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Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s press statement following a meeting of the heads of government of the “Friends of Cohesion” group of countries

László Mészáros (MTVA): Prime Minister, what important topics were discussed at the meeting that are important from Hungary’s perspective?

Our topic for today was the European economy. In recent years European economic policy in Brussels has been crippled, and soon we’ll see the obvious repercussions of this. We can already count on the fact that this year the eurozone will definitely lose its capability for growth, meaning that growth will stop. And earlier poor economic policy could also have effects outside the zone, including in Central Europe. We – or many countries – have not reduced taxes, although this is something that Hungary has done. Most  countries have not reduced taxes, have not promoted competition, and have introduced protective measures that have been bad for the economy.  So overall the European economy’s competitiveness has fallen in global terms, and we must pay the price for this. Today’s meeting and discussion was about what we must do to enable the European economy to return to a growth trajectory and regain its competitiveness.  As the previous budget is just coming to an end we must now draw up a new one. And so at the meeting we discussed how this should be realised, so that it leads to the growth and expansion of the European economy – and accordingly to people’s well-being. We are at the beginning of these debates, and positions are still very far apart.

Prime Minister, today is the first day on which the UK is not a member of the European Union. Please give us your opinion on this.

The withdrawal of the British and the fact that everyone in the UK is still alive today indicates that there is also life outside the European Union.

Prime Minister, are you satisfied with the results of this…

It was a good meeting. You know, we are suffering as the European economy has been losing its competitiveness in recent years, as a result of mistaken economic policy conducted from Brussels. No tax reduction, no reduction of bureaucracy, no decisions in favour of improving competitiveness, just the opposite: to limit the competitiveness even inside of European Union. We will pay the price of that in the global markets. So the slowing down of economic growth is obvious here. This year will be extremely difficult, and if we are not able to create a fair and better budget as we have had in the previous seven years, we cannot accelerate economic growth in the European Union, consequently we cannot help our citizens to have better living conditions. So that kind of dispute about the next seven years budget is serious. Positions are very far from each other, so we need not just days but months to make some agreement which could be accepted by everybody, and all in all can generate again perceivable economic growth again, not just in Central Europe, not just in Hungary but all around in the European countries.

Would you agree with a compromise position like 1.6 as proposed by Portugal and other member states?

I think it is just a technical issue. The main issue is to agree that we would like to get back our competitiveness, you know. The problem is that many countries would like to build a different kind of economy, not based on free trade, not based on competitiveness, not based on the reduction of taxation, but they have a different kind of philosophy. So we have to first clarify how to get back the ability to compete with the outside world. If we agree that this is the direction, it is easier to find a compromise on figures. If we start with figures, you know, but the structure remains the same, it could be hopeless.

What do you think should be the priority to regain competitiveness?

Being flexible. We need a budget which provides as much flexibility as possible for the member states, to encourage those countries who are ready to decrease taxation. I think flexibility and decreasing taxes, that is the main line – Okay, this is the Hungarian experience. Probably other countries can work differently, but in Hungary these measures just have worked.

Are you planning this week to announce that you will leave the EPP group?

No.

You’re not planning to announce, or you are not leaving?

No announcement at all.