The importance of central Europe has gradually increased in recent years and the region has become Europe’s engine of growth, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said in Tokyo on Friday.
Thec, Szijjártó told a seminar in central and eastern Europe at the Japan External Trade Organization (Jetro). But now several economic indicators show them in the lead, he added.
The economic growth of the Visegrád Group is more than double of the European average and the group is also strong in terms of its political cooperation, he added.
All four V4 countries fulfil important positions in the new European Commission, Szijjártó said. Commissioners from the Czech Republic and Slovakia are vice-presidents, the Polish commissioners oversees agriculture and the Hungarian is in charge of enlargement, he added.
V4 members together represent a market of 64 million people. If they were a single country, they would be the second largest EU member, he said. The unemployment rate and public debt in the V4 are much lower than the EU average, he added.
The “secret of success” in central Europe is that countries in the region pursue rational policies based on common sense, he said. In economic terms, this means that taxes in central Europe are the lowest within the EU, he added.
Another reason for success is that central European countries effectively maintain monetary and fiscal discipline, he said.
They have proven that it is possible to get rid of the old dogma according to which there is a binary choice between economic growth or fiscal discipline, he said, adding that Hungary had proved that both can be accomplished simultaneously, Szijjarto said.
He said that the Hungarian government had recognised concerns connected to labour and has responded by reforming vocational training and higher education.
Concerning the future success of the European economy, Szijjártó said it was worth taking into consideration that while many experts talked about the significance of German-French cooperation, trade between the V4 and Germany was 70 percent higher than between France and Germany, so the region has a huge influence on the EU’s competitiveness.
A dispute is ongoing concerning Europe’s future, which mainly concerns the dichotomy of a strong Brussels coupled with weak member states, he said.
Central Europe’s position is that a strong Europe can only be built on the foundation of strong member states, the minister added.
Central Europe rejects western European attempts to harmonise tax across the bloc because this would involve raising taxes in the region. “We insist on low taxes because they are crucial to our competitiveness.”
Commenting on security policy, he said central European countries had a clearly anti-migration stand and insisted on protecting borders and upholding their right to decide whom to allow in.
Szijjártó noted that Japan is Hungary’s top Asian investor, with 170 Japanese companies employing 35,000 Hungarians.
The Hungarian government has signed strategic cooperation agreements with six Japanese companies, he added.