Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It has been an honour for Hungary to receive the Prime Minister of Slovakia on an official visit. Thank you, Prime Minister. My meeting with the Prime Minister was one that is rather rare in diplomacy, as we are in the middle of a successful process of building trust between two nations, and if I were to sum up in a single sentence – or a single word – what the two prime ministers need to do, I would just say: “continue”. This is because we have already started on good things, and have managed to put aside the bad things. Our task is to follow the path that we set out on together a few years ago. The first thing I would like to point out is that here today there was a meeting between two successful countries. If, from a historical perspective, you take a look at Central Europe – and within it Slovakia and Hungary – you will see that today there was a meeting between two successful countries in a successful region. I’m convinced that this success, while it is a Central European success, is also a valuable European success, because the success of Europe and the continent is made up of the success of its regions. And if there are successful countries forming successful regions, then Europe is successful; if there are no successful countries and there are no successful regions, then Europe is not successful. We’re therefore convinced that ultimately Slovak-Hungarian cooperation and the V4 [Visegrád 4] contribute to Europe’s joint success.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We are also always happy whenever a prime minister of Slovakia visits our country, because once again we can thank them for our being able to count on Slovakia when Hungary was in difficulty and we had to defend our borders. Remember that they sent soldiers and police officers here, and stood by Hungary at the centre of an international storm: Slovakia made it clear that Hungary has the right to defend its own borders, and they also provided us with assistance in this. Honourable Prime Minister, this is something that we Hungarians will remember for a long time, and it is a very important building block in the process of building trust between the two countries. Over the past few years Hungary has endeavoured to prove to all of its neighbours – including Slovakia – that it is worth cooperating with the Hungarians, because those who cooperate with the Hungarians will themselves benefit from this cooperation. Naturally we pursue our own interests, but throughout history we have learnt that we can only be successful if our neighbours are successful together with us. It is in our interest for our neighbours to be at least as successful as we are. This is a common starting point, which constitutes the foundations for bilateral relations.
As regards bilateral relations, I’d like to say the following. I don’t think that Hungarians are aware that Slovakia is Hungary’s third most important foreign trade partner: if one looks at our balance of trade, you will see that – after Germany and Austria – Slovakia is Hungary’s third most important trading partner. I also think that few Hungarians know that around one thousand Slovak companies are operating in Hungary, providing jobs for approximately five thousand Hungarians. And we likewise rarely consider that there are some ten thousand Hungarian businesses operating in Slovakia. So it is clear that economic relations between the two countries are outstanding. If I translate this position of third most important trade partner into trade volume figures, we’re talking about trade worth some ten billion euros. Trade of ten billion euros, which is a staggering number. We have every reason to congratulate each other on this figure.
And now allow me to also say a few words about the tasks ahead of us. We agreed that a key issue is the interconnection of our countries’ energy systems. We both have a positive attitude toward nuclear energy, and the interconnection of our energy systems is crucial. In recent years we have managed to connect our gas systems together, a gas interconnector has been built, and today in two locations experts are also working on linking our electricity networks. This will be a big step for both of us, for both countries. I also believe it is important for there to be improved physical links between the two countries in terms of border crossing stations. We share a very long border – of 679 kilometres. In Western Europe the average distance between border crossing points is 2.5 kilometres. On the Slovak-Hungarian border this is now twenty kilometres, which creates the impression that we’re not doing too well. But if we consider that some years ago this average distance was much longer, and that the current average of just twenty kilometres is a result of our agreement signed with the previous Slovak prime minister, we may conclude that the past few years have been successful. Today there are thirty-four border crossing points between the two countries. But the most important thing is that a fine engineering feat is also under construction: a bridge across the Danube, which will link the towns of Komárom/Komárno. This will permit a significant increase in freight traffic, and will reduce the border crossing distance by tens of kilometres in both directions.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I think it is also important for me to say a few words about the Hungarian community – although in truth this is more the Honourable Prime Minister’s duty. I was pleased to hear about the measures which the Slovakian government has enacted recently. Hungary is a country in a special situation. We are able to build relations of trust with our neighbours if we see that the Hungarian communities living there are treated fairly. In this respect Slovakia has done a great deal in recent years, and for this I am grateful to the Honourable Prime Minister. I am pleased that a pressing problem – that of small schools – has been solved by Slovakia with a generous government decision. We also thank you for the decision on multilingual railway signs, and we are pleased that Slovakia is generously supporting the Hungarian community through the minority cultural fund.
Finally, I would like to say a few words about the fact that on 1 July Slovakia will take over the presidency of the V4 partnership, or strategic alliance. In the V4 in recent years we have managed to reach the stage of being able to set ambitious goals. Outstanding among these is construction of a Budapest–Warsaw rapid rail line, which would run through Bratislava/Pozsony. And in today’s talks I could see that we are both personally committed to building up Central Europe not only politically, but also economically. In addition to linking our gas and electricity systems and increasing the number of border crossing stations, we also need major transport programmes such as the Warsaw–Budapest rapid rail line via Pozsony/Bratislava could become. Although all programmes on this scale take many years to complete, I therefore sincerely hope that this programme can begin soon, and that within the V4 we can soon study the relevant feasibility studies, so that we can then make decisions. I thought it was important to mention this in order to indicate that the V4 is no longer an alliance of poor countries, but an alliance of countries with dynamic economic development, enormous growth potential, disciplined finances, ambitious plans, and governments which honour European regulations. All this formed the background and starting point of our talks today.
Let me state once more that I am grateful to the Prime Minister for honouring Hungary with his visit.