at least to a certain extent – as our own child, because it assumed its final form during Hungary’s EU presidency. With all due modesty, but with the satisfaction which comes from a job well done, we can state that we, the peoples of the Danube Valley, inhabit one of the most dynamically growing and most promising regions in the European Union. Therefore the work that we have completed together over the past six years deserves all the praise one can give it. My message to the representatives who have come here from all fourteen countries is one of congratulations on the results you have achieved to date.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The title of our forum is the following: “A secure, connected and prospering Danube Region”. This is also a concise summary of the future we envisage for our region. If I’ve correctly understood the documents you’ve prepared, we want the region along the Danube to be green, prosperous and safe, and to allow freedom of movement. The title of today’s forum is also in accord with the four pillars we identified six years ago, when the region was established. The first pillar was interconnectivity across the Danube Region; the second was protection of the Danube Region’s environment; the third was increasing the Danube Valley’s prosperity; and the fourth was strengthening the Danube Valley’s security. The vehicle for this concept, this strategy, is the Danube Transnational Programme. During the period between 2014 and 2020 it is making available a total of 277 million euros, comprising funding from the European Union and national co-funding provided by each participating country. The first calls for proposals for this funding were published in 2016, and further ones will be released in 2018 and 2019. This is a fair amount of money, but it is far from enough, and we need much more. I therefore urge both the European Union and the countries concerned to increase their contributions to this fund.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Some peoples of the Danube Valley are inside the European Union and others are not, so when we get together our community of countries cannot avoid talking about further EU enlargement. We owe it to each other to talk about this frankly and openly: speaking as a citizen of a European Union Member State, I can see that the European Union’s more prosperous countries do not want any further enlargement. In the jargon of Brussels this is referred to as “enlargement fatigue”. We, however, do want further EU enlargement. We want each and every one of the Danube Valley countries to become members of the European Union. We would like every country in the entire region to become a member of the European Union as soon as possible. I’m convinced that the countries concerned have done a great deal to bring this about, and are close to the joint attainment of this goal. We also sincerely hope that the Schengen system will soon recover from its current comatose state; for the EU’s greatest attraction – and perhaps its greatest value in the eyes of its citizens – lies in the very fact that there are no borders within the territory of the European Union, and that we have freedom of movement. Naturally a condition of free movement within the area and across our internal borders is the ability to protect our external borders. We have never made a secret of this: we favour enlargement of the European Union, and we want protection of the Schengen system.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Until this happens, however, it is our duty to open the highest possible number of border crossing-points between the countries of the region – in particular, with regard to those now outside the EU – and to connect the region and our countries with the highest possible number of roads, railway lines, electricity lines, gas pipelines and bridges. Every year in the Danube Valley Region, approximately 1.2 billion tonnes of goods are transported, and people make more than 3.9 billion journeys. If we compare this with the figures for 2010, we can say that 300 million more tonnes of goods are on the move and people are making 300 million more journeys. This increase demands further investment. This is why we inaugurated a new bridge over the Danube at Esztergom in 2001, and this is why in Komárom only yesterday Slovakia’s honourable Prime Minister and I laid the foundation stone for another new bridge over the river. This, too, is proof that we Hungarians want Europe to have external borders which are closed, and internal borders which remain open. At the same time we want to move the EU’s external borders as far south as possible.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The second pillar of this strategy defines the responsibility that we bear for the ecosystem of the Danube: an ecosystem which is unique in Europe. Protecting the water quality of the Danube is just one of many issues, however; and it is not only a matter for the countries through which the Danube flows, but also for those which form part of the river’s catchment area. Therefore we also see it as a part of the Danube Strategy that in 2014 we set up the Tisza Office in the city of Szolnok, which enables us to oversee a regional water management plan which integrates the national water management plans of the five countries through which the River Tisza flows. Naturally, the top priority is to prevent industrial disasters that threaten our rivers. But in addition to water quality issues, we must also reckon with flooding. After the 2013 Danube flood, Hungarian experts conducted a flood survey extending to all fourteen countries of the region. They summarised the findings of this project, and created a comprehensive action plan, the Flood Control Action Programme, which extends across the entire catchment area of the Danube and also identifies specific actions to increase security in the region against flooding.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The third pillar of this Danube Valley strategy is the goal of increasing the prosperity of the region’s nations. In this respect, ours is Europe’s most diverse region. But however great the differences between its western and eastern corners, on the whole we can say that since 2012 growth has been faster in the Danube Valley region than anywhere else in Europe. This is a good achievement that generates self-confidence, but it is not yet enough. We who live here know all too well that in this region there is enormous untapped potential. The most obvious and useful vehicle for exploring the economic growth potential that exists here is enlargement of the European Union and the accession of these countries – with Serbia as the clearest example.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Finally I’d like to say a few words about the fact that the fourth pillar of this strategy seeks to reinforce the security of the Danube Valley. Today this comprises three issues in parallel: food safety; energy security; and migration. At this point in time, the greatest threat to us, the greatest security risk, is posed by modern-day mass population movement, as we refer to it in Hungary. Here in the Danube Valley region not a single person needs to be told what this means. We who live here are aware of the geostrategic significance of the Danube Valley. We also know our own history. Those seeking to occupy a place in Europe have always come along this route, and Hungary has been the last line of defence – the gateway, if you like – for the West. Perhaps it won’t surprise anyone if I say that we believe that what we’re observing is no random event, but a campaign which is unfolding in line with a plan. We’ve been in this business for too long, and so we don’t think that there could be this many random, miraculous coincidences at the same time. We’re convinced that there is a plan which aims to create mixed societies in the European continent. We’ve seen this in our world before: we saw it in this half of Europe a few hundred years ago. And so we know all too well that, of all peoples, it is precisely we – the peoples of the Danube Valley – who stand to lose the most from change on such a scale. Or we would stand to lose most if we did nothing; but we shall not let this happen, because we shall resist it and defend ourselves. We know how these things work: first they test the strength of our borders, then they channel new population groups into Europe en masse. Conflicts follow, and the next thing we know is that the newcomers are in the majority, and eventually organising their own parallel state administrations. This has always been the case, and it will always remain the case, if we allow it. These are simple historical truths, and we must not bury our heads in the sand to escape from them. We will be much better off if we face the facts – however alarming the sight of them may be. We will be much better off if we talk about them honestly, and if we create rational plans to manage the situation.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In summary, we can say that the Danube Valley is our home. We, the peoples of the Danube Valley, created it together, and together we are working to ensure it survives and becomes Europe’s fastest developing region; and we must also protect it together. Our goal is for the Danube Region to remain a community of historical values standing on firm foundations: one which is of value to the whole of Europe, and which can even set an example. This is why it’s important for us that the Danube Strategy is embraced as a European strategy which, with its objectives, can provide guidance on enlargement of the European Union, and can also provide guidance for the European Union in relation to its Eastern Europe policy.

Hungary wishes you every success. And with this food for thought, tomorrow we’d like to pass the baton to Bulgaria. We know that it will be in good hands.

Thank you for your attention.