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Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s speech at the opening of the China – Central and Eastern Europe summit in Budapest

Good morning,

It is an honour for me to welcome you to Budapest. I wish to welcome the Prime Minister of the People’s Republic of China, the prime ministers and heads of delegations of fifteen countries in our region, and the representatives of observer countries and organisations. Having played host to you in 2011, we are delighted to do so again. Perhaps you remember that Budapest was the venue for the first major meeting of the China – Central Europe Economic and Trade Forum, led by the Prime Minister of the People’s Republic of China and attended by representatives of countries of the region. One may well ask why we sixteen are present here today, and why the Prime Minister of China is now meeting us sixteen for the sixth time. In terms of geography, the answer is that we sixteen form a single uninterrupted region located between Europe’s “great powers”: Germany and Russia. In terms of economics, the answer is that we sixteen already constitute the European region which is our continent’s engine of economic growth – a region which is also about to undergo yet another phase of dynamic growth. In the period ahead this region will become an increasingly important part of Europe. We are talking about sixteen countries, with a combined population of 119 million people. Eleven of the sixteen of us are members of the European Union, and five of us are seeking accession. We think that Europe must not isolate itself: if Europe isolates itself, it will forfeit the possibility of growth; and Europe must not isolate itself now, in particular, when it is facing historic challenges which we can only respond to if we have strong allies. We sixteen have always been open, and we would like to remain so. We sixteen have always looked upon cooperation with China as a major opportunity.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Over the past six years the framework of the 16+1 Cooperation has widened significantly. In addition to forums for ministers of trade and economy, now there are also regular ministerial-level meetings in the fields of transport, education, culture and health care. With due modesty, but also with pride, we may claim that our cooperation has become a major factor in the development of relations between Europe and China.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Honourable Prime Minister,

There was a time when the modernisation of Asia was only possible if Europe contributed significant technological and financial resources to the process. The situation has been reversed: the star of the East is now in the ascendant, and we live in an era marked by the rise of Asia – and within it China. We are at the beginning of a period in which the further development of Europe will be dependent on the technological and financial involvement of the East. The 16+1 format serves not only the best interests of China, and not only those of our sixteen Central and Eastern European countries: the success of this cooperation also benefits the whole of Europe, and the European Union. We have created a truly win-win situation.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As we can all see, the world economy is undergoing major changes. Here in Central Europe today developments and projects which would not be possible with European resources alone can be carried out with the resources and capacity of China. We can also see that the new world order now taking shape is characterised by the widespread presence – including in Hungary – of large and successful businesses from the Far East. Such businesses also represent the latest cutting-edge standards in technology, and are the flagships of a digital transformation which will be crucial to the future success of national economies. Globalisation’s new world order has also brought with it new configurations. We look upon the President of China’s One Belt One Road Initiative as one of globalisation’s new configurations: one which will no longer divide the world into teachers and students, but which will provide the basis for mutual respect and mutual advantage. We Central Europeans have a vested interest in the strategic success of the One Belt One Road Initiative and are taking part in its implementation; and I am personally proud of the fact that Hungary was the first European country to sign the relevant agreement.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

At the meeting in Suzhou in 2015 we adopted our medium-term plan. In this we committed ourselves to the mutual promotion of trade and investments. Accordingly, Honourable Prime Minister, the governments of Central Europe have recently adopted a number of decisions; following these, Eastern and Central Europe has become Europe’s most competitive investment environment. Further proof of the success of our efforts is the fact that recently Chinese businesses have brought to our region investments worth billions of dollars; in doing so they have significantly contributed to enabling Europe to successfully adapt to the new era in the history of the world economy that is about to begin.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

At this summit we are going to deal with the issue of financial cooperation as a particular priority. In the medium-term plan adopted in Suzhou, we provided for the launch of the second phase of the China – Central and Eastern Europe Investment Cooperation Fund. We brought the first phase of the Fund to a favourable conclusion, and the agreement on the second phase will be signed by the Eximbanks of China and Hungary after today’s plenary session. A further indication of our cooperation’s success is that in December 2014 the Bank of China set up its Central and Eastern European regional headquarters in Budapest; this has also become the Central and Eastern European region’s renminbi clearing centre. I offer my congratulations on the fact that since then the Bank has also opened branches in Vienna, Prague and Belgrade. I can inform you that in the interim Hungary has become the first country in the world to make bond issues worth one billion yuan on both the onshore and offshore Chinese bond markets.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

China and the Central European region are geographically far from each other, and this adds to the significance of relations between the two. This has led us to the common goal of popularising the Chinese language – a prominent role in which is being played by the Central and Eastern European Regional Centre of the Confucius Institute, which is located here in Budapest. It is now possible to study the Chinese language at twelve universities in Hungary.

Finally, I am pleased to announce that today will see the release of the public procurement tender for the upgrading of the Budapest–Belgrade railway line, for which China is providing funding. This project is the first major development – or as we say, flagship development – being implemented through cooperation between China, a member of the EU, and a candidate for EU membership. This will create the conditions for the Silk Road on the Sea’s fastest freight route to Western Europe to run from its European terminal through Central Europe.

May I wish you all great success in this. Make the most of the fact that in this region no political obstacles of any kind hinder economic cooperation, and that the prime ministers in attendance here are personally committed to cooperation between the Central and Eastern European region and China.

I wish you the best of success.