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Speech by Viktor Orbán at the opening of the 89th International Agricultural Fair in Újvidék/Novi Sad

Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I respectfully greet exhibitors and local leaders from Serbian political life. Under normal circumstances we should both be enjoying our honeymoons, as the President has won his election and I have won mine, and at such times people are entitled to some carefree relaxation. So, I said it was our honeymoon: not exactly what we had expected. But unfortunately this honeymoon period is not exactly what it should be. You see galloping inflation, rising prices, looming famine in many parts of the world, and military engagements in Ukraine. But, Ladies and Gentlemen, the good news is that, after the talks I have just had with your president, I can tell you that Hungary can count on Serbia. We are both strong in agriculture – in fact both Serbia and Hungary represent important food reserves for Europe. The President assured us that if there are problems in Hungary we can count on Serbia, and I also made the commitment that if there are problems here you can count on Hungary. So it is certain that these two countries are safe – in terms of both gas and food products. I am grateful to the President for this agreement.

Dear Serbian hosts,

I also see that Serbia is prepared for the winter. The winter will be difficult – perhaps more difficult than many people think. We need to prepare thoroughly, and I see that you have succeeded in doing so. We are also on the right track, but we still have some decisions to take in the coming week. Furthermore, this military conflict in Ukraine puts both of us in a difficult position.

Mr. President,

It is difficult for you because you are not members of the European Union; and it is difficult for us because we are members. On this it is difficult to be clever, Dear Friends, but whatever happens, one thing is certain: our two countries can count on each other, and whatever disputes there may be inside or outside the EU, we will do everything we can to align our positions and help each other – not only in domestic forums, but also in international forums. If I have read the figures correctly, Serbian-Hungarian economic cooperation has never been as healthy as it is now. We thank you for this opportunity, and we look forward to seeing you in Hungary: we look forward to seeing Serbians involved in trade investment. Our large-scale programmes are progressing well. Mr. President, you have honoured us by inviting us to the inauguration of the first section of the Budapest-Belgrade railway line. It is worth reflecting on how many people have criticised this project and have questioned whether it makes sense. But now that there is absolutely no certainty related to shipments through Ukraine, our earlier decision for the railway line from Greek ports into Europe to become the most important route for the whole of Europe has gained in value. Such is politics. There are decisions that seem doubtful at the time, but after a year or two it suddenly turns out that they did make sense after all. This has been the case with our biggest flagship, our joint project.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for inviting me here to be among you. This is an important exhibition for us. I looked through some old history books and found that in 1923 there was a man called Gyula Hajós living here in this city, who was the director of the Újvidék/Novi Sad tarpaulin, rope and sack factory. It was he who suggested that this fair should shift from a local level up to a national and international level. So we are not only happy to be able to exhibit here, but also to be able to say that we – as well as you – are linked to its creator.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We are all animated by the same question: will there be fuel? And, if so, at what price, where will prices be in a few months’ time, and will we be able to supply our own citizens? I would encourage the Serbian exhibitors and our hosts here by saying the following: if you think back to 2020 and 2021, the heroes then were the doctors and nurses; and if I look at what we are facing now, I can safely say that the heroes of this year and next year will be the farmers, who have to work and stand firm under very difficult conditions, and who have to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances. And it is you, the farmers, who will determine whether or not there is bread on the table, whether there will be hunger in the world, whether we will be able to feed people. It is in our interest – I think also for Serbs, but certainly for Hungarians – to be able to supply everyone in the world with bread. For if we fail to do so, huge masses of people will set off for Europe – not only in the hope of a better life, as we are seeing now, but in the hope of survival. And in that event the migration we have seen so far will be a bedtime story by comparison, with neither Serbia nor Hungary being spared. If we want to solve the problem at its root, we need to keep the people living in those countries where they are; and for this the first requirement is that they have food. This is why, as you can see, Hungary shall not accept decisions from Brussels that are economically unreasonable and that would mean price increases – in Hungary, for example – that would make it impossible for us to exploit our agricultural capacity to the full. Hungary is a country of ten million people, but if we manage things well we can feed twenty million people. For this to happen, however, we need to ensure that the Hungarian economy is not burdened with all kinds of ill-considered measures, with sanctions against Russia that would destroy Hungarian farming and be tantamount to dropping an atomic bomb. In that event we would be unable to supply not only Hungary, but also the people later appearing at our borders as migrants. So rationality, rationality, rationality! Politics is important, of course, and the war cannot be ignored; but now we need sensible decisions in the economic sphere, because otherwise there will be big problems – not only in Serbia and Hungary, but also in other parts of the world.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am from a village myself. I do not want to bore you with my story, but I come from a village of 1,800 people. Villages rarely provide prime ministers in Hungary, but sometimes they do. In our country it is – and has always been – a rule that if there is land, it must be cultivated. Land must not be left uncultivated or orchards untended: the work must always be done. Whatever the dangers, I ask all of you here to never ignore, never break, this ancient law. For it is our task as rural people to ensure that the country, the land, is cultivated. This is certainly true not only in Hungary, but also in Serbia. My wish is that both Hungarians and Serbs will obey this ancient law. In that I wish you much strength and success ! I thank you for inviting me here. I again express my gratitude to your president for what he has done for Serbian-Hungarian friendship, and what I hope he will continue to do in the years ahead. God bless Serbia!