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Viktor Orbán’s press statement after his talks with Aleksandar Vučić, Prime Minister of the Republic of Serbia

Welcome everyone, Good afternoon.

We wish to thank Prime Minister Vučić for receiving us. We would like to thank you for the opportunity of continuing the many years of work which we started earlier, and I have therefore congratulated the Prime Minister on the trust his government received from the Serbian people in the latest elections.

We have observed the Serbian economy for some time: we have seen the difficulties it has struggled with. In 2010 the Hungarian economy was also in a very difficult situation, and so we are familiar with the path to recovery. And now we see the signs of this path in the Serbian economy; because in every wrecked economy, one must first attend to putting the finances in order – the budget in particular. And then, if things go well, economic growth sets in, and after some time its effect also emerges in living standards and lifestyles, in households and in daily life. We believe that the figures for economic growth last year and this year show that Serbia is on this path, and this means that there is potential and there is strength in the country. So in fact when we talk about investment and cooperation, we are not talking about providing help, because your country is a strong one, which does not primarily need help, but partnership. One needs partners, and as Hungary is next door it is one of those possible partners. I also always tell the Serbian people – including the Prime Minister – that Hungary is a good choice for a partner. The Hungarians who live in Serbia currently benefit from a policy which is not just fair, but generous. For our part, we are also making every effort to not only be fair to the Serbs living in Hungary, but also to be generous. We believe that cross-border cooperation is making headway, and we also believe that the cooperation between Vojvodina and Hungary is beginning to look something like it should in Europe – or at least we have embarked on that path. But we would like to become a more important, more serious partner for the Serbian economy, and we shall also be seeking opportunities down in the south for the implementation of Hungarian investments which will strengthen the Serbian economy. And I repeat my invitation to Serbian people and Serbian capital: they should come to Hungary. Small, medium-sized and large businesses should all seek opportunities for cooperation in Hungary. Other countries also benefit from their presence in Hungary, and we would be happy if the Serbs also profited from the opportunities Hungary presents.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Optimism is of course a fine quality. But if one uses it to defy reality, one is hardly optimistic, but merely foolish; because we must not bury our heads in the sand. Naturally I am not ruling out the possibility that the Balkan migration route will remain stable and settled during the months ahead. We may be lucky, and this may be the case. But I would like to remind everyone that this is not what happened last year. As soon as crossing the sea stopped being an option, migration on the Balkan route shot up again. We cannot rule out the possibility that this will happen again this year. And judging by the fragility of the agreement between Turkey and the European Union, we cannot rule out the possibility that on this route we may be forced to face challenges similar to those last year. You know Hungary’s position: we want to protect the results that our hard work has achieved in Hungary over the last few years, and therefore we cannot accept or allow any kind of illegality in Hungary – including illegal entry into the territory of Hungary. So we shall prevent this with all means possible. And I have offered the Prime Minister our cooperation in taking action against illegal entry into the territory of Serbia. Naturally this is first and foremost Serbia’s responsibility, but if we can help and cooperate in any way, we are ready to do so, because we have a vested interest in ensuring that no one can enter Serbian territory illegally. As a result, Hungary’s security will also increase. This is a common interest which on the issue of migrants permits cooperation between the two interior ministries, our national security agencies and the two prime ministers. We have offered our assistance and cooperation in a spirit of goodwill and sincerity. Let me repeat: we cannot bury our heads in the sand. The situation as it is today is not easy, but I would like to ask everyone – though I know that people’s memories sometimes go back no more than two or three weeks – to remember what happened last autumn. I would ask them to not to be so foolish as to rule out the possibility that what happened last year could happen again this year, and that the work we did last year will have to be repeated. Regrettably, on behalf of Hungary I cannot rule out this possibility, and therefore we must also prepare for a difficult autumn.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to mention a couple of other things. I have asked for the Prime Minister’s support. As you know, Hungary has submitted a bid to host the 2024 Olympics, and I have told the Prime Minister that I am convinced that a Central European Olympic Games – regardless of the country it is held in – could benefit the whole of Central Europe. So I have asked him to look with a degree of sympathy on our struggle to host the Olympics. The other thing I would like to bring to your attention is that we also agreed on the opening of border crossing stations, because we do not want to allow the migration crisis to destroy our daily lives. If we want to continue to grow, we cannot afford to roll up like hedgehogs. In fact our position is that illegal entry must be prevented, but at the same time we must open new border crossing stations for those who wish to move between the two countries legitimately, so that they may do so with maximum ease and convenience, and so that as a result economic cooperation may also improve.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I must say just a few sentences about your accession to the European Union. I myself have seen a period in which the Hungarian people’s approval of our country’s EU accession resembled a roller coaster: there are ups, and there are downs. But believe me, if you ask me, on the whole I cannot suggest to you a better alternative than trying to move as close to the European Union as possible. At the same time I do not want to deny the fact that there are attempts to block Serbia’s accession to the European Union, and there are attempts to make the negotiations harder. I would like to make clear that Hungary does not accept anyone trying to block Serbia’s accession to the European Union for any reason. It is only fair that the same rules should apply to the Serbs as did to the Hungarians, or to those who joined earlier. The only thing that counts is performance: if Serbia meets the accession criteria, no political rationale or consideration of sympathy of any kind should emerge to block and stop Serbia’s accession. On this matter, during our talks I again gave my word to Prime Minister Vučić that you can expect the Hungarian position I have just outlined to be represented by us. We shall continue to present our case.

And finally, Ladies and Gentlemen, I am pleased that the next summit between our two governments will take place this autumn, and will not be held in the capital or in Vojvodina, but somewhere down in Southern Serbia – somewhere we Hungarians are less familiar with. But if we want to cooperate – if we want to bring the economies of the two countries closer together – it is time we also got to know that part of your country, and so we have accepted the invitation.

Thank you for your attention.