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Statement by Viktor Orbán following his meeting with Andrej Babiš, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic

Good evening, Ladies and Gentlemen, Prime Minister,

This has been a tremendous day. Discussions between the V4 countries have been particularly productive, and just now I’ve had the privilege of holding bilateral talks with Prime Minister Babiš. I can say that this is going to be good. I feel that in European and Central European politics there has been a great need for new impetus and a new outlook, and for us to return somewhat to the solid ground of common sense; and I believe that the Prime Minister is going to bring new colour and opportunity to the V4 cooperation. This is something I’ve been personally convinced of today. We have welcomed here today a legendary finance minister, who has now become prime minister. When we Hungarians open the ledger to survey the Czech Republic’s economic figures, to look at the numbers that we Hungarians always keep our eyes on – public debt, the budget deficit and tax collection efficiency – we see numbers that we can tip our hats to; in fact if we didn’t, our hats would jump off our heads of their own accord! One day I would very much like to be able to tell the Hungarian people that our numbers and efficiency indicators are as good as those of our Czech friends. This is undoubtedly in part due to a cultural tradition stretching back hundreds of years, but there is also no doubt that this great economic achievement is linked to the Prime Minister’s term as finance minister. So I believe this fact will give the V4 cooperation new impetus.

Today we’ve also surveyed our bilateral relations. First of all, I told the Prime Minister that the Hungarian people is grateful to the Czech Republic for sending border defence forces from Prague to Hungary’s border with Serbia at the height of the migrant crisis and international attacks on us, and for defending the Hungarian border side by side with Poles, Slovaks and Hungarians. I don’t want to get bogged down in historical analogies, but this is not the first time that this has happened: back in the early 16th century large numbers of Czechs fought alongside us on Hungary’s southern border – albeit on the losing side back then. Even though Hungarian history books say little about this, then too we fought side by side; and so it has been very uplifting to be involved in a modern version of that. Thank you very much for sending Czech soldiers and police officers to help guard our border.

Secondly, we’ve noted that the Czech Republic is Hungary’s seventh largest trading partner, and as Hungary is an export-oriented country, this is impressive. I can tell you that the volume of our trade with the Czech Republic is more than 8 billion euros, and just last year it increased by 12 per cent. We’ve established that investments are doing well. Many successful Czech companies operate here in Hungary – from the mineral water industry to the energy sector. And Hungarian companies have invested in the Czech Republic – one need only think of MOL’s acquisition of a network of filling stations, for example. So these two countries not only engage in trade but also invest in each other’s economies.

This has opened up a new perspective for us. We have started rebuilding the Hungarian army, and we are relying on our Czech friends on that front. In the field of defence industry cooperation we have already seen contracts signed between the two countries, and we would like to continue this in the future. I have asked the Prime Minister to support this effort, and I have received assurances of this. We have similarly confirmed that in vital European matters Hungary and the Czech Republic have shared opinions and interests. This afternoon we could see this within the V4, but I have clearly seen it in the bilateral relations between our two countries. So we look forward with great hope to the government of Prime Minister Babiš, which we hope will further strengthen Czech-Hungarian relations.

Thank you very much.