Greetings, ladies and gentlemen,
Greetings to the Prime Ministers in attendance, and also European Commission President Barroso and European Commissioner Hahn.
Ten years have past since the Visegrad countries ascended to the European Union. President Barroso has witnessed the ascension. The ascension was of historical significance. There have been mutual victories and also big debates.
President Barroso and I will cherish the memories of excellent debates. The roots of these debates can be traced to the fact that our homeland, Hungary, was the first of the European Union countries to financially collapse – and this was before what happened in Greece.
Under threat of financial collapse Hungary was faced with the unprecedented challenge that it would not be able to find a way out of the financial crisis because the IMF and EU at the time were only assembling a plan to manage the financial crisis – which would later be used by Greece, Ireland and other countries.
It’s well known in these circles that Hungary did not use the IMF and EU recommendations to manage its crisis. Instead, Hungary chose to develop and utilize a completely different strategy which became the cause of numerous debates between the European Union and Hungary.
Right now is probably the best opportunity, here in front of the entire Hungarian public, to thank President Barroso for our debates and for the presidential way in which he carried himself in these debates. He was one of only a few who – despite occasionally losing his patience – remained true to the notion that the issues being debated be done so exclusively within the confines of EU law and void of politics. So, thank you President Barroso for the tough debates and for your insistence on sportsmanlike conduct.
Ladies and gentlemen,
This conference also provides an opportunity for Hungary to thank Commissioner Hahn personally, and through him the EU, for the support provided to Hungary’s development.
For Hungary to rely on its own internal source of funding to consolidate the Hungarian budget while also beginning to improve Hungary’s economic development would have been impossible because there was no source of money for either task.
Thanks to Commissioner Hahn, Hungary received EU funding with which it became possible for Hungary’s internal sources of funding to address the budgetary consolidation, while the EU funding made it possible for Hungary to modernize.
Thanks to Commissioner Hahn and also to his approach to the Commission’s development policies, Hungary was not only able to emerge out of its own crisis using its own crisis policies, it was also able to continue developing.
I’d like to share a number of points which are part of the vision that the Hungarian government has with respect to the future of Europe. This will always be a relevant topic for discussion, and it’s always worth discussing. Now, this is an important topic because we will be electing a new President of the European Commission, and the European Council will also be electing a new President. After the EP elections it is the responsibility of the European Council, that is, the Prime Ministers of the EU, to define the way in which European institutions will work. In addition to being interesting, it is also important that we clearly define to the citizens of Europe what directions we have chosen, what kind of Europe we hope to arrive at through the directions we have chosen for EU institutions.
There is an illusion that is held – especially by Western Europe – that I often find myself at odds with. It might not necessarily be held by politicians, but is instead more widely held by public opinion. In Western Europe the belief is that the current situation represents the end of the crisis era, that it will pass, that we will eventually be out of it, and that once we’re out of it the situation will automatically start to be better.
I have bad news: this belief is wrong. We are out of the crisis, what we see now is not part of crisis, rather it is the new era of Europe, that is, this is what we are going to be living in for the next 15 to 20 years if we don’t make radical changes to certain things. This is an important thought because if the premise is true that we are out of the crisis but the standards of living and security have not returned to where they were earlier, then it logically follows that if we continue to utilize the tools we used earlier then we won’t ever return to where we were earlier. Therefore, a new era requires new tools. That’s why today, following the European Parliament elections, everyone is talking about a renaissance.
Ladies and gentlemen,
That is why Hungary’s starting point is that contracts need to be respected. This is important because currently in Europe as a result of the spitzenkandidat debate, there is an emerging suspicion that without modifying the contract which governs the operation of the European Union certain practices have been implemented which, in effect, have modified the contract itself. We consider this to be a sneaky contract, therefore we reject it.
If we want to modify the contract because our goal is to implement new practices, then let us organize a convention to address these important questions. But we should not make significant changes to the everyday practices without modifying the contract. That’s why Hungary’s starting point regarding Europe’s future is that contracts need to be respected.
