The Prime Minister was speaking at the customary conference for heads of missions held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, where he said that a calm and balanced homeland assists the work of ambassadors.
In his speech, Mr. Orbán praised the Visegrád cooperation, which this year is celebrating its 25th anniversary, and pointed out that its success is a major resource for Hungarian diplomacy to rely upon. Following this, he evaluated Hungary’s relations with its neighbouring countries. As part of this, the Prime Minister described Hungarian-Slovak relations as a reliable partnership, while he referred to Hungarian-Serbian relations as balanced, and repeatedly spoke in support of Serbia’s accession to the European Union.
Hungarian politicians the target of a political campaign in Romania
In contrast to these examples, he continued, Hungarian politicians in Romania are the target of an ongoing political campaign. “We are not simply talking about enforcing the principles of the rule of law, but about discrimination against the political leaders of the Hungarian minority”. He said that these must be opposed with the appropriate means and force.
Regarding Croatia, Mr. Orbán said that “at this point in time we are attempting to resolve our relations”. Relations must be rebuilt, he said, which is no easy task, given that “the very fabric of relations has been damaged”. It is not only that “our friends levelled some nasty accusations against us”, he said, but that a lot of precious time has sped by, and a number of strategic decisions with shared consequences “have been adopted with the involvement of other countries”. As an example he mentioned that Hungary would have liked to build a new energy pipeline from the direction of Croatia, so that Hungary’s gas supplies should not only come from Russia. In the interim, however, the Slovak-Hungarian gas pipeline has been completed, and the underlying goal has therefore been achieved. He pointed out that negotiations are at an advanced stage with Poland on attempts to import gas from the direction of Poland into Central Europe.
As far as Slovenia is concerned, the Prime Minister drew attention to the fact that this is a neglected facet of Hungary’s foreign policy, but we are hopeful about cooperation in the future.
Mr. Orbán also spoke about Ukraine, pointing out that there is no indication of when Ukraine will become a country under the rule of law, with a western economic structure. He confirmed, however, that Hungary has a vested interest in there always being, between Russia and Hungary, “something – which, for example, could be called Ukraine”. The essence of the matter is that Hungary should not have a border with Russia, he said.
“At the same time, we have no interest in being dragged into an international anti-Russian coalition on account of the situation in Ukraine”, he said, reiterating that in the middle of this year the extension of EU sanctions against Russia will not be automatic.
We should strive for good relations with Austria
The Prime Minister did not speak about Hungarian-Austrian relations in his speech, but did so in answer to a question, saying that he had not left Austria off his list by accident. No matter how harsh the statements made by the head of a neighbouring country may be, Mr. Orbán said, he will seek to address the Austrian people rather than the Chancellor. He added that he will not say impolite things about the Chancellor, since if he were to do so he would offend the Austrian people.
It is the Foreign Minister’s duty, he continued, to make it clear that one must observe certain rules when addressing the Hungarian people. This is the division of labour between the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister: “at my butcher’s shop counter the meat should already be cut from the carcass, as all I want to do is deal with the customers”, he said.
He also said that Austrian chancellor Werner Faymann may be right when he says that he does not need a referendum in Austria, but this does not mean that there will not be one. Such a referendum could take the form of a parliamentary election, he remarked.
At the same time, Mr. Orbán stressed that in the future Austria will continue to be an important partner for Hungary. He said that Hungary should strive for good relations with Austria, and should find long-term forms of cooperation, because “we have more in common than we tend to believe”.
The forint is the currency of the Hungarian economy
Moving on to the subject of the EU, Mr. Orbán spoke about the eurozone, drawing attention to the fact that, according to the Hungarian Constitution, the currency of the Hungarian economy is the forint, and amendment of the Constitution requires a two-thirds parliamentary majority.
He stressed that this means that, in the event of a debate on Hungary joining the European common currency area or remaining outside the eurozone and continuing to pursue independent economic and national policies (with all the attendant implications), the answer must be given on the basis of broader national unity.
Mr. Orbán said that this dilemma will be a major intellectual challenge over the next few years, because now several countries are more seriously considering the prospect that closer integration could emerge after adoption of the common currency. This is a challenge for every country which is not a member of the eurozone. There is no way of knowing whether this resolve will actually bear fruit and leave us to adjust to a fait accompli, but there is no harm in considering what the Hungarian interest would be in that situation, he said.
The Prime Minister further pointed out that it is unacceptable for the countries of Central Europe to be threatened with the withdrawal of EU funds, and that such threats “ought to be put aside”.
He argued that there are some who continually seek to draw a distinction between those who have worked hard for their welfare benefits, and “the poor, miserable” Central Europeans, to whom “we should toss a few coins”. The bigger problem is that when they say this they actually mean it; there is only one remedy for this, he said: success.
The Prime Minister believes that some countries make a healthy profit as a result of the EU funds given to Hungary. At the same time, “we also profit from this system, which is not our enemy”. He said that “We are quits, and we have nothing to call each other to account for”, therefore the threats over EU grants are unacceptable.
A calm and balanced homeland assists the work of ambassadors
Mr. Orbán also evaluated the reform of Hungary’s foreign affairs organisational system, which was implemented two years ago. In his opinion the results achieved in foreign trade relations have vindicated the reform.
An increase in Hungarian exports has been achieved in the context of Hungarian diplomatic efforts. The export figures and investment brought to Hungary indicate outstanding results, he said, remarking that investors must be brought to Hungary, and should be “encouraged and inspired”.
The Prime Minister thinks that Hungarian ambassadors are able to do their jobs in improved circumstances, as a calm and balanced homeland is a precondition for calm and balanced diplomacy, and in this respect the heads of missions “are in a good position”.
Mr. Orbán said that within the Government the prestige of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade is high. It is obvious to everyone that the Ministry is a key player, and it can therefore continue to rely on the Government’s support. In addition, the Hungarian economy is quite stable, and Hungary is among the best performing countries in terms of pro rata reduction of government debt, he said.
The Prime Minister stressed that there is a stable homeland, and “we are pursuing a nationally-oriented foreign policy strategy designed with painstaking attention to detail”. As a result, Hungarian foreign policy and Hungary are highly respected. This does not mean that “they only say good things about us”, but the fact that a country of ten million in an integration structure of five hundred million is at the centre of global attention is a major achievement, he said.
At the end of his speech Mr. Orbán congratulated the ambassadors on their “excellent work”.
In addition to the above-mentioned question on Hungarian-Austrian relations, after his address the Prime Minister was asked about relations with China. Mr. Orbán believes that these are of strategic importance, there are great opportunities in this cooperation, and the Hungarian economy cannot afford to neglect them.