Your Excellency, Dear Ana, Ladies and Gentlemen
I’ve been doing my job as prime minister for sixteen years, and have signed a great many agreements. There is no doubt in my mind that the agreement I had the privilege of signing with the Prime Minister of Serbia a few minutes ago will be among the most important from a historical perspective. Those who have a thorough understanding of history are surely aware that this is not the first attempt Serbs and Hungarians made to forge strategic cooperation. At times like this, bilateral negotiations are usually followed by the signing of agreements because as they say spoken words fly away, written words remain, meaning that signed conventions and agreements are designed to underline the serious and enduring nature of things, and naturally to guarantee the rules attached to legal procedures. However, the agreement I just signed with the Prime Minister – to whom I’m grateful for this, as am I to Serbia’s President of the Republic – is a long-term commitment on the part of Hungary. A strategic, friendship or partnership agreement which will represent a safe point of reference even amidst the ever-changing flow of foreign policy in the decades ahead. This is what its significance lies in. That we got this far and that Hungarian-Serbian relations are at a height not seen for a long time is, at the end of the day, down to – beyond personal efforts – popular demand which regards this as a natural state of affairs in the case of the two countries. This is seen as the right course also for historical reasons, and likewise from today’s point of view as regards daily life, it is only natural that Serbs and Hungarians should cooperate as closely as possible in the economy, that they should support their respective minorities on the basis of mutual respect; we here in Hungary, the Serbs living in Hungary, the Serbian government the Hungarians living in the territory of Serbia. From a cultural and security point of view, too, people believe it is desirable for the two countries to cooperate. You can’t defend Serbia without Hungary, and you can’t defend Hungary’s security without Serbia. Horribile dictu, you can’t defend Europe’s security without Serbia and Hungary.
Naturally, as we live in peaceful times, the economy is at the centre of the agreement we just signed. You can find some hopefully improving figures about the two countries’ economic relations: trade, investments, employment, and so on. When today I and the Esteemed Prime Minister looked into how we had managed to make such unprecedented progress on an historic scale in such a short time in the cooperation of the two countries, we identified connections as the key category: border crossing points, economic relations, border controls, roads, railway connections, and shortly also the connection of navigation routes. This is the key to Serbian-Hungarian economic cooperation: connecting the two countries together on as many points as possible. There is a difference between the two countries’ state of economic development, but we who also saw today’s Serbian territories during the period of Yugoslavia which has since expired know full well that these differences change as in the eighties Serbia was ahead of us, while today we are further forward. But observing the figures of Serbia you yourselves can see that it’s only a question of time before the performance of the Serbian economy catches up with that of the Hungarian economy. We have seen such fantastic growth figures, employment data and trade data on the part of Serbia that we can rest assured that this difference will disappear, and the Serbs themselves will appear in Hungary as major capital investors. I already spoke to the Prime Minister about this not so distant future: we eagerly await the appearance of Serbian investors in the Hungarian economy in the coming years, and we’re likewise happy to see that the Serbian state and government welcomes the appearance of Hungarian investors in the Serbian economy after appropriate consultations.
We touched upon the fact – as this is important, strategic for Hungary’s energy security – that we had built a new type of gas pipeline connection between the two countries. An interconnector has been created. This will enable the conveyance of 8.5 billion cubic metres of gas to Hungary. I’d like to take this opportunity to observe – trading on this section will start from 1 October – that we understand the Ukrainians’ problem that with this they have forfeited a transit opportunity and significant transit revenues. Nobody talks about Hungary, but I’d like to mention that we ourselves are in the same shoes. So far, gas has flown to Serbia via Hungary, and from now on it will flow to Hungary via Serbia. For Hungary, this is an important difference, but we don’t regard this as unnatural, meaning that we never objected to this pipeline, even if in the short term this will cause us to sustain an economic loss as we will forfeit the transit fees that Serbia has so far always duly paid us. Instead, we will adapt to this new situation, we accept that this is the situation; Hungarian economic policy and energy policy will adjust to the new situation that from now on the bulk of the gas coming to Hungary will arrive here from the South, via Serbia. And I’m absolutely certain that as we guaranteed for Serbia a safe supply of gas for many long decades, so will they guarantee the same for Hungary; and that as we were always able to agree on fair prices when it came to transit fees, so will they, returning the favour. In other words, we see this change not as a curse or misfortune, but instead we will simply have to find a way to adapt because this is in the nature of the modern world economy.
We spoke about the issue of railway connections between the two countries. The esteemed citizens of Hungary can rest assured that we will finish the refurbishment of the railway line between Budapest and Belgrade by 2025, and so the Eastern goods arriving in the ports of Greece and the Western goods bound for the same ports will transit through Hungary and Serbia. At the same time, from next summer we will also see the results of the refurbishment of the Szeged–Subotica railway line which will offer the residents of the two cities swift and comfortable travel.
The only point of Hungarian-Serbian relations that is not worthy of the citizens of the two countries is the situation and state of affairs observed at our border crossing points. We have greatly improved the situation experienced earlier, but the volume of traffic is catching up with us. The ever more intensive economic relations between the two countries result in ever increasing volumes of cargo traffic on our roads, and we have difficulty in catching up with this phenomenon at our border crossing points. This then leads to backlogs of traffic, and sometimes waits of up to many hours. We have now set deadlines, and we have no intention of changing them later. This means that we will radically increase the crossing capacity of the Tompa and Röszke border crossing stations in the future. The projects necessary for this will be completed by the end of 2022, and then the present waits of many hours will only be bad memories from the past. We’re also working on enabling the Hercegszántó crossing station to make way for cargo traffic – meaning turning this crossing station into a cargo crossing point as well – thereby reducing traffic at the other two high-traffic border crossing points.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I’d like to tell you one more thing. I pondered much about what today’s meeting was about, how its essence could be best summed up. My first thought was that it would perhaps be the greatest help for you if I said that the two countries had agreed on the rebuilding of Central Europe. But then I realised that while this was important and was also true, at this time it’s not enough to rebuild Central Europe; it must be protected. The American failure in Afghanistan has resulted in a situation which could lead to a migration wave involving migrants in the millions during the period ahead, and if this occurs via the land route, it will most probably put these two countries, Serbia and Hungary into an extremely difficult situation. We can see that those who supported migration earlier – governments, NGOs, Soros organisations – continue to support or would support migrants coming from Afghanistan the same as before; something that is very much contrary to the best interests of both countries. Therefore, this is one more reason why Hungary is a thousand per cent committed to Serbia’s EU membership as it is evident that without Serbia’s EU membership, without integrating Serbia into the European security architecture, we cannot guarantee the security of the interior of Europe either. Naturally, we defend Serbia, we defend Hungary, we defend ourselves, but we all know that these migrants want to live not in Serbia and not in Hungary; they’re heading for Germany. Therefore, when we are now defending ourselves – as we did so many times in our history – we’re also defending Europe, primarily Germany. This is the situation even if we can’t expect any kind of recognition, let alone gratitude in return. We know that we can only count on ourselves, but we will do the job that the mission of defending Europe has imposed upon us so many times before in history. Europe should be in no doubt that if there is a migrant wave, Serbia and Hungary will stop it together.
Thank you one more time for the honour of signing this agreement with you.