Similarly, we believe that financial contracts need to be respected. There is a widely shared opinion in Europe today which states that the fiscal agreements need to be opened up, certain sections should be annulled and more relaxed budgetary policies should be continued. I think this is a life-threatening experiment. We put at risk the very successes which we have recently achieved.
The following point which Hungarians consider very important can be summarized by saying that if Europe wants to become renewed then its own past and its roots must be respected. To us that means Christianity must be respected and that nations must be given the respect that is due to them.
We consider immigration to be an important issue for the future of Europe. This is an incredibly difficult topic for a Central European country because there are numerous Western European countries that try to make the issue of the free flow of workers into an immigration issue, while for us Central Europeans it is in the interest of livelihood and national interest to stand up for the free flow of workers. All the while, we want immigration into the European Union from outside to be stopped. We believe that stricter immigration policy needs to be pursued, but we must continue to pursue the free flow of workers. It’s difficult to stick to both of these beliefs, but we should try.
It is especially disturbing to us that the issue of immigration is brought up in the context of a “well-managed immigration” as it’s actually a remedy to the continent’s demographic problems. We reject such notions. There are demographic problems that should be managed, and there are immigration problems that separately need to be handled. If it’s workforce that we need, an educated workforce, then we must ask the question: why aren’t we spending our money on the training of the existing uneducated workforce? For Hungary, this can be seen with regards to the Hungarian Roma who need to be provided a modern education in the interest of contributing to the needs of the European Union’s workforce expectations. Therefore, in summation, we support a free flow of workers within the European Union and stopping, or significantly reducing, immigration into the European Union.
We Hungarians find it important that the lifestyle which insults values of marriage and family life through relativization be less loud and insulting in the future.
Regarding economic policy, there are two issues I’d like to mention before I finish. The first is that we’d like to change focus in regards to energy policy. Today, I see that Europe’s debate of energy policy focuses on issues of regulation, the issue of creating an internal market.
The debate keeps being pulled into with a debate over which market-based regulations need to be introduced for the energy sector. The Hungarians believe that while this is an important question, we should first be discussing the issue of the energy prices.
Regulations themselves do not represent values. The value of a regulation comes from whether the given product can be made available for cheap or whether it makes the product expensive. If the price of energy, in the form it has today, produces expensive European prices, then we need regulations, even state-imposed regulations, which make energy cheap.
I’d like to call everyone’s attention to the fact Europe plans a Free Trade Agreement with the United States to happen soon. Someone needs to ask the question, where will we Europeans end up if we sign a Free Trade Agreement – that we Hungarians also support in theory – if energy prices in the United States are one-third of those in Europe? What kind of competition will this be, my dear Europeans. This question needs to be asked. That’s why we Hungarians feel that Europe needs to focus on the price of energy and not on the rules governing the energy trade.
Similarly, we have an observation regarding employment as well. The ruling school of thought in Europe today says that first the economy must be properly restored and that in turn will create jobs. We Hungarians believe the inverse to be true. We believe that jobs should be given to everyone and that in turn will restore the economy.
Therefore, if want an economic policy which stands up for jobs, then the state must be given a bigger role – even if only transitionally – in the interest of creating more jobs.
Ladies and gentlemen,
As you can see from the issues I presented to you today, these are the questions that the European leaders must tackle in the coming months.
In closing, I would like to express my happiness that the V4 and Central European countries have be given more say in this debate. Perhaps it is more understable that, after 10 years of ascension into the EU that a country acts more appropriately and seeks to become part of the group of more developed countries who provide us the funds for development. In such cases, it is justified to practice restrained and prudent civilized behavior.
Nevertheless, now that an era has ended, and at a time when Central Europe has become the motor for growth in Europe, without the growth figures of Central Europe there would be no economic growth in Europe. Therefore, if it becomes clear that there is a success story in the Central European area, then I think now is the time that Central European countries have their voices heard more loudly than before regarding the most pressing issues which I have just presented. Speaking on behalf of Hungary, we will continue to represent these opinions firmly but casually in these debates in the coming months.
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your attention. I would also like to personally thank Commission President Barroso and Commissioner Hahn for respecting us with this visit.